Monday, 29 June 2015

29th June - I'm Back On Dry Land Once Again

Despite the promising conditions overnight the moth trap was very bleak.  There was a Brimstone, a couple of Uncertains and a couple of Riband Waves, but that was it.  Hopefully as the week warms up there will be a little more variety later on towards Friday.

The weather today has seen sunny spells but quite a bit of cloud about.  When the sun did come out it felt hot quite quickly.  With two calls either side of lunch time I had an hour to see if there was anything about around the pond, the wood and in the meadows around Kitwood.  I drove to the pond, parked up and walked around a little way.  There was a dragonfly hawking around the Iris bed and over the lily pads.  In the sunshine it was a bright blue, I watched it closely as it flew around and managed to get some shots.  It was a male Emperor Dragonfly, always one of the first to appear here at the pond.

I set off for the wood, and a Small Tortoiseshell was flitting about on the bramble by the side of the road.

I walked into the wood and took the perimeter path to check on the Kestrels.  Almost immediately I heard the call of a crow, and saw a Buzzard being mobbed by a crow, and also a male Kestrel.  

The Kestrel was a lot more serious about the mobbing, and it actually hit the buzzard.  

The Buzzard drifted away but was pursued by the Kestrel who was looking to make sure it stayed away.

I walked to the best place to view the nest, and could see two young Kestrels close to the entrance, probably enjoying watching Dad chase off the Buzzard.

I turned back on myself, and made my way along the main path.  Up above me Dad was patrolling the area, carefully watching all around him.

There were several Meadow Browns in the grass.  I stopped to check the large bramble bushes, always a good area for the butterflies.  Today though there was mainly Meadow Browns, but I did see a Large Skipper, the first of the year, but it was very elusive and unfortunately I did not have much time to stand and wait for it to behave.

I turned west at the cross roads, and walked again in the sunshine.  The Foxgloves still putting on a wonderful show.

Once more the area was full of Meadow Brown, but little else other than a few Speckled Woods.

I went as far as the bend, then made my way back and headed towards the Gradwell entrance.  The clearing was in full sunshine and there were plenty of bees and one large Hornet.  I disturbed a Large Skipper on the path, but once again it was not going to play ball for me and the camera.

Again I turned back on myself in the interests of time, and walked down the Kitwood path.  As I passed a clump of Bramble a bright orange butterfly flew up, and circled the Bramble, and then headed away from me.  I had hoped but wasn't confident I would find a Silver-washed Fritillary today, but here was one, and I hoped I could relocate it it.

I walked slowly along the path, and watched as Meadow Browns flew up from the Bramble flowers.  There was quite a gathering on the newly opened flowers and I moved into to take a few pictures when I noticed a flash of orange.  The Fritillary was sitting on a flower, and there it stayed as I moved closer to photograph it.

The bright orange male is quite distinctive as it flies powerfully along woodland rides, pausing only briefly to feed or investigate anything with an orange hue that could be a potential mate. This butterfly is our largest Fritillary and gets its name from the beautiful streaks of silver found on the underside of the wings.

Pleased with that find I headed to the field to cross towards the meadow at Kitwood.  Toime was against me and I decided to jog along the path as the area was a little barren at this time of year, just barley growing.  After awhile the jog returned to a walk and I flushed a butterfly from the path in front of me.  I saw immediately what it was, there was a hint of pink and black and white checkers.  A Painted Lady, the first for some time I have seen here in Four Marks.  Unfortunately it flew across the field and dropped out of sight amongst the barley.  Hopefully this will be the first of many that will make their way through the area s the expected migration from Europe really gets under way with the warm weather.

Elated but disappointed I couldn't get the photograph, I climbed the style into the meadow.  I was immediately greeted with the sight of many Meadow Browns.  I scoured the grass for any sign of a Marbled White but could only see brown butterflies.  I walked around to the far side where there were lots of thistles coming into flower, and providing an attraction to the bees as well as the Meadow Browns.

The only different species of butterfly present was a Small Tortoiseshell.

It seemed like every flower had a butterfly on it, and if it didn't it was because there was a bee there already.

I walked around the cut paths scanning for any sign of something not brown or dark.  Finally I saw a small flash of orange and followed it, it settled and I managed to photograph a Large Skipper at last.

When you consider the number of Marbled Whites I saw at the weekend away from Four Marks it is amazing there were none here it what is a very suitable habitat. I decided to check the fields belonging to Homestead Farm, last year they were left to flower and there were lots of Common Blues and Marbled Whites.  This year though all the fields had recently been cut for hay, and all I could find were more Meadow Browns settling on the cut grass

I headed back to the car, but before I returned home I looked around the pond again.  There were several Azure Damselflies about, some copulating.

On the lily pads I also counted up to five Red-eyed Damselflies.

As I returned home I pondered on the events of the last hour.  The Painted Lady was a great find, I had hoped that there would be some this year.  To see Silver-washed Fritillary in June is a first too, and very unusual to see one before a Marbled White.  The whites though will turn up, and I just need to look in the sites more suited to them.

Later on in the afternoon a Red Kite drifted over the house, the first one I have seen here for a good while.

It drifted away, then headed back again towards the house.

Drifting away over the rooftops, but always looking and searching, I am sorry but all I have is mealworms.

A lovely end to June.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

26th June - Eins Zwei Drei Vier Funf Sechs Sieben Acht

The week has been relatively pleasant, but there was rain forecast for Friday.  I put the moth trap out overnight and was pleased with the results in the morning, some new moths for the year, and a brand new moth for the garden.

There were two Elephant Hawk-moths present but I decided against putting them through the camera, and released them into the conifers.

For once I managed to get one of the commoner moths to stick around for a photograph. This is the Riband Wave, a creamy white moth with ribands that wave through the wings Two distinct forms occur of this species, roughly equal in numbers. The typical form has a dark band across all four wings, whereas the plain form, which was also in the trap but flew off, only has narrow cross-lines.

Next was the Willow Beauty, Again a moth with several forms, typical forms are brownish with darker streaks and markings, but there is also a greyish form.

The next two moths have been seen before, the Shoulder striped Wainscot.

And the lovely Burnished Brass.

The new moth though was the Figure of Eighty, so called for the marks on the wing that look like the figure eighty.

This attractive moth adopts a cylindrical posture when at rest, with the wings curled tightly around the body. The white '80' mark on the forewing, varies in shape and intensity.

I have bought some live mealworms for the birds and it has been entertaining watching the sparrows and the Blackbirds feed on them.  Both have been taking them to feed young.  The Blackbird will look to collect as many worms as possible, while the sparrows will pick them over choosing to take at maximum two up to their young in the nests.

There was also two other events, one was a Sparrowhawk that appeared zipped through the trees, and then was ambushed by a female Blackbird that effectively chased it away.  The other was this lovely male Bullfinch that appeared on the feeders.

With weather turning hot over the coming days hopefully there will plenty more to see and photograph, watch this space.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

23rd June - Little Seas Can Be Big Seas

Sunshine, clouds and a light breeze was the order of the day, and as the afternoon wore on the skies cleared to give some nice long spells.  The decision to be taken though was do I try somewhere different or do I return to the Foxgloves in the woods?  The choice was a walk around Plain Farm, or the woods and meadows around Old Down.  

 decided on driving to the pond, and then walking back down to the small meadow at Kitwood and then into the woods.  But before I did so I walked around the pond.  A Moorhen scuttled across the lily pads and into the Iris on the far side and a couple of Swallows could be heard flying around the tops of the trees.  The surface of the water was alive with small flying insects and I searched for any sign of dragonflies.  There were no big ones, but I did come across the first  Red-eyed Damselfly settled on one of the lily pads.

There were also a few, mostly male, Azure Damselflies around the Iris flowers, the flowers are now past their best and dying back.

In the water the tadpoles have advanced to most of them now having developed back legs, and could be seen just below the surface under the lily pads.

I headed down the road towards Kitwood, and then crossed over into the meadow.  The grass is now about 50 centimetres high, and the main flowers are buttercups, but there were also a few red clover heads hiding amongst the grass.  As I walked around the outside the sun went in, but there were several Meadow Browns flying in between the grass stems, an settling on the buttercup flowers.

In places there were quite high thistles growing, and the flowers were just beginning to emerge.  These were attracting the bees and i could see both white-tailed and Red-tailed Bumble Bees but it was this buff coloured bee that caught my eye.  I think this maybe a brown banded Carder Bee, but I am not sure, and would be open to any comment on this.

if it isn't its still quite a nice picture!

As i walked around the outside of the meadow the sun stayed behind the clouds and all that moved in the grass were the Meadow Browns and the bees.  I walked around to the main path through the centre and the sun returned lighting up the grass and yellow buttercups.

With the sunshine suddenly came the movement of blue butterflies, I counted at least six flying around and I frantically followed several in the hope they would settle.  Finally I managed to find one that settled on a grass seed head, and I could get in closer.  It was a Common Blue and the first for the year on the patch.

I scoured the area in the sunshine in the hope that there could be a few other species but there was nothing else I could find.  I set off from the meadow through the barley field and onto Old Down Wood.

As I entered the wood I was struck by the silence, there were hardly any birds singing.  My last evening visit there had still been a considerable amount of bird song, but this evening there was barely a wren singing.  The calls of a crow seemed to alert three possible young birds on the path of my presence and they flew off.

I did not visit this part of the wood last week when I came into to see the foxgloves, the amount here being just as spectacular.

As I walked along the path I was surprised to find a flowering Bluebell, I can't recall seeing one in flower this late in the year before.

I checked the trees for the owl, but there has been no sign of it now for over a month.  I suspect it uses the tree to roost in while they have young, the time period seems to fit.

I made my way towards the main path, always in the hope that I could find a Roe Deer in amongst the Foxgloves, but there was no such luck.  However at the Cross Roads the Foxgloves under the area of Beech Trees looked impressive against the dark imposing form of the Beech trunks.

I moved closer to the flowers wanting to get a view from below looking up of these beautiful spikes.

it gives a different perspective to the flower and its pink bells.

As I "played" amongst the foxgloves a large orange butterfly went past me as I disturbed the foliage. Unfortunately despite my searching I couldn't find it, and then doubted myself, had it been a falling dead leaf?  I will never know.

I left the foxgloves and walked to the West End.  Despite the openness of the path there was no sign of any more butterflies, not even a Speckled Wood.  As I came out into the open I could feel the warm sunshine, and the grass around area alongside the field had been recently cut and was providing a good source of warmth for a Red Admiral.

While the Red Admiral sat enjoying the sun a Large White drifted along the side of the hedge pausing momentarily on the leaves.

Another sign of summer was a couple of Poppies in bloom on the edge of the field.  These individuals seem to be regular in this spot every year, but looking out across the fields there did not seem to be any explosions of red to signal a good poppy year around here.

I headed through to the Desmond Paddocks, and scanned across the paddocks, Almost immediately I found what I had secretly hoped I would find here after I had seem them from Magdalen Hill on Sunday.

Flying above the fields to the west were five Mediterranean Gulls.  There were four adults with full black hoods and one sub adult which at the distance I was viewing them from was impossible to age.

As they circled around you could see the full black hood and all white wings.

From August onwards as the fields are harvested I have looked for these birds, but have only ever found Black-headed and Common Gulls.  Most recently there have been significant reports from Cheriton, and seeing them on the football field from Magdalen Hill on Sunday set the seed that it might be worth having a look around here today.

A very rare UK bird until the 1950s, it is widespread in winter and breeding in ever increasing numbers.  Most of the breeding population nest within black-headed gull colonies at coastal wetlands.  By 2010, there were over 600-700 nesting pairs, mostly on the south and south-east coasts of England.

It can be distinguished from the incorrectly named Black-headed Gull by its jet black hood in summer, as opposed to the brown of the black-headed (the satin name for the Mediterranean Gull is Larus melanocephalus, which means "black head").  There is also no black or grey in the wings which appear like a snowball in the sky

These were probably adults that have either not been able to breed or have failed and wandered away from the breeding sites.  The nearest to here probably being around Titchfield.

This was the fourth patch tick of the year, I love it when a plan comes together!

I looked through the fields to see if there were any on the ground that would be worth trying to get closer to, but I could see nothing.  I watched as the gulls wheeled around and made their way off to the west and out of view.

Iturned back into the wood and made my way around to the perimeter path.  I had heard there were four chicks in the kestrel nest I wanted to see if I could make them out.  But when I arrived I could see that they have grown quite a bit and any chance of seeing all of them would be difficult as one was almost blocking the entrance.

The downy feathers are now giving way to the proper feathers on both the body and the wings.

lets hope all four make it to fledging successfully, while they are in the box they are now too large to be threatened by much else.

I walked back to the car, and walked around the pond once again in search of dragonflies but again with now luck.  

I had made the decision to come here in the hope the gulls may show, and it paid off, plus the bonus of the Damselfly and the Common Blue, however I do need to spend sometime at Plain Farm, I am sure there are still some surprises available there.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

22nd June - It Was All I Hoped It Would be

Spent the weekend split between two great sites, Saturday at Martin Down, and then Sunday afternoon walking again around Magdalen Hill Down.  Similar habitats but with greatly different results.  As a result the patch didn't get a look in, but with us in the middle of June I felt it was the right time to search further afield. 

The weather had not been too bad over the weekend but Monday morning arrived with  dark dull skies and a lot of rain.  Over the weekend we have been hearing the calls of a Fledgling Blackbird begging for food from its parents.  This morning its look and demeanour  pretty much summed up the feeling of most of us as we set off in the rain to work, fed up and desperate to find some shelter from the rain.

The area under the hydrangea bushes did provide some shelter, and it sat there for awhile.

But hiding there didn't seem the best way to get the attention of its parents so it came out into the open once the rain had eased off.

Because of the forecast for rain overnight Sunday I didn't put the moth trap out, but it was out over the weekend and it managed to find me a new moth for the garden,  Scorched Wing,

The name of this species is derived from the moth's resemblance to burnt paper. It is widely distributed in England and Wales, sometimes fairly commonly, but this is the first one I have seen.  The main flight period is May and June. The adults are attracted to sugar, but only usually the males to light.  When settled the abdomen of the male is pointed upwards.

There was a single Pale Tussock a moth caught earlier in the year, they vary in colour with the females generally larger and plainer in appearance. The males have more contrasting markings and are usually smaller. This one I think is a male.

Both exhibit the distinctive forward-facing 'furry' legs at rest.  

Another moth to vary in size is the Elephant Hawk-moth, I always think they should be larger than they are, and hope for the Small Elephant.  But the Small species has a full pink mark on the back whereas this one has the thin dashed line down the abdomen.

There were two Poplar Hawk-moths, it is now at the peak of their flying time.  I have obviously photographed them before, but as I handled this one it opened its wings and showed the chestnut colour on the hind wings, something you don't see when they are at rest.

Another first for the year was this Iron Prominent.  Common and widespread in southern counties where it may have two broods, but it is apparently scarce and more sporadic further north of the UK.  the caterpillars are found predominantly on birch trees

Then finally this moth for which the best identification I can decide on is a Feathered Bridle. My doubt comes about because the literature indicates that it occurs sporadically along the southern coastline of England from Suffolk to Cornwall, and also South Wales, and that the species inhabits a range of coastal habitats such as sandhills and shingle beaches.  In addition it is usually found flying from August to October.  None of which fit the time and place that this one was found in

On a final note as Helen and I were out on Sunday I remarked on the fact that so far this year I hadn't heard the Green Woodpecker calling, and maybe they haven't nested close by this year.  As we sat in the garden on Sunday afternoon not only did we hear a Green Woodpecker call several times but one also flew through the garden.  I will have to keep an eye out for the young on the lawns soon.