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.

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