Wednesday, 15 July 2015

14th July - I Dream In Colour

We have been away over the weekend, the details of which can be found here, but since last Friday there have been some interesting events.  On Thursday there was a pile of feathers on the lawn, and a little bit of flesh, indicating that one of the House Sparrows had fallen.  The numbers of House Sparrows and Blackbirds in the garden has increased to quite large numbers, and with the introduction of the mealworms it has also attracted the local Sparrowhawk.

This was confirmed on Friday morning when I came into the kitchen to see a male Sparrowhawk sitting on the bird bath.  On seeing me it was off, but it is now clear the garden has become a bird feeder all the way up to the apex predator.

It is though amusing to see the Blackbirds and House Sparrows feeding on the worms.  The Blackbirds clearly gathering them to feed a brood somewhere close, as they take as many as they can.  Just recently a female has appeared up to now it was just males that were collecting them to feed juvenile fledged birds.  I watched this female gather up the worms and head off to the nest 5 times within the space of 10 minutes.



Anything is seen as a threat to take the worms away, even this Collared Dove that arrived happy only to eat the fallen seed from the feeders.



The House Sparrows perform a smash and grab approach, confident that the Blackbird is pre-occupied with trying to get as many worms in its beak to be concerned about them dropping in.



It is only the female Sparrows that collect the worms and take them off, the male will drop in, but only to eat for themselves.



There have been at least three juvenile Blackbirds, and they will feed from the basket, or take them from the grass when they escape, but when the adults appear they will beg to be fed.  Sometimes they go to the wrong adult, and get chased off for their mistake. 

Another Juvenile appeared by the bird bath, a Robin.  It has been quite shy but this morning I managed to get it to feed on worms I threw down close to it, early days but we never know we might be able to get it to come closer.



As I have said there have been several male Blackbirds about, all collecting the worms and feeding the young.  This one though looks the most worn out, and is probably very grateful for the easy pickings the mealworms afford.



When the mealworms ran out I was sorting out the moth trap, so you would not be surprised that I had some onlookers that had to be moved on.  The conditions overnight were ideal, overcast, humid with a little misty rain.  It proved to be correct and the trap was busy this morning.  Of the larger moths there were seven Elephant Hawk-moths, and two Privet Hawk-moths.  It was though the smaller types that provided the mornings interest with four new moths for the garden, and several firsts for the year.

This Buff Arches was a first this year.



It is a fairly common moth in southern Britain, but a lovely marked and coloured moth.



Other firsts for the year were this Coronet.



And this similar Dot Moth.



The micro moths can prove to be difficult, but some can be easily identified by colour, this is the V Pug, a small moth about a centimetre across but quite a vivid green.



Now for the new moths, this one only seems to have a Latin name, the Udea Prunalis.  Another common small moth that can normally be found around Blackthorn, plenty of which can be seen around here.



Another micro moth but with a striking pattern is this one, the Crambus Pascuella.




Flying from June to August, the adults are on the wing at night, when they are attracted to light, but are easily disturbed during the day from their grassy resting-places.

The next is a little larger, but one of those moths that can be confused with similar species.  From the wavy patterns on the wings this is I think a Brussels Lace.


And finally the best moth caught over night, and again a new one for the garden, a Green Silver-lines.



One of the very few British green moths, this species is fairly common in wooded areas over much of England and Wales.  The larvae feed on oak and birch.


At lunch-time I was treated to another first when not just one but two Red Kites were over the garden.  At one time one came very low over me scanning the ground all the time, they seem to be getting a lot bolder.


They drifted around the area for some time, often together.


A blurred TV aerial adds a little more urban scenery to the presence of these beautiful birds of prey.


The overcast and humid conditions have proved to be ideal for the hunting House Martins, they now have young to feed in the nest on the house, and these conditions must have come at the right time.


By the late afternoon the heavy overcast conditions were lifting, the clouds were higher and there were patches of blue sky about that let through some sunshine.  These conditions were a lot more hopeful than earlier in the day, so I decided to set off for a walk around Old Down and the fields.

A Chiffchaff and the Song Thrush was singing as I headed along Brislands, and a few butterflies on the wing lifted the spirit, one of which was a gatekeeper.  I turned into Gradwell Lane and came across a Comma butterfly the first for awhile, and one of this year's emerging adults.



I could hear the chatter of Swallows above me, and as I turned onto the footpath I could seen many birds flying low over the barley field.  The Swallows were collecting in th4 Hawthorns trees on the edge of the field, and the numbers were definitely swelled by lots of newly fledged juvenile birds.  As I walked towards the trees all the Swallows went up, and I estimate there must have been at least over 50 birds present.  They were flying around the trees, and then low out over the barley.  As they came over the trees they would hang in the breeze, giving me once again the opportunity to try and get a picture.


These are juvenile birds, easily separated from the adults by the remains of the yellow flanges on the bill, and the lack of credible tail streamers.  For the record I was not aware this one was chasing insects.  It is difficult to get the colour in the monochrome conditions, but I was pleased with these two attempts.



Even at this young age the agility and flying skills were immediately evident.

As I watched the Swallows Meadow Browns, Ringlets and a few Marbled Whites were flushed from the grass by the side of the hedgerow.

I turned back and headed into Old Down.  Whilst there were patches of sunshine about it was still quite dull and muggy.  Butterflies would fly up as I walked along the path, but these were always the commoner species, and typically the browns.  I turned down the Kitwood path in the hope that maybe there was a fritillary or even a White Admiral about, but there was no such luck.

I decided to cross the field to the meadow in the hope that there could be something there.  As I walked I could sense the cloud building up again once more, and away to the west it was looking quite dark.  From the path I flushed a pair of Skylark, and several white butterflies flew past me.

The meadow was still and quiet until I ventured of the path a short way.  This flushed the Meadow Browns, and once one was on the wing it seemed to encourage other out as well.  I could only find Ringlets and Meadow Browns though in amongst the grass and on the thistles and knapweed.



Just as I was about to leave a Small White appeared on the flower of a knapweed, and made a welcome break from the brown images that were fluttering about.



The walk towards the pond was quiet apart from yet another Song Thrush in song at the top of a tree.  If the amount of singing birds is an indicator of breeding success this year then they should have had a good year.  I have heard Song Thrush singing in the morning from home almost every day since late November.

I turned to check the cut lawn close by, and a rather tired looking male Pied Wagtail scampered across searching for small insects.



I walked around the pond in search of dragon and damselflies, but there was nothing about, then headed back into Old Down.  On the main path a Red Admiral stood out with its striking red markings in the yellow grass as it rested on a leaf.



Again along the main path it was Ringlets and Meadow Browns flushed from the grass, but at the crossroads I came across some small orange skippers.  These always warrant closer inspection, and I did find some Small Skippers, but also a pair of Essex Skippers which are slightly smaller and with the black clubs on the end of the antennae.



A little further on I finally managed to get a Gatekeeper to sit with its wings open to show the lovely orange markings.



As I made my way along the main path towards Brislands I could hear the calls of both the young Kestrels, and the mews of distant Buzzards.  Out on the lane I picked up a Buzzard flying towards me, high and heading in the direction of the wood.  As it came over I could just make out that it was carrying prey, and from the tail it was probably a rat.



A little further on another large bird of prey approached, the Red Kite again, and one of the birds that was over the garden earlier.  It drifted over with that relaxed wing beat that seems to require hardly any effort.



By now the dark clouds were giving up a miserly rain, not heavy but the sort of rain that had the potential to soak you. Fortunately I was not too far from home.  As I came around the corner in Lymington Rise, movement on the lawn.  For the first time this year it was a Green Woodpecker.  There has not been any sign or sound of young about, maybe they were later this year.



I tried to get a little closer while at the same time shielding the lens from the drizzle.  However it flushed and flew up into the tree where I suspect it has a nest.



As I mentioned earlier these conditions suit the House Martins, and there were plenty flying above the houses as I reached home, but then in amongst the smaller and stocky Martins was a much slimmer bird.  I had hoped the conditions might produce one, and here it was a Swift.



It is amazing how difficult it is to see them here when there are plenty in Alton, and they can easily be seen from Ropley to Winchester along the A31.  By July I have usually given up on them so it was nice to see this one today.

An interesting day, which for a mid summer July day delivered some good stuff despite the weather conditions.

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