Thursday, 14 July 2016

14th July - Well It's Time To Begin As The Summer Sets In

The weather still shows no sign of becoming that expected of a summer.  This week has sen a string of heavy showers starting around midday, and moving from west to east through the afternoon into the late evening.  At times these showers could be quite ferocious, dumping a lot of water in a short amount of time.  

Today saw a little interlude from the rain, blue sky to start, then big white clouds building up through the morning but no heavy showers.  Through the morning the garden continued to be busy, Siskin and Nuthatch still coming to the feeders, the young birds still admiring the water in the bird bath.  A Red Kite drifted past my office window, and a Buzzard flew over calling.  With the sunshine I set off at lunch time to Old Down Wood in the hope of finding some butterflies.  As I left the pond and headed into the wood on the overhead wire in the field on my left a Swallow chattered away.


Before going into the wood I walked along the other side of the hedge adjacent to the road.  The Bramble is in bloom, but there were very little butterflies about.  I did though find this Small Tortoiseshell.


The most numerous butterflies were of course the Meadow Browns.


This area used to be good for Marbled White, but over the last two years the border was cut, and since then there have been no sightings here at all.

I walked into the wood and explored the bottom of the field, again the only butterflies here were Meadow Browns.  As I walked along the main path I disturbed more Meadow Browns from the grass.  

Once out in the open, the sun came out, but not the butterflies I was looking for.  Movement in the tree close to me revealed a Blackcap.  It had a red cap, and from the way it was sitting I thought it was a juvenile bird recently fledged.


This was confirmed when it was joined by another, and they both started to madly beg for food from what was probably an adult close by.


Once fed they returned to the branch to wait.


I thought at first that they might not get on, but they decided eventually to both face the same way, and continued the wait to be fed.


I walked on, and stopped by the bramble once again to wait and see if anything would appear as the sun came out.  No more butterflies but I did find this male Southern Hawker dragonfly resting in the sun.


It was then off, hunting both the grass and around the bramble.  I t adopted the behaviour I watched last year in the grass where it would hang on to the stem and then let go possible to see if any insect was disturbed.  It would also fly in amongst the bramble rather than above it again possibly looking to see what was hiding in amongst the leaves.

I walked to the crossroads and then away to the west.  Meadow Browns and Ringlets were busy everywhere, with very few stopping to rest.  I did find this one Speckled Wood sitting on a leaf.


On closer examination of the bushes I was also able to find this Small White hidden amongst the bramble flowers.


I then found one of the butterflies I was hoping to see today, the Gatekeeper or Hedge Brown as it can be known.  Last weekend at Pagham Harbour they were everywhere, and I expected the same today, but this was the only one I found today.


I turned back to the crossroads and made my way to the Kitwood path.  Again plenty of bramble, again plenty of brown butterflies, but no sign of the Silver-washed Fritillary or White Admiral I was hoping for.  This summer so far as been very poor for butterflies around the patch.

What I did find were several large bees with definite silvery white abdomens.  They were mostly in flight, but I managed to get this one to stay still long enough to photograph.


I believe it is a Cuckoo Bee, probably Vestal, but I am sure if it isn't some one will point it out.  The Cuckoo bees are a brood parasite that takes over the nests of other bee species. Its primary host is the buff-tailed bumblebee.  The female enters the nest and kills the queen, then she lays her own eggs to be reared by the Bumblebee workers. 

Walking back I heard numerous alarm calls and found the reason, a Jay sitting in a nearby tree.


Finally getting a Ringlet to sit still, it opened its wings to show the upper side, a mostly brown wing with two small black spots.


As I walked down the main path two Chiffchaffs sang on either side.  I only managed to find one of the birds calling and singing from a Larch tree branch.


As I made my way out of the wood a gull flew overhead.  It was all white and as I looked I realised it was an adult Mediterranean Gull.  But as I tried to get a picture it drifted out of sight.

Back at the pond the Moorhens were out feeding amongst the lily pads.  I thought there were only two young, but it turns out that there are in fact three.


Back at home I sat down by the feeders as a group of juvenile Long-tailed Tits came through the garden.  They seemed oblivious to me coming really close.


I counted at least eight birds, and at one time there were four on the feeder, and one was hanging from one of its siblings tail.  

They are now just starting to get the adult markings around the head.


Still the butterfly drought continues, I can only assume this is down to the weather.  Lets hope we get some dry weather soon.

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