Finally we awoke to a day that felt like it could be summer. Blue skies, wispy white clouds and a feeling of calm. The activity in the garden continues, the Nuthatch has been seen frequently, the male Bullfinch dominates the feeders and the pair of Siskin can be heard calling above as they circle before dropping in to feed together, or maybe have a drink. The young Blue Tits have now been joined by a group of at least four young Great Tits, and the calls of young Blackbirds and Robins can be heard from with the densest parts of the trees.
As is always the case these days the optimism created by the early morning weather starts to wain by about mid morning as darker, heavier clouds build up, but by lunchtime there was still sufficient patches of blue sky to encourage me to spend a lunch hour in Old Down Wood in search of some butterflies.
I parked at the pond and as I got out of the car I could see two juvenile Moorhens in amongst the lily pads, earlier in the year there had been one young bird, but these looked like they had recently fledged suggesting two broods this year. They are yet to develop thir parents fear of man, and stayed out in full view.
I walked round the edge of the pond to the bed of Iris and Reeds to search for Damselflies. A Southern Hawker dragonfly was skimming the surface of the pond on the far side, so there was a good chance there would be some damselflies.
I found a few, all Azure Damselflies. They were quite active, and only managed to get one to settle on the grass.
I quickly moved on, not having that much time, as I left the pond I heard a call I wasn't that familiar with, and in front of me a bird flew up to a branch under the holly tree. I instinctively raised the camera as I knew it was something different and my instincts were rewarded, a Spotted Flycatcher.
It was close and gave some of the best views I have had of this bird for some time. It continued to call as it perched on the dead branch.
Then above me I could see more movement and realised that there was another, and that this adult bird was calling to it.
The other birds movement suggested that it was a young bird, probably recently fledged, and the adult in front of me flew up into the canopy towards it. The young bird moved away, and all I was left with was a view of the adult from beneath.
This is the first evidence I have had for five years of Spotted Flycatcher actually breeding on the patch. I have seen them in Old Down, and along Kitwood in late spring, and there have also been groups of up to four again in Old Down and Kitwood in late August. How this has passed me by this year is difficult to understand, of all the places the pond has been the one place this summer that I have walked around, and at no time have I had any indication that there were Spotted Flycatchers here. As always there can be pleasant surprises when you watch a patch regularly.
The flycatcher was a year tick, and as I walked into Old Down I hoped maybe that I could find some more in the form of a butterfly. Silver-washed Fritillary are on the wing now, although it is a little early for them in Old Down, but you never know. I quickly checked the rough ground at the bottom of the field. It was pleasing to see that not all of the land here was sown with wheat, and that there were several clumps of daisies. But apart from a few Meadow Browns it was quiet. This is a male with the all brown upper parts save for the feint orange ring around the spot.
As I walked into Old Down I disturbed a Speckled Wood from the floor, and it flew up to settle on a sun lit leaf.
It looked rather worn, but was feisty enough to chase off the Meadow Browns, and when I came back later it was still there.
Taking the main path I could hear a Blackcap singing on my left, and in the Hazel and small Oaks to my right there was the constant contact call of the Chiffchaff. There were several hunting insects through the leaves, and I managed to catch one as it looked up from within the leaves.
Meadow Browns were everywhere as I walked along the path. The Bramble is coming into flower, and the small buds were like magnets to them. When they were not nectaring on the flowers they were sitting on the leaves with their wings flat to the leaf in the sunshine. This is a female with the orange in the upper fore wing.
At the crossroads I turned to the west, and walked down the path, again disturbing Meadow Browns, but with also a few Ringlets. I made my way to the open area by the Ash trees and waited in the hope of finding something. There was nothing on the ground but above me the call of a Kestrel took my attention as a Buzzard flew over, clearly to the distaste of the Kestrel.
The Buzzard seemed unconcerned, with both birds nesting close by this must be a common occurrence, and who know maybe they were just exchanging pleasantries!
Time was pressing so I headed back up towards the crossroads, stopping to get some shots of the Ringlets, they like to sit on the bracken in the sunshine. In flight they appear much darker than the Meadow Browns. Here the sun provides a back light which highlights the white fringes to the wings.
A little further on and two were getting to know each other...
Just as I reached the crossroads I noticed a Large Skipper on the Bramble. As it landed on a particular leaf it sent out its proboscis, as if to taste the leaf.
i walked down to the Kitwood turn, another good area for Silver-washed Fritillary, and White Admiral, but it was quiet apart from the now very common Meadow Browns, and a Blackcap singing in a Holly Tree.
On the other side of the path a Wren rattled out its song as if in defiance of the Blackcap, and then a Dunnock appeared carrying what looks like a Daddy Long-legs, clearly there was a nest nearby.
Rather than take the perimeter I walked back the way I had come in the hope the sun had brought out some more butterflies, but it wasn't to be. From the wood i walked back to the pond where the Southern Hawker was circling the Lily pads. It always stayed as far away as it could as it flew an almost identical pattern over the pads.
The Lily Pads are a good place to watch for damselflies either sitting or ovipositing, and I quickly located a pair of Red-eyed Damselflies, my first of the year, doing exactly that.
As I watched the Damselflies I noticed something bigger on the pads and getting a closer look I could see that it was a female Southern Hawker dragonfly ovipositing as well. At first she seemed a bit confused, pushing at the lily pad with here abdomen.
But finally getting it right.
I headed home after what was a successful hour, despite the fact the butterflies I had hoped for were not there.
late afternoon, the sunshine had become watery, with the clouds beginning to build, but it was warm enough to encourage butterflies so I decided to head up to Plain Farm once again. As I left the house though I manged to capture one of the young Blue Tits in the garden on the bird bath. This seems to be a complete fascination for the little birds and they peer into the water, maybe confused by their reflection.
I parked at the bottom of the hill, crossed the cattle grid and headed towards the estate, passing Yew trees there were calling Goldcrests and a singing Chiffchaff. As I crossed the second grid I could see a Song Thrush singing from the top of the adjoining hedge.
On reaching the long grass the Meadow Browns and Ringlets started to appear, and then a little further on I disturbed a group of Marbled Whites. They flew up but quickly settled back in the grass.
I walked down the main path flushing out more Meadow Browns, then a smaller lighter insect flew up and settled down in front of, I crept closer and could see it was a Silver Y moth. This is probably the UK's commonest immigrant moth, normally seen late summer into autumn, drifting this way on southerly winds. As it lay in the grass it quivered its wings to warm up, which is why they may seem a little blurred.
there used to be a large Oak tree along side the path, but that went last winter, there is though a path still that went around it, and I followed this past a large clump of bramble. The Bramble once again was busy with bees and mostly Meadow Browns but a close look and wait revealed this Small Tortoiseshell, probably freshly emerged due to the pristine colours.
And then a large Skipper.
Which gave some interesting views.
I followed the path in a circle and came back to the old barn, from there I headed down to the quarry and across to Plain Farm. It wasn't until I passed the workshops that I came across anything of interest, quite large flocks of Linnet on the wires, that disappeared as I raised the camera, and then this singing male Whitethroat, hidden away in the hedge.
As I walked along the path I looked into the grass where just like Sunday there were no butterflies at all, not even the ubiquitous Meadow Brown. But a little further on a large sandy coloured butterfly flew up from the path, and past me at speed. I knew immediately that it was a Painted Lady, and gave chase, finally catching up with it as settled on the path.
Like all the Painted Ladies I have seen here it looked very pale and worn, they travel such long distances it is hardly unexpected.
I left it to rest on the path and walked on. At last a Meadow Brown in the grass, and then a speck of red, and my first "bloodsucker" or Soldier Beetle of the year.
A call from the adjacent field warned me that a Lapwing was about and it came across over my head. It too has worn wing feathers, a result of its undoubted devotion to protecting the young.
I picked up the footpath and headed towards Charlwood. I noticed on Sunday the amount of Dog Roses flowering here, and had decided to photograph them on the way back, but never did, so here they are.
At the end of the path I walked into the next field to check the hedges and the field. As I came round the corner this young Hare was walking towards me. It took a while for it to realise I was there, and when it did it just sat down and watched me before deciding to turn away and head out into the field.
All the time I was there a Yellowhammer sang from the top of a nearby tree.
Once again I decided to check the rough ground at the end of the field by the side of Charlwood. Almost immediately I found what at first I thought was an Essex Skipper but on valued advice I now know to be a female large Skipper.
What threw me here was the size, it appeared smaller than the other Large Skippers, and the very the black clubs on the end of the antenna which in the Essex Skipper are diagnostic.
Rather than wade through the long grass this time I decided to stick to the edge and the shorter grass. I went further along than last Sunday, and was really pleased to find a lot of Common Spotted Orchids showing through the shorter grass.
There was quite a bit of variation ranging from the very white to a darker pinkish purple.
Last year I could only see them from a distance following the demise of the meadow just off Alton Lane so it was good to be able to get close to these delightful flowers once again.
The butterflies were also still about, and I finally found a Small Skipper on the clover heads.
As I waded once again through the grass I disturbed several more Marbled Whites.
I left the field, and crossed the field to pick up the footpath. Young Rooks and Jackdaws were gathering around the puddles caused by the tractor wheel ruts, and as I came close they all flew up calling, while Woodpigeon burst out from under the thistles.
On Sunday there were no butterflies of the thistles and plants on the waste ground, today there was a solitary Large White, but to compensate there was another Brown Hare, this one looks like one of this year's young.
I headed towards the road, and looking to my left a male Sparrowhawk could be seen in the distance flying just above the line of the hedge.
I made my way back to the car without any further sightings of note, and decided to drive back via Lye Way just in case. As i came to the sheep paddocks I could see a Buzzard sitting on a post. I decided to try and use the car as a hide, inching my way as close as I could to the bird. I stopped several times to photograph in case it decided to, and this was the pick.
It then did fly, but only to drop down into the field where it sat watching me.
Finally it flew off and I headed home. It has been a very good day, with the Spotted Flycatcher at lunchtime, the first for the year butterflies and orchids this evening and then the close encounter with the Buzzard. June may have been a bit of a wash out, but July has started well, all I need now is those elusive blue butterflies