Sunday, 28 August 2016

26th August - From Tiny Policeman to a Lady of the Night

Today was a beautiful day, clear blue skies, and a blue that was not a washed out humid sky, but a dry and stunningly vibrant azure blue.  I set off down Brislands to dry and follow as many of the hedgerows as I could, there is always the chance that something may have dropped in at this time of year.  

Early this morning the Robins in the garden had been singing, and as I walked towards the cemetery, a pair of Robins were in dispute about the hedge they were both in.  One finally being chased off.

With the sun now dropping in the sky the light was casting shadows on the moss covered boughs of the oak tree.

Checking the horse field on the other side of the lane, a Buzzard sat in the Hawthorn bush, probably dozing in the warmth of the sun.

I turned along Gradwell, and then up onto the footpath towards Old Down.  The field had been harvested, and was full of stubble, but there were still daisies close to the path.  Not sure why I looked but I picked up a small butterfly on one of the daisies, and was delighted to find that at last I had found the year's first Small Copper.  It is getting late in their season, and this one does look a little worse for wear, but it is still a Small Copper, at last!

There was nothing moving as I crossed the field, and walking into the wood I was greeted with an unsettling silence.  I waled down the main path, and across the crossroads.  Just like with the oak trees the light filtering through the beech leaves was creating little silvery patches amongst the darkness of the beech trees.

I headed west, and stopped to listen to a calling Chiffchaff, waiting for it to appear amongst the leaves.

As I walked I thought how quiet it was with no butterflies about at all, but then it was late in the afternoon.  As if to prove me wrong a Meadow Brown flew past me and rested on the bramble leaves.

Again a rather worn individual, it must be getting close to the end of their season.

As I approached the West End I passed many seed heads of the Hogweed.  In places the sun picked out the heads lighting them up against the dark background of the trees.

Just before I left the wood another butterfly, this time a Speckled Wood.

I walked down through the Desmond Paddocks, scattering the Rooks and Jackdaws in the field.  Over the style and into the next field their were Rabbits sitting out in the long grass, the only evidence that they were there was there ears pricking up as I approached.

From the paddocks I walked up Andrew Lane, again in the hope of finding something interesting.  First I passed Swallows over the paddocks, then House Martins still feeding young at the last house.  My hoped for migrant did not materialise, and I came out into the sun at the top of the path, and walked alongside the sheep pen towards Lyeway.

Past the farm buildings a Wren called from within the bracken.  I waited to see if it would appear, and eventually it put in a brief obscured appearance.

The fields had all been drilled and there was nothing in them, the only birds about were a a male Yellowhammer on the wires above me.

The walk from here to home produced a small trickle of Swallows passing through overhead, but very little else.  As I walked into Reads Field a Collared Dove called and drifted overhead amongst the many House Martins in the sky.

The starlings are beginning to gather in flocks before dusk, the young birds now showing the spotted winter plumage.

I came into the garden, and was just about to put everything away when I noticed a large butterfly on the buddleia.  There have been many bumble bees, and one of two Large and Small Whites coming to the flowers, but this evening I struck lucky, a superb Painted Lady in wonderful light.

It was in pristine condition, and was probably an adult appearing from breeding by the early arrivals in the spring.

A wonderful opportunity to get close and see the beautifully detailed under wing patterns.

The light was really wonderful, highlighting the orangy pink of the upper wing.

Against a lovely orange background that is actually a brick wall.

And then against the beautiful blue sky that had been with us all day.


So the walk was bookended by two butterflies, one perhaps not in the best of condition, but being special because it was the first of the year after some considerable searching, and the other for its beauty.

As a postscript, on Saturday morning a Willow Warbler was singing a form of sub song from the trees in the garden.

Friday, 26 August 2016

26th August - To Run Away From You

There has been a heatwave this week, with temperatures hitting over thirty degrees on Tuesday.  Of course the result of that was a series of storms moving through from the south coast but  these managed to miss us here in Four marks, and all we had were dark clouds a few spots of rain, but very humid conditions.

The nights are getting longer, and it is almost dark when I get up at 6.00am.  Over the past week with the windows open due to the hot nights I have heard several Tawny Owl calls, and closer to dawn there has been snippets of song from one of the garden Robins.  This morning this turned into the full melancholic winter song of the Robin, autumn is not far away.

In the garden the Siskins continue to visit, you know they are there when you hear the distinctive "tiluhee" call from within the trees.  Scruffy the Blackbird appears to be on the mend once again.  Helen has managed to get him to come close to take mealworms, and he looks a lot better.

With still and warm conditions I decided to put the moth trap out last night, and just after I did we, ironically had a short sharp shower of rain.  The rest of the night was dry though, and in the morning it was very welcome to find a good selection of moths, dominated though by Dusky Thorns, I counted 12 in total.

If you look closely at the head and abdomen you can see the antennae swept back from the head, almost like the wings on Thor's helmet.  I decided to take a different approach to photographing the moths to try and get some of the features.  Here you can see the large antennae that the Dusky Thorn has.

And the large dark eyes.

With the Dusky Thorns were a couple of smaller Canary Shouldered Thorns, the shoulders being bright yellow.

Again with the large antennae, swept back when view from a different angle.

The next to come out is a Copper Underwing, a first for the garden.

When the wings open up there is a lovely deep copper red colour, that can also be seen when the moth is in flight.

Two Lesser Swallow Prominents were next.

The white flash at the top of the wings distinguish it from the Swallow Prominent.  This is a different view on the flower of a Clover.

A Green Carpet for once allowed me to get it out, and photograph it, usually these just fly away.

Finally the smallest of the collection, but again a new moth for the garden, or the first time I have been able to identify one.  A Lime Specked Pug.  It has a wingspan of about a centimetre.

The weather had delivered, a nice selection, and two new moths identified for the garden which takes my total now up to 125.  Hopefully I will get the chance to get out over the weekend, there is a lot of activity around the south coast, with movement of small song birds waders and several Ospreys, I would love one of those to drift over here once again, we shall just have to see.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

21st August - Lets Go Dancin' In The Light

After the warmth and sunshine of the week, the seasons suddenly changed on Friday with heavy rain almost all day, and then strong winds and gales with storm like showers Saturday.  This morning there was rain early, but this cleared, and slowly the skies cleared to give an afternoon of sunny spells, but still with a fresh wind.

The garden remains busy, with the feeders continuing to be emptied at a fair rate.  The Nuthatch and Siskins are still about along with the usual Tits Robins and Blackbirds.  Unfortunately Scruffy seems to be suffering again, the feathers even after moult showing signs of wear once again, it is very sad to see him like this.

There was then a certain amount of uncertainty about what I would find as I walked up the hill towards the the Rotherfield Estate early this afternoon.  The walk up the hill was almost in silence, with only the odd contact call from the yew trees.  I made my way to the pond where there was nothing about, and then around to the barn and down the main path. 

In front of me a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly fought the fresh wind to land on the grass in the middle of the path.

As I walked around the clump of bramble another flew up and away from me.  I crossed the main path once again, and disturbed a very pale butterfly.  I waited for it to settle, and to get a better look.  When it did I could see that it was a very, very pale Meadow Brown.

I walked on to the quarry, then across the road and up the path past the Plain Farmhouse and grain barns.  Coming up the hill into the fields the cows were feeding in the field, silhouetting against the sun lit sky.

At the cottages at the side of the lane is full of seeding plants, and consequently there were lots of birds feeding on them.  They were also taking advantage of the dust in the lanes to bathe in.  Here House Sparrows and a Yellowhammer

In amongst the seeding Cowparsley were juvenile Goldfinches.

Taking the chance to preen the new feathers.

With Goldfinches, Yellowhammers and House Sparrows it only needed Linnets to complete the set, and one appeared on the wires above me, a good sign that leaving these plants to seed and not cutting them down benefits these seed eating birds.

I walked on, and made my way to the footpath just past the cottages at the end of the lane.  The path was sheltered from the wind, and almost immediately, with the sun out there were butterflies about.  Several Speckled Woods.

A lovely Green-veined White, that are probably over looked as just a "Cabbage White", but have a very delicate appearance.

And finally one of the butterflies referred to as a "Cabbage White", a Small White.

At the end of the path I walked through to view the field.  It had been harvested, and was now being ploughed.  I saw one Buzzard fly across the field, then heard to calls of several others.  Then they started to appear for the field, calling and chasing each other.  I counted at least five, and there may have been at last three juveniles.  They continued to chase each other around with the mewing constant.

The field where the butterflies had been in July was still there and with most of the flowers gone to seed.  I decided not to walk through, so turned and made my way towards Charlwood.  Unusually for here, a dragonfly flew past me, and fortunately stopped in a tree.  It was a Southern Hawker.

Walking along Charlwood, the field to the west and over towards Ropley had just been cut, and the straw lay on the ground, turning it a lovely golden brown.

Reaching the horse paddocks the skies were full of Swallows, adults and juveniles flying around calling, and performing acrobatics in the wind.

They would hang above me, as if practicing and exercising their flight skills, to prepare for the long journey they will undertake soon.

The juveniles can easily be picked out by the lack of tail streamers, although the adults by now may be worn.

The air had been full of seeds being blown by the wind.  The reason for this is the predominance of a pink flower in the hedgerows and along the lanes.  This is the Rosebay Willowherb, a tall flower with spikes of pink flowers.

As I approached the car I could see a shape in the nearby field that looked familiar, as I go t a little closer it was clear it was a Brown Hare that was enjoying the sunshine.

Then it realised i was watching it, and it became more alert.

I drove along Lye Way just to see what may be about.  Just past the farm the field has recently been ploughed and was full of Rooks.

The Rooks were also joined by at least five species of gulls.  I could see Black-headed, Common and a single Herring Gull, and Great Black-backed, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

I then made my way home.  The skies were becoming overcast once again, and while there were some items of interest, it was quite quiet, as is usually the case at harvest time.  Hopefully as the fields are ploughed and left they may become an attraction to migrants moving through.