Sunday, 27 March 2016

Time to reignite the blogging.....

It's been about 9 months since I last posted a blog post.  Why you ask?  well it's kind of two fold.  I have been working again for the last 18 months so my spare time has been spent in other ways.  Secondly I'd completely lost my birding/wildlife mojo and hardly went out with my binos/camera in the latter half of 2015.  That said since early this year my fire for all things British Wildlife has been reignited and I am very much active again.  So I will use this post as a catch up of my travels over the last few weeks and start regular posts there onwards.  Anyway on with the posts...


Thursday 17th March 2016 - Wyre Forest (Worcs.)
Today was a glorious sunny day and with this in mind I decided to pop into one of the quieter areas of the forest and look for reptiles.  At first it seemed there were none about but after an hour or so of searching I came across 2 basking Common Lizards (one with it's tail and one without).  I took my time to observe and photograph these before continuing my travels. 

It seemed as though the Adders were going to be a no show but towards the end of my amble around bumped into local wildlife photographer Pete W who was watching 2 Adders that had now come out and were basking together near one of the hibernaculum that I'd checked earlier...result!  Aside from the reptiles the only other species of note I saw was a single Red Admiral that fluttered past.  What a great couple of hours.  It just shows the difference a bit of sunshine can make!

Adders (Vipera berus)













Common Lizards (Lacerta Zootoca vivipara)














Sunday 20th March 2016 - Holt Sling Pool (Worcs.)
Today I decided to drive over to Holt and check out Sling Pool.  I'd been here a few weeks before and on seeing the marshy pools between the Juncus and thought to myself that it looked good for a passage wader and perhaps even a Garganey.  On arrival I got out my scope and started panning across the marsh when I picked up not one but 3 Garganey (2 drakes and a female), result!  Garganey are a small dabbling ducks that are fairly scarce annual migrants through Worcestershire, with only small numbers recorded each year.  It just goes to show that if you visit the right habitats at the right times of year there is always a chance of finding something good.

♂ Garganey (Anas querquedula) - cropped distant record shot













Thursday 24th March 2016 - Venus Pool NR (Shropshire)
Today Bev & I decided to have a drive out to the Shropshire Ornithological Society's Venus Pool nature reserve near Shrewsbury.  We started our visit by scanning the pool and islands and soon picked up on 2 ♀ Goldeneye that were present.  Other wildfowl of note included 64 Shoveler, 14 Shelduck and 16 Teal.  On the wader front, we noted 2 Oystercatcher, 6 Common Snipe and a small number of Lapwing.  At one point a ♂ Sparrowhawk went through putting up the Lapwing.

We then headed to the feeding station hide where we were treated to great views of a ♀ Brambling that was feeding with the numerous Chaffinch.  A Chiffchaff was heard singing from the adjacent wooded area.  This was the first time I'd heard one of these migrant warblers this year and it was a sure sign that Spring was on its way!

Finally we spent some time in the members only hide where we were treated to good views of the aforementioned Chiffchaff flitting about in the bushes outside the hide.  We also picked up in another herald of Spring in the form of 2 Sand Martin that flew through.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)













Friday 25th March - Holt & Grimley (Worcs.)
Today Bev & I returned to Holt Sling Pool to have another look at the Garganey.  There were still 2 Garganey (1 drake) present and new in that morning was an absolutely stunning summer plumage Black-tailed Godwit that had been found by local birder Patch H.  Also of note at Sling Pool were 9 Common Snipe, 1 Green Sandpiper and 3 Oystercatchers.

Whilst present at Holt we were treated to large numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing that were flying over on there way back home to Scandinavia.

From Holt we popped down the road to Camp Lane pits, Grimley.  The undoubted highlight here was seeing 2 Little Ringed Plover along the east shore.  Also of note was a single Small Tortoiseshell butterfly that flew past.  Good numbers of 7-spot Ladybirds were present in the Ivy and a single 2-spot Ladybird was also observed warming up on a fence post.

Saturday 26th Match - Shenstone (Worcs.)
The weather had turned a bit this afternoon so I decided to head out to my local patch and check if any Wheatears had been put down on the plough.  Sadly this was in vain but I did pick up good numbers of Skylarks, Linnets and Stock Doves all busy feeding away.

At Stanklyn Lane paddocks there were a pair of Green Woodpecker busy feeding and 2 Mistle Thrush were also noted.  Stanklyn Lane also provided the day's highlight in the form of a ♀ Brambling that was perched in the hedgerow with c.40 Chaffinch.  Sadly, they all took flight and flew towards the grounds of the Islamic School before I could get a record shot...ah well!

As for my other love, loud gnarly music well, here is a bit of tuneage!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Sunday 7th June 2015 - Grimley & Monkwood

Today I decided to take advantage of the decent weather and focus on Odonata (that's dragonflies & damselflies to you & I).  My plan was to visit a couple of sites that are just north of Worcester, starting with Grimley followed by Monkwood NR.

Camp Lane Pits - Grimley
My first port of call was Camp Lane Pits at Grimley where I observed 4 species of dragonfly:  Black-tailed Skimmer,  Broad-bodied ChaserFour-spotted Chaser and Emperor

♀ Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)













Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)













The gravel pits at Grimley are a well known site to Worcestershire birders and it's a place I have birded many times over the years. This time of year there really is a bit of a lull on the birding front as it is between migration periods and nothing really exciting is liable of turning up.  That said the pits do still hold birds and it was great to spend some time enjoying the sights & sounds of Common Terns and Lapwings.

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)








 




Monkwood Nature Reserve
Monkwood was very quiet on the dragonfly front with Broad-bodied Chaser being the only species recorded.  Azure, Blue-tailed and Large Red Damselflies were also noted.

♂ Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)













♀ Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)













Other species of interest that were seen were Large Skipper, Drinker moth Larva and at least half a dozen Drab Looper moths. The latter species  is a specialist of the ancient woodlands in this part of the country, where the larvae of this day flying moth feeds on Wood Spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides).

Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus)













Drab Looper (Minoa murinata)

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Monday 25th May 2015 - Shenstone & Hillditch

Today I decided to try and avoid the Spring Bank Holiday traffic and just pop to a couple of local sites.

I started off by whistle-stopping at my old local patch of Stone/Shenstone.  This was fairly uneventful to begin with, although the Little Owl was showing in his usual spot.  That said the Shenstone side of the patch came up trumps when I was treated to cracking views of a Brown Hare feeding in a recently sown field.  Further down the lane I also encountered a Red-legged Partridge.
 
Brown Hare

 











Red-legged Partridge
 












From Shenstone I headed over to Hillditch Pool for a mooch around.  The only true dragonflies that I encountered was a single ♀ Broad-bodied Chaser and a single Four-spotted Chaser.  The pool's damselfly inhabitants were more varied though with Azure Damselfly, Banded Demoiselle, Beautiful Demoiselle, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Large Red Damselfly and Red-eyed Damselfly recorded. 

Broad-bodied Chaser













Also of note on the invert front were good numbers of Red-headed Cardinal Beetles and a mating pair of 14-spot Ladybirds.

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle













14-Spot Ladybirds













After my mooch about I decided to sit down by the pond for a while just whiling away the time watching the Red-eyed patrolling the lily pads when suddenly a Cuckoo started calling to the right of me.  It then flew right past me along the length of the pool and into one of the tall trees at the far end calling again.  The only down side was that I wasn't quick enough with my camera to get some photos.  But hey, what a cracking way to round of a couple of hours in the field.


Sunday, 14 June 2015

Saturday 23rd May 2015 - River Severn, Bewdley

Today I decided to take a walk along the River Severn in the Blackstone/Ribbesford area to look for emerging Common Club-tail dragonflies. 

The Common Club-tail breeds in moderate to slow flowing,  unpolluted, meandering rivers, which have a depositional nature.  It's strongholds in the UK are on the River Severn and the River Thames, although they can be found on other rivers such as the Wye & the Dee.  After emerging from the Rivers the teneral Club-tails will sit out on the nearby bankside vegetation whilst there wings harden off.  Once this happens they will move up to 10 kilometres away from the River to woodlands where they will spend much time around the canopy of trees.  Needless to say catching them during the emergence period (mid May to early June) is the best time to see one.  Anyway back to the post...

The walk along the Severn was very pleasant and I was treated to views of Kingfisher, drake Mandarin and Peregrine.  Good numbers of Garden Warbler could be heard singing away from the bankside scrub.

As the walk progressed I checked the bankside vegetation and in total I observed 3 Common Club-tail...result!  Interestingly one very fresh looking Club-tail was even holding it's wings back along it's body as a damselfly would!

Common Club-tail (Gomphus vulgatissimus)















On the butterfly front, it was mainly Brimstone and Peacock that I encountered.   That said I did find some Small Tortoiseshell larvae and a stonking Drinker moth larva.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)













Small Tortoiseshell Larvae (Aglais urticae)













Plenty of other inverts were on show during this visit including Green Dock Beetles, Red-headed Cardinal Beetles and a Hornet.

Green Dock Beetles (Gastrophysa viridula)













Red-headed Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis)













Hornet (Vespa crabro)













All in all, it was a most enjoyable walk and as always it made me appreciate just how lucky I am to live in this part of Worcestershire with all this on my doorstep.

For more information about the Dragonflies of Worcestershire check out Mike Averill's website by clicking on the following link:

http://dragonfliesofworcestershire.weebly.com/



Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Wednesday 20th May 2015 - The Wyre Forest

It was a rare sunny afternoon so, after work,  I decided to head into the forest to undertake one of my counts for the Pearl-bordered Fritillary Survey on behalf of Butterfly Conservation.  The area I have been allocated to monitor is the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust's Knowles Meadow.

The walk along Dowles Brook to the meadow was a pleasant one and I was treated to cracking views of a Grey Wagtail perched on a overhead wire with a mouthful of inverts.  A Kingfisher zipped past me along the water course as I approached my destination and the 'spinning coin' song of a Wood Warbler could be heard from the adjacent trees.

Grey Wagtail













On arrival at the meadow I bumped into fellow birder Rob Clipson (https://twitter.com/RobClipson) who was enjoying the sight of both a ♂ Pied Flycatcher and a Spotted Flycatcher flitting about from the same couple of trees...needless to say I joined him (well it would have been rude not too!).  Whilst watching these birds, and having a good old natter, a 2nd ♂ Pied Flycatcher started flycatching from a tree another 100 yards further back along the brook.  What a great start to the visit and I hadn't even began my butterfly survey yet!

Pied Flycatcher













On the survey I recorded 6  Pearl-bordered Fritillaries in the meadow.  Other butterflies noted during the allocated time period were 3 Orange Tip, 1 Green-veined White and 1 Peacock.

Pearl-bordered Fritillary













The walk back along the brook was fairly uneventful although I did find a nice example of Chicken of the Woods fungi. 

Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus)








Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The New Forest - May 2015

Due to work commitments and other things, it's been a fair while since my last post.  So I have decided to kick start the blogging with a big one ('post' that is!). 

A couple of weeks back the wife and I went away for a week down the New Forest in Hampshire.  We stayed just outside Burley and the nearest stretch of lowland heath was literally 500 yards from where we were stopping. 

The New Forest National Park has a varied mix of habitats which includes one of the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture, heathland and ancient woodland.  It boasts a rich biodiversity and is a great place to visit if you love nature.  Livestock such as Ponies and Cattle are allowed to roam freely in the national park and it's grazing by these animals that helps to maintain the important lowland heath rich habitats.  In total c.4000 Ponies graze in the New Forest and are left to roam wild, only being rounded annually for inspection.

Saturday 9th May - Goatspen Plain & Holmsley Bog
Early evening Bev and I took a walk across part of the local heath where literally 20 minutes into our walk we came across a pair of Dartford Warblers flitting around the gorse bushes.  This particular pair would become a photography bogey for the week as they spent most of the week sheltering from the on/off strong NW winds.  Stonechats were seemingly everywhere and in the distance a Cuckoo could be heard calling.  Out on the grassy area adjacent to the bog a herd of Fallow Deer were grazing.

Fallow Deer













Saturday 10th May - Burley & surrounding area
Today we took it easy by just walking via the heath to Burley and ending up in a local watering hole for a pint or three and a bit of fittle.  It was sunny at times over the heath and a single Green Hairstreak butterfly and a number of Common Heath moths were noted. 

Green Hairstreak













During the walk I also noticed quite a few Round-leaved Sundew amongst the sphagnum moss in the boggier areas.  The Sundew is Britain's only carnivorous plant and has evolved to survive in the acidic nutrient poor habitats by supplementing the nutrients it needs through catching insects.  On each leaf of the plant, hair-like tendrils are tipped with glistening sugary droplets that attract passing insects. This 'dew' is very sticky and once a sundew's tendrils detect the presence of prey, it will curl them inwards, trapping the insect. Eventually, the whole leaf will wrap around the prey and the enclosed insect will be digested.  Fascinating...top plants in my book!

Round-leaved Sundew













Monday 11th May (am) - Pennington Marshes
Today, Bev and I took a drive down to the coast and paid a visit to Pennington Marshes near Lymington.  It was quite a cold, grey and windy start to the day so we thought a bit of birding would be more productive than mooching about on the heaths looking for inverts and we were right.  Normandy Lagoon was very productive with the undoubted highlight being able to watch 4 Little Terns flying around over the water.  Another highlight was a Curlew Sandpiper that was kicking about with a flock of c.30 Dunlin.  Other species of wader observed at the lagoon were Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Redshank and OystercatcherLittle Egrets, Shelduck and Common Terns were also noted.    Linnets seemed to be everywhere along the footpath that we walked

Reed Warblers singing from the nearby reed bed, whilst Sedge Warblers could be heard chuntering away from the adjacent scrubby areas.  Reed Buntings were also in good voice.

Curlew Sandpiper













Ringed Plover













Monday 11th May (pm) - Holmsley Bog
Things had brightened up by mid afternoon so I decided to pay another visit to Holmsley Bog in the hope of some Odonata.  There were only a handful of Large Red Damselflies present but I did see a lifer in the form of a Raft Spider.  This was one of the target species that I had hoped to see this week so I was dead chuffed.

The Raft Spider is one of the UK's largest arachnids and is a specialist predator of ponds and bogs.  Adult Raft Spiders sit at the edge of the water, or on floating vegetation, with their front legs resting on the water's surface in order to feel for the vibrations of potential prey. Using the surface tension of the water, they can chase out onto the water to catch their prey.  This sometimes includes tadpoles or small fish. Raft Spiders can also swim underwater and will often dive beneath the surface if threatened.

Raft Spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus)













Tuesday 12th May (pm) - Beaulieu Road Station & Shatterford
In the morning we had popped to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and on the way back I took the opportunity to visit an old favourite place of mine, the heath near Beaulieu Road Station.  The walk wasn't as productive as we had hoped but we were still treated to cracking views of a Hobby hawking over the heath.  Stonechats were everywhere and a Redstart could be heard calling from Denny Lodge Inclosure. 

♀ Stonechat













The highlight for me came in the form of a Grass Snake that was partially submerged the water in a small pool by Bishop's Dyke with just it's head above the water.  With the windy conditions this was to be the only reptile I was to see this week, although Bev also managed a Common Lizard whilst on a separate walk.

Grass Snake













Wednesday 13th May - Whitten Pond & Holmsley Bog
Today, I decided to check out the area around the nearby Whitten Pool in the search for invertebrates.  On arriving at the ponds, which lie in an area of heathland, I counted 8 Shelduck, 1 Curlew, 2 Lapwing and a family party of Canada Geese.  Odonata-wise I recorded just 3 species:  Broad-bodied Chaser, Common Blue Damselfly and Large Red Damselfly.  A Small Copper butterfly was also of note.

Whitten Pool














Shelduck













Immature ♂ Broad-bodied Chaser













In the afternoon I visited Holmsley Bog again. The sunshine had bought out at least 4 patrolling ♂ Emperor Moths and a number of Large Red Damselflies.  A single Small Purple-barred Moth was also noted.  A Hobby was performing well over the heath.

Mating Large Red Damselflies













Hobby













Friday 15th May - Hurst Castle
Today it was back to the coast for a trip to Hurst Castle near Key Haven.  The area around the historic fort is a haven for wildlife with an interesting array of flora and inverts.  Here I picked up my second lifer of the week in the form of Yellow Belle moth, of which there were good numbers.  A Small Heath butterfly was also of note and a Brown-tail Moth larvae was seen on some scrub just outside the castle.

Hurst Point Lighthouse













Yellow Belle (Aspitates ochrearia)













Small Heath













Brown-tail Moth Larvae













Birdwise, there were Rock Pipits all over the castle and surrounding grounds.  On one of the nearby jetties a single Turnstone was present. Two Little Terns were out just off shore.

Rock Pipit

Monday, 16 February 2015

Destination Venus....

Saturday 14th February 2015
I'm not one for all that Valentine's Day crap so, whilst every man and his dog were out buying over-priced flowers or treating their better halves to extortionately priced meals out, I went birding instead!

I decided to pay a visit to the Venus Pool Nature Reserve.  Situated between Much Wenlock and Shrewsbury this Shropshire Ornithological Society reserve consists of a mix of wetland habitat, meadow and specially planted winter feed cereal crops for the bird life.

I started my visit by paying a visit to the feeding station hide that is situated in a small wooded clearing.  Here I was treated to great views of a flock of Long-tailed Tits that were visiting the nearest feeder.  Also of note was a ♂ Great Spotted Woodpecker that came in briefly.

Long-tailed Tit













I then headed to the main hide to scan the pool.  Here I was met by the incredible sight of c.400 Lapwing stood out on the islands and amongst them was a single Oystercatcher.  After about an hour half the Lapwing flock took off and headed high flying NE. 

Lapwing













Oystercatcher and Lapwings













Also of note on the main pool were 4 Common Snipe, 23 Wigeon and 16 ShovelerGadwall, Pochard, Teal and Tufted Duck were also present.

Common Snipe













♂ Teal having a dabble













Shoveler













Wigeon













I finished my visit off by visiting the set-aside field to see what was about and on walking along the one edge a large flock of mixed Buntings flew up into the hedgerow.  I scanned along to obtain a count and noted 60+ Yellowhammer and 10 Reed Bunting.  Whilst there I heard the un-mistakable call of a Corn Bunting from the hedgerow behind me.  This was met by a responding call of another from further down the hedge in front of me.  A pleasant surprise that I wasn't expecting and a great way to end an enjoyable day out.