Tuesday 30 June 2009

Steve vs Moths part 2

What a night! Got up at 4am, collected all out-of-trap moths, then blocked the trap exits and switched the light off. It was a total success! A shame I had to go to work at 8 though...I could have stayed there all morning!

Now, I'm very much on the learning curve with moths. It goes without saying that there are several still unidentified moths from this morning, but so far I've Id'd 23 species - there were about 60 moths in all. Here's some of the highlights....I'll start with the big ones....

There were six Elephant Hawkmoths in all

And one
Poplar Hawkmoth

Lobster Moth

There were several of these -
White Satin

A Ghost Moth

Light Emerald

Brimstone Moth

Early Thorn

A Clouded Border

A Flame - not a Sword Grass like I first thought!

And this nice threesome, a Peppered Moth, a Grey Dagger and a Figure of Eighty

The most common ones were Heart and Dart and Buff Ermine. There were more than two of Bright Line Brown Eyes, Large Yellow Underwings, Spectacles and Dark Arches.

I'm going to stay clear of the micro-moths, but did note two each of Mini Magpie and Bird-cherry Ermine.

Lots of lovely moths! : )

Monday 29 June 2009

Steve vs Moths Part 1

Went to bed all excited last night, with the house lit up like the Blackpool Tower thanks to the moth trap in our front garden!

Just after midnight it started drizzling, so I got up to check that the bulb wasn't getting wet. There were moths EVERYWHERE!! Including loads snuzzled up in the trap....result! So I went back to bed...(even more excited than I already was!)...

3:30 I wake up to very very VERY heavy rain - the trap had to be switched off, it was due to turn off in an hour anyway. I got a couple more hours of sleep before getting up just after 5am to sift through the contents of the trap.

Well, once I got out there shaking all the egg boxes, it didn't take long to remove all six moths!!! They'd all escaped! Well nearly all...this was one of the ones I stopped from getting away...

An Elephant Hawkmoth - lovely : )

Head on

Amongst the other five moths that didn't escape at some point between 00:30 and 05:00 were two Heart and Darts and one of my favourite common ones, a Buff-tip.

Or is it a twig?

Had a nice day of wedding preperations today, my Brother is getting wed in less than a week... well looking forward to it!!!

Sunday 28 June 2009

Collard Hill

Three of us went into Somerset this morning, with Large Blue being the target.

The weather was perfect and the company great - nice to go out with my Dad again, something I used to do every weekend as a teenager! Also nice to have Rob Johnson on board.

Here we are!

A small section of the famous slope...

The view - it's fantastic! You can see Somerton and Butleigh Moor in the distance...

So, what about the butterflies?

Well they were on top form, and we saw between 20 and 25 individuals in just over two hours - and got some really excellent views. The fresh insects hardly landed at all though, and when they occasionally did, they were off again within a few seconds. This meant, the only photos I got were of the tattier individuals. Mind you, I ain't complaining...

I think these two are on their last legs... well wings.....

So, in this mid summer glut of birding the local patch blogs have contained plenty of flowers, butterflies, dragonflies... the usual midsummer suspects really. But what's left? Well, I've just set this up in the front garden....

Ah - ha!

Let's wait and see what it produces come the morning...

Friday 19 June 2009

Cross County Birding

Got up ay a really stupid time this morning! Bun and Karen got up too, and we headed to Salisbury Plain.

It was brilliant, and made all that much more exciting having to dodge tanks and various other vehicles owned by the British Army! The best were three Stone Curlews, a distant single and a much closer pair. You should just about to be able to make one out in this photo...

My first since the Seaton Marshes bird

Also stacks of Corn Buntings about, almost one on every other bush along some sections of road...

Here's one

And here's another!

I really REALLY like Corn Buntings, as Bun and Karen should know by now, but I don't know why!? Just why do I like them so much? Any other Corn Bunting fans out there?

We later saw another CB near Dorchester on a road side telephone wire, in exactly the same place that I saw one during my drive back from the Isle of Wight a couple of weeks ago!

Heading home we stopped off at Martin Down. Bird highlights included a Cuckoo, a very brief Turtle Dove and several Lesser Whitethroats. At least six Dark Green Fritillaries, a couple of Adonis Blues, two Marbled Whites, a Brimstone and plenty of Ringlets and Small Heaths were the butterfly highlights. Here's a couple of 'team photos', here's Bun wandering over...

A man on a mission!

And here's Karen, trying to snap an Adonis Blue...

A lady in action!

Thursday 18 June 2009

A Patch Year Tick!

Birds.... This post I promise is ALL about about BIRDS BIRDS BIRDS! No insects and no flowers!

I started today with the Axe Estuary Ringing Group at Colyford Marsh, where birds I ringed included...

A Reed Warbler

A (I say grotty but Fraser says lovely) Starling...


A Blue Tit....oh know, sorry.... a Kingfisher!

I had to leave ringing early, but just as I was about to drive home news came through from Ian McLean of a patch tick on the estuary. A detour to see our first Yellow-legged Gull of the year was certainly required. He was a MONSTER one...

A stonker! An over-due stonker too!

I'm now going to work for the rest of they day... lucky me : (

Monday 15 June 2009

Various June Delights...

If you've already seen the first photo in this post, no there hasn't been a mix up, this IS my blog and not Karen's! I promise....just scroll down!!!

Some flowers

If you've read my mini-bio besides this post it states that "flowers don't do it for me". Well - that is very true, but I've always wanted to see Bee Orchids, and never have! Well, I'm sure I have because I've been to many places that must have them, I just haven't noticed them. So yesterday I stopped off in Honiton to see some. I didn't just see 'some' though... I saw loads and loads and LOADS!

One of the reasons I'm not so fond of flowers is because they are just too darn easy to photograph, they don't have wings for a start! Things with wings are much more challenging to snap and (for me anyway) much more rewarding. Still, as you can see I did take some photos of them, here's another snap....

Funny looking bees if you ask me!!

Ok, that's more than enough flora for me, some fauna now!

Last night I did another survey just over the border, Cuckoo and two Nightjars being the highlights. The sunset was nice though...

Sunset over Somerset

Now to today, and after a bit of a lie in, just thought to myself "right - I'm going to Dartmoor!". So I got up and drove!

The main reason for this was for a butterfly tick, Marsh Fritillaries. Bun and Karen had scored at this site the previous day, so knew it would be a near dead cert for today. Had at least eight in all, but the conditions were less than perfect.

Smart hey?

There were also stacks of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries about...

Also very lovely!

Bird highlights included several Cuckoos and Tree Pipits and singles of Redstart and Garden Warbler. I then came home!

Lots of work ahead of me this week and next, but hope to have another off patch jaunt on Friday if the weather holds...

Tuesday 9 June 2009

A Little Bit Of Everything...

This post really does have a bit of everything. Birds, insects, patch birding, patch twitching, a patch MEGA that wasn't, off-patch twitching, off-patch surveying.... Sit back ladies and gents and enjoy this mammoth post...


During the afternoon I gave Lower Bruckland Ponds a good look about. Odonata were out in force and included four mature male Red-veined Darters, one mature male Scarce Chaser, eight Red-eyed Damselflies and four Beautiful Demoiselles. Plenty of butterflies here too, including both Large and Small Skippers. Three Hobbies gave fantastic views as they fed very low over the ponds and regularly rested up in adjacent trees.

I then nipped down alongside the Axe by the A3052. Two more Scarce Chasers here, loads of Banded Demoiselles and even more of these...

White-legged Damselfly

Happy that I'd paid enough attention to the local sites for an off-patch jaunt, I started heading north towards Somerset. I stopped off at James McCarthy's house, ate a very yummy plate-full of roast, then at 17:00 headed for Ashcott Corner with James as company....very good company too : ) We arrived here at 18:00.

We headed towards Walton Heath, and thanks to Brett* we were guided to the exact spot the Little Bittern had been seen, about 30 people were assembled here. We almost immediately heard it calling - or barking I should say - from the mass of reeds in front of us.

After 40 or so minutes there was no sign despite regular calling, then a shout of "I can see it's bill" went up from a couple of birders standing a little further down the track. James and I are obviously rubbish twitchers, because we just kept looking into the reeds from where we were stood, where as everyone else literally stampeded past us towards the poor guy who had just glimpsed it! We did right though, as pretty soon after we had brilliant views of this stunning adult male Little Bittern! It was sat up clinging on to a clump of reeds, what a top bird.

It was actually quite close, and showed well as it stayed in this position for about 20 minutes! It was behind a fair few reeds so there was always a part of the bird obscured, but I moved postion several times and every part of the bird could be seen in the end. Watching it call was fantastic, it's bill didn't move but the whole bird shuddered each time it called! After 20 mins it took off, and gave a superb flight view as it flew down a channel of water then glided back in to the reed bed.

I really wasn't expecting the excellent views we had, to study it through the scope for so long was a real treat. So, where are all the stunning photos? Well as it remained in the reed bed the auto focus just would not focus on the bird. The most in focus photos I got were just before it took off, but as I said, not all of the bird was in view....

Little Bittern.... most of one anyway!

We saw plenty of other goodies here too. Two Black Terns were very entertaining to watch, as was a not so little Bittern. We also clocked up a few Hobbies, two Cuckoos , a Barn Owl and a nice selection of various ducks and warblers. What a great place!

* I'm VERY glad we bumped into this chap, a Weymouth-based birder. Interrogations by James and myself soon revealed Brett to be the man who first found the Cory's Shearwater in May that flew past here, but we didn't hold that against him. Phone numbers have been exchanged so when he gets his Fea's zooming past west we can all cash in on it, or vica versa of course! Of interest, he also saw the adult Long-tailed Skua which blew me away a couple of springs ago, we knew it had been in Chesil Cove during the afternoon but he saw it flying west from his patch heading right for us from the cove.


I got up early and headed off to Somerset to carry out one of my surveys, it's about a 50 minute drive from home. It was going OK, I'd seen a couple of Tree Pipits and a Redpoll. All good stuff really.

I received a text about half way round informing me of a Little Stint on Blackhole Marsh, this would be a patch year tick for me, so it put a slight dampener of the morning....but only slight. About half hour later my phone rings.....the Little Stint is now a Baird's Sand. WOW!

My reaction to this was totally different to the reaction I gave to the Little Stint. I broke out in a sprint, jumped in my car and drove from here to home quicker than ever...although every slow driver in Devon seemed to be in front of me, why does that always happen?

Arrived at Blackhole Marsh at about 11:15, great it's still there. I've never seen an adult Baird's before, so it's long appearance had me fooled. I didn't have a foggiest what it's plumage should be. Anyway, I fired off several pictures and went home very happy.

When I got home, I fired up the laptop and pretty soon had that sinking feeling... No Baird's ever photographed in the world looked like this one! Serious doubts were creeping in so I had to post some photos on Birdforum for others to look at....and the 'that's a nice summer plumage Little Stint' replies came in thick and fast. Here's a couple of pics of it anyway....

Lovely Little Stint!

Well what a couple of days. As I said, a little bit of everything! I'm sure the rest of the summer won't be this exciting...

Friday 5 June 2009

Where Have I Been?

It's been quiet on here of late hasn't it?

Well that's because I've just returned from a week sunning it on the Isle of Wight with my beloved. We stayed at Whitecliff Bay which is near Bembridge, it was bliss! Here's a shot of the beach which was exactly a four minute walk from our chalet...

Whitecliff Bay

What a fantastic island, all the beaches were gorgeous! I love a nice sandy beach... or two! : )

Ryde Beach - that's Portsmouth in the background

Sandown Beach

The ferry over was good fun too, we sailed from Portsmouth. Two adult Med Gulls and a few Sandwich and one Common Tern were the highlights.

I wasn't really bothered about doing any birding, mainly because I knew there wouldn't be much to see, but I was keen to look at some insects... especially butterflies! Especially one particular butterfly, the Glanville Fritillary, the Isle of Wight is the only place in the UK where this species occurs.

I had planned to head down to Ventor to see some, but a cliff-top wander within the holiday park was enough. I stumbled upon some suitable looking habitat one evening, and after a bit of poking around here found up to ten of these beautiful little butterflies. I returned the next morning to get some pictures, and wasn't disappointed...

Aren't they superb little things? And they really are little!

Also here saw a couple of Grizzled Skippers, Wall, Small Copper plus the more usual species. Here is where I saw all these beauties...

Glanville Fritillary heaven!

Now this post wouldn't be complete without a few pics from our outing to The Isle of Wight Zoo. It was brilliant.

Although at times I did feel sorry for some of the animals living in their pens, I just remembered where they had come from. Most of the big cats here have come from circus groups, and one Tiger was found in a small flat in America and was handed in after it bit its owner! Enjoy...

A fine selection of beautiful big cats

Glad to see I've not missed any patch goodies whilst I've been gone. It's nice to be home, let's hope some patch ticks fall my way in the near future...