Friday 13th June 2014 - Prestbury Hill, Gloucestershire

Today I decided to make the most of the good weather and visit the Butterfly Conservation reserves at Prestbury Hill near Cheltenham.  For this visit I had Tony 'Marmite' Smith with me.  Marmite I hear you ask? well Tony is a well known social irritant and general wind up merchant and people, especially in birding circles, either love him or hate him...Me, well I'm undecided ;-)
 
Anyway back to Prestbury, we spent the first part the visit mooching about on the Bill Smyllie  reserve.  Unfortunately we timed our visit a bit late for Duke of Burgundy this year but we still had 20+ Small Blue butterflies. The Small Blue is Britain's smallest resident butterfly and they are literally about the size of an adult's thumb nail, absolutely tiny!

There was also good numbers of Common Blue and Small Heath present.  We also had a rather stunning and fresh looking ♂ Brown Argus.

Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)


 












It was a good day for day-flying moths with treble figure counts of Chimney Sweeper and large numbers of Burnett Companion present.  Other species of moth noted included Brimstone Moth, Common Heath, Mother Shipton, Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnett, Silver-ground Carpet,  Six-spot Burnett, Small Yellow-underwing.

Silver-ground Carpet (Xanthorhoe montanata)

 













All across the Bill Smyllie reserve there were impressive numbers of Common Spotted Orchid and Pyramidal Orchid in bloom.
 
After a spot of lunch Tony & I headed over to the Masts Field where on undertaking the walk I was absolutely blown away by the sheer number of Small Blue butterflies.  Just along the paths we walked they were in at least treble figures.  There must have been a heck of a lot more across the rest of the hill.  It was worth the drive down just to see these diminutive little blues en masse!

Small Blue (Cupido minimus)

 














It was also nice to see a Bee-orchid on this part of the reserve, although we did only see the one.

Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera)










Thursday 12th June 2014 - Titterstone Clee Hill

Today I undertook one of my regular visits to the nearby Shropshire high point of Titterstone Clee.  I was primarily going there looking for inverts as the mix of habitats such as rocky quarried slopes, acidic grassland and boggy pools is ideal for an array of wildlife.

On arrival I checked out the acidic pools at the entrance to the old quarry workings.  This area is great for Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) later in the summer but was fairly quiet today with the only notable dragon being an immature ♂ Broad-bodied Chaser that was just starting to develop its blue pruinescence.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)















Whilst photographing the chaser I caught site of a medium sized orange/brown butterfly flitting about and landing on the rocky slope next to the pool.  Result! it was a Wall butterfly.  I had recorded a single one at this site the previous summer.  Better still a 2nd one was flitting around over the same slope.  The Wall is still a fairly common butterfly in some coastal areas but in the mid to late 90's there was a huge population crash leading them to be very scarce and localised in Central England.

Wall (Lasiommata megera) - Poor record shot















Also of note at Titterstone was the large numbers of Small Heath butterflies that were present.  The only other butterfly species recorded today was a single Small Tortoiseshell.

Small Heath (Coenonympha pemphigus)















As for the birds, the usual suspects were present with Meadow Pipits seemingly everywhere and Ravens 'kronking' away over the summit.  I was also treated to views of a single Peregrine that flew in and perched on one of the cliffs.

Peregrine (Falco peregrinus)

Friday 16th May - Arne RSPB

For the final day of our holiday we decided to pay a visit to the RSPB reserve at Arne.  As the warm sunny weather was still with us we decided to walk the Coombe Heath section of the reserve first and on leaving the car park we were greeted by the sight of a Spotted Flycatcher flitting about in the nearby mature trees.

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)















Once on the heath we headed to check out the pond. Here there was a Hairy Dragonfly showing well and also a couple of Four-spotted Chasers.   On the heath itself we only managed the briefest views of  Dartford Warbler.  Arne is supposedly one of the best places to see Dartford Warblers but in my experience during a number of visits over the years it has been fairly pants.  Yes I have seen them each visit but views have been fleeting at best (alright for a list tick but not much else in my opinion).  My advice, go looking for them at lesser known sites such as Hartland, Stoborough or even the New Forest heaths!  At these places I have had much better, closer and more rewarding views of said species.  

Hairy Dragonfly (Brachytron pratense)















Next stop was the hide overlooking the Middlebere Lake (which is actually not a lake but a tidal channel) and it's adjoining area of salt marsh.  From the hide we could see 6 Spoonbills out on a distant point.  Also out there were good numbers of Shelduck

From the hide we walked the trail back across the heath towards the visitors centre.  On this leg we had cracking views of a Meadow Pipit with a bill full of food.

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)















After a spot of lunch we headed out on the larger north side of the reserve.  Under the trees between the meadows/lawns there was a herd of Sika Deer sheltering in the shade away from the early afternoon sun.

At Shipstal Beach there was little of note but for a Little Egret on the associated saltmarsh and a Sandwich Tern that was busily flying around over the open water.

The pools on the near the next stretch of heath were very productive with a small number of Palmate Newts basking near the surface.  A Palmate Newt is fairly easy to identify as they have a needle like spike (approx. 4-8 mm) at the tip of their tail.  Also at this pond were 2 Downy Emerald dragonflies,  a Broad-bodied Chaser and a handful of Four-spotted Chasers.

From the pools we headed out to the raised hide overlooking the salt marsh.  Whilst walking along the track a Sika Deer came trotting across in front of us before clocking us and dashing off.  On the salt marsh there wasn't too much of note but for a couple of Curlew, an Oystercatcher, a Redshank and a pair of Shelduck.

Sika Deer (Cervus nippon)















As we walked the small scrubby heath near Big Wood we saw a number of rather stunning Rose Chafer beetles feeding on the Rhododendrons.  Also in this area were a couple of  Green Hairstreaks and in a glade on the edge of Big Wood (just before Arne Farm) we encountered a pair of Spotted Flycatchers.

Rose Chafer (Cetonia aurata)















Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi)














What a superb last day of the holiday on a superb reserve...back to the hard work that is central England birding/wildlife watching next week...ah well!

Thursday 15th May 2014 - Hartland Moor NNR

Today, Bev and Nat went off to do 'their own thing' so I had the day to go solo and do plenty of mooching about on the heaths.  I hadn't been ambling for long when I saw a number of Small Purple-barred Moths on the wing.  This small day-flying moth of acid heathland was, although not uncommon, a lifer for me.  I then went to look around the area where I had seen the Sand Lizard earlier in the week but it was to no avail.  That said I did see a couple of Common Lizards which are always nice to see.

Small-purple Barred (Phytometra viridaria)















In the afternoon I decided to drive around to the other side of Hartland Moor to see what I could find.  On the way there I parked up and had a walk around the small heath near Scotland Farm. Here I had a Small Blue butterfly feeding on the flowers on a stretch of scrubby lawn.  Things were pretty quiet here otherwise, although I did get up close and personal views of a Wood Mouse when I lifted an inspection tin.

Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)















The walk around Hartland Moor was interesting and a I saw at least 6 ♂ Emperor Moths patrolling the heath.  In fact I was following one Emperor in my binoculars when all of a sudden a ♂ Stonechat flew up off a Gorse bush and took it in mid-air.  There is nothing quite like seeing nature in action!

The walk was quite interesting as the footpath I was on joined onto a disused railway line and on the said line the National Trust had created an unusual and rather cool looking hide out of a small railway carriage. 

On returning towards where I had parked I picked up on a pair of Dartford Warblers showing really well near where there were a group of  people sat on the lawn having a picnic and at least 3 other cars were parked.  Ironically I hadn't had a sniff of one on my walk across the heath and moor and yet here were a pair in people central...unbelievable!

Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata)



Wednesday 14th May 2014 - Brownsea Island

Today we took the ferry across to Brownsea Island to enjoy its great array of wildlife. Brownsea is situated in Poole Harbour and is well known for it's colony of native Red Squirrels.  The Island is owned by the National Trust and about a 3rd of it is managed as a reserve by the Dorset Wildlife Trust.
 
We caught the first ferry over to the island and headed straight to the lagoon on the Wildlife Trust reserve.  Here there is a hide accessed by a jetty that takes you right up close to a Sandwich Tern colony.  The sights and sounds of this colony really are something else and Sandwich Terns are great looking birds with their black spiked punk hairdos!   On the small islands near the hide there were also  nesting Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls


Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)















Also of interest on the lagoon were c.60 Black-tailed Godwits and a single Spoonbill (which unfortunately was on the far shore...so a bit distant for a decent photo).  This strange looking bird uses it's spoon-shaped bill to sweep from side to side in the water to catch it's food (crustaceans, small fish etc.)

Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)...distant record shot















From the lagoon we walked towards the villa and picked up on our first Red Squirrel of the day clambering through the trees.  A high point for me came at the small pond near the villa where a rather stunning Downy Emerald was flitting about. This was the first time I had seen this metallic green/bronze looking dragonfly and it was as species I was hoping to connect with during the week.

Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea)















From the villa we took a walk to the hides that overlook the lakes.  There was little of note here birdwise but a Hairy Dragonfly was flitting about outside the hide as were a few Rose Chafer beetles.

On the far side of the island we went down onto the shore line where a pair of Oystercatchers were sat seemingly just chilling.  I the trees nearby I was surprised to hear the unmistakable 'spinning coin' sound of a Wood Warbler singing.  We also had cracking views of another Red Squirrel in this area followed by 2 more on our walk back towards the main buildings.

Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus)















Red Squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris)

 
We finished of our visit sat in the garden of the tea room where the most obliging Red Squirrel was busy feeding on the hanging feeder there.  Also of note in the tea garden were a couple of Wall butterflies and a rather cheeky Jackdaw who landed near our table,  sat down and proceeded to eye us up the whole time we were eating our cakes.  Not a chance my friend!

Wall (Lasiommata megera)















Any chance of some cake?

12th & 13th May 2014 - Dorset (part 2)

Monday 12th May (am) - Corfe Castle
This morning me and the old ruins (sorry ladies) headed to visit another old ruin, Corfe Castle.  I wasn't expecting to see much in the way of wildlife but me being me I kept my eyes peeled and actually saw a few interesting bits and pieces between the showers.  The highlight being a Wall butterfly that was flitting around the remains of the keep.  Also of interest was a family of Ravens (including 2 juveniles) that were perched up on the highest point of the castle.

Juvenile Ravens at Corfe Castle















Monday 12th May (evening) - Hartland Moor
This evening I went solo and decided to pay a visit to the Stoborough side of the moor just before dusk.  I was hoping to hear a Nightjar churring as it went dark but alas no such joy.    That said earlier that evening I had some cracking views of a ♂ Dartford Warbler singing away from a gorse bush, flushed a Woodlark and had a close encounter with a  Sika Deer.  Then bit later on I saw a nice herd of Sika feeding on the short lawns on the NE edge of Stoborough Heath.  They looked resplendent in the evening sunshine whilst the sound of a nearby Cuckoo calling filled the air...magical.  I really do love lowland heaths!

Sika Deer (Cervus nippon)















Sika Deer Herd - Stoborough



Click on image to enlarge









Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata) ♂














Tuesday 13th May (am) - RSPB Radipole Lake
This morning we visited the RSPB's Radipole Lake Reserve.  This reserve really is a bit of a wildlife oasis situated in the heart of Weymouth.  The reserve was full of the sound of singing warblers with the Reed Warblers being particularly vocal.  Every so often we were also treated to the explosive call of one of the reserves many Cetti's Warblers.  A Sandwich Tern was out fishing over the open water.

The highlight for me though was getting cracking views of the ♂ Marsh Harrier hunting quite close over the reed bed.  The ♀ Harrier also put in an appearance.  From the hide I also found a cracking ♂ Whinchat flitting down to ground in typical chat fashion from a scrubby bush.

Whinchat ♂ (record shot)















By the visitors centre we were treated to good views of a party of Bearded Tits that came through (although none wanted to pose for the camera). On the island opposite a Common Sandpiper was working it's way along the shore line.

Bearded Tit..."No, I won't pose for a photo!"














Tuesday 13th May (pm) - RSPB Lodmoor
In the afternoon we undertook a walk around the RSPB's other Weymouth reserve, Lodmoor.  Lodmoor is situated on the edge of the town and boasts a mosaic of reed bed, open water, saltmarsh, wet grassland and scrub.  

We didn't add any new birds to the day's tally but with the sun shining it was a good walk for Inverts.  A highlight being some really fresh looking Wall butterflies.  The Wall (or Wall Brown as it is sometimes known) used to be a fairly common butterfly across the country but the population crashed during the last 20 years and now it is predominately a coastal butterfly.  It is very scarce now in my native Central England with just small populations dotted about at a handful of quarried sites.  It get's it's name from basking on walls, rocks and stony places.

Wall (Lasiommata megera) 















An immature Broad-bodied Chaser was showing well and a number of moth larvae were found including The Drinker, The Lackey & Scarlet Tiger were encountered during the walk.

Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)















Scarlet Tiger (Callimorpha dominula) larva















The Lackey (Malacosoma neustria) larva

Sunday 11th May 2014 - Dorset (part 1)

Right, I am re-embarking on my quest to try and get this blog up to date (who knows I may get there before 2014 is over!)  Anyway, on with the posts...

This post is covers part of our recent break away down Dorset.  We stayed just out side of Wareham and Bev & I were joined by her sister Nat.  Which was a bonus as it now meant there were 3 sets of eyes on the look out for wildlife!

Tynham and Worbarrow
I don't normally deviate from the wildlife but Tynham deserves a special mention as it is such a fascinating place.  The village of Tynham is located on the MOD's Lulworth ranges and is only open when the firing ranges are not in use.  The land was obtained by the MOD by compulsory purchase order just after the second world war and all its inhabitants were forced to leave.  What is left is basically a ghost town of empty shells of buildings.  I really is an eerie place.

Tynham Village














From Tynham we walked down to the nearby (and rather stunning) Worbarrow Bay.  Along the path to the we encountered a few interesting moth larvae including a rather gorgeous Garden Tiger moth caterpillar.  At the bay itself we were greeted by good views of Rock Pipit (although none would stay still long enough to have their photo taken).

Garden Tiger (Arctia caja) Larva















Worbarrow Bay (photo by Bev Kernohan)















Hartland Moor NNR
Pre-armed with info from a friend (and known reptile botherer) Tracy F we headed to a new site, Hartland Moor.  I had never been to this huge area of lowland heath before but was well impressed and visited a number of times throughout the week.  My prime aim of visiting this site was to try and see a Sand Lizard and after a bit of searching around I did just that! I managed to find a rather stunning ♂ Sand Lizard basking in all its green-hued glory.  Result! this was a lifer for me....cheers for the hints and tips Trace! 

Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) male



Click on image to enlarge








The moor didn't stop giving as I recorded yet another lifer in the form of a Grass Eggar moth larva.  This is a fairly scarce moth of coastal sand dunes and acid grasslands that is not found in my native Midlands.  It's large hairy bright yellow caterpillar really is quite stunning.  Other inverts of interest on the moor were 3 really fresh looking Four-spotted Chaser dragonflies and a Green Hairstreak butterfly. 

Grass Eggar (Lasiocampa trifolii) Larva














Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)














Things were pretty good birdwise too, with families of Stonechats everywhere and Tree Pipits singing from the tree tops.

♂ Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

Heath Lane Travellers Site Planning Application

The proposal for a travelling show people site along Heath Lane went to planning committee this week and they agreed to refuse the application, as recommended by the WFDC planning officer. 

The committee meeting can be viewed at the following webcast:
http://www.wyreforestdc.public-i.tv/...ractive/123926

The planning officer's report can be read by clicking on the following link:http://npa.wyreforestdc.gov.uk/Anite...s/00137549.pdf

Finally, I would like to thank all of you who raised their concerns and put in objections to this proposal. Every voice helped and at least for now Worcestershire's Corn Bunting stronghold is a little more secure.

Cheers
Jason


Corn Bunting - Stone, Worcestershire

Tuesday 6th May 2014 - Wyre Forest

Today, I headed into the Shropshire side of the Wyre Forest with my old mate Tony S in tow.  Weather wise the day was the visit was a bit indifferent with the weather seemingly changing from sunny to cloudy every few minutes.
 
We began by walking down one of the perimeter rides of the rocket testing facility ( I kid you not...those bangs don't half make you jump!).  On the sandy areas of the ride small numbers of both Green Tiger Beetles and Andrena barbilabris mining bees were noted.

Andrena barbilabris (♂)















Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela campestris)














 
Adjacent to the wood store a Tree Pipit was in good voice singing from the power lines.  Two more Tree Pipits were in the clear-felled area past the wood store, with one observed feeding down on the ground.

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis)















On the track between the wood store and the clear fell we observed our only Pearl-bordered Fritillary of the day.  It was a day that would transpire to be all but butterfly less.  The only other notable Lepidoptera were the half a dozen Speckled Yellow moths that we encountered on the wing.

Speckled Yellow (Pseudopanthera macularia)















That said butterflies aside it was still an enjoyable walk made more enjoyable by seeing 3 Common Lizards scurrying away from us across the rides.  One of which was even obliging enough to stay still for a few seconds to have his photo taken. 

Common Lizard (Zootoca vivipara)

Monday 5th May 2014 - Penny Hill Bank NR

Bank Holiday Monday's are a nightmare for traffic around Kidderminster (especially when it's sunny) as half the population of South Birmingham and the Black Country seem to head out to the Safari Park, Stourport on Severn and Bewdley next the Sea.  Needless to say this can cause some serious bottlenecks in the local area and it's because of this that I usually head out further south into Worcestershire away from the hordes.  Today was no exception and I headed to Penny Hill Bank Nature Reserve near Martley.

On arriving at the reserve I bumped into fellow blogger (and top local wildlife artist) Phil Mumby (http://www.philmumby.blogspot.co.uk/).  Accompanying Phil were his Dad & young daughter. I have to say it's great to see younger generations being encouraged to look at nature.  We stopped and nattered for a while (as you do) and Phil showed me where he had found a rather fetching ♀ Common Newt at rest.  Next to the newt was an equally stunning Glossy Glass Snail.   Also of interest was a Slow Worm that we found under one of the inspection sheets.




♀ Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) & Glossy Glass Snail (Oxychilus navarricus)











After a while we parted ways and I continued my mooch around the site.  On the reserve itself there were good numbers of Greater Butterfly Orchid starting to show, although they were still only in bud.  An Early Mining Bee and a small number of Adela reaumurella longhorn moths were also noted on the reserve. A Noon Fly (Mesembrina meridiana) was also observed

Early Mining Bee (Andrena haemorrhoa)














Adela reaumurella (♀)














I then decided to walk part of the footpath above the reserve that runs next to the former landfill site.  This was the most productive area in terms of the butterflies with good numbers of Dingy Skipper on the wing. Three Green Hairstreaks were also recorded although none of them wanted to play ball and have their photo taken...ah well!  

Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages)