Saturday 26th May 2012 - Chartley Moss NNR

Today I did something completly different and went with fellow British wildlife enthusiast (and supporter of inferior Midlands football teams) Mark P to an organized event at Chartley Moss National Nature Reserve in Staffordshire.

Chartley Moss NNR is the largest example of a floating peat bog, in Britain. The Sphagnum lawn supports important botanical communities adapted to grow in this hostile environment which in turn support a rich invertebrate fauna, including the nationally scarce White-faced Darter dragonfly.  The reserve is only opened to the public once a year for guided walks due to the sensitive nature of the habitat.

The weather conditions were almost ideal as the sunshine over the past week had meant that good numbers of dragonflies and damselflies had emerged...although the stronger breeze today made them very difficult to photograph!  We did however get great views of White-faced Darter ...a lifer for me!  As they were recently emerged though their facial frons hadn't whitened off as yet.  There were also Four-spotted Chasers and Broad-bodied Chasers on the wing.  Large Red Damselflies were also very much in evidence.

Also of interest were good numbers of Green Hairstreak that were present flitting around the wooded scrubby edge of the bog.  These are such beautiful butterflies and always a pleasure to see.  Amongst the Sphagnum moss there were patches of Britain's only carnivorous plant Sundew growing.

Unfortunately we didn't see any of Chartley's other speciality the day-flying Argent and Sable moth, but an enjoyable couple of hours was had all the same. 

I recommend that, if ever you get chance, visit the moss on one of these's a fascinating place.  Wellies are recommended though as the Sphagnum moss that cover the peat is like a sponge and in some places your feet will sink 3 or 4 inches into the bog (that's about 70 to 100 mm for you metric types!).  Today wasn't a good day for my boots to start letting in!!!!

Chartley Moss NNR

Sundew and Sphagnum
White-faced Darter (imm. ♂)
Green Hairstreak

Friday 25th May 2012 - Captains Pool and Penny Hill Bank

This morning I started the day by popping around to Tony's to check on the moth trap.  I had set it up on his waterside bit of land that he leaves as a wildflower garden.  I am trying to build a list of moths for Captains Pool as it is part of my patch so Tony very kindly lets me run it here (and plies me with the finest hot beverages too!)

On checking the trap I lost 2 macros immediately as the box had already warmed up enough for them to be active.  In the box there were 5 macro moths:  2 Treble Lines, 2 May Highflyer and 1 unidentified.  Also present was a Phryganea grandis Caddis Fly.  This moth like fly is Britain's largest Caddis fly and it's body is almost an inch in length and its antennae about the same length again.

Treble Lines (Charanyca trigrammica)

May Highflyer (Hydriomena impluviata)

Caddis Fly (Phryganea grandis)


From Captains Pool we headed over to Penny Hill Bank NR near Martley.  Its one of the Worcestershire Wildlife Trusts lesser known reserves and is a wonderfully preserved fragment of Limestone grassland that is rich in wildflowers and insects. Click on below link for more info:

Whilst we were at Penny Hill there were a variety of butterflies on the wing.  We recorded good 10+ Dingy Skipper, 4 Brown Argus, 3 Common Blue, 1 Orange Tip, 1 Large White, 1 Small White, 1 Small Tortoiseshell and 2 Speckled Wood

Also of interest were 4 Burnett Companion moths and a Hairy Shieldbug.  Small numbers of Common Spotted Orchid were in bloom.

In the small pool behind the reserve we saw 2 Great Crested Newts and double figures of Smooth Newt.  A Beautiful Demoiselle damselfly was also present.

Brown Argus

Hairy Shieldbug (Dolycoris baccarum)

Wednesday 23rd May 2012 - Shenstone

This afternoon, I decided to park up on Barrs Lane and undertake my invert walk across the field and back along the Butts Lane set-aside. 

The walk proved to be quite fruitful as I saw 2 Brown Argus and a Small Copper .  Both species of butterfly were the first patch sightings for 2012.

Also of interest during the walk were a small number of Doc Bug (Coreus marginatus), a species that I have not noted before at Shenstone.  Common Malachite Beetles were also present.

Doc Bug (Coreus marginatus)

Tuesday 22nd May 2012 - The Wyre Forest

First up, just to let you all know, I am going to try my hardest to get up to date with my blog posts this week.  As it happens my car is in for bodywork repair this week so I won't be able to just jump in the motor and go birding!  So, the plan is to get a number of those jobs that I say I'm going to do but never seem to get round too and this includes getting back up to date with the blog.  Anyway enough of that, on with the post....

Late morning I decided to pay a visit to an area of the Shropshire part of the Wyre Forest known as Postensplain.  Here, I walk a circuit of rides that surround the rocket testing facility.  Its great fun if the sirens go off followed by a ground shaking bang!  It is a quite area of the forest and is a good place to catch up with some of the local speciality species of butterfly.

During the walk I managed to record 17 Pearl-bordered Fritillary,  4 Grizzled Skipper, 5 Dingy Skipper, 7 Speckled Wood, 1 Brimstone and 2 Peacocks.  The butterflies were so active due to the hot weather and sunshine that I didn't manage to get the greatest of photos but, I will share them all the same.

Day flying moths were also apparent with Brown Silver-Line and Speckled Yellow both present.

On the walk I also noted 1 singing Tree Pipit, 1 Wood Warbler, 3 Garden Warblers and 3 Common Buzzard.  A personal highlight was seeing a stunning Fox just casually ambling along the ride in the sunshine...seemingly without a care in the world (that made two of us!)

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

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Grizzled Skipper

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Dingy Skipper

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Brown Silver-line
Speckled Yellow

Sunday 20th May - Shenstone & back garden

Today I had my first walk around the patch since returning from holiday.  It's amazing how things can change in just a week.  The Spring passage migrants have all but finished (not a Wheatear or a Wagtail in sight) and hirrundines were now back in good numbers with 6 Swallows & 12 House Martins over Butts Lane and 14 Swallows and 4 House Martins over Heath Lane, where 3 Swifts were also noted.  I also observed two separate families of Blackbirds with juveniles in tow.

This time of year I generally start focusing more on the patch invertebrates. Its an area that fascinates me and it helps to fill a gap between Spring and Autumn migration periods.

Today's walk around Butts Lane only provided me with a single ♂ Orange Tip and a Small Tortoiseshell but many Black & Red Froghoppers were noted.

Heath Lane was equally unproductive in terms of butterflies but I did record a new beetle for the patch- Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn (Agapanthia villosoviridescens).  I also observed a Xanthogramma pedissequum Hoverfly  feeding on the umbilifer flowers.

Black & Red Froghopper (Cercopis vulnerata) 

Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn 
(Agapanthia villosoviridescens)

Hoverfly (Xanthogramma pedissequum)

Later that day, when Bev returned from work, we sat outside in the back garden and had a nice big mug of tea.  Whilst enjoying our brew we saw both a Holly Blue butterfly and a Large White.  

I then had a quick wonder around to see what else may be found.  I noted 3 species of day flying moth:  Adela reaumurella, Incurvaria masculella and small Purple and Gold (Pyrausta aurata).  On a number of bushes were mating Green Shield Bugs.

We have only got a narrow terraced house garden but it just shows what you can attract if you garden with wildlife in mind.

Small Purple & Gold (Pyrausta aurata)

Green Shield Bugs (Palomena prasina)

Pembrokeshire (part three)

Sorry for the delay folks...I'm still struggling to change gear out of holiday mode.  Anyway, here it is the 3rd and final (phew!) Pembrokeshire post.

Wednesday 16th May - Stackpole
Today we headed south of the river, past Pembroke and down to the National Trust owned Stackpole Estate.  The estate is famous for it's large beautiful lily pools at Bosherton.  Unfortunately the lilies were not quite in bloom when we visited but it was still a beautiful walk all the same.  It is a well known place for a range of dragonflies...although we didn't see much of a variety there were many newly emerged Common Blue Damselflies present.  It is also a place where, if you are very lucky you can possibly see otter...needless to say we didn't but hey who cares when the scenery is this good.

From Bosherton our walk took us to Stackpole quay where there is a cracking tea room!  (I can strongly recommend the homemade bread pudding).  There was little to see of interest at the quay itself but a couple of Holly Blue butterflies were on the wing nearby.  The walk then took us to Barafundle Bay and possibly one of the finest sandy beaches you will ever see.  As it is a far walk there from the nearest carpark at stackpole quay it is also reasonably quiet, an ideal place to sit for a while and watch the world go by.

The next stage of the walk took us around the cliffs at Stackpole Head..  Here we had cracking views of Fulmars, Razorbills and Gullimots, and just of shore we observed good views of Gannets plunge-diving.  Along the cliff tops there were Rock Pipits displaying and Wheatears were seemingly everywhere. Along the grassy areas of Stackpole Warren there were good numbers of Skylark present and small numbers of Meadow Pipit were displaying.

The final stretch of the walk took us past another beautiful beach at an area called Broadhaven and back past the western edge of Bosherton Lily Ponds.  Whilst walking back past the pools I was continually scanning (to be honest I never really switch off from looking for wildlife..I'm a nightmare for it!).  This scanning paid off when I picked up a pair of Otters swimming cross the pool.  They were diving periodically, arcing their backs in a lovely curving motion as they submerged.  What a joy!  this was the first time I have ever seen wild Otters and it was the undoubted highlight of the week for me.   What a great way to round of a great walk.

Bosherton Lily Ponds

Thursday 17th  May - The Gann and Marloes Mere
Today I went my separate way from Bev and Nat.  They were walking the coastal path from St. Bride's to Little Haven and I decided to have a bit of me time and do some solo birding.

My first port of call that morning was The Gann estuary.  Apart from the ubiquitous Oystercatchers, also noted were 5 Bar-tailed Godwits, 6 Dunlin, 2 Whimbrel and 3 Curlew.

After spending some time at the Gann I headed over to Marloes Mere to have yet another look at the rather resplendent Glossy Ibis.  I was in luck today and all 4 Glossy Ibis were showing fairly close to the iron gate, with one individual very close,  allowing me to take some more photos.  

Whilst there I picked up on 2 Yellow Wagtail (1♂ & 1♀) that were along the water's edge.  Yellow Wagtail is a fairly scarce passage migrant in Pembrokeshire with only usually a handful of records of single birds each year.

Whilst viewing from the hide 3 Dunlin circled the mere at 14:30 pm before flying off WNW.  Also of note on the mere were 2 Shelduck, 3 Shoveller (2♂, 1♀), 2 Gadwall (1♂, 1♀) and 1 Little Grebe.  Warblers were in good voice with many Sedge Warblers and Common Whitethroats perched up singing.  Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were also noted.

After leaving the mere I headed back to the cottage at Little Haven and sat outside in the sunshine with a big mug of tea reflecting on what a great week it had been.  The only downer was the fact that we were heading home tomorrow.

Glossy Ibis

Pembrokeshire (part two)

Tuesday 15th May
This morning we drove a few miles down the road to visit the Gann Estuary.  I know the images the word 'eastuary' conjures up are of huge openings of rivers into the ocean with large mudflats when the tide is out.  The Gann however is a little different and is a small river that opens up into a medium sized bay.  Coming off the river are a handful of tidal creaks and behind the bay are a few small pools.  It is an interesting place for passage waders (although not in large numbers).

On arrival at the Gann we picked up a group of 7 Bar-tailed Godwits along the shoreline. Also present nearby were 8 Whimbrel and 2 Curlew.  During the walk round we also noted 3 Northern Wheatears and 4 Shelduck.  After walking a circuit around to view the somewhat unproductive creaks we walked back and spent some time scanning the shoreline as the tide was coming back in.  This bought in a flock of 12 Ringed Plover and 40 Dunlin. Oystercatchers were also present at the Gann in good numbers.

In the afternoon we paid a 2nd visit to Marloes Mere.  The Glossy Ibis were still present but only giving distant views today.  The weather was warm and sunny and brought out good numbers of insects.  Along the track, past the youth hostel, down to the mere we saw our first (and only) Wall Brown butterfly of the week.  Large numbers of Yellow Dungfly and smaller numbers of a dungfly known as the Noon Fly were also present (don't be put off by the name, these are smart looking insects).  Along the path there were many tents of rather stunning caterpillars of The Lackey moth.  A single Oak Eggar moth caterpillar was also noted.

The highlight of the day came along the track to the old hide on the opposite side to the mere.  Here we saw and I managed to photograph a Hairy Dragonfly.  This was a species that I hadn't seen before so I was dead chuffed.  This dragonfly gets its name from the visible hairs that are present on it's abdomen and thorax.  Also of note along this path was an immature Common Blue Damselfly.

What another great (yet different) day in Pembrokeshire...3 days in and the sun was still shining!

The 3rd and final part of the Pembrokeshire post is to follow....

Whimbrel - The Gann Estuary

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Ringed Plover & Dunlins - The Gann

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Noon Fly (Mesembrina meridiana) - Marloes Mere

The Lackey moth larvae - Marloes Mere

Oak Eggar moth larvae - Marloes Mere

Hairy Dragonfly - Marloes Mere

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Pembrokeshire (part one)

Right so here it is, the holiday post.  As some of you may be aware I have just got back from a week in Pembrokeshire.  Living in the landlocked Midlands it is a great opportunity to catch up with a number of coastal specialities.  I absolutely love the coastline there (especially in the St. Brides bay area) and Bev and I visit there every couple of years.  For this holiday we were also joined by Bev's sister (and fellow wildlife enthusiast) Natalie.

Sunday 13th May
Today we headed to Skomer Island.  We arrived early to buy our ticket from the kiosk (allocated seats these days, much better) and checked if the ferry was was!  We had about an hour to kill before our ferry was leaving so we headed up to the nearby are know as 'the Deer Park' at Martin's Haven.  There were Common Whitethroats and Stonechats everywhere and as we walked towards 'Wooltack Point' we were treated to cracking views of a 2 Choughs looking rather resplendent in the sunshine with their red bills, red legs and glossy black coats. 

Just before we started to head back we had terrific views of a Gannet plunge diving just off shore.  Gannets are one of my favourite birds.  Not only do they look great but they are so agile when they sweep back their wings and dive at the water like a bullet....a joy to watch!

On arriving at Skomer's landing platform we were treated to good views of an Atlantic Grey Seal that was swimming nearby.  Just right of the ascending steps were the usual (and probably Wales's most photographed) Razorbills, nearby there was also a group of half a dozen Guillimots. Of course I had to take a would be rude not to.  We had our first views of Puffins along the ascending track. 

During the walk around the island we had great views of cliffs supporting large numbers of Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Guillimots and Razorbills.  Off shore, Shag seemed ever present and inland there were large numbers of Great Black-backed Gulls

One of the highlights on the island is an area called 'The Wick'.  Here the rabbit burrows that the Puffins nest in are right next to the footpath.  These birds are so used to people they will walk within a few feet of you whilst going about their business.  It's an amazing experience and one I highly recommend.

Whilst over at the opposite side of Skomer we had views of 3 more Grey Seals laying out on the rocks next to the 'Garland Stone'.  Whilst watching the Seals a stunning Peregrine came gliding past the cliffs at near eye level.

After leaving Skomer we popped a couple of miles down the road from Martin's Haven to Marloes Mere with a view to seeing the 4 Glossy Ibis that have been present for a considerable time.  We were in luck and on arrival had views of them circling the mere before dropping out of sight.  Half hour or so later they were up again but this time they landed fairly close to the footpath giving what can only be described as incredible views!!!  The early evening sun was catching them just right to light up there wonderfully glossy green/bronze and red plumage. 

What a great end to a great day and it was only the first full day of the holiday!

Chough - Martin's Haven 

Razorbills - Skomer Island

Fulmars - Skomer Island

Puffin - Skomer Island

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Wednesday 9th May 2012 - Worcester and Shenstone

Please note:
Just to let you all know, this will be my last blog post for a week as I am going on holiday to Pembrokeshire.  Normal service will resume on my return.  Right on with the post....

Today I decided to pop to Cherry Orchard LNR (on the outskirts of the city of Worcester) to try and get a sound recording of the Nightingale that had been present there for the past week.  I picked up Tony on the way out (well somebody has got to!) and we headed there.

On arrival we walked the track past the play area and model railway and were surprised to see a large area of scrub open up before us.  We were soon greeted by the sounds of the many Common Whitethroats and Blackcaps that were present singing away.  A bit further down the track we heard what we were hoping for...the beautiful song of the Nightingale, a sound that is becoming increasingly scarce in Worcestershire.  I got out my sound recorder and managed to get a magical recording of the bird.  The excitement didn't end there as the bird actually showed itself on a number of occasions perching up and singing from a nearby Willow...fantastic!

Nightingale - Worcester, 9th May 2012 by Shenstone Birder

On the way back the rain was absolutely pouring down but I decided to skirt through the patch in case some thing had been put down.  I'm glad I did because perched on the fences at Stanklyn paddocks was an absolutely stunning ♂ Whinchat, the first of the year on the patch.   Tony then picked up a Wheatear in the same paddock so I quickly got it in my scope.  It was a stunning ♀ Greenland Wheatear...with a lovely tangeringe wash all the way down its chest to its underparts.   The Shenstone goodies didn't stop there as a Garden Warbler was busy singing away from the hedgerow behind.

Phew!  I think I need a rest now or perhaps a holiday!

♂ Whinchat - 9th May 2012

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Tuesday 8th May 2012 - Return to the Wyre Forest

As the weather conditions were a bit more favourable i decided to pay another visit to the Wyre Forest with the hope of seeing Pearl-bordered Fritillary.  There wasn't a sign of one but a whole host of interesting wildlife was observed.

I walked from Dry Mill Lane Carpark via Knowles Coppice to Lodge Hill Farm and came back via Town Coppice.  During this walk I noted 3 Common Redstarts, 3 Garden Warblers, 4 Tree Pipits and 2 singing Wood Warblers.  Two of the Garden Warblers were showing very well along the disused railway line, chasing and having a bit of a sing off as they competed for the territory

One of the highlights was watching a a herd of 6 Fallow Deer go ambling past whilst I was in Knowles Coppice.

Reptiles were well represented too with a cracking Adder seen basking at Town Coppice and 3 Slow Worms also recorded during the walk.

Mid afternoon the temperature was starting to feel warmer and the butterflies were starting to become active as a result.  Along the railway line in this period I observed 3 Brimstone (2♂), 2♂ Orange Tip, 1 Peacock and 3 Speckled Wood on the wing.  There were also swarms of Adela reaumurella long-horn moths on the wing enjoying the warmer conditions.

Right at the end of my visit, as I was nearing the car park, I spotted a Bee Fly feeding on the flowers at the edge of the path.  Bee Flies are parasitic and resemble bumble/solitary bees. The adult female Bee Fly flicks it's eggs toward the entrance of a bee's underground nest. After hatching, the larvae then find their way into the nests and feed on the bee larvae.

Garden Warbler - Wyre Forest, 8th May 2012 by Shenstone Birder

Tree Pipit - Wyre Forest, 8th May 2012 by Shenstone Birder

Bee Fly (Bombylius major)

Adder - 8th May 2012

5th, 6th & 7th May 2012 - Shenstone

I've decided to roll 3 Shenstone visits into this one post due to the poor weather conditions and a lack of time for serious coverage on these dates.

Saturday 5th May
I literally just skirted through the patch today on the way back from my travels with Bev.  To be honest the weather was fairly grim and the only noteworthy bird was a single Swift over Heath Lane, my first patch record of this species for 2012.

Sunday 6th May
I had caught up with friends the previous evening and much ale was consumed, needless to say I didn't visit the patch until early afternoon.  It was actually sunny (honest!) early pm and I decided to focus my time on the Witch Lane area. This proved a good decision as butterflies were out in reasonable numbers with 1 ♂ Brimstone, 3 Orange Tip, 2 Peacock, 2 Small Tortoiseshell and a Speckled Wood noted.

Two Common Whitethroats were new in and busy singing away on their respective territories. There were also large numbers of Swallows and House Martins hawking over the Rape field.  2 Swifts, a Kestrel and 2 Common Buzzards were also noted.

Monday 7th May
The weather had reverted back to being cold and damp today and there wasn't a butterfly to be seen! On the plough at Back Lane there was a single Northern Wheatear present and nearby a Lesser Whitethroat was singing near the entrance to Willow Marsh Fishery. 

The day's highlight though was another Lesser Whitethroat that was singing and showing in a tree opposite Stanklyn paddocks.  Unfortunately I hadn't got my sound recorder with me so I improvised and recorded it singing using the video mode on my camera and edited the sound from it.  It's not ideal but it does highlight the bird's melancholic rattling song (you may need to turn up your speakers as its a quiet recording)

Lesser Whitethroat - Shenstone, 7th May 2012 by Shenstone Birder

Friday the 4th May 2012 - Wyre Forest

Today, I spent the day walking in the Wyre with Tony.  We undertook walks in three different parts of the forest and below is an account of the day.

We started our walk by visiting the Lodge Hill/Knowles area of the forest.  Birdwise this is perhaps the most productive parts of the Wyre and is also the most birdwatched.  Our walk in this area produced 5 Wood Warblers, 3 Tree Pipits and a ♂ Redstart

The highlight of the walk was picking up a pair of Pied Flycatchers.  I am not going to post any location specifics for these birds as I wish to minimise disturbance.  Pied Flycatchers have become scarce breeding birds in the Wyre with only 2 or 3 pairs noted annually in recent years.

Also of note during this walk were 7 Lesser Redpoll that were seen near the bridge at Lodge Hill Farm.  Good numbers of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were singng and a ♂ Blackcap was showing well near Dry Mill car park.

The next walk we undertook was around the Uncllys Farm area.  This proved to be very unproductive and the only bird of note was a skulking Garden Warbler that was singing away from the depths of a Holly bush.

Our final walk of the day was in the Shropshire side of the Wyre at Postensplain.  We had headed here, now it had started to warm up a little, in the hope of seeing Grizzled Skipper and Pearl-bordered Fritillary.  Needless to say we saw neither.  In fact the only butterfly on the wing was a single Speckled Wood

As always with the Wyre there were other things to see and we noted many Dor Beetles and a small number of Green Tiger Beetles.

It was also a fairly productive walk for birds with 2 Tree Pipits, 2 Garden Warblers, 4 singing Willow Warblers, 4 singing Chiffchaffs and a ♂ Blackcap noted.

♂ Pied Flycatcher

Dor Beetle (Geotrupes stercorarius)