Friday 29th June 2012 - Monkwood & Grimley

Today I popped out with fellow local patch blogger Mark P  to visit Monkwood Nature Reserve.  Monkwood is a cracking area of woodland that is 5 miles NW of Worcester.  It is jointly owned by Butterfly Conservation and the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust.  Up until a couple of years back the wood held a small colony of Wood White butterflies but unfortunately they have since been lost.  It is still an excellent reserve for butterflies and worth a visit all the same.

One of the target species for the visit was White Admiral and we hadn't gone far down the first ride before we encountered one perched on a Dog Rose.  We only encountered one more White Admiral on our walk around and that individual was much more flighty. There were large numbers of Ringlet present along the rides and good numbers of Large Skipper, Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood too.  We were also treated to brief views of a Painted Lady which I managed to get a quick look at its underwing in my bins before it disappeared off down the ride never to be seen again.  A single Comma as also noted.

Day flying moths were also evident with 4 Silver Y noted along one particular ride.  Of great interest was 2 cracking looking Blood-vein moths that Mark discovered.  Although not uncommon, this was a species that I hadn't seen before.

At the ponds there were 2♂ Broad-bodied Chaser dragonflies chasing about having a right ding dong, no doubt over the single ♀ that was present.  Also of interest here was a teneral Common Darter.

From the reserve we walked down the lane to the grassy meadows at Monkwood Green.  This area is usually a great place to see good numbers of Marbled White butterflies but, as with so many sites lately, there was no sign.  We did however encounter 3 Common Blues and a few more Meadow Browns.  There were a few Burnett moths flying around and we noted both Six-spot and Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnett.

From Monkwood we dropped into the north end of Camp Lane pits at Grimley which is only a couple of miles away.  On arrival we were soon treated to cracking views (that lasted for a fair while) of a juvenile Hobby that was up amongst the Swifts.  Juvenile Hobbys still have the classic face mask but have browner upper parts and slightly buff underparts with no sign of the classic red trousers.

After the Hobby had flown off into the distance we started walking down the footpath when suddenly we picked up a Red-veined Darter that landed on the path ahead.  I managed to get good views of this scarce migrant dragonfly in my bins but wasn't able to get any photos.  I was dead chuffed at seeing this individual as I hadn't managed to connect with them when they were discovered there by Brian Stretch a few weeks earlier.

As we walked along the new causeway it became apparent that the place was absolutely teaming with Odonata.  There were teneral (newly emerged) Black-tailed Skimmers seemingly everywhere, all perching up to wait for their wings and bodies to fully harden.  Also present were good numbers of teneral Common Darters.   Needless to say a few photo opportunities presented themselves.

All in all it was an enjoyable day out and a varied selection of wildlife was enjoyed.  I really should start thinking about giving Shenstone some coverage again soon who knows what I may have missed...ah well there's always next week.

White Admiral - Monkwood NR

Blood-vein moth - Monkwood NR

Black-tailed Skimmer (immature) - Grimley

Common Darter (immature) - Grimley

Wednesday 27th June 2012 - Out & about in North Worcestershire

It was another dry day and fairly humid too.  Again I decided to leave working a very unproductive Shenstone (as seems to be the case in this odd summer) and visit a handful of nearby sites to check up on some species that I had recorded in previous years.

The first place that I visited was Tanwood near Chaddesley Corbett.  This time last year I discovered a small colony of Marbled White butterflies in the meadows here and wanted to see if there was any sign in 2012.  Unfortunately there wasn't and the field where they had been in the previous year was in desperate need of grazing.  In the adjacent meadow though I did record 4 Meadow Browns, 3 Common Blues and 2 Small Coppers.  It also held a few day-flying moths with 2 Silver Y and 3 Yellow Shell noted.

Next stop on my travels was the county museum at Hartlebury.  Last year I had discovered a colony of Scarlet Tiger moths here and recorded 10 in one visit.  I had popped here earlier in the week and recorded a single flighty Scarlet Tiger Moth but was hoping to fare better this time...there wasn't a sniff of one but I did find consolation in a cracking moth called The Snout (if you look at the photo below you will see why!)

Hillditch Pool
From the grounds of the museum I headed to nearby Hillditch pool to see how my recently discovered Scarce Chasers were faring.  What was great to see was that these dragonflies had matured and there were now 3 ♂ and 2 ♀ Scarce Chasers present.  The males were now that lovely powder blue colour and appeared to be holding territory.

My final stop was at Blackstone near Bewdley.  I decided to cross over the bridge to the other side of the River Severn and walk the stretch towards Bewdley again looking for Scarlet Tiger Moths. In 2010 I recorded small numbers on the Comfrey here and was hoping to see, and perhaps photograph, a few more.  There was no sign although I did note a Red Admiral and 2 Common Blue butterflies.  Banded Demoiselles were fairly numerous and smaller numbers of Beautiful Demoiselles were also noted.

I had given up on finding any tiger moths after walking pretty much to Bewdley and back when fate  was kind to me and I saw something far better!  Whilst approaching the bridge over the Severn I saw some movement in the water near the edge of the island was an Otter!  judging by the size of it I would say it was a dog Otter and it was merrily swimming along with the current literally 30 ft away, I was speechless.  The views I had in my bins were incredible and then things just got better.  The Otter got out of the water and stood on top of a pile of branches at the edge of the island.  I could see this beautiful mammal in all its glory.  It spent about 30 seconds there before slipping back into the water and out of sight behind the over-hanging vegetation.  What a great way to end the day, my first views of Otter locally and so close.  It's moments like this that make it all worthwhile!

Common Blue - Tanwood

Silver Y - Tanwood

The Snout (Hypena proboscidalis) - Hartlebury

Monday 25th June 2012 - Penny Hill Bank

The weather seems to have settled down a bit over the past couple of days and, although not sunny, it has felt fairly warm.  With such conditions as these my invert detector started twitching (and no that's not a euphemism before anyone asks!), so I  decided to revisit Penny Hill Bank near Martley.

I gave Tony a bell to see if he was coming out to play and we arrived there just after mid-day.  The flora now was absolutely stunning and the conditions were favourable for butterflies.  In fact I think I saw almost as many butterflies in this small area than I have seen so far this year.  In total we recorded 20 Marbled Whites, 8 Meadow Browns, 4 Common Blues, 1 Small Tortoiseshell and 1 rather worn Brown Argus.

A number of moths were also noted including 1 Yellow Shell, 2 Six-spot Burnett moths and a Six-spot Burnett larvae.  I flushed a Heart & Dart moth and Tony found what was one of the day's highlights when he flushed and relocated a moth known simply as The Blackneck (Lygephila pastinum).  This was a species that I hadn't seen before so needless to say I was rather pleased.

As always there were plenty of other insects of note at the site including 2 rather smart looking Longhorn Beetles (Strangalia maculata). and a Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus vespillo)

Penny Hill is also a good place for some of our native reptiles and today was no exception with 2 Grass Snakes and 6 Slow Worms noted.

Not forgetting the area's avian inhabitants, we had cracking views of a Peregrine that went through.  Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Song Thrush were all present and in good voice.

All in all it was a very pleasing and productive visit to a fantastic local reserve.  I wonder what I may have missed at Shenstone...not a lot this time of year to be honest!

Marbled White

Six-Spot Burnett & Larvae

The Blackneck (Lygephila pastinum)

Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus vespillo) 

Longhorn Beetle (Strangalia maculata)

Grass Snake

Slow Worm

Wednesday 20th June - Shenstone

This afternoon something remarkable occurred, there was actually some sunshine!  Buoyed by this sudden glimpse of summer I headed straight down to the patch to see if there were any butterflies on the wing.

I decided to walk the circuit around Butts Lane/Barrs Lane and the adjacent field.  Within minutes of being out on the patch I picked up a Hobby flying in from the direction of Stone church and right over heading West.  This was the first Hobby of 2012 for the site and these agile raptors are always a welcome sight!  If I didn't see much else then the visit will still have been worth while.

Also on the bird front I watched an adult Common Buzzard return to its nest site carrying prey in its talons. On nearing the site the calls of a juvenile Buzzard could clearly be heard.  This was great news...I must check on the patch's other breeding pair over the next week.

As for the butterflies well, as with everywhere this poor summer, it wasn't as good on this front as I had hoped with only 4 Large Skippers and 1 Small White noted.

I did however fair better on the moth front with 4 Cinnabar Moths noted.  On walking through the long grasses I flushed good numbers of Grass Veneers and 2 Timothy Tortrix moths (I love that makes me smile every time I hear it!). The highlight on the invert front though was flushing a Common Wainscot moth which I managed to relocate and photograph.  Not an uncommon species but one I hadn't noted at this site before.

All in all it was an enjoyable and productive walk.  It's just a shame that the crappy weather would set back in for the next couple of days!

Small White

Large Skipper

Common Wainscot (Mythimna pallens)

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Monday 18th June 2012 - Hillditch Pool...the return

Late morning there was another break in this summer's dire weather and it actually felt fairly mild so I decided to re-visit Hillditch Pool for another look at the Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies to you and me).

On arrival it soon became apparent that there was more than one Scarce Chaser present.  After walking the length of the pool a number of times to obtain a more accurate count I recorded 6 Scarce Chasers in total.  To see this species in Worcestershire you would normally have to go to the River Avon in the South east of the county, so to see 6 here I was absolutely elated!

For more information on Worcestershire's Dragonflies click on the below link:
Dragonflies of Worcestershire

What was also apparent was the numbers of Red-eyed Damselfly, Azure Damselfly and Blue-tailed Damselfy that were seen copulating...amazing what a bit of better weather can do!  Also noted today were 2 Large Red Damselflies and a ♂ Banded Demoiselle.  On a rather macabre note a Blue-tailed Damselfly was observed and photographed eating another damselfly, something which I had never seen before.

As with seemingly everywhere this summer there was a notable lack of butterflies with the exception of a single Red Admiral.  A small number of day flying moths were also present including 1 Yellow Shell and 2 Common Carpet Moth.  A handful of Pammene aurana were also noted on the umbilifer flowers.

Small numbers of Bloody-nosed Beetles were also noted at the site.  This beetle gets it's name from  its defensive behaviour of exuding a bright red fluid from its mouth.  As well as providing a visual deterrent, the fluid is foul-tasting and puts of birds and other would-be predators from potentially feeding on the beetle

Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva)

Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas)

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella)

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)

Bloody-nosed Beetle (Timarcha tenebricosa)

Friday 15th June - Shenstone and Hillditch Pool

There was another break in the weather late morning so I decided to undertake a walk around the Butts Lane area looking for possible invertebrates.  I didn't see as much as I had hoped for but I did manage to record 4 day-flying moths: A Cinabar, a Brown Silver-line and 2 Pammene aurana.  The latter two species were new additions to my patch list so it was already a worthwhile visit.

Also of interest was a juvenile Common Whitethroat that was being attended to by an adult.  This is the first sign of successful breeding for Whitethroat in this location this year.  Also present in the Butts Lane area were 2 Common Buzzards and a Kestrel.

From Shenstone I decided to pop don the road to nearby Hartlebury to visit Hillditch Pool.  The pool is located at the rear of Hartlebury Common and has good numbers of water lilies on it.  The lilies were the reason I visited as I knew that in Worcestershire the stronghold for Red-eyed Damselflies is on the numerous lily ponds that surround Kidderminster.

On reaching the pond I scanned the lily pads and I soon picked up half a dozen ♂ Red-eyed Damselflies.  The males tend to spend large periods of time perched on floating vegetation and true to form these were doing just that.  Also present on the bankside vegetation were Azure and Blue-tailed Damselflies.

After spending a while observing the damselflies i decided to head back to my car.  As I was walking the footpath alongside the edge of the pool something brightly coloured caught my eye.  Perched on the top of a bracken frond was a stunning and rather resplendent looking Scarce Chaser dragonfly.  I couldn't believe my luck as this was a 'lifer' for me.  They do occur in Worcestershire in the south of the county at Eckington and are occasionally seen in other areas but still this was the last thing i expected to see.

As I drove back home the heavens opened up again and the rain set in for the day...but hey I didn't care I had a great couple of hours out there that morning.

Scarce Chaser - Hillditch Pool

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Pammene aurana - Shenstone

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Thursday 14th June 2012 - The Wyre Forest

Today there was a break in the weather (well it wasn't raining) and late morning Bev and I decided to take the opportunity to go for walk in the Wyre.  I was hoping to see (and possibly photograph) Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and my thinking was that due to it being mild and overcast, they may be less active and perch up for longer.  My thinking was correct and I managed to do both.

We started our walk by heading from Dry Mill Lane carpark and along Dowles Brook.  It was long before we saw one of the Wyre's speciality birds, a Dipper.  We watched for a fair while as one was bobbing up and down in the water periodically submerging to catch invertebrates.  Also during this stretch of the walk we heard two singing Wood Warblers and a distant Tree Pipit.

Next stop was the meadow at Knowles where we managed to see 5 Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries and as I predicted they were less flighty and photo opportunity beckoned.  The same couldn't be said of the numerous Chimney Sweeper moths that led both Bev and I on a right merry dance.  In the end neither of us managed a decent photo of one and with such high numbers of midges attacking us we gave up on that one.  Also of noted at the meadow were 3 Burnet Companion and 2 Yellow Shell moths.

Another species I was keeping my eyes peeled for was Golden-ringed Dragonfly.  I know they occur along the Dowles in small numbers but I hadn't managed to connect with them there in previous years.  But I know that fellow birder Mark P had observed a female there last week so I knew there was a shout.  Whilst Bev was photographing a Small pearl-bordered I walked a bit further along the track only to notice one perched on a stem low to the ground nearby.  Result!  this was a stonking ♂ Golden-ringed Dragonfly.  He was fairly inactive due to the conditions and I managed to get some very pleasing photos. 

We then walked up through Knowles Coppice and past Lodge Hill Farm.  In the area just past the orchard we noted 2 more Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries and a single ♂ Meadow Brown butterfly (the first I've seen in 2012).  A Tree Pipit was heard singing nearby.

We then followed a very enjoyable walk by getting a bag of chips in Bewdley and sitting down by the river.  Life doesn't get much better! 

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Burnet Companion

♂ Golden-ringed Dragonfly

The results are in...

Over the past 5 days I have run a poll to see what you, the readers, thought of my proposed idea to possibly change the name of the blog to reflect my wider interests in British Wildlife.  Four new names were proposed alongside the option of voting to keep the name as it is.

In total 64% of the people who voted said that I should keep Shenstone Birder as the blog name.  A further 23% voted for a change to The Shenstone Naturalist.  The remaining 3 proposals shared 13% of the vote.

So with this in mind I have decided, for now, to keep the blog as Shenstone Birder.  If at some point in future it does change it will most likely become Shenstone Naturalist.

I would like to thank all of you who voted and those of you who left comments and posted opinions.  For now, it is business as usual.


Tuesday 12th June 2012 - Penny Hill Bank

Today I decided to re-visit another of my favourite places in Worcestershire, Penny Hill Bank NR.  The weather was although considerably milder, very dull and still not great for butterflies.  But my main purpose today wasn't to look for inverts (although that is always at the back of my mind this time of year).  No I had decided to pay a visit to check out some of the site's floral specialities.  In particular the 4 species of orchid that I knew were present at the mo thanks to a bit of info from my old mate Jared 'Bellamy' Tibbetts.

On the way up to the reserve I recorded 4 Yellow Shell Moths along the public footpath that runs at the edge of the adjacent field.  There were also good numbers of Pyramidal Orchid along this path.

In the reserve itself, good numbers of Greater Butterfly Orchids and Common Spotted Orchids were apparent.  But it took a fair while rooting around at ground level to find the fourth orchid on my list, the diminutive Common Twayblade and finally I found one that was still in bud.  There is an abundance of wildflowers on this limestone hillside but, as flora is not my forte, I couldn't identify much of it.  Although something that did catch my eye was some rather stunning Hoary Plantain that was in flower.

I only recorded one butterfly on the visit and that was a single Brown Argus.  The reserve wasn't a complete wash out in terms of invertebrates though as I did find a rather stunning Crepidodera fulvicornis Leaf Beetle.   

Whilst on the reseve I could here a Tawny Owl periodically calling its 'ke-wick' call from the nearby woodland.  Also noted at Penny hill Bank was a single Slow Worm.

Yellow Shell (Camptogramma bilineata)

Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)

Greater Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera chlorantha)

Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)

Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata)

Hoary Plantain (Plantago media)

Leaf Beetle (Crepidodera fulvicornis)

Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)

Saturday 9th June 2012 - Shenstone

Finally!!!  today there was a break in the recent poor weather and I was unable to undertake my Butts Lane invertebrate walk.

The amount of insects around was immediately noticeable and on picking up the public footpath near the junction of Butts Lane and Barrs Lane I noted a stunning  Nemophora degeerella Long-horn Moth (unfortunately it was fairly flighty and I was unable to take a photo).  A short distance away I noticed a Cinnabar Moth sheltering on the vegetation underneath the hedgerow. 

As the walk continued I recorded 4 Marmalade Hoverflies (episyrphus balteatus) and many Yellow Dung Flies (Scathophaga stercoraria)...regardless of the rather unfortunate name they are rather stunning little things.

On the walk I recorded 4 species of Ladybird2-spot, 7-spot, 14-spot and Harlequin.  These were not the only beetles present as I also noted Cantharis livida Soldier Beetle,  Thick-thighed flower beetle (Oedemera nobilis) and many Garden Chafers.

It was also a pleasant walk in terms of some of the patch's avian inhabitants with 14 Skylarks, 7 Linnets, 4 Swallows and 2 Common Buzzards present.  Over the ruins of the former WW2 refugee camp there were 17 House Martins wheeling around.

It just goes to show how a bit of drier weather can transform a place and lift a patch birder's spirits too!

Yellow Dung Fly (Scathophaga stercoraria)

Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae)

14-Spot Ladybird (Propylea 14-punctata)

Soldier Beetle (Cantharis livida)

Friday 8th June 2012 - Captains Pool

Today was yet another day where the weather was absolutely pants and very uninspiring!  I had no birding in mind so I decided to pop and see Tony for a natter and a mug of tea.

On pulling up at Tonys I heard a familiar sound, it was the unmistakable harsh screeching call of a Common Tern.  I looked across and flying over Captains Pool was the tern with a small fish in its bill.  This is a patch year tick for me so it was already proving to be a worthwhile visit.  Also hawking low over the pool were 4 Swallows and 3 House Martins

TS has been seeing 1 to 2 Common Terns fishing periodically since Tuesday.  This tends to be a regular occurrence most summers and leads me to think that, although they don't breed on Captains Pool, they are most likely breeding nesting on one of the nearby pools.  Looking at the direction that this bird flies off it is quite possible that they are nesting on one of the pools near Dunclent.  A bit of investigation required me thinks!

Unfortunately I haven't got any photo's of the patch Terns but I have attached an archive photo (taken elsewhere) to illustrate what stunning birds they are.

Common Tern

Click on image to enlarge

Shenstone Birder Poll - Please Vote

At the top of the blog page is a poll that I am running with regards to possibly changing the name of it from Shentone Birder

The Poll will be open for a week and I would ask you all to vote (and be honest with your choices)

Many Thanks

Tuesday 5th June 2012 - Grimley

Today, Bev and I decided to pop to the nearby Grimley gravel pits for a walk.  The previous day the guy who works it as his local patch (Brian Stretch) had recorded a small number of migrant Red-veined Darter  dragonflies there.  Unfortunately we we had been busy on bank holiday Monday and I was unable to pop down to see them.  The weather was far less favourable today being cold, grey and windy, which wasn't particularily conducive for inverts of any description.  Needless to say we didn't see a single dragonfly, damselfly or butterfly.  Still Grimley is an interesting place and there is usually something of interest.

We arrived at the north end of the Camp Lane pits and began walking the footpath that takes you past the new lagoons.  Nearby a pair of Mute Swans were busy protecting and looking after two very downy looking cygnets and on the flooded middle section there were two Redshank busily feeding amongst the Juncus.

One of the things that really struck us with the walk was how high the water level was on the main pit.  All the islands were submerged so there was none of the usual breeding Common Terns, Oystercatchers and nesting Great Crested Grebes.  Although in places Coots nests could be seen hanging on bank side vegetation.  A pair of Great Crested Grebes were present but not nesting and 2 Little Grebes were also noted.  From one of the reeded areas a Reed Warbler was heard calling.

The undoubted highlight though was the sheer numbers of House Martins and Sand Martins that were hawking for insects low over the water and whilst we were stood on the causeway very close past our heads...such fantastically agile little birds!  On the walk back I even managed to record some video footage of 2 adults and a juvenile Sand Martin preening whilst perched on the nearby fence wires.

From Camp Lane we headed to the island pool at what is known as Grimley Old workings.  There is a rather old and tatty tern raft here and I'm not quite sure of its origins but it most years it holds a pair of nesting Common Terns and this year was no exception.  Terns are one of my favourite families of birds so it is good to know that there are still some breeding locally.

All in all Bev and I had a nice couple of  hours out.  Ok, so we didn't see the dragonflies but we did get to enjoy some of the bird life that the area has to offer.

Click on YouTube logo to enlarge

Friday 1st June 2012 - River Severn at Blackstone

It seems an age since I last posted a blog entry (although it has only been less than a week).  Last week wasn't the week I was expecting it to be.  My car was in the garage but I was all prepared to do some local walks when I pulled a muscle in my lower back.  It was nothing major, and it's ok now, but it was uncomfortable at the time and needless to say I rested and did very little...until today that is.

This morning I had received a text of fellow local patch birder and blogger Craig Reed ( who informed me that the Club-tailed Dragonflies were emerging en-mass at his local patch along the River Severn on a stretch between Bewdley and Stourport.  I had tried to connect with this local Odonata speciality the past couple of years with no joy and Craig had very kindly offered to keep me informed when he started to see them emerge. 

Club-tails can be notoriously difficult dragonflies to catch up with if you do not get your timings just right.  They spend the larval stage of their life in clean moderate to slow-flowing rivers such as the Severn and on emergence they crawl up onto the stems of bank side vegetation whilst their thoracic muscles warm up and they are ready to take flight.  In the case of Club-tails it is only 2-3 hours after emergence that they are ready to make their maiden flights.  But this species doesn't stay around the river it goes high and around the tree tops at nearby woodlands such as the Wyre Forest where they can be very difficult to locate.  Added to this they have a very short flight period and you tend to get the picture in the difficulties involved in connecting with them.

As it was I couldn't collect my car from the garage until 4pm and was rather worried that I may have missed the boat again.  Still I thought I would give it a go and I was glad I did...if nothing else it is a very pleasant walk along the river from Blackstone towards Lickhill.  I was treated to nice views of a Kingfisher and Banded Demoiselle damselflies were seemingly everywhere. Although no sign of any Club-tails on the vegetation near the numerous fishing jetties

By far the most productive area was the meadow between the plantation field and the first caravan site.  Here there were an abundance of newly emerged White-legged Damselflies , with many of the females in the milky cream coloured phase known as lactea.  Day flying moths were also of great interest here with 4 Mother Shipton and 3 Burnett Companion recorded.

I was considering turning back as none of the areas viewable from the jetties held any club-tails when I thought that I may as well finish checking them on this stretch before the caravan site when, on the very last one, bingo!  a stunning Club-tailed Dragonfly.  I was over joyed as this was the first time that I had seen this species and not for the lack of trying.  This individual was very photogenic and i spent a while taking photos and observing it before deciding to head back home for my tea.

Club-tailed Dragonfly (Gomphus vulgatissimus)

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White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes)

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Mother Shipton (Callistege mi)

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