Tuesday 15th October 2013 - Shenstone

It was a sunny afternoon on the patch and I decided to take advantage of the day's mild weather and undertake a walk looking for inverts and anything else that I may see along the way.

I decided to walk the footpath from Stanklyn Lane to Captains Pool and return back via the path formerly known as the 'beet field'.  What actually struck me was the amount of bird activity in this area.  A highlight was seeing a Redwing feeding on the Holly berries along the path, the first one I have actually seen down feeding on the patch this autumn.  Two Chiffchaffs were present along the hedgerow and one was occasionally bursting into a few notes of song.   12 Meadow Pipits were down feeding in the stubble and a further three were perched up on the hedge.  Also of interest bird wise were 2 Corn Buntings and 3 Yellowhammers that were perched up at the back of the 'carrot field'.

During the walk I recorded the following butterflies:  1 Comma, 1 (worn) Small Copper, 1 Small Tortoiseshell and 6 Small Whites.  I also noted good numbers of Nettle-tap moths and 1 Ruby Tiger moth larva.

I also recorded two species of fungi during this walk:  Meadow Waxcap and Parasol Mushroom.

From Stanklyn I headed up Heath Lane, where a single Comma was the only notable, and onto Barrs Lane.  At Barrs Lane I recorded a White Ermine moth larva and another Ruby Tiger moth caterpillar.

My final stop off was at Witch lane where I flushed 33 Skylarks from the stubble field whilst walking the footpath.  On a patch of mint, near the concrete pad, I recorded a diminutive 24-spot Ladybird and three 7-spot ladybirds.  A single Comma was seen feeding on the Ivy flowers.

Meadow Pipit

Ruby Tiger Moth Larva

White Ermine Moth Larva

24-spot Ladybird

Friday 11th October 2013 - Grimley

Today, Tony and I popped to the Camp Lane Pits at Grimley to see the 2 Whooper Swans that had been discovered there (by Mike Bourne) earlier that morning.  Whooper Swans are scarce passage visitors in Worcestershire and can be less than annual.

On arrival we were greeted by a small group of local birders who were huddled under the trees at the North end of the pits trying to avoid the rain.  I set up my scope and it was long before we had reasonable views of the 2 Whooper Swans that were in the middle of the main pool.

After a while we were nattering away (as birders do) when a Merlin flew low over the field on the NW side and flushed all the Meadow Pipits that were feeding there...result!  this bird was a young  male Merlin, possibly 2nd calendar year as it was showing patches of blue/grey in it's otherwise brown upper parts.

6 Little Egrets were also of note at Camp Lane Pits and good numbers of Wigeon were also present

Whooper Swan

29th September & 5th October 2013 - Shenstone

Sunday 29th September:
This afternoon I undertook my first tour of the patch since returning from Devon.  As it was a sunny day and the temperature was fairly mild I decided to undertake a walk around the Butts Lane area to see what inverts were about.

The walk itself produced a nice mix of butterflies and moths with 2 Comma, 1 Small Copper, 1 Small Tortoiseshell and 2 Silver Y of note.  Also of interest was a Speckled Wood larva I found near the entrance to Eastfields Farm.

From Butts Lane I headed to a very quiet Heath Lane where only a Red Admiral and a Comma were of note.

At Witch lane a group of 4 Alba Wagtails flew over heading SW and a single Meadow Pipit was also noted.

Speckled Wood larva

Saturday 5th October:
Today's visit to the local patch proved to be the most productive that I have had in a long while.  Shortly after arriving at Barrs Lane I picked up an absolutely cracking ♂ Stonechat....result!   This was the first Stonechat that I have recorded at Shenstone in over 3 years, so needless to say I was chuffed. Stonechats used to overwinter on the patch (with 2 pairs being present most years) but not since winter 2008/2009.  Since then they have only been recorded as occasional passage migrants and only then during autumn migration.  So, although not a scarce species of bird, this really was an exciting find for me.

Stonechat ♂

After a short while I was joined by Tony S and whilst we were watching the Stonechat and gassing away a juvenile Hobby came over heading SW.

The day had also been very productive on the invert front too!  At Barrs Lane there were 2 Ruby Tiger moth larvae on the nettles and also a new species of ladybird for the patch, 22-Spot Ladybird.  Other species of ladybird observed today were 2-Spot, 7-Spot and Harlequin.

Ruby Tiger Moth Larva

At Witch Lane it was all about the butterflies with a Painted Lady and 7 Comma all feeding on the Ivy flowers.

What a great patch day...it's just a pity they are not all like this one!

Painted Lady

22nd to 27th September 2013 - South Devon

This week Bev & I headed down to the South coast for a weeks holiday.  We stayed in a village called Galmpton that lies just outside of Paignton.  The village is home to a decent real ale pub called The Manor Inn...but I digress.  The holiday itself wasn't so much a wildlife holiday but I did squeeze in a bit of that type throughout the week, as I will highlight in this post.

Sunday 22nd September - Clennon Valley
On the Sunday I met up with a mate of mine, Mark Brook, who I know from a Facebook wildlife group called Nature Twats.  When Mark said that he would take me 'up the Clennon Valley' I was rather concerned that it was a euphemism for something else but, luckily for me, Clennon Valley is actually a local nature reserve near the centre of  Paignton. 

The reserve is made up of a mixture of habitats.  Parts of the reserve was quarried and since returned to nature with a number of wildlife rich pools. Other areas consist of  limestone grassland and ancient woodland.

The walk we undertook was rather pleasant with our first stop being the pools.  Here we were treated to Kingfisher, 2 Grey Wagtails and a rather photogenic Grey Heron.  Two Peregrines were also seen over the reserve.   On the pools there were still good numbers of dragonflies present with Common Darters and Southern Hawkers seen in good numbers.  A Comma butterfly was also present on the plants near the water's edge.

The path that runs along the pool was full of warblers with many Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers 'wheeting' away.  A personal highlight along this path was seeing a juvenile Bullfinch being fed by an adult male.

Ascending the slopes of the valley we were treated to a Clouded Yellow butterfly that flew fast across the bracken.  A Red Admiral was also present here.  Also in this area a Common Buzzard was seen soaring over head, 2 Jays flew through and a large party of Long-tailed Tits were seen flitting about.

Further up the valley, in the tree lined summit area, there were large numbers of Speckled Woods present.

It was at this point that we decided to head down the valley for some liquid refreshments.  We headed down to the Inn on the Quay at Goodrington Sands, where we were joined by another Devonian nature twat, Al Wyatt.  Needless to say the draught Tribute Ale was going down a bit too easily and things got somewhat messy later!  What a superb start to the holiday!

Grey Heron

Oh dear, things are about to get messy....

Monday 23rd September (am) - Berry Head:
This morning Bev and I headed to Berry Head  National Nature Reserve, near Brixham. This headland is renowned for it's see watching and has a good mixture of habitats just behind the cliff tops.  That said, as we left the car park,  it also became very apparent that this is probably the most popular dog walking spot in the whole of south Devon!  I've never seen so many pooches!

On arriving at the cliffs we were treated to seeing at least five groups of Gannets (5-7 birds in each) go past.  A number of single Gannets and a single Guillemot were also noted.  Perched on the rocks just off shore there were both Shags and Cormorants.  Whilst we were there, large numbers of Swallows (and small numbers of House Martins) were seen leaving the coast and heading South on there migration.

The highlight of this visit though came in the form of the cetaceans with 2 Harbour Porpoise showing well and wheeling about just off shore.  Further out to see a Dolphin was seen jumping out of the water.  Superb!

On the walk back we were treated to cracking views of a Peregrine that came past just above the cliffs.  Two Oystercatchers were on the rocks near by.

Monday 23rd September (pm) - Labrador Bay:
On the afternoon we headed up the coast to the RSPB's Labrador Bay reserve (which lies between Shaldon and Maidencombe)  in the hope of connecting with Cirl Bunting.  Labrador bay is a coastal reserve that is farmed and managed sympathetically to provide the correct habitats for the aforementioned species.

Initially the walk through the reserve was unsuccessful although there were 2 Peregrines, 2 Kestrels and a Common Buzzard showing well above the fields.

On the walk back Bev and I split up as she didn't want to walk the direct route through a field full of cows.  Bev took a small path off to the right and I did my macho bit and waded through the cows.  Suddenly my phone went.  it was Bev and she thought she had a Cirl Bunting on a hedgerow along the path she had taken.  I quickly rushed over and got on a cracking male Cirl Bunting...get in!  This was a lifer for me, as the species is limited to a handful of sites in South Devon.  Five more then flew up to the hedge from the adjacent stubble field, some of which were juveniles.  Unfortunately our joy at seeing them was soon cut short when a para-glider landed in the adjacent field and put everything up.  Ah well, mission accomplished all the same.

Cirl Bunting (record shot)

Tuesday 24th September - Totnes to Buckfastleigh:
Today we had a change of pace and had a ride out on the South Devon Railway from Totnes to Buckfastleigh.  The SDR is a steam railway that runs for 7 miles alongside the beautiful upper stretches of the River Dart.  I love Steam Railways, and no I'm not a train spotter but there is something nostalgic and beautiful about Steam Engines.  The sights, sounds and  smells...just great.

Whilst on the journey, and with the line running so close to the River Dart,  I was able to undertake in a bit of  'steam birding'.  From the comfort of my seat I observed 2 Dippers, 2 family parties of Mandarin duck, 2 Grey Wagtails and a Grey Heron.

On returning to Totnes the sun was shining and the walk along the River dart there was also quite rewarding with 2 Little Egrets showing very well along the muddy shoreline.  On a Buddleia near the footbridge there was a nice selection of autumn butterflies with 4 Red Admiral, 2 Comma, 2 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Green-veined White and a Small White present.  A Speckled Wood was feeding on a nearby Golden Rod and a Migrant Hawker dragonfly was hawking about nearby.

Little Egret - River Dart

Speckled Wood

Wednesday 25th September - Slapton Ley:
Today we decided to drive further south and pay a visit to Slapton Ley NNR.  Slapton Ley is the largest natural lake in south-west England. Although it is only separated from the sea by a narrow shingle bar, it is entirely freshwater. The lake itself is surrounded by reed beds, marshes and woodland.

On arrival I was struck by how long and impressive the shingle bar/ beach at Slapton Ley is.  To look at it reminded me a lot of Chesil Beach in Dorset.

We started our visit by undertaking a walk around the reed/marsh side footpaths at the north end.  the walk wasn't as productive as we had hoped as much of the lake was covered in algal blooms at the north end.  That said we did see plenty of insects feeding on the Ivy flowers including a Red Admiral and a Hornet.  As the walk progressed the heavens opened up and we were subjected to a torrential downpour that lasted for the next few hours.  We hurried back to the car to dry off and decided to drive down to the south end of the Ley.  Here we sheltered from the rain in the car park hide where a Sedge Warbler was showing well on the reeds in front. 

The water was clearer on this section of the Ley and subsequently there was more wildfowl present including Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Wigeon.  No migrants or birds of any real interest were present.  The rain persisted so we headed back home.

Sedge Warbler


Red Admiral

Friday 27th September - Greenway:
Today Bev & I visited the National Trust property of Greenway house & gardens.  This house was the holiday home of Agatha Christie and her family, most of which were avid collectors of nic nacs and this property is jammed full of these collections (which are much more interesting than fine china etc. in my books!)

The estate/gardens were absolutely stunning and gave really good views over the upper areas of the River Dart.  There were plenty of butterflies present feeding on the variety of flora including a lovely Painted Lady.  At the garden pool there were a few dragonflies present with 3 Southern Hawkers and a ♂ Common Darter noted. 

On the River Dart itself we could see yet another couple of  Little Egrets.  They are certainly fairly numerous down these parts.

This walk was a nice relaxed way to round off our week and I look forward to returning to the south west again in the not to distant future.

Painted Lady

Common Darter