Tuesday 1st April 2014 - Hillditch Pool

Today I decided once again to take advantage of the good weather and head over to Hillditch Pool in my seemingly on-going quest for all things invertebrate.

On arrival at the pool I was soon greeted by 2 stunning ♂ Brimstone butterflies that came chasing past.  The butterflies didn't stop there though as I also recorded 11 Peacock, 6 Small Tortoiseshell and a Comma within the area. 

Peacock on Blackthorn blossom

Other inverts of interest during this visit included a queen Common Carder Bee (busily feeding on the Dandelion flowers) and lots of mating Bloody-nosed Beetles.

Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)

Bloody-nosed Beetles (Timarcha tenebricosa)

Things were certainly picking up birdwise too with a pair of Blackcaps in the adjacent hedgerow, the ♂ of which was busy singing.  Also of interest was a Willow Warbler that was singing occasionally, my first for the year.

Other birds of interest at the site included 2 Common Buzzards, a ♀ Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Green Woodpecker and a Raven who was busy 'kronking' away.

Around the wooded pool there were many clumps of Marsh Marigold in bloom.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

Saturday 29th March 2014 - Shenstone

Finally, the wheels of this blog have started turning again....

As today was exceptionally warm and sunny I decided to spend some time 'on patch' looking at the inverts. I started my visit on Heath Lane where a great selection of insects were on show including many Dock Bugs and Pied Shieldbugs present.  Ladybirds were also well represented with many 7-spot Ladybirds on the nettles and a single Harlequin Ladybird also noted.

Dock Bug (Coreus marginatus)

Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)

The high point at Heath Lane though came in the form of a double header.  On one of the railway sleepers, in the fence next to the paddock, there was a Ruby Tiger larvae present.  On closer inspection I also noticed that there was a tiny 16-spot Ladybird next to it (only my 2nd record of this species on the patch).

Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa) larva & 16-spot Ladybird (Tytthaspis 16-punctata)

From Heath Lane I headed to Butts lane where things were very quiet on the insect front.  That said I did pick up on a ♂ Northern Wheatear along the path across the field but unfortunately it was flushed by a dog walker before I could get a record shot...tsssk!  Ah well it was my first for the patch for 2014 so shouldn't moan

Monday 23rd March 2014 - Habberley Valley NR

Today I returned to Habberley Valley Nature Reserve to see if I could see the Adder(s) again.   Shortly after arriving I bumped into a nice chap called Andy H who has been watching and photographing the Adders there for a few years now.  After a bit of a natter we walked round the prime area and observed 3 Adders (2♂, 1♀).  The dark male that I had seen on my previous visit here was the most showy but the other smaller male and the female were far more wary and quickly disappeared into the undergrowth.

Adder - 23rd March 2014

After Andy had left I decided to go and check another area of the reserve that is favoured by the snakes and after a while I managed to spot one all but hidden under the vegetation...obviously camera shy.  Still this ♂ Adder was the 4th I had seen at the site during this visit.

Camera shy Adder - 23rd March 2014

By now, the temperature had warmed up a little and the sun was trying it's best to break through, so I decided to return to the initial area. The showy dark Adder was now on full view and was even obliging enough to let me film a bit of footage.

What a great way to round off the day, I just need to catch up with a few Grass Snakes now!

Wednesday 19th March 2014 - Titterstone Clee

Today, Bev & I decided to take a trip out to the Shropshire highpoint of Titterstone Clee Hill.  Titterstone is about a 35 min drive from Kidderminster and, and although across the county border, is perhaps closest high point (it's certainly much closer than the Malvern Hills).  It's a place that I visit every few weeks and can produce some good birds, especially during migration periods.

On arriving at the summit car park we undertook a walk around checking the ruined quarry buildings and slopes for any passage migrants.  Things were extremely quiet until Bev picked up on a single ♂ Northern Wheatear on one of the rocky slopes...result!  This was the first Wheatear I have seen in 2014....cheers Bev!  A Common Buzzard, a Kestrel and 4 Ravens were also noted in the summit area.

Northern Wheatear - 19th March 2014 (record shot)

The rest of the walk around the summit area proved fruitless so we headed over to the nearby Catherton Common. Bev was starting to feel the cold and decided to sit it out in the car, so I set off to see what was about.  I hadn't walked far before a cracking ♂ Stonechat perched up on a gorse.  This individual was unringed, so possibly a passage bird as there has been a rolling program of colour ringing the Stonechats & Wheatears at Clee.

Stonechat - 19th March 2014 (record shot)

On walking past the boggy pools I flushed a Common Snipe which called loudly before flying off into the distance.  Continuing my walk around the marshy area I then flushed a Jack Snipe which flew up from a couple of feet away flew about 30 feet and dropped back down.  I headed back to the car to fetch Bev and see if we could slowly walk towards where it had dropped down and relocate it.  We were in luck when I picked it up sat next to some Juncus in a damp channel.  We walked slowly a bit closer to the bird as it sat motionless hankered down watching us.  This allowed for us to get some cracking photos of this stunning little wader.  After a few minutes of watching the bird we turned around and walked back leaving it to go about it's business...what a great way to end the day!

Jack Snipe - 19th March 2014