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 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?