Saturday, 22 September 2012

Autumn Wildlife Round-up

Autumn is here with generally sunny and pleasent days but chilly nights. Despite the cool nights moth trapping in the back yard has been pretty good although it is now starting to tail off. New for the garden was a broad bordered yellow underwing, originally overlooked as a large yellow underwing due to its size but ID'd on closer inspection. In fact it was in the trap with large-, lesser- and lesser broad bordered yellow underwings allowing good comparison between all 4 species.

Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing - worn male
 Lesser Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing
 Lesser Yellow Underwing
 Large Yellow Underwing
Large Yellow Underwing

A feathered ranunculus, a favourite moth of mine, and a beautiful black rustic have also made welcome appearances, the black rustic being only my second sighting of one.

 Feathered Ranunculus
Black Rustic

A trip to Wembury on the 19th September was very productive with a rosy rustic being found and released from the toilet block and a rusty dot pearl seen flitting amongst the grass on the coast path, presumably a newly arrived immigrant.

Rosy Rustic
Rusty Dot Pearl

Best bird was a spotted flycatcher flycatching from the pines in the horse field, only my second Wembury sighting and in exactly the same place as my first sighting in September 3 years ago. 2 Sandwich terns flew West along the coast while small flocks of feeding swallows and house martins hawked overhead, generally moving West. A whitethroat, a great spotted woodpecker and coal tits were seen at Wembury Point with a green woodpecker being heard. Chiffchaffs were seen and heard and 2 yellow wagtails were heard calling overhead with a third bird being seen.

Along the beach with the oystercatchers were 2 whimbrel, 2 turnstone, 8 curlew and a sanderling with a little egret and 20 mallards (12 males in non-eclipse plumage and 8 females). The seaweed mass along the beach had decreased in size but was still providing plenty of feeding oppurtunities for rock and meadow pipits and pied and white wagtails along with 2 grey wagtails.


Other wildlife seen included 4 dark bush crickets, a very bright coloured comma butterfly, a bloody nosed beetle and 7 common lizards along with red admirals, meadow browns, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell, small white and 1 large white. Sea campion was in flower  - not bladder campion as I thought back in April!

Sea Campion

A trip to Dawlish Warren on the 22nd September with the aim of seeing little stints, curlew sandpipers and ospreys was fruitless - all 3 of these birds seem to be very scarce this Autumn with only a few sightings of each of them on the Exe this year. Never mind. What was surprising - and worrying - was the lack of waders at Dawlish Warren. I managed to see only 16 sanderling, 7 dunlin, 2 ringed plover, 12 bar-tailed godwit (2 in summer plumage) and 2 knot (first of the year!) amongst the large numbers of curlew and oystercatcher - normally there would be much larger numbers of waders than this.

Albino Oystercatcher amongst the oystercatcher roost

Also seen were Sandwich terns feeding in the estuary and offshore, 11 brent geese (first of the Autumn), a buzzard which put up all the waders at the high tide roost as it flew over, 6 juvenile and an adult shelduck, a juvenile Mediterranean gull, an adult common gull, 6 mute swan and a little egret. Land birds included 4 stonechat, a very nice juvenile whinchat, a pair of blackcaps, chiffchaffs, a screeching jay and a calling tawny owl.

Skulking male Blackcap

Small copper were noticeable flitting around the grass along with meadow browns, red admirals, a speckled wood, small tortoiseshells and small white, and a silver y was nectaring on evening primrose flowers.

Small Copper
Small White
Unknown Dragonfly sp.
Autumn ladys tresses were in flower although most had gone over, my third orchid species at Dawlish Warren this year.

 Autumn Ladys Tresses
Autumn Ladys Tresses


  1. Dragon looks good for a Common darter

    1. Thanks for the ID - still trying to get my head around dragonfly ID!