Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Butterfly Birthday In Bude - 15th to 19th July 2013

The heatwave continues and a Birthday trip to Bude for a few days stay at the caravan was very, very hot and sunny.

The weather was perfect for mothing and the toilet blocks came up trumps with 21 species found including rosy footman, Brussels lace, bee moth and a female ghost moth.

I had the moth trap out overnight on the 16th/17th July and had a nice haul of moths in the morning including elephant and poplar hawkmoth, Northern rustic, small angle shades, mullein wave, garden tiger moth, Devonshire wainscot and buff tip. A new moth for me was a small rivulet but unfortunately I didn't find any crescent dart.

 Devonshire Wainscot
 Small Rivulet
Small Rivulet

Disaster struck on the 18th July when I went to use the moth trap again only to find it wouldn't work! I have had the trap for 4 years now so I guess the actinic bulbs have had it, I have ordered some new bulbs so hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly. It has been very annoying though as the conditions overnight have been pretty ideal - very warm (18c!), humid and generally still - typical! At least the toilet block moths provided some compensation.

On my birthday on the 17th July I set myself the challenge to see 3 target species and so we headed off to Dunsdon, a Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve not far from Bude, where all 3 species can be found. It is a small pocket of Culm grassland, a greatly diminished habitat and unique to the area, and somewhere I have never visited before. The most obvious sight on arrival were butterflies, they were everywhere, I have not seen so many butterflies in the UK for a long time, if ever. Marbled whites and meadow browns were the most abundant but I also saw large- and small skipper, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, gatekeeper, green veined white, large white, ringlet, speckled wood and small white. Unfortunately one of my 3 target species was marsh fritillary which are present on the reserve but I failed to find any, not totally unexpected as it is a little late in the season for them.

 Small Skipper

However my second target species was lesser butterfly orchid which is also found on the reserve, again it was a little late in the season but after a bit of searching amongst the many heath spotted orchids present I managed to find one, a new orchid species for me. Also seen was bog asphodel, another new species for me, and while searching amongst the orchids I saw silver y and six spot burnet moths on the wing.

 Lesser Butterfly Orchid
 Lesser Butterfly Orchid
 Heath Spotted Orchid
Bog Asphodel

My third target species was barn owl, also present on the reserve but unlikely to be seen in the daytime, especially considering the sunshine and heat, but that evening we headed off to nearby Sandymouth, not far along the coast from the caravan, to stake out a barn where barn owls are reported to nest. Unfortunately I drew a blank again, barn owls are turning into a bogey bird for me this year. However the sunset from the beach was beautiful and watching harbour porpoises on the calm, glassy sea was a bonus.

 Rock Formation at Sandymouth Beach
Sunset at Sandymouth Beach

Bird wise it was quiet with no green sandpipers on the mud at Maer Lake again but I did see a summer plumaged black tailed godwit and 6 summer plumaged dunlin. Offshore gannets, fulmars and Manx shearwaters were seen and a sparrowhawk was regularly seen over the campsite being noisily mobbed by swallows. 2 whimbrel flew over whistling as we left the site to head back to Plymouth on the 19th.

Fledgling Swallow

2 hares were seen in the fields behind the caravan and a fox was seen out on the mud at Maer Lake. It was looking for a meal in the shape of the young mallards feeding on the very small area of water left amongst the mud but it was unsuccessful. Harbour porpoise were seen every evening offshore, up to 4 individuals were seen together with one group very close to shore. A few pipistrelle bats were seen most evenings too.

Other highlights were a large red damselfly and golden ringed dragonflies on the wing including an ovipositing female golden ringed dragonfly at the Thurlibeer canal incline.

 Large Red Damselfly
Golden Ringed Dragonfly

And so it had been a very productive couple of days with a new moth, loads of butterflies and harbour porpoises and a new orchid species - and to misquote Meatloaf, one out of three ain't bad!

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