Saturday, 21 June 2014

Choughed with Great White Egrets

A hot and sunny day on June 11th, a perfect day to head to The Lizard in Cornwall with Mavis and Mike to look for the choughs breeding at The Lizard Point. With news of the recent fledgling of the 3 youngsters I was hoping they were still in the area and hadn't moved off to the fields where they would be more difficult to find. However within 5 minutes of arriving at the watchpoint we heard the familiar sound of calling choughs and the 2 adult birds flew in to feed the young birds which were unfortunately out of sight on the cliff face. We continued to have good views of the adults as they flew in to feed the young birds throughout the morning and later when walking along the cliff top path we had even better views of the adults as they flew to and fro overhead.

 Chough at The Lizard Point Chough Watchpoint
Chough at The Lizard

Offshore there was a steady passage of gannets heading West, mostly adult birds but also a few sub-adults and juveniles. Manx shearwaters were also seen heading West, a group of 6 and a group of 20, but they were distant and difficult to keep track of amongst the waves and bright light. A few fulmar and an oystercatcher were also seen and along the clifftops whitethroats and stonechats were feeding amongst the bushes.

Butterflys were on the wing with my first small heath, meadow brown, large white, small pearl bordered fritillary and large skipper of the year being seen along with common blue and small tortoiseshell. Best of all though were 1, possibly 2, clouded yellows looking vey bright in the sunshine and the earliest I have seen them in the UK before. Also seen was a vey nice green tiger beetle that flew off before I could get a photo of it.

June 14th and I finally managed to get myself to Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath in Somerset, somewhere I have been thinking of visiting all spring. After a train ride to Taunton, a bus ride to Glastonbury and a short taxi drive I arrived at Ham Wall on a hot and sunny morning. Most noticeable on arrival were the numbers of dragonflys and damselflys on the wing, they seemed to be everywhere and were very fast and mobile in the warm weather. I managed to ID my first red-eyed and blue-tailed damselflys along with my first black tailed skimmers and I also saw a few emperor dragonflys but others eluded ID as they whizzed by.

 Common Blue Damselfly?
 Blue tailed Damselfly
 Male Black Tailed Skimmer
Female Black Tailed Skimmer

Bird wise I had some great flight views of bitterns overhead and over the reed beds and one was briefly heard booming. 3 cuckoos were seen with another 2 birds heard. Warblers were much in evidence with blackcap, willow warbler and chiffchaff heard only and garden warbler, Cettis warbler, reed warbler and whitethroat seen and heard. 3 female and a male marsh harrier were seen along with buzzards and a female sparrowhawk but I missed seeing any hobbys.

A large white bird flying distantly over the reeds turned out to be a great white egret but it soon disappeared from view but later I managed some great views of a bird feeding in the small pools at the observation deck at Ham Wall, although it was quite flighty and often disappeared from view. I also heard bearded tits regularly "pinging" in the reeds near the observation platform and managed 2 brief views of a juvenile in the top of the reeds before disappearing from view which was a very nice surprise. Marsh frogs were also heard croaking, a very loud and strange sound, but they were in a ditch and out of sight from the path.

Walking back to Glastonbury it became increasingly hot and I was very glad to get back to the town centre for something to eat and drink before journeying home. And to end off the day I saw the long staying/ resident Slavonian grebe on the River Exe near Cockwood as the train rode by, looking very smart in its summer plumage.

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