Monday, 2 June 2014

Nightjars and Cuckoos

A sunny day on May 27th and so we headed off to the caravan at Bude to see the Outlaws. The water levels were still high at nearby Maer Lake but I did see a very nice summer plumaged black tailed godwit, 2 shelduck, male and female mallards with various sized ducklings and a flyover whimbrel heard calling. A look at the sea from the nearby clifftops and there was nothing of note in the calm conditions. The toilet block held a small magpie, an unknown faded moth and a smaller unknown moth which flew away before I could catch it!

? Moth species

That evening I headed off to Plymbridge Woods for my annual National Trust Nightjar Night Walk in ideal weather conditions - warm, clear and still. A very noisy tawny owl was calling in trees by the footpath while we waited for the nightjars to start churring but I couldn't locate it in the fading light. The nightjars began to churr as dusk fell, only 1 bird was heard churring at any one time but churring was heard in 3 different areas. We did get good views of 2 birds though - a churring male in silhouette in a tree with a second bird seen resting on the footpath and occasionally flying up to presumably chase a moth or beetle.

The following day and I headed up to Dartmoor for my annual Dartmoor Day with Mavis and Mike. The weather had changed and it was misty, drizzly and showery but we managed to see some good birds, starting with 2 cuckoos flying by the car near Bellever on the drive to Warren House.

At Warren House we had good views of 2 noisy and mobile cuckoos, 2 male whinchats with 1 singing, a flyover redpoll cha-cha-cha-ing, a (silent) flying green woodpecker, songflighting tree pipits, a flyover stock dove and a male reed bunting. Heath spotted orchids were beginning to flower but there was no sign of any sundews. We also found a very nice (and big) drinker moth caterpillar (ideal cuckoo food!) and a large oak eggar moth caterpillar, a new caterpillar for me and ID'd by Tony Johns.

 Oak Eggar Caterpillar
Oak Eggar Caterpillar

We walked to Challacombe Farm where we had good views of a spotted flycatcher and a male redstart along with a flyover and silent cuckoo, 2 stock doves, a male reed bunting and some wheatears. The hillsides were covered in a fragrant swath of bluebells which looked absolutely stunning as the wind rippled across the vegetation.

Bluebell covered hillside at Challacombe Farm

After lunch at the Warren House Inn we headed off to Cuckoo Rock where we had a wonderful walk although I was beginning to suffer a bit with a coldy bug thing that had been lurking around for a few days. We did hear a cuckoo calling but didn't see it but redstarts where very much in evidence with a male seen carrying food and a female seen carrying nesting material amongst others seen and heard. A tree pipit was seen singing from a tree top and also seen were a few wheatears, willow warblers, a male sparrowhawk and a pair of grey wagtail.

Male Redstart

And so it had been a busy but very enjoyable few days wildlife watching and my year list now stands at 173.

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