Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Silver Studded Blues Galore and a Ring Billed Gull

The back yard moth box had 8 species in it on the morning of June 27th, fewer than on June 20th but not surprising as the weather had become cooler and less humid. Highlight was a small angle shades, one of my favourite moths and new for the back yard.

More interesting was trying to keep an eye on 2 noisey and aggressive adult herring gulls as they swooped around overhead. One of the 3 large but flightless chicks had leapt off the nest on the chimney stack and was now residing on the flat roof of the bakery next door which is at chest level to our back yard - the adults were not at all happy with my being there and I only hope the young bird grows quickly and flys off soon.

A walk around the coast path at Stoke Point that afternoon was as stunning as usual in the warm sunshine. The usual birds were seen - skylark, stonechat, meadow pipit, whitethroat, yellowhammer, cirl bunting, gannet, fulmar, sparrowhawk, chiffchaff and blackcap - along with the usual butterflys - small copper, wall, large skipper, speckled wood, painted lady, small tortoiseshell, meadow brown, red admiral and large white. A hummingbird hawkmoth was buzzing around the rocky outcrops but there was just 1 six spot burnet moth seen flying by.

Kestrel, Stoke Point

June 28th and I had planned to catch the train to Hayle and visit nearby Upton Towans, a Cornwall Wildlife Trust nature reserve on the site of an old munitions factory in the coastal dunes. The weather was dire, wet and breezey, and I nearly didn't go but the thought of being bored and fed up at home all day was too much and so off I headed anyway. It was only £10 return on the train, a bargain, and I kept my fingers crossed that the wet weather would clear up sooner than predicted.

Arriving at Hayle at 11 O'clock and it was misty and breezey but at least it had stopped raining. A brisk 40 minute walk later and I arrived at the entrance to the reserve, having stopped along the way to admire pyramidal orchids in the roadside verges. The reserve is quite extensive, consisting of grassy hillocks dotted with shrubby areas and small trees leading down to the sea. Unfortunately there was stinky dog shit everywhere including neatly packaged bags of it dotted along the paths, presumably for the dog shit fairy to collect later, but despite having to watch my step it was a very enjoyable ramble.

Within a few minutes of arriving I found my first target of the day, a male silver studded blue with its wings open despite the lack of sunshine and misty conditions. Searching around and I found a few more and by the end of the day I had seen hundreds of them, they were everywhere!  I had some great views of males and females of varying sizes and colours and condition but as the day wore on and the sun appeared they were much harder to get as close too.

 Silver Studded Blue - male

 Silver Studded Blue

 Silver Studded Blue

 Silver Studded Blue

 Silver Studded Blue - showing the silver studs on its underwing

 Silver Studded Blue - female

 Silver Studded Blue on a Pyramidal Orchid

Silver Studded Blues - mating pair

My second target of the day was not so obliging and I had resigned myself to not seeing it but eventually I found one flitting around some red valerian flowers - a smart dark green fritillary which landed for 2 seconds right in front of me before dashing off and out of sight. I thought that was it but later I saw it (or another) feeding on thistle flowers in a sheltered area and I managed to get some great views. It had some damage to its lower right wing but was still a stunning butterfly to see.

Dark Green Fritillary

 Dark Green Fritillary

Dark Green Fritillary

Other butterflys were on the wing too and I had some good views of small heath, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell, painted lady, meadow brown, ringlet, small skipper, common blue, large white and large skipper.

Small Skipper

A few moths were also seen - cinnabar, six spot burnet, common carpet, hummingbird hawkmoth, yellow shell and scarlet tiger - and there were lots of pyramidal orchids flowering along with a few southern marsh orchids.

Yellow Shell

A dead and smelly grass snake was a surprise along with a brief view of a very green looking lizard as it scuttled off from basking on a rock as I walked by. 2 small and dark toads were found underneath roofing sheets.

Offshore a lone adult gannet was circling around the Bay and 10 Manx shearwaters flew towards St.Ives. A female sparrowhawk flew over being mobbed by swallows, an adult raven flew past being followed by a noisey fledgling and chiffchaff, blackcap and whitethroat were heard singing.

Walking back to Hayle and I stopped off for a very tasty pasty from Philps (highly recommended) before walking to St.Erth station to catch the train home, stopping to watch and admire a first summer ring billed gull feeding along the estuary. It has been around for a while and may possibly be the bird I saw at Swanpool earlier in the year, and was a nice end to the day.

 Ring Billed Gull - 1st Summer

 Ring Billed Gull

Ring Billed Gull

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Moths and Orchids and a few Birds

We are finally getting some mild nights and so I had the old moth box out in the back yard on the night of June 19th and in the morning I had a nice haul of moths - 15 species with the highlight being a very smart Figure of Eighty.

 Figure Of Eighty
 Figure of Eighty - showing how it gets its name (when viewed from the right)
Figure of Eighty - not quite so obvious how it gets its name (when viewed from the left)

That afternoon we headed off to Wembury for a quick walk and things were as expected rather quiet. A dead common swift moth in the toilet block and a dead oak eggar moth caterpillar on the footpath were sad to see but 6-spot burnet were on the wing along with common blue, large skipper and meadow brown.

Large Skipper

Large Skipper

Best birds were 2 Mediterranean gulls feeding on the seaweed mass on the beach - a very smart adult in summer plumage and a 2nd summer bird. Whitethroats, blackcaps and chiffchaffs were still in song and house martins and swallows flew overhead. A cirl bunting was singing at Wembury Point and a little egret was feeding amongst the rock pools.

Mediterranean Gull - adult in summer plumage

June 23rd and after 2 boring days stuck in the office at work I needed to get out for a walk on returning home at 4pm especially as it was sunny and warm and humid. I headed off to Billacombe Railway on the bus to have a look for pyramidal orchids and on getting off the bus at CDS I found a single plant in flower in the grass verge right by the footpath - result!

 Pyramidal Orchid by the roadside
Pyramidal Orchid

I had a walk along the Railway and I found another 6 plants in flower but these were quite small and weedy looking due to being a bit overgrown by the nearby vegetation.

Pyramidal Orchid - a weedier looking plant along the Railway

Burnet companion and 6-spot burnet were flying around with small tortoiseshell, large white, speckled wood and a cinnabar moth, and I found just 2 slow worms under the felt squares due to the hot and sunny conditions. A raven flew over being mobbed by a carrion crow giving a good opportunity to compare their differing sizes and a bullfinch was heard calling in the hedgerow.

Walking over to Blagdons Meadow and I found another pyramidal orchid in another grass verge by the footpath - this verge had recently been trimmed and the orchid had taken a bashing but hopefully the flowers will still set seed for next year.

Pyramidal Orchid - a strimmed plant by the roadside

At Blagdons Meadow I found another cinnabar moth along with a flyby Jersey tiger moth, a straw dot and 6-spot burnet. A lone small heath and a male common blue were also seen and house martins were hawking low over the grass.

The Southern marsh orchids were starting to go over but the bee orchids were still flowering well.

 Bee Orchid
Bee Orchid

Arriving home and a common emerald was a nice surprise on the kitchen wall, the windows had been open all night and it must have flown in when the lights were on.

Common Emerald

June 24th and we headed off for a walk from Mount Edgecumbe to Cawsand, catching the ferry from Stonehouse to Cremyll. It was sunny and warm but with occasional cloud and marbled white, ringlet, common blue and meadow brown were all on the wing.

 Marbled White
 Marbled White

Blackcap, chiffchaff and whitethroat were all heard singing and azure damselflys were seen flying around the small pond in the garden at Mount Edgecumbe.

 Azure Damselfly
Azure Damselfly

While sitting on the beach at Cawsand waiting for the ferry back to Plymouth a hummingbird hawkmoth buzzed over the pebbles and along the rocky cliff capping off a very pleasant day.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Aish Tor Fritillaries

Wednesday June 17th and my mate Mavis had organised a short walk with friends at Mel Tor on Dartmoor as part of her 70th Birthday celebrations. The weather forecast was initially promising but it changed and on the day it was cloudy, misty and breezey but warm and humid. Very annoying as the previous day was very pleasent as is today. Never mind.

We met at Bel Tor and walked to Mel Tor, enjoying some wonderful scenery despite the mist and gloom. A willow warbler was singing and showed well and 2 ravens flew over croaking and tumbling. A skylark sang overhead as we tucked in to sandwiches and cake, Mavis calls it her bird of happiness because if you can hear one you must be somewhere nice.
Willow Warbler

After lunch was finished and everybody had drifted away we took a walk along Dr.Blackalls Drive to nearby Aish Tor, a good site for fritillaries including the rare high brown. Stonechats were seen along the walk including a few singing males and on arriving at Aish Tor I initially dismissed a singing bird as a stonechat due to my fritillary focused mind. Something twigged in my brain and I had a quick scan around and saw a very smart male Dartford warbler singing from a gorse bush before flying off being chased by a female - a nice and unexpected surprise in what has been a bit of a Dartie year so far.

 Dartford Warbler

Dartford Warbler

A small tortoiseshell flying past in the strong breeze had my pulse racing and brown silver line moths were disturbed from the vegetation. A few small heath were also seen flitting about but no fritillaries. I saw a chap searching through the bracken on the lower slopes so headed over for a chat - he was visiting from Surrey and had seen a few fritillaries fly past but had been unable to ID them properly as they had failed to settle on vegetation. Just then a ray of sunshine burst through the clouds and 2 fritillaries flew past very quickly without landing - large and very orange looking but high brown or dark green? A few more fly pasts later and I still hadn't caught a decent glimpse of them and that was that.

I did get some nice views of 3 green hairstreaks on gorse bushes and a large dragonfly species flew over the bracken. A small fritillary species landed briefly on the ground before flitting off, it was quite worn and probably a pearl bordered but it could have been a small pearl bordered.

Pearl Bordered/ Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary - Honest!

A male yellowhammer was a splash of colour on a gloomy day although it was starting to clear up and the sun was beginning to show more and more. But it was time to head off back to Plymouth and it had been a case of right place, right time but wrong conditions - too windy and cloudy - but at least I had seen some fritillary species and the Darties were a nice consolation. I certainly want to revisit here again on a better day and soon!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Plymouth Bees, 15th June 2015

I had a quick walk around Ford Park Cemetery but unfortunately a large cloud had appeared and hidden the sun and so the only butterflies seen were a small tortoiseshell and 2 speckled woods. A Pyrausta aurata and 2 burnet companions were the only moths found and a harlequin ladybird on brambles was an unwelcome surprise. An adult raven had 3 very noisey fledglings in tow.
A Fledgling Raven
Heading off for a walk at Billacombe Railway and the sun was still hidden behind clouds. A speckled wood and a painted lady were seen along with a faded Pyrausta aurata and 3 burnet companion. Southern marsh orchids were beginning to flower but there were no pyramidal orchids on show. The felt squares had the usual slow worms underneath - large and small, brown and black and buff - and 3 common lizards.
Painted Lady

At Blagdon Meadow there were no butterflies but I did see 2 burnet companion in the grass and a yellow barred brindle was found by the light in the underpass. Southern marsh orchids were flowering and after a bit of a search I found 11 bee orchids - I had forgotten how small and inconspicuous they are in the grass but they were delightful to see.
 Bee Orchid
 Bee Orchid
 Bee Orchid
 Bee Orchid
 Bee Orchid
Bee Orchid Flower - Tiny!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Breezey Birding in Bude

A few days away at the caravan in Bude from June 7th to June 10th and it was gloriously sunny for most of the time. However there was a stiff north-easterly breeze for the whole time which meant it was cool, unpleasently so at times. It was also very chilly at night with the wind and clear skies giving poor mothing conditions.

I didn't find any moths in the toilet blocks and I only had the moth box out for one night and the best of a small haul were 2 pebble prominent, a bordered sallow and a bordered straw, a new moth for me. More exciting was seeing at least 2 hummingbird hawkmoths along the clifftops on our daytime walks, whizzing around in the warm sunshine in areas out of the cool wind.

Bordered Straw

Bordered Sallow

A few butterflies were seen as well - a red admiral, a painted lady, a small tortoiseshell, male common blues, a small copper and my first meadow brown of the year.

The water levels at Maer Lake were high and amongst the mallards were a pair of shelduck and a male teal along with 2 black-tailed godwits. I only visited the clifftops once for an evening walk due to the cold wind and managed to see a few distant Manx shearwaters in small groups flying towards Lundy along with a few gannets. The choppy seas meant no luck with spotting any cetaceans.

Along the Bude Canal there were 2 Cettis warblers and 2 reed warblers singing. A male whitethroat was songflighting and a male reed bunting was seen with 2 others heard. Beautiful demoiselles, blue-tailed damselfly, azure damselfly and a scarce chaser were seen flying around along the footpath.

Blue-tailed Damselfly

Banded Demoiselle - male

Banded Demoiselle - female

Azure Damselfly

Scarce Chaser - male

Some swallows flying over having a hissy fit as we walked up Bude high street had me looking skywards and I just caught a brief glimpse of a hobby disappearing behind the buildings. It reappeared, gaining height before being mobbed by a female kestrel and heading off inland - a very nice surprise. Even more exciting was seeing a red kite flying overhead at Stratton as we drove back to Plymouth - it was mobbed by a carrion crow as it headed East, part of what has been a large influx and movement of red kites in Cornwall and Devon recently and a nice end to our trip.