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

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