Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Wembury, July 27th 2016

A day to myself but crap weather meant my plans for a trip to Ashclyst Forest went out of the window. Instead I decided to head off to Wembury but it was raining as I left the house to catch the bus and I nearly changed my mind but I carried on anyway and I'm glad I did as the weather improved and the sun did show itself for brief periods.

No moths in the toilet block as expected but a green woodpecker heard yaffling near the church was nice to hear. I did see a rush veneer along the footpath which I disturbed from the grass and a few six-spot burnets were flitting about and feeding on thistle flowers.

Six-spot Burnet

Plenty of butterflies were on the wing in the humid conditions and I had nice views of a very fresh male common blue, 2 small coppers, 2 peacock, a small white, 2 green veined white, 4 red admiral, gatekeepers, meadow browns, 100+ large whites and a ringlet. The large number of large whites were mostly seen flitting around the field in the old HMS Cambridge grounds which is currently covered in yellow marigold-like flowers but with a few more seen along rest of the walk.




Large White Field

Bloody nose beetles were seen including quite a few squashed on the footpath by clumsy walkers and on the fence posts were an adult and 4 young and very small common lizards. Field grasshoppers were much in evidence also, being quite variable in their colouring.

 Young Common Lizard

Field Grasshopper

At Wembury Point on the high tide 56 oystercatchers were roosting with a common sandpiper while off The Mewstone fulmars were flying around the cliffs. Offshore gannets were flying around, mostly adults but with a few dark juveniles and a few variably marked sub-adults. It was good to see my first Wembury Manx shearwaters of the year offshore also, moving west in a steady trickle either singlely or in small groups of 2 to 9 birds. I counted 34 birds in a ten minute period and I must have seen around 200 birds in my casual scanning as I walked along the footpath. Most were a little distant but a few were close in on the seaward side of The Mewstone.

Whitethroats and chiffchaffs were seen including quite a few juveniles/fledglings and it was nice to see 4 family groups of stonechats along the walk. A lone house martin over Heybrook Bay and a lone swallow over the horse stables were seen along with a juvenile blackcap and juvenile goldfinches with 9 eclipse male and female mallards along the beach. Also along the beach amongst a small flock of adult black headed gulls was an adult Mediterranean gull moulting into winter plumage, unringed and disturbed as usual by dog walkers when it flew off towards Plymouth and out of sight.

 Mediterranean Gull

Male Linnet

A kestrel and a buzzard were hovering overhead at Wembury Point and I had a brief view of a sparrowhawk hunting along a the hillside, hopefully not catching the 2 singing male cirl buntings for its lunch.

I jammily got the last Chunk pasty from the cafe for my lunch and after a coffee too I headed off home, having had a very enjoyable walk. And with juvenile yellow legged gulls now cropping up along the South Devon coast it was good to read a great entry on the Axe Birding website giving a masterclass in YLGull ID and I also found 2 fantastic photos on the Portland Bird Observatory website showing a classic yellow legged compared to a classic herring - oh to find one of my own!

 Juvenile Yellow Legged Gull (courtesy of Portland Bird Observatory Website)

Juvenile Herring Gull (courtesy of Portland Bird Observatory Website)

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Heat Wave Moths and Butterflies

July 18th and an even hotter day than before and it was time to hit the beach. We headed over to Cawsands in Cornwall on the ferry from The Barbican in Plymouth and it was a beautiful and sunny and still day. Not much in the way of birdlife in the sweltering heat but a buzzard high overhead was probably enjoying the cooler air up there if not the noisy attentions of herring gulls. It was so hot I even had a swim in the sea, something I haven't done in this country for many a year now.

Walking back from Cawsands to Cremyll through Mount Edgcumbe Park was hot and sweaty but good for butterflies with marbled whites, ringlets, meadow browns, gatekeepers,  a small tortiseshell, large skippers, large whites and red admirals all being seen but there was no sign of any purple hairstreaks around the oak tree where I saw them last year. A consolation was seeing a silver washed fritillary dashing across the bracken covered hillside but it didn't settle and was soon lost from sight. More obliging was my first male four spotted footman of the year flitting about the buildings at Derrys Cross in Plymouth.

Four Spotted Footman - male

I had the moth box out in the back yard overnight and in the morning of July 19th I had a small but varied catch with an eyed hawkmoth and a cinnabar moth being new for the back yard and other highlights being buff tip, dot moth, small yellow wave, 2 marbled green and coronet.

Marbled Green

Marbled Green

Buff Arches

Four Spotted Footman - female

Cinnabar Moth

Buff Tip

Buff Tip

Eyed Hawkmoth - found on bushes by moth trap and with damage to right wing

Small Yellow Wave

Coronet - a beautiful looking moth

Despite the heat I headed off by bus to Wembury for a walk and there were lots of butterflies on the wing with small skipper, small copper, red admiral, gatekeeper, ringlet, large white and common blue all seen. A dwarf cream wave and a buff ermine were found in the toilet block which I caught and released outside and along the walk I saw six spot burnets, a silver y and a knot grass caterpillar.

 Dwarf Cream Wave

 Red Admiral

 Small Copper

Knot Grass Caterpillar

A few birds were seen too including 2 whimbrels along the beach, gannets distantly offshore including a few all dark juveniles, a male kestrel trying to hunt for prey at Wembury Point despite the noisy attentions of 2 juveniles, chiffchaffs, whitethroats, stonechats and at least 2 singing male cirl buntings.

David and Julie arrived in the car and we enjoyed a pasty and coffee for lunch before having a paddle in the sea in the increasing heat. It was soon too hot and so after enjoying an ice cream we headed off back home to seek out some shade and cool down.

Back to work in the morning - not looking forward to it!

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

More Moths and Graylings

Returning from the caravan to Plymouth on July 16th and on the drive back the weather began to improve. We stopped off at a car boot sale near St.Mellion and wandering around the field I managed to see a marbled white and some 6 spot burnet moths amongst the stalls.

With a mini heatwave being predicted to be on the way I had the moth box out in the backyard overnight and in the morning of July 17th I had a nice but small catch of moths - toadflax pug and lesser broad bordered yellow underwing were nice to see but best of all was a scarce silver lines, a new moth for me.

Diamond Back Moth

Micro Moth sp.

Yponomeutidae sp.

Yponomeutidae sp.

Lesser Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing

Toadflax Pug

Scarce Silver Lines

July 17th was my birthday but unfortunately it was a Sunday and a very hot and sunny day and so it was difficult to decide where to go for a visit as everywhere was likely to be busy. In the end we headed off to Bolberry Down near Hope Cove for a walk along the coast although the drive there was hot and sweaty, full of traffic and with lots of reversing down narrow country lanes.

On arriving at the National Trust car park at Bolberry Down I headed down to the cliff edge to admire the stunning views and disturbed a butterfly basking on the rocks. Closer inspection revealed it to be a grayling, a butterfly I was hoping to see having only ever seen them twice before (at Bolt Head and Stoke Point in 2010).


Walking along the coast path towards Hope Cove and more graylings were seen and I managed some nice views of what is quite a characterful butterfly. They were very difficult to find resting on the ground due to their amazing camoflagued wings and the way they would face the sun head on to keep cool, being a little easier to see when tilting their wings towards the sun to warm up. It was also interesting to note that if I stood still after disturbing one from the ground it would return to within inches of my feet allowing some nice views. Graylings always close their wings together at rest but in flight I could make out orange markings on their upperwings and at times they could look like very faded painted lady butterflys. Lovely butterflies to see and lovely to see them so well.

 Grayling - without camera flash

 Grayling - with camera flash

 Grayling - with flash

 Grayling - without flash

Grayling nectaring

Also seen were lots of meadow browns along with 4 small coppers, a comma, a marbled white, large whites, ringlets and red admirals and I also had brief views of 2 scarlet tiger moths.

Scarlet Tiger Moth - record shot

Bird wise it was quiet as expected but I had nice views of yellowhammers, stonechats, skylarks and whitethroats and I heard but didn't see peregrines along the cliffs.

Male Yellowhammer

After a nice lunch in the cafe at Hope Cove the walk back to the car was hot and sweaty in the increasing heat and bright sunshine but it had been a very lovely birthday day out.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Backyard Mothing and a (final?) trip to Bude

I actually managed to get the mothbox out in the backyard twice in a week (July 7th and 9th) and I had small but varied catches with the highlights being buff tip, buff arches and marbled green along with heart and club, lime speck pug, flame, scalloped oak, yellow barred brindle and dark arches.

Marbled Green, Back Yard

July 10th and it was off to stay at the caravan at Bude for my birthday, highly likely to be for the last time as the out-laws will probably sell it at the end of this season. The weather forecast wasn't looking too good for the week and it was quite a mixed bag with cloud, mist, drizzle, occassional showers, sunny spells and all with a cold and brisk north westerly wind.

The toilet blocks on the camp site came up trumps despite my worries that the new lighting wouldn't be any good for moths and in the mornings I managed to find riband wave, wormwood pug, fan foot, single dotted wave, brimstone moth, smoky wainscot, snout, v pug, lackey, small rivulet, mottled rustic, scalloped oak, buff arches, Aethens rubigana and a male bordered beauty.

Bordered Beauty (male), Bude - a new moth for me

I had the moth box out on a few nights later in the week when the wind had eased and  night time temperatures were higher and caught a decent range of moths, highlights being garden tiger moths, a poplar hawkmoth, crescent dart, peppered moth, dark sword grass, plain golden y, silver y, sandy carpet, common emerald, grass emerald, barred straw, Devonshire wainscot, swallowtail moth, dot moth, clay, July belle, common wainscot and double square spot.

July Belle, Bude


Crescent Dart

Mottled Rustic - another new moth for me (but probably overlooked!)

Poplar Hawkmoth close-up

Small Magpie

Riband Wave - form remutata

Riband Wave

Devonshire Wainscot (left) with Common Wainscots

Garden Tiger Moth - each moth has different markings (like fingerprints)

Garden Tiger Moth - number 2

Garden Tiger Moth - number 3

The water levels in Maer Lake were very low with lots of mud on show and maximum counts for the week were 7 black tailed godwits in summer plumage, 3 dunlin in summer plumage, 2 redshank, a whimbrel heard only, a curlew heard only, a grey heron and 4 Mediterranean gull (2 adults in summer plumage and 2 2nd summers).

Black Tailed Godwit, Maer Lake

Comma, Maer Lake

Male Stickleback, Crooklets Beach, Bude
Rabbit, Campsite

Offshore there was little on show in the choppy seas with viewing hampered by the strong winds but I did find 2 adult gannets and a dark looking peregrine unsuccessfully stooping at a small flock of black headed gulls out at sea. 2 fulmars were along the cliffs and 4 oystercatchers were seen roosting on the pebble beach at high tide.

July 12th and we took a trip to Hartland Abbey, about 14 miles north along the coast from Bude and somewhere we haven't visited before. It was grey and breezey on arrival but the sun did eventually shine and I saw my first gatekeeper of the year along with brief fly past views of 2 silver washed fritillaries.

Gatekeeper, Hartland Abbey

The Abbey was very interesting, still lived in by the family and with a lovely homely atmosphere quite unlike the overly corporatness of National Trust houses. The walled garden was beautiful, the best I have ever visited, and while wandering around the flowers and vegetables I heard a tawny owl and a very noisey juvenile buzzard. The tea room was really good too and we had a lovely lunch sat outside in the sunshine.

Hartland Abbey - Walled Garden

Fledgling Robin, Hartland Abbey

After visiting the Abbey we headed to nearby Hartland Quay which was very interesting too and we had a walk along the coast path to have a look at 2 waterfalls tumbling over the high cliffs. I managed to pick up my first tick of the year on the back of my knee but more interesting were 3 fledgling wheatears, a small copper, a hovering kestrel and 2 or 3 peregrines flying about overhead.

Hartland Quay Waterfall

Fledgling Wheatear, Hartland Quay

July 14th and we also took a trip again to the nearby Dunsdon nature reserve on what was the warmest and sunniest day of the week. We visited Dunsdon in 2013 on a baking hot and sunny day and walked along the aqueduct trail by the Bude canal to Burmsdon aqueduct and back. This time we walked the trail from Dunsdon to Upper Tamar Lake and back and it was just as interesting and wildlife filled. The highlights were a reeling grasshopper warbler which I couldn't locate, lots of heath spotted orchids, plenty of butterflies (marbled whites, ringlets, meadow browns, large skippers and small skippers), silver y and 6 spot burnet moths, a singing reed bunting and a male black tailed skimmer, a common sandpiper heard calling and 2 great crested grebes at Lower Tamar Lake.

Heath Spotted Orchid, Dunsdon

Heath Spotted Orchid and Meadow Brown


Male Black Tailed Skimmer, Lower Tamar Lake

I wanted to see lesser butterfly orchid again but the field where I had seen one before had recently been grazed by cattle and I could only find a few heath spotted orchids amongst the cropped vegetation and cow pats. I kept my eyes open but couldn't find one in the other fields either but walking back to the car park at the end of the walk and I found one just by the footpath which was very nice to see.

Lesser Butterfly Orchid, Dunsdon

Lesser Butterfly Orchid

 Lesser Butterfly Orchid

Lesser Butterfly Orchid

So all in all not a bad week away despite the less than ideal weather conditions and maybe a nice swansong to our trips to Bude.