Sunday, 28 May 2017

More Sunny Days Off Work

Thursday 25th May and another hot and sunny day forecasted and so I headed off to Wembury on the bus for a walk. It was indeed hot and sunny and I wore my shorts and sandals for the first time this year but I did foolishly get a bit sun burnt on my fore arms and on the tops of my feet.

The sedge warbler I first saw in the valley to the beach at the beginning of May was still busily singing away and songflighting , I guess it has yet to find a mate although it is probably unlikely to now. Blackcap and chiffchaff were heard along with whitethroats which again seemed to be everywhere and a nice surprise was a willow warbler quietly singing near the riding stables.

Sedge Warbler


Other bird highlights were:- 2 raven flying along the cliffs; 2 shelduck, 2 male mallard, oystercatchers and 7 whimbrel feeding on the beach near the sewage pipie with another 2 whimbrel flying east along the shoreline at Heybrook Bay; around 20 house martins feeding over Heybrook Bay with a few swallows; 6 Canada geese feeding in the wheatfield; a singing cirl bunting in the sewage farm hedge with a male and female together at The Point; and the usual birds - stonechats, linnets, robins, blackbirds, wrens, etc.

Butterflys were much in evidence in the hot sunshine and I saw green veined white, holly blue, common blue, peacock, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, speckled wood and orange tip but the best was a green hairstreak on the gorse bushes by the footpath at The Point where I also bizzarely saw a male brimstone fly past.

 Green Hairstreak

 Green Hairstreak


Common Blue

Moth sightings consisted of 3 common marbled carpet in the toilet block, all with different colouring and markings, a silver y in the grass at The Point, Depressia daucella caterpillars on the hemlock water dropwort flower heads, lackey caterpillar nests and a large drinker moth caterpillar squashed on the footpath.

 Silver Y

 Lackey Caterpillars

Depressia daucella Caterpillar

A glow worm larva, a tiny dark bush cricket nymph, a wasp beetle, a seven spot ladybird larva and a beautiful demoiselle briefly by the footbridge in the valley to the beach were also seen.

 Glow Worm Larva

 Wasp Beetle

 Wasp Beetle

7 Spot Ladybird Larva

Beautiful Demoiselle record shot

Friday 26th May was an even hotter day than before and so we headed to the beach at Bovisand, catching the ferry across to Mount Batten from The Barbican and walking along the coast path. There were plenty of butterflies on the wing - red admiral, large white, green veined white, 2 holly blue, a painted lady, common blue, 2 worn wall, 2 faded small tortoiseshell, speckled wood, orange tip, a small copper and 2 green hairstreaks - a big improvement on general sightings this time last year. A sparrowhawk being mobbed by swallows, swifts flying about overhead, whitethroats heard and seen and chiffchaff and blackcap heard were the bird highlights on what was a very hot day despite a cool south easterly breeze.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Sunny Days Off Work

Our week off work has been a quiet week just pottering around but the weather has been very good with sunshine and heat building as the week has progressed. We had originally planned to have last week off, a good job we swapped weeks as last week was mostly cool and wet. However the summer birding doldrums seem to have arrived a little early this year but at least the good weather has brought out the insects.

A quick walk around Saltram on Sunday 21st May with friends Julie and Matt was busy with lots of people out enjoying the sun but I did see 9 male mandarin ducks around the pond, presumably post breeding birds, along with 4 very small moorhen chicks being eyed up by a herring gull much to their parents consternation. A nuthatch was coming down to the tables by the cafe to pick up cake crumbs with blue and great tits and chaffinches and swallows flitted about overhead.

Mandarin Duck, Saltram

Monday 22nd and we drove up to Bude for the day to check the caravan is still ok on the storage site and to have a look around the town. It was quiet bird wise with just 2 fulmar and 2 gannet offshore, a singing whitethroat along the cliffs, a singing sedge warbler heard at Northcott Beach with another heard at Maer Lake, 2 shelduck and 3 mute swans at Maer Lake and sand martins overhead. No spring squill was found on the clifftops, presumably all gone over now, no Manx shearwaters were found offshore and no sticklebacks were found in the stream which was disappointing and it was sad to see the old caravan site looking a mess as the planned building works continue.

Wednesday 23rd and we drove up to Hembury Woods on Dartmoor near Buckfastleigh for a walk, a site we haven't visited before. The woods were lovely with blackcap, chiffchaff, willow warbler, garden warbler, spotted flycatcher and pied flycatcher heard and a songflighting tree pipit seen. The sun began to appear from behind the clouds as we walked up to the Iron Age Fort/Norman Castle at the top of the hill where the warmth coaxed out the butterflies - brimstone, speckled wood, a holly blue, a green hairstreak, green veined white and my target butterfly, pearl bordered fritillaries. The fritillaries were very active and mobile but I managed to get a few decent photos of what were a little tatty looking individuals. I've seen pearl bordered fritillaries a few times but have never had really good views of them so it was very nice to see them so well.

 Holly Blue, Hembury Woods

 Green Hairstreak, Hembury Woods

 Green Hairstreak


 Pearl Bordered Fritillary

 Pearl Bordered Fritillary

 Pearl Bordered Fritillary

 Pearl Bordered Fritillary

 Pearl Bordered Fritillary

 Pearl Bordered Fritillary

Pearl Bordered Fritillary

The Fort was large and very interesting but very overgrown and difficult to imagine although the National Trust seem to have plans to improve the site alongside management of the habitat for the wildlife, a winter visit with no leaves on the trees and no bracken would be better to appreciate the site archeologically.

There were lots of Dor beetles bumbling around, not surprising considering the amount of dog shit lying around - what is it with nature reserves and beautiful places that prevents people picking up after their beloved pets? An oil beetle was a much more pleasent find though.

 Oil Beetle, Hembury Woods

Oil Beetle, Hembury Woods

After a very enjoyable walk we moved on to Sharp Tor to admire the views on what was a very hot but glorious day. A cuckoo was calling and then seen flying low over the bracken, a whitethroat and a willow warbler were heard and a stonechat and meadow pipits were songflighting, and I saw another green hairstreak, another holly blue and 4 wall brown along with a large red damselfly and a longhorn beetle species.

 Large Red Damselfly, Sharp Tor

Longhorn Beetle Sp., Sharp Tor

Onwards to the Two Bridges Hotel for afternoon tea, which was as delicious as usual, and then a visit to father in law at Woolwell before heading home and it had been a very enjoyable and interesting day out.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Shrike Dip - Again!

A quick walk along the coast path from The Warren to Stoke Point Caravan Park and back along the lane on Sunday 14th May was sunny but breezey and I managed to see 2 small copper, 2 worn wall, a holly blue, speckled woods, a peacock, green veined whites, a male orange tip and red admirals despite the cool wind. Bird wise it was quiet but swallows, house martins and whitethroats were very noticeable along with stonechats, skylarks, meadow pipits and linnets.

Wall, Stoke Point

Friday 19th May and the start of a weeks annual leave from work and it was off to Yarner Wood for a walk while David went off to Trago Mills and Mole Valley to get some garden stuff. It was cool and cloudy with occassional short, sharp showers but also occassional sunny spells until the end of the walk when the heavens opened and I got drenched in a torrential hail and thunder storm.

Before the downpour I managed to see some good birds though, starting with a walk on the heath and across the road to Trendlebeare Down. A tree pipit was singing from the top of a pine tree with a second bird heard, a yellowhammer was singing in the gorse with another male seen with a female and 3 garden warblers were singing mostly in cover but I did get good views of 2 of them eventually. Also seen were stonechats, linnets and willow warblers while overhead 3 swift, a lone house martin, a grey heron and a male siskin flew over. A male brimstone flitting about in the silver birch saplings was the only butterfly of the day but the biggest surprise was a nightjar which briefly churred from cover when a helicopter flew low overhead.

 Yellowhammer, Yarner

 Garden Warbler, Yarner

Brimstone, Trendlebeare Down

The woods held the usual birds and I had good views of a male redstart with 2 more heard singing, male pied flycatchers singing and checking out nest boxes along with a single female, a "singing" spotted flycatcher and a singing wood warbler in the same area where I saw the singing bird on my April visit but this one had leg rings (yellow over orange on the right leg, silver over green on the left leg) with another bird heard singing briefly nearby and another bird giving the occassional "peu" notes. Mistle thrush, song thrush, nuthatch, goldcrest, blue tit, robin, a male great spotted woodpecker and great tit were also seen and chiffchaff, green woodpecker and blackcap were heard but I never got to view the pond from the hide as it was full with school kids sheltering from the heavy hail and rain. I did however get to dry out and warm up with tea and cafe at The Brookside Cafe in nearby Bovey Tracy when David came to pick me up which was as good and tasty as it always is.

 Pied Flycatcher, Yarner

Pied Flycatcher, Yarner

Plans to visit Steps Bridge on Saturday 20th May were again shelved due to the poor weather forecasted so instead I headed up to Cuckoo Ball near Ivybridge on Dartmoor to look for a woodchat shrike which has been present for over a week. The weather this week has been pretty rubbish but the shrike has stuck around so despite the less than ideal conditions - cool, misty and breezy - I caught the train to Ivybridge and then walked up onto the Moor for a look. I have never visited here before and I was pleasently surprised - the scenery was stunning, there were prehistoric ruins dotted around (burial chambers, stone rows) and I met a few birders also looking for the shrike who provided some pleasent company but despite the sun eventually making an appearance I failed, as I kind of expected, to find the shrike.

 Cuckoo Ball Burial Chamber, Dartmoor

Cuckoo Ball Burial Chamber

However I did see a few nice birds - meadow pipits, stonechats, skylarks, linnets and yellowhammers seemed to be everywhere and I also saw a flyby cuckoo, a male reed bunting, 3 wheatears, 2 ravens, 2 kestrels, 3 swifts, house martins and swallows and I heard a willow warbler, a chiffchaff, a blackcap and a great spotted woodpecker.

 Yellowhammer, Cuckoo Ball

Meadow Pipit, Cuckoo Ball

A few bumble bees, a red admiral, a speckled wood and the usual cow pat flys were the only insect life seen but sadly no shrike - but after last years shrike bonanza I guess I can't be too greedy.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Three Egret Heaven at Ham Wall

Saturday 13th May and it was off on a coach trip to RSPB Ham Wall near Glastonbury in Somerset with the Plymouth RSPB Group on what may well be the last coach trip for the group as nobody is willing or able to take on the role of treasurer meaning the group will have to fold. I had originally planned to go on the DBWPS trip to Lundy this weekend but opted for Ham Wall instead (cheaper and less hassle) and I'm very glad I did.

It was sunny but breezey, cool in the wind and out of the sun but quite hot in sheltered and sunny spots. It did become increasingly cloudy and on the drive back to Plymouth at the end of the day the forecasted rain duly arrived.

On arrival we had the option to join the warden on a guided walk off the public paths but myself and my mate Mavis decided to head off on our own to find our own birds. We started with a nice singing male whitethroat in the car park hedge and walking along the path to the viewing platform we heard blackcap, chiffchaff, willow warbler, garden warbler, reed warbler and Cettis warblers singing. The deep resonant booming of a bittern could be distantly heard from the platform and we managed to get brief flight views of 2 birds flying over the reed beds, a new bird for Mavis. From the platform we also saw 2 great white egrets, pochard, 2 great crested grebes with 2 large young, at least 8 hobbys hawking for insects over the reeds, swifts, gadwall and tufted duck.

 Mallard and Pochard

Mallard and Pochard

 Great White Egret

Great White Egret

We carried on along the path towards the new Avalon hide situated right out in the reed beds but took a short detour first on the advice of a passing birder to a nearby small viewing platform overlooking a scrape where we found 2 little egrets, a very nice glossy ibis preening and a very smart male garganey feeding nearby, my bird of the day, along with lapwing, coot and mallard.

 Glossy Ibis

 Glossy Ibis

 2 sleeping male Garganey with Glossy Ibis


From the hide we watched a male and 2 female marsh harriers hunting with 2 mid air food passes seen by the male to the female, hobbys hawking overhead, a bittern flying over the reeds, 2 great crested grebes with 2 small young, bearded tit groups bouncing over the reeds including a few males, a tawny owl chick perched outside its nest box and 2 gaudy male ruff feeding on the mud.

 Tawny Owl chick

 Marsh Harrier over the reed bed

Marsh Harrier

We walked back to the small viewing platform where the glossy ibis was still on show along with a male teal, 2 male shoveler and now 2 male garganey. Mavis picked up 3 egrets flying towards the scrape which turned out to be cattle egrets in breeding plumage and at one point we had little-, cattle- and great white egret all on view together.

Cattle Egret

We walked back to the car park and crossed over the road to Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve and visited the new tower hide overlooking a scrape where around 30 black tailed godwits were feeding. Also seen from the hide were more marsh harriers, hobbys, a bittern, great white egrets, 2 greylag geese with a gosling and a male wigeon. Mavis again picked up 3 cattle egrets flying towards the scrape with one coming in to land by a little egret, presumably different birds to those seen earlier.

Common Blue Damselfly

 Four Spotted Chaser - a new dragonfly for me

 Blue Tailed Damselfly

Azure Damselfly

With time running out we walked back to the viewing platform at Ham Wall where we watched a bittern having a tussle with a great white egret flying over the reeds, a little grebe, our only moorhen of the day, marsh harriers, hobbys, swifts and swallows before it was time to get back on the coach for the journey back to Plymouth - but what an amazing days birding we had had.