Saturday, 22 July 2017

Dorset Birthday Butterfly Heaven

My birthday was on Monday July 17th and the weather was glorious - very hot and sunny, just like last year - and so it was off to the coast for the day starting with a drive to Durdle Door, somewhere I have wanted to visit for many years now after learning all about the geology of the area for my O-level geography course many years ago.

We walked down the cliff path to the beach at Durdle Door along with many other people and it was already baking hot. The views of the coast and Durdle Door itself were stunning and along the walk I managed to see a small blue, a clouded yellow, a male chalkhill blue, common blue, marbled white, gatekeeper, small skipper, meadow brown, red admiral and lots of Lulworth skippers - fantastic!

Durdle Door

Chalkhill Blue, Durdle Door

Small Blue, Durdle Door

Lulworth Skipper, Durdle Door

Walking back up the cliff path was hard going in the heat as was the walk along the clifftops to Lulworth Cove but again there were plenty of butterflies to keep me occupied including dark green fritillary, painted lady and yet more Lulworth skippers.

Dark Green Fritillary, Lulworth Cove

Dark Green Fritillary

Lulworth Skipper

Lulworth Skipper

After some lunch at a pub in Lulworth Cove we headed down to the beach for a look at the stunning scenery, unfortunately the firing ranges were closed so we couldn't walk along the cliffs but we headed up to the small headland to the right of the cove where the views were amazing and yet more Lulworth skippers were seen along with a small heath and a dark green fritillary.

Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Skipper

Lulworth Skipper

With the heat rising we moved on to Kimmeridge Bay for the afternoon where we sat on the beach and admired the interesting geology while Jack splashed around in the water. We found some fossils in the rocks and a Roesel's Bush-cricket, a new species for me, looking a little out of place amongst the boulders, while 2 ravens were seen flying overhead.

Fossil, Kimmeridge Bay

Kimmeridge Bay

Roesel's Bush-cricket

Roesel's Bush-cricket

We headed back to the cottage at the end of the day feeling very sun kissed and enjoyed a barbeque for tea - a very lovely birthday day indeed.

Tuesday 18th July and it was hot and sunny again but very windy and with thunderstorms and rain forecast for the afternoon David and I headed off in the morning to the nearby RSPB reserve at Arne for a walk, meeting the others at the café on the reserve later in the morning. A look for raft spiders on a small pond drew a blank but I did have some nice views of keeled skimmers and small red damselflies, a new damselfly for me. There was no sign of any Dartford warblers in the blowy conditions with a flyover siskin and tree pipit being the only small birds of note but I did get to see an osprey perched in a dead tree eating a fish, a little distant even with a telescope but a bonus bird for the day. A single grayling was also seen feeding on heather flowers in a sheltered spot.

Keeled Skimmer, Arne

Keeled Skimmer

Small Red Damselfly, Arne

Small Red Damselfly

Osprey, Arne

Grayling, Arne

Small Copper, Arne

With the clouds rolling in again we drove to nearby Poole for some lunch and a look around the shops. I watched 2 common terns for a while as they flew around the marina before we drove back to the cottage, arriving just as the rain began to fall and the thunder and lightning began.

Common Tern, Poole

The following day was cool and cloudy and mizzly and so after a quick look around Swanage where I saw a Sandwich tern in the mist and then some lunch at Corfe Castle it was time to head back to Plymouth - but what an amazing few days away I had had - gorgeous scenery in a stunning part of the UK, butterflies galore (21 species) including 2 lifers, good birding, a new damselfly, a new cricket, a visit to a RSPB reserve new to me, interesting geology and a fantastic time with my family, all in all a brilliant birthday time. 

Friday, 21 July 2017

Five Go Butterflying in Dorset - Part Two

The cottage in Wareham was lovely, very quiet, comfortable and homely and with a pretty little back garden. I kept the garden light on overnight and on one of the mornings I had a nice elephant hawk moth inside the lantern along with a small fan-footed wave.

 Elephant Hawk Moth, Wareham

Elephant Hawk Moth, Wareham

Small Fan-Footed Wave, Wareham

The weather forecast wasn't looking too good for our time away, dry weather but mostly cloudy, breezy, warm and humid but the forecast seemed to change hourly at times. Sunday 16th July was cloudy and breezy but warm and humid especially out of the wind as forecasted and so we decided to head to Corfe Castle for the morning, somewhere I was looking forward to visiting. 

We parked up at the National Trust car park by the Castle and I wandered over to a sheltered grassy bank in the car park for a quick look around and within a few seconds had found a wall brown along with my target butterfly and the main aim of my trip to this area of Dorset - a Lulworth skipper! I had some nice views before it flew off but I was very pleased to find one so easily.

 Lulworth Skipper, Corfe Castle

Lulworth Skipper, Corfe Castle

We had a look around the Castle which was very interesting and picturesque but was very lacking in information boards. A ravens nest at the top of the ruined keep was empty and there was no sign of any birds nearby, apparently they have been breeding here since 2004. We enjoyed a cream tea in the National Trust tea room overlooking the ruins and with the sun beginning to appear from behind the clouds I headed back to the car park for another look for Lulworth skippers.

On the walk along the footpath at the base of the castle to the car park there were plenty of butterflies flitting about - marbled white, gatekeeper, common blue, large white, speckled wood, small skipper and what I think is a brown argus - and back at the car park I managed to find a few Lulworth skippers flitting about but in the warm sunshine they were very active and mobile and difficult to photograph.

 Brown Argus, Corfe Castle

Lulworth Skipper, Corfe Castle

With the clouds clearing and the sun shining it became very hot, not the weather that was forecast, and so we headed off to the beach at Studland for the afternoon. The beautiful sandy beach was busy but with a £9 parking fee for non-National Trust members it probably was a lot less busy than it could have been. The views from the beach of Old Harry rocks and the Isle of Wight were interesting but a quick walk around the dunes behind the beach only revealed a few keeled skimmers and gatekeepers in the baking heat. The odd Mediterranean gull flew over calling and black headed gulls were scavenging scraps of food along the sands and after a few hours the cloud appeared again and we headed back to the cottage, having had a very pleasant day out.

Black Headed Gull, Studland

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Five Go Butterflying in Dorset - Part One

Saturday 15th July and it was off to Wareham in Dorset for a few days away in a rented cottage with Mum, sister Vik and nephew Jack. It was cloudy and breezy when we stopped off at Maiden Castle near Dorchester along the way but it felt warm and humid as we walked around the ramparts and I managed to see marbled whites, a few small heath and a few red admirals flitting about. I easily found my main target as I got out of the car with at least 4 male corn buntings seen and heard around the car park, all with very pale looking tail feathers and rumps, either from wear and tear or maybe a genetic abnormality from what is presumably a very isolated population.

 Small Heath, Maiden Castle

 Harebell, Maiden Castle

 Marbled White, Maiden Castle

 Corn Bunting, Maiden Castle

 Corn Bunting with pale tail and rump

 Corn Bunting

 Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting

Onwards to nearby Ferrybridges at Weymouth where we met up with Mum, Vik and Jack for some lunch in the visitors centre there. A walk out onto the shingle beach was very blowy and the views were very hazy and misty but on The Fleet I had some nice views of little terns flying around and hovering for fish along with 8 dunlin, 4 ringed plovers and a variety of Mediterranean gulls including a few juveniles. Even better though were 2 roseate terns resting on the mudflats with 3 Sandwich terns, distant views even with a telescope, but very nice to see.

 Mediterranean Gulls, Ferrybridges

 Roseate and Sandwich Terns with Mediterranean Gulls

Roseate Tern (Centre)

Roseate Tern (Courtesy of Portland Bird Observatory and Field Centre Website)

The sun was beginning to break through the clouds and so we drove out to Portland to see the Olympic rings overlooking the harbour and then on to Broadcroft Quarry, a Butterfly Conservation wildlife reserve. A quick walk around in skies beginning to cloud over again revealed quite a few butterflies flitting about despite the breeze - common blue, large skipper, red admiral, gatekeeper, meadow brown and marbled white - but the highlight was a stunning male chalkhill blue, a new butterfly for me.

 Chalkhill Blue, Broadcroft Quarry

 Chalkhill Blue

 Chalkhill Blue

Chalkhill Blue

Chalkhill Blue

A few pyramidal orchids were in flower and 3 great green bush crickets were found on the brambles.

 Pyramidal Orchid

 Great Green Bush Cricket

Great Green Bush Cricket

We drove down to Portland Bill for a quick look at the lighthouse and I saw a juvenile and adult gannet flying past before we headed to the holiday cottage at Wareham, having had an excellent start to my wildlife trip away.