Tuesday 26 April 2011

Easter 2011

Easter Sunday (24th April) and the weather was gorgeous! And we were both off work!

The night before I had the moth box out again and in the morning had a few nice moths including 2 flame shoulders and 2 knot grass. Before going to bed I checked the box and found a carpet type moth flitting around and I managed to catch it in a pot as I find the carpets very skittish and unlikely to stay in the trap overnight. Unfortunately on checking it in the morning when I got up I found it had expired during the night and it turned out to be a red twin spot carpet, a new moth for the garden.
A very tatty, very dead red twin spot carpet
We decided to have a walk along the coast at Wembury, knowing that the place would be bombed due to a combination of hot, sunny weather and the shops being closed for the day but it wasn' t too bad. Parking was difficult so we parked up in the village and walked down to the beach and enjoyed a pasty and a coffee sat on the bench just above the beach. Walking along the footpath towards Heybrook Bay the crowds thinned and it was a pleasent walk with plenty of orange tip and holly blue seen along the walk, it seems the weather is to their liking this year as I have never seen so many of them at Wembury before.

Bird wise it was quiet but whitethroats were very much in evidence, singing and songflighting away everywhere. No whimbrels were seen or heard but the tide was high and there was a lot of disturbance from walkers along the beach. Swallows were chittering away overhead and a cirl bunting was heard singing.

The toilet block held a brimstone moth, 3 Hebrew characters and a pug moth of some species. Also seen along the walk were 2 wall browns, the first for the year.
? Pug

Wall Brown
 The hot sunny weather has been good for my cactus, it was given to me over 30 years ago by my Great Uncle Les, and flowers every year, but I think this is the earliest it has flowered.

So that was Easter 2011, unusual in that I had some time off for a change and unsual in that the weather was amazing. I have a weeks leave next week (2nd May) and am hoping the weather stays good and I am hoping to see my first new bird of the year!

Saturday 23 April 2011

More moths!

Well I survived my 7 days at work, exhausted by the end and the weather has been increasingly hot and sunny which has added to the general feeling of tiredness. However it is done and Thursday (21st April) we headed up to Bude to help the outlaws sort the caravan out for the summer. It was a beautiful day and it became very hot in the afternoon, more like a heatwave in August than April. Birdwise at least 4 singing sedge warblers were a nice sound with 2 seen and chiffchaff and whitethroat were also seen and heard. Male orange tip were flitting about everywhere and a comma was a nice find.

Moth wise I found 5 moths around the toilet blocks, caravan site toilet blocks are always such good places to find moths enticed into them by the lights burning bright all night long. 3 were new moths for me, a nut tree tussock, a pebble prominent and a least black arches. The last moth I almost dismissed as a micro moth, a group I have not paid a lot of attention too as I have enough trouble identify macros at times, but it looked very pretty on the outside wall of the toliet block next to a light so I caught it in a pot and photographed it, realising what it was when I got home and was flicking through the guide book.
Least black arches
Nut tree tussock

V Pug
On returning back to Plymouth I put out the moth box in the back yard and by morning amongst the catch I had a pebble prominent and a Hebrew character, both new for the garden, along with a male muslin moth, a knot grass and a yellow barred brindle amogst others.

Pebble Prominent - a strange looking  but pretty moth

Hebrew Character

Knot Grass
The next day was Good Friday (22nd April) and we were actually off work! First time for ages that that has been the case! We popped into Tesco at Lee Mill on the way to Yarner Wood, I having enticed David to take me there in the car with the promise of cake at Bovey Tracey. Tesco was bombed and we grabbed a few things and the ingredients needed to make a simnel cake before escaping, it really was packed out and quite unpleasent inside the store.

Yarner Wood was lovely, an oasis of calm and resplendent in the warm sunshine. Brimstone butterflys were everywhere as were pied flycatchers singing and collecting nesting material, both male and female were seen and a female was watched entering a natural nest hole in a tree with leaf litter. 3 tree pipits were singing and songflighting on the heath. A great spotted woodpecker was watched excavating a hole in a dead birch tree behind the visitors centre, flicking out chippings from inside the hole, but I didn't find a lesser spotted woodpecker to compare, I've never seen one at Yarner yet.

3 wood warblers were heard singing with 2 seen, 1 briefly and 1 very well, they are such beautiful birds, one of my top 10 birds, but are becoming so much more uncommon. The first time I saw wood warblers was at Plymbridge Woods just outside Plymouth back in the 1980's and I saw and heard at least 10 whereas now there are none, the last time I saw one there was in 2007. The same has happened at Grenofen Woods. It would be such a shame to lose these birds from the UK yet the reasons for their decline seem to be a combination of things from climate change to loss of habitat in their wintering grounds in Africa. I hope they hang on in there.

Cake at The Brookside Cafe in Bovey Tracey was a delight, I had coffee and walnut which was to die for and David had toffee and almond pavlova which was delicious. David even took a piece of the coffee and walnut home to have the next day. Not a bad couple of days with 4 new moth species and a couple of returning summer migrant birds, year total for birds now 138.

Thursday 14 April 2011

Slapton 13th April

Today we were supposed to travel up to Bude in North Cornwall to put the awning up on the caravan but the weather forecast was for wet and windy weather so we headed out to Slapton for a walk before the rain hit South Devon.

We parked up in Slapton village and walked along the Ley to Torcross and back and the rain started just as we got back to the car which was lucky. Blackcaps and chiffchaffs were heard singing and at least 2 Cettis warblers were also heard belting out their song but they kept hidden in the undergrowth. Swallows, house and sand martins were hawking over the Ley, some of the swallows chasing each other in courtship. 2 pairs of gadwall were seen along with tufted ducks and great crested grebes. 4 Sandwich terns were seen offshore fishing. Reed warblers were chuntering away in the reeds and a few individuals were seen down at the base of the reeds, quite a plain bird but quite attractive to watch.

A shared bacon butty and a piece of coffee and pecan cake and a piece of snickers roulade with a cup of tea at the Sea Breeze cafe was very tasty, at least it was open today unlike our last visit.

Starting a seven day stretch at work tomorrow, haven't done that many shifts together for a while so it's going to be fun. And no birdwatching for 7 days either!

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Moths galore ! 10th and 11th April

I had the moth box out again overnight on the 10th/11th April and had 7 moths by morning! A bright Brimstone moth, 2 double-striped pugs (1 well marked and 1 faded, different to the faded individual caught yesterday), a micro moth of some species, and new for me, a lovely male Muslin moth and 2 Early Grey, 1 of which had a lovely pinky flush especially on the underside.

 Double striped Pug
Brimstone Moth

 Early Grey
Muslin Moth
I don't usually like to have the mothbox out 2 nights in a row in the backyard as it is not fair on the moths but sometimes I have to due to work shifts and weather conditions. I was quite pleased that on this occassion I didn't catch any moths on the second night that I caught on the first night.

The weather was cooler today (11th) but the sun was still shining so we had a quick walk along the coast at Wembury. Feeling better today and the pasty I had for lunch tasted fantastic, unlike the one I had on Saturday with my cold thing in full swing. A male orange tip and a holly blue flew by while we were eating our pasties on the bench overlooking the packed main beach. A male wheatear and a swallow were seen along the walk and chiffchaffs and blackcaps were heard singing. Two oil beetles were seen, unfortunately one was squashed flat on the path. A very punky looking orange caterpillar was seen, don't know what it is, and a ruby tiger moth caterpillar was also seen.

A quick visit to the toilet block was very productive with 2 new moth species, a shoulderstripe and a streamer! Both very pretty moths but it was difficult to get a good snap of them as they were on the ceiling and it is difficult to take photos discreetly in a public toilet! Also seen were a plume moth species, 2 micro moth species and a dead Hebrew character caught in a spiders web and quite dessicated. I have never seen any moths in the toilet block before so it was quite nice to see all of the above.


On returning home I found a dessicated herald moth caught in a spidersweb in the backyard, another new moth! Shame it wasn't alive.
Herald Moth

Sunday 10 April 2011

Dawlish Warren 10th April

Had the moth box out last night, wasn't hopeful as it was still quite breezey but this morning I had 6 moths of 6 species, 2 micros and 4 macros! Still working on the ID for the micros, I find micros quite tricky anyway and of the macros 1 was a very tatty looking pug moth, a double-striped pug I think based on flight period. The other 3 were a common quaker, a powdered quaker (a new moth for me) and a yellow-barred brindle, flying early presumably due to the recent warm weather.

Powdered Quaker

Yellow Barred Brindle
Common Quaker

The weather is glorious at the moment and today was even better than yesterday as the breeze had dropped considerably. It was very warm and sunny, very pleasent and quite odd being so summer like but without summer birds around!

After a good nights sleep, a mouthwash gargle, some Ibuprofen and some strepsils I caught the train to Dawlish Warren today, first train out was 09:25 and unfortunately was a Crosscountry one, still cramped and smelly but beggars can't be choosers. Arrived at Dawlish Warren at 10:30 and headed for the sand crocus enclosure where eventually I found a few open. They are tiny little things, last year I saw them for the first time and was surprised how tiny they were, expecting them to be normal crocus sized. Later on the way back to the train station a lot more were open with the heat and sun and I got some nice photos as I forgot my camera last year.
Sand Crocus

Sand Crocus

Bird wise it was quite productive with 2 single swallows flying east along the beach with Sandwich terns flying around and diving for fish offshore.There was a showy, singing willow warbler in trees by the main pond and 2 male whitethroats were seen singing and song-flighting. A pair of stonechats was nice to see after the cold winter and a female wheatear flew through the dunes while skylarks sang overhead. Chiffchaffs were heard singing and 3 male pheasents were very showy in the sunshine and quite tame.

Male Pheasent

A summer plumaged little grebe was seen and heard trilling on the main pond and up to 7 summer plumaged great crested grebes were diving offshore. Also offshore and close to the beach was a diving immature male eider with attendent juvenile herring gull attempting to steal any food. A couple of powerboats went roaring out to sea putting up a flock of around 20 sea duck which flew off towards Torbay, distance and light making it difficult to tell what they were, eider or scoters?. 3 brent geese were seen feeding in the estuary.

Peacock butterflys and green veined whites were seen flying around and there were lots of  Brown Tail moth caterpillar webs on the bramble bushes, on checking my guide books the caterpillars are very irritating to human skin so I am glad I didn't touch them or get too close.

Brown Tail caterpillar web

Brown Tail moth caterpillars

It was London Camera Exchanges optics day today at the visitors centre and I tried out a few telescopes. Loved the Swarovski telescope but so expensive, £2500+ (!),  but I quite liked the Nikon ED50 fieldscope, £600+, good image but a little weedy looking and restricted field of view. The guy was very good explaining things to me but I am still not sure, I've been birding for years and have never had a telescope, nor have I particularly missed not having one either. I don't want to spend a load of money and find I don't use it but don't want to buy a cheaper one and then be disappointed with it. I also have to be conscious of weight as they are heavy to lug around which is why I liked the Nikon as it was so small and light. But if I had the money I would go for the Swarovski! Oh, decisions,decisions!

With it being a Sunday, school holidays and good weather Dawlish Warren was packed out, the only reason I went today was to try out the telescopes as I would normally have avoided it like the plague unless something good to see was there. It is amazing that one of the best places to see birds and other wildlife in south Devon is slap bang next to a beach resort complete with go-karts, amusement arcades and tat shops and packed with loads of people.

Saturday 9 April 2011

A single swallow does a Spring make!

Have been feeling rough for the last week now, have struggled at times with working as I have not been sleeping well and I feel quite crappy - sore throat, nausea, abdominal pains, cough, bunged up nose, headaches, etc. Checked my throat on Thursday with a pen torch and found ulcers all on the back of my throat, no wonder it hurts and also explains the nasty taste in my mouth.

Anyway today I caught the bus out to Wembury and spent a pleasent 4 hours walking along the coast in brilliant sunshine but unfortunately quite a stiff breeze. I was hoping to refind the elusive hoopoe at Heybrook Bay, seen again last weekend but no luck today. I think my only chance of seeing one in the UK is to find my own which will just be down to luck as they seem very elusive and difficult to refind after being reported. I tried searching the gardens of West Hill where it was seen last week but viewing from the road was difficult with very restricted views and I was informed by a "concerned" resident that it was a private road with no public access. It was only a half-hearted look as I feel so crap.

I did see a house martin and 2 swallows, firsts for the year and very nice to see too. The swallows were beautiful in the strong sun and twittered away at times, Spring is definently here although my mate Mavis was watching a swallow nearly 2 weeks ago down in Cornwall.

Also seen were 2 Sandwich terns fishing offshore with an adult gannet and fulmars, 2 shelduck, 4 Canada geese, a female kestrel, 2 buzzards and a pair of curlew, the size difference between the 2 as they flew past being quite noticeable, presumably a pair although curlews can apparently be quite marked in size. Chiffchaffs, blackcaps and song thrushes seemed to be singing everywhere and I had a good view of 2 male blackcaps singing and chasing each other in a tree while a female looked interestingly at them.

Cuckoo Flower or Ladys Smock

Wild Garlic or Jack by the Hedge

Small Tortoishell
On the non-birding front I saw my first speckled woods and holly blues of the year, the holly blues being very blue in the strong light. One oil beetle was seen along with peacock and small tortoishell butterflies and a small common lizard was sunning itself on a wooden fence. Cuckoo flower, thrift and wild garlic were in flower and violets seemed to be everywhere. A ruby tiger moth caterpillar was also seen.

I also saw a moth flying along a hedgerow at Heybrook Bay, it was quite quite tatty looking and I think it is a common carpet.
Common Carpet?

Had a pasty from the cafe but with my poorly throat it didn't taste quite right and by the time I left to catch the bus home the beach was packed solid and the National Trust car park was totally full.

Friday 1 April 2011

Mount Edgecumbe 31st March

Today was grey and misty and mizzley again, so annoying after the lovely weather last week while I was on night shifts. Today we caught the ferry over to Mount Edgecumbe country park just over the River Tamar in Cornwall for lunch in the pub and then a walk around the park.

It was quite cool and grey but chiffchaffs and nuthatches were singing and a great spotted woodpecker was heard calling and later seen in the top of a tree. 3 stock doves flew overhead in a pair and a single.

In the ornamental garden 2 smooth newts were found in a pond with 3 pairs of toads, the males gripping on to the females backs for grim death. There was no spawn seen in the pond but there were some very small and very immobile tadpoles. The male toads were much smaller than the females and one of the females was a very unusual brown/red colour. I left my camera at home so no snaps which is a shame as they were seen very close too.

No sign of the 16 Sandwich terns around Drakes Island that were reported on the Devon Bird News blog for the 31st but we did see the to be decommissioned HMS Campbell Town come in to port for the last time with bagpipers piping on the back deck and tugs spraying water in to the air as it passed by.