Saturday 30 July 2011

Recent sightings

The 25th July saw us heading off for a walk around Stoke Point and lunch at The Ship Inn at Noss Mayo. It turned out quite sunny and we had a good walk but unfortunately no Dartford warblers were seen or heard again, I wonder if the 2 cold winters in a row we have had have wiped them out from this site.

Yellowhammers were much in evidence including a showy male singing. Cirl buntings were much more elusive with brief flight views only. 2 juvenile mistle thrush were seen with an adult feeding on the grassy clifftop near The Warren carpark. A bullfinch flew over calling and whitethroats were everywhere again. 

Butterflys (12 species) were everywhere again including a painted lady, commas, peacocks and holly blues but I didn't find any graylings. Mullein was seen but no mullein moth caterpillars. Autumn Squill was flowering on a bank near The Warren carpark. A Jersey tiger moth was seen flying around a garden near the Ship Inn in Noss Mayo.
Autumn Squill

Lunch at The Ship Inn was good as usual, David enjoyed his crab sandwich and we think there was a bit of a mix-up and David ended up not paying for lunch, not our fault but the dippy bar maids.

The 26th and we headed off to Cawsands for a day on the beach. Unfortunatley no marbled whites were seen in their usual field. Bullfinches were seen flying over including at least 2 smart males. Offshore a Sandwich tern was seen being followed by a noisey juvenile.

The 28th and we headed off to Wonwell beach where around 20 house martins hawked overhead and holly blues were seen along the hedgerows.

The moth box has been out in the back yard on quite a few nights as the weather has been so good with temperatures of around 14c at night and I have had quite a few nice moths including Jersey tigers, marbled greens, four spotted footmen and new for the garden ,dun-bar, again having only seen my first ones ever at Bude last week I have now caught them in the back-yard!


Jersey Tiger Moth
Marbled Green

Four spotted footman - female

Wembury 23rd July 2011

Hot and sunny today, a complete contrast to the last few days at Bude, so I headed off on the bus to Wembury and David joined me later in the car for the usual lunchtime pasty and coffee.

A little egret was roosting on the rocks at Wembury Point at high tide with oystercatchers and 8 curlew. Whitethroats were everywhere including quite a few fledglings, obviously they have had a good breeding year again this year. A pale faced buzzard, a sparrowhawk and a kestrel were all flyovers. A male cirl bunting was heard singing and a juvenile stonechat was seen feeding perched on top of some teasel.

Butterflies were everywhere with 10 species seen including a comma, 3 holly blues and a pair of wall mating. The female wall was busy feeding on a thistle flower when the male approached, flicking his wings at her before they flew off a short distance. The male continued to flick his wings at her before they locked abdomen tips and he flew off with her, a very short courtship!

Holly Blue

Mating Walls

Speckled Wood

Also seen were common lizards sunning themselves on the wooden fence posts.

Common Lizard

After enjoying our pasty and coffee we sat in the sun for a while doing the crossword and reading the paper before heading home to prepare for a garden barbecue to entertain our friends Julie, Lizzie and Sandra. We had quite a good night but I drank far too much and was a little delicate the next day as was David. However the weather had changed again and it was grey and cool so we had a quiet day tidying up, watching TV and wandering around a bus and coach rally on Plymouth Hoe where we enjoyed looking at the old buses and coaches.

Bude 17th - 22nd July 2011

My birthday (17th) and the weather was cold, wet and windy. A small white butterfly was perched by the open kitchen window when I went to make my breakfast cup of tea and as it was my birthday David didn't squash it (he hates "cabbage whites" as they decimate his brassicas) and I released it in the back yard to take its chances in the bad weather.
Small white in the kitchen

Despite the weather we headed off to the caravan in Bude as planned, the forecast was not good with strong winds, cloud and heavy showers/rain and with quite low temperatures. A lone swift was seen from the car on the way to Bude battling the wind at Red Post so I was pleased as I like to see swifts on my birthday. Goodies were bought at Waitrose on the journey to Bude with another mortgage being secured to pay for it! Unfortunately the car boot sale in Bude was cancelled due to the weather and it remained grotty for the rest of the day, so much so that we didn't even have a walk along the cliff tops that evening. However the weather did improve as the week went on and we ended the week with some nice sunshine and warmth.

Beautiful Bude from the clifftop overlooking Northcott Beach

The toilet blocks held very few moths on this visit and the security light on the roof of the waste disposal block was not on at night like our last visit. I finally managed to get the moth box out on the Tuesday night, using a big fishing umbrella to keep it dry and protected from the wind, and the weather continued to improve and I managed to catch quite a few nice moths. Common wainscot, heart and dart and scalloped oak were the most numerous moths with scalloped oak numbers increasing each night but common wainscot numbers decreasing each night. New moths were a burnished brass, dun-bar and Devonshire wainscot and other goodies were a poplar hawkmoth, crescent dart, Brussels lace, drinker, lackey, Chinese character, buff tip, nut tree tussock and peppered moth.
Devonshire wainscot - in Cornwall!

Nut tree tussock

Drinker - looking like a furry hedgehog!

A tatty Brussels lace

Poplar Hawkmoth

Burnished Brass

Peppered moth

Crescent Dart

While out walking to Lifes a Beach for a cooked breakfast on the last day of the trip we found a smart garden tiger moth flitting about amongst the cliff top grass, another new moth for me and surprisingly large.

Garden Tiger Moth

Bird wise it was quite eventful too. 3 summer plumaged black tailed godwits were feeding on Maer Lake on the 18th with 2 then seen on the 21st. 2 common sandpipers were seen on the 21st and I tried desperately to turn them into green sandpipers but with no luck! However on the 22nd they had disappeared to be replaced by 4 green sandpipers which showed very well feeding around the edge of the lake! A summer plumaged dunlin was seen on the 22nd. Also seen was a juvenile ringed/little ringed plover on the 21st, it was feeding along the side of the lake but was distant and difficult to see with the heat haze (yes, the sun was actually shining at this point!), it eventually flew off but I didn't see it fly which was a shame as it might have helped me clinch its ID.

Sea birds were represented by fulmars along the cliffs and gannets offshore including a few very dark juveniles. A summer plumaged common tern was seen fishing in the harbour at high tide on the 19th, battling against the wind, and was the first common tern I have seen at Bude. 2 Manx shearwaters were seen battling the wind one lunchtime while heading towards Lundy, they were quite close to the shore and displayed the classic shearwater flight style of banking and soaring and skimming the waves.

Fulmar on the cliffs

Land birds were represented by a sedge warbler at Maer Lake on the 19th with 2 on the 21st, 4 ravens flew over the caravan early one morning calling noisely and a sparrowhawk was mobbed by 2 herring gulls and swallows as it perched on a telegraph pole on the camp site before it finally flew off.

A sexton beetle was found in the moth trap one morning and on taking photos of it in one of my collection pots it was found to be covered in small lice, apparently this is not uncommon for these beetles. It also smelt awful, I don't know if it was a defence mechanism or whether they just smell anyway as they feed on carrion. A female dark bush cricket was found under the caravan one afternoon. Butterflys were thin on the ground but I did see a peacock, wall, gatekeeper and meadow browns as the week went by and the weather improved.

Sexton beetle - very stinky and lousy!

Dark bush cricket

We were also buzzed by a small bee carrying a red geranium petal as we sat outside the Crooklets Inn enjoying a brown ale in the sunshine. It buzzed around us for a good 5 minutes before disappearing and David managed to get a snap of it with his camera. I first thought it was somebody playing a prank on us from the balcony above our seat but eventually managed to get a view of it in my binoculars to realise it was indeed a bee.

Buzzed by a red geranium petal carrying bee!

Best wildlife of the week though were the pod of common dolphins that we saw from the cliff tops on the 21st, they were quite distant and seemed to be moving in a large circle offshore north of Northcott Beach. They would disappear for a while before surfacing, showing brief views of their fins, and then would become much more active with lots of splashing and leaping out of the water when they showed their distinct body patterning. We watched them for a while but they did not get any closer despite their circular route but I was very pleased to see them, having enjoyed excellent views last year of bottle nosed dolphins from the same cliff top. The sighting of these common dolphins has coincided with reports of around 1000 common dolphins off the West Cornwall coast on the 27th of this month.

Also of interest was the dodder growing on the gorse bushes at Northcott Beach, it seemed to be everywhere and looked like some alien creature suffocating the plants although it was strangely beautiful.

Dodder flowers

Dodder strangling gorse bush

So all in all not a bad week despite the bad start and the iffy weather, we had a good time, ate and drank too much and generally had a good chill out.

Monday 25 July 2011

Wembury 11th July 2011

A warm and sunny day so we headed out to Wembury for a walk before starting a 4 night stint at work. The beach was packed with loads of school kids on a day trip and was generally busy anyway. The toilet block held a few moths including a dark sword grass and  a dwarf cream wave but the photos I got of them were pretty crap as the toilet block was like Piccadilly Circus at rush hour!

Dwarf Cream Wave

Dark Sword Grass

We had a nice walk along the coast and best find was my first marbled white butterfly at Wembury flopping over the hillside in the old HMS Cambridge site before it disappeared in the grass never to be seen again. All together I saw 9 species of butterfly, not bad going. And we had our usual pasty and coffee on the beach at the end of the walk topped off with a magnum icecream!

Going to work on the Thursday evening (14th) I saw 2 peregrines fly over as I waited at the bus stop which cheered me up.

The weather stayed good all week while we were on our night shifts but by Friday when we had finished it turned cold, wet and windy with a nasty, unseasonal low pressure system appearing over the UK where it stayed for days, just what we needed before a week off work and a trip to the caravan in Bude !

Sunday 10 July 2011

Garden Moths 10th July 2011

I had the moth box out last night, the first time I have used it since painting the inside white and cutting down the ivy growing in next doors lilac bush. I was hoping the white of the box and a more open access to the garden from cutting the ivy down would improve numbers and species and the weather was looking good too, mild and overcast.

David was on an early shift so I was awake at 06:20hrs to be greeted by rain! It was only a shower but it had rained during the night too. However the box held a few goodies including a single dotted wave, new to the garden but I saw my first one ever at Thurlestone 2 days ago  - I always find this happens, I see a new moth somewhere out and about and then catch one in the moth box in my back yard!
Single Dotted Wave
Also in the trap were amongst others a very feisty large yellow underwing, a grey/dark dagger, a buff arches, 2 dark arches, a garden carpet and a bright-line brown-eye. Micro moths included my first Twenty plume moth, an ermine species, I think it is an orchard ermine as I have a plum tree in the backyard and this is one of its food plants, and a Dipleurina lacustrata, which I had in the trap on 26th June and which was identified for me after putting a photo up on the Back Garden Moth Community forum.

Grey/Dark Dagger

Orchard Ermine

Orchard Ermine

Dipleurina lacustrata

Buff Arches - a bizarrely beautiful moth
So not a bad haul considering the wet weather and it is always nice to see a buff arches, plus I had 2 new species for my life list and 3 new species for the garden. Only trouble is the drain is blocked so when David gets home we will need to get the plungers out!

Thurlestone 8th July 2011

The weather forecast wasn't great but we decided to have a walk along the coast from Hope Cove to Thurlestone. It was very windy and cloudy but we had a few glimpses of sun and we also got a good soaking in a brief heavy shower but with the wind being so strong we soon dried off.

Out in Thurlestone Bay a group of about 100 gannets were circling and diving, the majority of the birds were immatures. Amongst them were Herring gulls of various ages but I couldn't pick out anything more unusual - the last couple of days have provided good views along the Devon and Cornwall coast of various seabirds especially shearwaters.

2 mute swans were on South Milton ley and 1 mute swan with 6 cygnets were on Thurlestone Ley. A kestrel hovered over the cliff top being buffeted by the strong winds.

The toilet block opposite the golf club entrance came up trumps for moths with a single dotted wave and a smokey wainscot being new moths for me. Also seen were a peach blossom, early thorn, scalloped oak, clay, common footman, buff ermine, heart and dart, riband wave, and bee moth.

Scalloped Oak

Single Dotted Wave

Common Footman


The toilet block at Wembury and the block here at Thurlestone seem to turn up some good moths, I noticed the block at Thurlestone held quite a few moths on a walk last year and this year the block at Wembury has provided some good sightings although it is difficult at times getting a good look at the moths, hanging around a public toilet with a camera requires a lot of discretion!

Also seen were my first gatekeeper butterflies of the year and some very attractive flowering sea holly.

Sea Holly

Sea Holly

We had a cup of tea at the cafe on the beach at South Milton, it used to be run by a humorous chap called Rocky with a very sharp tongue, I thought he was Irish but David says he was Scottish. He is no longer running the cafe and he wasn't there last year and this year the cafe has been replaced by a much more robust building. The staff however are a miserable looking bunch of young people who were certainly not happy in their work and with a new chi-chi building the prices have gone up to. We were going to have our usual bacon butty at the cafe but before we left home we ended up having a piece of cake from Tesco across the road, they were having a cake sale to raise money for medical treatment for one of the staff. David had the most delicious piece of home made carrot cake and I had a slice of vanilla sponge which was pretty good too, it was just as well as a sausage sandwich at the new cafe was £6.25!!! although it was quite a huge sandwich.

So not a bad walk despite the mixed weather.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Cream Tea and River Dart walk 7th July 2011

Today the weather forecast was for wind and showers but it was sunny and breezey this morning so we decided to risk it and headed up to Badgers Holt on Dartmoor for a cream tea and a walk. The weather held out and it was dry and mostly sunny although cold in the wind.

The cream tea was delicious as always, the first of the year and probably the only one of the year. It was more of a cream tea lunch as David had to be back by 3:30pm for his twilight shift this evening. There were lots of chickens and ducks and turkeys on show and we bought some duck and turkey eggs to have for tea sometime.

After the cream tea we headed off along the path by the River Dart to try and burn some of the calories off. Bird wise a male yellowhammer was seen and another heard singing. A spotted flycatcher showed briefly perched in a tree with a beakful of insects before flying off, presumably to a nest of youngsters. Siskins were heard and a juvenile was seen feeding in a tree top. A grey wagtail was seen along the river but no dippers were seen.

A dead wood mouse was found in the middle of the path, surprising as I thought something would have snaffled it.
Dead Wood Mouse

Ringlet and meadow brown butterflys were seen and a large fritillary butterfly species flew by so quickly I couldn't get a good view of it, maybe a silver-washed? There were also quite a few beautiful demoiselles along the river edge, both males and females.

Female Beautiful Demoiselle

Male Beautiful Demoiselle

Surprise of the day was a large hornet that flew over looking very bright yellow and brown in the sunlight, I presume from the size it was a queen hornet. It then flew low over some bracken and grabbed a female beautiful demoiselle basking in the sun! It flew off with some difficulty in to a small tree where it chewed off the wings of the poor thing before flying off out of sight!

Hornet munching the wings off a female beautiful demoiselle !

So it was quite a pleasent trip out, a nice walk, some nice wildlife and a lovely cream tea. We also managed 1 of our 5 a day by nibbling on the bilberries that were growing along the footpath to help balance the unhealthiness of the cream tea.There were also lots of common cow-wheat in flower amongst the bilberries.

That evening while cooking my tea I heard the familiar shrieking call of a juvenile peregrine and on looking out of the back door I saw a juvenile flying over. It was following an adult bird seen clutching a pigeon in its talons, I assume they are the breeding birds from Plymbridge Woods. I often see them causing panic amongst the feral pigeons along Royal Parade in the mornings in August when I catch the bus to work at 7am and occassionally I see them over the house but this is the earliest I have seen the juveniles before.

Sunday 3 July 2011

Wembury, 2nd July 2011

Another beautiful day, hot and sunny but pleasently so, not like the weather last weekend which was a little too hot, and so I headed off on the bus to Wembury for a walk. I always find it good for my body clock to get out in bright sunshine after finishing night shifts if at all possible and today was perfect for that.

Bird wise it was a little more interesting than of late. On the beach a small group of adult black headed gulls in summer plumage were feeding amongst the seaweed washed up on the beach and a nice juvenile was feeding with them. On checking them out I found a smart Mediterranean gull in summer plumage although it had some black markings on its wing tips, it also had a light blue plastic ring on its left leg but it was too distant to read any letters or numbers on it. There has been an influx of Meds along the South Devon coast this week so it was nice to see one today especially in smart summer plumage.

Also seen were 2 little egrets and a grey heron feeding amongst the rock pools at low tide, a pair of mallard, a curlew with the oystercatchers, a pale buzzard overhead, a pair of peregrines flying towards Noss Mayo and single adult gannets offshore with 1 dark juvenile.

Cirl buntings were heard with good views of a pair together and a single male. A blackcap was heard and whitethroats were seen and heard including a few juveniles. A chiffchaff was heard with 1 seen in bushes along the beach.

Butterflies were very much in evidence with 11 species seen. At least 2 comma were seen along with red admiral, small copper, small tortoiseshell, speckled wood, large skipper, common blue, meadow brown and  large white. Ringlets were by far the commonest butterfly, they seemed to be everywhere flying over the grassy fields and also seen were small skippers, my first record for Wembury. The warm weather meant they were very active and difficult to get a photo of but I managed these 2 snaps.

Meadow Brown


Moth wise Six-spot burnets were on the wing and the toilet block held an assortment of goodies including 2 bee moths, a willow beauty, an early thorn, a smart dot moth, a buff ermine and a small blood vein.

Willow Beauty

Dot Moth

Early Thorn
Plant wise Self Heal was seen along with some beautifully vibrant blue Vipers Bugloss.

Vipers Bugloss
David met me after my walk, having met some friends in town for a coffee first, so at least I had a good nature walk without him dragging along behind me. We had a coffee and a pasty while sitting on the bench above the beach admiring the scenery and enjoying the sunshine, the pasty was much nicer than the one I had on Monday. It was a stunningly beautiful day, I had a great time and it was just the tonic after a busy week of night shifts.