Monday 19 September 2011

Moth Box 19th September 2011

Had the moth box out last night, it did rain but it was more a mizzle than anything although it still soaked everything.

However I had a nice haul of moths including a new one, a brindled green, along with 4 large ranunculus, a willow beauty, a brimstone moth and a lime speck pug amongst others.

Brindled Green

Large Ranunculus

Willow Beauty

Lime Speck Pug

Brimstone Moth

Sunday 18 September 2011

Weekend wildlife 17th-18th September

Headed off to Wembury on the bus on Saturday 17th. It still feels like the end of October, not the middle of September. Lows continue to pile in across the Atlantic bringing wind, rain and cold but at least they are also bringing some rare American birds especially waders. The leaves on the trees are turning brown and falling in the strong winds, so not like the Indian summers we normally have at this time of year.

Anyway, at least the wind blows away cobwebs. Wembury was quiet, the wild weather keeping people away. The toilet block held a flounced rustic, a square spot rustic and a double striped pug, all caught and released outside. The crysalis remains suspended in the window frame, I think it is a peacock butterfly.

Wembury in a brief sunny spell

A pair of blackcap were seen feeding greedily on blackberries and elder berries near the pine trees at Wembury Point. While watching them a coal tit was seen and heard calling in the pines with blue and great tits and then first surprise bird of the day arrived in the form of a great spotted woodpecker which flew silently between the pines before disappearing amongst the foliage, never to be seen again. This is my first sighting for Wembury.

The pines provided a small area of shelter from the wind and when the sun came out it was surprsingly warm and pleasent. A female common blue, 2 small coppers, a wall, meadow browns, speckled woods and large whites also made use of the still air and warmth and fluttered around the small protected area.
Speckled Wood

The tide was heading out and a little egret fed on the rocks with oystercatchers and curlew. An adult gannet headed West offshore and a juvenile flew West between the shore and the Mewstone. Second surprise bird of the day was a great northern diver flying East, passing out beyond the Mewstone and then lost to sight, again the first one I have seen at Wembury.

Common lizards were seen on the wooden fence posts trying to warm up in the patches of sun, again there were a variety of sizes and colours. Parasol mushrooms were fruiting in the old HMS Cambridge site. No yellow wagtails were seen in the cow field again but a small flock of flighty buntings along the sewage farm hedge included 2 female yellowhammers amongst the cirls, with the male cirls having poorly marked head patterning presumably due to moulting?

Parasol Mushroom

David duly arrived in the car and we had a coffee and a pasty sat on the steps leading to the beach before heading home just as the next torrential shower hit.

Sunday 18th, the weather was still pretty poor and David was working a long day so I headed out to Marsh Mills for a quick walk. The spotted sandpiper showed well again in the same place that I saw it on Wednesday along with a common sandpiper. 2 kingfishers and 2 grey wagtils also showed well under the A38 bridge and a total of 12 little egrets were counted. The 4 greenshanks were seen in the same area as on Wednesday in company with a redshank. A little grebe was seen resting in a mass of floating seaweed in the river.

In the underpass at Sainsburys I found a lesser yellow underwing and a rusty dot pearl along with a large noctuid moth that flew away before I got a chance to get a good look at it.
Rusty Dot Pearl

Hoping to get the moth box out tonight, it is supposed to be dry but the weather and the forecast is pretty hit and miss at the moment so fingers crossed it does stay dry!

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Spotted Sandpiper on the River Plym 14th September

Headed out to Marsh Mills on the bus to have a look for the spotted sandpiper again. The tide was high and starting to go out and 2 common sandpipers were found on the river bank underneath the A38 flyover and they were flighty and noisey.

Heading along the path towards Blaxton Meadow I found another common sandpiper (or one of the 2 already seen). A grey wagtail flew long the river and a little egret fed in the ebbing water.

On the bank protecting the meadow I heard greenshank calling and then saw a small wader fly silently low over the water, and there it was, my fourth sighting of a spotted sandpiper, heading upriver and out of sight. I found the greenshanks, 4 of them, feeding on the mud near the Sainsburys bird hide tower along with 6 little egrets before I headed back upriver to try and find the spotted sandpiper.

I soon found the spotted sandpiper feeding on the mudbank on the opposite side of the river where it gave excellent views and it had the most surprsingly yellowish legs. My first ever spotted sandpiper was an individual that over-wintered on the same stretch of river in 1987-88, I saw it quite a few times and by the March it was starting to develop the spotty summer plumage.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

A brief flyby kingfisher, a jay, moorhen, mallard and long tailed tits were also seen and a chiffchaff sang in the nearby trees. Heading to Sainsburys I found a light emerald in the underpass and a pair of blackcaps fed on the blackberries nearby while a comma butterfly sunned itself.
Light Emerald

Light Emerald

So all in all not a bad 2 hours of wildlife watching and home by 12 O'clock to prepare for tonights night shift.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Wildlife update 7th-13th September

Very Autumnal weather at the moment, a lot of deep lows rattling in off the Atlantic including remnants of hurricanes have made it cool, wet and very windy with some impressive counts of seabirds along the South Devon coast and some interesting North American birds.

The 7th September saw us heading off to Perranporth in Cornwall for our usual pre-holiday day out. This year it was grey, cold and windy but we headed off anyway in our shorts with fingers crossed. Offshore in the strong wind there was a steady passage of gannets, adults and juveniles, heading down towards Lands End and amongst them were 2 fulmars, 4 commic terns and a few Manx shearwaters.

Also seen was a female/juvenile sparrowhawk that dashed across the front of the car at the caravan site as we drove along the road, twisting and turning quickly between the bramble bushes on the hunt for some unfortunate bird for its lunch. Along the stream to the beach were quite a few decent sized trout while house martins hawked overhead despite the strong wind. A devils coach horse was seen in the dunes and a twenty plume moth was seen in the public loo.

Perranporth in a brief sunny spell

Trout in the stream leading to the beach

At least it didn't rain and the sun did come out briefly. We had to eat our cooked breakfast inside The Watering Hole cafe  instead of out on the sand which was a shame but we did have a nice time wandering around Perranporth and sampling the fudge and ice cream.

The weather was no better on the 8th so we headed off to Exeter to have a look around the shops but the weather improved by the afternoon and we had some time to spare so headed off to Topsham where I spent an hour in the hide at Bowling Green Marsh while David looked around the antiques market. The water level on the marsh was surprisingly low despite the recent spells of rain.

From the hide an osprey was a nice sight perched on the mast of the barge in the River Clyst while a second bird circled overhead before drifting off towards Dawlish. A greenshank and 2 green sandpipers were feeding at the back of the marsh amongst 20 roosting little egrets. 20 lapwings were counted around the marsh along with 3 juvenile shelduck, a female teal and 2 mute swan cygnets. The previous day had seen some maintenance work on the marsh so the roosting waders were not present despite the high tide but eventually they arrived, mainly curlew with a bar-tailed godwit, some black tailed godwit, redshank, dunlin and at least 2 whimbrel. 2 peregrines, a male and female bird with a very noticeable size difference, buzzed overhead spooking the birds.

On the way home we stopped at Marsh Mills on the River Plym where I failed to see a spotted sandpiper has been reported there, seeing a common sandpiper and a second bird that flew off before I could get a proper look at it, maybe another common, maybe a spotted. I did see 9 little egrets roosting on the Blaxton Meadow and a grey wagtail along the waters edge by the railway bridge.

The 9th September was foggy and cool but I headed off to Hayle in Cornwall to see what I could see as a buff breasted sandpiper had been reported the previous day along with the Bairds sandpiper. The train arrived at Hayle at 10am and it was surprisingly murky and cool. I headed off to the Carnsew Pool where I found 3 curlew sandpiper feeding with dunlin and turnstone at the top of the beach below the Tempest factory, they were feeding amongst the vegetation and gave excellent views. On the Pool was a little grebe and a winter plumaged Mediterranean gull roosting with some black headed gulls.

Ryans Field was murky but there was my target bird, the buff breasted sandpiper, busily feeding on a small island covered with short grass/vegetation in front of the hide. I watched it from the roadside and had a quick look through a friendly birders telescope. A  lovely bird, a new bird for me (the 2nd new bird for my life list this year) and surprisingly small. It had quite a dark cap and a dark area under its bill probably due to the wet conditions. It showed very well before flying off to the estuary never to be seen again but I was very pleased.
Buff breasted sandpiper on Ryans Field, Hayle - photo by Tony Mills from the Sennen Cove Birdwatching website

From the bridge overlooking the river 6 curlew sandpipers showed amazingly well, one bird having a beautiful intense peach wash on its breast. Wigeon and teal were seen feeding along the river and some adult Lesser black backed gulls were found roosting amongst the gull flock. I searched through the flocks of dunlin and ringed plovers feeding on the saltmarsh but they were very active and mobile and flighty and I failed to find the Bairds sandpiper amongst them, never mind, I was pleased with the buff breasted and curlew sandpipers and Bairds seems to be my bogey bird, having failed to see one at Marazion last year.
Curlew Sandpiper

Curlew Sandpiper

Coming home on the train was fun, it was packed and delayed due to a lightning strike on the signal box at Par but I eventually arrived back in Plymouth. That evening we met up with friends Julie and Matt for our birthday treat and had a turn on the Plymouth Eye, a big ferris wheel type thing on Plymouth Hoe, but the fog meant there was very little to see. We then headed off to The Barbican Kitchen, the Tanner brothers restaurant, and had a lovely meal and cocktails.

I worked on the Saturday and Sunday but on Sunday night we were both up most of the night with the trots so it meant no work for Monday and Tuesday night for me. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth we headed off to Wembury on the 13th for a walk but it was still very breezy and cool. Felt a bit rough still but managed a pasty for lunch with a coffee.

A lesser yellow underwing was found in the toilet block and a crysallis was found hanging in the window frame by the door but I have no idea what species it is. Common lizards were making the most of the sun and basking on the wooden fence posts, there was quite a variety of sizes and colours. A juvenile peregrine buzzed over with a small bird in its talons, it did a hobby impression as it brought its talons up to its beak to eat it as it flew over. Some adult lesser black backed gulls were found in the gull roost but the tide was out so I only saw a single curlew with the oystercatchers and a single little egret amongst the rocks. A chiffchaff was heard singing away, it always sounds so mournful in the Autumn unlike in the Spring. Swallows hawked overhead in the stiff breeze, 2 adult gannets headed West offshore, a white wagtail fed in the cow field amongst the pieds but there was no sign of any yellows again, and 2 male yellowhammers were seen in the small cirl bunting/ yellowhammer flock feeding in the wheat field. Also seen were a single long winged cone head and a nice dark bush cricket.

Unknown crysallis at the Wembury toilet block

I've had the moth box out a few times despite the poor weather and I did eventually manage to catch 2 large ranunculus, very pretty moths and very docile, being easy to handle and get a good view of. Also seen were an old lady that I released unharmed from a spiders web, a new for the garden common wainscot, a nice marbled beauty, a very smart L-album wainscot and an unseasonal white ermine.

Large Ranunculus

Common Wainscot

Marbled Beauty

L album Wainscot

An unseasonal white ermine

So it has been a very busy few days with some nice sightings despite the stomach upset and the October weather in September but at least the poor weather provided a new bird for me and it hasn't been too bad for mothing. Back to work tomorrow night though - such fun.

Sunday 4 September 2011

Wembury, Cawsand, moths and Dawlish Warren

We set off for a walk at Wembury on the 31st August, the forecast wasn't great but by the time we reached Wembury the sun was shining and it was pleasently warm out of the wind. Pasty and coffee first for lunch before setting off, having seen a snout and 2 flounced rustics in the toilet block.

Flounced Rustic

The tide was low and on its way in and there was a lot of disturbance on the beach from walkers so the waders were out on the rocks at Wembury Point, with a whimbrel, a knot, 2 ringed plovers and 3 turnstone seen amongst the curlew and oystercatchers. A little egret and a grey heron were fishing amongst the rock pools.

A wheatear was feeding in the field above the horse field and pied and white wagtails were feeding amongst the legs of the horses in the horse field but no yellow wagtails were seen. Chiffchaffs were heard calling and a whitethroat was seen disappearing into a bramble bush. 2 cirl buntings flew overhead calling. A juvenile buzzard landed on the rocks at Wembury Point, it had a distinct white rump and very rufous trousers and rufous feathering in its upper wings in flight.

Also seen in the toilet block and released outside was an oak bush cricket, a first for me.
Oak Bush Cricket

The 2nd September was bright and sunny so we headed off to Cawsand for a day on the beach, probably the last beach day of this year. A little egret fed amongst the rock pools and a Sandwich tern dived for fish offshore. Chiffchaff were heard and 1 bird sang for short periods. Swallows flew overhead and a juvenile buzzard mewed noisely as it flew over the tree tops.

The moth box has been out in the back yard a few times this week with some nice moths seen. A unusual coloured yellow barred brindle was initially an identification puzzle and I had a count of at least 50 Large Yellow Underwing in the box one morning, a garden record. Amongst them were a Lesser Yellow Underwing and a Lesser Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing, they were difficult to pick out as their Large cousins were very flighty, living up to their alternative name of blunderwings - as I tried to process the moths 1 individual would start flapping around setting off all the others so there was just a mass of flapping, noisey moths.

Also caught was a marbled green, 2 square spot rustics, a common rustic and new for the garden, a marbled beauty. I saw my first one ever on the ward at work last week which flew off never to be seen again when I tried to catch it in a pot and now I have seen one in the back yard.
Unusual coloured Yellow barred Brinle - it looked quite reddy coloured in the flesh

Lesser Yellow Underwing

Lesser Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing

Large Yellow Underwing

Marbled Green

Marbled Beauty

The 3rd September saw me heading off to Dawlish Warren to look for little stints and curlew sandpipers, 2 of my favourite birds, this year seems to be a good year for them with sightings all around Devon and Cornwall. A Bairds sandpiper has been seen at Hayle for the last few days along with little stints and curlew sandpipers and I was tempted to head down to Hayle as I dipped on Bairds sandpiper at Marazion Beach 2 years ago but the weather forecast was not good and it was not reported as having been seen on Friday 2nd so Dawlish Warren it was.

It was cool and overcast with a breeze but it stayed dry until I got home at 5pm. In the morning I had to catch a Crosscountry train, it smelt of toilets as usual and one of the loos was out of use, but it left at a sensible time (08.40) and I didn't have to change trains at Newton Abott as it was a direct train. I headed off towards the hide but realised it was a very high tide as it was on my visit this time last year so I headed off to the Point where the small waders were roosting. I always get PST (Pre Sighting Tension) with little stints and curlew sandpipers as there is only a short window of opportunity to see them with weather, work, tides and transport all being factors in getting to see them. They can also be difficult to see amongst the waders especially if they are having a flighty day due to disturbance from walkers and peregrines.

However amongst the sleeping group of dunlin, ringed plover and sanderling I had good views of at least 3 curlew sandpipers feeding amongst the sand ridges and vegetation, being very mobile and active and disappearing behind ridges and vegetation so difficult to count exact numbers. A little stint was also found but it mainly slept with its head tucked away and it always picked a clump of vegetation to hide behind.

As the tide turned I headed off to The Bight where the waders flew into as the mud became exposed. I got an excellent view of a little stint busily feeding, showing off the distinct white V marks of a juvenile on its back. In contrast the curlew sandpipers flew in and promptly went to sleep although they showed very well at times when they preened themselves, a total of 7 were counted.

In front of the hide perched on the posts with Sandwich terns were a few common terns, adults in summer and winter plumage and juveniles. A juvenile common gull was seen amongst the Great black backed- and Herring gulls along with an adult Lesser black backed gull. 5 sand martins flew west and a wheatear was seen feeding along the beach. A female kestrel was mobbed by a carrion crow. A chiffchaff was heard singing with others heard calling and a very yellow looking bird was seen. Whitethroats were seen feeding in the bramble bushes.

A juvenile gannet was seen looking very moribund on the sea in Exmouth Dock, it was later seen offshore from the beach, preening and sleeping. Adult and juveniles were also seen offshore with a group of 20 seen heading west followed by 2 shearwaters. The shearwaters were distant and appeared quite brown rather than black without contrasting white undersides seen but I can't be sure if they were Balearic or Manx. 1 shearwater was then seen heading East and then 3 more heading West, again being too far out to see well with just binoculars.

Also seen were 2 large dragonflies which buzzed over and out of sight along with some red darter type dragonflies. A pair of common blues were disturbed from a grassy clump along with meadow browns. Speckled woods were seen amongst the woodland rides with 2 very smart but small individuals seen amongst the usual sized specimens.

A flounced rustic was seen in the toilet block along with a yellow belle of the aberrant conjuncta form, a new moth for me. A common carpet and a common white wave were also seen flying amongst the vegetation and a common white wave caterpillar was also seen.

Yellow Belle

Common White Wave
Common White Wave Caterpillar

The brambles were covered in blackberries and they were very tasty, unlike the ones at Wembury, and asparagus was seen covered in red berries. Evening primrose flowers were everywhere.

Asparagus berries

Evening Primrose

Fungus sp.

I had to catch a Crosscountry train home from Dawlish Warren but had to change at Newton Abbot on to a First Great Western train. However both trains were packed full of tourists and were full of litter so I was glad to get home, having had an excellent day.