Thursday 30 August 2012

One and a Half British Life Ticks!

Wednesday August 29th saw an early start (06:28 Virgin train to Penzance - and yes, it was smelly as usual) and I found myself near the standing stone at Marazion Marsh at 09:15 in the grey,cold,windy and showery weather wishing I had brought some gloves or was still in bed.

A couple of birders were there and had seen my target birds already, an adult and juvenile spotted crake, and pointed me to where they had last seen them. Within 10 minutes of watching I had a brief view of one of them, the juvenile spotted crake, as it moved through some sedges before disappearing from view. The impression was of a small brown bird with pale speckling on its back and sides before it was lost to view. About an hour later I heard an unfamiliar alarm call and saw the juvenile spotted crake run through some sparse vegetation before disappearing from view again, this time I managed to see the yellow and red marked bill before it was lost from sight. And that was all I got for the 3 hours I stood and waited in the cold and wind and showers and I never saw the adult bird but it was worth it.

I have counted this as half a tick as a few years ago while visiting Radipole Lake in Dorset I had heard a spotted crake calling. It was a warm, humid overcast day around 4pm and it called regularly from vegetation right by the side of the footpath but I never caught a glimpse of it. Todays brief and a little disappointing views have now placed spotted crake firmly on my British life list.

Other birds of note were fulmars and gannets offshore, a flock of 20 curlew flying over with a single winter plumaged bar-tailed godwit amongst them and turnstone, ringed plover, sanderling and dunlin along the beach although they were very mobile due to disturbance from kite surfers and walkers.

As I left Penzance on the train at 1pm the sun had started to shine although it remained very windy. I got off the train at St Erth and walked down to the Hayle estuary, noticing a collection of birders at the road bridge crossing the head of the estuary and as I approached I could see 3 small waders feeding on the mud. And there were my second British lifers of the day, 3 pectoral sandpipers that gave ridiculously close views as they fed unconcernedly on the mud just below the bridge. I guess they have been blown over in the awful gales we had on Monday. What a time to have lost my camera! I had my old Canon Powershot camera with me and managed some half decent photos - I used to love my old Canon camera but using it today after my Panasonic Lumix it felt cumbersome, slow and clonky with quite limited optical capacity.

Three Pectoral Sandpipers!

Two Pectoral Sandpipers!

Pectoral Sandpiper - The bird on the right looks slightly larger

Pectoral Sandpiper - poor close up on my old Canon Powershot camera!

I watched the birds busily feeding for a while, they were very attractively marked birds and were like a cross between dunlin, purple sandpiper, common sandpiper and ruff. Pectoral sandpiper have been another of my bogey birds, having dipped them on quite a few occassions, so to see 3 together and at such close quarters was quite special.

Other birds seen were 20 eclipse plumaged teal, a summer plumaged black tailed godwit and a winter plumaged bar-tailed godwit, a juvenile shelduck and lots of gulls including a few adult lesser black backs.

And so I headed home on the train having had a great day bird watching, its very rare that I see a new bird so having seen 2 new birds was quite a feeling!

Wood Sandpiper semi-dip and a Loss of Images

Gales and rain for the August Bank Holiday, and it turned out to be an amazing day for seawatching in Devon, but I had to work - however I don't think it would have been much fun in the atrocious weather.

Tuedsay 28th August and we headed out to Hope Cove for a coast walk. It was warm and sunny and breezey but very pleasent. On getting out of the car at Hope Cove a big clump of Red Valerian had feeding on it a Meadow Brown, a Large White, 6 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Red Admiral and best of all, 2 Painted Ladies, only my second sighting of the year. Further along the coast path I saw more of the same and a further Painted Lady along with a Jersey Tiger Moth and a Rush Veneer, and a Sexton beetle (complete with mites) was chomping away on a dog turd on the footpath.

I had a look for the reported wood sandpiper at South Huish Marsh but only managed a brief sighting of a green sandpiper. A raven flew over with half a rabbit in its bill and a juvenile wheatear was perched on a fencepost. A common tern flew West along the coast and a juvenile guillemot looked a little moribund sat on the sea close to the beach. Around 70 dunlin were roosting on the beach where South Milton Ley enters the sea, being ridiculously close to the sun bathers on the beach ( the Thurlestone Bay bird website gave a final count of 86).

The toilet block at Thurlestone had some nice moths - 2 Magpie moths, a Brimstone moth, a Chinese Character, a Lime Speck Pug, 2 Bloodvein and what I think was a pale Flounced Rusic.

On the way home we stopped off at Aveton Gifford at the new South Efford nature reserve set up by the Devon Wildlife Trust to look for a reported wood sandpiper but I failed to see it (again) but I did hear one giving its distinctive flight call. 2 Egyptian geese were with some Canada geese and 9 little egrets were seen along with a flyover stock dove.

Unfortunately the photos I took for the day are lost as when I got home I realised I had lost my camera, I had the camera bag but the clasp was open so I don't know if I had put the camera down somewhere and forgot to pick it up or it fell out of the bag while walking - ohh dear. I am more f'd off at losing the memory card and the days images than anything else and now I will have to buy a new camera. We did head back to Thurlestone to have a look for it but with no luck, at least my photos are all on the laptop except that days snaps. And I had failed to see a wood sandpiper twice!

Tuesday 28 August 2012

More Orchids

Back yard mothing continues as the weather and work shifts allow - still usual fare being caught including a very nice square spot rustic, an initially plain looking moth but quite attractive on closer inspection.

Square Spot Rustic

I headed out to Wembury on the 24th August to look for migrant hawkmoths but with no luck. I did find a flounced rustic which caused some ID confusion until I had some help from the Back Garden Moth Forum, and a nice bloodvein.

Flounced Rustic

Other insects seen were a male long winged cone head, a comma, a wall, 2 red admirals, lots of meadow browns and a Volucella zonaria. 7 young, very small and dark coloured common lizards were basking in the sun on the fencing by the path along with 2 normal sized and brown adults.

Long Winged Conehead - male without ovipositor

Volucella zonaria

Bird wise I kept an eye out for a wryneck as quite a few have been recorded in the UK recently but with no luck - however on checking the sightings pages that night one was reported at Wembury Point that morning - never mind! I did see 3 chiffchaff, a whitethroat and a female blackcap with a damaged wing (although it still seemed able to fly ok) along with a lone whimbrel feeding along the beach. 33 oystercatchers and 3 curlew roosted at Wembury Point and 32 mallard were seen - 7 female and 25 eclipse plumaged male.

I had my telescope with me and even though the sea was flat calm and there was little wind I spent some time scanning the sea  to practise using the scope and tripod. I saw gannets, fulmars, shags and gulls offshore and also found 3 dunlin, 1 flying West and 2 East, and 3 distant Manx shearwater flying West. While scanning the sea I also had a brief view of the dark back and dark falcate dorsal fin of a bottle nosed dolphin near The Mewstone but despite further scanning I couldn't relocate it.

Swallows were feeding young on the barbed wire fence of the horse field before noisely mobbing a flyover sparrowhawk.

Juvenile Swallows

On the way home I stopped off at Laira Bridge and walked to Blagdons Meadow, seeing a wrecked boat with swallows flying in and out to feed some unseen but noisey young. Out on the mudflats 3 juvenile shelduck were feeding amongst the gulls and 3 little egrets were seen. House martins were feeding overhead and a chiffchaff called noisely from a hedgerow.

Boat Wreck on the River Plym hiding a swallows nest with noisey young

A mother of pearl, six-spot burnets, silver Y and a new moth for me, a rush veneer, were seen along with a speckled wood, a red admiral, meadow brown, small heath and common blue. A female long winged cone head with a large ovipositor and a Helophilus pendulus were also seen.

 Silver Y
Small Heath
 Long Winged Conehead - female with ovipositor
Helophilus pendulus
Rush Veneer

I had a search for Autumn Lady's Tresses and eventually found about 6 flowering plants, far fewer than I found at this time last year and showing how fickle orchids can be, but my 7th orchid species for the year.

 Autumn Lady's Tresses
Autumn Lady's Tresses

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Rock pooling, mothing and birds

Having my 8 year old nephew visitig for a few days provided a good excuse to go rock pooling, something I never do unless he comes to visit. We spent time rock pooling at Wembury, Cawsand and Bude and managed to find some interesting species.

Cushion Starfish

Long Spined Sea Scorpion


 Hermit Crab


 Strawberry Anemone

 Celtic Sea Slug - Onchidella celtica

Gem Anemone

Our trip to the caravan at Bude also provided some moth sightings in the portable toilet waste block (with the security light on the roof). A straw dot was a new moth for me but flew away before I could get a quick snap of it. However I did see a dead orange swift in a spiders web, a rosy footman, 2 rosy minor and a new micro moth species, Acleris laterana.

 Orange Swift

Acleris laterana

Rosy Minor

Rosy Footman

A few butterfly were on the wing including a very smart small tortoiseshell, a butterfly that is no where near as common as it used to be.

Small Tortoiseshell

Garden mothing has been limited but Four spotted footman continue to appear in good numbers and I have seen my first Mullein wave and Old Lady of the year. I also found a tiny micro moth which I think is Coleophora lineolea. Still low numbers of Large Yellow Underwing, it seems they are all at The Weekend Biologists moth trap at Wembury!

Mullein Wave

Old Lady

Coleophora lineolea

And so to birds. While rock pooling at Wembury on the 16th August there was a strong South wind and I managed a brief and distant view of what I think may have been a Coreys shearwater offshore - it had white underparts and brown upperparts with a typical shearwater banking flight and a slow and languid wing action. I only had my small travel Leica binoculars with me and it was distant so we will never know.

Otherwise Bude was productive with 52 black-tailed godwits at Maer Lake, most still in Summer plumage, being a highlight. Also at Maer Lake were 5 dunlin (1 in summer plumage), 3 redshank, a rossting flock of curlew, whimbrel and oystercatcher and my first returning teal amongst the mallards. A late swift flew over with swallows, house martins and sand martins and a juvenile peregrine buzzed the roosting gulls on the cricket pitch causing complete chaos.

The only other bird highlights were Sandwich terns from the Cawsand ferry with a juvenile sat on the sea being fed by and adult, and 2 tawny owls heard calling in the Park behind the house, the first time I have heard them here for some time now. 

Saturday 11 August 2012

Manx Shearwaters - New for Wembury, 11th August 2012

Today is the tail end of a short hot spell so I headed out to Wembury on the bus for a walk to try out my new travel tripod with my new telescope. I have also treated myself to the 27x wide angled eye-piece and wanted to put it through its paces. The tripod is great - light, compact and it fits in my ruck sack but it is fiddley to use and is not as smooth or easy as the heavier tripod. It also blew over in the strong South East breeze when I stopped to look through my binoculars (whoops!) but overall I am very pleased with it. The eye-piece is very good too, being wide angled it is more comfortable to look through with my glasses and provides a great image.

Having my telescope with me today provided views of a new bird for me for Wembury - Manx shearwaters. With the strong breeze I managed to pick out small groups of 1 to 3 birds moving West offshore at regular intervals doing their usual banking shearwater flight and moving surprisingly fast. They had the distinctive white undersides when they banked in the wind contrasting with their dark upperparts but I couldn't pick out any Balearics amongst them. It was nice to finally see a new bird for my Wembury list although I have never really looked for them at Wembury before.

Other birds seen were :- a juvenile sparrowhawk flying overhead being mobbed by swallows and pied wagtails ; 15 mallard around the sewage pipe (1 female, 1 male and 13 eclipse males) ; 2 whimbrel, 2 summer plumaged dunlin, a juvenile ringed plover, a curlew and oystercatchers roosting at Wembury Point : 4 juvenile wheatear ; a juvenile whitethroat ; a great spotted woodpecker flying between trees in gardens in the village as the bus drove past ; a pair of cirl buntings ; and a kestrel.

Male Cirl Bunting

Insects seen included a short winged cone head (a new species for me) and a dark bush cricket. A small copper, speckled wood, small white, gatekeeper, meadow brown and a comma were struggling to fly in the strong breeze and a silver y was disturbed from the grass.

 Short Winged Cone Head

Dark Bush Cricket

Some scrots had set a fire in the toilet block using the toilet paper but there was only minimal damage and I found a marbled green, 2 small fan footed waves, a dead single dotted wave (from smoke inhalation?) and a lesser yellow underwing. I also saw what I think was a flame carpet before it flew out of the doorway and out of sight, it would have been a new moth for me if I had gotten a good view of it.

With the sunny weather I spent a few hours in the sunshine synthesising vitamin D while sitting on Plymouth Hoe admiring the stunning views on Thursday afternoon and enjoyed views of a winter plumaged Mediterranean gull flying by, a noisey adult and a noisier juvenile Sandwich tern fishing, a juvenile whitethroat feasting on some blackberries, a Jersy tiger moth and common blue butterflys.

I have also had the moth box out in the back yard a few times and have had 2 new garden moths - a very dead and dessicated peppered moth in a spiders web and a common footman. I've also had a Jersey tiger moth and at least 4 male and 3 female four spotted footman amongst more usual fare although I have as yet not had the large numbers of large yellow underwings that I usually have at this time of year.

 Peppered Moth

 Common Footman

Male and female Four Spotted Footmen

Friday 3 August 2012

A small milestone - my 100th Macro Moth species for the Backyard

A small milestone for my small, innercity backyard - my 100th macro moth species! It was a kind of anti-climax as I had reached my 100th species without realising it. The small fan-footed wave I caught on the 25th July was the 100th species but I only realised this when I finally managed to ID a few days ago a pug I caught in the back yard on the 9th July as a grey pug (with the help of the experts on the Backgarden Moth Forum). I am still amazed at reaching 100 species considering my location in the centre of Plymouth although I am fortunate to have a small park at the back of the house full of old deciduous trees which helps.

My Backyard

Grey Pug

Another nice moth I have recently had in the moth trap was a female four-spotted footman, my first of the year and a very pretty moth which is quite docile and easy to handle.

Female Four Spotted Footman

The hot weather finally broke but not before I had a walk along the coast at Stoke Point. It was sunny but breezey at the start of the walk but had clouded over by the time I headed home and when I got back to Plymouth it had started to rain. The walk was as usual very enjoyable, with the best birds being a very smart and yellow juvenile willow warbler and a juvenile wheatear. 5 ravens flew along the cliffs honking and tumbling together, presumably a pair with 3 well grown young. Yellowhammers and cirl buntings were seen and heard and a green woodpecker yaffled away in woods near Noss Mayo.

Male Yellowhammer

Butterflies were on the wing despite the breeze with small copper, common blue, meadow brown and gatekeepers seeming to be everywhere. A nice wall brown was seen and I managed to get a decent photo of the very beautifully marked underwings.

Wall Brown

Autumn squill was flowering in the area where I saw it last year but with more flowers showing than last year.

Autumn Squill

The only other wildlife news is that there are a pair of noisey juvenile herring gulls on the rooftops at the back of the house, I don't think they are my birds from the chimney stack but another brood from another rooftop nest in the area.

A busy few weeks coming up with work and family visits so limited wildlife watching opportunities but as Summer School Holiday Hell is in full swing I will be content to see what new moths I can find in the moth trap in the backyard if the weather is good.