Sunday 10 August 2014

Sea Watching (Light) and a New Butterfly

With the remnants of Hurricane Bertha set to hit the UK today I decided I might have a go at sea watching, something I have not done before. The thought of sea watching seems a little daunting to me, conditions and location need to be just right, and I have always baulked at potentially spending time getting cold and wet and not seeing very much. I have only seen Manx- and Balearic shearwater from land in the UK but have had excellent views of Corys, great, sooty, Manx, Balearic and little shearwaters from the ferry to Spain as it crossed the Bay of Biscay. I thought about visiting either Berry Head or Rame Head but public transport is not at its most frequent on Sundays so I was a bit hesitant. And so on checking the bird sightings on the inty-web thing early Sunday morning and seeing reports of great shearwater at Dawlish Warren I decided I would head there instead.

It was sunny and very windy and there was a great swirling mass of gulls off Langstone Rock as the train arrived in to Dawlish Warren station at 10:30am (the earliest I could get there) and so I headed off straight away to the sea wall for a quick scan across the sea. There were plenty of gulls around, mostly herring gulls but with a few great black backed- and black headed gulls amongst them, and I also picked out a few common scoters, 2 great crested grebes and a grey seal. Scanning through the gulls I picked out a dark phase Arctic skua flying West before it disappeared behind Langstone Rock and so I headed off along the seawall path but by the time I had got there it had moved on. Scanning again through the swirling gulls I found a nice juvenile Mediterranean gull and another great crested grebe along with 4 male and 7 female common scoter close in to the shore. Heading up to the top of the Rock I met a birder on holiday from Hull who had earlier seen 3 Arctic skuas and then a single one (presumably the one I saw) but no sign of any shearwaters. I spent some time scanning and apart from a swift heading West and a few gannets I saw nothing else new and so decided to end my seawatching light session and head off to Greenland Lake on the Warren for a look around.

Greenland Lake was sheltered from the wind and it was warm and humid with lots of butterflys flitting around - small tortoiseshell, speckled wood, common blue, small copper, green veined white, small white, large white, gatekeeper and meadow brown - and I found a nice clouded yellow and best of all at least 3 brown argus, a new butterfly for me. The heat and humidity meant they were very active and mobile and it was hard to get a decent photo of what is a very attractive butterfly despite its small size.

 Brown Argus - a worn individual and the first one I saw
 Brown Argus- underwing showing figure of 8 mark
 Brown Argus - underwing of a less worn individual
 Brown Argus -  a much smarter looking individual showing a blueish tinge
 Brown Argus
Clouded Yellow

Also on show were a few dragonflys which were equally active and mobile in the warm conditions but I eventually managed a few photos. Around the Main Pond I also saw a few small red eyed damselflys including a pair laying eggs in the water and yes, they were small with red eyes, well the males had red eyes, and were a new damselfly species for me too.

Common Darter - female

Common Darter - male
 Emperor Dragonfly
Emperor Dragonfly - close up

Yellow Shell

Heading home and there was the usual chaos on the trains with no one seeming to know what was going on with trains being cancelled and rescheduled, but I did see a hare with a smaller leveret near Newton Abbot as they ran away as the train passed by which made up for the delay.

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