Wednesday 31 August 2016

Garden Moths and Birding in Bude

I had the moth box out in the back yard overnight on Wednesday August 24th - Thursday 25th August and I had quite a decent catch in the morning, the best catch I have had in the yard this year.

Highlights were 4 Jersey tiger moths (first of the year), a marbled green, a common marbled carpet, a currant pug, 2 yellow barred brindle, 2 lime speck pug, 1 Vines rustic, 1 shuttle shaped dart, 1 brimstone moth, 1 cabbage moth, 1 knot grass and 1 lesser broad bordered yellow underwing. There were only 3 large yellow underwings in the trap which is unusual for this time of year but there were loads of light brown apple moths and quite a few wasps.

 Vines Rustic

 Cabbage Moth

 Marbled Green - hiding on the pebble dash

Currant Pug

Thursday 25th August and an unscheduled day of annual leave from work due to rota and staffing issues had me thinking of a trip to Fontmell Down in Dorset to look for silver spotted skippers and chalkhill blues. However the weather had other ideas and despite being warm and humid it was cloudy and misty and drizzly and with heavy thunder storms forecast later in the day especially for Dorset we headed off to the caravan at Bude for the day instead. The drive to North Cornwall was wet and misty but by the time we arrived at Bude the sun was beginning to show from behind the clouds and the day wasn't too bad although we did have a few prolonged periods of drizzle mist.

I headed off to Maer Lake as soon as we arrived at the caravan while David worked on the wheels and brakes of the caravan ready for its potential move at the end of the summer. The lake still had lots of water in it but with some lovely muddy margins and I could see various sized waders feeding across the water. However as I arrived at the gap in the hedge overlooking the lake some of the large number of roosting Canada geese took to the air and spooked all the feeding birds but I managed to find a curlew sandpiper and a little stint flying around amongst dunlin, ringed plover and black tailed godwits. The waders soon resttled and with the curlew sandpiper and little stint I counted 3 ringed plover, 18 dunlin and 41 black tailed godwits along with 3 curlew and a common sandpiper - not bad. I had some great views of the little stint feeding with dunlin along the muddy shore but the curlew sandpiper was more distant and feeding with dunlins in the water where it was much more skittish and flighty.

Even better was a yellow wagtail flying over calling as it headed north, I had hoped it would drop down on the marsh around the lake but it carried on flying over without stopping. Later at the caravan a (the) yellow wagtail flew over heading south towards the lake but again it didn't appear to drop down to the ground.

Otherwise it was quiet with an adult gannet offshore, a painted lady along the clifftops, a fulmar along the cliffs, a very yellow juvenile willow warbler along the hedgerow at Maer Lake and 2 adult mute swans with 3 cygnets along the canal.

Juvenile  Herring Gull, Bude Canal

The toilet block had an orange swift, a rusty dot pearl and an oak bush cricket inside which I caught and released outside.

 (Faded) Orange Swift

Oak Bush Cricket

Not a bad day out and what was to be the beginning of an excellent couple of days wildlife watching.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Yellow Legged Gull!

Saturday August 20th and with a wet and windy day forecasted (unseasonably so) I headed off to Rame Head for a seawatch, something I haven't done before. It was cloudy and windy as I left Plymouth and true to form as I stepped off the bus at Whitsand Bay it absolutely chucked it down - typical. It quickly passed and I soon settled down between the rocks on the cliffs below the ruined chapel to scan the sea, sheltering from the occasional squally shower that rattled in on the breeze.

 Rame Head

 Amorique Ferry and The Great and Little Mewstones at Wembury

Amorique Close-up

A few gannets were passing by heading west, a variety of plumages from adult to juvenile with everything in between, and over the 3 and a half hours I was there watching there was a constant movement of them. Some of the immatures were quite oddly patterned which had my pulse racing at times. Manx shearwaters were also moving through west, probably an average of 5 a minute with the odd trickle and pulse at times, but in the final hours watch from 12:30 to 13:30 I only recorded 5 individuals. The only other birds of note were the occasional fulmar, oystercatcher and shag and great black backed, lesser black backed and herring gulls.

There was a report on Birdguides of 116 Balearic shearwaters passing by Rame Head from 06:30 to 14:30, I never saw any other birder there while I was present and other than a brief and distant view of a probable Balearic shearwater and a probable sooty shearwater I never saw anything unusual (some of the Manxies I saw close to shore did show some dark markings in their armpits but otherwise had very white underparts).

The highlight was a pod of common dolphins moving west off the headland, distant views and very unobtrusive as they moved by very quickly and out of sight. Their location was given away by a swirling group of gannets overhead but other than the occasional fin at the surface and occasional leap out of the waves I would have missed them. I counted 6 at the surface together but there were more present and it was quite exciting (and difficult) to track them across the Bay.

Sunday 21st August and I decided to head off to Dawlish Warren in the morning before the forecasted rain arrived in the afternoon. I caught the train to Dawlish and walked to the hide at Dawlish Warren to catch the high tide roost, noting an adult winter plumage Mediterranean gull amongst the gulls roosting along the beach along the way.

The island in front of the hide had roosting oystercatchers, carrion crows, Sandwich terns, herring gulls and great black backed gulls but not much else. Small waders started to fly into The Bight as the tide receded and scanning through them I managed to find myself a nice juvenile curlew sandpiper amongst the ringed plover, dunlin, sanderling and turnstone. It stayed asleep for most of the time with its head tucked under its wings but it stood noticeable taller than the nearby dunlin and had a lovely peachy pink flush across its breast. Eventually it woke up and flew nearer to me and started to feed amongst the salt marsh before flying off and out of sight but I had some very nice views in my scope.

Oystercatchers in front of the hide

 Curlew Sandpiper (top right) with Ringed Plovers

 Curlew Sandpiper (top right) with Dunlin and Ringed Plovers

 Juvenile Ringed Plover

Adult Ringed Plover

Best of all was a surprise juvenile yellow legged gull right in front of the hide. I had been casually watching the juvenile herring gulls floating about and squabbling over scraps of wood and seaweed fished out of the water when I noticed a much paler and brighter looking bird amongst them. My first thought was that it was a juvenile great black backed gull but it was only slightly but noticeably larger than the herring gulls with a much heavier looking bill. Pale head, neck and breast, a slight dark smudge behind the eye, dark upperparts contrasting with the pale head and neck all noted before it flew up into the air showing a white rump and a black tail band and disappeared from sight! I was just about to call it out in the hide before it flew off and I really would have liked to have watched it properly for longer but as it flew off I felt a touch of shock at actually have found a yellow legged gull after all this time!

Heading back to the train station and I managed to find a gatekeeper, meadow browns, a green veined white, a large white, 2 male and a female common blue and a small copper along with a Pyrausta aurata, 6-spot burnets and 2 male yellow belles in the Greenland Lake area. Autumn ladies tresses were flowering and it was nice to see a pair of cirl buntings with 2 fledglings.

 Male Yellow Belle

 Male Yellow Belle - close up of antenna

 Six Spot Burnets

 Common Blue

 Common Blue

 Autumn Ladies Tresses

 Autumn Ladies Tresses

 Meadow Brown

Pyrausta aurata

Heading home on the train and the rain began to fall but it had been quite an interesting few days out with my first surprise UK life tick for 2016.

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Clouded Yellow

A busy few days at work after an enjoyable but tiring visit from Mum and nephew Jack saw me tired and cranky by the time of my day off on Sunday August 14th. It was warm and sunny so we headed off to the caravan at Bude for the day to check the wheels and brakes prior to its imminent move later in the year.

Only one moth was found in the toilet block, what I think is a faded rivulet, and a large micromoth was flitting about in the awning, not sure of its ID as yet as I haven't bothered to look it up in my guide book. More interesting were 2 chamomile shark caterpillars feeding on the flowerheads of the Michelmas daisies at the back of the caravan, a new moth species for me.

 Chamomile Shark Caterpillar

Chamomile Shark

It was nice to see at least 3 speckled woods along the caravan hedgerow, I have seen very few of them this year, and I also had sightings of a small tortoiseshell, large whites, red admirals and a painted lady.

 Speckled Wood

Hoverfly Sp.

Nothing of note offshore except for a fulmar along the cliffs and 2 oystercatchers on the beach and Maer Lake was still full of water with no sign of any green- or wood sandpipers and the glossy ibis from last week had moved on. A black tailed godwit, 7 eclipse plumage/juvenile teal, 3 grey herons and 300+ noisy Canada geese (including quite a few juveniles) were seen along with a chiffchaff along the lane and gatekeeper butterflies.

I had the moth box out in the backyard on returning home but in the morning I only had a disappointing 8 moths in the trap, the highlights being a ruby tiger and a knot grass. More noteworthy from the previous few nights were an old lady moth flitting about the breakfast room before being released outside, a flyover oystercatcher heard calling in the dark and a hooting tawny owl heard in the nearby park.

 Ruby Tiger

Knot Grass

Plans for a day on the beach at Cawsands on Monday 15th August were scuppered when the ferry from The Barbican in Plymouth was cancelled due to the increasingly strong easterly wind and so we caught the ferry to Mountbatten and walked to Jennycliff beach instead. The view from the beach across The Sound is stunning but the beach itself is a little scruffy and rubbish strewn although it wasn't too bad on this visit. 2 Sandwich terns (an adult and juvenile) were flying around offshore making a lot of noise, and a kestrel patrolled the cliffs causing great consternation to the chiffchaffs, long tailed tits and goldfinch heard in the bushes.

A speckled wood, a small tortoiseshell, a comma, large whites, gatekeepers, red admirals and at least 2 painted ladies were seen but best of all was my first clouded yellow of the year on the walk back home which actually allowed a close approach for some decentish photos, not a bad end to the day before back to the grindstone and another busy week at work.

 Clouded Yellow

 Clouded Yellow

Clouded Yellow

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Grey Seals at Looe and a Glossy Ibis at Bude

I wasn't expecting much in the way of wildlife sightings with Mum and nephew Jack staying for a few days but while out and about I managed to find some interesting stuff with a few surprises too.

Saturday 6th August and we headed down to Looe by train, a bargain at £3.85 return each as we were travelling on a Group 4 ticket. I have never travelled along the branch line from Liskeard to Looe before and it was an interesting and scenic trip with a common sandpiper, a grey wagtail and lots of little egrets seen along the river. There was also lots of Himalayan balsam growing by the trackside, very pretty but very invasive and detrimental to native flora.

Himalayan Balsam

Looe was very busy with lots of tourists despite the cloud and mist (but calm and warm conditions). We decided to take a 45 minute boat trip around St.Georges Island and I was intrigued by the Skipper stating that he would feed the seals on the trip. The boat was glass bottomed and we saw a few compass jellyfish and various fish (pollack and wrasse according to the Skipper) as we travelled over the seaweed beds around the island but the highlight was indeed the seals which came to the boat to take mackerel offered to them, raising themselves up out of the water to eat the fish.

Grey Seal

Grey Seal and Turnstone

Gret Seal taking mackerel

Grey Seal

Grey Seal

I enjoyed a bit of rock pooling with Jack on the main beach and we found the usual stuff - prawns, shanny and anemones - but a squashed and dead oak eggar on the footpath was a surprise.


Oak Eggar

Sunday 7th and we headed off to Bude for the day for Jack to indulge in a bit of body boarding. The sea was choppy with some worrying rip tides and currents but Jack (and David) had a great time in the water. I was more interested in the Manx shearwaters flying north offshore towards Lundy in the strong winds and I am 99% sure I picked out a Corys shearwater too, closer to shore than the Manxies and noticeably larger with paler and browner looking upperwings which were angled back as it sheared across the waves but brief views only as it banked out of the waves before dipping down again and being lost from sight.

Water levels at Maer Lake were still low but despite scanning around I couldn't find the reported wood sandpiper but the reported glossy ibis was showing well if a little distantly along with a black tailed godwit, curlews and oystercatchers.

Glossy Ibis, Maer Lake

The toilet blocks held 2 single dotted waves along with a small fan footed wave and a single meadow brown was seen along Maer Lane.

Small Fan Footed Wave

Monday 8th August and we headed off to Wembury for the day. A sanderling along the main beach was a surprise as it fed along the shoreline at high tide totally unperturbed by nearby holiday makers. It was surprisingly easy to overlook or lose track of as it fed unconcernedly down to a few metres with its cryptically patterned plumage affording it some camoflague amongst the pebbles and sea weed.

Sanderling on Wembury Beach





A bit more rock pooling turned up more prawns and more shanny along with cushion starfish, corkwing wrasse, hermit crabs, a compass jellyfish, a chiton species and snakelocks anemones.

Cushion Starfish

Snakelocks Anenome

Corkwing Wrasse

Compass Jellyfish

Chiton Sp.

Tuesday 9th August and it was off to Dartmoor for the day before Mum and Jack headed off back to Bristol. Along the River Dart beautiful demoiselles, brown trout and silver washed fritillaries were all seen while a quietly singing willow warbler was heard. The fritillaries were very smart looking but very active and difficult to photograph but I managed to snap 1 worn individual and I also got a shot of a very worn high brown fritillary too.

Beautiful Demoiselle (male)

Brown Trout

High Brown Fritillary

Silver Washed Fritillary

After a cream tea at Badgers Holt which was actually very nice we had a quick walk at nearby Sharp Tor where a male wheatear showed well before it was time for Mum and Jack to head off home, it having been a nice but tiring visit with some interesting sightings along the way.