Sunday 30 July 2017

Wood Sandpipers at Bowling Green Marsh

Thursday 27th July and with the day to myself I headed off to Bowling Green Marsh, hoping that the 2 wood sandpipers reported the day before would still be there. I had planned to catch a train after 9am when it would be cheaper but as I was up and awake early as usual I caught the 8:09am train and paid a whooping £20.10 for a return ticket - what!

The RSPB have landscaped the area in front of the hide at Bowling Green Marsh and have created some scrapes which have proved very controversial amongst the Exeter bird fraternity and have attracted a lot of negative comments, but this is where the wood sandpipers have decided to pitch up and so I was very interested to see what it was like. Arriving at Topsham I headed off straight away to the hide on a grey and dull morning, noting various Exeter birder illuminati along the way so I was hoping the sandpipers would still be there.

Arriving in the hide and I scanned around the scrapes but there was no sign of any wood sandpipers with a dunlin and a common sandpiper being the only waders to be seen. The scrape area was looking very interesting though, when it settles in and the water levels are a little lower it should prove to be a very good magnet for waders and will allow for some excellent views of them.

New Scrapes, Bowling green Marsh

I scanned around the Marsh and amongst the roosting curlew, whimbrel, black tailed godwit and redshank were 2 lapwing and 2 dunlin, while on the new large island were shelduck and cormorants amongst the roosting black headed gulls along with an adult great black backed gull, an adult lesser black backed gull and an adult winter plumaged Mediterranean gull.

The great black backed gull eventually flew off and spooked the roosting birds and I then heard the distinctive calls of wood sandpiper before picking up 2 small waders flying across the Marsh which landed right in front of the hide on the new scrapes - result! 2 delicious looking wood sandpipers which fed along the water line giving some great views.

 Wood Sandpiper, Bowling Green Marsh

 Wood Sandpiper

 Wood Sandpiper

 Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Also seen on the marsh were 2 stock dove and various eclipse plumaged ducks - mallard, a teal, 2 gadwall and 4 wigeon - and a green woodpecker was heard yaffling nearby. Sand martins were flitting about over the water with a house martin and a few swallows but I decided to move on from Topsham and caught the train back to Dawlish Warren for a look around.

From the train I saw 2 common sandpipers (1 at Powderham and 1 at Cockwood), turnstones roosting on the harbour wall at Starcross and Herbert the resident Slavonian grebe still in summer plumage off Cockwood. Dawlish Warren was very busy with holidaymakers as expected and so I headed off to the sea wall for a look where Sandwich terns were very successfully diving for fish close to the shore. Further out were around 40 common scoters spread out across the bay while further out still were a few gannet and some very distant Manx shearwaters. A mute swan sat on the sea off Langstone Rock looked very out of place before it flew off up the estuary.

Mute Swan, Dawlish Warren

The reserve was much less busy and around the main pond I saw a reed warbler, a singing cirl bunting, a flyover bullfinch, a blue tailed damselfly and a very nice small red-eyed damselfly. 

 Small Red-eyed Damselfly, Dawlish Warren - maximum zoom

Small Red-eyed Damselfly - cropped shot

A few butterflies were on the wing in Greenland Lake despite the grey skies - common blue, meadow brown, large white, small copper and gatekeeper - along with quite a few 6 spot burnet moths, and I thought I found a brown argus but it turned out to be a very small and a very brown looking female common blue.

 Male Common Blue

 Female Common Blue

Female Common Blue

Blue Eyed Grass - still a few in flower

Saturday 29th July and it was grey, misty and raining, and with some interesting birds being seen off the south coast following some recent unseasonal weather conditions I decided to go to Rame Head for a sea watch - only problem being there was hardly any breeze and so I got cold and wet and saw very little! But it was all good practice and experience and I had nothing better to do and I did manage a few interesting sightings.

Land sightings consisted of 2 raven, a female kestrel, yellowhammers, a male cirl bunting, stonechats, linnets and whitethroats along with a speckled wood, a wall, meadow browns and gatekeepers (despite the rain). Sea sightings consisted of 2 harbour porpoise very close to the rocks just off the headland giving brief, blink and you miss it views as they surfaced a few times before never being seen again, and there were gannets, herring gulls, great black backed gulls and shags offshore.

The rain stopped for around an hour between 11 and 12 and this proved to be the best period of sea watching with a whimbrel, an oystercatcher and a dunlin in with 5 turnstone seen flying west and around 70 Manx shearwaters moving offshore in a strung out, straggly pulse, all heading west except for 3 heading east.

The rain returned and so I decided to call it day and headed off home to dry out and warm up but it had been an enjoyable morning all the same.

Saturday 29 July 2017

A Lack of Hairstreaks

Birdy the herring gull chick was still on the flat roof next door on our return from Dorset which was a surprise as I expected him to have fledged while we were away. He looked bigger and had lost all his downy feathering but appeared lethargic and less vocal. I was a bit concerned but on Saturday 22nd July as I left for work in the early morning I watched him fly across the roof making his awful shrieking noise and on my return home that evening he had gone - hopefully a successful fledgling.

White leter hairstreaks were reported in Central Park in Plymouth on July 14th (the day I was there looking for them) and again on July 17th (when we were away in Dorset) and so with the sun shining on Sunday 23rd July I headed off to have a search for them, this being the first opportunity I had since returning from Dorset. I walked through Ford Park Cemetery along the way and saw a marbled white, a male common blue, a small copper, a ringlet, a peacock, gatekeepers, meadow browns and 6 spot burnet moths flitting about and as I entered the park I could hear ring necked parakeets squawking in the trees. I headed to the area where I had been informed they were present and met a lady butterflyer called Jenny who was looking for them too. She had been there for nearly 2 hours and hadn't found any although neither of us were exactly sure where the butterflies were actually seen. We wandered around the area checking out all the elm and ash trees but with no luck although I did see comma, holly blue and red admiral along with Volucella zonaria and Volucella pellucens hoverflys.

 Volucella pellucens


Just as we were about to call it a day we met a man staring up into a tree and he informed us that he was watching what he thought was a white letter hairstreak in the top branches. Scanning the leaves I eventually found the butterfly but it was a female common blue looking a little lost at the top of a tree. He confirmed which trees the hairstreaks were being seen in though so at least I know where to look next time I try to find them.

That night I had the moth box out in the back yard and in the morning of July 24th I had a grand total of 14 moths of 12 species - I haven't had the mothbox out much this year and when I have the haul has been disappointing, maybe I'm just picking the wrong nights? The moths caught were 2 male four spotted footman, a dunbar, a Jersey tiger moth, a Crassa unitella, a small magpie, a marbled conch (Eupoecilia angustana), an Anania coronata, a common rustic agg., a grey/dark dagger, a brimstone moth and a crambus sp. - quality if not quantity.

 Brimstone Moth

 Grey/Dark Dagger


I was feeling quite unwell while I was sorting out the mothbox and as the morning progressed spent a lot of time on the toilet being very unwell and the afternoon laying on the sofa feeling awful and like I had been kicked in the guts by a mule so a planned trip to the beach at Cawsands went out of the window. I had to phone in sick the next day due to infection control policy, something I hate to do, but with the sun shining and with my guts feeling better but still incredibly sore we decided to head over to Cawsands for the day. I was a little trepidatious but the day went ok although laying on a beach was most uncomfortable and I spent quite a bit of time covered up and asleep.

There were quite a few butterflies on the buddlea flowers along the cliff base at the beach and so I did a count for the Big Butterfly Count being run by Butterfly Conservation and saw a comma, a wall, 3 meadow brown, a gatekeeper, a female common blue, 2 painted lady, 10 peacock, 1 small white, 4 large white and 7 red admiral in the 15 minutes counting time.

Walking back through Mount Edgecumbe park to Cremyl to catch the ferry back to Plymouth and I added a ringlet and 4 worn silver washed fritillary to the days butterfly species list but there was no sign of any purple hairstreaks again in the tree where I saw them 2 years ago. David found some fallow deer hiding amongst the trees, 4 adults and 2 fawns, before they ran off out of sight.

 Silver Washed Fritillary

Silver Washed Fritillary

Fallow Deer

At Cremyl a Sandwich tern was diving for fish and from the ferry back to The Barbican I saw another Sandwich tern and an adult winter and juvenile Mediterranean gull. Arriving home and I was very glad to sit down and relax on the sofa after a hot and busy and achey day out.

Saturday 22 July 2017

Dorset Birthday Butterfly Heaven

My birthday was on Monday July 17th and the weather was glorious - very hot and sunny, just like last year - and so it was off to the coast for the day starting with a drive to Durdle Door, somewhere I have wanted to visit for many years now after learning all about the geology of the area for my O-level geography course many years ago.

We walked down the cliff path to the beach at Durdle Door along with many other people and it was already baking hot. The views of the coast and Durdle Door itself were stunning and along the walk I managed to see a small blue, a clouded yellow, a male chalkhill blue, common blue, marbled white, gatekeeper, small skipper, meadow brown, red admiral and lots of Lulworth skippers - fantastic!

Durdle Door

Chalkhill Blue, Durdle Door

Small Blue, Durdle Door

Lulworth Skipper, Durdle Door

Walking back up the cliff path was hard going in the heat as was the walk along the clifftops to Lulworth Cove but again there were plenty of butterflies to keep me occupied including dark green fritillary, painted lady and yet more Lulworth skippers.

Dark Green Fritillary, Lulworth Cove

Dark Green Fritillary

Lulworth Skipper

Lulworth Skipper

After some lunch at a pub in Lulworth Cove we headed down to the beach for a look at the stunning scenery, unfortunately the firing ranges were closed so we couldn't walk along the cliffs but we headed up to the small headland to the right of the cove where the views were amazing and yet more Lulworth skippers were seen along with a small heath and a dark green fritillary.

Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Skipper

Lulworth Skipper

With the heat rising we moved on to Kimmeridge Bay for the afternoon where we sat on the beach and admired the interesting geology while Jack splashed around in the water. We found some fossils in the rocks and a Roesel's Bush-cricket, a new species for me, looking a little out of place amongst the boulders, while 2 ravens were seen flying overhead.

Fossil, Kimmeridge Bay

Kimmeridge Bay

Roesel's Bush-cricket

Roesel's Bush-cricket

We headed back to the cottage at the end of the day feeling very sun kissed and enjoyed a barbeque for tea - a very lovely birthday day indeed.

Tuesday 18th July and it was hot and sunny again but very windy and with thunderstorms and rain forecast for the afternoon David and I headed off in the morning to the nearby RSPB reserve at Arne for a walk, meeting the others at the café on the reserve later in the morning. A look for raft spiders on a small pond drew a blank but I did have some nice views of keeled skimmers and small red damselflies, a new damselfly for me. There was no sign of any Dartford warblers in the blowy conditions with a flyover siskin and tree pipit being the only small birds of note but I did get to see an osprey perched in a dead tree eating a fish, a little distant even with a telescope but a bonus bird for the day. A single grayling was also seen feeding on heather flowers in a sheltered spot.

Keeled Skimmer, Arne

Keeled Skimmer

Small Red Damselfly, Arne

Small Red Damselfly

Osprey, Arne

Grayling, Arne

Small Copper, Arne

With the clouds rolling in again we drove to nearby Poole for some lunch and a look around the shops. I watched 2 common terns for a while as they flew around the marina before we drove back to the cottage, arriving just as the rain began to fall and the thunder and lightning began.

Common Tern, Poole

The following day was cool and cloudy and mizzly and so after a quick look around Swanage where I saw a Sandwich tern in the mist and then some lunch at Corfe Castle it was time to head back to Plymouth - but what an amazing few days away I had had - gorgeous scenery in a stunning part of the UK, butterflies galore (21 species) including 2 lifers, good birding, a new damselfly, a new cricket, a visit to a RSPB reserve new to me, interesting geology and a fantastic time with my family, all in all a brilliant birthday time. 

Friday 21 July 2017

Five Go Butterflying in Dorset - Part Two

The cottage in Wareham was lovely, very quiet, comfortable and homely and with a pretty little back garden. I kept the garden light on overnight and on one of the mornings I had a nice elephant hawk moth inside the lantern along with a small fan-footed wave.

 Elephant Hawk Moth, Wareham

Elephant Hawk Moth, Wareham

Small Fan-Footed Wave, Wareham

The weather forecast wasn't looking too good for our time away, dry weather but mostly cloudy, breezy, warm and humid but the forecast seemed to change hourly at times. Sunday 16th July was cloudy and breezy but warm and humid especially out of the wind as forecasted and so we decided to head to Corfe Castle for the morning, somewhere I was looking forward to visiting. 

We parked up at the National Trust car park by the Castle and I wandered over to a sheltered grassy bank in the car park for a quick look around and within a few seconds had found a wall brown along with my target butterfly and the main aim of my trip to this area of Dorset - a Lulworth skipper! I had some nice views before it flew off but I was very pleased to find one so easily.

 Lulworth Skipper, Corfe Castle

Lulworth Skipper, Corfe Castle

We had a look around the Castle which was very interesting and picturesque but was very lacking in information boards. A ravens nest at the top of the ruined keep was empty and there was no sign of any birds nearby, apparently they have been breeding here since 2004. We enjoyed a cream tea in the National Trust tea room overlooking the ruins and with the sun beginning to appear from behind the clouds I headed back to the car park for another look for Lulworth skippers.

On the walk along the footpath at the base of the castle to the car park there were plenty of butterflies flitting about - marbled white, gatekeeper, common blue, large white, speckled wood, small skipper and what I think is a brown argus - and back at the car park I managed to find a few Lulworth skippers flitting about but in the warm sunshine they were very active and mobile and difficult to photograph.

 Brown Argus, Corfe Castle

Lulworth Skipper, Corfe Castle

With the clouds clearing and the sun shining it became very hot, not the weather that was forecast, and so we headed off to the beach at Studland for the afternoon. The beautiful sandy beach was busy but with a £9 parking fee for non-National Trust members it probably was a lot less busy than it could have been. The views from the beach of Old Harry rocks and the Isle of Wight were interesting but a quick walk around the dunes behind the beach only revealed a few keeled skimmers and gatekeepers in the baking heat. The odd Mediterranean gull flew over calling and black headed gulls were scavenging scraps of food along the sands and after a few hours the cloud appeared again and we headed back to the cottage, having had a very pleasant day out.

Black Headed Gull, Studland