Tuesday 31 July 2018

Birdy Returns (Briefly) and Green Sandpipers at Bowling Green Marsh

Thursday 26th July and while tidying up the back yard we were visited by Birdy who dropped in to have a preen, a drink of water from the bowl we had placed on the flat roof for the young birds and a snooze while also watching intently what we were doing and making lots of noise. He did get a feed from one of the adults who flew in and yakked up something very unappetising looking and it was nice to see Birdy again but he had disappeared by the evening and has yet to return again.

Friday 27th July and after all the hot and sunny and dry weather which has been good for butterflies I needed a bird fix and so I decided to fork out the cash (£20.80!) and head off to Topsham on the early train for the high tide roost at Bowling Green Marsh.

Grey skies and mizzle on the train ride to Topsham were a welcome surprise and at times there were some heavy showers during the course of the day which were actually very pleasent to be out in. On arriving at the hide at 08:45 hrs there were plenty of waders roosting on the marsh and amongst the curlews and black tailed godwits I picked out a redshank, a few lapwing, a bar-tailed godwit and a few whimbrel. The highlight though were 2 green sandpipers, surprisingly my first of the year, which gave some great views in front of the hide.

Black-tailed Godwit - Winter Plumage

 Black-tailed Godwit - Summer Plumage

Also seen were a winter plumaged adult Mediterranean gull and an adult lesser black backed gull amongst the herring and black headed gulls, 4 young tufted duck, a little grebe, 3 grey herons, a wigeon, a few teal and 4 stock doves.

As the tide dropped I headed over to the River Clyst viewing platform where redshanks, greenshanks and dunlins were seen with whimbrel, oystercatcher, curlew and black tailed godwits along with 2 shelduck and 5 fluffy chicks. I scanned around for the osprey which has been hanging around the Exe for a while but with no luck.

Onwards to Dawlish Warren for a quick look around and from the train on the journey there I saw Herbert the Slavonian grebe diving off Cockwood. At Dawlish Warren in the misty gloom offshore I picked out a few gannets and Sandwich terns while in Greenland Lake there were a few marsh helleborines in flower and six spot burnet moths feeding on thistle flowers.

 Marsh Helleborine

Marsh Helleborine

The weather worsened and so I headed home, seeing 4 common sandpipers together along the River Teign from the train and enjoying a complimentary ice lolly on arriving off the train in Plymouth which was very enjoyable despite the cool and wet weather.

Thursday 26 July 2018

Birdy and Burdy Fly The Nest

I had the moth box out in the back yard on Saturday 21st July and the next morning had another modest haul of moths with the highlights being a male four spotted footman, 7 knot grass, 2 mullein wave (one of my favourite moths), a silver y, a lesser yellow underwing and a dunbar. Birdy and Burdy watched me intently from the flat roof as usual but there were no adults around so emptying the trap was a more relaxed experience than of late.

Knot Grass

Mullein Wave

Birdy and Burdy

A quick walk around Plymouth Hoe later that morning and I was pleased to find the grey seal we saw last week in Sutton Harbour on returning from our pelagic boat trip, this time it was sleeping in a mass of floating seaweed close to shore near the yacht club, rising to the surface to breathe every now and then before dropping back down under the water.

On returning home there was only 1 herring gull chick on the roof as the other had finally fledged and flown off. I assume the bird left on the roof was Birdy, the chick that spent 5 days coming down our chimney and therefore behind developmentally due to a lack of food during those 5 days.

Monday 23rd July and the last day of my holiday before returning to work and despite grey skies I headed out to Wembury by bus for a walk. The grey skies soon cleared and it became another hot and sunny day and there were as usual lots of butterflies flying about including 2 wall but the highlight was a clouded yellow seen from the bus near Laira Bridge on the journey home.


The toilet block held 2 male drinkers, lovely moths doing good impressions of furry hedgehogs.


At Wembury Point there were signs of autumn on the horizon with 2 whimbrel, 2 curlew, 48+ oystercatchers, 3 common sandpipers, 2 little egrets and 1 grey heron on the rocks while along the path stonechats, whitethroats and cirl buntings were seen.

Tuesday 24th July and Birdy was still making loads of noise on the roof as I headed off to work in the morning  but on my return home it was eerily silent as Birdy had also finally fledged - I will miss their antics but not all the early morning noise and I hope it rains soon to wash all their poop away.

Wednesday 25th July and we headed off to Cawsands for a beach day. Fortunately this time there was a pleasent breeze keeping things a little cooler than on our visit last month. A gannet was seen circling around the bay off Cawsands as we arrived on the ferry and on the rocks amongst the herring gulls (including a few juveniles) were 16 adult Mediterranean gulls moulting into winter plumage.

I did a Big Butterfly Count on the walk from Cawsand village to Sandways Beach and saw 2 painted lady, 1 red admiral, 2 peacock, 1 clouded yellow, 2 silver washed fritillary, 1 comma, 1 large white, 2 wall, 1 gatekeeper, 3 small white and 3 meadow brown - not bad at all.

On the walk from Sandways Beach to the ferry at Cremyll there was no sign of any purple hairstreaks in the Mount Edgecumbe Woods but I did see another 3 silver washed fritillaries.

Silver-Washed Fritillary

On arriving home Birdy had returned to the flat roof next door but after making loads of noise and having a little snooze he left before it got dark.

I had the moth box out again in the back yard overnight and this morning I finally had my first Jersey tiger of the year with other highlights being a male and 2 female four spotted footman, a marbled green, a marbled beauty and a black arches.

Marbled Beauty

Marbled Green

Black Arches

Sunday 22 July 2018

Dorset and Wiltshire Butterflies

My original plan had been to visit Salisbury in Wiltshire for a few days away for my birthday so I could visit nearby Bentley Woods to look for purple emperors, a little late in the season in normal years but too late this year due to the amazing hot and dry weather we have been experiencing recently so curtailing the season early - hence my visit to Bentley Woods by train back in June.

And so on Wednesday 18th July we drove to Salisbury but with Bentley Woods no longer on the itinerary and on the drive there we stopped off at Athelhampton House and Gardens in Dorset for a visit. The house was very interesting and the gardens were lovely and I managed some interesting wildlife sightings.

Comma, holly blue, red admiral, large white, meadow brown, gatekeeper and small white were all seen along with a hummingbird hawkmoth, beautiful demoiselle, flyover siskin and a family party of spotted flycatchers moving through the trees.


Hummingbird Hawkmoth

Beautiful Demoiselle

Driving on to Salisbury and we stopped off in a layby on the A35 near Bere Regis where I wandered around the very dry vergeside vegetation looking for Essex skippers which are found here. I had a very brief view of a skipper before it dashed off, it had the black tips to the underside of its antenna indicative of an Essex skipper but despite searching I couldn't refind it.

Common blues were flying around and I watched one checking out what I thought was a female common blue but on closer inspection I realised it was a brown argus, appearing newly emerged and in beautiful condition.

Brown Argus

Brown Argus

Further searching in hot and humid conditions while the traffic thundered past along the carriageway was proving fruitless and just as I was about to give up and head back to the car I eventually found an Essex skipper which was quite flighty and a swine to observe but I managed to get a few photos of the black undersides of its antenna - I was very pleased to find one as it has been over 32 years since I last saw one back in Suffolk.

Essex Skipper

Essex Skipper

Essex Skipper 

Essex Skipper 

Essex Skipper

Essex Skipper

Essex Skipper

Essex Skipper

On to Salisbury and The Grasmere Hotel where we stayed for 3 nights was very nice, the room was cool and quiet and with no noisy herring gulls nearby so we actually slept very well. The hotel was on the river and with views of the cathedral and we had a very pleasent stay.

Thursday 19th July and it was hot and sunny and humid as usual and we headed out to Old Sarum for a visit, somewhere we have visited twice before in the winter but never in the summer. It was very interesting but for me the butterflies stole the show, they were everywhere - small white, brimstone, peacock, small tortoiseshell, red admiral, ringlet, common blue, brown argus, large white, gatekeeper, meadow brown, marbled white, chalkhill blue, green veined white and clouded yellow - amazing!


 Large White

 Small Tortoiseshell

 Chalkhill Blue

Clouded Yellow

Also seen was a dusky sallow feeding on a thistle flower, a new moth for me, along with the usual silver y and 6 spot burnet, and yellowhammers were busily singing away.

Dusky Sallow

Onwards to nearby Woodhenge, a new place for us, and we followed a National Trust walking trail around the nearby area. A corn bunting and another spotted flycatcher family were the bird highlights with more brown argus and common blues being the butterfly highlights. I checked out all the skippers flitting about but all the ones I was able to identify were small and not Essex. The views on the walk were lovely across Salisbury Plain towards Stonehenge and the Barrows were interesting too but the traffic jams on the A303 didn't look much fun.

 Spotted Flycatcher 

 Brown Argus

Small Skipper - orange underside to the antenna tips

Small Skipper

Our last visit of the day was to Figsbury Ring, a National Trust managed Iron Age Fort and another site awash with butterflies - chalkhill blue, brown argus, large white, meadow brown, brimstone, small white, common blue, marbled white, holly blue and gatekeeper all flying with small heath and faded dark green fritillary also seen along with a Pyrausta nigrata.

 Dark Green Fritillary

 Small Heath

 Chalkhill Blue on Harebell

Chalkhill Blue 

Pyrausta nigrata

Friday 20th July and another hot and sunny day greeted us as we drove to Old Wardour Castle near Tisbury for a visit, a very peaceful and interesting place with a red kite flying over adding some avian interest.

Next stop was Heale Gardens near Salisbury where another family party of spotted flycatchers were seen in the trees, a hobby dashed past overhead and brimstones and green veined whites flitted about with a Pyrausta aurata.

 Spotted Flycatcher 

Spotted Flycatcher 

Pyrausta aurata

The final stop of the day was Woodhenge again where we had another wander around, seeing small heath, yellowhammers and a roe deer on a walk around the area.

Yellowhammer with House Sparrow

Saturday 21st July and our final day before heading back to Plymouth was spent looking around Salisbury and admiring the amazing architecture. A look along the river bank in the hotel garden before checking out revealed a few banded demoiselles resting on the vegetation along with a brief view of a green looking damselfly, probably an emerald damselfly.

We visited the cathedral and did a tour of the spire, something we did 20+years ago and which was a great experience then as now. I didn't manage a sighting of any peregrines which usually nest on the spire (but not this year) although I did hear a bird calling a few times.

Salisbury Cathedral

And so a great trip away, good weather, some interesting sight seeing and loads of butterflies - perfect!

Perranporth and Wembury Butterflies

A week off work for my birthday started with a trip to Perranporth in Cornwall on Monday July 16th. The weather wasn't looking great on the drive down with grey skies and heavy showers but on arriving at Perranporth the clouds quickly cleared, the sun appeared and it became another hot and sunny day,

We met up with my sister Vik, brother in law Nik and nephew Jack who were holidaying for the week near Falmouth and we enjoyed brunch at The Watering Hole, a wander around the shops, a few drinks and a splash around in the surf before heading back to Plymouth.

A juvenile gannet was seen offshore, a shelduck flew along the beach and 2 fulmars flew along the cliffs while the stream through the village held the usual trout. The highlight though were silver studded blues flitting about in the dunes, a little worn and virtually silver studless but a good find along with common blues - at first I thought they were female common blues until I noticed the male common blues interacting with them but mostly ignoring them.

 Silver Studded Blue

 Silver Studded Blue 

 Silver Studded Blue 

 Silver Studded Blue 

 Silver Studded Blue - Silver studs just about visible

 Silver Studded Blue

 Silver Studded Blue 

Silver Studded Blue

Tuesday 17th July and we had a walk along the coastpath at Wembury on a mostly overcast but hot day. A rosy footman, a Chinese character and 2 small blood vein were found in the toilet block which I caught and released outside and along the walk there were silver y and 6 spot burnet flitting about.

Small Bloodvein

Not much happening on the bird front as expected with 30 oystercatcher roosting on the rocks at high tide with a little egret, a sparrowhawk flying over, a cirl bunting singing and whitethroats skulking in the brambles being the best of it.

Plenty of butterflies on the wing though with small white, 2 wall, meadow brown, gatekeeper, small skipper, a painted lady, speckled wood, common blue, small copper and large white all seen.

 Small Skipper