Friday 29 July 2022

Chewing a Wasp

Thursday 21st July was warm and sunny and so we decided to take the ferry across Plymouth Sound to Cawsands for a day on the beach. On the journey to Cawsands there were 4 Mediterranean Gulls feeding together around Drakes Island, all adults moulting out of summer plumage, but there was no sign of any Sandwich Terns although it may be a little early in the autumn just yet. 

On disembarking at Cawsand I did a Big Butterfly Count along the coast path to Sandways Beach, something I usually do at this time of year, but there were only a few butterflies seen this time - 3 Peacock, a Red Admiral, a Small White, a Meadow Brown, a Silver-washed Fritillary and 3 Gatekeeper along with a Six-spot Burnet moth. I did see more butterflies on arriving at Sandways Beach including a second Silver-washed Fritillary but it was after the allotted 15 minute count time (and there is no option to add less common butterflies to the count entries this year as there has been in the past so the Fritillary has unfortunately gone unrecorded).

Silver-washed Fritillary, Cawsands

It was very hot on the beach and we had a pleasant time admiring the views, chatting and enjoying a picnic although I did end up with a wasp sting in my mouth. I took a sip of my drink and felt something in my mouth followed by a painful sting before spitting out a wasp, not ideal for somebody who is allergic to bee and wasp stings! It is not a serious allergy, I don't require an EpiPen or anything like that but I do swell up like a balloon and so I ended up sporting a very swollen mouth and left cheek and wasn't able to go to work the next day as I couldn't wear a surgical mask as mandated for NHS establishments - so silver linings!

I had the moth box out in the back yard again on Friday 22nd July and in the morning I had some interesting moths to go through while 3 Swifts screamed overhead and Ring-necked Parakeets squawked away. The highlight was a Crescent Dart, my first for the back yard and a complete surprise as it is a coastal species. At first I thought it may have been a Turnip Moth until @MOTHIDUK on Twitter confirmed its identity. I used to see them regularly at Bude when I used my moth box at The Outlaws caravan and it was always one of my favourite moths to catch there along with Brussels Lace which also seems to be turning up in my back yard more often now too. Another new for me and interesting moth species in the trap was Metalampra italica (Italian Tubic), a moth supposedley endemic to Italy but first recorded in the UK in Plymouth in 2003, presumably having been accidentally introduced here. Finally a Rush Veneer was a sign of migration from the Continent, not surprising in the fierce heat of the past week here in the UK and in Spain and France.

Crescent Dart

Metalampra italica

Rush Veneer

Saturday 23rd July was overcast, drizzley and cool and so I headed off to Wembury for a walk. The tide was coming in and along the beach there were 4 Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper along with 62 Oystercatcher, 4 Curlew, 5 Little Egret and 11 Mallard (5 males in eclipse plumage). There were good numbers of juvenile Black-headed Gulls amongst the adult birds along with 15 Mediterranean Gulls (2 juveniles) although surprisingly none of the birds present were ringed.

Mediterranean Gulls and a Whimbrel

Black-headed Gulls and a juvenile Mediterranean Gull

The biggest surprise were 2 Hobby dashing over the horse fields in pursuit of a Swallow, a brief view only as they quickly disappeared over the hilltop never to be seen again. 2 Buzzards, a Peregrine, a Sparrowhawk, a Swift and 4 Raven were also noted overhead. 

A Green Woodpecker was heard yaffling away at the Point and 2 Cirl Buntings were heard singing while offshore it was good to see at least 3 juvenile Gannets along with 3 adult birds, all having (so far) survived the ravages of bird flu decimating Gannet colonies in the north of the UK. 

Despite the cool and cloudy conditions a Wall, a Red Admiral and a Small White were seen along with a Meadow Brown, 8 Gatekeeper and a Red-banded Sand Wasp. 


Red-banded Sand Wasp

Another moth box session overnight on Monday 25th July in much cooler (and pleasenter) conditions finally provided my first Jersey Tiger Moths of the year with 2 fluttering around the trap the next morning.

Jersey Tiger

Other highlights in the trap were a Lynchis, a Copper Underwing Agg., another (larger) Metalampra italica and a Coronet.


Copper Underwing Agg. 

Metalampra italica

With Tuesday 26th July free we headed out to Roborough Down for a walk. It was warm in the sunny spells and quite humid and there were plenty of butterflies on the wing, mostly Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns but with Small and Large White, 2 Holly Blue, a Ringlet, a Speckled Wood, Silver-washed Fritillary, Brimstone, Wall and Grayling also seen.

Silver-washed Fritillary




Wednesday 27th July and with reports of 2 adult Spotted Flycatchers with 2 fledglings at Saltram I decided to go and have a look for them before yet another night shift. I have failed to see any Spotted Flycatchers at Saltram so far this year and needless to say I failed again but I'm glad to know they are present on site and have successfully bred. 

It was warm and humid despite the overcast skies and there were plenty of butterflies about. Gatekeepers were everywhere, they certainly are having a good year this year, and there were good numbers of Meadow Brown and Common Blue about too. A Green-veined White, a Small Heath, a Large White, a Speckled Wood, a Comma and a Small Skipper were also seen and I was pleased to find quite a few Long-winged Coneheads in the long grass too. 


Common Blue

Long-ringed Conehead

Terrellia tussilaginis (Burdock Gall Fly) 

The tide was heading out and on the mudflats were 5 Curlew, 3 Oystercatcher (with 1 juvenile being fed worms by an adult), an adult and a juvenile Shelduck, 5 Mute Swan and a smart summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwit.

Swift, Swallow and House Martin were hawking overhead and a pair of Kestrel were also seen with the female busily hovering away over Chelson Meadow. The female Red-crested Pochard was still present at the duck pond along with 22 eclipse-plumaged Mandarin Ducks and again there were variously aged Moorhen chicks on the pond with their parents. 

And so July slowly ebbs away and it's time to begin my slow metamorphosis back to being a birder as summer slips into autumn. It has however been quite an excellent month for butterflying helped in some part by the hot and dry weather we have experienced.

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