Thursday, 28 May 2020

Bank Holiday Collared Pratincole in south Gloucestershire

We were undecided where to head on Bank Holiday Monday, but with good weather forecast anything would be possible. We were probably all set to head for the Shropshire border when the Collared Pratincole was reported again between the Severn bridges. 

With the M5 showing as quiet we plumped for this option which takes just over an hour with traffic running smoothy. My theory of the bird being active after being hunkered down for the two previous days due to high wonds proved right on this occasion.

We scoped the bird instantly on arrival and were then treating to the bird constantly flying around the reserve feeding on the insects. This was the second time I'd observed this species and the views were considerably better than those at Ham Wall and without a prolonged wait.

This was my first post-pandemic twitch and I was very pleased to see birders acting responsibility and applying social distancing. 

After enjoying the bird, we walked the sea walk as the tide retreated. Lovely way to spend a morning.

Round town sightings

Yellow Wagtail (Mark Clarke)
Barn Owl
Barn Owl
Barn Owl
Just no room on one of two remaining islands
Brown Argus
Common Blue

It's been a funny week with the weather. Strong south westerlies brought us our first Hobby over the main areas of the pits that I flushed from the back of the old workings and the heavy cloud cover attracting 250+ Swifts on Friday. A pair of Yellow Wagtail are frequenting the crop near the service road but are not easy to see.

Jon picked up two Ringed Plovers trying to land on Sunday morning but kept going as practically impossible. Jon's full count was as follows:-

8 pairs of Little Grebe with one brood, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Cormorant, 1 Grey Heron, 11 Mute Swan with brood, 55 Greylags, 66 Canada Geese and brood, 8 Gadwall, 135 Mallard, 2 (male and female) Pochard, 62 Tufted Duck, 6 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 90 Coot, 3 pairs of Little Ringed Plover, 2 Ringed Plover circled main pit calling, 3 Lapwing, 5 Black-headed and 12 LBB Gulls, 350 Swifts, 70 House Martins, 2 Green Woodpecker, counts of singing warblers included 40 Reed, 2 Lesser Whitethroat and 12 Common Whitethroat, 1 Raven, 50 Linnets in rape, just 1 Yellowhammer singing.

I visited Spernal at the start of week and had some super views of 2 Barn Owls to the backdrop of 3 Grasshopper Warblers.

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary at Blackgraves Copse

High winds the previous two days held me back from a return trip to the Wyre Forest to see the freshly emerged Small Pearl-bordered Fritiallary butterflies. But with a warm day forecast I made sure I set the alarm early which enabled me to get parked up at around 7.30am. This species are know for becoming active very quickly so I was keen to get some quality images as they emerged from their roost. 

Lloyd Evans had the same idea so at least there was two of us looking amongst the long grass and heather. Sadly the dawn sunshine had disappeared as I past the Buttonoak Pub which gave us a prolonged wait where we did record 2 Wood Warbler and a Siskin.

So what's the difference to the Small-bordered Fritillary?
They are most easily distinguished by their undersides - each has a row of seven pearls, but the pearl-bordered Fritillary exhibits two very distinct additional pearls, while the small pearl-bordered fritillary has a colourful mosaic of white, orange and brown markings. The quickest way of checking species is the leading edge of the left fore-wing which resemble the figures 730. 

We probably recorded 12-15 in total during the session. The species became my 25th of the year and 45th in pursuit of photographing all the UK species.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Earlswood Ternage

Common Sandpiper
Common Tern
Common Tern
Clearly bossing the water marker
Great Crested Grebes
Common Tern
Grey Heron

On Monday, I wanted to try a few flight shots on the camera and there is no better species to try and captures than a Tern so I thought Earlswood would be a good idea. It seemed like everyone else had the same thought (perhaps not for tern photography) as it was packed with people.

In truth the camera seemed to struggle with the birds in flight especially when there was any sort of background. I'm going to do an article on the P900 is coming weeks covering the benefits and areas that can be improved upon.  

Sightings included my first Common Sandpiper of the year, 6 Common Tern, a Little Egret & many great Great Crested Grebe.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Wood Whites emerge at Grafton Wood

Wood White
Beautiful Demoiselle
Wood White
Broad bodied Chaser
Wood White
Wood White

My final stop of the weekend was a walk along the public footpaths with Mrs D at Grafton Wood which is only fifteen minutes from home to see if the Wood White had emerged. No dangers on this front as we saw over 20 without a good deal on searching. All credit to the amazing team of volunteers that work tirelessly at this wood all year round.

Duke of Burgundy at Rodborough Common

Duke of Burgundy

Duke of Burgundy
I love this pic

Duke of Burgundy
Green Hairstreak
Adonis Blue
Rodborough Common
Nice views towards Slimbridge

Part two of our jolly to Gloucestershire was Rodborough Common, some stunning open space with beautiful views. Ready for lunch, we sat down and tucked into our snacks out of the wind. Once again Dave had taken me to an amazing hotspot. A Green Hairstreak was the first butterfly we saw then my 44th UK lifer when four Duke of Burgundy emerged. The Dukes were smaller than I expected but certainly did not disappoint. To round up the day, Dave found an early Adonis Blue. Whilst we saw the butterfly in flight, he won't pose with wings open as the temperature had dropped.

A absolutley cracking day out, many thanks to Dave & Sue who led the way around enabling some fantastic views of two species I'd never seen before. Very grateful.

Marsh Fritillarys at Strawberry Fields

Marsh Fritillary

Marsh Fritillary

Just the start of the walk with Sue & Dave leading
Dingy Skipper
Small Blue
Small Blue
Starting point (this takes some finding)
The Strawberry Bank

When I first started to look at Butterfly guides the Marsh Fritillary was definate top three on my most wanted list. The butterfly is a stunner and has a 'under threat' status in the UK. To see this beauty I would have to head to Strawberry Banks in Gloucestershire. It was great that Butterfly Dave could join me with his wife Sue for the day to show me the area. This was Dave's first outing after his health scare, he could have certainly picked an easier place to get to and walk, thats for sure. There is no signage and very narrow roads so I was very grateful I was following Dave & Sue. 

Once parked we made the ski slope decent down to the reserve. How anyone finds this without being with someone I will never know. The temperature had dropped and it took us around 15 minutes until we found our first couple of Marsh Fritillarys buried in the grass. It took another 20 minutes before any took flight and then more emerged every minute providing us with a feast of opportunites to get some pleasing photos.

In addition we recorded small number of Small Blues & large numbers of Dingy Skippers.