Monday, 29 June 2020

Common Sandpipers contines the pits wader run

                                   Common Sandpiper on main spit
                                                Different angle
                                                    Brown Hare
                                                     Drake Teal
                                                    Fallow Deer


A very warm week at pits followed by a miserable weekend was the order of play. Last weeks returning Green Sandpiper was followed up by two Common Sandpiper midweek which were also joined by the first two returning Teal. The Teal had increased to five by the weekend. Our pair of Oystercatchers continue to come and go, they are probably confused by the drop of water levels. The high levels in spring certainly stopped their attempts to breed on the main pit. Jon recorded a Cetti's Warbler in the western willows on Sunday, first sighting since early spring.

The first LRP brood are now flying around the pits following their parents and certainly enjoying the open spaces on the islands. Whilst watching the brood early this week a group of Fallow Deer woke up on the back of the old workings. The bank behind the old workings seems to be a good area to watch the Brown Hares. I'm going to try and have a morning up there sat out of sight and watch them closely when I get chance.

Butterfly wise, the first Gatekeeper emerged and there are increasing numbers of Meadow Brown, Ringlet & Marbled White. Some freshly emerged Small Tortoiseshell & Peacocks were also recorded.

Purple Emperor emerge at Oversley Woods, Alcester

Red indicates hot spot areas for Purple Emperor this year
(Yellow route will complete a circular route)

                                           White-letter Hairstreak

His Imperial Majesty emerged at the start of last week at Oversley Woods, Alcester. The woods are very close to the town and only five minutes from the pits when there is no traffic. The Purple Emperor is the second largest butterfly in the UK, only the Swallowtail is bigger, and is restricted to just a few locations in England.

The males can not be mistaken as they have an amazing iridescent purple scheen on their wings whilst the females are more of a deep brown.

If you plan to see one don't think they are easy to find. The species spend most of their time high in the trees and only land on the ground when they need to take on minerals.

Since posting the first pictures of this years butterflies I've had a stream of messages of where to park and walk. The Sat Nav postcode is B49 6LR, the turning is fairly hidden so slow down when appraching the postcode. The short drive way leads to two small car parks either side of the A46. The car park has a couple of large pot holes so be careful. The car park can be busy so if you see a spot grab it! The area has a history of car crime so please don't leave anything on display. The police are aware and so stop by. Nothing reported for over a month.

Once under bridge, bear right to enter the wood. The foot paths are generally good but can get a bit sticky if wet. The butterflies can be seen anywhere however I have marked on the map above the areas where they are seen most often. After a 500 yard walk you will reach the "traingle" which starts the circular route both ways. I pick my routes based on the temperature. Going straight on and over the next ride as proved very successful so far this year. There are some very tall conifers at the base of the hill and ferns on your right.

The books recommend either side of lunch but I've had some great sightings late afternoon and early evening. The temperature is probably the key, most definatley not too hot.

I've only seen one White-letter Hairstreak this year whilst the Purple Hairstreak are flying around at the top of oaks. Good luck if you are coming !

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Silver-washed Fritillary at Oversley Woods

Whilst this wasn't the first Silver-washed Fritillary I've seen this year, it was the first that stopped to let me get some very pleasing close up shots of this stunning butterfly. We are now approaching the Purple Emperor season at Oversley and on Sunday I saw my first Purple Hairstreak. Also reported was a White-letter Hairsteak of which I hope to see many of in the coming weeks.

Green Sands & islands

                                 Main pit with plantation in background
                                                Little Ringed Plover
                                                  Common Swift
                                                 Common Darter
                                                 Marbled White


Common Swift

Great Spotted Woodpecker

A drop in the water level will helped us for the rest of the year. Passage waders have become practically non existent this year however this weekend we had a single Green Sandpiper on Saturday then two on Sunday both on the south lagoons. This takes us to 106 for year, perhaps a full 20 species behind where we are normally.

I've had a few interesting sightings in the plantation this week which have included a young family of Goldcrest & Treecreeper & I've also recorded a juvenile Greater Spotted Woodpecker & Nuthatch.

The best species of the week is undoubtablly a pair of Hobby that were hunting the main pit on Sunday. One of the pair caught a House Martin then sat up high enjoying their feast. I did get a distance shot but I was very far away and didn't want to ruin the moment of watching them by flushing them.

Marbled White, Ringlet & Small Skippers, all emerged down butterfly alley which made the walks around this week more enjoyable.  Fingers crossed for good week ahead.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Asian Desert Warbler on Holy Island ends quest to 400

Asian Desert Warbler (@zuriag)

Mostly views were like this

Asian Desert Warbler
                                              Asian Desert Warbler

Further into cover

Cracking footage from YouTube
                                                Captain on patrol
                                                   Vipers Buglos
                                              Eider at Seahouses
                                                    Holy Island
                                            Leaving the causeway
                                                Bamburgh Castle
                                               Yes, that tree there!
                                                Set up & ready to go

Nice welcome back home
Last Thursday was supposed to be my first day of a long weekend but due to shocking weather I switched the day back until the following Tuesday. Sometimes things just happen for a reason. Fast forward to Monday evening when news of a Asian Desert Warbler broke on Holy Island in Northumbria. I knew it would be too far to drive on my car and we couldn't organise a car full due to social distancing. With no real plan hatched I went to bed thinking, oh well, would have been nice but you can't see them all.

Refreshed after a good nights sleep my phone was busy with messages with one from the captain saying drive to mine and I'll drive the rest of the way. With Rolly not able to do any joint twitching & Squire at work this solution would be perfect. I made up a bag of lunch before setting off at 7.30am. The Captain was looking like Lewis Hamilton on the grid, all set for the big push north. The good thing about the current situation is that the roads are much quieter enabling us to get to locations much quicker than normal.

The causeway to Holy Island was due to be passable at 2.15pm however when we arrived at 2.10pm it was clear to our surprise so over we went and found a parking bay very easily. We both expected to see total carnage but this was not the case at all. We made the short walk to the Snook where the bird was reported. Again, there weren't the numbers we expected. Perhaps sixty people at most all spaced out except for those from family groups.

Now for the warbler. For the first few minutes you only saw a flick of movement or branch twitch, until that increased to a bit of tail then body and then finally a full view of Britains 13th Asian Desert Warbler. The last UK sighting was in 2012 in Hampshire & only seen by one person and the previous one was back in 2000 at Easington. This distant migrant breeds in semi desert on central Asia so I bet the bird couldn't believe where it had ended up.  The birds behaviour was best described at restless, staying low and skulking then would climb up occasionaly giving good views. I did get a few record shots but it cetainly wasn't easy. One of the locals kindly sent me a close up. The warblers bill was very slender whilst the eye ring was a distinctive yellow.

It's been a pretty good week seeing my first Caspian Tern, Greenish Warbler & now this great bird which took me to my target of 400 which I wanted to do before my 50th birthday next July. To end up doing it 13 months ahead of target and to see my 400th at such an iconic place gave me great satisfaction.

On the way back we called in at Seahouses for a chip butty before making the very long trip home. Many thanks to Captain for driving and making it a memorable day.
On arrival at home Mrs D had gone the extra mile to prepare a congratulations banner which was pinned to the door.

Large Heath at Whixall Moss NNR

Both my Butterfly contacts, Dave & Lloyd, warned me the Large Heath would be the toughest butterfly to photograph as it very active and difficult to find as it buries itself in the long grass. It was very overcast when we arrived at Whixall and there was nothing flying at all. This could be as tough as expected. A Stonechat popped up which was nice and you could hear the bubbling Curlew on their breeding grounds.

There was a handful of people all looking for the same species without success and wondering if the sun would ever emerge. After around forty minutes there was a small break in the cloud and the sun emerged for just five minutes, we could feel temperature increase.

Suddenly Mrs D asked me 'what was that' as a fresh Large Heath flew straight across in front of us and landed right by the edge of the path. I kept waiting for it to fly off as expected but it just stayed still which gave the opportunity to get the shots I wanted. The second one climbed on my finger as I was trying to move the debris around the butterfly.

We only saw around 4 Large Heaths during our visit and it seemed we did extremely well looking at comments on social media.