Friday, 16 October 2020

From Wilsons Phalarope to Great Bustard

Date: 
September- October 15th
Location:
Somerset Levels, Chew Valley Lake, Cheddar, Newton St Loe, Keyhaven Marshes, Sailsbury Plain.
Weather: 
Mixed Bag
Species Highlights: 
Grass Snake, Cattle Egret, Kingfishers, Spotted Redshank, Hobby, Lesser Yellowlegs, Hedgehog, Wilson's Phalarope, Grey Phalarope, Great Bustard, Red Kite, Hen Harrier.

Observation: 

Took a wander down to the Somerset Levels mainly to see the Spotted Crake, which had been seen from there, but the Car Park was full, so many people, I normally go and 2 or 3 cars maximum, I took the decision to avoid the Island Hide and walked around to other hides. Spotted this tiny Grass snake, must have been newly hatched5/6" inches long, and my first time of seeing a Grass snake in the UK.


Bearded Reedling, Bittern, and Great White Egrets were seen and heard as I walked around the reserve, I returned back to the Island hide where the crowds had now gone sat in the hide for an hour but no sign of the Crake.
Plenty of Common Darter along the Path back to the car park.


The following day me & Lauren visited Chew Valley Lake, from the hides we had Spotted Redshank, Lesser Yellowlegs plus other Waders and lots of Great White Egrets. Taking Lauren to her #200 bird of the Year and her first time of achieving this!

We left the hide and tried for the Cattle Egrets, it didn't take long to find them and had great views.


6 Birds fed amongst the Cattle.


Amazing to see so close and they carried on feeding while we watched.


Thursday I did my normal patch walk, 3 roe deer were wandering up the Byway from Bath Mill, I continued to walk towards them and they disappeared into the hedgerow.


Meadow Pipits and Skylark on top fields but not much else to report, until the Lake where not one Kingfisher or 2 but 3 Kingfishers, these 2 I think were Juveniles seem to be fighting and at one point disappeared into bushes with frantic calling and wing flaps.


Then the rain started, the top lake has been almost empty, with Mallard numbers very low also Herons seems very sparse this year, maybe the University works have had something to do with this? ...Well Yes !!
Cormorant braving the rain shower.


Walking back home this Kestrel was searching for food in its normal spot. 
We've had reports of 3 Barn Owls this year hunting regularly too, we popped out and saw one almost immediately a great sight, almost dark so no pictures, unfortunately.


While watching the Kestrel I saw 2 Stonechat catching flies. First of the year.


The following Monday we went to Cheddar, Red Crested Pochard, and Red Necked Grebe were seen, all a bit distant for our 400mm lens, on the way back it was Chew Valley again. Spotted Redshank


Kingfisher Landed briefly in the front hide but the pool was so low it flew off after a photo stop.


From our home feeders, Goldfinches have brought their young, and Goldfinch wars have started!



Blue tits were wondering what all the fuss was about!



Not much going on so Chew Valley again 3 Grey Plover from Stratford hide.


Was very surprised to see a very late Hobby fly past.


Was a good day even got a picture of the distant Lesser yellowlegs....just!


Still doing moth traps but weather not playing ball but still getting a few autumn/winter moths, more on a special blog soon. Our Hedgehog has returned, looking weel.


A few days previous to the 12th October a Wilson's Phalarope was found at Keyhaven Marshes so a lifer for us both we had to go for it! After a 2 hour drive our twitching limit we arrived and a short walk later it was inches in front of us.



So close, Phalaropes just don't seem to care.


Keyhaven is a great reserve and well worth a visit, Black-tailed godwit plus many other species were seen.


Almost forgot 2 Grey Phalarope also there, coming as close as they do!


Peregrine Falcon too scaring the Waders from the estuary.


Stonechat along the path back to the car park and while photographing this one a real treat popped up.


A Dartford Warbler, in perfect light and perfect pose.


at least 2 seen and could be heard calling.


Redshanks also, it was a fabulous day and one to remember.


14th October I went for a walk on Sailsbury Plain, looking for Great Bustard, I had a tip-off.
Found the Compound and was happy with my view from Byway and continued to walk up checking out the many Jackdaw, Crow & Rooks with Stonechats and Red Kite to accompany them.


Then spotted A Great Bustard stretching it'ds wings giving me great views of these massive birds.


A real treat, the light could not have been better.


Buzzard, Kestrel were common along the path.


I moved on to another spot and saw a bird that I knew wasn't a Kite or Buzzard and when I got home to edit images found it was a Hen Harrier, ring-tailed! my first since 2014 Norfolk. Purely a record shot.


While chatting to a Bee Farmer not Bee Keeper he was adamant about this! This Red Kite hovered into Sunlight but over our heads, I stopped talking and started to take photos.


He was still talking, no ideal what about as the Red Kite was a beauty!


To finish the day just got a view of a tree sparrow, saw many more but very flighty.


A bit of a jump on the birding totals my best and Laurens best-ever year.

Wayne Year Bird List: 209
Lauren Year Bird List: 203

Patch Total Stands At 80



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Friday, 2 October 2020

My 2020 Butterfly season

My Butterfly season

 Butterflies of 2020 

Its been a strange year with the COVID-19 pandemic striking the world, but considering lockdown for 3 months it's not really held me back much. stating the year with a Red Admiral on the somerset Levels
 
1. Red Admiral-Vanessa atalanta (20/01/2020 )


2nd and 3rd of the year came 2 months later with Brimstone followed by Peacock on a local walk

2. Brimstone - Gonepteryx rhamni (11/03/2020)


One of my favorite shots of the year freshly emerged and perfect light!

3. European Peacock - Aglais ioock (11/03/2020)


4. Comma - Polygonia c-album (21/03/2020)


5. Small Tortoiseshell - Aglais urticae (23/03/2020)


Luckily all these species are local but a few days after this shot, the Uk went on full Lockdown with all non-essential travel banned, putting an end to my travel plans until further notice.

6. Small White - Pieris rapae (24/03/2020)


Only being able to make small "Stay local walks" but just across the road my Orange Tip Spot was doing well again. 

Also this year I found a few Eggs and Caterpillars 10/05/2020



7. Orange-tip - Anthocharis cardamines (26/03/2019)



Still very local just 1/4 of a mile from home Painted Lady, fresh! We didn't seem to have the influx like last year, but close to home, I'll take it.

8. Painted Lady - Vanessa cardui (07/04/2020)



9. Green-veined White - Pieris napi (10/04/2020)


10. Speckled Wood - Pararge aegeria (10/04/2020)


The first 11 butterflies of 2020, but running out of local species, with lockdown still in force gonna have to get creative!

More eggs this time Holly Blue.


11. Holly Blue - Celastrina argiolus (20/04/2020)


An exercise bike ride was allowed so lycra on, and I dusted off my trusted mountain bike, 9 miles later I arrived at Bathampton Pepperpot. 
The first time I ever saw this butterfly back in 2015 was here so it seemed right to re-explore.

12. Green Hairstreak - Callophrys rubi (21/04/2020)


9 Miles and a fair bit of saddle sore later, I arrived on the off chance at another site I'd visited a few times before Tucking Mill, a very warm day but not much showing until I spotted first Dingy Skipper

13. Dingy Skipper - Erynnis tages (21/04/2020)


Not happy with my shots of the Dingy went back downhill and to my surprise, I found a lovely fresh Grizzled Skipper my first ever at this site!!  6 miles later I was home a few more Butterflies added to the list.

14. Grizzled Skipper - Pyrgus malvae (21/04/2020)


With lockdown in full force and still not able to drive to exercise I was staying local still, but Large White seems to be having a good year, thankfully.

15.Large White - Pieris brassicae (25/04/2020)


Took a bird exercise walk across the River Avon to Lansdown some good bird but even better my first Small Copper of the year, racing across a ploughed field but eventually landed for a shot.

16. Small Copper - Lycaena phlaeas (04/05/2020)


With species coming out all over the place I was getting worried for my Butterfly year, and the next one I had to take a long bike ride to the edge of Bath on the Wilts/Somerset Border. 
11 miles through a deserted  Bath City center, I arrived at a small Common just outside Box, for number 17. A round trip dropping in at Tucking Mill for a few more Dingy Skippers, ended day on 28 miles.

17. Marsh Fritillary - Euphydryas aurinia (06/05/2020)


A few resting days were required and literally just across the road from my house Common Blue Appeared, the Gardeners had cut the wildflower hillside down to almost bare earth, so to see a few Blues lifted my spirits!

18.Common Blue - Polyommatus icarus (05/07/2020)


A week later I was getting very worried as some species would be going over and I'd miss them but in perfect timing, the Government announced you could drive to exercise, but with social distancing. As I normally on my own that was great news and at 7am on Wednesday13th May I was standing in Bentley Woods. Pearl-bordered Fritillary darting around slowly on this very cold and overcast day, but hey number 19, ticked! 

19. Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Boloria euphrosyne (13/05/2020)


I was gonna make the most of my day and drove a circular route driving to Fovant Down a new spot for me and blimey it was windy, never been here before so I had to use my Butterfly senses to find the Duke, tucked away down in the grass spotted a good number. Taking pictures I blocked the wind and the Dukes appreciated this, crawling out of the grass giving me plenty of opportunities to take pictures.

20. Duke of Burgundy - Hamearis lucina (13/05/2020)


 
On the way home I'd be passing my favorite butterfly hill, Cotley Hill, Wiltshire. The next few were in good numbers here too, and even better it was totally deserted. 
It was very cloudy and the Warm sunshine that had been with us for the weeks before seemed to have disappeared, temp was 13c. 
Always a piece of grass somewhere helping to spoil the shot!

21. Wall Brown - Lasiommata megera (13/05/2020)


22. Small Heath - Coenonympha pamphilus (13/05/2020)


23. Brown Argus - Aricia agestis (13/05/2020)


The colder temperature makes photographing Butterflies if you can find them a bit easier. this Adonis Blue giving me a perfect open winged shot. 
5 species in one day, now that's making the most of a day!

24. Adonis Blue - Polyommatus bellargus (13/05/2020)


The next day after leaving Cotley Hill behind, although I'd be back, a short drive to Axbridge Hill, a very warm day today, and a very Steep Hill. But in their normal small area SPBF, gave me the runaround.

25.Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Boloria selene (14/05/2020)



26. Small Blue - Cupido minimus (16/05/2020)


Another species and no chance of me getting it on my doorstep so it was another day trip, starting in Worcestershire  Haugh woods, one thing about Lockdown was traffic was a delight. After Haugh made the round trip count dropping into Cinderford and the Forest of Dean, Wales was still on Lockdown but skirting through Chepstow on the M4 and across Severn Bridge to Home seemed ok. 

27.Wood White - Leptidea sinapis (19/05/2020)


A Cinderford Woody


Doing well with finding eggs this year, (which was my challenge for 2020)
Wood White egg, watched it lay making it very easy to find and do a few macro shots.


The next one was the biggest surprise of the year, considering I couldn't get to the Isle of Wright this year, imagine my surprise on seeing a Glanville Fritillary being posted on Instagram with a tag for Wiltshire!! 
Obviously a release but I'll take it and after some messaging and help from Ed the finder, the next morning I met him, and then Glanville was next to be added.

28.Glanville Fritillary - Melitaea cinxia (23/05/2020)


Glanville always a poser!


Not a typical Glanville site but a good hillside, 
with Adonis, Green Hairstreak, Common Blue, plus my next species.


30.Large Skipper - Ochlodes sylvanus (23/05/2020)



A few days later I headed down to Halse Combe, Exmoor a 140-mile round trip but stopping at Haldon Hill another good spot for this species, it was a good day, and this year no ticks, unlike last year where I picked up 2 on the belly!

30.Heath Fritillary - Melitaea athalia (27/05/2020)


Top and underside equally beautiful.


Next off Green Down in Somerset, Large Blue was my target here but previous years generally pick up a few more this no exception.

31.Meadow Brown - Maniola jurtina (29/05/2020)


Watched this female laying on wild thyme, but a blurred picture of the egg was all I could get, next year must try harder.

32.Large Blue - Phengaris arion (29/05/2020)


Normally get my first Marbled White of the year and first for Somerset, but this year Brian John Hill shouted Marbled white before me, missed it by seconds!

 33. Marbled White - Melanargia galathea (29/05/2020)


At this point in the season, I'm, thinking about Norfolk and Scotland, Chequered Skippers and Swallowtails but his year was different, no overnight stays allowed so the round trip was just too much. so plodded onwards with a trip to Dorset, Higher Heath.

34. Silver-studded Blue - Plebejus argus (01/06/2020)


Mostly tucked down in the grass, was great to see the Black Ants tending to these super fresh specimens. 



Plus at Portland Bill, we had a Honey Buzzard and of course Lulworth skippers.
was a very hot day, so the skippers would not keep still, managed a few shots the C on wings, just!

35. Lulworth Skipper - Thymelicus acteon (01/06/2020)


The problems with butterflies are the distances we must travel to get them all, previous years I would have made a round trip picking a few more species up this way but it was another day trip, Glapthorn Cow pastures, my closest spot for this one.

36.Black Hairstreak - Satyrium pruni (02/06/2020)


Sunday morning the forecast was not great, cooler with cloud but with no work, I was bored and decided to go to a new spot, my normal spot in Wales was in lockdown and no in or out of Wales was allowed, so a trip down to Aish tor on Dartmoor, Devon. Glad I went cause my best ever views of this species with them landing on my bag and fingers!

37.High Brown Fritillary - Argynnis adippe (07/06/2020)


Honored to see them so close and so many.


In my excitement and seeing only High Browns forgot I needed Dark Green frits and this, thinking there would be others was the only shot I got this year.

38.Dark Green Fritillary - Argynnis aglaja (07/06/2020)


Still no work and no lift on Covid19 restrictions I made the trip to the Lake District, started early and planned to head home after tea, with the Lake District 3 in the bag. 
Started the day at Meathop Moss, Cold overcast threat of rain with a strong wind blowing, not ideal but I used my butterfly senses to track them down, after 2 hours of wandering the boardwalk I spotted 5 or 6, relief.

39. Large Heath - Coenonympha tullia (11/06/2020)


The next one to tick was NBA just across the road, much easier, In a few I minutes spotted a few of them. Even got a early Small Skipper.

40.Northern Brown Argus - Aricia artaxerxes(11/06/2020)


41.Small Skipper - Thymelicus sylvestris (11/06/2020)


The next was Mountain Ringlet, a drive around to Irton fell, the weather had changed and skies were blue and looking promising. On reaching the gate which opens up on to Irton fell and Whin Rigg beyond was feeling confident.


4 hours later and 4 or 5 miles walk up and down to Whin Rigg no Mountain Ringlets were seen, I crawled around in the grass, checked many tussocks with nothing seen, the odd Small Heath flew by at speed as the wind was now reaching speeds of 30mph despite what the photo looks like it was not happening, to make it worse rain was moving in for the next few days. 
Mountain Ringlet had eluded me. The drive home that evening was a long one!


2 days back home and a Ringlet flew into and stayed in our garden for 2 weeks or so, some consolation shame it was the wrong Ringlet.

42.Ringlet - Aphantopus hyperantus (13/06/2020)


A local Woodland just 30 mins away was my next and annual visit to, the temperature here was perfect, hot no wind, unlike the lake district which was still windy and wet, perfect conditions doesn't always help though and photographing my next few proved hard work. The only White Admiral which would land was this one antenna model.

43.White Admiral - Limenitis camilla (16/06/2020)


This wood normally had an abundance of Silver washed, but this year's numbers it was right down and numerous visits, it didn't improve. This Female from later and another woodland.

44.Silver-washed Fritillary - Argynnis paphia (16/06/2020)



My local woodland did pay off a little, with a visit a week later for this Purple Hairstreak.
Side note: my very local patch woodland (Seven Acre) only produced 2 Purple Hairstreak this year, no White Letters were seen either. :(

45.Purple Hairstreak - Favonius quercus (23/06/2020)


For my only White Letter of the year had to go to a service station on the M4, a very eerie place no traffic, and the services car park empty, again due to lockdown. but Lockdown was about to be eased and I had to go back to work, my 3 months off was about to end!

46.White-letter Hairstreak - Satyrium w-album (24/06/2020)


On my local patch Essex could be found in small numbers and this year I saw around 6/7 just a few yards from home.

47.Essex Skipper - Thymelicus lineola (26/06/2020)


A few days later Gatekeepers were out in good numbers around my patch. 

48. Gatekeeper - Pyronia tithonus (29/06/2020)


I think his majesty was supposed to have a bumper year, but it did not happen, high winds in many woodlands caused the purple Emperors to age quickly, my local woodlands were hard work to find any. 
This year I went to Black dog, a number of times, A very long day in Grovely Wood, Savernake, and Eveleigh Ashes finally spending all day standing under Oak in Oversley Wood which paid off. 

49.Purple Emperor - Apatura iris (06/07/2020)


A very worn but Stunning Purple Emperor. 


A week later I did a trip down to Weymouth, Dorset as there was an emergence of Large Tortoiseshell, On seeing this species last year in February at  Tout Quarry, just a few 100yds away.
This year Will Langdon had found an abandoned web of Large Tortoiseshell larvae, complete with the 175 egg shells, it's safe to say they've bred on Portland this year. 

50. Large Tortoiseshell - Nymphalis polychloros (13/07/2020)


Always a good spot around Portland ana A few more species were seen that day

51.Chalk Hill Blue - Polyommatus coridon (13/07/2020)


And Finally from Tout Quarry 

52.Grayling - Hipparchia semele (13/07/2020)


With just a few possible species left 2020's Butterfly season was coming to an end fast.

 just a week later it was my second visit to a great reserve in Dorset, Alners Gorse, you can get Purple, White Letter, and Brown Hairstreak all on the same day, but today Purple and Brown Hairstreak were seen.

53.Brown Hairstreak - Thecla betulae (20/07/2020)


Plus a Clouded Yellow, it flew at me, stopped fluttered in front of my face, and then disappeared, unfortunately, the picture was awful! I visited Fontmell where I saw another Clouded Yellow the picture was even worse!

54.Clouded Yellow - Colias croceus (20/07/2020)


Here's one from the archives 2018, 
proving sometimes they sit and pose and other times they speed past at 100 mph!


My next normally took me to the Lake District, Smardale but this year being different... 
We earlier in the year went to Cornwall and did Lands End so a cheap flight to the recently open Scotland Hire car and a drive to Johns O Graots my first time and I'd recommend it a great time doing some of the North Coast 500 and dropping into to Creag Mealaidh, 
where after 5 days of glorious sunshine it started to rain and got much colder with strong winds! But always the optimist searched around this new to me reserve, identifying a good looking spot but no sign. I wandered around spoke to rangers and they said no no not today! 
                                   I returned to the bit I spotted earlier and sat on the path was a Scottish Scotch Argus!

55.Scotch Argus - Erebia aethiops (03/08/2020)


The sun then broke through the clouds and Scotch Argus emerged from the long grasses.


A week after my return from Scotland my last skipper of the year was out in numbers, at some reserves but staying fairly local I headed to Fontmell down, Shaftsbury. It was a scorching day and hard work to get these magicians of the butterfly world to keep still, but 56 was ticked.

56.Silver-spotted Skipper - Hesperia comma (11/08/2020)


I'd hoped to go for Long-Tailed Blues again but Brighton was a long way, then I got a few reports of a single at Seaton, Devon.
 I planned on going but then the weather changed for 3 weeks and I thought 2020 was over when Whitehawk Hill Brighton had an influx of 5/6 maybe more Long-tailed. 
So the next sunny day I drove to Brighton to the Sweetpea bush I'd seen them in 2019 and sure enough LT blues were flitting over the hillside. 

57.Long-tailed Blue - Lampides boeticus (10/09/2020)


So 2020 started slowly and with many obstacles with Scotland, Chequered Skippers, Norfolks  Swallowtails, Irton fell and the Mountain Ringlet all missed this year but an end of year tally of 57 not too shabby.

Next year as I've said the previous years will be my last of going for the full set but... what else I'm I gonna do !? 😀😉😎🦋

On the 15th of September, we'd booked to go to Kos, Greece, and amazingly it went ahead, one of the only places without quarantine restrictions, It would mainly birding but butterflies always catch my eye and managed a few new to be species.
 If you'd like to look at the Blog check it out here.

Other Butterflies seen while on Kos was: 

Freyer's Grayling, Swallowtail, Small Copper, Plain tiger, Two-Tailed Pasha, Geranium bronze, Meadow Brown, Holly Blue, Cardinal, Mediterranean Skipper, Millet skipper, Eastern Dappled White, Large White.

These below all-new for me though

Pigmy Skipper - Gegenes pumilio


Freyer's Grayling - Hipparchia fatua


Millet Skipper - Pelopidas thrax


Not Papilio Britannicus (UK version)  but a very close Papilio machaon (European)
Swallowtail ended my 2020 season


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