Sunday, 31 July 2016

Isle of Wight Butterflies - 31st July 2016

This morning Jayne and I spent a couple of hours at the National Trust's Afton Down reserve near Freshwater, on the Isle of Wight.

Afton Down

We went to see if we could catch up with some butterflies, including one that I've never seen before, Small Blue. As soon as we arrived, we spotted the first "blues" of the day, the Chalkhill Blue. There were dozens of these butterflies flying around, all over the hillside, including many mating pairs.

Chalkhill Blue (male)

Chalkhill Blue (female)

Chalkhill Blue (mating pair)

Along with these butterflies, we also spotted 1 Small Blue, a female that was egg laying on Kidney Vetch (thanks Jayne!), 3 Dark Green Fritillaries, 1 Marbled White, dozens of Meadow Browns, 10+ Gatekeepers, 2 Large Whites, 2 Red Admirals and a three species of day-flying moths; 6-spot Burnet,Yellow Shell and Silver Y.

Small Blue (egg laying)

Small Blue

We also walked down to Compton Chine, where we had another couple of 6-spot Burnets, dozens more "blues", and  a single Small Copper. All in all, a very good few hours!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Linacre Insects -28th July 2016

Yesterday, while I was down at Linacre looking at the birds. I also spent some time photographing some of the insect and plant life to be found at this site. All these records refer to species that I spotted on the banks of the middle and top reservoirs in a 2 hour period. This area is very good for insects, especially this year, because the grass there has been left uncut, which has allowed a good number of flowers and grasses to grow. I'm not an expert on flowers, but I recognised knapweeds, Betony, Cow Parsley, clovers, plantains, Harebells and Hawkbit, amongst the grasses.



The most obvious insects on site are, of course, the butterflies. This year doesn't appear to be great for butterflies, but I still managed to spot the following species: Meadow Brown (10+), Large White (1), Comma (1) Green-veined White (1) and Small Tortoiseshell (1).

Meadow Brown on knapweed


Small Tortoiseshell

One species of damselfly; Common Blue Damselfly, and 1 species of dragonfly; Brown Hawker, were seen. The hawker was flying and feeding over the banks, while the damselflies, including young ones (tenerals), adults and pairs "in tandem" were all over!!

Common Blue Damselflies "in tandem"

The final two group of insects, the hoverflies and bumblebees, were also present in good numbers. I identified Red-tailed, White-tailed and Common Carder Bumblebees.

The hoverflies are a bit trickier(!), but I think I managed to identify five different species, none of which have English names. There were: Eristalsis pertinax, Eristalsis tenax, Eristalsis horticola (known collectively as Drone Flies), Myathropa florea and a Syrphus species, possibly Syrphus ribessi. Please let me know if you think otherwise.

Eristalsis pertinax

Eristalsis tenax

Eristalsis horticola

Myathropa florea

Syrphus ribesii

Hopefully, these photos will inspire you to stop and have a look at the many hoverfly species that can be found on a sunny day. If you would like a good field guide, have a look at this one here, it's very informative, with super photos and explanations about the different species.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Linacre - 28th July 2016

It was quite sunny this morning this morning, so I had  a couple of hours down at Linacre to see if I could catch up with the Shag. It took me about an hour, but I eventually found it on the overflow of the middle reservoir. It was quite confiding, and I managed to get a nice photo showing how its moulting into its adult plumage.


As well as the Shag, other birds spotted were, a female Sparrowhawk over the top reservoir, 5 Grey Wagtails (1 adult and 4 juveniles), a Kingfisher, 2 Great-crested Grebes, a Jay, 3 Grey Herons, 1 Swift, 30-40 House Martins and a female Tufted Duck with 5 ducklings.

A Common Frog was also spotted.

Common Frog

There were lots of insects about, but I'll save those for another post!!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Poolsbrook Marsh - 24th July 2016

Every summer I go out ringing with Sorby Breck Ringing Group at Poolsbrook Marsh. We were out there again at the weekend, and managed to ring 56 birds of 15 species. Birds caught were (new/retrap) : Blackcap 4/0, Garden Warbler 6/0, Reed Warbler 16/2, Sedge Warbler 4/1, Willow Warbler 4/1, Chiffchaff 5/0, Whitethroat 1/0, Dunnock 2/0, Robin 3/0, Wren 1/0, Great Tit 1/0, Blue Tit 2/0, Bullfinch 1/0, Chaffinch 1/0 and Reed Bunting 1/0.

As you can see, we managed to catch 7 species of warbler, including 4 birds that we'd ringed at this site before. 2 of the birds, a Sedge Warbler and a Reed Warbler had both been ringed just over 3 years ago (3 years and 4 days to be exact!). The Sedge Warbler was a juvenile bird when ringed, which shows how birds born here return to breed. The Reed Warbler was aged as an adult in 2013. Another Reed Warbler and one of Willow Warblers (both adults), were first caught on 5th July 2015, and re trapped here on Saturday, 1 year and 19 days later). Great records!

The other notable record of the morning was the excellent number of Reed Warblers and Garden Warblers caught. Out of the 56 birds caught, 34 were juveniles, which is also great news from this wonderful site.

In between net rounds and ringing, we managed to record a few birds, including Grey Heron, Swallow, House Martin, Swift (10) and a Kingfisher that was fishing nearby.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Linacre WeBS - Birds, Butterflies, Damsels and Dragons

This weekend was the time to carry out this month's WeBS count at Linacre, so I was down there at 7am with Luke. We recorded  the usual species, including a good number of youngsters. Numbers were as follows: Mallard (68, including 1 brood of 5 ducklings), Tufted Duck (26, including 1 brood of 5), Mandarin Duck (19, including 8 ducklings), Moorhen (2, 1 adult and 1 juvenile), Coot (9, 5 adults and 2 broods of 3 and 2 chicks), Grey Heron (3), Grey Wagtail (5) and Great-crested Grebe (6, 2 adults and 4 juveniles). Unfortunately, no sign of the Shag, which was last reported on 19th July, but I'm sure someone will find it again soon.

Juvenile Great-crested Grebe

The weather for this morning's walk was super, being warm (16 degrees) and sunny on arrival, and rising to 20 degrees by the time we left. As a result, there was a great deal of insect activity around the site with 4 species of butterfly, 4 species of moth seen along with several bumblebees, 2 species of damselfly and 1 species of dragonfly. The butterflies were: Small Tortoiseshell (2), Large White (3), Meadow Brown (20+) and Small Skipper (1).

Small Tortoiseshell

Moths seen were: Large Yellow Underwing (1), Silver Y (2), Brown China Mark (1) and caterpillars of Cinnabar Moth.

Cinnabar Moth caterpillars

Damselflies seen were: Common Blue (10+) and Blue-tailed (1 male). The Common Blues were the most numerous, and included males, one pair "in tandem" and at least 2 "teneral" or newly emerged individuals, lacking the colour of the mature damselflies.

Teneral Common Blue Damselfly

Common Blue Damselfly "in tandem"

The dragonfly species seen was a single adult Brown Hawker, and this exuvia, also possibly a Brown Hawker, that was found floating in the water of the top reservoir.

Dragonfly exuvia

Monday, 18 July 2016

Linacre Ringing - 16th July 2016

We were rained off last weekend, but thankfully the weather was kinder on Saturday, and we (5 members of Sorby Breck Ringing Group), managed to get down to Linacre to carry out a ringing session for the Chesterfield RSPB Group.

We started nice and early at 5.30am, and, over the next 4 hours, managed to catch and ring a total of 65 birds, our highest catch of the year so far. Particularly pleasing was the fact that  the majority of the birds caught were juvenile birds, born this year. Totals were (new/retrap): Blue Tit (16/1), Great Tit (11/0), Dunnock (6/1), Bullfinch (5/0), Chaffinch (4/1), Robin (3/0), Blackbird (3/1), Chiffchaff (8/0) and Blackcap (5/0). 

As well as the ringing,  we also recorded the following birds, flying over the site: Black-headed Gull (14), Lesser Black-backed Gull (6), Swallow (6), Swift (10), House Martin (2), Sparrowhawk (1), Tawny Owl (1 flew out of a tree by the nets), Buzzard (1 by the main entrance on arrival), and Stock Dove (2). Luke had a quick walk around the bottom and middle reservoirs and spotted 4 Grey Herons (highest count of 2016 so far) and  3 Grey Wagtails.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Derbyshire Sabine's Gull!

It was only last year that I saw my first Sabine's Gull at Pennington Flash, Greater Manchester (see here). On Wednesday news broke that a moulting adult bird had been seen on the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Carr Vale reserve.

I couldn't get over until today, so this evening I drive across with Lydia and found the bird feeding on the small flash, south of the main lake. It never came very close, staying about 30m away at all times, but I still managed some decent record shots, one of which I cropped. Unfortunately, no flight shots this time around.

Sabine's Gull

This record is only the 7th of this species in Derbyshire, and the first since August 1997. For me this is not only a "year tick", but it also my first ever Derbyshire record.

Whilst there, I also added Grasshopper Warbler to the year list, with 1 reeling bird, and about 20 Swifts.

Year List update:
157 - Grasshopper Warbler
158 - Sabine's Gull

Monday, 11 July 2016

Linacre Nestboxes and Ducklings

There was no ringing this weekend due to wind and rain(!), so instead I popped down to Linacre to check the nestboxes. At this time of the year all the tit nests have finished, and, as part of the BTO's Nest Record Scheme,  we check to see how many of this year's birds have fledged successfully.

The good news is that all the Great Tits that we ringed (26) fledged from the boxes. The Pied Flycatchers (4) all fledged as well, and 99 of the 108 Blue Tits also fledged successfully. Hopefully, I'll be able to retrap some of the Tits over the winter, and who knows, perhaps see one of the Pied Flycatchers next year!

After checking the nestboxes I had a walk around the top and middle reservoirs to see what else was about. Great-crested Grebes are doing well this year, with 2 pairs both with chicks, a brood of 4 and 1. There were good numbers of Mallard about (50+), 1 juvenile Moorhen, 2 Coot broods (3 and 4), 5 Mandarin Duck broods (7, 3, 2, 4 and 2), and best of all, a Tufted Duck with 6 very young ducklings. This is the second brood of Tufted Ducks this year, following a brood of 9 back in June (see here).

Coot and chicks

Tufted Duck (female and 6 ducklings)

Tufted Duck duckling

No sign of the Shag today, but it was recorded on the 8th by Sheffield Bird Study Group, which means we've had at least one present for 9 months now! The last bird sightings of note were the singing Yellowhammer by the main entrance again, a Kingfisher on the middle reservoir, and singing Blackcap and Chiffchaff.

There weren't many insects/butterflies seen, as it was pretty grey and overcast, with several showers, but 3 Ringlets and 5 Meadow Browns did manage to flutter about!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

White-winged Black Tern

News broke on Birdguides that an adult White-winged Black Tern (year tick) had been spotted at several sites in and around South Yorkshire on Thursday. It eventually decided to go to Rother Valley Country Park, which is a short drive from where I live, so last night, I had a drive over to see it.

I pulled in to the Nature Reserve car park, and immediately spotted the bird, flying around, picking insects off the surface of the water, about 100m away. Every now and then the bird would settle on a small rock on the water, before being put up by a pair of Common Terns (year tick) and a couple of Black-headed Gulls. Here's a heavily cropped shot of the bird as it took off. The white wings and white tail and rump are very noticeable. I also managed to get some video of the bird flying, see here.

White-winged Black Tern

As always, there are some much better shots here, on the Birdguides website, or here, on the Sheffield Bird Study Group website. 

This bird, and the accompanying Common Terns, were both "year ticks".

Year List update:
155 - White-winged Black tern
156 - Common Tern

Thursday, 7 July 2016

New moth record for Linacre

I was down at Linacre this evening to refill the feeders in time for ringing on Saturday. On the walk down to the feeding station I disturbed a few butterflies and moths, including a new moth species for me at Linacre; Light Emerald (details here).

Unfortunately I didn't get  a photo tonight, so here's one  that I took in my garden back in 2014. Sorry about the lid underneath the moth!

Light Emerald

As well as this moth, I also recorded 6 Ringlets (my first Linacre record for 2016), 2 Meadow Browns and a single Silver-ground Carpet (also my first Linacre record in 2016). See link on the UK Moths website here for pictures and details of this moth.

Starlings have gone

Last Thursday morning (30th June) I heard the  young Starlings in the nestbox on the side of my house. When I got home from work in the evening it was all quiet, so I had a look in and saw that the box was empty.

Empty box

As you can see, all 3 of the chicks have managed to fledge, taking this year's total to 8, the highest number in one year, and the first time this box has been used twice on the same season. I haven't seen any of the birds from either nesting attempt in the garden yet.

The details have been added to the BTO's Nestbox Challenge.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Dronfield Nature Park - 3rd July 2016

After Sunday's visit to Lindrick Dale, I popped into the Dronfield Nature Park, a small grassland site with a  pond.

Pond at Dronfield Nature Park

Despite the warm weather, the pond was quite quiet, with just 3 damselflies seen. These were a pair of blue damselflies in tandem, and another male blue damselfly. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a good view to identify to species. The only other animal seen in the pond was a newt. Again, I wasn't able to identify it to species level.

Newt species

Other insects seen included Common Carder Bee, Holly Blue and 3 Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moth.

Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moth

Monday, 4 July 2016

Lindrick Butterflies

For the last two years, I've visited a lovely site called Lindrick Dale, near Worksop, to see two special butterfly species; Dark Green Fritillary and Marbled White. Yesterday I was back there for my first visit of 2016. Both butterflies were present in decent numbers, along with a few other species.

The fritillaries, about 15 in total, put on a great show, flying around and landing on the thistles. I've taken many photos before, so yesterday, I decided to try a few different ones, including these "head on" shots.

Dark Green Fritillary

The same was true with Marbled Whites (15+)  and the Ringlets (20+). Here's a shot of these species sharing a thistle.

Marbled White and Ringlet

As well as these butterflies, I also had singles of Small Skipper, Common Blue (a female), and about 15 Meadow Browns.

Meadow Brown and White-tailed Bumblebee

Flowers seen today were: Pyramidal Orchid, Common Spotted Orchid and Bladder Campion.

Bladder Campion

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Avenue Ringing - 2nd July 2016

Every two years there is a 24 hour wildlife event at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Avenue Washlands reserve in Chesterfield. This morning I was down there from 5.15am with 5 other members of the Sorby Breck Ring Group to carry out a ring demo for the event. We ringed 44 birds of  14 species (Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Blackbird, Jay, Kingfisher, Robin, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Blue, Great, Long-tailed and Willow Tit).

The highlight of the morning's ringing for me was the chance to ring a new species - Kingfisher. The bird, a juvenile female, was also the first opportunity that I've had to extract this species from a mist net. As you can imagine, I was very pleased to see this species on a net round, and even more pleased when I realised that I was the only member of today's team not to have ringed one before. Here's a couple of pictures.