Additional Pages

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Lovely Lepidoptera, day and night

The Warm sunny weather doesn't seem especially good for bird sightings over the last few days, with migrants having little  reason to stop off on their venture north. So save for the increase of Chiffchaffs on my patch from 1 to 6 over the weekend my eye's were peeled for the Butterflies coaxed out by the sun , and my moth trap reloaded of an evening.

On my patch, I have observed around 10 Small Tortoiseshells, half a dozen Peacocks and 2 Commas, the later being especially pleasing. No Brimstones though, something I'm now very keen to connect with.


During a visit to a local wood over the weekend in the hope of finding a Brimstone, I spotted what I initially thought was  a Small Copper on the wing ..but was unable at first to get good views as the damn thing was so flighty and barely settled for more than a couple of seconds. Eventually I got a look in my bins and realised it was a lovely day flying moth.

I took quite a while to gather the details of the moth, with short glimpses but eventually after a good hours stalking I had both views and had fired off a few snaps, but conditions were tricky having to do this on full zoom so as not to spook it. On returning home I identified the fella as an Orange Underwing. This moth has a relatively short flying season and prefers the tree canopy so I was very pleased to have seen, ID'd and captured a record shot. I was also intrigued by what appeared to be a slightly smaller variant, and wandered if this could be the much rarer Lighter Orange Underwing, so have sent what I have to the Local moth recorder, worth asking the experts.

Orange Underwing Moth
 On the moth trap front, progress has been steady , with two very nice moths captured over the weekend. Firstly I had an Early Grey, and then a Hebrew Character. These moths really are lovely looking things and I love the names of some of these fellas !
Early Grey

Hebrew Character

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Raptor Rapture at Titterstone

On Saturday I decided to return to Titterstone Clee, with the possibility in mind of discovering a Ring Ouzel, or just enjoying the corking Wheatears and Stonechats again I had seen earlier in the week.I had arranged to pick JK  up en route and by 10.30 we were ascending the track to the summit in glorious sunshine with the early mist lingering in the distance.

To my right and far off I spotted a Raptor quartering the field. JK was onto it with his bins and I pulled over to allow him a better look. Although distant the suggestion was Red Kite from the passenger seat, interesting...we continued to the top of the hill.

We headed along to the track to the NATS station. A Peregrine showed well gliding above the scree slope and eventually taking a perch. We bumped into a local farmer who had come over from the area where the mystery raptor had been seen, and he confirmed there were indeed Red Kites about, and advised us where to look. Soon enough JK had the Red Kite in the scope, perched on a Fence post. Next we spotted the first Wheatear of the day, a Male, and shortly afterwards happened upon a pair of Stonechats. I had my best views to date of the Male, smashing birds.

Male and Feamale Stonechats

The Peregrine continued to show on and off, and as the walk progressed the Wheatear count rose gradually. There were plenty of Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits around too. I also spotted my second identifiable butterfly of the year, a lovely Peacock.

1st Peacock of the Year

As the morning warmed the Raptors came out to play. A kestrel, several Buzzards at eventually 3 Red Kites were enjoying the thermals and the clear blue skies made viewing them a real thrill.It was a real unexpected bonus to the trip, seeing 3 kites together was just fantastic ! I finished off by bagging my first female Wheatear of the year.

On the way back way spent a while in the Wyre, where the raptor count increased further with a Sparrowhawk sighting, taking the days total to 5 different raptor species and some birding observations I will never forget.
2 of the 3 Red Kites enjoying the fine weather

Friday, 23 March 2012

Mothtastic !

A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to expand my knowledge of Lepidoptera into the field of macro moths. To help facilitate this it seemed a good move would be to obtain a moth trap ( and us boys like our toys !). After some research I came across a Paul Batty and he was most helpful in advising and constructing something to suite my needs, a Eco 20 Heath trap running from a portable 12v battery..

Obviously this is not the prime time of year for trapping , and it remains to be seen what our garden holds ..I admit it may not be the most nectar rich place in North Worcs as my wife has a liking for greenery rather than flowers, but I think I have persuaded her to plant a few nectar rich species in the coming weeks.

So after a couple of blank ventures I was hopeful last night of making a catch, as the weather seemed very favourable.

To aid trap recovery I found myself  wide awake around 6am , so fetched the trap to the kitchen and eagerly opened it up. As I lifted the layers of egg boxes, nada, nothing, not a sign of life. I was just about to curse my luck when lurking at the bottom of the box was..A MOTH !..I was cocker hoop ! seriously, chuffed to bits. I carefully placed him on some paper and got a few snaps. With my moth guide to hand, I didn't really know where to start, so started looking up names I remembered and on second attempt matched '' Satellite'' to the specimen before me.

As I have a small garden, I will aim to trap once a week, but given the single catch I think I can risk a reload in the next few days as the forecast is good. I'm really excited about what could be out there in the coming peak months !
Satellite Moth

Monday, 19 March 2012

If Carlsberg did Mondays...19th March

Monday, not my favourite day of the week, so been taking some off as holiday. Today I headed across  the county border to Shropshire and up to Titterstone Clee. The idea was to see some early fresh Wheatears and maybe a Stonechat..or even a Ring Ouzel ? Around 10AM at the summit it was blues skies but a bit fresh to say the least. I wrapped up and headed for the old fort area. Raven Kronked overhead and Pied Wagtails flicked around as did a few Meadow Pipits.
Within a couple of minutes I was onto a couple of stunning male Wheatears..absolutely resplendent in their Spring attire. I spent a good 30 minutes wandering the area, where the two males stayed close  to each other, but were skittish. They continually worked around the site staying within a few yards of each other and occasionally squabbling. A Peregrine showed a couple of times above the summit, and with the wind buffeting my hands were tingling with the cold.

ohhh what a beauty !

I returned to the car, hoping to connect with a Stonechat on the descent. Just as I left the car park I noticed some movement around a gorse bush to my left. Pulling over I grabbed my bins and realised I did not have to descend any further , there were Stonechats about ! Initially just a female showed, but then I got onto a Male also. I grabbed a record shot of the female, but the conditions were turning, suddenly cloudy and the wind got up again and I lost them over to the other side of the track Still two quality year ticks and my first male Stonechat.

Female Stonechat

Next I headed to the Wyre, and 30 minutes later was walking down to Dowles Brook. Through the vegetation there is a small pond, and noticing some movement I spied upon a pair of Mandarin Ducks..always nice to see. Squatting down to get a better view through the branches they were oblivious to my observations and I snapped a few pics and a bit of video from a somewhat odd angle.

Mandarin Duck pair Wyre Forest

 Moving on I crossed the bridge, stopping to look down stream for Grey Wagtail. Instead a Dipper zoomed towards me like an Exocet hugging the terrain and passed under the bridge beneath me.

Well by now today was constituting '' a success'' and made up for the previous couple days.. and some !.... but there was more to come, when a bit deeper into the woods I stopped in my tracks noticing another Dipper on the stream as close as I have ever come to one. I took a few snaps and some video, wishing I had brought my monopod as it was quite dark, but the result was pleasing despite being handheld.

The rest of my walk was most pleasant, the highlight being a few Redpoll and Siskin around Lodge Hill farm, and chatting a while with its occupier. I will be uploading some more pics on my flickr page in due course, but unfornately work beckons for now.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Patch Progress

The excitement of the start of spring migration has been getting the juices flowing over the last week, but the birding reality has been a bit frustrating and unfulfilling. With various personal commitments, patch disruption and poor weather I found myself feeling like I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I've not really got going at Upton this year ( or in fact been that much), and a couple of brief visits this weekend failed to produce anything other than a pleasant  meeting a some nice folks from Gloucestershire, and a genuine Chiffchaff arrival. I managed to miss a Wheatear and Little Ringed Plover by a few minutes.
By contrast the local patch continues to notch up ticks , and this week I added Nuthatch, Treecreeper,Grey Heron and  a pair of Red Legged Partridge taking my patch list up to a healthy 59. I heard a Tawny Owl call there too, which was interesting, as well as observing the rare occurrence of Green Woodpecker drumming. There is plenty of plough around and I hope this is going to attract Wheatears in the coming weeks. Today one field held around 20 Pied Wagtails enjoying the soil.Hopefully some White and Yellows to follow soon too.

Pied Wagtail

 My year list has ground to a halt. Yesterday my birding highlight was getting another look at a Little Owl, and sneaking a quick pic.

Little Owl
My birding highlight today was on Swan Lane, finding a  field with c40 Fieldfare and a few Redwings. I set my scope up and enjoyed the Fieldfare for a while, possibly my last decent look at them for a few months.Really smart birds, will miss them, but not the Winter.

Sunday, 11 March 2012


Having attended a talk on 'Adders in the Wyre' a couple of weeks ago, I was keen to try and see this elusive and threatened species. Fellow attendee and Birder Jason K had some knowledge he was kind enough to share, so with weather looking spot on, we headed out for a few hours in the Forest.
However, some birding first, and a circuit of Uncllys was undertaken in the continued quest for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
Its a cracking piece of woodland, and work is being undertaken to improve butterfly habitat at present. Birding wise,  fairly routine fare but even when this is the case the habitat can be enjoyed, appreciated and speculated upon for it's potential in the coming weeks and months. Both Blue Tit and Nuthatches seemed particularly frisky, and several Nuthatches showed very well along the walk.Also of note were several Micro Moths flitting about, whetting my appetite to set the moth trap latter that evening. A Pair of buzzards were also displaying low, with one undertaking an impressive dive over the small pool.
A quick call at the bottom of Drymill Lane yielded a pair of Grey Wagtails, but neither of us have come across Marsh Tit in our recent visits, which is odd. Up at Lodge Hill we had nice views of Siskin, and a pair of Raven observed from Dowles seemed to getting a bit jiggy. As one would expect on a sunny lunchtime in the Forest, a Tawny Owl called.
We were disappointed not to happen upon any butterflies, but heard reports from fellow birders of Brimstones and Commas being about.
And so to the main event, around 1.15 with the sun nice and warm on a hybernaculum, ten minutes or so careful scanning yielded Snakey Boy ! a stonking male adder with a lovely red eye showing. Initially we could only see a section of its body, but eventually it moved, we lost it then re spotted in  a nice pose which it held for a minute or two before moving off. Fortunately, this coincided with me turning my camera to video, and filming it on full zoom VIDEO HERE . Brilliant find, smashing day out !

Male Adder Wyre Forest-click to enlarge

Monday, 5 March 2012

More Owls, more Dowles

I spent a most enjoyable Saturday at the Worcester Recorders annual meeting, not a gathering at which we recite 'Londons Burning' and 'Pease Pudding Hot', but rather an opportunity to listen to some top naturalists present some of their work and knowledge. I learnt, amongst other things, about Adder tracking in the Wyre, and how to spot a hibernaculum, a rare parasitic fungi that takes over 'Alien' style, Earthy Powdercap, and  the prevelence of  Bechsteins bat in Worcestershire.

The only downside was a lack of birding , so on the way home I paid a visit with fellow attendee Shenstone Birder to have a look for a little owl on his patch. I enjoyed some great views of these smashing little birds, a year tick and my second Owl species in less than 24 hours !

The weather Sunday during my birding window was  pants, but I managed a quick overdue visit to my local pool, where I was pleased to see a pair of Great Crested Grebe displaying, as well as a Single female Goosander present.
 As this was another of my  much needed long weekends, I had carte blance to bird as I pleased today . After much 'umming and arring'  I plumped for a visit down the road to The Wyre.

Arriving at the carpark around 10am I was somewhat dismayed to see a load of heavy machinery heading down the disused railway line ! I therefore started the walk on the Dowles side.

At the bottom of Drymill lane I stood on the bridge and started to bird. Siskins fed in trees overhead. Golcrest called then showed. After about 10 minutes I picked up my first Grey Wagtail of the year on one  the little feeder streams that run down from the railway line. Result, bird 100 of 2012 After it flitted off I carried along the path, hearing and seeing several Nuthatch as well as harking upon a Treecreeper.

Then on the Brook, 4 Manderin !!   2 males...but they spooked and moved downstream. In the field before Knowles Mill I stumbled upon my first Kingfisher of the year, nice and close, actually my first on Dowles Brook. So although no Dipper like last time, a nice couple of make up species, and I crossed the water and headed up to Lodge Hill Farm. In this neck of the woods, c20 redwing lurked, as well as more Gold crests and Nuthatch. I heard a Green Woodpecker but unusually did not lay eyes on a Great Spotted this visit, never mind its Lesser cousin.

I lingered on the bridge for a while, watching the Buzzards swooping over the far woods, but there was not much else going on. I made a half hearted attempt to look for a basking adder, but my stomach was telling me  lunch was over due and I headed back to the car, bumping into the Shenstone birder on the way. Not a bad weekends haul, with a lifer and 3 year ticks including 2 Owl species.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Worth the wait... Friday 2nd March

Knowing my birding opportunities were going to be slightly curtailed this weekend, I decided to chase up a tip off about a Barn Owl on the way home from work.
This is a bird I have yearned to see for a long time, I love Owls, and in the last year have had my first encounters with Long Eared and Little Owls at locations not too far away, but Barn Owl is a bird I never seem to connect with, a likely combination of not birding the right areas at the right time, being a relative newbie, and it's sad decline.
Anyway I arrived at the location at around 5.20 and scouted the area. By 6pm I was beginning to wander if I had the right place, and was wishing I had worn appropriate warm clothing as I was perished. I was just about to head for the car at 6.15 when I thought I saw a white head pop up from a hole in a nearby tree.
I raised my Bins and WOW ! my first barn owl was having a peek at the dusky evening. it continued to do so for just a couple of minutes before deciding to press the snooze button, but what a great start to the weekend. I went home to thaw out.