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Sunday, 30 September 2012

BTO Winter Thrush Survey. Early days

The UK countryside supports large numbers of several thrush species through the winter. The BTO Winter Thrushes Survey aims to find out more about their numbers and distribution, and the  resources that they need to survive to spring and the next breeding season.
It is an online Survey and I signed up for it a few weeks ago. I have selected 3 squares that encompass a route I walk on my local patch. To be honest I was not expecting any Redwings , Fieldfares  ( or Waxwings ! ) but I decided to do my first survey more for the exercise and to see what the food sources were looking like on the route, brushing up on my berry ID skills.
It was a windy and overcast day, not great birding weather, and it was sods law that there was not a singlee Mistle or Song Thrush even to be seen en route ( slightly unusual). The patch is undergoing quite a bit of pipe laying and much of it looked like a scene from the film "Tremors", which must be affecting the local wildlife.
I noted and recorded the Blackbirds and Starlings, and was pleased to see plenty of berries including Pyracantha, Hawthorn, Elder,Ivy and Contoneaster.
The most prevalent birds were from the Corvid family, enjoying the windy conditions and along with Wood Pigeons feeding in the fields and Paddocks. Jays were also showy and numerous. A decent sized group of Swallows did their bit for "Viz Mig" and a few of the summer offspring were still present along with a couple of House Martins.
I had 2 Cormorants flyover, only my second patch record. Other birds of note were Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker,Nuthatch, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. It was hardly conducive to butterfly sightings, but I did manage a single Comma.
Speaking of Lepidoptera, I also came across a colony of micro moths around a section of Bracken. Despite the wind I whipped out my Compact and managed a snap so I could ID what looked like a new species to me. It is Nettle Tap, a common moth, but new to me so very pleasing.

Nettle Tap moth

Also noted was a couple of Earth Balls, this one pausing for a rest.

Earth Ball

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Tapas...A taster of the inverts of Seville

I spent a couple of days in Seville this week. Amongst the heat of the city  is the oasis of the Alcazar and it's gardens. I could not help but keep an eye out for some new dragonflies and butterflies. Fuelled by a few too many tapas and glasses of wine here are the few species I managed to nab during my afternoon visit. I have done my best to ID them correctly

Violet Dropwing

Orange-winged Dropwing
The Dragonflies were tiny, as was this butterfly..
Geranium bronze

Geranium bronze

Saturday, 15 September 2012

High Quality Day Out

On Saturday me and the blogger formerly known as Shenstone Birder decided to get high. Oh course, what I mean by this is head to the high ground to see what passage migration  we may happen upon. Thankfully, despite his recent makeover, JK was still easy to ID as I swung by for 9.30.
We made the journey up the road to to the summit of Titterstone Clee in good time, leaving pleasant warm weather at lower altitude, it was a 3 sweater job as I emerged from the car.
Initially it was all a bit cold, windy and birdless, save for Meadow Pipits. However, soon we started clocking some nice Wheatears on passage. They seem a lot less skittish than the spring birds and one in particular allowed a record shot. By the end of the day, we had clocked up 13, which was probably a fraction of what was lurking on the high points around the radar stations.

Wheatear Titterstone Clee
 We were hoping to connect with a few raptors, and the first to be encountered was a nice juvenile Kestrel, the first of a few to be seen that day. As the Wheatear count climbed the Ravens appeared, some mobbing a pair of  Buzzards that showed.  Gradually the wind dropped down a bit and the temperature rose. Two Peregrines emerged, one having a memorable bit of aggro with one of the Kestrels..Raptortastic !
30 minutes of dedicated sky watching could not produce another raptor, so lunch was taken, with butterflies including Small Copper and Red Admiral being noted. As we munched on our cobs, I spotted a Dragonfly on the wing over by the large pool. On finishing lunch we ambled over to investigate. After a few minutes of observation and rumination the conclusion ( subject to double checking the field guide ) was that Common Hawkers  were being watched , a lifer ! These, despite their name are not at all common on Worcestershire.They are very restless Dragonflies , rarely settling, so a photo was proving tricky. However I eventually got a record shot.

Common Hawker, superb !
There were more Common Hawkers down at a smaller pool. A copulating pair were seen, tracked and recorded, which was a great result,a bit easier to get a snap

Common Hawkers Copulating
  Also on the pool, decent numbers of mature Emerald Damselflies.
Emerald Damselfly
As we headed back to the car, a family party of 3 Stonechats was seen. We added 2 more Stonechats on the way home via Catherton Common, where Skylarks were also seen, along with Grey Herron, and hirundines. Some great birds today, and an unexpected addition to my dragonfly list.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Painted Lady ...Lifer on my patch !

After spending far more hours this week than is healthy stuck indoors and on my arse, I was desperate for a nice walk Friday Evening when I got home from work. I decided to do a circuit of my patch, and the weather was warm and sunny.
On the Birding front, a Pair of Green Woodpeckers showed well in the paddocks near Forge pool. Over the Barnet Brook paddocks I spent a while watching a Kestrel hunt. This was the first Kestrel I had seen on the patch since the end of June so it was a welcome sight.
Along the way I had flushed two macro moths. I recognised neither of them and couldn't get on them for either a better look or a record shot., so had I got the hump somewhat. However, as I was about to cross a Style I noticed on the path the other side a butterfly. On spotting me approaching, in keeping with its cousins, it took flight. In my binoculars I watched it and thought "Small Tortoiseshell"..but standing still on the style, it returned to the spot below me on the path. For a second I changed my mind to "Red Admiral"..because  it obviously was not a Tort...I then realised what I thought I was looking at, something I had never seen before , a Painted Lady ! ? I quickly fired off a record shot before it skedadled, but on getting home I was able to confirm my sighting , A Painted Lady on the patch, and a lifer for me ! I thought I was done seeing any new  butterfly species for this year, and with Painted Ladies being rare the last two years , I was delighted with this find !

Painted Lady

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Small Red-eye Damselfly quest, the missing piece. Croome Park 1st September

 I've been lucky enough to see and photograph everything Worcestershire has had to offer on the Dragonfly scene so far this year (as far as I know), with the exception of Small Red-eyed Damselfly. I was aware these were now on the wing, so I set off to a new location for me, The National Trust Property, Croome Park, near Pershore. The weather was OK(ish) but on walking down to the water it was pretty breezy, which was a concern. I started by walking along the narrow stretch that leads to the lake, scanning the Duckweed. There were plenty of Ruddy Darters as well as Common Blue and Blue Tailed Damselflies, but nothing Small with a red eye.

In yer face ! correct colour eye, but Ruddy Darter

Common Blue Damselfly

 I soon became distracted by the butterflies. It was great to see some Small Coppers, a species that has been scarce this year

Small Copper ♀

Equally pleasing was seeing a few Brown Argus

Brown Argus ♂

and Common Blues, including a female, which I hadn't seen this year

Common Blue ♀

Other Dragonfly species noted were Brown Hawker and Southern Hawker. Arriving at the main body of the lake, I  was just onto what I thought was the target species when someone started asking me a load of questions ! By the time I had satisfied their curiosity I had lost my reference point. However a few minutes later I spotted one of the critters again. This was my 23rd Species for Worcestershire ( 24th overall ) this year and a smart little fellow he was.  I probably saw around a dozen on that stretch , before turning around and heading for home

Small Red-eyed Damselfly..job done !

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Osprey on the Doorstep..Friday 31st August..a special day

Spring saw a few Ospreys dropping in to Upton Warren, but not when I was there. They don't tend to hang around much, so twitching them can be a bit of a waste of fuel. On Thursday one popped up, but I was in a meeting all afternoon and left my phone on silent by mistake. When I picked the news up I had made other arrangements and reasoned it would not stick. As the evening went on , it was apparent it had, and I felt like I was doomed to connect with this species locally.
So when news emerged Friday that it was still lurking I was somewhat on edge all afternoon til I could escape and make a beeline for Upton.
I arrived around 5pm and collecting news on the way headed for the flashes, and straight into the Cuckoo hide. What an awesome bird ! It was perched about 80 yards away on the first flash, straight ahead of me, and this was a memorable birding moment for me. I studied the bird for around 30 minutes until it headed towards the sailing pool. I nipped over behind it and was rewarded with 3 fantastic dives, the third producing a fish supper. I returned to the hide to watch it until 7pm. A very special birding experience.

If the video does not play , it can be viewed on my Flickr here