Wednesday, 30 June 2010

House Finch and Large Blue

With the relocation of the Lands End House Finch at East Prawle in Devon, I decided a few days in the south-west were in order to see this and look for some Butterflies and Dragonflies whilst in the area.
Having spent 4 hours not seeing the finch on Tuesday afternoon and evening, I was seriously questioning my sanity for 'cracking' and going for a bird that seemingly has virtually no chance of making it onto the British List. However I was again in position at its most regular feeding point soon after dawn and after another painful wait of a couple of hours, much to my relief I spotted the House Finch perched on a roof in the distance. It quickly flew off but after a couple of minutes it came down onto the seed that the lady of the house had put out for it to try to encourage it to appear for us yesterday, and it happily fed away, but it was quite bizarre having a 'first for Britain' all to myself!
I hung around for some better light for photography, and was rewarded with it again eventually coming down onto the seed infront of me where it gave excellent views.

With having wasted the day before dipping on the finch, I was now behind schedule so quickly headed back north, well as quickly as the tortuous south Devon roads would allow, and called in for a brief walk round Stover Country Park where I was delighted to see my first ever Golden-ringed Dragonfly briefly hawking along a woodland ride.
I then moved onto Collard Hill near Glastonbury where I quickly located my first ever Large Blue Butterflies at this reintroduction site. With the very warm and sunny weather they spent most of their time flying quickly along the steep sided hill rarely landing in sight, but with much patient stalking I eventually managed a couple of half decent pics of both the underwings and one with the wings spread, plus a record shot of a pair together.
Good numbers of Marbled Whites were also present on the hill, along with a Black-tailed Skimmer.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Northamptonshire Revisited

Today saw me pay a second visit to Northamptonshire with a couple of birding friends with again some new Butterflies and Damselflies being the aim.
First stop was to revisit Glapthorn, where after a brief view of a Black Hairstreak, and acting upon information gleaned whilst on site on Friday, we made our way to the opposite corner of the wood where we located a pretty freshly emerged male Silver-washed Fritillary, my first new species of the day, and an excellently timed visit as the first one for the year had only been recorded the previous day.

Whilst we were looking for the Fritillary, I very fortunately noticed a 'roosting' Elephant Hawk Moth in the vegetation in front of us, and despite its mangled right wing it was very nice to see one away from a moth trap.

With our success at Glapthorn, we moved on to Upton Mill on the western outskirts of Northampton, where after careful checking of the riverside vegetation I located a White-legged Damselfly, my second tick of the day! With further checking of the riverbank we located a few more individuals, with one staying still long enough for some photos.

We then moved on to the River Tove at Towcester where I quickly located my third new species of the day in the form of a Beautiful Demoiselle, its all dark wings separating it from the Banded Demoiselles that we get back in Norfolk. We located a second Beautiful, with also a number of Banded also being present, along with a White-legged Damsel, but with the warmth of the day running out and one more stop on the agenda, I only had time to grab a quick record shot before we had to move on.
Final stop of the day was Bucknell Wood nr Silverstone, but despite searching we couldn't locate any Wood Whites, although as it was getting right towards the end of their flight period, we were probably a bit late in the year so will have to wait for either a potential second brood, or there is always next year. Some compensation was had though with at least half a dozen newly emerged White Admirals present, and all in all an excellent day with three new species and great company too.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Black Hairstreak and Scarce Chasers

Today I took a trip over to Glapthorn Cow Pastures near Oundle with Black Hairstreak the target species. Upon arrival at the wood I made my way to their favoured patch of brambles and was immediately rewarded with one performing very well. Over the next hour or so, three or four individuals came down to the brambles from the overhead trees all being very approachable and giving excellent views.
With the forecast of it clouding over later, I thought I'd make the most of the current sunny weather and quickly move on to look for my second hoped for new species of the day, the Scarce Chaser which is far more numerous in Northamptonshire then it is in Norfolk.
With information kindly supplied by a local at the Hairstreaks, I made my way to the River Nene at Wadenhoe Mill and quickly located a few males which were patrolling the river and landing on the bankside vegetation. After a lot of patient stalking I managed to get a nice set of photos, including a pair in tandem, which perfectly illustrates how the males get the 'pinch' marks half way down their abdomen!

Other highlights at Wadenhoe included a number of Red Kites passing overhead, numerous Banded Demoiselles, a few Four-spotted Chasers and a female Emperor Dragonfly oviposting.

With the warm and sunny weather lasting longer than predicted I decided to make an unscheduled late afternoon stop at Twywell Hills and Dales which is just off J11 of the A14 to check out the site as I intended to visit it later in the month to look for Marbled Whites.
However that visit was made superfluous as I quickly located about half a dozen presumably very recently emerged individuals just beyond the car park. Obviously I was delighted with my unexpected find, especially as it must be about 25 years since my only previous encounter with the species, so they almost felt new.

A nice range of other more common butterflies were also present, along with a few Six-spot Burnet Moths, and I'll definitely be paying a repeat visit to this excellent site, if not later in the summer, then certainly next year.


Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A day in the Broads

Today was spent around the Norfolk Broads with the main target of the day being Variable Damselfly.
I started out at Cockshoot Broad, and whilst walking around the boardwalk loop, I chanced upon a Swallowtail, and whilst not quite as showy as the ones at Strumpshaw, it somehow felt nicer to find one in a 'wild' setting. It was very mobile moving quickly along the flowerheads next to the boardwalk, but stayed still long enough on a couple of occasions to get a photo.

Whilst looking for damselflies, and having glimpsed two probable Variables amongst the many Azures and Red-eyed, my attention was grabbed by some crashing around in the vegetation on the far side of the dyke. Presuming it was just a Moorhen or Coot, I was shocked to see a Chinese Water Deer gently launch itself out into the dyke and proceeded to swim across with just its head sticking out of the water.
I quickly positioned myself in the hope that it would cross the boardwalk, which indeed it did momentarily pausing to look at me, and allowing me to grab the image below, before running off into the reeds barking loudly.

With most of the Damselfly action being on the far sunny side of the dyke making viewing difficult, I decided to move on to Upton Fen to see if any Variables could be found there.

At Upton I soon found a few Four-spotted Chasers and a male Hairy Dragonfly patrolling a ditch, and then carried on along the path and upon seeing a few 'blue' damsels along a reedy ditch I paused to check them out and was pleased to eventually find two or three Variables amongst them, a new species for me. After getting your eye in it was surprisingly easy to pick them out amongst the Azures, with the broken ante-humeral stripes and the marking on segment two being the best field characters. 

Whilst watching the damsels a Large Skipper was busily flying up and down the path feeding on thistle heads. Further along the path towards the viewpopint, a number of Norfolk Hawkers were watched feeding along the ditch with one briefly alighting on a stick in front of me.

Whilst watching the Norfolk Hawkers, a Swallowtail flew over the reedbed in front of us and then headed off across a meadow into the distance. A couple of Emerald Damselflies were also noted, my first ones of the year, and back at the first ditch I looked at, a female Hairy Dragonfly was briefly watched oviposting, and a Four-spotted Chaser posed for a photo.

Heading back towards the car park, at least a dozen Black-tailed Skimmers were basking on the boardwalk.

Finally a check of the area around the small pools in the meadow by the dragonfly model revealed more Black-tailed Skimmers, and a couple more Variable Damselflies rounding off a very enjoyable day nicely.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Chilean Flamingos at Cley

With mutterings about them being Cat C vagrants from a feral population in Holland and Germany, I went to Cley to see the two Chilean Flamingos which had appeared on the reserve today after spending the afternoon at Minsmere yesterday.
Whatever their origins they, an apparent pair, were really nice birds to see, and the size difference between the much larger male and the female was very noticeable.
On the way to Cley, a Spoonbill was seen feeding on the pools in the field to the north of Walsey, and was then seen flying west over Cley, and on the reserve there it was noted that the local Mute Swans had 2 'Polish' young in their brood of 7, these being pure white morphs as opposed to the usual grey-brown colour of cygnets.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Swallowtails and Norfolk Hawkers at Strumpshaw

As I was playing football in Norwich this evening, I thought I'd make the most of the day and the reasonable weather with a day at Strumpshaw RSPB reserve with the aims of getting a decent photo of a Swallowtail Butterfly and to try to see a Norfolk Hawker Dragonfly which would be a new species for me.
Upon arrival I made my way down the track just before the reserve car park to the house in whose garden the Swallowtails often frequent. To my delight there was a Swallowtail there as soon as I got there and over the next couple of hours there was always at least one on view, often two, and at one point there were three having an aerial tussel right in front of the delighted onlookers.
After taking a few hundred pictures of the Swallowtails, I eventually dragged myself away and made my way onto the reserve proper heading for the meadow trail and virtually immediately I spotted two Norfolk Hawkers chasing each other over the adjacent ditch. After spending some time watching one patrolling its teritory, but rarely landing for more than a second, I made my way further along and, as hoped for, spotted another perched on the reeds on the far side of the ditch and which continued to show well for the quickly assembled group of photographers. We watched it for about half an hour, and then as I made my way back, the first one was still patrolling its ditch and eventually landed on a stick on the bankside long enough for a few photos too.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Hobby and Black Redstart

With birdlife seemingly having entered that summertime lull, it was a big surprise to find a Black Redstart at East Runton today, presumably a very late migrant, rather than a summering bird, maybe having been brought in by the fairly stiff north-easterlies of yesterday. It showed very well in the clifftop paddock, and posed well for photos too.
Shortly after came the second good sighting of the day when a Hobby was seen briefly over Cromer sewage works, my first of the year, and with it being the most obvious bird that had so far eluded me this spring, it was nice to catch up with one. The final notable record of the day was a Red Admiral, only the second one I've seen on the patch this year, basking on the path down into East Runton village.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Large Skipper

A visit to Felbrigg today revealed that there was a couple of Large Skippers still in the meadow, which finally stayed still long enough to get some pictures.

What was presumably a Meadow Brown, the first one of the year was seen in flight but disappeared off before I could get a close view, and a few Common Blues and an Orange-Tip were also seen.
Both Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chasers were present along the stream, and on the bird front the Cuckoo was still calling from the trees behind the lake, and a flock of c35 Crossbills flew over calling.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

First Painted Lady of the year

A walk around East Runton this morning produced the first Painted Lady of the year, but little on the bird front.
 I then moved on to Beeston Common to look for Dragonflies and duely found an Emperor, and Broad-bodied and Four-spotted Chasers, with the latter two engaged in some fierce teritorial tussles over a small pond.

After placing some sticks over the edge of the water to act as perches, the Four-spotted Chaser quickly made use of them allowing for some photos to be taken.

Monday, 7 June 2010


A visit to Felbrigg to see if the Crossbills were still visiting the lake drew a blank, but a Large Skipper was again seen briefly in the meadow along with a few Common Blues, Orange Tips and a single Small Copper.
1+ Cuckoos were calling from the trees at the back of the lake, and a female Broad-bodied Chaser posed well on a bramble.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Lesser Flamingo past Overstrand!

With the news that a Lesser Flamingo had been seen heading east past Sheringham, I hot-footed it to the seafront at Overstrand to hopefully pick it up passing, and almost immediately located it distantly to the west coming along above the horizon.
It slowly headed east, never coming closer than the horizon, gaining height as it progressed and I eventually lost it as it disappeared off to the east into the low cloud, maybe heading for the continent rather than hugging the coast and heading off to the south. It'll be interesting to see if it is reported elsewhere either before or after this sighting.

The rest of the day was spent at an open day at Bawburgh Lakes on the west side of Norwich where there were very good numbers of Banded Demoiselles present, plus a few Red-eyed Damselflies amongst the more commoner damsels.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Foulden Revisited

A repeat visit to Foulden Common was made today in the hope of better views and photos of the Dingy Skippers, but alas in about seven hours of searching I failed to find any, and another visitor who was also looking in the afternoon also drew a blank.
I had about 10 sightings of Grizzled Skippers, but possibly only two or three individuals were involved, and none posed for photos, unlike a Peacock and Common Blue. 

A male Hairy Dragonfly was flying around one of the Pingos, along with Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers, and an Emperor Dragonfly was over the common.
On the bird front my first Turtle Dove of the year was seen and heard in the trees opposite the car park, at least 3 Cuckoos were continually calling and chasing each other around and a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling away from the marshy area along the southern edge.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Crossbills at Felbrigg

A walk down to Felbrigg Lake today revealed that with the hot and sunny weather, Crossbills were coming down to drink from the lake. Flocks were continually coming and going with others calling and singing from the adjacent trees, and I would estimate that there were somewhere between 40 and 60 birds in the area, with a good number of juvenile birds in the flocks which was a pleasing sight.
A check of the meadow for Butterflies revealed my first Large Skipper of the year, and a Cuckoo was calling away from the wood someway to the south.
Around the lake edge was the first Emperor Dragonfly of the year, along with a Broad-bodied Chaser, a few Red-eyed Damselflies were settling on the weed patches plus a good number of Common Blue Damsels.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Dingy and Grizzled Skippers

With temperatures on the rise, I decided to take a trip to Foulden Common to look for Grizzled and Dingy Skippers, both of which would be new for me. As luck would have it another birder that I knew had also done the same so we were able to search in tandem which made covering the area much easier.

By the end of the day we had managed to see about half a dozen Grizzled Skippers, and a single Dingy so I was naturally pleased with two more additions to my Butterfly List.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Some good birds around Cley

Today was spent around the Cley area, with first stop being the male Red-backed Shrike which was showing well from the west bank near the bottom of the beach road, which as ever was a simply stunning bird as it fed from the tops of the gorse bushes there.

Next stop was to join the crowds along the shingle bank at the side of Arnolds, in pursuit of the Trumpeter Finch which was present now for its third day. It had been originally found on 31st May on Blakeney Point before moving east to Cley later that day, and coincidentally that was exactly the same date as the only other Norfolk record was found, which was also on the Point in 2008!
After locating it perched on a fence and then watching it on to the shingle ridge where it was feeding, I decided to come back later when there would be fewer people around to try to get some photos, so it was left to the growing crowd.
A trip to a local heath was rewarded with suberb views of a Dartford Warbler as it tirelessly pursued a male Stonechat, and a couple of Woodlarks were also watched feeding on the ground there.

Late afternoon I returned to the Trumpeter Finch, and with fewer birders now present was able to get some excellent views of this exceedingly bright individual as it fed unconcerned just below us on the shingle ridge and posed for photos.
Having spent most of the evening watching the Trumpeter Finch it was farly late as I headed back home so decided to call in on the Nightjars as it was a fairly calm night, and was suitably rewarded with excellent views both in flight and as one churred from the top of a tree above my head.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Little Egret

With an apparent arrival of birds further along the coast in the north-easterlies and drizzle, the day was spent thoroughly checking the patch from Sidestrand along to Beeston Bump but unfortunately passerine action was distinctly lacking.
There were however a couple of highlights during the day with my first Little Egret on the patch this year, with one flying high west over Cromer golf course, and a Mole which was watched scurrying around on the coastal path in happy valley, and which I pointed out to a number of passing tourists, some of which had never seen one before.
After shielding it from a few dogs, I helped it back into the undergrowth so it could find cover and some ground more suitable for burrowing than the hard path it had chosen.