Thursday 29 August 2013

Chalkhill butterflies

Monday 26th August 2013 Warm, dry and sunny. Loss of the computer for a week co-incided with a week off work, during which time I spent every morning birding come rain or shine. Now I have the computer again I will write about the last day of my late summer break, which was bank holiday Monday. The day started quite early with a walk from Shuart to plumpudding stables, and a wander along the railway embankment, hoping for a few arrivals. As it turned out, there had been a bit of a clear out of birds, there really wasn't much around. I did have the excitement of 2 Tree Pipits calling and flying west, and there were a couple of Wheatears on the coast, plus a sprinkling of the usual warblers. All very nice, but not quite what I was hoping for. Mid morning as i was walking back to the car an alert from Birdguides told me the Bockhill birders had found a Western Bonnelli's Warbler, which would be new for Kent, so I set off in the direction of St Margarets Bay, with Matt Hindle close behind. Unfortunately when we arrived at the site we joined a small group of birders forlorngly looking at a group of trees where the warbler had been seen over an hour previously, but not since. Matt and I didn't stay long, but we did enjoy the many butterflies in the area, especially the Small Coppers. On the drive home I decided to take a detour to the KWT reserve at Temple-Ewell to look for butterflies, my first visit this year. Walking up the hill through the chalky meadows i could see many Chalkhill Blues, some very tatty but others looking pristine.
I met Dave Mairs on the walk, and while chatting we found at least 3 Spotted and 1 Pied Flycatcher. We walked on to the area where I usually see Adonis Blues, and although it was really quite windy we were in luck and found a few of these lovely bright blue butterflies. I also saw briefly a single Silver-spotted Skipper, plus several Wall Browns. A really nice relaxing day out.

Sunday 11 August 2013

Wood Sandpipers at Coldharbour lagoon

Sunday 11th August 2013. Warm, dry with a westerly breeze. I had planned to meet Tim Hodge this morning for a walk around Reculver to look for waders, especially having heard of a Wood Sandpiper being seen yesterday at Reculver. Just before leaving the house Chris Hindle kindly text me to say there were 2 Wood Sandpipers in Coldharbour lagoon. I've only ever had fly-over Wood Sands at Reculver, there isn't really a great deal of suitable habitat to attract them to land, and even Tim said he's never seen one actually in the saline lagoon at Coldharbour. Waders don't normally stay long in the lagoon as the public path runs alongside, and the cyclists in brightly coloured attire, and the joggers and dog-walkers usually flush everything away by mid morning, but not today. When we arrived about 9 o'clock there were 2 rather splendid Wood Sandpipers at the eastern end of the lagoon, along with 2 Common Sandpipers and 6 Dunlin, all giving good views.
We saw a couple of smart Willow Warblers, and walking back we started taking note of the insect life along the paths, noting a few Black-tailed Skimmers, Red-eyed Damselflies, Common Blue Damselflies and a Brown Hawker flew past along the hedge a couple of times, a scarce dragonfly at Reculver. We also saw a few butterflies, including a Wall that Tim picked out, which was a bit flighty in the wind, but nice to see.
A walk near Reculver a little later was entertaining, with around 30-40 Clouded Yellow butterflies, and many more Common Blues. There were a couple of Emperor Dragonflies, planty Common Darters, a single Ruddy Darter, Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies, and 10+ Common Emerald Damselflies.

Monday 22 July 2013

A trip to Thursley Common

Saturday 20th July 2013. Warm, dry and some sunshine. I set off to Thursley with Patrick Giles and Marc Heath for company, all three of us hoping for a hot sunny day and plenty of dragonflies to enjoy on our day trip away from Kent. The weather all week had been perfect, but our visit co-incided with an increase in wind and cloud. At least on arrival we had some sun to get us started, and pretty soon at the Moat lake we were all enjoying a variety of dragonflies not seen, or uncommon in Kent, although the most common dragonfly was Four-spotted Chaser, they were everywhere. We each had a target we wanted to see, and mine was Black Darter, the male in particular looking really smart, so I was quite excited when Marc called me over to see a lovely female:
Meanwhile Patrick was attempting to i.d an emerald that we presumed was Downy but just wouldn't fly slow enough for any of us to get a proper look at it, and Marc and me were enjoying the Small Red Damselflies:
The clouds rolled over during the day as we wandered the paths and boardwalks, and it was quite noticable the insect activity dropped off as temperature dropped slightly, so much so that if we had just arrived and not seen the chasers and abundant Keeled Skimmers in the morning sunshine we would have assumed there wasn't much to see. There were a couple of Hobbies hunting across some of the ponds, a distant Red Kite and we found a few Silver-studded Blues. Careful searching round the margins revealed skimmers and many Common Blue, Small, Large Red and Common Emerald Damselflies:
As the day wore on we were rewarded with some broken sunshine and suddenly the whole area came alive with activity again. There were several Emperors and the Four-spot Chasers were full of energy. The three of us split up to have a couple of hours on our own, and I managed to get some brilliant views of the diminutive Black Darters:
We met up again at the Moat where we spent a while nailing the Downy Emerald, achieving reasonable views by the end of really enjoyable day. We added Black-tailed Skimmer and Brown Hawker for the trip list, and I watched a grass snake swim out of the shallows across the lake.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Norfolk Hawkers at Westbere

Sunday 14th July 2013. Another hot day and with the wife at work I decided to have a stroll down to Westbere to have a look for Scarce Chasers. I didn't see them at the start of summer in their splendid firey-orange/brown immature colours, but the adult males are still quite smart. The first dragonfly I saw as I strolled along the path beside the lake, heading south to the river, was a rather nice Brown Hawker, twisting and looping after insects. A little further on I saw a medium-sized hawker briefly out the corner of my eye, and it appeared light brown with pale green eyes. It was gone in a flash along a dyke behind some tall reeds, and despite hanging around a while I couldn't relocate it. With such a brief view I was reluctant to put any news out, but I needn't have worried because a bit further on patrolling the dyke on the other side of the path was an adult Norfolk Hawker, giving excellent views.
Shortly after I saw Mike Gould walking up the path towards me, so I walked over to tell him I had the hawker in view, and he had just had a glimpse of one himself. At this point I should have worked out there were 2 Norfolk Hawkers, but he and his partner joined me watching the second insect which was showing really well, and we spent a while taking a few photos and enjoying it flying back and forth slowly along the dyke. A little later Marc Heath joined us and confirmed there was a second Norfolk Hawker he had been watching while I was with Mike, presumably the first insect I saw.
Other dragonflies seen on my walk were 2 Brown Hawkers, an Emperor, I'm pretty sure there was a Hairy Dragonfly go past while I was watching the Norfolk Hawkers, several Scarce Chasers, loads of Black-tailed Skimmers, Banded Demoiselles, Red-eyed Damselflies, Common Blue, Azure and Blue-tailed Damselflies.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Large and Small

Wednesday 10th July. What started out a nice sunny morning soon turned grey and chilly when the n/e wind brought cloud in off the coast. In the afternoon I took a drive over to Wye, where the sun was just about breaking through the low cloud, and a sheltered spot along the walk had good numbers and variety of butterflies, including Large Skipper and Small Heath.
The last few days have seen several pairs of Large Red and Azure Damselflies ovipositing at the new garden pond, and regular visits from Blue-tailed Damselflies.

A couple of woodland walks

Monday 8th July. Warm, sunny and the continuing n/e breeze. Despite having the day off work, home life restriced my opporunities to get out in the sun. Eventually I managed a walk in Church Woods behind the house, and although I only had a couple of hours it was lovely to be outdoors. The butterflies were restricted in variety, but plentiful in numbers, with many Ringlets and Meadow Browns in the verge grasses and ferns. I was hoping to see some Heath Fritillaries again this year, and in the same spot as the last couple of years there were a few easily seen, but not the large numbers seen in other local woods. However, what was rather pleasing on the wander round the woods was coming across more Heath Fritillaries in 3 more areas of the woods I've not seen them I before. The habitat now looks prefect and it's obvious the woods are being managed to encourage them to colonise. I also saw a few Speckled Woods, Common Blues and a single Common Darter.
Tuesday 9th July - weather as yesterday. Another frustrating day at home, I didn't get out until early afternoon and made the decision to have a look around Denge Woods for Marbled Whites. My notes froma couple of years ago suggest they should be plentiful by now. It was a really noce, peaceful walk, and eventually I came across around 20 Marbled Whites, full of energy in the warm sun. There were a few warblers still singing including Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Whitethroat, plus a Sparrowhawk drifted overhead.

Sunday 7 July 2013

Difficult darters

Sunday 7th July 2013. Very warm, sunny and a stiff n/e breeze. A quick look at the new garden pond this morning on the way out to meet Tim at Thornden Woods and a female Broad-bodied Chaser flew round without stopping long. We had a short stroll to watch the Heath Fritillaries enjoying the hot sun. We saw our first Ringlets of the year, plus there were a few Large Skippers and Meadow Browns.
Next we made our way towards the Reculver area to look for dragonflies, and quite a variety were on show. Matt Hindle had phoned earlier to say there a lot on the wing this morning, including many darters that appeared recently emerged. Adult male darters aren't difficult to identify, but immatures in various stages are quite tricky. A tip I learnt from my old pal Patrick Giles when we were abroad last year looking at 'yellowish' darters was to look at the leg colour and the shape and size of the moustache as i.d tools. Hopefully the following are correctly identified: Immature male Ruddy Darter (black legs, slightly pinched and short abdomen, rather long moustache, dark veins)
Immature Common Darter (pale colouring along the legs, short moustache that doesn't droop on the frons)
Adult Red-veined Darter
There were loads of Black-tailed Skimmers, Emperors and a Four-spotted Chaser which is a rather uncommon dragonfly around Reculver.
We came across a single teneral male Emerald Damselfly being blown about by the strong wind, making photography aukward.
After all this excitement Tim decided to head home to watch the tennis, and I headed over to Chambers Wall to look for more damselflies etc. An hour or so produced only Red-eyed Damselfly and a Banded Demoiselle.
To finish the day off I had a look along Marshside and found quite a few Azure Damselflies.