Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Settling in for the summer

It's fair to say that things have been a bit slow going on the patch over the last couple of weeks, with everything settled in for the breeding season. One species that isn't breeding is Turtle Dove; it's now the longest day, and I still haven't heard one, so I think it's safe to say that they're lost from the site, which is a real tragedy especially as there were three purring as recently as two summers ago. 

On a more positive note, Lapwings are having a good year, with three broods out and about (totalling 8 young), and at least a further three adults on nests; the fallow field north of Mons Pool has produced all of these. The first young Little Egret has also appeared. However, last year's success for Coots and Great Crested Grebes on Ferry Lane Lake hasn't been repeated, with just one young grebe visible tonight. A single Mute Swan cygnet is also present. Finally, there is a brood of 4 young Kestrels in a nestbox, and a Barn Owl is busy ferrying voles in the direction of Langford Lowfields. 

And I almost forgot the non-breeding highlight of tonight's patch visit - two 2cy Spoonbills! These flew south along the western side of Ferry Lane Lake just before 8, and are a nice addition to my patch list. These are undoubtedly the two that flew north over Langford on Monday; perhaps they've been on Mons Pool?

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Lizard

Our week in Cornwall at the end of May/start of June seems like a long time ago already. The Lizard is one of those places that every naturalist should visit, and I wasn’t disappointed. There is some fantastic heathland and maritime grassland habitat, and even as a non-botanist I spent some time searching out and identifying some of the peninsular's special plants (including several which occur no-where else in Britain). A few pics of these below.

Coastal grassland
Broomrape sp.
Upright Clover
The Lizard Point
Goonhilly Downs
Wild Chives
Early Marsh Orchid (incarnata)
Trackway near Goonhilly Downs
A  nice little damp patch
Windmill Hill Farm
Marsh Fritillary habitat at Windmill Hill Farm
Windmill Hill Farm
Thyme Broomrape at Kynance
Prostrate Broom
Flowery turf at Kynance
Gone over Spring Squill
Spring Sandwort
Hairy Greenweed
Kynance Cove
Spotted Cat's-ear
Early Purple Orchid
Fringed Rupturewort
Western Clover
Long-headed Clover
Rough Clover
Caerthillian Cove
Hairy Bird's-foot Trefoil
Grassland at Caerthillian Cove - clover central
A pool near Goonhilly Downs
Lizard Downs
Church Cove
Ivy (?) Broomrape
Wild Clary

The birding was generally sedate, although the fact that we found ourselves in the most southerly part of mainland Britain at the end of spring wasn’t a co-incidence. I spent the week with my ears pricked for the sound of a Bee-eater or Serin overhead, but had to make do with a self-found Red-footed Falcon - and a dodgy kite. The only other birds of note were 2 Chough (in flight at Lizard Point) and three Red Kites, plus several Cuckoos.

The only picture I could get of a Chough

Other wildlife included a couple of Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries on the coast between Kynance and Caerthillian, and a Slow-worm at Windmill Hill Farm; the latter site also supports a Marsh Fritillary colony, but I couldn’t find any (not helped by sub-optimal weather).

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary

The Lizard is one of only two places in the UK where the rock serpentine occurs (part of the reasons the area is so botanically-rich). The other place is Unst, where I’ll be in just over three months time! But before that, our next trip is to South Africa, which will be a bit different from Cornwall I’m sure...

Elegant Tern

I couldn’t twitch the Elegant Tern last weekend, as my parents were up visiting. Luckily, it has done the decent thing and hung around, so come Saturday morning I was out of the house by 3.20am and on the road. Arriving just after 7, the good news was the bird was still present, having been seen a bit earlier. After a bit of cooking in the morning sun, the Elegant Tern appeared in flight low over the tern island, before dropping back out of sight almost immediately; a few minutes later he was up again, had a bit of a fly around, and then landed on a muddy island in the main channel with some Sandwich Terns, where he then proceeded to do a bit of displaying – which didn’t go down well with some of the Sarnies! He then had another fly around before dropping back into his favoured spot on the tern island. Other birds included a Little Gull, Med Gulls, Little Terns and a Peregrine.

Elegant Tern

Leaving Pagham Harbour just before 9.30 (a bit later than I’d envisaged), I took advantage of being near the South Downs, and pulled in a couple of orchid sites on the way home. This was less successful than the tern twitch. At Chappett’s Copse in Hants, the Sword-leaved Helleborines were already well-over (as I thought they would be), as were the White Helleborines (which I’d thought may still be out). Furthermore, the Fly Orchids were also mainly over (although a couple still looked ok), and the Bird’s-nest Orchids also looked past their best, whilst the Broad-leaved Helleborines were yet to flower. Not good timing! However, this was only the second time I’ve seen Fly Orchid so it wasn’t a complete disaster, and SL and W Helleborines will go on my list as ‘non-flowering’...

Fly Orchid

On to St Catherine’s Hill in Winchester; a superb chalk grassland site – definitely one of my favourite habitats, beautiful and flowery and gently baking in the strong midday sun. Here I was having a half-arsed look for Musk Orchids. I know from experience that looking for small green orchids is difficult even when you know where exactly they should be (Frog Orchids in Notts), and it transpired that there was way too much south-facing downland for me to cover without better directions, so after a nice hour wandering around l gave up. This wasn’t a complete write-off though, with several Marbled Whites, and small numbers of Meadow Browns, Small Heaths, a couple of Common Blues and a Large Skipper (I was a bit surprised there weren’t more butterflies around, even if we’re in the ‘June gap’). 

St Catherine's Hill