Saturday, 29 August 2009

Migrants in Surprising Places

A record shot showing the tail pattern
Wheatear - another chat
I drove round the Sunk island area this morning, but the strong winds kept most birds out of sight. We did see a Whinchat though on the outskirts of Cherry Cobb Sands. It was a "lifer" for Ben, and the first I've seen in the area for several years. Also included here are a Wheatear and a Kestrel from Thursday morning at Spurn

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Final Spurn High Tide Visit

Ringed Plovers (c) 2009 Vince Cowell
Ringed Plover (c) 2009 Vince Cowell
Mixed Waders
Wheatear (c) 2009 Vince Cowell
Flava Wagtail
Juvenile Meadow Pipit
Migrant Hawker
Migrant Hawker
Common Darter
Juvenile Willow Warbler
We were at Spurn for an earlier than normal start to take advantage of the high tide. On the way to Chalk Bank we had extremely close views of Whimbrel, Turnstone & Dunlin. At Chalk Bank itself there were a couple of thousand Knot and a small number of Bar-tailed Godwits and Grey Plovers - each of these had some stunning individuals with remants of breeding plumage. Also present were Oystercatchers, Dunlin and the odd Turnstone, and Ringed Plover. The radio crackled that a Redstart was showing from Canal Scrape hide, so we popped in there on the way back, where we also added Lesser Whitethroat, Flava Wagtail, Little Grebe, all the Hirundines (Sand Martin, House Martin and Swallow), some juvenile Meadow Pipits and an incredibly bright Migrant Hawker. We drove over to Sammy's Point for the Cuckoo, but were unable to locate it. Here, we saw several species of butterfly, but apart from many Speckled Woods the species were the same as other recent visits. At Sammy's there were plenty of Golden Plover and a Ruff landed briefly very close to us before heading off towards Kilnsea. Shortly after the Ruff was a strange harsh rhythmical sound I couldn't put a name to, and a pair of terns swung into view flying east. They had long tail streamers and were very white underneath. As I'm aware of the sounds of the other UK species, I could only assume they were Roseate Terns, and on checking audio files when I returned, that is what they appeared to be. I wish I'd had the confidence to ask the Spurn regulars to look out for them! The bushes at Sammy's contained several Willow Warblers, a chiffchaff and a couple of juvenile Whitethroats. The class lasted longer than normal, and the group were well satisfied with both the quantity & quality of the birds they identified - many of them were "lifers" for some participants.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Cuckoo on a String

All pics for this post (c) 2009 Vince Cowell

Common Darter
Black-tailed Skimmer
Migrant Hawker
Red Admiral
Speckled Wood
Our reliable Cuckoo still seems to be in its accustomed place, allowing fairly good views. Here it can be seen attempting to swallow its main diet in the area - caterpillars. I suppose the string holding it in place will sever within the next fortnight when it will set off south. There are still plenty of butterflies and dragonflies around, especially in sheltered places and where there are plenty of nectaring plants for the butterflies.

Friday, 21 August 2009

French Leave

All pics for this post (c) 2009 Maurice Gordon
Hummingbird Hawk-Moth

Broad-Bordered Bee Hawk-Moth
Beautiful Demoiselle

Speckled Wood (French)
Sooty Copper
Maurice has recently returned from a short holiday in France, where he saw some species that we occasionally see locally, but others which have never been recorded here. The Hummingbird Hawk-Moth is usually recorded every summer in small numbers in Yorkshire, including my home buddleia bush, but we haven't seen one so far this year. The Beautiful Demoiselle is very scarce in East Yorkshire but can be tracked down in the very north of the county, although its flight season should be over this year. Here's a summary of Maurice's sightings in his own words: The wildlife tally was a bit disappointing, but then I didn't have my own car to go off all over the place. We had a good look round a big forest which didn't contain anything exotic, though May/June I'm sure would have been much better. Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Painted Lady everywhere. I did see a Swallowtail flying around the yard but it didn't stop for me. Also male and female Hen Harrier around the fields. Very agricultural area though rather than rural. They don't seem as big on set aside and hedgerows in France and much of the woodland is full of shooting stations! At night with the back door open a varied selection of moths. One flew in which I at first thought was a bat as it was so big and black. It flew around the house and disappeared up the chimney, so unfortunately I didn't get a good look at it! French Speckled Wood seem more orangey than ours. Some look like Walls at first glance. Claire saw Swallowtail at the roadside the week before I got there, but the farmers had considerately chopped down all the wild flowers along the field edges by the time I got there. Green and Great Spotted Peckers also around. The Map is interesting because the Spring brood is orange and the Summer brood black. One of the butterflies I was hoping to see, just in better condition. The Map and Sooty Copper aren't recorded locally to us in Yorkshire. Shame!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Damsels & Parasols

Banded Demoiselle

Parasol Mushroom
Tiger Beetle
I've been to a couple of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves in the past few days. Today I went to the renowned Brockadale near Pontefract. When I eventually found the reserve it had great potential - it is an attractive mosaic of several habitats. However, I was probably a little late in the year for the best of the chalkland butterflies, and it became very overcast so there was only a trickle of butterflies seen, including: Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood and Green-veined White. It must be a great place in the early summer for breeding birds, but they were difficult to see. Nevertheless, I heard Green Woodpecker, Jay, Treecreeper, Bullfinch, Sparrowhawk, and I actually saw a Yellowhammer! The highlight of the trip was the sighting of 3 Banded Demoiselles, which cavorted in the sunshine before the clouds rolled in. A bloke reported a dead owl with a damaged wing. It sounded like a Tawny from his description, but I was without his dog when I went looking, so I was unable to confirm his ID. I popped in to Saltmarshe Delph on the way back & saw three Brown Hawkers, a Ruddy Darter, and some Hawkers with blue squares I wasn't near enough to identify. There were posters up about criminal damage, so there must have been some vandalism at the reserve, but the rundown hide, looked the same as always to me. Yesterday, I went looking on the heath at North Cliffe for the Small Coppers. There were at least 30 quite faded individuals on display, but they seemed reluctant to sit and pose, probably because I tried to approach soaked in the obligatory anti-mosquito spray. There were some large Hawkers on the southern part of the heath, but I wasn't able to get near them & I couldn't locate their perching places. I'm used to seeing plenty of Tiger Beetles on the heath in the spring, but this was the latest in the year I've ever seen one so far - one of its antennae looks damaged!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Sammy's Point Beauties

All pics on this post (c) 2009 Marcus Conway
Juvenile Cuckoo squelching caterpillar on barbed wire
If you look carefully you can see flecks of liquid leaving the caterpillar
left click on pic for more detail
Brown Argus - Thanks to Sean Clough for confirming ID
Common Blue
Small Copper
Small Copper
Small Heath
Ruddy Darter
Here's a selction of Marcus Conway's photos taken at Sammy's Point on Sunday afternoon. In addition to the species shown there were also Painted Ladies, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells, Wall Browns, and Large and Small Whites. The most unusual insect of the day was the Broad-Bodied Chaser - see previous post.