Sunday, 23 June 2013

This week's wildlifing

Between working and going to the allotment I did a little bit of birding and mothing etc this week. Tuesday was spent sat by the River Trent in some blazing sunshine, not really wildlife watching per se but I did get some nice photos of Banded Demoiselles. These and the blue damselflies are the only Odonata I've seen this year, with no dragons to speak of as yet. I have countless photos of these lovely Demoiselles, but I just cannot resist taking more.

On Tuesday evening the weather stayed very warm through the night with temperatures nearly at 20 degrees at ten o'clock when I was cycling home from work. With no wind and a 'muggy' feel it seemed like perfect moth trapping weather so I called my friend and asked him to put the trap on in his garden for me. Its only the 3rd time I've run it this year. I cycled round at 8 the next morning to inspect the catch. I lost 4 or 5 escapees but managed to ID 5 species in the trap which believe it or not is a record for me. The third Light Brown apple moth of the year was the first to come out, followed by a Heart and Dart, a lovely Figure of 80 and a White-shouldered House Moth. One particular species caused me some trouble as it didn't have many distinguishing features but I believe it was a Turnip Moth.

Heart and Dart


Figure of 80
Wednesday was spent with the wildlife trust, pulling up balsam in clifton wood, which gives me the chance to squeeze in a bit of birding too. Typical woodland birds were in abundance, including singing Coal Tits, Nuthatch and Goldcrests. While walking through the larch plantation, a Buzzard flew through over our heads and several Jays and  Green and Great Spotted woodpeckers were about. Warblers were in abundance too with many Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs holding territories through the wood.

While having lunch on Foxcovert Lane, there were Whitethroats singing constantly and a Common Toad slowly made its way past us, allowing some photos to be taken.

In the afternoon I went to Holme Pit to see if any dragonflies were about yet but had no joy, but there were lots of Reed Warblers about and even a few Sedgies. a single Common Tern was present too but soon disappeared.
Reed Warbler


I took the opportunity to do my butterfly survey up on the grove as it was pretty hot and there was barely any wind. It was a little disappointing, with only 3 species noted, totalling about 30 butterflies. Still no Skippers, and the lack of diversity was quite worrying really. Hopefully things will pick up in the coming weeks. I did manage to find my first Silver-Y moth of the year though, which was a nice bonus.


Weather for next week looks good for butterflies so I'll be heading up to clifton at some point, and i'm planning on running the moth trap several times so fingers crossed for a good few days.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Skylarks NR, 13th June

Went to Holme Pierrepont today to see what was about. Had a walk with the dogs around the Finger Ponds in the morning and saw plenty of warblers, including Sedge, Blackcap and Whitethroat. Had my first Lesser Whitethroat in a while singing on adbolton lane too. Otherwise it was relatively quiet, though there were large numbers of Swift and House Martin feeding low over the end of the rowing course.

The weather was mixed, with a strong wind blowing through, but it was quite warm, so i stayed on down there and had a wander round Skylarks to see if anything interesting was about. Bird-wise it was much the same, though a Common Tern feeding on the main lake was a nice surprise. Else where there were plenty of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, as well as the usual residents.

Over at the reed-bed however it was very busy, with loads of Reed Warblers providing much entertainment. From the viewpoint I counted maybe 5 pairs knocking about, but there must be a good few more in the rest of the reedbed. I had to resist the urge to go down and find some nests (see Reed Warbler nest finding - SNRG ), but the birds were quite showy so I managed to get some decent shots. Reed buntings were singing everywhere too, but they stayed a little more distant.

Elsewhere round the reserve I had my eye out for butterflies as well as day-flying moths, so I armed myself with a stick and gently tousled stands of vegetation here and there. It worked to some degree and I managed to find 5 species of moth, 3 of which were new to me. Here's some photos.

Yellow Shell

Straw Dot

Silver Ground Carpet

Clouded Border - Nice looking moth

Old faithful - Cinnabar

On the butterfly front, I was delighted to see lots of Common Blues flying round the meadow near the entrance, a good spot for this species. They were very confiding and I managed to get some great photos of these little beauties. I also saw one solitary Speckled Wood, so not great but it wasn't really butterfly weather.

I was hoping for some nice wildflowers too, and there was quite a bit about, but the orchids weren't fully in flower yet and I couldn't find Twayblade either, but it was a great visit nonetheless.


Over the last few years i've become more and more interested in butterflies, especially when things slow down birding wise in summer, once all the new exciting migrants have come in and rarities are less frequent. I now fill my time during this period with other things, such as brushing up my wildflower ID skills (more on that in the future...) and learning more about our rich invertebrate fauna, as well as continuing to enjoy birds through bird ringing and still recording what I see wherever I go.

Last year I stepped up the butterfly interest by organising an ongoing butterfly monitoring project with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. I recruited a load of volunteers to record butterflies across some of the Trusts sites, which had been in need of some species recording for some time. I played my part in this process by surveying my own site at Clifton Grove, a site I already know well from birding it for several years. My site proved to be the best out of all the sites included in the survey, mainly due to the section of my transect along the top of Clifton Grove seemingly being very good for butterflies. I also recorded through Clifton wood and Holme Pit too, but these areas weren't as productive.

2012 perhaps wasn't the best time to start a butterfly survey, as it turned out to be the worst year for the nations butterflies on record, due to it being the wettest spring and wettest June for years. I did however see plenty of butterflies, with the record being 105 in one visit. Here is a table of 8 of my 12 visits that i made (I don't know where the other data got to.)

I saw 16 species across the year, with the majority being Small and Large Whites, and Ringlets. Even through the wetter weather, Ringlets could still be found in good numbers during their peak flight time.

Vanessids were mainly represented by Red admirals, particularly late in the season when i remember seeing up to 50 individuals, feeding on ivy flowers in the late summer sun. Commas were also seen in good numbers late in the season but were poorly represented early on. Small tortoiseshells were notable by their absence, with only 1 individual recorded, and I didn't see any Painted Ladies anywhere in the UK in 2012.

Whites were most common, with Orange-tips being more frequent down in the woodland section before the tree canopy leafed over. They were rarely noted on the top of the grove. Brimstones were very scarce.

Skippers did well, mainly due to the vast array of grasses available to them up on the grove. Small skippers were most frequent, though Large skipper wasn't too far behind. I don't recall recording Essex Skipper.

Ringlets dominated the counts of Browns, with numbers in the high 50's at their peak. Meadow Browns were also quite frequent, and Speckled wood were almost constant throughout, with a definite peak when the second brood emerged. Gatekeepers fared well elsewhere but for some reason were scarce on my transect.

The only Lycaenid recorded was Holly Blue, which was more common in the second emergence, mainly due to much better weather i presume. Lots were noted on Ragwort and flying high along the woodland edge.

Even though nothing extraordinary was recorded (to be expected here), I really enjoyed learning more about our more common butterflies, especially their life cycle and different emergence times. It was interesting seeing the site change through the season too. I even saw my first Spotted Flycatcher on the transect too.

I've carried it on this year but I now am focusing my attention on the section on the grove, as it is enough to keep my interest going. I'll keep an eye out for any moths too. I'll update on the progress of the survey throughout the summer.

Pictures taken at Clifton Grove, 2012

Monday, 3 June 2013

Lake District Trip 26th-31st May

Just got back from a few days in the Lake District. I have some relatives that live up there on the banks of Coniston Water and Michelle and I have made a habit of going up there recently, after I used to visit as a child many years ago. The surroundings are amazing, with the looming peaks of the Coniston fells overlooking from the north, while the Blawith fells are just round the corner and Grizedale Forest just over the lake. We went last year and I got some good birding in so I was ready to do it all again, filling some gaps in the year list as well as seeing some birds which are difficult to see back home in Notts.

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dodd Wood

We got there on the Sunday and spent an hour sat on the Jetty at lake bank, just two minutes walk from the flat. The first birds we saw on the water were a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, which breed here in small numbers. Surrounding us were loads of birds in song, including many Willow Warblers (probably one of the most commonly heard birds of the trip), as well as lots of Song Thrush and Garden Warblers. While watching the far bank an Oystercatcher was seen intermittently as well as my first Common Sandpipers of the year, a pair flying through and landing off in the distance. We sat and had a barbecue until it got dark, hearing the first of many Cuckoos of the trip, as well as several Tawny Owls and small groups of House Martins were seen feeding over the water til well into dusk.

Red Breasted Merganser, Coniston Water

The next day we got the standard Lake District rain, so we stayed around the flat most of the day, but we did manage a Coal Tit and Yellowhammer from the window, before finally getting out til the evening when we walked over to Beacon Tarn, a short 3 mile loop from the flat. Here we finally saw some more typical birds of the area, the ubiquitous Meadow Pipit, Skylarks, as well as some Reed Buntings and Whitethroats. The highlight however was a wonderful male Whinchat, the first I've seen for ages and great to see in its favoured upland environment, rather than just on passage. 

Red Squirrel, Dodd Wood
Red Squirrel, Dodd Wood

Tuesday saw us return to a spot we visited last year, Dodd wood, on the Eastern shore of Bassenthwaite Lake, as the draw of seeing Red Squirrels with very little effort was too much for us to resist. The wood is managed by the Forestry Commission, therefore very much Pine-oriented, and therefore quite quiet bird wise apart from the constant sound of Siskins and Goldcrests in the treetops. There is a feeding station set up which attracts swarms of Chaffinches and Coal Tits, as well as less frequent Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Jays. Red squirrels are the stars of the show however, coming within a few metres to mop up the nuts left for them on tree stumps. Its amazing to be able to see these stunning little mammals with such ease and nice to see them doing so well. In the whole trip I didn't see one grey squirrel, so the Reds seem to be holding on for now. We also got very distant views of the Bassenthwaite Ospreys. The RSPB volunteers which man the viewing points are very dedicated and knowledgeable, and are great at enthusing the public about these wonderful birds, but the birds are so distant that a white speck in the scope is the best view you get. Much better at Rutland I'm afraid, but excellent nonetheless.

Coal Tit, Dodd Wood

On the Wednesday we took a bus to Coniston to walk over to Tarn Hows, a manmade tarn , formed of 3 smaller tarns by a Victorian entrepreneur in a bid to attract more visitors to the area. It was pretty, but to me it had a 'country park' feel to it and didn't really have to magic of the lakes that is experienced elsewhere, although I did get a lifer in the form of a Tree Pipit, so can't complain too much. The walk itself however was beautiful and I finally got one of my target birds, Wood Warbler, with many accompanying us along the walk with their distinctive 'spinning coin' song. On the way to Tarn Hows wood we also got great views of a Common Redstart, feeding in some grassland, before being disturbed by a group of walkers before I could get my camera out. The walk back went down a steep path following a beck with some beautiful waterfalls, and resulted in the first Dippers of the trip as well as a Grey Wagtail. Several more Cuckoos were heard throughout the day too. 

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dodd Wood

Our last full day was spent in the comparatively quiet Duddon Valley, a corner of the Lakes less well trodden by the hoards of tourists. The narrow winding roads seemed little used and the village of Seathwaite which was our base for the day was little more than a cluster of farmhouses centred around a charming little pub. The walk took us up the hills to the desolate Seathwaite tarn, with barren crags and hillsides surrounding us and the only sound to accompany us being the blowing wind and the occasional Meadow Pipit in song. as we climbed higher, Wheatears began to appear, which were welcome as i missed these on passage this year so it was nice to catch up with them. When we got to the dam at the tarn, fringed by dark rocky summits, a Raven flew slowly over in the blue skies above, somehow bringing home the desolate feel of the valley with its lonely calls. The walk back was incredible and topped the holiday off, with the sun beating down upon us, Wood warblers sang away in the trees as we picked our way along the rocky banks of the river Duddon, and we even took a swim in the icy clear waters of the river, before nipping in for a pint at the village pub.

 Our last evening was spent watching bats in the fading light and a roding woodcock, viewed right outside the front door, really topped the week off. The only birds missing from the week were Ring Ouzels and Pied Flycatchers, which I managed last year, but I really can't complain.

Red Squirrel, Dodd Wood