Friday 28 May 2010

White Helleborine and Stuff

I'm not getting much time for this here blogging lark of late, so this will have to be a quickie. A trip to Dorset on Thursday resulted in my first ever sighting of White Helleborine at a sight near to Badbury Rings, a lovely elegant orchid as a rule but the few spikes we saw were quite stunted. Still very beautiful non the less. Before looking for these we visited Martin Down where there were very few flowers to see and no sign whatsoever of the Burnt Tip Orchids I saw last year (there you go Tom, you obviously can twitch orchids because you can certainly dip them!). The weather was awful, damp and cold so no butterflies about either.There were lots of Corn Buntings, Lesser Whitethroats and Turtle Doves though so worth going definitely.
White Helleborine

Small Eggar caterpillars on larval web.
Tucking into Blackthorn Shoots
This Dryad's Saddle fungus was a monster.
While I was away in Dorset this happened...
After living in a small propagator in the pantry amongst the tins of beans for the last eight months my Elephant Hawkmoth finally emerged and I missed it! Still it was brilliant to see the perfect form of the newly emerged moth. Even though it is only one of probably millions of Elephant Hawkmoths to emerge this year I still felt a bit emotional as I watched it take its maiden flight into the night.

Monday 24 May 2010

Squacco Heron

Popped down to Par near St Austell in Cornwall yesterday to see the Squacco Heron that's busy stuffing its face on a small fishing pool. Another lifer for me, for which I happily (but I must admit slightly reluctantly) put off a visit to Martin Down to look for (amongst other stuff) rare plants. I wasn't expecting to be 'bowled over' by the bird, after all it was just  going to be a brownish Egret. How wrong was I?! It was very sexy indeed! I
hadn't realised just how colourful they can be. It was also very close, in trees on a small island not much more than 50ft away. It showed superbly, preening and clambering about in the branches, it also made a couple of brief visits to the ground. It was tricky getting any photos without branches in the way, but on the plus side the dappled lighting amongst the branches made for some artistic looking shots.

The bird was in the trees on the island to the left of the photo.
Squacco Heron
On Friday night we had three more new moths for the garden, namely White Ermine, Eyed Hawkmoth and Orange Footman. I didn't manage to get photos of the stunning Eyed Hawkmoth because due to the warm weather I had left the kitchen door wide open when I got it out to take the photo. Big mistake! Doh! Fortunately it made it into a nearby tree before any birds spotted it. I took snaps of the other two and also of a Green Carpet (because it was the first actually green one we've had) and a Buff Tip (because they're so cool).

White Ermine
Orange Footman
Green Carpet
Buff Tip
I saw this immature Scarce Chaser today at Lower Bruckland Ponds.

Thursday 20 May 2010

New Moths

Over the last couple of nights we've had seven new moths for the garden.
Least Black Arches
Treble Lines
Pale Prominent 
Pale Tussock, which has got a very...
....hairy face!
Scalloped Hazel
Square Spot
Light Brocade?
Not new but I don't think I've ever got a photo of one before. 
Common White Wave
Plus a token bird photo from today's walkies, a female Whitethroat with 

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Lundy and Somerset Levels

Well the trip to Lundy was er, erm, shall we say, 'character building' .We had six hours on the island and for five of them we were treated to a blanket of thick fog and intermittent downpours; not the best weather to appreciate the beautiful surroundings in. There weren't that many birds to be seen, just a few common migrants, well that's all I could make out through the murk. The six hours (which I'm sure would pass all too quickly in pleasant weather) seemed to drag on forever. Having said that I saw enough of the island to want to go back and give it another chance! ;-) Photos were never going to be much cop but I took a few of things I could see through the fog.

After the fog had lifted I saw this Feral Goat. Exciting stuff eh?

Sikas in the mist.
Sika Deer.

The view down Millcombe Valley.
 MS Oldenburg  visible in the distance and "what's that fascinating yellow plant?" I hear you cry!......
Yes indeedy. The Lundy Cabbage!!
 Don't ask me what makes it different from ordinary Wild Cabbage, coz I don't know. 
I'm sure whatever it is, is very interesting though.

I was planning on writing about the 'Lundy experience' sooner than this but got somewhat delayed by having to spend almost all of Monday in bed having woken up with the worst migraine I've had for several years. I reckon it must have been brought on by the excitement of  finally seeing the Lundy Cabbage. I'm going to have to stay off the rare plants for a while! ;-)

This morning I accompanied Steve on a trip to the Somerset Levels, where we were hoping to see Hairy Dragonfly and Variable Damselfly. What a superb morning it was! Not only did we see these two species of Odonata we also saw (and heard) some brilliant birds too. These included, Cuckoo, Bittern, at least ten Hobbies, a stunning male Marsh Harrier, and divers warblers, including some unusually showy Garden Warblers.
A Red-eyed Damselfly devouring a mosquito. Nice! 
Variable Damselfly, a new species for me.
Hairy Dragonfly. 
The first photo I've ever got of one of these as they're very difficult to approach.
I actually digiscoped this one from some considerable distance.
A nice 'specky' Bittern.
Garden Warbler
The first photo I've ever managed to get of one.

And to finish. A lovely fresh Speckled Wood, and why not?

Saturday 15 May 2010

Duke of Burgundy

You may or may not have noticed but I've been away from 'blogland' for a while, I've even had a week off work and not really seen or done anything worth blogging about. What an exciting life I lead! Actually I tell a lie, for last Saturday I (along with three other eager but deluded individuals) went to Cornwall to look at someone's 'tweety pie' . The House Finch was a very nice little bird, but wild? In all probability I think not. In our defence we did rush off for the bird before we'd heard news of the colour being 'all wrong'. We were very fortunate to be close at hand when the householder (somewhat reluctantly) agreed to let birders into his garden to view the bird a few at a time and were among the first to see it. I definitely wouldn't have queued for two hours or more, even if it was 'pukka'; I'm not that bonkers! ;-).

On Thursday and again today Steve and I went butterfly hunting in Somerset, although if you're a follower of Steve's blog you'll already know this. In fact I could just pop in a hyperkink to his blog here and save me the trouble of writing anything! No.I've started so I'll finish. The woodland where we were hoping to see Duke of Burgundy is where we usually go at this time of year to hear (and hopefully see) Nightingales. We usually go at dusk, when it's cold and the midges are biting, but never again! On Thursday's visit  (at around midday) I got my best ever views, and several were in really good voice too! ;-)

We managed to see a Duke of Burgundy today, a lone female ( I think), although it was great to see (a lifer for us both) it was also a little bit disheartening to know how poorly this species is doing in the UK. It may well become extinct here in the not too distant future. Such a shame. Other lifers were Grizzled Skipper and the 'aesthetically challenged' though non the less fascinating, Bird's Nest Orchid. And best of, best of, best of all! It was warm and sunny! :-)
Anyway enough waffling, here are a few pics.

This was the first one of these I've seen stationary. 
A Bee Fly.
Steve stalking a Grizzled Skipper, can you see it? It's very small.

Grizzled Skipper
Whilst I was trying to move a blade of grass from in front of the Duke of  Burgundy in order to get a better photo she moved over onto my finger! A 'magic moment' What a privilege!
Small definitely IS beautiful! 

Bird's Nest Orchid
When Steve saw these he said " Ugh! That's the worst thing I've ever seen!"
If that wasn't hyperbole then he's led a very sheltered life and needs to get out more!

Close ups of the flowers show that they have the typical orchid structure. I must admit they haven't a lot going for them in the looks department, but they're interesting and that's alright by me!

Talking of interesting, it's Lundy Cabbage day tomorrow and I can barely contain my excitement. Early start too so it's off to bed for me. Night night.