Thursday 26 May 2011

Powerstock Common and Sand Lizards at Dawlish Warren

Having not managed even a glimpse of a Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth in north Devon last week I decided to do a bit of internet research to find out if there were any possible sites for them nearer to home and found one no more than forty minutes drive away. Even though it was already quite late in the morning I just couldn't wait to check it out so set off straight away. It's a superb place a mixture of ancient woodland with coppiced areas, acid, neutral and calcareous grassland, old hedge banks and ponds. I saw plenty of butterflies (13 species) and day flying moths including three Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moths! I couldn't get a photo though, they are just so difficult to follow in flight, especially on the rough grassland terrain where running was out of the question! Still, I was thrilled to have seen them at last and because it's so near to home ( I call 24 miles near) I'll be able to pop back there for another chance. Also on the wing here were Marsh Fritillaries, a bit more worn than the ones in Devon as they tend to emerge earlier in the year on their Dorset sites. I also saw a Southern Hawker, a dragonfly that isn't usually seen until high summer, definitely the earliest I've seen one, though this year nothing surprises me! It is usually a good site for orchids too, they don't seem to be doing very well this year though, due to the extremely dry conditions I suspect.

Teeming with life!
'Unimproved' grassland at Powerstock Common.
A serious business: 
I saw this group setting up an array of equipment to photograph something. 'Must be something really good' I thought. I stopped to see what the fuss was about and was surprised to see the object of all this attention was just a Burnet Moth.
 Twenty minutes later on my return trip along the path and they're still at it! 
Perhaps it was some sort of wildlife photography class?
 I couldn't resist taking a few snapshots of the Marsh Fritillaries. This one is a bit worn and shows the characteristic greasy appearance to the wings which gave them the name Greasy Fritillary in the past.
A pair (female above) sharing an Orchid
Heath Spotted Orchid ( I think?)

On Tuesday I went to Dawlish Warren to try and see the Sand Lizards there after having failed on a couple of occasions last year. They showed so well this time that I don't know how I managed to not  see them before. Oh, and boy are they green!!
This one isn't threatening me. He's yawning I think, they do it a lot. He hadn't even seen me because I was using a lot of zoom. They do seem very used to people though. I was sitting quietly trying not to move when a guy walked past within about a foot of one of the lizards and I was quite surprised when it didn't move at all.
 Even more zoom (say what you like about digital zoom, but I think it's great on occasions like this when you can't get close enough for a macro shot))
 Even though the males are brightly coloured they are very well camouflaged. Can you see him? He's right in the centre and looking our way!....a bit closer...
 ...and  now with full optical plus digital zoom applied....
And just to show I was being honest about the yawning thing  heres a very short video of another one doing the same.

I saw a new flower for me here too Blue-eyed Grass, which wasn't in most of my books because it's an American species, naturalized at this site. I noticed it while looking for Adder's Tongue ferns which I couldn't find, but I was very pushed for time. One to go back for though.
Blue-eyed Grass
Now brace yourself for a shock...
Yes, it's a bird! I saw this Common Whitethroat with a bill-full of poor unfortunates.

And finally while on the subject of reptiles Bun let me know about a Grass Snake which was under a tin sheet on his neighbours garden. I went over to try and take a photo but hadn't envisaged the difficulty I'd have in holding up the large sheet of corrugated iron with one hand while taking a photo with the other. in the end I held it up with my foot, I must have looked ridiculous! It didn't help that the sheet was covered in ants. I was still finding them in my clothing hours later! The photos I got weren't very good in the end either but here they are anyway.

 I couldn't stand far enough back to get it all in the frame.
So I tried a close-up of the head.
A bit out of focus but I like this as I managed to get it with its tongue out!
It noticed me and started to retreat so I quickly switched to video, you can here it hissing at me!


Adam Hartley (Gnome) said...

Hi Karen, just to let you know that your second video, supposedly of the grass snake is actually the sand lizard again.


Karen Woolley said...

I can't understand why that's happened Adam, it's showing the right video on my computer whether I'm logged onto blogger or not. My daughter got it to work fine too on another computer. I'll have to see if anyone else reports the same problem.



kirstallcreatures said...

That Sand Lizard is quite the poser!