Saturday 9 May 2015

Duke of Burgundy

It's that time of year again when I just have to go and reacquaint myself with that beautiful little gem that is the Duke of Burgundy. It appears to be clinging on in The Blackdown Hills in Somerset with just a handful of adults seen each year. Today after waiting for over an hour for the sun to put in an appearance I saw just two individuals, both males. One was very obliging as far as photos were concerned as he appeared to be very recently emerged and was taking some time to warm up. A tiny little butterfly, and not the showiest but it's definitely one of my favourites.

Duke of Burgundy - Hamearis lucina

I also saw a single Dingy Skipper, my first this year but didn't get a photo. I did get a few shots of a Bee Fly though.

Bee Fly - Bombylius major
Nectaring on Cowslip - Primula veris

Friday 8 May 2015

Stonebarrow Hill and Night Heron at Black Hole Marsh

On Tuesday afternoon I drove over to Dorset again but not far this time, only to the Charmouth area. I was visiting Stonebarrow Hill for the first time ever. To tell the truth I'd never really heard of it until this week. I don't know how that happened as it's a superb site with great views. The main reason for my visit was to look for the colony of Green-winged Orchids that grow there. As you may have noticed I've already visited a Green-winged Orchid site in Somerset this year but I didn't manage to see an all white flower. I'd read that there were quite a few at this particular site this season so was keen to have a look. There was one major problem with my plan though....the weather. It was blowing a near gale with gale force gusts! I found the colony easily enough and also the white flowers of which there were a good dozen or so but taking photos was going to be a bit tricky. I persevered and am totally gobsmacked at how well the photos came out. These high tech digital cameras are simply amazing!

View from Stonebarrow Hill looking east towards Golden Cap.

Carpets of Green-winged Orchids...

... Bending in the 'breeze'

White flower with only colouration being the green veins on the wings.

This very unusual and striking plant had white flowers and purple labellum spots

 A 'shocking pink' plant.

This afternoon a couple of texts from the old patch (thanks Bun and Ian M) alerted me to the presence of a Night Heron a bird which would be a lifer for me so I had to drop everything and head straight there. There has been a Night Heron on the patch before but just before I was 'in the loop' so I didn't see that one. I haven't made any effort to twitch one as I was always hoping one would show up nearby soon enough. I didn't think I'd have to wait NINE years though!

When I arrived it was showing pretty well, perched in a small oak tree next to the tower hide, it was rather obscured by branches though. It was also visibly exhausted and the only real movements it made were when it started to nod off and startled as it was about to fall off the branch. Poor soul. The weather was very dull and it soon started to rain but I managed to get a good digiscoped record shot. I hope it is able to feed tonight and perks up a bit. It would be a shame if it succumbs to the lovely British climate, it looked really sorry it ever came here!

 It was quite well camouflaged in the tree next to a nice plastic bag.

A very tired Night Heron 
Bird No. 355 for me.


Tuesday 5 May 2015

Hudsonian Godwit Twitch

Sunday was the first opportunity for me to go and see the Hudsonian Godwit on the somerset Levels being the first day that it was present and I wasn't at work. Bun had already seen it on its first day obviously, but I asked him if he'd like to go again, I mean, who wouldn't?! He told me that Tim W. was looking to get a lift because he hadn't got a car at the moment, so late morning after hearing the news that it was still present the three of us set off. I must say the relatively short drive up to the Somerset levels seemed to take a lot less time than usual as we were entertained by Tim's tales of his recent holiday to Lesvos and by the time we arrived at the massive new car park at Ashcott corner I was well and truly gripped off! I really must go to Greece some day.

It was lovely and sunny when we arrived at the scrape, where the bird was in view but fast asleep in amongst the large Blackwit flock. Apparently it had been like this for most of the morning, but not to worry because no sooner had the sky turned a lovely shade of black and began tipping it down the whole flock woke up and began to feed. I didn't see much of this because I'd retreated to hide in the bushes until the shower had passed. When the rained eventually stopped some great views were had although the light was often poor so digiscoping proved quite difficult. The flock also had a couple of short fly-abouts and I managed to get a few flight shots too. As always at large twitches it was nice to catch up with a few familiar faces as well. We stayed for around three hours and as well as the Hudwit we also saw a Cuckoo, a drake Garganey, several Hobbies, Great White Egrets and Marsh Harriers and heard a Bittern too. It was quite unusual at this excellent reserve to have not seen one though.

For a Sunday there weren't that many people but it was the bird's 6th (and last it seems) day.

The large scrape behind the ditch is where the Godwit flock was and as you can see it's pretty distant but scope views were excellent. The sky was this colour for most of the time but fortunately it only rained heavily the once.

For a long time the view was like this but eventually the birds spread out and gave some great views.

It really stands out from the crowd in flight both from below...

...And above.

Husonian Godwit 
Coming in to land and really showing off those black under-wing coverts.

A Great White Egret in breeding plumage was showing quite well on the scape at times too.

And also in flight, here captured at a most embarrassing moment!

Friday 1 May 2015

Spring Flowers on Salcombe Hill

Last Sunday I spent a couple of hours walking on Salcombe Hill, as usual I didn't see much on the bird front, although it has been a very quite spring so far in the East Devon area so it's probably not anything to do with the site itself. Hopefully there's a chance it may improve over the next couple of weeks but in the meantime I've been looking at the lovely wildflowers on show in the area. Did you notice that I quite like wildflowers? There were a surprising amount of flowers in a small area and here are a few of the highlights.

The woods and grassy slopes were carpeted in Bluebells

BluebellHyacinthoides non-scripta

Also available in white.

Also a few Early Purple Orchids

Here with an unidentified visitor possibly a female Dungfly - Scathophagus sp.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula

Bush Vetch - Vicia sepium

Greater Stitchwort - Stellaria holostea

Ground Ivy - Glechoma hederacea

Cuckoo Flower - Cardamine pratensis

Early Forget-me-not - Myosotis ramosissima

Wood Forget-me-not - Myosotis sylvatica
(difficult to separate from a similar garden form which is widely naturalized) 

 Herb Robert - Geranium robertianum

Ramsons - Allium ursinum

Along a nearby lane there was a massive patch of the naturalized garden escape Creeping Comfrey which was alive with bumblebees.

Creeping Comfrey - Symphytum grandiflorum

With Common Carder Bee - Bombus pascuorum