Thursday, 28 July 2016

Garden Moths and local Willow Emerald

Cracking few days of trapping in the garden. On returning from Northumberland, I plan to catalogue my finds but until then have been uploading onto the excellent Norfolk Moths website. Many highlights to speak of, and lists longer than I care to type, but here are a few of the crowd pleasers. Many of these were trapped and then visited by Joe and James, so I was pleased with such variety.

 Garden Tiger, 2 of these rested outside the trap until early morning. 

Wow. Antler Moth. Exquisite and amongst my favourites.  

A great double act, Pebble and Swallow Prominent.

This got us searching for an ID. Balsam Carpet. Not so common.


I am thrilled to have confirmed Willow Emerald at a local private site, Ducan's Marsh. Other cool stuff here included Brown and Migrant Hawkers, Long winged Coneheads and a Hornet-mimic Hoverfly, the same species I have had outside my house in the last week. Thanks to James and Joe for helping me confirm these species.

Willow Emerald Damselfly. Note the pale Pterostigma.

Long-winged Conehead. 



Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Butterfly Extravaganza

With a continued spell of warm and sunny weather, I have been launching operation Butterfly over the last 4 days, with splendid results. Spurred on by Matthew Oates' book and a belief that this is something I 'can' do (peak birding time often held up by work, but long halcyon days in the summer allow for extra time in the field) I began with a visit to Bonny Wood in Barking, near the family home in Suffolk. In fact, many of the family turned out for the walk including Moysiebirder and dad. The 23rd was a hot day, the wood itself quiet save for the buzz of insects. We were onto our first Silver-washed Fritillaries before long, at least 6 individuals dashed past us on the woodlands rides, rarely stopping to feed and not allowing any photos. A few of us got onto Purple Hairstreak high up in the Oaks, and on the way back we found a much more confiding and more easily observed colony. The target- Purple Emperor- did fly through high and strong, but sadly only myself and Ben got onto this beast of the canopy. Walking back to the village, Ben was quick to spot a White Admiral, completing a good haul although views were a challenge. Really exciting to think that the neighbouring parish to home has Purple Emperor- and now I have the evidence to prove it to myself! I wonder what their status is in Suffolk? The Theberton colony are apparently introduced, but with others popping up at Bradwell and Monk's Wood, perhaps this enigmatic species is on the rise and has naturally expanded its range in my home county. 

With Emperor season at its peak, I was keen to try Fermyn Woods for the first time, tying in a visit to a friend and a beer festival/village fete. Arriving midday on the 25th, the bright sunshine had been replaced by cloud and locals were reporting hard work inside the Fermyn complex. I spent an hour on the first ride, craning my neck in an attempt to identify a small Hairstreak colony. There were a few Elms around, so probably White-letter, but not confirmed. Then, a larger Butterfly caught my eye- a Purple Emperor high above the canopy. Jackpot. Walking on to a small clearing, I observed Silver-washed Fritillary engaging in what can only be described as harassment by male on female, and another Emperor perched high up just out of good view. With the day fast disappearing, I retraced my steps and eventually achieved good views of a perched Emperor, too high to even dare photograph. I was desperate for one to come to ground, but on this occasion my experience of this species in Hertfordshire a few years ago was not to be eclipsed. (See here: http://jimsbirdingblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/purple-emperor-visit.html)

Onwards then to Bedford Purlieus, absolutely no sign posting for this area of Rockingham Forest but when I pulled over to consult the map and a Fritillary flew past, I decided I was in the right place. With only half an hour until I was due to meet my friend for the first pint, I spoke to a couple of guys searching for the target species here- White-letter Hairstreak. One chap had been looking for 3 hours and was then headed home. Even if I could have caught up with him, not sure I would have dared show him the image I captured below. Very lucky. Easily my best views of this species.  

 White-letter Hairstreak, Bedford Purlieus, Northants. 

We made a surprisingly early start this morning despite the late night at Thurning Fest, during which I won a bottle of QE2 Whiskey, unopened in decanter. (Whiskey auction sites have this going for around 100 quid! One to hide in the cupboard and forget about). Although I knew it was too late in the season to look for Black Hairstreak, I wanted to check out their stronghold, Glapthorn Cow Pastures. An enchanting little reserve, and hopefully a return visit here next June will deliver. Today, we contented ourselves with commoner species and the contsant mournful call of the Bullfinch. Goes without saying almost, but Red Kites were everywhere.


 Inside the reserve- no cows or horses in sight, just a lot of Blackthorn. 

I then headed home, via Devil's Dyke on the Cambs/Suffolk border. I have been meaning to visit here for years, and what a treat this was. 100s of Chalkhill Blues fluttering over the chalky hillsides here, a new species for me. It was not long until I added another first, Marbled White. I only counted 5 of these which were subsequently harder to pin down and photograph.

So, an excellent few days and thanks to James Emerson for site details. I snapped a few wildflowers pictures which I am hoping he will be able to id when I see him Thursday! Cheers James.

 Chalkhill Blue, Devil's Dyke

 View from the Dyke- keep walking for Reach Fen! 

 6-spot Burnet Moth

Marbled White

Thursday, 21 July 2016

In pursuit of Summer

The English football team have been knocked out of a major tournament, and we have left The European Union, since I last posted. A while ago, then. 

As the holidays approached, I appeased myself with decent views of the Caspian Tern at Breydon Water, a species that had given me the slip on more than one occasion in the past. Into activities week, and myself and a group of students witnessed a Marsh Harrier food pass at Cley, a Spotted Flycatcher at Flatford and a first for me- an Old Lady Moth in the trap at school. An excellent final week of work which the kids seemed to enjoy, particularly the bit where I handled a False Widow Spider, unaware of it's inherent danger. 

At Church Marsh, I am close to confirming the breeding of Bearded Tits. I recorded this species almost 5 years ago when I first began visiting Surlingham, and expected it to be elusive but annual. This did not prove to be the case, so this marks a welcome return for a Broadland specialist. I have seen 2 birds together, one of which was a juvenile/female, but better views needed. Elsewhere, the dearth in Waders continues, but both Reed and Sedge seem to have had a good breeding season. 

Notable, a Yellow Wagtail bathing close to the A146 at the start of the month. A return visit involved hiking along a field margin in a suit, with nothing for company but the Skylark's song. No Wagtail. 

Yesterday, I embarked on a walk from my house, down to the river (pub number one, excellent pint of Green Jack), west, taking in Rockland Broad, away from the river, pub number two (new Woodfordes ale, can't recall the name) and home. It was hot, with a welcome breeze. Highlights were being surrounded by Migrant Hawkers on the river bank, tracking a young Chinese Water Deer, and a Great-crested Grebe on nest close to the footpath. 10 species of Butterfly were recorded, along with the end of a Grass Snake.

Next week, return of the Moth Trap from work, and a foray out of Norfolk and into Northants and Cambs- In Pursuit of Butterflies. The book of the same title has got me all fired up, and whilst I have seen Purple Emperor before, a reconnection with his majesty is needed. Tie that in with a beer festival somewhere near Oundle, and Monday is made.