Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The dulcet tones of summer, and a guided tour

Inland migration has slowed right down, and the soft tones of Summer have set in, albeit with oppressive levels of heat during the last 30 days. Today the garden has finally had a good dump of rain which the flowers we have been planting will enjoy.

With avian interest naturally dipping,  Lepidoptera are keeping me busy. Some nice firsts in the garden trap, including Scorched Wing, Figure Eighty, Cream-bordered Green Pea, Small Angle Shades, Puss Moth and a garden record count of 174 Moths of 64 species on the night of the 24/25 June.

The Swallowtail was always high on the agenda in June, as I had been asked to privately tour a small group with this target species in mind. I had been successful at Wheatfen (4) and Strumpshaw (3) during June, but with poor weather seeing out the month I had to move the tour to early July. Thankfully, the group were not disappointed and we achieved views of 2/3 Swallowtail at Strumpshaw Fen. I think though that they were won over by the White Admirals and the sheer volume of Comma we saw on the day. I have decided I need to formally advertise these guided tours, as I have completed a few over the last few years and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have added a tab on the homepage with testimony. Hopefully more to come. Being keenly aware of my own knowledge base and skill set, the private tours would suit folk who are perhaps visiting the area or who are unaware of what is local to them. If you know of anyone at a loose end who ticks those boxes, send them my way! Ultimately, I enjoy sharing what I know and helping people connect with nature. The teacher bit does at least come in handy.

The evening dance of the Purple Hairstreak is something Matthew Oates has written about. A colony was present on Oaks in Claxton last year, but my max count was only around 5. However, on a humid but grey evening last week I counted at least 15 so I am pleased to report the colony has expanded. I have been re-visiting, but have drawn a blank in less favourable conditions so far. Down on the marsh, a Barn Owl has been seen carrying food, 3 juvenile Kestrel were brief sentinels atop a wooden gate, and a Hobby can occasionally be seen commuting over the house.

News from Wheatfen- Silver-washed Fritillary are back for the first time since 2014, and have been seen egg laying. I managed 2 on a quick visit with Rose in the beech woodland 2 weeks ago. Smashing orange tanks these things, real purpose to their movements. A great addition to the patch.

Arse end of a Frit

Friday, 7 July 2017

That night in King's Forest

I have put a fair few hours in over the years in the Thetford Forest complex, searching for Long-eared Owl. My best views of this crepuscular species have always been on migration, but that all changed when Ricky and I descended into the forest in early June following a tip-off and a from Shaky which suggested I might finally achieve the views I had craved. Locations will not be given out for obvious reasons.

Arriving at the site around 9pm, we inadvertantly flushed 3 young birds which had been roosting on the ground, a slightly different spot to a day or so ago. Stepping back, we listened as the Owls began to squeak. Naturally curious, it did not take long for the young to begin a few practise flights, one particular bird confident enough to fly past us as we stood flabbergasted in the ride. I knew as I watched this unfold, this was a wildlife highlight I would look back on with fondness for the rest of my days. Feeling as if we had taken up enough of their time, and to allow the adults to arrive with food, we left just after 9.30 and headed back. On route, we had a Nightjar veer overhead against an almost purple-tinged sky and at least 5 were heard churring that evening. At the clearing where we started, I commented that it was really too dark to pick out an adult hunting on the far side. I need not have worried, for right on cue an adult passed a metre or so above us and proceeded to hunt a margin in front of us! The perfect evening had just got better. What was most intriguing, was trying to pin this adult down to a nest. For, after another short walk, we picked up another 2 young at a different nest. A lack of Tawny Owls in the area was a good sign that quietly, these birds have established themselves here over many years and are doing OK. Throw in the Tree Pipits, Viper's Bugloss and a moon that ate up the sky, and I had finally nailed Long-eared Owl in The Brecks in the best possible manner with an accompanying cast of thousands.

Photo courtesy of a West Ham fan.