Monday, 25 June 2018

Away from home- Salcey Forest and Oundle

I've had the date in the diary for a while, and after the abject failure of Skipper hunting during the May half term week I was keen to make amends and do some more exploring in the Midlands. This time, the targets were Black Hairstreak and Wood White, before meeting up with friend Allan and an Oundle pub crawl. 

Upon arrival at the Horse trail (see below; confirmation I was in the right place thanks to the scribbled b.h. and star that could be a Butterfly on the sign?) I had walked a matter of metres before I was stopped in my tracks by a Purple Emperor that landed on the track and briefly fed on salts, sun-bathed and finally disappeared high into the canopy. An incredible encounter, and I did not once think to grab the camera of course. Onwards, and White Admirals were flighty but numerous. The Damselfy below is I believe a female Beautiful Demoiselle, a nice bonus if so as this is a species I had not counted on seeing, and indeed have not seen at all in the UK. I scanned the tops of the Blackthorn, hoping for a glimpse of the rare and restricted Black Hairstreak. I found a smaller trail and could see where long grass had been walked over and felt this could deliver the goods. Sure enough, a Black Hairstreak came down to the ground and did allow me to observe and take a photo. Further sightings were mainly as the species skimmed along the top of the blackthorn bushes. I found this Butterfly easier to connect with than Brown Hairstreak last summer, which appeared to be a stronger flyer and less prone to settling. But this was a Black- rarer, apparently more approachable, and restricted to ancient woodland in the Midlands. 

I spoke with a group led by a chap from Butterfly Conservation, who said they had only seen 1 Wood White. I didn't fancy the drive to Bucknell Wood south of here, and at this stage the elusive Wood White looked like it would remain to be just that. I continued to search for another hour, spying more Black Hairstreak flitting through the thorns and brambles. Finally, I got lucky. A very small white species appeared, rarely straying beyond or below a metre above ground level. I followed it up and down a forest ride, and concluded that I had never seen a white species look or behave like this. This was a Wood White! Another chap walked past, and confirmed my thoughts. 

With my 2 targets achieved and numerous other species seen, I headed to Oundle. I knew I was close, Red Kites began to black out the sky. With the sun obscured by cloud, a trip to Glapthorn at this point of the day was probably not worth it. Instead, we investigated the local food festival and continued on to various drinking holes to watch football and rugby. The following morning, we emptied the Moth trap and I was pleased that both Privet and Poplar Hawk had made an appearance, as well as Large Nutmeg NFY and a couple of micros in Oak Green Tortrix and Large Ivy Tortrix. 

I am back this way for a social event in July, and must pop in to the Chequered Skipper pub. Hopefully a few years down the line, and this species' reintroduction will be complete and another good reason to visit.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Well, I talked that up!

Finally, Marsh Warbler week delivered on the patch. A message from Tim alerted me to the presence of a local bird so I headed down that evening (first time out of the house for a few days due to virus!) and in breezy but bright conditions I watched a male singing amongst a scrubby reedbed. I made a few notes of birds imitated: Blackbird, Song Thrush, Blue Tit, Common Tern, Swift, Wren, Oystercatcher, Reed Bunting, Swallow, Icterine Warbler (?) and Zitting Cisticola (?). The bird was seen well enough to observe the rump and pale fringes to tertial feathers. Also around were 2 Cuckoo.  I wonder as to the bird's origins. The species imitated are all resident in Northern France, Belgium and the low countries. I could not make out any Mediterranean species amongst its repertoire. Further birds have been recorded at a few locations on the Suffolk coast, and one at Strumpshaw Fen this Spring. I would tentatively suggest this bird has overshot its usual breeding patch by only a short distance as the Crow flies. No doubt this will go down as a highlight of the year, and to be honest will be tough to top.

This morning I walked a little aimlessly through light drizzle at an increasingly humid Surlingham Church Marsh. A Coot was with 4 young on the lagoon, and a young Water Rail squealed. A Common Tern was hawking over the small patch of water, and in song were Chiffcaff, Blackcap and Reed Warbler. Perhaps looking for second broods.

Red Kite update- 1 at Hales and 1 at Stockton this past week.

I smashed through the 100 Moth count this morning, and after a recount also managed over 50 species. NFM was the understated Water Ermine, a Broadland specialist. New for the year were Dark Arches, Rosy Footman, Ghost (a female, but notoriously hard to rear any caterpillars that may follow the eggs) and Small Angles Shades amongst others. Looking forward to another overnight trap and a morning walk round Rockland tomorrow.

Next weekend, I am staying with a friend who is conveniently located in the heartland of the Black Hairstreak with Wood White nearby. It would be silly not to, so I look forward to a couple of days in pursuit of Butterflies and probably some ale in Oundle.