Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Young Kingfisher and Morons

I was lucky enough to get good views of this young Kingfisher on the estuary this morning. It was a shame the weather was so gloomy. I haven't seen a lot else toady it's pretty quiet. I went up Axe Cliff this afternoon and saw one bird, that's right just one bird! A Dunnock. This evening I was planning on spending a pleasant hour or so watching the valley from the farm gate viewpoint. Well, that was until I opened the car door, at which point the stink literally took my breath away. Some dirty bastards had emptied their chemical toilet on the grass at the edge of the layby. They must really appreciate the local area. That's right, come here on holiday cover the place in s**t!  Morons! Sometimes I wish it was winter already :-(

Anyway enough of that, have a look at the lovely Kingfisher.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

End of Season at Fontmell Down

Yesterday I joined Dave and Hazel for an end of season trip to Fontmell Down. We were hoping to see larger numbers of both Silver-spotted Skipper and Adonis Blues than on our last visit. We weren't due to be leaving Seaton until 9.00am which gave me ample time to nip down Black Hole Marsh and spend another hour not seeing my first ever patch Cuckoo. We weren't disappointed at Fontmell Down though with plenty of Adonis Blues and Silver-spotted Skippers on the wing, especially as the day warmed up. On our last visit I hadn't managed to get a nice photo of the diagnostic silver spots on the underwing of the Silver-spotted Skipper but they were behaving much better this time, even sharing their most intimate moments with us! Still lots of lovely wild flowers to see too. The six hours we were there just seemed to fly by. One of my favourite spots for sure!

Adonis Blue. 
I've never seen one with the row of black spots along the hind-wing before.

 An even more vivid individual.

Female Adonis Blue

Female Silver-spotted Skipper

...and a male.

A pretty worn out specimen which was content to sit on my warm hand.

Nectaring on Dwarf Thistle.

 I couldn't believe my luck when I spotted a mating pair complete with an interloper!

He's trying his best to 'get in on the action' so to speak. 
I didn't realise that they can bend their abdomens as far round as that!

A small and inconspicuous flower of chalk grassland.

Quite lovely close up.

After arriving home I responded to a text telling me the Cuckoo was showing at Black Hole Marsh again. I arrived just in time to learn it had flown off over the river. I waited another hour or so but again to no avail. That was seven hours I'd put in looking for it in total! I didn't bother this morning and had a lie in instead. I did eventually succumbed to temptation (or masochism) again this evening, arriving at 5pm to find out it had been seen half an hour ago. Aghh!  Finally though, in the last five minutes of my eighth  hour looking I spotted it flying over the lagoon and perching on the tram-wires. Pretty distant, but beggars (patch listers) can't be choosers! 


Sunday, 28 August 2011

This Week I Have Mostly Been Dipping

Starting on Wednesday when I hot-footed it ( well, not really I drove) over to Beer Cemetery Fields to see the Pied Flycatchers which Ian M had seen less than an hour earlier. Despite spending almost three hours there I didn't get a sniff of one. There was a nice 'first winter' male (can it be that already?) Common Redstart, at least six, probably eight Spotted Flycatchers and several Tree Pipits. The Redstart evaded my camera but the Spotted Flycatchers were posing well as usual. I noticed that they were catching a lot of  Meadow Brown butterflies which were looking pretty lethargic in the cooler weather we're having recently, always sad to see the butterflies on their 'last legs' so to speak. Today I've spent around four or five hours not seeing any sign of the juvenile Cuckoo that's been around the Black Hole Marsh/Stafford Marsh area for a few days. It was showing well yesterday afternoon at the exact time when I'd got to go to work and it was seen this morning briefly but not by me. I was even there at the tine but briefly went into a hide to check if it was on Colyford Common. When I came out it had been and gone. Rats! I've never seen a juvenile Cuckoo either. There were still plenty of nice waders  to look at on the lagoon tonight though, including a male and female Ruff and two Little Stints.

Juvenile Little Stint

And an adult I think

The female Juvenile Ruff.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Base Jumping Gull

Way back on the 4th of June, I mentioned on my blog that the single Herring Gull chick which hatched out in the precariously positioned nest on our chimney, subsequently fell a long way to the ground and lived. I rescued it from next door's drive and installed it on our out-house roof. Watching it grow has been a bit of a bitter sweet experience, the pleasure of watching a beautiful creature develop to its full potential ( Yes, I know some people hate Gulls...but not me I think they are beautiful) contrasting with the not so pleasurable fishy smell ( the nest I made for it was only a few feet above the back door) and the even worse dive-bombing we were subjected to on a daily basis. I had to run to the car with a brolly to be on the safe side! I was only actually hit by a poo-bomb once though. Fifty-one days after the impressive free-fall the youngster took her first flight (pretty sure it was a her, reason to follow) but I was dossing in bed and missed it. It must have been successful though, because that was it, she was gone. Both the parents kept coming back periodically but there was no sign of baby. Then last Wednesday, a whole 24 days later, when I'd given up hope of seeing her again I arrived home from work and was just feeding the Guinea Pigs when I heard a familiar sound. Both parents and baby were on the roof, she was still begging for food and the male gull duly obliged...yuk! . It was almost dark but I took a few snaps as a memento. I've seen her several times since...I wonder where she went for over three weeks?!

Scene of the initial 'base jump'. It's a tall house!

Day one.

After a week...very cute indeed!

After four weeks, um, not quite so cute now.

 Last Wednesday and the young gull is now about eleven weeks old and quite independent
although not adverse to a free meal if she can get it!

 The male gull is an absolute brute of a bird with a very fierce look about him and very unusual plumage. His mantle feathers look almost wet all the time because they have dark markings on them. I thought it was something to do with moulting at first but he always looks like this, it hasn't changed. I don't recall seeing any other gulls like it.

The young gull eventually developed into a very pretty individual with a small cute head which leads me to believe it's a female. Although some people ( unfortunately, probably many more than a few) would not thank me in the slightest for saving her life, thus ensuring another 'winged rat' is at large, I'm pleased I did. It was a pleasure...Not sure I'll miss the sight that greeted me most mornings when I opened the back door though...

...the doting mummy.. fully loaded and ready to attack!

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Same But Different

Earlier today I got to thinking that it was possible that Autumn Ladies Tresses were growing on patch, on Goat Island to be exact. I've seen a total of nine species of orchid there and Ladies Tresses would make a nice rounded ten! And here they are:

This time not on Fontmell Down but 'on patch' so totally different!

Large areas of Goat Island were carpeted with Autumn Gentian, mostly not in flower at the moment they are going to look spectacular in about a week I reckon.

Stunning flowers close up.

I've never seen a completely pink Small Scabious  like this before.

The sea was completely flat and I could just make out some cetaceans feeding about a mile off Beer Head which made me wish I'd taken a scope along. There wasn't much in the way of bird activity, just a few Linnets, Yellowhamers, a couple of Wheatears and a flock of  63 Swallows and a single Sand Martin resting on wires along the lane where I park.

This evening I made my usual Monday pilgrimage to Black Hole Marsh, one of only two evenings when I can get there and the evening really is the best time to be there, very few punters and more often than not superb light. I asked Martha along, she wasn't all that keen and when I took my scope out of the boot she exclaimed "Oh no! I didn't know you were bringing that, you'll be ages now! I thought we were just going to have a quick look"

Ten minutes later....  and I can't get a look in!

Still, with  my bins I noted lots ( I couldn't be bothered to count them) of Dunlin, two Ringed Plovers, three Greenshanks, three Wood Sandpipers, five Common Sandpipers, a Lapwing and a Knot. The Knot was quite distant at first and seemed rather unsteady on its legs, flapping every time it moved. All became clear when it flew a bit nearer and we could see it was actually unsteady on its leg!

Pretty sure it only had the one leg. It seemed to be managing well enough though.

I'm not sure what this Woodsand was trying to hide from.

 I've never had so many great views of  Wood Sandpipers.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Fontmell Down

Yesterday I (along with  the rest of the 'optimistic four', Dave, Hazel and Doug) visited Fontmell Down near Shaftesbury, Dorset. It was only my second ever visit here and it was every bit as wonderful as last time, well that's not exactly true because last time it was 'swarming' with Adonis Blues, and we were a bit early for them this time. Still, good excuse for another visit! The target species was Silver-spotted Skipper, again we were a bit early but were hoping to catch them in tip-top condition. We did see some but boy are they difficult to pin down! They only seemed to stay still long enough for me to switch my camera on, seldom nectaring and spending any time that they were stationary amongst the grass. The breezy conditions didn't help either I expect. Silver-spotted Skipper was the 53rd species that I've seen this year, though I don't suppose any regular readers of this blog will be surprised by that! Unfortunately the weather deteriorated rapidly after a couple of hours causing the butterflies to 'vanish'. Still, there's plenty of nice flowers to look at there.

 Male Silver-spotted Skipper

The silver spots are on the olive-green underside, just about visible here.

They spend a lot of time basking on bare soil  trying to keep warm

The Adonis Blues were surprisingly shy, not being inclined to open their wings much at all. I presume it was the breezy conditions. This is the best view of the gorgeous blue wings I managed to see.

Fontmell Down and Harebells

White Harebell

Autumn Gentian

Fontmell Down and Hoary Plantain, menacing clouds rolling in put paid to any more butterfly sightings.

 Hoary Plantain, a very attractive flower close up I think. A pretty colour anyway.

The exquisite orchid Autumn Ladies Tresses were just coming into bloom too.

Covered in small hairs they look almost 'frosted' close up.