Sunday, July 8, 2018

Oare Marshes

These are heady days, footballing success coupled with a protracted period of hot weather.  Some might call these 'good times'.

Oare Marshes was bathed in glorious summer sunshine, the warmth tempered by a refreshing breeze.  A three week gap between visits and how different it was since the last trip down to this fabulous wetland site.

Wader numbers have increased as have the variety in species.  Autumn migration has commenced, evidenced by greater numbers of 'Icelandic' Black-tailed Godwit, some very smart individuals in their fantastic rustic plumage.

There were more Avocet than a few weeks ago, a few juveniles were feeding on the flood.  Similarly, Common Redshank numbers were up with many young birds present.  At least six Ruff had arrived still in their breeding attire, as had a Spotted Redshank similarly in it's dark summer plumage.  Two juvenile Little Ringed Plover were scampering along the fringes of the exposed mud.

There were some stars in town.  Four Black-winged Stilt were still present, presumably having bred nearby or perhaps wanderers from the near continent.  Two of these were young birds seen here hunkered down on the island.

The shimmering heat giving the feel of a South European wetland.

Seeing a Turtle Dove these days is such a thrill.  So rare and so localised.  It's been a sad decline, symptomatic of changing agricultural practices, habitat destruction, and relentless persecution.  There were at least two birds here.  This one paused briefly before flicking away into cover.

The Bonaparte's Gull showed much better today, this time on the slipway before being flushed to the shoreline. A couple of smart adult Mediterranean Gull were present, one accompanying a juvenile around the reserve. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Ockham Common

Work has been getting to me.  It shouldn't.  Escaping for an evening to one of Surrey's heathlands was a much better alternative to drinking.

Ockham Common lies just off the A3 and very close to the M25.  A crazy juxaposition, listening to the subtle chorus of birdsong against the distant hum of frenzied mass transit.

The habitat looks great but digging out a couple of Dartford Warbler including a young bird, and a male Stonechat was all I could manage.  Dartford's so close to the M25.

A wonderfully warm and serene evening, the stresses of the world were soon forgotten.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Old Deer Park

This is a wonderful wild flower bed in the Old Deer Park in Richmond.  A migrant Painted Lady butterfly was a surprise find, pausing briefly before journeying onward.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Thursley Common

Another trip to Thursley Common because it is such a great place to visit.  The morning started off quite fresh but it didn't take too long for the temperature to rise.  

The main draw today was the male Red-backed Shrike having presumably drifted across from the continent on the run of easterlies that have been a feature over the past few days.  It was always distant as the photo below testifies, but these birds are a joy to observe which after a sluggish start, became more active, flying low between vantage points, successfully predating an unfortunate beetle.

There was a lot of activity today, at least six Common Redstart seen.  This male was briefly in song. A couple of juvenile birds were noted along the Heathland Trail.

The rich cascading melody of a Woodlark provided the perfect soundtrack to the heathland backdrop.

I'd never seen so many Dartford Warbler.  Around a dozen at least, a lot of vocalising, a few still in song, plenty scratching within the gorse.  This individual showed quite nicely in short bursts.  So good to see them doing well here, the fine weather hopefully contributing to a fruitful breeding season.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Oare Marshes

We have now hit the mid-June doldrums.  A week waylaid by tonsilitis and now the welcome start of the World Cup will make this month dominated by the sofa.

It was great to head out today though and in the company of Dominic Mitchell, spent an enjoyable day at Oare Marshes.

Highlights were this drake Garganey, that in between naps, spent most of its time dabbling close to one of the islands densely populated by around 300 summering Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit.

'Napoleon' has also returned, and a prolonged wait was finally rewarded with laughable views of the Bonaparte's Gull, seen hunkered low down on 'Godwit' island, mostly obscured by waders, but occasionally its jet black head and grey-ish upperparts did appear into view.

Also of interest was a vocal Cuckoo seen perched on a dead tree, a single Yellow Wagtail flew through, Bearded Tit 'pinged' from the reeds by the channel, and a distant Red Kite tussled the breeze beyond the bridge.  A dozen Avocet were present around the reserve, as was a Common Redshank.  A Marsh Harrier was seen distantly on the far side of the Swale.  A Peregrine was seen perched high on an electricity pylon, and a total of three Mediterranean Gull were seen, two adults and a 1st summer.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Fairmile Common - Silver-studded Blue

Just a short drive down to the other side of Esher where butterflies abound.  In the warm sunshine I headed down to Fairmile Common for it is here where one can find the Silver-studded Blue on the wing at this time of year.  This is a localised species confined to the south and south-west of the country.

Fairmile Common is a small area of heathland wedged between the boisterous A3 on one side, and the more subdued A307 on the other.  There is a plentiful supply of Bell Heather.

Despite the aural intrusion, butterflies were present in decent numbers.  At least 30 Silver-studded Blue were extremely active in the heat of the sun, rarely settling down but for brief interludes of cloud cover.  Meadow Brown and Ringlet were present here too.

Relatively common amongst the grassland, Cinnabar Moth are always really nice to see.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Thursley and Frensham

A different trip this weekend, checking out the heathland of Frensham and Thursley with Graham.  It was a fun day.

Early Saturday morning, all news related to scarcities were scattered around our English coastlines so we decided to make the relatively short trip south into the heart of Surrey.

There was early success.  Frensham Common looked a fantastic site with at least three singing Tree Pipit there, and three Dartford Warbler seen scratching away within the gorse.

A Cuckoo flew low through before settling on one of the many dead trees scattered around the reserve.  A male Common Redstart sang from the woodland, and a Woodlark was heard but not picked up from somewhere across the heathland.  Stonechat were seen regularly during our walk round, a couple of Red Kite soared overhead, and Common Buzzard were thermaling on the warm breeze.

The highlight of the day for us both were the pair of Common Redstart breeding in the woodland just beyond the Moat Car Park at Thursley.  The radiant male flicked through the woodland, actively scavenging for food, dropping to the ground, scurrying through the bracken, flying to and from the nest-site, posing from nearby vantage points.  We were both infatuated.

Nearby, a Treecreeper attended its young within the crevice of a pine.

There was plenty of wildlife on the reserve.  Dragonfly were abundant, with many just emerging.  Broad-bodied Chaser were present in good numbers, and a couple of Emperor were zipping around. 

There were around fifty stalks of Early Marsh Orchid in bloom by the pools.

A female Roe Deer lazily passed through.