Saturday, 30 April 2011

Moorland magic

With Royal Wedding fever gripping the nation… would anyone be out on the North Yorkshire Moors on Friday? The answer… not many! We saw maybe 10 people enjoying the area during the day.

Doug Fairweather and I arrived to view superb scenery… but iffy weather conditions! So surely it wasn’t to be a day for decent birding, lepidoptera etc… It was woolly hats, an assortment of gloves and as many jumpers as you could wear!

I’m not overweight, this is jumper bulk!

The rewards… birding wise it was excellent with over 100 Red Grouse, many Curlews bubbling and plenty of tumbling Lapwings.

We eventually found a pair of Golden Plover. This male demonstrating the distraction technique before singing.

And encountered up to 40 Wheatears.

However, the target was Ring Ouzel. This pair showed well before taking flight so this is a record shot. Two of the three seen during the day.

With the inclement weather, tactics needed to change and instead of lepidoptera showing to us, we had to go looking. The coldness made photographs easier despite the dark clouds.

This one of the 200+ Green Hairstreaks found hanging up.

We also found c500 Common Heaths, although finding one willing to pose was a task.

The effort for looking also turns up other rewards with several Argyrotaenia ljungiana and the odd Adela reaumurella during brief sunny periods.

We also managed to find 2 Wood Tiger caterpillars during the worst of the weather.

In different habitats, eyes pick up different things… here is some lichen that Doug spotted.

Cladonia floerkaena

Peltigera spp

Makes you wonder what it would be like to be there when the sun comes out!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Fairweather on the moors

Making the most of the bright weather, Doug Fairweather was recently on the moors finding new things for the blog.

Here is a selection of cracking pics from his trip to the hills.

Thanatophilus rugosus - Carrion Beetle

Another beetle which is one of my favourites, I've spent hours chasing these in the past for a decent picture...

Green Tiger Beetle

A number of Green Hairstreaks were on offer...

This Early-purple Orchid is part of a diminishing colony which has suffered over the years, in part due to selfish people stupidly believing they can dig them up and actually get them to grow at home, and now they are just about hanging on, albeit out of sight of the passing public. In the past, people have been caught in the act of digging them up! Twelve months ago, there was just one flowering spike visible from a road. It was stolen within two hours of first being seen and all that was left was a carefully placed sod of grass where it once grew.

It's a shame folk can't just leave well alone... hence the site is withheld.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Odonata records just keep on being broken in VC61

The amazing start to the 2011 Odonata season continues with a Four-spotted Chaser at Tophill Low NR breaking the VC61 record by 3 days. The previous earliest being singles at Skipworth Common, North Yorkshire and Tophill Low Nature Reserve, East Yorkshire (both VC61 despite being different counties) on 28th April 2007.

Also on the wing, or perhaps better phrased ‘kicked out of the vegetation’ as very little of anything is flying strongly at the moment, included: - 128 Large Red Damselflies, 19 Azure Damselflies, 35 Common Blue Damselflies and 3 Blue-tailed Damselflies.

It appears that the records of Azure, Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselfly at Tophill Low NR were the first Yorkshire sightings on Saturday, and all new earliest dates for VC61. Also, a new earliest date for Variable Damselfly was set today by EYDragonfly at Broomfleet Washlands, taking 5 days off the previous best of 30th April 2009. Impressive start to the season with 6 species confirmed as being on the wing. Check out the Yorkshire BDS sightings page for more reported sightings.

A drop in temperatures late-afternoon saw plenty of hirundines drop with 270+ Sand Martin, 50+ House Martin and 40+ Swallow over D res. A Brambling was around the car park early-afternoon, a Cuckoo was at the north end of the site, 5+ Common Terns toured around and 10+ flava Wagtails moved north through during the day. For all the latest Tophill news click here

A reasonable number of butterflies saw 114 counted of 9 species, including 1 Small Copper and 5 Red Admirals.

A healthy 15+ Grass Snakes were encountered and a Water Vole took a plunge at East Pond after showing briefly from the viewing area.

But as the vegetation grows, the fungi gets harder to find. Still a few Charcoal Cups to be found and a small amount of Glistening Inkcap the best of it.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Four Damselfies now have new earliest records in VC61

After cutting a day off the earliest VC61 Large Red Damselfly record last weekend, some 54 were found on Saturday. However, Large Reds were last week’s news... a good search found 4 Azures*, 18 Common Blue* and a single Blue-tailed Damselfly*. These sightings are all 5 days earlier than the previous earliest dates set on 28th April 2007... by Doug Fairweather and me.

Dreadful record shot of Blue-tailed Damselfly

Some hard to focus on Common Blue Damselfly

Difficult day in the sun trying to get good damselfly pictures, this Large Red the best poser.

*note these are all earliest dates for VC61 as far as I know prior to hitting publish*

Highlight of the moths was yet another addition to the site list. Albeit found Friday, when up to 14 were found, but not confirmed until today.

Grapholita jungiella

One of the traps failed to attact any moths overnight. However, as Yorkhire Water and a Tophill home owner allow us to use 3 traps, it wasn't such a disaster with Swallow Prominent, Rivulet, White Ermine, Muslin Moth and Riband Wave added to the year list.

Muslin Moth

Swallow Prominent

Avoiding the traps, but on the wing, Common and Red Twin Spot Carpet were noted in the field.

The butterfly count easily passed 100 individuals with 10 species noted on the wing... Holly Blue proves elusive though! We can't find any at Tophill!

Nothing outstanding birdwise... Peregrine, Whooper Swan, Green Sandpiper... few flava Wagtails flew north during the afternoon... a quiet trickle of migrants.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Anyone good at counting?

If anyone has any idea of how many insects are in this photo feel free to get in touch!

Good Friday afternoon at Tophill

A quick tour of Tophill Low late-afternoon in search of damselflies. Only managed to find one free flying Large Red.

Below is a picture of some Large Red Damselfly exuvae.

Disappointingly few to be found despite the species being out for a least a week.

Several species of butterflies encountered including Red Admirals and this Small Copper.

Finally, I found the Cameraria ohridella (Horse Chestnut Leaf Minor) impossible to count in the evening sunshine. Little wonder the leaves don't stay green for long! A slight improvement on my efforts to photograph them last weekend!

266 for the Tophill Fungi List

One from the weekend that Doug Fairweather has identified...

Pluteus romellii aka Goldleaf Shield.

Yet another new species for the site!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Sky Dancers

Sunday afternoon was spent down near the Humber at Broomfleet Washlands.

Unfortunately my theory on Large Red Damselflies being out at Tophill Low NR would mean they would be out here was wrong, as despite searching for a couple of hours I found no damselflies and no exuvae.

Throughout the afternoon, a pair of Marsh Harriers danced around in the sky, this picture below doesn’t really do them justice but something I don’t spend enough time enjoying as I’m always looking for something else. The pair put on a cracking display of aerobatics - more than making up for the lack of damselflies.

A distant picture of them high in the sky doesn't really do them justice

Plenty of other common migrants now in and singing. Several Lesser Whitethroats in the thicket at the north end of the site and one or two Cuckoos very vocal.

The Washlands, being off the beaten track, is a quiet place. This Mink, thinking no one was watching swam up Market Weighton Canal and posed on the bank before quietly disappearing into Oxmardyke Marr.

Way out of the local area, the Blog's North Sea contributer reports skeins of Barnacles heading north to their breeding grounds whilst on a tow somewhere in between Orkney and The Minches. Other than Manx Shearwaters, the odd Bonxie and the regular seabirds not much else to see but updates will come in as and when he can get an internet connection.

New earliest date for Large Red Damselfly

I'm not sure when most folk commence their interest in Odonata for the season. Weather dependent, we start early-mid April. The searching gets you into good habits of looking hard and makes finding them when the season kicks off easier.

And so Saturday morning it took just a matter of minutes of looking at Tophill Low NR to break the VC61 record of the 17th April by a day as Doug Fairweather and I found 8 teneral Large Red Damselflies at the north end of the site. All but one appeared to have emerged this morning and were still to take their maiden flights.

Unfortunately, after a couple of weekends of looking we lost our Yorkshire record as some were reported on the Yorkshire BDS site from VC63 last weekend, knocking 7 days off the previous earliest record. In hindsight, maybe I should've spent last Sunday further inland in VC61!!!

Another moth species was added to the Tophill list from the overnight traps. A Eriocrania subpurpurella was found on top of one of the traps held in place by a little spot of water. Still alive, albeit drenched, it stayed still for a photo but not in an expected stance!

Disappointingly, the moth haul wasn't overly exciting. Getting to the stage of the year when a couple more degrees of warmth overnight is needed to get them going.

Still the first Pebble Prominent of the year was attracted to the bulbs

and a Pine Beauty made up the other highlight.

Another species on the wing is the tiny Cameraria ohridella aka Horse Chestnut Leaf Minor. I'll say not the easiest of species to photograph in natural habitat!!!

Doug Fairweather managed some better ones!

Like the moths, butterfly numbers were down on last week with only 23 noted of 7 species. Holly Blue is proving hard to get at Tophill despite being easily visible in the park of Howden.

Highlight of the birding involved probably my earliest ever site Garganey with 2 drakes on Watton Nature Reserve the highlight for many birders on site due to the Purple Heron no show. An LRP and the usual Buzzards made up the best of avifauna, and perhaps a few more Sedge Warblers were heard.

After struggling last week to photograph Tetrix subulata without the aid of a pot... here is one that wanted to pose!

Peziza problems once again this weekend are causing a headache. No pictures but some I think may be parcelled up and sent to our fungi guru for identification.

Unlike brown Pezizas, Common Eyelash is rather bright and a species that has only occurred on the blog once... so best make it twice.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Topical blog header

Not one of this year's Large Red Damselflies but they are soon to be on the wing as another seven months (or more) of dragonfly fun is about to begin.

Time for me to plug the Yorkshire Branch of the British Dragonfly Society which features masses of information and an archive of sightings going back several years, plus lots of cracking photos and identification hints.

Also well worth a look is the East Riding Dragonfly Atlas which features mapping of all the species that can be found within VC61, flight periods, earliest and latest dates and historical information on when they were first recorded in the region.

Anyone wishing to submit records can find the contact details for the recorder, Paul Ashton, on the Yorkshire BDS site.

Early Painted Lady

Doug Fairweather was touring Caulkleys Bank in North Yorkshire when he came across this rather early Painted Lady. A few records now in Yorkshire this spring with sightings at Spurn and North Cave Wetlands in East Yorkshire. Migrants or ones that overwintered???

He also found this splendid Common Morel Morchella esculenta specimen during his visit to the site.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The game of adding to the Tophill species list continues

A regular weekend sees Doug Fairweather and I trying to add new species to the Tophill Low NR list. It becomes rather fun wondering what the next one might be.

Pictures from Saturday included another selection of new site ticks once Doug had checked them with the literature - which was simple enough as he had the photographs from all the needed angles!!!

First up in one of the moth traps was this Parasyrphus punctulatus.

Each week we’ve been checking specialist habitats for a certain species of fungi and this weekend we came up trumps with 3 Peziza echinospora specimens discovered. One was collected, one inadvertently encountered a size 15 boot and looked a little sad, but one remains and maybe next weekend a few more might well be around. The species is also known as Charcoal Cup.

This was a good example of looking once, looking again, not getting disheartened and carrying on looking until you eventually see the target. The rule I find works for many things provided the habitat is suitable. Just because no one has seen it doesn’t mean it isn’t there does it?!

So having found two species we know aren’t on the Tophill list, we’ll have to look this one up - Tetrix subulata aka Slender Groundhopper. Unfortunately, our photography session with the Tetrix was interrupted by the passing Purple Heron but then the task was fulfilled for the day.

Top by Doug and the one below by me. Need to get these photographed without the glass pot!

Plenty of nice scientific names for some of the readers who enjoy them!