Monday, 30 May 2011

Keeping it varied

Checking the pager and the logbooks at Tophill Low Nature Reserve, East Yorkshire Friday, it appeared maybe a few good birds might be around on Saturday. As it was, none of them remained, with no sign of the putative Red-footed Falcon, no Ospreys putting in an appearance, and the Purple Heron seen several times in the week failing to emerge from cover.

The best of it was a drake Garganey on the marshes, one of the local Buzzards, and Hobby chasing Swifts over O res for most of the afternoon in the strong wind. The best of the pictures was one of the North Marsh Reed Warblers, which posed briefly prior to a heavy shower.

As ever, we had the lights out Friday night for the moths. A good variety of macro species for the end of May included Shoulder-striped Wainscot, Figure of 80, Gold Spot and Ghost Moth.

Figure of 80

Gold Spot

Ghost Moth

Two new micros for the site were found and photographed by Doug Fairweather. Two others are waiting to be confirmed.

Denisia similella

Scrobipalpa costella

With the weather, and last week’s huge Azure count in the record books, we opted to take a day off counting Odonata and look for other things, but we did find Large Red Damselflies, Azure Damselflies, Common Blue Damselflies, Blue-tailed Damselflies, Red-eyed Damselflies, Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers without having to look hard.

One of the benefits of not counting meant we could take photographs of other things. Doug capturing this pair of Agapanthia villosoviridescens – aka Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorns – 2 of the 14 seen easily without leaving the path.

Despite the cloud, the sunny spells encouraged the Grass Snakes to bask, this one of six posing happily on one grassy mound.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Amazing Azures

Saturday at Tophill Low NR, East Yorks, was yet another busy one. The only surprise… the failure to add any new species to the site list!

It was definitely an Odonata day and another record was set for VC61. A count of 2319 Azure Damselflies was the highest total ever counted at one site in the area. The previous best being 1280 on May 23rd 2009, also at Tophill.

The count also turned up 66 Large Red Damselfly, 280 Common Blue Damselfly, 71 Blue-tailed Damselflies, 4 Rd-eyed Damselfly, 7 Hairy Dragonfly, 5 Broad-bodied Chasers (including 1 cracking male in Richard Sears’s garden) and 19 Four-spotted Chaser (including one of the form praenublia).

A few moths in the traps, typical for May, included Small Clouded Brindle, Setaceous Hebrew Character and the first ever-variable Ingrailed Clay.

This Poplar Hawkmoth perhaps the only one I will blog this season… unless I run out of pictures, or I’m stuck because nothing was caught!

A drake Garganey was on Watton NR as was a Dunlin… shame we were there before the Temminck’s!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Glad to see the back of that wind

Finally, the wind has dropped. Time to be back in the field and a first opportunity this week to count the dragonflies along Leven Canal.

Despite the breeze, and occasional stronger gusty moments, and the sun not shining as much as the weather forecast promised, there was still plenty to see.

I managed to count a minimum of 48 Hairy Dragonflies. Many more females around this week. This picture of one of several pairs in cop.

And this female posed well. Hairys are so easy to kick out of vegetation here as they often sit low down and close to the path and it is difficult not to disturb before allowing a photo opportunity.

The other numbers totalled 8 Large Red Damselfly, 20 Azure Damselfly, 8 Blue-tailed Damselfly, 300+ Red-eyed Damselfly, 16 Four-spotted Chaser (including 2 of the form praenublia. One shown below) and a female type Broad-bodied Chaser.

After the canal, it was onto High Eske and Pulfin Bog Nature Reserves a short walk south along the river. The count there involved a single Large Red Damselfly, 6 Common Blue Damselflies, 32 Azure Damselfly, 3 Blue-tailed Damselflies and 16 Red-eyed Damselflies.

The best of the birds were there to with 5 Common Terns and 2 Goldeneyes still on the lake. 'Terry' the ever present terrapin was also showing well... must be 20 years since I first saw him/her/it!!! A rather huge beast now!

This Drinker moth caterpillar the largest I've seen this year, not long until they will be on the wing.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Good stuff despite the weather

As ever it was Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire on Saturday for a scout around to see what we could find.

The year’s first Buff Ermine the moth trap highlight, but with cool nights nothing much could really have been expected.

However, keeping up our good run of form, though we left it late in the day, this Pammene regiana found by Doug Fairweather was a new addition to the site list.

With the cloudy skies and occasional heavy showers, it wasn’t a great day for Odonata but we still managed the year’s first Broad-bodied Chaser (an immature male) for the site and the first Hairy Dragonfly since April 24th.

A hiding Hairy Dragonfly

Now this got me thinking. Why hasn’t there been a Hairy record at Tophill Low since then? Despite several visits in good conditions the species hasn’t been recorded. Could it in fact not have actually colonised the site and the ones seen, not only this year but before, are individuals that have wandered from nearby Leven Canal, where the species occurs in the highest population density so far noted in VC61? There is something not quite right here as the numbers from other sites, combined with the three week gap in records at Tophill, would suggest that if Hairy had colonised then they shouldn’t be so difficult to find. I don’t think this is a controversial theory... but then others might decide to take it that way!

The rest of the count, before the final heavy shower ended proceedings, turned up 44 Large Red Damselflies, 1159 Azure Damselflies, 30 Blue-tailed Damselflies, and 5 Four-spotted Chasers, including this emergent.

Birding wise, it was rather dull! A Common Buzzard and a cream crown Marsh Harrier the highlights. Still awaiting a WNR Temminck’s Stint.

One that everyone can spot – it is on a sycamore on the entrance road on the north side of O wood, is this Dryad’s Saddle.

As Spring continues, more and more hoverflies are out. This Anasimyia lineata isn’t a new one for the site but posed quite nicely.

While this Hawthorn Shieldbug (above) was in suitable habitat and the Agapanthia villosoviridescens numbers totalled 5 across the site… I wonder if a new record count can be set this year???

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Quiet but enough interest at Spurn

Spent the day at Spurn watching and waiting patiently. Despite it being a quieter day than others in the week, the day still managed:- 2 Marsh Harriers, one sub-adult male Montagu's Harrier, 1 Wood Sandpiper, 1 Little-Ringed Plover, 1 Sand Martin, 91 House Martin, 1059 Swallows, 6 flava Wagtails amongst other things.

Two or three Brown Argus showed well with the Common Blues, Wall and the odd Brimstone... Yet another quiet day out!

Hairys... they are just great

I spent Thursday in Hairy Dragonfly mode... it has been a personal battle, since probably 2004/2005 after an elusive hawker-type caught my eye in spring, to prove they existed in the county. All I needed was a photograph! And everytime I saw one... they all whizzed past at high speed... a touch difficult to nail a photo for proof of what I was seeing. Once their existence was finally proved a few years back by Paul Ashton, it has taken until now for me to actually take a semi-decent picture of one...

I suppose now they are common and such a doddle to spot... I guess anyone can take a picture of one and look good!

Eventually made it out with EYDragonfly to Broomfleet Washlands to try and find some Hairy exuvae... turned up a blank but 38 Large Red Damselflies, 38 Variable Damselflies, 5 Azure Damselflies, 1 Common Blue Damselfly, 2 Blue-tailed Damselfly, 1 Hairy Dragonfly and 4 Four-spotted Chasers helped pass the time.

Some of the other pictures...

Large Red Damselflies (above) and Red-eyed Damselfly below

This Pammene aurana was the best of the day-flying moths spotted...

Brown Argus and Common Blue made up the supporting cast.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Red-rumps race through Spurn

Having not visited Spurn recently for various reasons - with the chance of plenty of birds in the offing, I decided to head east. I spent most of the day sat at the Warren with 'Mr Spurn' Adam Hutt, Garry Taylor et al and a cracking day's birding was had - without actually having to move anywhere!

Maybe c1200+ Swallows raced south with Red-rumped Swallows south at 10.30 and 14.40. The latter I found before Mr Spurn - which is an achievement in itself as he picked out everything else! Too many birds to mention, best to check out the Spurn Bird Obs sightings page for the day's records.

Highlights included 8+ Marsh Harriers south, 1 Hobby south, 1 Buzzard (west), several Little Egrets bloggin, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Whinchat, a Nightingale in the hand. I'd gone to the Point when the day's Montagu's Harrier went thru!

This Garganey was on Canal Scrape.

Wheatear at the Point.

Brown-tail moth the easiest of the inverts to pick out as the army of caterpillars destroys the leaves of each and every bush once again this year. A Four-spotted Chaser was at the Warren and a Broad-bodied Chaser just eluded the camera at the Point, before disappearing into the Brown-tail infested Blackthorns.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Longhorns bloom

Another record broken today at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire. Three cracking Agapanthia villosoviridescens - aka Golden-Bloomed Grey Longhorn, were showing well around the south end of the site. As with lots of things, these are early out this year, the previous Tophill early date was May 23rd.

Not the best picture but a stunning little beetle all the same.

A Greenshank the best of the birds around and a few Garden Warblers are now in and singing.

Didn't count the dragonflies but Large Red Dam, Common Blue Dam, Azure Dam, Blue-tailed Dam, Red-eyed Dam and a few Four Spotted Chasers all found easily without over stretching myself - still can't find a Hairy at this site.

Common Blues on the wing on the butterfly front but no sign of any Brown Argus on the wing here... yet!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Hairy record hammered

Another day out, another VC61 (and probably) Yorkshire record bites the dust!

Hairy Dragonflies, for some reason, now seem to be a species of interest in VC61 to a lot of folk since the first ones appeared a few years back at Broomfleet Washlands and in a Beverley garden, before their presence at Tophill Low NR and latterly High Eske/Pulfin Bog NR was confirmed. However, the little watched site of Leven Canal boasts the highest numbers.

A count along the length of the canal today turned up a minimum of 63, shattering last year's impressive maximum of 54. Perhaps a species that was once thought of as scarce, is now actually present in good numbers, and goes unrecorded due to it unobtrusive nature, and a lack of people going out looking!

Leven Canal is also a good place to catch up with Red-eyed Damselfly with 191+ showing well on the lily pads. Everything else was pretty scarce. Only 4 Large Red Damselflies, 3 Azure Damselflies, 4 Blue-tailed Damselflies and
7 Four-spotted Chasers made up the supporting cast. Mind the Quads pose well!

A good number of raptors around with 5 Buzzards south, 2 Hobbies and 2+ Marsh Harriers, while a probable Common Crane flew high NE early-afternoon... just too distant for bins, and I didn't really fancy carrying my scope and tripod for nearly 10kms just in case something flew over!

My first Brown Argus of the year was noted along with plenty of other species, and at least 120 Grass Snakes were showing well... just another typically quiet day out!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Prominent features

Overcast skies and light rain greeted us at Tophill Low NR, East Yorks, on Saturday morning. Still, a great day to be had and new things to see... just got to put your mind to it and look hard!

With four lights out overnight, despite the overall catch being typical, some nice moth year ticks were trapped.

Plenty of Prominents in the boxes. This Pale Prominent was set up to pose.

Also, a number of Swallow Proms and single Coxcomb and Pebble Proms were caught, a couple of Shears were trapped (causing a minor headache... can't remember catching one in recent times so I need to find my notebooks for the last one!), Rustic Shoulder-Knot and Flame Shoulder made up the best of the rest with a Water Carpet and a Sandy Carpet.

This Buff Tip alongside the path near the visitor centre was the first of the year. Presumably, despite showing well 10cms off the footpath, it was missed by most!

Here are some of the new species of Lepidoptera added to the Tophill list today.

Twenty-plume moth

Micropterix calthella

And one that isn't new... but looks smart enough.

Platyptillia gonodactyla

So which way now? Birds or Dragons? I hear comments about there not being enough bird news/photos on this blog... so I'll go birds first...

Birding wise, 7 Common Terns included a pair using the raft on Watton Nature Reserve. A Greenshank and Common Sandpiper were also present around the south end with 6 LRPs. After that it becomes a struggle... no Temminck's Stints - surely a matter of time! Some flava wagtails over the south end, perhaps local birds. We didn't see any but heard a few. Hopefully some different races to find if an assortment pops up on the res walls in the coming the weeks when time allows to look.

This was just the day's observations, Tophill's latest news can be found by clicking here on the warden's blog, which features sounds of a Martian invasion!

Odonata wise, the wet weather and lack of prolonged sunny spells resulted in a low count of species and numbers with 5 Red-eyed Damselflies the best of the 6 species encountered, albeit a total of 336 individuals of the group, given the weather, was rather good.

With increasing species of Dipteria and Orthoptera on the go now, a few to take pot shots at with the camera today, the blogs of future Saturday events might get more varied and interesting soon! Time will tell I guess.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Yorkshire ticking Caspian at last

The first of 17 days of holiday saw me at North Cave Wetlands, East Yorkshire in search of the Caspian Gulls I've read about on the pager as the 'Shifts of Doom' finally come to an end. Always hate the last week at work before a break... my mind is usually elsewhere!!!

Here are some of the pics of one of the first-summer Caspian Gulls both in flight and on the deck.

In fact it was a bit of larid afternoon, this first-summer Little Gull showed well...

while a 1st summer Mediterranean Gull appeared mid-afternoon, among the Black-heads, Lesser Black-backs, Herring Gulls and the one Great Black-backed I saw fly through.

Plenty of other birds noted included a cracking full-summer Bar-tailed Godwit, a Peregrine and some Buzzards.

And something I'm not so fond of seeing... the wetland bullies!!!

Don't you just hate hearing folk saying 'Oh... aren't they lovely'

Monday, 2 May 2011

Hairy Variables

Quick tour of Broomfleet Washlands, East Yorks, this afternoon in a howling gale didn't disappoint. 55+ Variable Damselflies showing well on the south end of the site. Also a male Hairy Dragonfly was whizzing round before disappointingly landing in a tree some 15ft up and avoiding having its photograph taken! 10 Large Reds, 3 Azures, 1 Common Blue, 2 Blue-tailed Dams and 2 teneral Red-eyes made up the rest.

This one showing off the exclamation marks on the antehumerals.

A Wheatear was a Broomfleet tick, while small numbers of Swifts and House Martin joined the many Sand Martins and Swallows hawking over the marsh.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

April ends with a new Odonata record

Anyone who knows anything about Odonata will know… April in VC61 means you might see a Large Red Damselfly if you are lucky. Sometimes, and bearing in mind, they are more often than not the first species to emerge, records show that it is often May before they are on the wing. Seeing more than one species of damselfly, let alone anything Chaser/Hawker wise, in April, is a huge bonus!

Doug Fairweather and I found 5 species on the wing at Tophill Low NR in East Yorkshire on April 28th 2007, but on Saturday we broke that record with an impressive 6 species, counting a total of 481 individual Odonata, though that being some way short of the April high of 532 set in 2007.

Another record fell, the first April Red-eyed Damselflies (at the time of hitting publish). Not sure what that takes off the earliest date.

Teneral Red-eyed Damselfly

The count in full: 305 Large Red Damselfly, 77 Azure Damselfly, 82 Common Blue Damselfly, 6 Blue-tailed Damselfly, 4 Red-eyed Damselfly and 7 Four-spotted Chaser.

Disappointingly, despite 8 hours on site, we failed to connect with any of the Arctic Terns which are going through all the other Yorkshire sites. A Swift over D res and a Whimbrel at WNR the best, with a Green Sandpiper and a single Common Tern noted.

Another moth species was added to the site list with several Adela reaumurella on the wing

However, the moth trapping was best described as being ‘typically April’ with little of note, other than a Waved Umber and a Green Pug in the traps.

Though I do wonder how many visitors failed to notice this dead obvious Waved Umber sat on the door of the WNR hide! Of everything on view, this was showing the best.