Thursday, 19 July 2012

Signing off a chapter of blogging

Things have been a little on the quiet side recently so I've been busy playing and tinkering with some new stuff. The end result means the end of this blog as we know it... but a new one has appeared.

Some two and half years of blogging and 50,000 hits later, it was time for a rethink and to smarten things up as everything evolves.

Esticadinho Nature is the new site... you will find it by clicking here

A new period of blogging begins, so have a click and take a look. I've still bits to add to it, but it is now up and running


Sunday, 1 July 2012

By popular demand!

Back to a classic view rather than the dynamic design which didn't quite work as it unfortunately there was no default to magazine view which was hoped for.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Slow times in wet weather

Unfortunately, I hate rain in the summer. I'm rather disappointed I'm still walking around in my wellies and it is almost the end of June!!! The rain equals less to blog!

Dragonfly spotting is hard work as sunny periods on days off seem to be few and far between. The highlight of the last week or so being this Four-spotted Chaser of the scarce form praenublia at Tophill Low NR, East Yorks recently. Despite seeing good numbers of Four-spots a few weeks back, this the first I've noted in 2012.

Other than a small number of Black-tailed Skimmer now being on the wing, the wet weekend's are spoiling any decent recording.

The weather is also taking the fun away from moth trapping with little in the traps. However, the big surprise of the weekend was the first Varied Coronet at Tophill Low NR found by Doug Fairweather.

Like everyone else, I hope the weather picks up soon.

The rain is good for the flora though with many Bee Orchids now out. This one probably displaying the most flower heads I've seen on a single plant.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Marbled White Spot first at Tophill Low NR

As the non-friendly moth trapping weather continues into another week, it really is a case of making the best of it at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire, although finding the enthusiasm is proving to be difficult.

And today it caught me out as I was wasn't paying attention. Fortunately, Richard Sears was on the ball as he pulled out the site's first Marbled White Spot.

Listed as common, a record at North Cliffe Wood last year was the only VC61 record in 2011. One step close to getting the site list up to 500 species.

Despite the gloom and the cold, the first Elephant Hawkmoth of the season was a sign of summer, while a Common Rustic made us realise the season is progressing quickly and many species are missing from the year list.

The mothing over the last week has been better away from the traps with a few species being encountered in the field.

Pammene aurana and Lathronympha strigana just two of the species that have been encountered on the in the last week.

The poor weather is also causing problems recording Odonata. Though hard work can yield turn up emerging Four-spotted Chasers.

Earlier in the week, I was having a play. I've tried this before, but no hard in another go!

Despite Tophill being relatively quiet for birding, I was fortunate to catch up with the Corncrake, just northwest of the site, along Scurf Dyke on Monday evening. The bird singing on and off for about 40 mins early evening, 18 years after I last heard the sound in Yorkshire!

The birding highlight of the weekend was the Roller at Aldborough which I caught up with 7 nights ago... it was late, it was dark, it was blowing and it was cold! So I make no apologies for posting this record shot.

Some Striped Hawkmoth history

So no apologies for again posting a picture of THE Tophill Low NR Striped Hawkmoth from VC61 last summer.

I see the new Yorkshire Lepidoptera report is out and it states that this was the second record in the area since 1952, the last being at Spurn in 2002.

Just shows that it pays to have your lights out whatever the weather through the summer months!!!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Algarve Odonata May 2012

Odonata observing in VC61 was apparently a non-event during May. However, good or bad, I was already going to be out of it spending time in southwest Portugal.
This was first time that I’d visited the region in May, it was a rather a search and hope trip. Finding water, the correct spots, and lots of luck was required as I tried to use my knowledge of Odonata observing at home to find them in a new environment. However, I did manage to see 20 species during my break and compared to a regular mid-May total back in England, I think I chose the correct option!

Habitat visited included rivers, the top of the Algarve’s only mountain, ponds, brackish habitat, and various little small local water pumping stations and ditches during the search. Although it is easy enough to look at a map and think a site looks good, I lost count of the times I searched for water only to find the spot and discover it to be dry. The Iberian Peninsula as a whole has been very dry for well over a year now, and my Portuguese friends often comment ‘My bones are burning’. During one trip out, I noticed the outdoor temperature reading on the dashboard of the hire car read 49C… my bones certainly were burning!!!

One of the most delightful species of the trip was Copper Demoiselle.

More familiar with Emerald Damselfly, it was nice to observe both Scarce Emerald and Southern Emerald Damselfly at localised sites.

Orange Featherleg was another species I was keen to see, this found at a couple of wetland habitats during my visit.

Like England, damselflies make up the most of the early-season species, though it was a surprise to note that Small Red Damselflies seemed to outnumber the more familiar Large Red Damselflies, but it was nice to catch up with the form melanotum of the latter, something I’ve only seen once back home.

The other damselflies seen during the trip included Common Winter Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, Iberian Blue-tailed Damselfly, Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly and Goblet-marked Damselfly or Blue-eye as it is now called in the new school of names.

By far the commonest big dragonfly in the Algarve is the Emperor, this species noted at almost every site from sea level up to the top of the Mount Foia, where one greeted me on arrival at the mountain-top car park.

Another species in abundance was the Western Clubtail. This was another species noted in a variety of locations and habitats, while Four-spotted Chaser is a species more likely to be encountered in the north-western areas of the Algarve.

Epaulet Skimmer was a species that was new to me when I visited the area last autumn. Again it wasn’t easy to see this time, but I didn’t manage to increase my highest day count from a very low 2 to a rather impressive 3 individuals, these noted close to Aljezur.

Another species that was new to me in 2011 was Black Percher, when I noted an individual in the Boca Do Rio. It was rather pleasing to find several of this species as their flight season commenced and the exuviae.

So that was the Odonata…

The rest of it in a paragraph!

I did see some birds, about 115 species… which wasn’t so bad considering I didn’t do any birding... including Short-toed Eagles, Black-winged Kites, Collared Pratincoles… Stone Curlews displaying and uncountable numbers of singing Nightingales whilst observing the nice array of Odonata on show, Thekla Larks, Pallid Swifts, Alpine Swifts, the regular Shrikes, Bee-eaters, Greater Flamingos, Choughs, Blue Rock Thrushes, Rock Buntings, Melodious, Dartford, Subalpine Warblers… pause to breath (and to rest the typing finger!)… Iberian race of Green Woodpecker, Iberian form of Speckled Wood, Green Hairstreaks, Clouded Yellows, various not stop flying Fritillarys, Two-tailed Pashas, Monarchs, Swallowtails etc… crikey wish I’d read a guide book for places to visit… various tracks the hire car company would rather not know that I actually drove the car along, more European Pond Tortoises than I could count, a number of Orchids I would love to be able to identify, but I’ll never get round too, in fact lots of flowers… Portugal is brilliant when it has soft vegetation… numerous cows and goats, various beetles and other interesting looking inverts… 

Even when I paused for a beer... Striped Hawk!

I'll probably never get round to knowing what the snakes were unless I do it all again and remember to take a photograph!

I wish to express my thanks to Nuno de Santos Loureiro for being kind enough to take me out for a day of Odonata spotting and providing me with maps of the western Algarve area for me to tour in search of water. By clicking here, you can view Nuno’s Algarve Odonata Atlas.

The Algarve… it is more than beaches and English bars! And even though it was too hot to do anything other than sit in the shade for over two days, I think I managed to get round to seeing enough to fill the time, but I know there is so much more to see, learn and discover... before the eco-tourists do!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Hairy Dragonflies hit a new Yorkshire high

It wasn't so long ago that seeing a Hairy Dragonfly in Yorkshire involved going to a specific site and hoping that your luck was in and you would see one. It was probably close to extinction in Yorkshire, with those that did occur being so site specific, and inconspicious, that it was almost impossible to see one. Recently, thanks to the efforts of Paul Ashton at Broomfleet Washlands, East Yorkshire, it became known the species had a toehold in East Yorkshire, and in the last two years I've been fortunate to discover the species in number along Leven Canal with counts of 60+ in both 2010 and 2011.

Despite the lacklustre start to the 2012 Odonata season, and following Saturday's Yorkshire record count of Azure Damselfly at nearby Tophill Low NR, I decided to walk and count Leven Canal for Hairy Dragonflies. Expecting good numbers in the sunny weather, I admit was surprised to not only set a new county record total for the species, but to break three figures, as the final total amounted to a minimum of 193 individual Hairy Dragonflies!!! Yes... 193 Hairy Dragonflies! A count almost three times as high as the previous site, and Yorkshire, record!!! Please bear in mind that only around six or seven years ago seeing one was a major record!

It wasn't only Hairy Dragonflies that were apparent in good number. Sometimes you just hit the right day for a good numbers, and a total of 219 Four-spotted Chasers will probably be up there among the higher counts of the species at a single site in the county. The majority appeared to be fresh individuals. though some appeared worn, and despite the weather, have probably been out for a prolonged period.

There were also plenty of Red-eyed Damselflies along the length of the canal, with a count of 679. The majority of these were adults on lilypads, though there was a good number of tenerals coming off, including this one below.

Red-eyed Damselfly was once considered the signature species of Leven Canal... I think all that changed as this has now become the site to see Hairy Dragonfly in Yorkshire... if you can find them!

Despite 2012 being the earliest ever start to an Odonata season in Yorkshire... my guess is this weekend the 2012 season really kicked off.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The day of the Azure

Possibly the first sunny day I've had out in England since March provided a fantastic day of Odonata at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire, certainly the best day number wise ever with over 5,600 individual damselflies and dragonflies noted by Doug Fairweather and myself.

A new VC61 site record, and possibly a Yorkshire site record, was set for Azure Damselflies with 5,250 individuals noted. This total being more than double the previous VC61 record of 2,319 on May 21st last year. The period 20th May-31st May appears to be the time for the highest numbers, the record prior to 2011 being of 1,280 individuals logged at Tophill Low on May 23rd 2009.

Good numbers of other species on the wing included 54 Four-spotted Chaser (above), spread across the site, 8 Red-eyed Damselflies, 134 Large Red Damseflies, 135 Common Blue Damselflies and 95 Blue-tailed Damselflies (below)

Friday, 25 May 2012

Morel boosting

May has been a rather awkward month for finding things. Partly due to the weather and partly due to the fact I was busy doing other things.

However, May did spring a surprise when Doug Fairweather discovered this Thimble Morel at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire at the start of the month. Much time has been spent looking for this species over the years, it has perhaps only been recorded on less than five occasions in the site's history.

After the first records last year, Adela reaumurella has been seen throughout May. This one of the 20 or so individuals found across Tophill Low last weekend.

The weather has held the Odonata season back compared to past years. A few mature Large Red Damselflies were seen last weekend, though little wanted to fly in the cold.

Now with better weather, no doubt more to see which will mean I can blog a little more!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Battling the weather

Despite the earliest start ever to an Odonata season in Yorkshire, the weather seems to have held things up slightly, with nothing more than 30 Large Red Damselflies on Saturday at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire.

Everything found was either a teneral or emerging, with no sign of any mature individuals. 

The poor weather is also keeping the moth numbers down. Very little in the traps over the weekend, with only a couple of Muslin Moths new for the year.

For the latest Tophill Low NR bird news, click here

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Odonata Atlas of the Algarve

Now online for viewing, the Odonata Atlas of the Algarve.

A huge task, put together by Nuno Dos Santos Loureiro, who was kind enough to ask for my input of records. He is working hard trying to piece together everything.... a huge task given the area, species diversity and length of the flight season.

The link I've attached sends you to Demoiselles, and the rest of the species can be found by clicking on the menu bar.

A Red-viened Darter... something you can't miss during the Algarve Odonata season.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Odonata 2012.... the Yorkshire flight season begins

Hardly the weather for Odonata to be emerging, but looking pays dividends. A search around the ponds today at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire yielded 3 Large Red Damselfly exuvae. Having searched the same area yesterday and found nothing, it came as a surprise to find a wing, then an exuvia directly underneath it. Unfortunately, this one met its demise soon after emerging, but two more found in close proximity obviously had made their maiden flights. However, during a search of the area, I failed to find any tenerals, but given the strength of the wind, they could have been blown anywhere!

The exuvae finds constitute the earliest ever evidence of the species of species taking to the wing, a day earlier than 2011, when the species was found emerging in the same place.

While searching for Large Red Damselflies, this Four-spotted Chaser larva was encountered.

So 2012 starts with a surprising new record. How many other people's eyes will be opened to the possibilities of setting new records for Odonata in the cold?

The start of an invasion?

One record of a scarce visitor is more than enough to keep most of the Tophill Low NR listers in East Yorkshire happy... provided they see it!

Avocets are pretty scarce, I think maybe only two records in last the decade, so having already had one in 2012, the arrival of another two yesterday was a bit of a shock. Having managed to expand to various sites locally, is the vicious wetland bully trying to get a toehold here and try and take over the site? For now, it remains an unusual occurence, but time will tell whether it becomes a regular...  and just how many might take over the southern end of the site, scaring off any much-needed for the list species sought by regulars!!!

Avocets at distance on a grey day... even the Mallard looks concerned by the potential of a quiet life being transformed by these ASBO seeking bullies.

Other than the Avocets, it was a quite day's birding with the weather horrible at times. A small passage of Hirundines the only suggestion of it being mid-April.

The cold weather affected the moth trapping with very little trapped overnight despite four lights being set. Two Water Carpet the only moths of note.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Cold Easter week

After a chilly week in East Yorkshire, the first Purple Thorn of the year at Tophill Low NR was the highlight of several nights of moth trapping over several cold evenings. In my opinion these are pretty smart, and because it was so nippy, it allowed another pose!

As I blogged before, species 285 was in reach on the fungi list, and the 'Special One' agreed with the identification made by Doug Fairweather... Colesporium tussilagiris Pine Needle Rust

After last weekend's Coccinellidae addition of Aphidecta obliterata Larch Ladybird, a search for more yielded none! However, searching carefully through the many Seven-spot Ladybirds turned up species number 10 for the Tophill list - this Ten-spot Ladybird Adalia 10-punctata. Albeit common, but never written down as present on site.

Birding wise, with the exception of Wednesday (I stayed 10 minutes and thought better of it), Friday and Saturday turned up a few birds of interest. Friday saw a small number of Swallows and House Martins thru, while Saturday saw a pair of Garganey (present Thursday) displaying on North Lagoon...

... while a Cetti's Warbler trilled twice mid-afternoon in willows north of the hide. A drake Scaup was on Watton Nature Reserve til late-afternoon at least, and a 1st summer Mediterranean Gull popped in briefly to South Marsh East before flying west.