Thursday, 28 July 2011

Juvenile Bredstarts - Preston - 28th July 2011

After hearing that the Black Redstarts fledged the day after I initially located the two adults together, I couldn't resist a second visit. These birds have become somewhat of a local internet sensation so I was surprised to be the only other observer (except for John Wright whom arrived as I was leaving)
I could hear the juveniles calling from some distance away in the grounds of The Chambers (53 Guildhall Street). I soon located both and managed to get several photos which I am pretty happy with.

calling to his mum...

Thanks to the kind gentlemen who let have access to the roof of The Chambers' building where I could see the male singing and the female feeding the chicks...superb!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Black Redstarts return to Preston! - 26th July 2011

In August 2010, I confirmed breeding of Black Redstart in Preston Town Centre for the first time since the 1950's! (see blog post)
I only managed to confirm breeding after the birds had fledged so the adults soon became elusive which was a shame. I hoped they would return in 2011 so I could observe these enchanting birds before they settled into breeding.
Nick and I visited the town centre once a week for several weeks in June to try and catch the sound of a singing male, but the closest we came was a very brief flight view of a redstart sp.

On Sunday 24th July, Phil Buck spotted a male on Bairstow Street calling frequently. Nick and I therefore decided we would have a real go today and we managed to locate both male and female. Both of which were carrying food and the male was heard singing several times also. Superb!

Let's hope they are successful breeders for a second year!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Local Lepidoptera - 24th July 2011

Sunday morning started off with glorious sunshine in my garden. This brought a couple of butterflies into my garden in the form of a Speckled Wood, Red Admiral and a very elusive Holly Blue. I went about trying to photograph these but my dad soon got into gardening mode and asked me to move!

With a hunger for butterflies running through my veins, I decided to go for a wander into Haighton House Woods as I'd never concentrated on Lepidoptera here. Being a very well established woodland, I knew I was in for a treat...I wasn't wrong!
I found an opening with a decent meadow in the middle of it where highlights were 2+ White-letter Hairstreak, 3 Small Copper, 10 Gatekeeper, the '3 Whites', Small and Large Skipper and Comma among others
Small Copper - One of my favourite species of Butterfly and my first for the year, which was a treat.

Apparantly this is the first time White-letter Hairstreak has been seen at Haighton House Woods, so I am very lucky to have experienced such close up views. It was so obliging that I was able to see the detail of its 'face' with the naked eye. Stunning!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Butterflies and A&E - 14th July 2011

I apologise for the slight delay on this post, but as a result of my trip to the Lakes with Nick Patel on Thursday, I have been in Hospital ever since and have only just been discharged, 96 hours later!

We spent the day looking for a few Cumbrian specialities using my dads car to help us get around.
The main target for the day was Mountain Ringlet. A species of butterfly that is considered potentially the 'oldest' species of butterfly in Britain due to it being the first butterfly present after the ice age due to their cool, high altitude habitat.
We started off the day at Cold Pike near to Little Langdale in brilliant sunshine which is perfect for Ringlets. It was a decent walk in terms of distance before we started getting to appropriate territory and altitude, but this allowed us to spot a couple of other upland species. Small Heath and the occasional Large White were the only species of butterfly present on the ascent, but Large Red Damselfly, Four-spotted Chaser and a single Golden-ringed Dragonfly (new for Nick) kept us our spirits high.
When we reached Red Tarn, we knew we were close to the right habitat, but the sun suddenly went in! We decided to sit down on a large rock, waiting for the sun to reappear. When it did, we spotted 2 small dark brown butterfly appear from the Matt Grass. Closer inspection revealed them to be Mountain Ringlet...superb!
These proved to be a real challenge to photograph as they very rarely landed and when they did, they kept deep down into the medium-length Matt Grass.
Mountain Ringlet
After about an hour, I kept my eye on one, of the five present, at a distance which I saw land...a short stalk later, I was able to get a decent enough record shot of this enchanting species.
Moving on slightly south, we headed to Yew Tree Tarn to change our focus to Odonata. The two main targets at this site were Downy Emerald and Beautiful Demoiselle. The latter is a species I have wanted to see for several years now, but have never made the effort to go and see. Sadly, we were unable to locate any, but 2, maybe 3, Downy Emerald made up for this (even if they evaded my camera!)

The second butterfly target species of the day was Large Heath which we know to be present at Foulshaw Moss and Meathop Moss. The latter is more reliable due to more dense colonies in the smaller habitat, but Foulshaw Moss also has White-faced Darter, which is another species I have always wanted to see.
Black Darter
We failed for both of these at Foulshaw (despite countless Black Darter), so we decided to go for one last attempt at Meathop.
Within about 3 minutes of arriving onto the more compact heathland, a Large Heath flew past and gave me gripping views.
(Mountain Ringlet, Black Darter and Large Heath photos taken by myself. The rest are kindly donated by Nick Patel)
Not to worry however, as these became reasonably regular and I was able to get a record shot showing the characteristic underwing of the, in my opinion, prettiest of the 3 British races of Large Heath.
I was however not expecting what happened next. Whilst leaning forward to get a better photo of the Large Heath, I put my hand down to keep myself stable. Feeling a sudden 'prick' in my hand, I pulled away thinking it was a thistle or something. What I wasn't expecting was that I had put my hand down into the striking range of a rather angry Adder, which was now hanging from my finger!
The culprit - A foot and a half of Adder
An Entomologists and Herpetologists heaven!
Nick and the Adder to show the size
Hearing that Adder bites are only as bad as a Wasp or Bee sting, I wasn't too worried so soon picked the snake up by the tail (as a childhood of watching Steve Irwin taught me!) and began taking lots of pictures of this rather stunning animal. This is my first adder and boy, did it make a first impression!

We decided to call it a day after we let the snake go so that I could nip into a local chemist in Milnthorpe to get an anti-histamine for the bite in case I reacted badly. The chemist were shocked about my nonchalance and said I it would probably be wise to get to A&E asap. I thought this was a bit extreme but went anyway just to make sure.
(I went to Kendal hospital and was quickly transferred to Lancaster by Ambulance)

I was seen straight away and was given a huge 10mg dose of European Viper Anti-venom. I really wasn't expecting them to say that I would need to stay for a minimum of 48 hours to make sure I didn't react badly. (Apparently this is more common than the initial bite)
As the photographs below show, I reacted pretty badly to the bite and the swelling went from the tip of my finger to the base of my neck. It is still partially swollen as I write but it much better
I am more than grateful to Nick for helping me keep in regular contact with my parents and to keep me from going mad when I started growing a boxing glove for a hand!
As Thursday 14th July 2011 has shown, taking photographs of butterflies isn't a danger free pursuit and all I can say is, if you can avoid an so!
Obtaining a slightly better photo of a Large Heath is not worth 5 days of Hospital meals and no use of your writing arm!
Thank you for reading and hopefully, I've learnt the hard way, so you don't have to!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

LEO and a migrant from the Farnes! - 13th July 2011

I've done some awesome things this year, and to be honest today is up there with one of the greatest.
Ciaran is back from the Farne Islands for a couple of days so we took this opportunity to see him before Chris and Kane shoot off to Iceland for a month! Kane picked Ciaran and I up early on and then waited for Chris to join us in the afternoon after a pub lunch and a catch up.
We headed to the Long-eared Owl nest in the late afternoon to go and ring the owl brood.
All 5 chicks were at the right age to ring so we were over the moon. This was a new experience for Ciaran and I so we couldn't be happier.

They were absolutely amazing! Little balls of fluff with piercing orange eyes that never left our gaze. One of the best birds I have ringed by far mainly because the mood in the group was lifted by a certain Northumberland migrant's presence! If it wasn't for the recent Tubenose catching, I'm sure these would be up there with the title of my greatest ringed bird.

Throughout the whole time we ringed the birds, the two adults were in close proximity keeping an eye on us which was superb to see as I very rarely have seen Long-eareds in the flesh apart from when they are doing very little at Marton Mere.

We ended the day catching 2 Grasshopper Warbler and a Collared Dove pulli which were two new species for Ciaran! Excellent!

A superb day and great to see Ciaran again! Hope you have a brilliant final few months on the island and hope you keep well
Also, Good luck to Kane and Chris in Iceland and hope you don't 'grip' me off with the inevitable cornucopia of stories you will tell when you get back!

Monday, 11 July 2011

20 species of Butterfly at Arnside Knott - 11th July 2011

I spent a day with Nick Patel at Arnside Knott for my first full day of entomology, specialising in butterfly. We managed a pretty impressive 20 species of butterfly in 8 hours, which I was over the moon about! It was particularly special for me because I saw 6 new species.
Above and Below - Northern Brown Argus was one of my favourites for the day, mainly because it is one of the rarest and most localised species in Britain being restricted to far north west Lancashire and Durham. Separated from Brown Argus by the two white spots on the open wing, this was a delightfully delicate little butterfly.

Above - High Brown Fritillary was another new species for me and only my 2nd ever species of fritillary in Britain (Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary being the 1st). These were impressive beasts and being such a bright orange colour made them stand out from a decent distance.
Above and Below - Dark Green Fritillary was the 2nd fritillary of the day and another new one. These weren't quite as orange at the High Browns but with the addition of the intricate underwing, made for another lovely butterfly. This was probably the most common species we saw all day with over 100 being seen at least! Fantastic!
(In addition to the 2 fritillary species photographed above, I also managed to see Pearl-bordered Fritillary and 2+ Silver-washed Fritillary which were again new for me.)
Above - Grayling was the 6th new species of the day for me and was one of the most abundant of the butterfly species present with 30+ being seen.

Butterfly species seen - Silver-washed Fritillary, Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Dark Green Fritillary, High Brown Fritillary, Grayling, Northern Brown Argus, Common Blue, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Large Skipper, Small Skipper, Comma, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small Heath, Ringlet

Incredibly we never saw Peacock all day and we felt a little bit 'short changed' that we were unable to locate either Purple or White-letter Hairstreak despite great effort. We were hoping, considering everything else being early this year, to maybe get an early Scotch Argus, but no such joy.
Above - The only odonata species we saw was this Emerald Damselfly which was present next to some Ragwort and Bramble in some Juncus. This is only the 3rd time I've ever seen this species after seeing 1 at Brockholes and 6 at Beacon Fell back in 2007.
A final addition to the days list was a Hummbird Hawkmoth feeding on Ox-eye Daisy on the front at Arnside next to the Kent Railway Viaduct.

A superb day overall and really worth the effort, even if I extremely tired as I write this.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Robinson comes to Longsands - 4th July 2011

I have always wanted to put a moth trap in my garden as I soon tired of running round the garden with a torch and a couple of plant pots catching 2 moths a night! Kane has provided me with the opportunity to trap for the first time by lending me his 'Rolls Royce' Robinson 125w MV Trap.
1922 Swallow-tailed Moth Ourapteryx sambucaria
1884 The Magpie Abraxas grossulariata
1860 Green Pug Pasiphila rectangulata
1931 Peppered Moth Biston betularia

Totals of Species I could Identify: 16 Swallowtail, 14 Dot moth, 5 Riband Wave, 9 Heart and Dart, 2 Magpie, 4 Brimstone, 3 Flame, 1 Peppered Moth, 1 Small Magpie, 3 Large Yellow Underwing, 2 Green Oak Tortrix, 1 Mother of Pearl, 1 Beautiful Golden y, 1 Garden Carpet, 17 Double Square Spot, 1 Flame Shoulder, 1 Dark Swordgrass, 1 Green Pug, 1 Clouded Silver, 2 Willow Beauty, 2 Double Lobed, 2 Fanfoot

An excellent nights mothing!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A gaggle and a half of Geese - Llangorse, Powys - 3rd June 2011

Kane, Chris and I made our way south today to the annual Canada Goose round up at Llangorse Lake in Mid/South Wales.
We joined a group of 25 or so people including our good friend Gillian Dinsmore. Canada Geese gather here from all over Britain for their annual wing moult making them flightless. This makes for a very good opportunity to catch as many as possible to ring. The majority of the work was done by a selection of 10 or so kayaks which essentially herding the geese to the area of the lake where the ringing team was gathered with a metal pen. We helped with the final part which was keeping the birds from espcaping back into the water whilst making the short journey into the pen. It was a very impressive sight to behold as we caught c370 Canada Geese. I have only ever ringed 1 Canada Goose before so it was nice to get used to using L rings as well as being able to eperience the sheer power of a big goose trying to wriggle free.

In glorious sunshine, it was a really successful catch. Whilst waiting for the 'herders' to bring the geese round to our side of the lake, my 8th Osprey of the year was seen fishing in the water in front of us for at least 15 minutes catching a couple of decent sized fish. Superb.
I also managed to see my first Ringlet and Marbled White butterfly which was rather nice to see in the car park.
Thanks to Jerry Lewis for coordinating the catch and to Kane for use of his photos and for driving the 400 mile round trip! What a trooper!

Friday, 1 July 2011

No Birds in this post! - Brockholes NR LWT - 1st July 2011

For me, July is by far the least 'birdy' month in the year, so I thought I would start the month concentrating on Odonata and Butterfly down at the patch. I spent a couple of hours by the bramble patch by the style to the eastern end of Boilton Wood.
This patch is very good for Butterfly and with it being just below a couple of young Elm, it is ideal habitat for White-letter Hairstreak.
It took about half an hour of waiting before a large burst of sun brought down a rather stunning White-letter Hairstreak seen by myself and a handful of LWT staff. This is a first for me, so I felt very fortunate that is was so obliging!

Whilst waiting for the Hairstreak to appear I saw a couple of first for the years in the form of a male Broad-bodied Chaser which is one of my favourite dragonfly species due to them being very obliging for photography compared to some of the other species like Black-tailed Skimmer.
For rarity value, the star of the day was a Hummingbird Hawkmoth that appeared on a patch of nettles next to the brambles then made its way across the front of the patch. This was present for two minutes and seen my Bill Gregory, Mike Foley, Robin Shenton and myself. A personal sight first and the first to be seen since the the LWT took over the site.Hummingbird Hawkmoth photo by Mike Foley