Monday, 29 August 2011

Me, Myself & Irene - 29th August 2011

With all this talk of Hurricane Irene attacking the east coast of North America, British birders can't help but think about what the hurricane will do to the ornithology across the pond, and what will turn up on our coastal headlands.
With strong winds forecast on our coasts, I thought I would give Starr Gate a go...

Starr Gate - 24mph >NW
Watching all the Cornish headlands 'scoring big' with Cory's, Balearic, Great and a possible Little Shearwater the night before, I couldn't help but arrive at Starr Gate with massive expectations. A Balearic would probably be the best I could hope for in August off Starr Gate, but this wasn't to be.
The wind was too northernly for the Blackpool coast to have a wreck (it would probably be better on the Wirral today) so the best I could muster up was as follows:
2 Manx Shearwater >S, 5 Gannet >N, 2 Guillemot >N, Razorbill >N, 2 Sandwich Tern >N, and a raft of 170 Common Scoter reasonably close in.
Apart from this, there wasn't a great deal so I called it a day after about 2 hours.

By lunchtime I was back in Preston and got a text saying there were 2 Ruff in Meadow Lake at Brockholes. I got there as quick as I could, but they left the site heading strongly >SW just before I arrived!
These would be the first Ruff I would've seen on site since 2 self found juveniles back in August 2006! I'm not even sure there have been any since this date! Ruff have become so ridiculously scarce in recent years.

Not the best day I could have imagined, but it beats being a cyber birder...amazing nearctic vagrants will never be found if we all had lazy bank holidays sitting by a computers screen all day!!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Butterflies: Catalunya 7th-19th August 2011

With 2011's holiday to Spain being mainly a butterfly holiday, I really enjoyed my trip seeing a huge number of new species for me with a total of 42 species seen, at least!
I'm still getting a few species identified, but please comment on any of my already identified photos below.
worn Panoptes Blue
Tree Grayling
Scarce Swallowtail
Scarce Swallotail
very illusive Long-tailed Blue
Red-underwing Skipper
Bath White
Spotted Fritillary
Silver-studded Blue
Lang's Short-tailed Blue
Clouded Yellow
Southern White Admiral
Spotted Fritillary
Geranium Bronze
Striped Grayling
Brown Argus
Geranium Bronze
Common Blue

Species seen:
Scarce Swallowtail, Swallowtail, Small White, Large White, Green-veined White, Bath White, Clouded Yellow, Wood White, Comma, Southern White Admiral, Red Admiral, Peacock, Cardinal, Spotted Fritillary, Lesser Spotted Fritillary, Marbled White, Grayling, Tree Grayling, Striped Grayling Giant Banded Grayling, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Spanish Gatekeeper, Large Wall Brown, Wall Brown, (Southern) Speckled Wood, Small Copper, Long-tailed Blue, Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Panoptes Blue, Silver-studded Blue, Common Blue, Holly Blue, Adonis Blue, Panoptes Blue, Brown Argus, Red-underwing Skipper, Grizzled Skipper, Dingy Skipper, Mallow Skipper, Large Skipper
Can anyone help with the ID of this Fritillary sp seen at the Millau Viaduct, France?

Reptiles: Catalunya 7th-19th August 2011

Moorish Gecko
Lizard sp (yet to be identified...)
European Green Lizard

Odonata: Catalunya 7th-19th August 2011

Scarlet Darter
Scarce Emerald Damselfly with a shorter, paler pterostigma than Emerald Damselfly

Keeled Skimmer
Red Veined Darter
Species seen: Emperor, Lesser Emperor, Keeled Skimmer, Ruddy Darter, Common Darter, Red-veined Darter, Violet Dropwing, Common Blue Damselfly, Emerald Damselfly, Scarce Emerald Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly,

Moths: Catalunya 7th-19th August 2011

I found that the increased greenery in Catalunya this year improved the moths present around the garden. I saw several species I've never seen before with Lime Hawkmoth being the most impressive and Pine Hawkmoth being my favourite
Pine Hawkmoth
female Lime Hawkmoth
Hummingbird Hawkmoth
Lime-speck Pug
Scarce Footman

Birds: Catalunya 7th-19th August 2011

Long-time followers of my blog will know I have been on a family holiday to Rosas, Catalunya every year since 2006. This year was no different, but it could well have been our last year this year. As a result, I thought I would try something a little different and have my main focus being butterflies. Birds therefore took somewhat of a back seat in this trip so I don't really have too many exciting stories from this years holiday...I will do what I can however!
Millau Viaduct, France
We drove down this year meaning I could add a few different species onto the list. The drive down saw more Buzzards than you could ever wish to see! I would suggest that there were at least 100 Buzzards plus a male Montagu's Harrier, a Honey Buzzard and Osprey seen. A mile north of the incredible Millau Viaduct, I located a flock of 15 Griffon Vultures. We stopped the car and out of nowhere a jaw-droppingly massive bird appeared at close range in loose association with the Griffons and it turned out to be the only lifer of the trip for me which was Black Vulture. Incredible bird!
Cap de Creus.
Whilst on a butterfly photographic 'expedition' near to the area of Mas Ventos (on the road from Vilajuïga to San Pere de Rodes) I came across a family party of Woodchat Shrike. One of the juveniles landed on a bush only 15 feet away, providing some brilliant photographic opportunities.
A 2 hour seawatch from the Cap de Creus peninsular produced a flock of 8 Whimbrel flying south...and that was it! Not a hint of any of the 3 tubenose species. I was a little disappointed to be honest.
Aiguamolls de l'Emporda
2011 saw the wettest July for over 100 years in Catalonia. As a result, everywhere was greener than ever, and the rivers were full of water, but the pools at Aiguamolls were devoid of any water! Amazing! There is a flooded farmers field to the west of the road from Rosas to Empuriabrava which seemed to hold almost all of the water birds in the area. Here I had great views of Greater Flamingo, Spotted Redhshank (a new bird for Spain for me) as well as Black-tailed Godwit and and a cornucopia of Gulls and heron species.
I managed to witness two species of Woodpecker on this trip. One of which was Great Spotted Woodpecker, which is a new Spanish bird for me, as well as Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which was heard from the reserve car park. This is almost the exact same site that I saw my first ever Lesser Spot there back on my first visit in 2006.
Melodious Warbler

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Scotch Argus among 22 other species - Arnside and Warton - 2nd August 2011

Arriving at Preston train station at 8.30 in torrential rain, Nick and I really weren't optimistic at all about seeing the main target species - Scotch Argus - but we decided to give it a go anyway and go on the train to Arnside. by 12pm we hadn't seen a single butterfly whilst walking around Arnside Knott.The temperature suddenly rose and we caught sight of a dark flash in front of us...Scotch Argus! Superb!
This was new for me and due to it being the first butterfly of the day, we didn't want to lose sight of it so 'ran' after it. In the process, we flushed at least 10 Scotch Argus which was crazy. The patch of land in the above photo was absolutely full of Scotch Argus with an estimate of 200 being in flight at the peak of the warm weather burning through the clouds. This was a spectacle to behold and one of the most incredible wildlife events I've witnessed...Amazing! (No wonder UK Butterflies has Arnside Knott as '*****' for Scotch Argus. To be able to see at least 200 of one of Englands scarcest species in pouring rain was superb)

The rain aided photography as the butterflies were very approachable and stayed still for a very long time which allowed me to get a really intimate look at, in my opinion, one of Britain's most beautiful butterflies. Some of the really really fresh individuals were stunning with almost black wings with blinding orange spots.

I got to experience an interesting aspect to a butterflies journey from Ovum to Imago which was an adult that had literally just hatched from its chrysalis and its wings were still folded so looked very peculiar. It reminded me of an Angle Shades moth, which is what I initially thought it was.
After Arnside, it started to become sunny, so we thought we'd try out luck at Warton Crag. The main targets here were second generations of Dingy Skipper and Small Blue but sadly, the sun disappeared soon after we got on site so didn't see however. Consolation species were 2+ male Brimstone which were beautifully fresh, as well as 3 or 4 Wall Brown which is a species that's eluded me all year until now (last seen at Brockholes in 2010)
I got the impression that a lot of butterfly had only emerged this week as they all looked really fresh...the same can't be said for this Dark-green Fritillary however which looks as though it's on its last legs!

From what we thought was going to be a disastrous day, it turned out to be really productive with 23 species seen, which bettered our visit in bright sun a few weeks ago! Amazing!