Saturday, 29 April 2017

Saturday April 29

With the day-listing season fast approaching I decided to spend all day (more or less) on patch to see how many species of birds I could find.

I got off to a pretty ropey start, stumbling out of our house at 05.15 to find the dawn chorus in full flow. The plan had been to get to Ipsley Alders pre-dawn to see if any Tawny Owls were hooting. In the event nothing stirred apart from the usual residents.

The next part of the master plan was to head for Arrow Valley Lake. My car was numero uno in the car-park and after surveying the lake for the usual suspects I headed down the east side counting six singing Reed Warblers, two Common Sandpipers, and 11 Great Crested Grebes before hearing my first patch Sedge Warbler of the year.

Shortly afterwards came another year-tick in the form of Mark Islip. He cycled up, and was as surprised to see me as I was to see him. Mark is the main man at Arrow Valley Lake, and fortunately for me he doesn't take part in Patchwork Challenge. He has already seen a Glaucous Gull here this year, and told me that a pair of Avocets had been reported here yesterday. He hadn't seen them, but did see one here last year! He imparted further patch news that the Dipper seen a few weeks ago (which I had assumed was duff) had been seen by a guy he knew to be pretty reliable. That's another decent patch bird I have missed, the list is starting to mount alarmingly.

I headed onwards, but soon came across Mark again. He had had brief views of a possible Wheatear at the sailing club, but had been unable to relocate it. I headed there, seeing four Common Terns which suddenly, and noisily, arrived. A Kingfisher flew back and forth across the lake, and a Grey Wagtail perched obligingly on a fishing platform.

Grey Wagtail

A wide circuit across the parkland added nothing more interesting than a flock of 16 Magpies, and I ended up trying to add a few photos for the blog.

Common Tern
Common Sandpiper
With the total on a modest 48 species I headed home for breakfast. A couple of brief sorties later and I had added Starling, Collared Dove, Goldfinch, and Buzzard to the day list.

After a few hours off patch, I was back at Arrow Valley Lake by mid-afternoon with renewed enthusiasm. This was not misplaced as I quickly located a Little Egret.

Little Egret
Also, a pair of Great Crested Grebes with one parent carrying three chicks.

All aboard
After spending far too much time trying to photograph the largely invisible singing Reed Warblers I headed away from the lake, quickly finding single singing Common Whitethroat, and Lesser Whitethroat for the patch year list.

Common Whitethroat
My final day ticks were a Sparrowhawk and a couple of House Martins before I had to leave after convincing myself I had lost my mobile phone (I had left it at home).

The grand total at the end of the day was 57.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Saturday April 22

A sunny day with a light north-easterly breeze. Quite cool, but warm enough in the sunshine.

Today was designated a gardening day so this post is all about insects. Last night I caught a smallish moth on the kitchen window. I worked out it was a large micro-moth, but it wasn't until this morning that I was able to identify it as a Parsnip Moth Depressaria radiella.

Parsnip Moth
The species appears in July, which confused me until I read that it hibernates and thus reappears in the spring.

Talking of hibernating insects, I was pleased to see a Peacock butterfly on our newly purchased Scabious flowers. Other butterflies to feature today were several Orange-tips, a Holly Blue, and a Brimstone.

Other insects identified were a Harlequin Ladybird, and a Common Green Shieldbug.

Harlequin Ladybird
Common Green Shieldbug

Friday, 21 April 2017

Friday April 21

A cloudy morning with hardly a breathe of wind. Mild.

The first notable bird of the day was a Mistle Thrush, which turned out to be nesting in trees surrounding the car-park. I got to the water's edge near the cafe where I heard a singing Reed Warbler, my first this year. Unfortunately it failed to show itself.

I decided to walk anti-clockwise around the lake, and was about a quarter of the way around when I spotted a Common Tern on one of the buoys.

Common Tern
My limited experience of the site leads me to believe that this species is virtually resident here in the summer. However, a definite passage migrant on a jetty in front of the sailing club was a Common Sandpiper.

Common Sandpiper
Unfortunately I was only able to view it at some distance as you cannot get access to the sailing club property. I later saw it, or another, in flight. Other species seen included Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, and all three hirundines. Blackcaps were in good voice, although I didn't see any as well as a bird I photographed on a very brief visit yesterday.

About half way round I met the lady I had chatted to on my visit at the end of March, her name being Jenny. She was counting the grebe, Coot, and Mute Swan nests for the BTO. I reminded her of the Little Egret we had seen snagged in vegetation at the end of March. It turned out that she had let the park-keepers know, and the bird had disappeared when she next visited, so they either rescued it, or it was able to free itself.

We walked the rest of the way together, noting singing Treecreeper and Nuthatch, and a pair of Oystercatchers on the heron island. There must be a chance that they will attempt to breed.

Anyway, the three new species seen today were all birds I have yet to record at Morton Bagot this year, and none is guaranteed to occur there.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Tuesday April 11

I hate to have to admit defeat, but I am currently staring it in the face after failing to decide even a family for a tiny micro moth I caught this morning.

I noticed it in the bathroom as I emerged from the shower, at first suspecting it was an ant. Once I realised it was a moth I caught it and took some photos in rather dodgy light before I had to leave for work.

Dyseriocrania subpupurella - Common Oak Purple
I was fairly confident I would figure it out, but the grainy image has failed to lead me to a conclusion. I would send the photo to a moth man, but its such a poor photograph I don't think its worth doing.

(However I cracked and sent the image to Michael Southall of Butterfly Conservation who has kindly supplied me with the solution now shown in the caption).

The only other thing to report is that a Chiffchaff was singing while I was playing with the moth, the first from the garden this year.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Saturday April 8

The weather just keeps on getting warmer. Not a cloud in the sky today, although I gather we may all be in for a rude awakening next week.

In the meantime we enjoyed yesterday afternoon lounging about in the garden, with me behaving eccentrically as usual by trying to photograph anything that looked interesting.

Red Mason Bee
The rosemary continues to be an irresistible draw for bees, with Red Mason Bees, Hairy-footed Flower Bees, and Common Carder Bees all visiting it. The former species appears to be nesting in a hole in my neighbour's wall. Luckily there isn't a cat in hell's chance that he will read this blog so I'll hope he doesn't notice.

The nest hole
Another new species for the garden was perched on the fence, a bee of course.

Tawny Mining Bee
I also spotted a Drone Fly resting on the regrowing Buddleia.

Drone Fly
This morning I went for a short walk around Ipsley Alders. I was too early for insects so had to hope that the birds would come up trumps. In the event I saw only a pair of Greylag Geese on the pool plus most of the usual resident species. Migrants were represented by eight singing Chiffchaffs, five singing Blackcaps, and a single singing Willow Warbler.

Willow Warbler
The only butterflies I have positively identified on patch today were Orange Tips and a Brimstone, although a probable Large White settled briefly on the budding blossom in our apple tree, disappearing before I could grab either binoculars or camera.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Thursday April 6

A lovely sunny day with a very light north-westerly breeze.

After a fruitless visit to the paper shop in search of a Guardian which had not been delivered, bagging six Redwings as a reminder that winter hasn't quite gone yet, the morning was spent hanging around the garden and indulging in a bit of token gardening. A Dunnock posed beautifully on the fence posts as it sang in defence of its territory.

We are still not really seeing butterflies in the garden, so I had to make do with bees. I did at least get a bee tick in the form of a female Hairy-footed Flower Bee. I have always wanted to see one if only because of the slightly silly name.

Hairy-footed Flower Bee in flight with tongue extended to lap up some nectar
The Rosemary is just about the only plant in our garden which is attracting insects at the moment. The next species to appear was an Early Bumblebee, Bombus pratorum. It was typically difficult to photograph.

Early Bumblebee
Somewhat similar to a Buff-tailed Bumblebee, but this queen is much smaller, similar in size to a Common Carder Bee, which also visited.

The final bee to appear was caked in pollen, and showed quite well.

Red Mason Bee - Osmia bicornis

It was a Red Mason Bee, a species I have recorded in the garden before.

In the afternoon, a sure sign that the weather is warming up was that Lyn was keen to come to Arrow Valley Lake with me to have a look at the Grey Heron nests.

Grey Heron with chick. Mission accomplished.
Lyn really enjoyed getting out, the park lake being a very wheelchair friendly environment. The birds were a little uninspiring for me, but we saw about six pairs of Great Crested Grebes, and had a brief view of a Kingfisher. It was interesting that I heard no Willow Warblers and just one Blackcap. Perhaps my last visited just coincided with an arrival of passage migrants. Admittedly the afternoon is not ideal for hearing birds sing though.

Displaying Great Crested Grebes
Arty-farty view of reeds against the lake
Shortly before we reached the car we saw a couple of Orange-tip butterflies, although neither posed for photographs.

This evening I spotted a White-shouldered House Moth on the landing, my second moth species this year.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Sunday April 2

A fairly mild sunny afternoon. I volunteered to do some gardening duties starting with mowing the lawn. Before I started, I inspected the grass for any obstructions and noticed a fungus.

Unfortunately I am at a loss to identify it, largely because there are far too many fungus species to be bothered with. However, if anyone seeing this post knows what it is, I would be pleased to hear from them.

As we are now in April, there are far more mini beasts around to keep me entertained. A hoverfly which landed on the primulas in pots on the patio was tentatively identified as Syrphus vitripennis on the basis that its hind legs seemed to show a dark femur. However, it could be a related species as they may not be identifiable from photographs.

Hoverfly - thought to be Syrphus vitripennis
Continuing the theme of difficult to identify beasts, I moved a pot and discovered what I identified as a Yellow Slug. However, there is apparently a similar species called Irish Yellow Slug which is also possible.

Yellow Slug
Several bees visited the plants on the patio, the Rosemary being particularly popular. Bumblebees are hard to photograph as they never keep still, but a queen Common Carder Bee was more co-operative than most.

Common Carder Bee
Another bee was even more co-operative, and turned out to be a Grey-patched Mining Bee. Although they are apparently fairly common, I had not seen one before.

Grey-patched Mining Bee - Andrena nitida
A butterfly fluttered into the garden and landed on our flaking wooden fascia of the eaves which give our house character (according to me), or is a disgrace and has to go (according to Lyn).

Speckled Wood
It was a Speckled Wood, and was soon joined by a queen wasp, either Common Wasp or German Wasp. Unfortunately you need to see its face to be sure which.

Wasp sp
The final interesting insect I saw was a Dark-bordered Bee Fly. It had been feeding on our Jasmine, which I had repotted this afternoon, but the best views came when it perched on the sunny side of our fence.

Dark-bordered Bee Fly
Not too many birds were seen this afternoon, but I did see three Lapwings as they flew over. An unusual sighting for the garden.