The past few days have brought a few cold-weather birds and minor surprises, including Smew at EBR, Great Northern and Whooper Swans at RW (where Common Sandpiper and Rock Pipit on 8th were both unusual in December), and two Chiffchaffs (both ringed) at Oakham STW. A visit to Geeston STW did not produce any Chiffchaffs, but this striking Grey Wagtail lent grace and colour.
In his 2015 Checklist of the beetles of Leicestershire & Rutland, Finch noted 30 records of Variable Longhorn Stenocorus meridianus. Pendleton & Pendleton (2015) found it widespread but not particularly common in Nottinghamshire; their distribution map shows just 9 squares, without any obvious concentrations.
The status of this beetle in Rutland may be changing. In 2016 I found 5 individuals in 4 tetrads without specifically searching for it. The Rutland sites where I have found Variable Longhorn are Burley and Pickworth Great Woods, Bloody Oaks and Ketton Quarries, and Luffenham Heath. Historically it has been widespread in southern Britain but more local in the north; perhaps it is spreading northwards in response to climate change.
One of my New Year rituals involves going round favourite sites to see how the wildlife changes from year to year. As if to underline how things change, today I saw three former rarities.
At Rutland Water, the Surf Scoter was still off the dam with Tufted Ducks. Inland records are exceptional, though I can remember two records from Cambridgeshire.
At Deeping Lakes, the highlights included male Red-crested Pochard (presumably from the local feral population) and five Long-eared Owls (the highest number I have seen together for many years).
At the Nene Washes and Eldernell, hundreds of Bewicks and Whooper Swans in mixed flocks were an impressive sight but the highlights were a Cattle Egret (associating with sheep) and three Cranes. Also of note were two groups of Roe Deer, which seem to be increasing.
Like a half-remembered memory from childhood, Cuba quietly creeps up on you. As do waterthrushes. Northern Waterthrush was one of 13 species of North American warbler noted during the first half of April, including such gems as Hooded, Cape May and Black-throated Blue.
On the subject of waterthrushes, here’s the controversial bird from Canary Islands in November 1991 (as published in Birding World). AFAIK it’s still accepted as Louisiana, but I am not alone in thinking that it shows several features which appear more typical of Northern. As a rather crude analogy, something about Louisiana reminds me of Tree Pipit.
Whether Louisiana should really be on the WP list purely on the basis of these images is a good question. In particular, could some of the apparently pro-Louisiana features be a photographic effect?
Longer days and sunny spells have increased the volume and variety of birdsong. Warmer days in March should bring out butterflies: please let me have any notable records for the final year of the RBA.
Before renewing my permit at RW this afternoon I enjoyed modest views of my second Rutland Long-billed Dowitcher:
I wouldn’t normally choose a landscape as one of my highlights, but this one at Fethaland in July is too striking to omit.
My other two highlights are both butterflies: the endangered High Brown Fritillary, and my favourite hairstreak from what must be my favourite butterfly family, the Brown Hairstreak.
What will 2016 bring?
A family outing today took us to Strines Moor. This used to be an excellent site for Goshawk, but about half the woodland has been felled and I believe that the birds have gone.
We saw healthy numbers of Red Grouse (for which the moor is managed), and most incongruously a Grey Squirrel at the top of the ridge (a long way from the nearest woodland). The Goshawks may have gone, but we did see both juvenile Marsh Harrier and Peregrine so it remains a dangerous place for an exposed small mammal.