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Surf Scoter (with Tufted Ducks), Rutland

Surf Scoter (with Tufted Ducks), Rutland

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.

Northern waterthrush, Cuba

Northern Waterthrush, Cuba

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?

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Robin, Rutland

Robin, Rutland

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:

Long-billed Dowitcher, RW

Long-billed Dowitcher, RW

Fethaland, Shetland

Fethaland, Shetland

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 jewel amongst the bracken: High Brown in Devon

A jewel amongst the bracken: High Brown in Devon

Brown Hairstreak, Pembs

Brown Hairstreak, Pembs

Strines Moor, August 2015

Strines Moor, August 2015

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.

Brown Hairstreak, West Williamston

Brown Hairstreak, West Williamston

Visits to Wales in August can leave you a hostage to the fortunes of weather, as we discovered during the past few days. It took three visits to West Williamston before we encountered the target butterflies (on which more below).

Other highlights included Choughs and a Stonechat mobbing a Weasel at St Davids, and Black Arches and Hummingbird Hawkmoth on Caldey Island.

On our third visit to West Williamston the sun finally shone, and brought out a variety of butterflies including Painted Lady, Holly Blue and Small Copper. The speciality, Brown Hairstreak, took more finding, and when the first one I saw over the salt marsh was taken by a Swallow I began to lose hope of a close encounter. This female on a Blackthorn sapling saved the day.

Brown Hairstreak, West Williamston

Brown Hairstreak, West Williamston