Fallow Deer tempted from the woods by spring shoots; note the attendant Magpie
Nothing quite matches those days in early spring when the sun warms the soil and the first hibernators emerge. In comparison with recent years this spring has been slow, but today I saw both Brimstone (in just ten degrees – cooler than normal for this species) and Small Tortoiseshell. Mammals were also in evidence: Fallow and Muntjac Deer, and a Red Fox taking a break from its den.
In recent days the most obvious migrant has been Osprey (a series of birds at RW and EBR, probably all from translocation projects). To date I have seen just one presumed migrant Chiffchaff, but the birds are moving north and soon I must follow.
Vixen Red Fox, Rutland
Great Northern, Rutland
The first week of 2018 has been an opportunity to begin to rediscover some special birds.
In Rutland, highlights have included Hawfinch (lingering from the autumn’s record influx), male Smew, Great Northern Diver, wintering Common Sandpiper and Chiffchaffs, and a covey of 10 Grey Partridges (no longer a regular sight).
This morning we visited Thorney Toll, Cambridgeshire, to see the wintering Rough-legged Buzzard which gave prolonged if distant views perched in a Hawthorn hedge and flying occasionally.
Distant Rough-legged Buzzard, Cambridgeshire
Grey Wagtail, Rutland
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.
Variable Longhorn, Rutland
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.
Variable Longhorns in Rutland – can you add to the map?
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
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:
Long-billed Dowitcher, RW