15 Aug 2016

Butterflies & Frogs.

Not amphibians but orchids. Mark met me at my office and we drove the short journey up to a site in N Wales where Frog Orchids had been flowering. I said had been as by the time we made the effort all the flowers had passed over and we didn't find a single one! We did find a few faded Chalk Fragrant Orchids though and a nice Autumn Gentian.

The nice surprise though was the number of butterflies with 10 species being recorded - Red Admiral, Greyling, Large White, Small White, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Common Blue, Small Heath, Peacock and Dark Green Fritillary.
 Common Blue
 Very worn Dark Green Fritillary
Small Heath.

We didn't find our target orchid species but it was a very enjoyable few hours messing about in the sunshine on a nice limestone escarpment.

9 Aug 2016

Blustery day on Hilbre.

Sunday was dry but pretty blowy with a force 5-6 whipping up the sand and stinging the legs on Hilbre. Perhaps shorts weren't such a good idea! The idea was to go over and do some essential maintenance work on the heligoland traps before the autumn migration period begins in earnest. Once that had been completed attention turned to the sea and the windy conditions meant there were good numbers of Gannets, Manx Shearwaters moving through. There were plenty of terns as well with the Sandwich Tern roost holding at least 400 birds. Little Terns were also present in good numbers - especially feeding in the gutter as the tide fell. Common Terns were also plentiful and a Pale-phase Arctic Skua appeared causing consternation amongst all the assembled sternidae.

Wader numbers are building up with several summer plumaged Turnstones back feeding at the north end. The high tide roost on Middle Eye held 7 Whimbrel and 8 Sanderling among the hundreds of Oystercatchers, Dunlin & Ringed Plover.

Juvenile Meadow Pipits and Linnets are flying round the island and one Meadow Pipit posed for photos before being photo-bombed by a bee!

With the planned work being finished and the tide ebbing there was just time for a traditional Hilbre brunch before departing for the mainland.

3 Aug 2016

Purple reign. The prince of rails.

News broke over the weekend of a potential 1st for Britain being found at one of my old Suffolk stomping grounds - Minsmere! A Western Swamphen or Purple Swamphen aka Purple Galinue! The Western form is considered more likely to be a genuine vagrant than the Easter nform that is commonly kept in captivity. An Eastern bird turned up in Saltney, near Chester, a few years ago but was subsequently claimed to have escaped fro ma local collection although there was a lot of dubiousness about the manner of its recapture and the claims made by the 'owner' with the bird reported to have been re-relased soon after at a private fishing pond near Buckley. See here for my report and photo's. Note the Eastern form has a greyish head whilst the Western one has a blue head.

Anyway, enough digression,  I decided to drive down with Mark Payne for a look! Meeting up with Chris Griffin on site was a pleasant surprise as I hadn't seen Chris since our Fair Isle trip in 2015. The bird showed almost continuously whilst we were there feeding and occasionally preening whilst strutting around its chosen pool completely dwarfing the local Moorhens. With the weather being slightly damp I didn't bother with the camera but managed a few phone-scoped shots and video  through the telescope.

A great trip and a long, long time since I've been to Minsmere.