Sunday, 16 August 2015

Filey fun

Some fun times spent at Filey recently, with a great moth/bat event at YWT Filey Dams last Friday, hosted by Filey Bird Obs, which added about a dozen species to my moth list, including Small Rufous, Diamond-back Moth and Old Lady. Kipped over in the car park, then headed out nice and early to the coast, which revealed a glass-like sea-surface and lots of Harbour Porpoise action. Sadly, no Minke Whales, though one was seen later. I headed up into the forest and following a tip from Rich and Viper Dan, finally found a Wykeham Honey Buzzard, an adult female, which got up about 9.50am, soared around over the forest then headed north west. A few other bits of interest, including Willow Tit, Spotted Flycatcher and a fine male Goshawk. Back to Filey for the Woodcock Festival which was great fun, highlights being the Legend that is John Law, the Railroad Hobos (featuring colleague Elizabeth Round) and of course the excellent Morning Bride.

I returned to Filey yesterday, hoping to jam in on the Greenish Warbler found yesterday by Mark P. The Dams continued to look great, with 8 Ruff, 7 Dunlin, 3 Green Sand, 2 Common Sand and a few Teal. At North Cliff, a few migrants included Painted Lady, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat, several Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs. Sadly, a possible Wood Warbler escaped confirmation. A few Wall butterflies were kicking around - always nice to see.

Sad news was that the heavy rain on Friday night caused our House Martin nest to fall down. It killed one of the two chicks immediately, but the other died while I was trying to put up a box to replace the nest. I will put the box up anyway, just in case the parents might want to try again. Really sad as both chicks looked like they could have fledged in about a week. :-(

 From top, Green Sand at the Dams, a rather drab Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and Wall.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Bongonaut Fell Adventures

Glorous ten days in the Bongo with the family in the Lakes then around Silverdale. Failed to find Mountain Ringlets up Langdale due to poor weather but did see a rather spectacular Funnel Cloud and almost killed the Bongo going up Wry Nose Pass. We hadn't realised it was the steepest road in England! Left the fells before news of breeding Bee-eaters broke from near Penrith - doh!

Further south, we enjoyed some lovely freshly-emerged Scotch Arguses (Argi?) at Arnside Knott, plus Northern Brown Argus, Grayling, Small Blue and a couple of Fritillary spp. which didn't pause long enough to be identified, so High Brown Frit escaped being ticked. Speaking of which, some good Tick action, with one digging right into my throat in Silverdale, which was a bit painful!
Fantastic fun at Leighton Moss and Gait Barrow NNR with stunning scenery and habitats at both-  places I will definitely revisit. Some good mothing around the lights in the campsite bogs too - need to identify some unknowns...

From top: Funnel Cloud from Pike Blisco, Gatekeeper plus Aceria cephaloneus mite galls on Sycamore leaf, Grayling, Northern Brown Argus x2, Scotch Argus x3, Small Blue. All butterflies at Arnside Knott.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Go out and get em', boy!

Garden mothing still rocks, with new stuff turning up in all the time, including possibly the coolest, most bonkers-looking common moth, the Buff-tip.

However, there are some cracking wildlife sites near York, with some top moth notoriety and, having borrowed a rather heavy generator from work, I lured Rich over from Flamborough to have a crack at finding some new stuff in the LDV. With the help of NNR manager Craig, we put out three traps last night; one at Bank Island and two on Wheldrake Ings - with permission of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust of course :-)

So, a 5am start today and after a quick drive we were soon staring wide-eyed at the most amazing kaleidoscope of moths ever, in the Bank Island trap.

There was probably 300 moths inside, with dozens of gaudy Elephant Hawkmoths adorning every surface. After carefully picking through the egg trays, we had amassed over 50 species of macros including a cracking Pine Hawkmoth, my first Small Elephant Hawkmoth, an exquisite Lilac Beauty, a handful of delightful Peach Blossoms, spectacular Garden Tigers and lots, lots more. Really exhilarating stuff!

Time was getting on - it was nearly 6.30am - so we headed on to the Ings. Sadly, the traps here were pretty empty in comparison and we failed to find anything particularly impressive, though we did add several more nice moths to the day's haul, including a couple of new species for me, such as Oblique Carpet. Little Egret, Red Kite and Green Sandpiper all flew past while we were mothing, and Reed Warblers and Blackcaps were still singing. A couple of Barn Owls flew around the meadow too. A great start to the day.

Had a potter round the LDV with Rich before heading back to Bish to have a look at the local Tansy Beetles. At first it seemed we would be unlucky, but Rich managed to find a trio chilling out in a Tansy patch. Toast was next on the agenda, followed by a crack at Dark-bordered Beauty (another moth) over at Strensall Common, but sadly we couldn't find any. Apparently the Creeping Willow (the caterpillars' foodplant) is dwindling on site and this is causing this rare moth to decrease sadly. Rich went back a bit later and found out somebody had caught one with a light trap last night, so they are still clinging on. A few Large Skippers and Common Darters were the only bugs of note, along with some nice Spiked Rush and plenty of flowering Cross-leaved Heath. A few Tree Sparrows were around the railway crossing.

Otherwise, since the last update, I finally managed to see a British Little Bittern, with what was presumably the Lakenheath bird from May having moved north to Old Moor. Unlike previous efforts, this one showed well within ten minutes of arriving, flying over the reedbed for a couple of hundred metres, allowing pretty good views. Nearby, a moulting drake American Wigeon was on Wath Ings and some very nice Southern Marsh Orchids were growing by the path.

Little Bittern by Keith Dickinson - I pinched this off the internet- I hope he doesn't mind.

Grotty Yank.
The Bee Orchids and a couple of Pyramidals were along the verge by Askham Bog on the way back - good to see them again. Back home it seems the House Martins are incubating...

Lastly, Tree Bumblebees are hanging around the office - this one flew in the office window and was released after a quick photo session.

Monday, 29 June 2015

And did you walk from the town into the heather

A work trip to Little Beck on the North York Moors to talk to BBC TV about YWT's objection to the proposed potash mine which threatens the National Park, gave me the opportunity to pop in to the delightful YWT reserve of Fen Bog. I was on the hunt for Wood Tiger, a belter of a moth that I have never seen. Sadly, I couldn't find any, but did manage to get a brief view of a Small Argent and Sable, a tiny black and white moth which was hanging out among the profuse snow drift of Heath Bedstraw. Several Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries sipped nectar from the heather. They were very fresh, perhaps newly emerged. A trio of rather pale Painted Ladies were knocking about, the harbingers of a mooted major immigration. Also, two Small Heaths and a Large Skipper.

Small Pearl above, Painted Lady below

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Urban Barny

No idea why this Barn Owl was sitting on the roof of the Judges Lodgings on Lendal in the City Centre of York at 2pm today, but the local Herring Gull gang were seriously unhappy. They mobbed it relentlessly.

Barny is sitting to the left of the chimney.

POST SCRIPT: It turned out this was a renegade from a falconry display in the Museum Gardens. Duh!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Bish Life

Mothing has started to pick up as night-time temperatures have improved. Caught my first ever Lime Hawk on Wednesday night, plus my first Elephant Hawk of the year. Three other garden firsts: Magpie, Green Carpet and Silver Ground Carpet. Also, on a tip from a friend, had a look down a lane running out of the village and sure enough, found a perky Little Owl on a pollarded Ash staring at me mid afternoon - nice! My House Martin survey for the BTO was a disaster though as I didn't find a single nest! Had a slow cycle round Keble Park afterwards and found five nests, including the one that is being built on our house.

A day with the RSPB

Up ridiculously early (03.45) and was on the road south by 4am - eek! Amazed to see two Buzzards actively hunting by the side of the A64 at 4.15am, seemingly quite early. Arrived at Old Moor at 4.50am full of anticipation, but on entering the Wader Scrape hide my heart sank, as the other early risers were looking dispondent. The Gull-billed Tern that roosted last night, had gone. Doh! Spent the next hour and a half grilling every passing gull and Common Tern, but alas the GBT never arrived. Saw a fine Med Gull, a couple of Barn Owls, Common Sandpiper and a LBBG killing and eating a recently fledged BH Gull which made me a bit hungry for breakfast! 6.30am approached so I had to leave having dipped spectacularly, but made it back in time for Vicky to go to work and me to take the kids to school. Twitching Dad!

Once duties were done, headed out east to the delights of Goole and then along the south bank of the Humber to my old stomping ground of Blacktoft Sands. Nothing much had changed here, though I didn't see a single Avocet and the water levels were very high with steep sided islands. Perhaps they will drop the water later in the summer for a few passage waders. Nevertheless, a fine couple of hours with great views of the pair of Montagu's Harriers that have successfully nested here. I wouldn't normally put out this kind of news on my blog, but this pair has been widely publicised by the RSPB and others, so they are well known.

The female showed for ten minutes at about 11am, gliding around over the reedbed, before dropping out of sight for another hour. She had very well marked pale upperwing coverts and a very well marked tail. At 12.30pm, the male came in from the west - what a stonking bird! -and was soon intercepted by the female. He briefly chased a lumbering Marsh Harrier away, before having a quick inspection of the chicks. Soon he was off west again, presumably to seek more prey. About half a dozen Marsh Harriers seen, plus a single Spotted Redshank flew past calling. No sign of the Ring-necked Duck although a rather scruffy first summer Tufted Duck was being merrily strung by several birders in Xerox Hide!

Male Monties. Great bird, but a bit too distant for my little lens!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Yorkshire Squirrels

Had another visit to Yearsley, this time with me Dad. One of the Pied Flycatchers was still singing vigorously near the lakes, but failed to see the others. Not much else apart from Garden Warblers, Bullfinches and a Nuthatch. Yellow Pimpernel was a nice plant spot next to the track.

Fired up the Bongo and headed for Wensleydale for a few days camping near Hawes. Ticked YWT Leyburn Old Glebe and YWT Yellands Meadow during the trip, and most chuffed with the Bongo who made it over Buttertubs Pass without a problem. Had a walk round Snaizedale on Friday and enjoyed seeing our first Yorkshire Red Squirrels. These hadn't really been in my consciousness before my return to York and so really pleased to catch up with them. They seem to be doing well here, in a few isolated woodland patches out of the harmful reach of the invading Greys. Great views of a displaying Wood Warbler too, flying round me singing and doing a sort of butterfly flight, plus Redstart, Cuckoo, drumming Snipe, a rather damp midday Tawny Owl on a fence post and a reeling Grasshopper Warbler on a grassy hillside.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Handsome Devils

Following some gen from Duncan Bye, finally managed to get Pied Flycatcher on my York area list. This species has become very scarce in recent years from a rather more occasional presence a couple of decades ago when the occasional pair bred in the north of the area and singing males were fairly regular. Today I was delighted to find three males around the lakes at Yearsley. Remarkably, a very vocal and dusky grey male was actually joined by a second, blacker male for a period. A little further away, another black male was singing away. Very handsome birds.

Also of note, a singing male Redstart near the Gilling entrance, a few Garden Warblers, a pair of Bullfinches and a couple of Nuthatches. No sign of any Wood Warblers in this traditional spot.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Finally meeting the Duke

Ten years ago, I was involved in a big project to secure Totternhoe Quarry near Dunstable, Beds, as a nature reserve. One of the top species we were hoping to save by getting hold of the quarry (for the Wildlife Trust for Beds, Cambs and Northants) was the tiny little Duke of Burgundy butterfly. Ironically, having raised the money to save the site, I never did actually manage to see the Duke, despite several attempts. However, it was a good project and the Dukes are still doing well.

Today, Sol and me got the chance to hook up with Rich and Dan and try not just for Dukes, but Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, two butterflies I have never seen. Even Sol was excited! First things first, however, and we had change to spend at the Bishy Infants school summer fair, which didn't take Sol long. Then off we went for a rendezvous on a garage forecourt before heading off to the site for the Pearls. The weather was ideal, with a chilly westerly breeze blowing, creating sunny spells that just chivvied the temperature up to the magic 14 degrees, but never warming sufficiently to properly activate our little sunbathers. On site, Dan quickly picked up the first Pearls and we delighted in some great close views as they basked on the bracken, to soak up the spring sunshine. Corking! Some very nice Early Purple Orchids nearby too.

On to our second site, and a fleeting Green Hairstreak was the only butterfly noted before we finished our hike to the Duke of Burgundy site. The Dukes here are laying on Primrose leaves, unlike the Totternhoe gang which make use of Cowslips. Dan quickly spotted the first individual resting on a bramble leaf and after a bit, four or five were found in the same area, enlivened by the warm rays of the sun cutting through the brisk wind. I had heard Dukes were small, but they really were tiny and when flying kept low down. When the wings were folded they became very difficult to spot so I wasn't surprised I had struggled to find them previously. So, thanks to Rich and Dan, I had finally got to meet the Duke! The top three photos below are of a female (I think!) and the bottom two of a darker male (again, I think!).

Had a fine pint of Helmsley Brewery's Yorkshire Legend to celebrate, and enjoyed watching a pair of Spotted Flycatchers in the pub garden too. A top couple of hours for Sol and me with top company.

Sol leading Rich and Dan astray...