Monday 22 June 2015

Nature tour in North Wiltshire

I recently lead a nature in North Wiltshire, mostly aimed at birds but with a fair smattering of other species as well.

We started off with some warbler song comparisons, with particular emphasis on garden warbler and blackcap, we also heard chiffchaff, whitethroat, dunnock and reed bunting at this stage.

We soon started to see a number of dragonfly and damselfly species with downy emerald, emperor, four-spotted chaser and black-tailed skimmer being the dragonflies present as well as the following damselflies: azure, large red, common blue, blue-tailed and red-eyed - a decent number for this time of year!

Whilst walking along the edge of the lake I saw a funny-looking stick in the water, when I looked at it, it swam away! It was an adult otter, we all managed to see it before it slipped under the water.

As we carried on we saw a number of butterflies including small copper, common blue and brown argus.
small copper
common blue butterfly

We then turned our attention to plants and we lucky enough to see a number of burnt-tip orchid, as well common-spotted, southern marsh, early marsh, green-winged and all sorts of hybrids between the different species.

The highlight for the group was the last bird we saw, a female cuckoo working her way down a fence-line watching for nesting birds - an all too rare sight these days in Southern England, although we did hear three males calling so perhaps a better year for them?

All in all a great trip with a great variety of nature encountered! (NA)

Friday 5 June 2015

Somerset Levels Tour

A recent tour on The Somerset Levels with our aim of seeing Bittern and Marsh Harrier.

Well the day did not disappoint, within the first few hours we had sightings of at least ten Bittern, with the highlight of three birds chasing each other around which gave good views on the size comparisons of the different sexes. The male is much larger than the female and the birds in the air showed that a single male bird was chasing two smaller females.

Next we waited for the Marsh Harriers to show to see if we would be lucky enough to see a food pass, this is performed when the male bird comes in with prey and passes it to the female in mid air. We soon noticed a bird coming in from our left hand side and on closer inspection it was a male bird, as it came closer you could see that it was carry a prey item in his talons so we hoped this would be the time. As the bird came closer it called and the female came up out of the reedbed and followed the male for a short distance before they both rose upwards with the female bird below the male, with expert precision the male let go of the food and the female caught it in mid air. Wow what a sight and so lucky to see it so close how wonderful to see how aerobatic these birds are. Over the course of the day we were lucky enough to see a further two food passes.

Some other highlights included a fine male Kingfisher sat fishing from a low branch, Fifty Black-tailed Godwit some showing their fine summer plumage and Two male Garganey on one of the small pools.

A truly wonderful experience with the local wildlife. DT