Sunday, 27 September 2015

Somerset Levels

On 25th September we had a trip to the Somerset Levels.

The weather was clear and still, giving near perfect conditions!

We started off with a walk around Shapwick Heath where we almost instantly started to near bearded tits pinging from the reedbeds. They were our constant companions for the next half an hour or so, we must have seen over 50 birds flying around and feeding on the reedheads. We even had a particularly inquisitive juvenile land on the track-side docks about 20 metres from us.

There were very decent muddy margins which hosted two ruff, a green sandpiper, four snipe and a black-tailed godwit.

black-tailed godwit

Well, I say four snipe, a carrion crow flew over the area where the snipe were and forty flew out!
We had a great opportunity to compare little egret with great white egret as well, the latter dwarfing the former. While all this was going on we had four sightings of bittern in flight, one of which flew right over us. Great stuff!

As we walked around we were able to do a lot of duck comparison between many species including mallard, teal, gadwall, shoveler, tufted duck and pochard. We also had excellent views of little and great crested grebe, as well as all too fleeting ones of marsh harrier, kingfisher, lesser redpoll and siskin.

In the afternoon, we spent  most time trying to get better views of marsh harrier and any views of cetti's warbler and water rail, we must have heard twenty each of the latter two but no decent views sadly.

We did however have fantastic views of an immature male marsh harrier quartering the reeds for about 15 minutes - brilliant!

immature male marsh harrier

All in all a very enjoyable day! (NA)

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Looking for the Brown Hairstreak Butterfly

Today I spent a few hours looking for the Brown Hairstreak butterfly.

Not an easy task but one made easier if you know where to look.

These butterflies are on the wing from Late July until September and like Woodland, woodland edges, scrubland and hedgerows where blackthorn are presant. The butterfly is rarely seen as it lives at tree-top height. The female is more often seen than the male as she descends to lay her eggs.

Female Wings Open

Female Brown Hairstreak

After about an hours searching we found a female on the underside of a branch and a total of seven eggs also found. The eggs are white and laid tight in at the join of a blackthorn twigg.

This butterfly is not common and declining. The decline is exacerbated by annual mechanical hedge cutting, which destroys the butterfly's eggs.DT

Also a Brown Hairstreak Egg

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Balearic shearwaters

Recently I helped with a survey being run jointly by MARINElife and the RSPB. The idea was to have people onshore looking out and others on boats looking inshore and further offshore to count all seabirds and cetaceans and in particular balearic shearwaters and bottle-nosed dolphins.

On a global scale, balearic shearwater are one of the most important species of bird that we get on and around the UK. The population is thought to be no more than 25,000 birds and of these only 2,500 pairs actually breed.

balearic shearwater - they are much browner than the more common manx who look black and white
I was on one of the boats off Portland Bill, we saw between five and seven shearwaters, we thought a couple might have doubled back hence the range. Great stuff!

Another balearic, showing how stiff-winged they are

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

An afternoon around The Cotswold Water Park

First stop Blakehill farm as a rare Woodchat Shrike had been reported.

Within ten minutes of parking in the car park I picked out the bird perched on top of a bramble bush, the bird was making short flights down to the ground searching for insects and when it found something it would return to the top of a bush to eat it, the bird is a Juvenile making its first migration journey.

Other birds seen included three Wheatears sat on the fence posts and three Yellow Wagtails searching the ground for food.

Looking skywards produced four Buzzards using the thermals to gain height and a Hobby also flew over.

A good start to the afternoon.

Next stop Waterhay several Blackcaps feeding on the blackberries also a couple of Lesser Whitethroats with them.

Walking around the reserve we picked out several Chiffchaff moving through the trees along with Blue, Great and Long tailed Tits.

On the water the number of waterfowl has started to increase with good numbers of Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Red crested Pochard seen.

Three Common Tern were fishing around the lake two adults and a juvenile.

Stopping at a view point overlooking the water a couple of Green Sandpipers flew in along with a Common Sandpiper and two little egrets, over in the trees two Sparrowhawks were chasing each other around.

Stopping for a break at one of the hides we could hear curlew in the distance and within a few minutes 20+ birds flew over us.

On the return journey we found both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker and a couple of Jays feeding on the ground.

A short but pleasant afternoon around my local area. DT