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Sunday, 26 July 2009

A White letter day

A morning trip to one of the rides in Dunwich Forest was successful in seeing 2 White- letter Hairstreaks both seen in an Elm tree above the brambles. sadly it was quite windy, so they didn't venture down to feed from the bramble flowers. Other butterflies seen included Commas, Painted Ladies, Large Whites, Small Skippers & Ringlets. But alas there I did not seea single White Admiral. We also witnessed a Brown Hawker dragonfly snatch a Large White butterfly in flight and it flew to a nearby perch to promptly devour it.
Looking over the practice green area on the road to Southwold Harbour, I could see up to 4 Whimbrels but initially there was no sign of my intended quarry until literally a minute later, an immature Black- tailed Godwit flew in.
This bird was of the nominate  "limosa" race and was very distinctive being pale orange buff on the neck and upper breast fading to a pale cream white on the rest of the underparts. The bill appeared longer and straighter than on the usual Black-tailed Godwits. It also appeared to slightly longer legged bird too. The darker browner cap and darker area running through the area highlighted the whitish supercilia. The back and mantle was more coarsely spotted  and the wedge area between the mantle and the wing appeared whiter. A super bird and I was even moved to get the notebook out, sketch it and make notes as I have never knowingly seen this race before. 

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Dragons & Ladies

A visit to the grassland area and pool at Corton Sewage works this afternoon (an impromto visit following sitting in traffic for 3/4 hour at Oulton Broad, I had hoped to travel south and visit Dunwich Forest) revealed around 15 Gatekeeper butterflies and by the pool I witnessed 2 fine striking male Southern Hawker Dragonflies patrolling the board walk area. Whilst on the Pool itself 3 Emperor Dragonflies 1 sky-blue coloured male and 2 female who were busily oviposting (laying eggs) in the water.
Large Red Damselflies, 1 Black- tailed Skimmer were also seen. A Brown Hawker was finally seen around the boardwalk as I left. 
Back in the garden, as I was arriving home I saw a Heron fly up and away (obviously after our fish in the fish pond, fortunately protected by netting!) On the wooden Pagoda I was delighted to spot a solitary Hornet and managed to obtain one or two pictures. The Brown Hawker was also seen in the early evening again alighting on the bushes near the wildlife pond.
Another really good day for butterflies with up to 8 Large White butterflies, several Peacocks,1 Small Skipper seen in the evening  where 4 Painted Lady butterflies (recent press reports our predicting a great upsurge in numbers of this species following the great influx we witnessed in the late Spring) were also seen on the Buddlea along the eastern fence which was bathed in sunshine.

Lesser Golden Plover On Breydon

I finally saw the fine full summer plumaged adult Lesser Golden Plover, it was seen on the Breydon Water estuary near Great Yarmouth from the North wall and was feeding mainly on a spit of mud. A striking bird with gold/ black/ grey speckled back, cap and wings being much greyer on the mantle than either Golden or Pacific Golden Plovers.  Slightly smaller, but proportionately longer legged than Eurasian Golden Plover, the underparts, face breast extending onto the vent were black save for a very striking clear cut white shawl that bordered where the upperparts met the underparts from its head and snaking round to the upper breast where there was a distinct white bulge the white extended further onto the lower flanks (but this was due to it having started its moult 5 days previously from summer to winter plumage according to one of the finders) But for me this feature together with the long tertial projection strongly indicates that this was a Pacific Golden Plover and not an American Golden Plover as it was being labelled and I had some doubts about the initial ID, now confirmed after checking the features back home in various ID guides. A few white feathers were send on the underparts including one or two on the vent. The bird spent much of the time feeding on the muddy spit where it was harried by a Common Tern when it got to close. It stayed until the tide came in and it started to get wet feet which it evidently didn't like because a few minutes later if flew off high and to the west. A fine Whimbrel was also seen and 2 calling singleton Yellow wagtails flew overhead and away.
Walking back to the Lumps area near the Hide, we assembled to view the assembled throng of waders including 300 Avocets, 150 Dunlin, about 50 Black- tailed Godwits and several Little Gulls sitting on the water including 3 together until finally a wonderful flock of 15 Little Gulls flew right overhead.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Teeming with Wildlife!

The garden has been alive with wildlife over the last few weeks with the bird seed holders being regularly visited by young family parties of both Blue Tits and Great tits with at least 6 birds in the latter party. The Greenfinch family has also been successful and 1 particularly confiding immature regularly returns for a feed at the sunflower seed holder.
It is very pleasing to report that it has been a very good year for these birds (the best I have witnessed since we have moved into my present address five years ago) as well as the local House Martins where I have counted as many as 12 birds in the air at once. A pair nests regularly under the eaves of our roof as well as a pair next door and both are in residence for the summer again this year. 
Butterflies were out in force early this morning with Painted Lady, Meadow Brown, Small Tortoiseshell and several Gatekeepers in evidence.
This evening, the Brown Hawker buzzed around the tops of the trees and finally came to roost at 9.45pm near the top of a Copper Beech. Probably the same individual as pictured in yesterdays blog.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Hawkers & Slow worms

Up to 3 Brown Hawkers have been seen in the garden on Saturday 18th, with 3 buzzing around the tops of the trees at dusk, either hunting or preparing to roost in the foliage. Earlier one mature male Brown Hawker posed nicely on vegetation near the wildlife pond (see picture).
Investigating the area behind the house, I had to shelter under some bushes after a heavy rain shower and I was delighted to discover that a female Southern Hawker had also sheltered by some vegetation before promptly flying off after the rain had abated.
Today at the usual site I saw 1, 1 & 3 Slow worms (totalling 5) also at the site were Reed Warbler and Painted Lady, Meadow Brown, Common Blue & Ringlet butterflies.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

No "Black Night" in Heidelberg

Last weekend I spent a very enjoyable couple of days in the German town of Heidelberg, ostensively to visit my partner Jenny's son Matthew who is doing a Phd at the University working on a potential cure for malaria. Despite Matthew's hectic working schedule we were delighted to spend a lot of time with him over the 3 days. The town is very picturesque lying on the banks of the river Neckar, with cobbled streets, lanterns, many turreted round towers, wooden paneled Tudor style buildings and a large ornate Castle built on a hill overlooking the town. 

We had chosen this specific weekend because my favourite guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (of Deep Purple & Rainbow fame) was playing at the Kongresshaus Stadthaille concert hall there with his band Blackmore's Night playing folk music and usually some classic rock on their "Secret Voyage" Summer Nights tour. 
I was hoping Mr. Blackmore would play several Rainbow & Deep Purple songs, they played exquisite accoustic versions of Rainbow's "Temple of the King" & Deep Purple's "Soldier of Fortune" (with sublime solos from Ritchie) but despite a 2 hour concert, a very enthusiastic hand-clapping German crowd who added significantly to the atmosphere, a great support band in Die Geyers Schwatzen and a high standard of playing throughout; I was a little disappointed that Ritchie didn't deem to play his electric Fender Stratocaster guitar at all! So there were no outings for either Deep Purple's "Black Night or "Smoke of the Water" probably his 2 most famous songs! 
Playlist: Locked Inside a Crystal Ball, Queen for a Day, Possum's Last dance, Under a Violet Moon, Soldier of Fortune, Temple of the King (inc. Ritchie solo)- both acoustic, Durch Dem Baccaus, (Violin & Keyboard solo), World of Stone, Peasant's Promise, Diamonds & Rust, Back Home inc. Drink Drink & Falderi, Ghost of a Rose, Wind in the Willows, I Still Remember, Rennaisance Faire, Clock Ticks on. Encore: Old Village Lanterne, Foreign song & Dandelion & Wine
On the Saturday night there was a spectacular re-enactment of the medieval burning and siege of the castle with special effects, lights and smoke and a half hour firework display on the bridge which was fantastic and the nearest I would get to seeing or hearing "Smoke on the Water" this weekend, Ritchie please take note!

Although not a birding trip I did see a number of birds including a very tame male Blackbird feeding on the postage stamp lawn in front of the hotel as we arrived at the hotel. We also heard several Black Redstarts singing from the roof tops including seeing one fly down from a roof top of a house opposite the Castle. Blackcaps were singing in the woods and one also flew across the track. On Sunday taking pictures of the very picturesque bridge over the river Neckar, I heard the familiar alarm calls of House Martins and a Hobby was seen chasing a group of around 12 Martins, an Egyptian Goose also flew down the river. On Monday, as we were walking through the packed cobbled streets I heard the distinctive call of a Peregrine Falcon and saw one flying around the top of a a very tall gothic "Church of the Holy Spirit" tower with another perched on the apex of the Tower.
I rushed up to the top of the tower using the 4 circular staircases leading to the top but sadly by the time I reached the top the Peregrines had gone, but I was compensated with stunning views across the town and surrounding countryside.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Super Slow worms

Following on from my unsuccessful visit over a week ago, an afternoon foray today to one of my local patches in the Lowestoft area revealed a family of Reed Warblers in the reeds. An Oystercatcher also flew over.
Having walked over to the wooded area, I noticed several areas that were worthy of investigation
and of those 5 areas I was lucky in 3 where incredibly I saw 3 separate Slow Worms. The first quickly disappeared, but the second showed reasonably well I could see its head and body well before it eventually withdrew out of sight. Looking at this area again, I saw a small young Grass Snake which was black bodied with a prominent yellow collar but it quickly moved off. Finally in the other successful area I checked I saw the middle part of a Slow Worms body!
These are the first I have seen in this country having seen several abroad most notably in Southern Montenegro.
Driving back home, I saw a Lesser Whitethroat fly across the road and disappear into a hedge. 

Friday, 3 July 2009

Marsh Helleborines

One of my favourite latter flowering Orchids is the beautiful Marsh Helleborine. One of the best sites to see this species is at Upton Fen near Acle.
I took a trip there this evening and counted exactly 20 spikes of this species in a suitably marshy and boggy area. Unlike the Frog Orchids from the previous evening when I had clearly been around a week or 2 too late, I had timed the visit perfectly and the plants were flowering and in pristine condition. These plants, the Marsh Helleborines can also be seen in coastal slack dune areas such as Horsey in Norfolk and I have also seen them on the coastal dunes at Kenfig near Port Talbot in South Wales. I managed to take several pictures.
A Roe Deer ran across the path and the marsh just a few feet away, clearly it hadn't seen me as I was crouching down to get the shots of the Helleborines, the Roe Deer then barked several times before crashing through the undergrowth. Several Spotted Orchids (including an all white variety) were still in flower although by now past their best and 2 Southern Marsh Orchids also seen.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Frog Orchids

This evening, Jenny & I travelled to the other side of Bungay in search of the Wink's Meadow Suffolk Wildlife trust reserve. walking along a tarmac track, the area must have been a former airfield, ahead of us a Hare sped away. Winks Meadow is a wildflower meadow where several rare Frog Orchid plants can be seen at this time of the year. I located 4 small frog Orchid plants which had just finished flowering and around 40 Pyramidial Orchid plants which were also just past their best. Why they were named Frog Orchids is anybody's guess, apart from double lobed lip of the flower being green in colour resembling the coloration of a Frog!