Sunday, 27 August 2017

The highs and the lows

Starting with the highs! Today we visited Loughborough hoping to catch a glimpse of a hoopoe which has been frequenting a housing estate for the past few days.

When we arrived I very much doubted it showing in the front gardens with so many birders around and with so many private back gardens for it to drop into out of sight, it seemed to me like we would have a long wait for perhaps at best a flight view between gardens. Fortunately though we walked past the right house at the right time. The owner came out and asked if we could take a look at a bird on her back lawn, which, guess what, turned out to be the hoopoe! The photos were taken through the glass of her patio doors, which fortunately she kept sparkley clean! The moral of the story? Always keep your windows clean because you never know what might appear on your back lawn.

Perhaps amazingly, I've never yet seen a hoopoe at a classic south or east coast migration point, in fact this is the furthest south and east of all of the hoopoes I've seen in the UK. I have however managed several in the north west, and now a couple in the midlands, as well as one in North Wales.

Now onto the lows, and this was the scene at dawn just four days ago, birders arriving at Portland Bill in Dorset, full of anticipation and hope that they were about to see Englands first ever American yellow warbler. Alas nobody told the bird and this atmospheric scene was about as good as it got all day. We had an 11 hour round trip, missed a nights sleep, used a tank full of petrol and to top it all got a parking fine despite having paid for 12 hours parking. We didn't even get to see much of Portland Bill, because we spent most of our time staring at the same group of bushes hoping that the bird would pop out. It never did....

The lighthouse in daylight. Days like this are important because they make the good days all the better, keep telling yourself that!

At least I got to see this wonderful golden-samphire, a species which I have only ever seen before in Pembrokeshire.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Lizards in Cyprus

The agama Stellagama stellio cypriaca, is a common species on Cyprus.

Relatively common on Cyprus, but I was still surprised and delighted to find two Mediterranen chamelians during our 10-day stay. This particular individual was at the top of an almond tree but the first I saw was walking around the edge of our swimming pool (see below).

Pretty sure that this is a Cyprus endemic, Phoenicolacerta troodica, Troodos lizard.

Snake-eyed lizard Ophisops elegans.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

House martins landing in a bush to feed on insects

One of the more remarkable sights from our holiday to Cyprus in August 2017 was to see over 200 hirundines, almost all house martins but also the occasional swallow, perching on wires in Nata village before dropping down into a bush to pick insects off the branches and leaves. I'm not sure what the insects were, they were too small to be seen through my binoculars, so I guess aphid types.

Out of interest, the "Handbook to the swallows and martins of the world" (Turner/ Rose), Poyser 1989 states that "Exceptionally, they [house martins] will perch on trees and walls to pick up insects". It certainly must be an exceptional occurance, in 40 years birding I've never seen anything like this before!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Greater Sandplover, Paphos

It's always good to start a holiday with something special, and today it was a greater sandplover at Paphos lighthouse. I've seen them here in the past, but only in winter and a bird at the beginnning of August was a bit unexpected, by me at least.

It's day one of our holiday to Cyprus, not a time of year I would have chosen personally but now that I'm here I'm trying to make the most of it. Also at the lighthouse today, several impressive agamas, a spiney lizard found only in the eastern Mediterranean and Africa.

In the evening we took the dogs for a walk to the Asprokremmos dam and saw a masked shrike, a hoopoe, about 20 turtle doves and a few red-rumped swallows, plus probable Cyprus warbler, but that will have to wait for another day to be confirmed.


Some type of hoverfly, but I've no idea which.

Red-veined darter on the edge of our pool at Nata village.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Invertebrates, July 2017

July started slowly for me, and I was beginning to think that this months invertebrate round up would be pretty sparse, but a couple of weeks in Buckinghamshire mid-month followed by a week in the North West Highlands of Scotland near Ullapool retrieved the situation and I ended up with quite an impressive selection of inverts to show here.

Purple emperor Finmere Wood, Buckinghamshire, surely the star invertebrate of July? We also saw a second much brighter male in flight, it was quite spectacular but refused to land so I had to be content with this photograph of a slightly tatty looking individual.

Or perhaps this should be the star from July, Northern Emerald on the banks of Loch Maree, Ross-shire at Slattadale. Certainly Northern Emerald is a much more difficult species to find than purple emperor and Loch Maree is one of the most beautiful places in the UK in which to look for inverts!

White Admiral Finmere Wood.

This is large heath, a species confined to bogs in the north of the UK. This individual had me confused for a while, because although it was clearly much larger than small heath, it looked considerably different to the large heath I am familiar with in the English South Lakes, which has much more distinct underside eyespots. However, this is large heath of the race Coenonympha tilla scotica, which occurs in Scotland north of a line from Clyde to Aberdeen. In this subspecies the eyespots are either faint or not present at all. This was photographed on a blanket bog between Inverness and Ullapool in the North West Highlands.

Brown Argus Finmere Wood.

Comma Finmere Wood.

Silver-washed fritillary Finmere Wood.

Silver-washed fritillary Finmere Wood.

Silver-washed fritillary of the form valesina, Finmere Wood. I'm not sure if I've seen this form before, unfortunately this was the only photo I managed to get.

Speckled wood Finmere Wood.

Ringlet Finmere Wood.

Marbled white Finmere Wood.

Ruddy darter Finmere Wood.

Banded General Stratiomys potamida a soldierfly at Pennington Flash

Anasimyia contracta at Pennington Flash. A new hoverfly for me.

Chyrysotoxum bicinctum at Pennington Flash

Another hoverfly, Epistrophe grossulariae at Pennington Flash.

Phasia hemiptera a tachinid fly.This was at Wykeham Forest raptor watchpoint, North Yorkshire, but I also saw them at Finmere Wood.

When Ray and I found this at Wykeham Forest, I really thought we had found something good, though I couldn't think what! Clearly a hoverfly, but nothing like any I have seen before. It turns out that its just a Syrphus sp. with unusual markings, i.e. the central bands on the abdomen are quite thin and reddy orange. Apparently this is most likely because of the insects gut content, though if this is the case it must have effected more than this individual because we found several around the car park near the raptor watch point. A beautiful insect and a shame that it didn't turn out to be something new!

These are all Syrphus sp. hoverflies and you can really notice the difference between the unusual individual on the left and the other two. The stripes on the abdomen are not only a different colour, they are also thinner and a different shape. The insect on the left is also smaller and its abdomen is proportionally shorter than that of the typical Syrphus.

Chrysotoxum verralli, another new hoverfly for me from Aylesbury.

Chrysotoxum verralli

Chrysotoxum arcuatum at Slattadale, Loch Maree, Ross-shire. This is close to the edge of its range for this insect.

Syrphus ribesii doesn't often get a mention here because it is so common, but this female on yellow saxifrage at Knockan Cliffs in the North West Highlands seems worth a mention, if only because of the remoteness of the site and because it's the only photograph I have of any species on this particular plant! Actually, Syrphus ribesii is a beautiful insect in its own right.

Sericomyia silentis, probably the commonest hoverfly I saw in the North West Highlands in July. This was photographed at Knockan Cliff, but others were at Loch Maree and also Ben Wyvis.

This is also Sericomyia silentis, this individual photographed at Pennington Flash at the end of the month.

Deraeocoris ruber, a true bug from Pennington Flash.

Pisaura miribilis, nursery web spider at Pennington Flash.

A conopid fly  Conops quadrifasciatus from Pennington Flash.


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