Saturday, 26 June 2010

Warton Crag and Arnside Knott

It was a real scorcher today and Warton Crag and Arnside Knott where alive with butterflies. It's impossible to positively identify every fritillary you see, but for every one Dark Green Fritillary we identified at least 20 High Brown. In total we must have seen easily 100 High Browns. Also about 20 Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries, and countless Northern Brown Argus, Graylings, Meadow Browns, Small Heaths, Common Blues, Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Large Skippers and a few whites. The freezing cold winter certainly doesn't seem to have effected these butterflies.

High Brown Fritillary (left) and Dark Green Fritillary (right). The upperwing pattern is very similar and it is almost impossible to tell the two species apart from the upperwing.

High Brown Fritillary (left) and Dark Green Fritillary (right). The underwing pattern is quite different and is diagnostic. To seperate these two species you really need to see the underwing. Note especially the brown spots with white centres towards the rear of the wing which is diagnostic of High Brown, and the extensive area of green on the lower wing of Dark Green.
High Brown Fritillary is a rare and localised butterfly in the UK, whereas Dark Green is much commoner and can occur as far north as northern Scotland, where I have seen them at Loch Sionascaig, Inverpolly.
I find photographing fritillaries quite difficult, but if you can find an area where they are feeding, you can get very close, and in fact they seem almost drunk with nectar and oblivious to your presence.

Small Pearl bordered Fritillary. This is a much smaller butterfly than High Brown or Dark Green and it's main confusion species is the very similar Pearl bordered Fritillary which flies earlier in the year, and has a different underwing pattern.

Northern Brown Argus. This is the northern counterpart of the Brown Argus which does not occur in northern Britain and has a different flight period. The underwing pattern is diagnostic.

High Brown and Dark Green Fritillaries

A couple more photos of High Brown (left) and Dark Green Fritillaries (right), showing the diagnostic underwings.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Great Orme, Llandudno

It was a beautiful day on the Great Orme today, with lots of wildlife interests. Birds included 2 Choughs, Peregrine, Guillemots, Razorbills and Stonechats. Flowers included the nationally rare Spiked Speedwell, as well as Common Rock-rose, Hoary Rock-rose and Bloody Cransebill. Butterflies were well represented, with Silver-studded Blues, Dark Green Fritillarys and Graylings and Moths Cistus Forester and Ruby Tiger.

Spiked Speedwell

Cistus Forester (left) and Silver-studded Blues

Common Rock-rose

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Club-tailed Dragonfly and a frustrating Bee-eater

Our first stop today was the River Dee at Holt, to search for Club-tailed Dragonfly. This is a well known site for the species, but I was a little worried that they may already have emerged and dispersed. However, we were lucky, and saw at least 5 individuals flying over the river, and even found one resting on a leaf just begging to be photographed! Apart from a single Azure Damselfly, the only other dragonfly of note was our old friend the Banded Demoiselle which was present in reasonable numbers.

Club-tailed Dragonfly (left) and Banded Demoiselle (right)

Then we left Holt and headed for Anglesey, because we had just received news of a Bee-eater near Cemlyn Bay, which apparently was showing well. The weather was dreadful on the way, really heavy rain, but in an odd kind of way this raised our spirits, because it surely meant that the bird would not move on. Unfortunately as we neared cemlyn, the rain stopped, the cloud broke and the sun came out, and guess what, the bird was gone. We had missed it by 30 minutes!
We hung around for a bit, and then suddenly we heard it! It was flying overhead! But we couldn't see it. Twenty birders searching the sky, but even though it called several times, none of us could see it. In the end we gave up and went to view the tern colony, and managed to pick out Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns.

Navelwort at Hen Felin, Cemlyn Bay.

Guillemots and Razorbills at South Stack.
Not wanting to waste our day on Anglesey, we headed to South Stack and saw the usual Guillemots, Razorbills, Puffins and Choughs, as well as Black Guillemot in Holyhead harbour. So in the the end not a bad day.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Marshside, Southport

About 10 Avocets from the Sandgrounders hide today, and at least two small chicks. Also about 200 Black-tailed Godwits.

More Demoiselles and a Water Ladybird

I called in at Havannah Flashes again on my way home from work today. There were masses of Banded Demoiselles on the wing, I counted at least 50 from the wooden bridge over the brook. They were flitting around all over the places, way into the distance, but a lot of the activity was centred around a poor female which was trying to lay eggs in the water, but which was being almost assaulted by at least 5 males who were each trying to mate with her. In the end I'm almost certain that the female drowned, because she looked like she was just floating in the water, still with a determined male attached!

Nearby on the flashes themselves, just where the small bridge crosses the flash, I found two Water Ladybirds. This is a species which lives in reedbeds and is therefore quite scarce in St Helens. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me today, but click here for some more information on Water Ladybird.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Sankey Valley

I biked it along the Sankey Valley this morning, on my way to work, from Carr Mill Dam to Mucky mountains at Earlestown. I didn't stop anywhere, and I completed the whole route in 25 minutes, so not exactly serious birding, but even so quite a decent selection of birds, as follows:

Kingfisher 1
Mute Swan 2 (inc. bird with 6 cygnets)
Reed Warbler 5+
Sedge Warbler 1+
Whitethroat 10+
Blackcap 5+
Willow Warbler 6
Chiffchaff 5
Jay 1
Yellowhammer 2

Sunday, 6 June 2010

A colourful display at Loggerheads

There were lots of birds singing at Loggerheads this morning, but very few actually showing themselves. However we did see a singing male Pied Flycatcher in the woods on the way to the limestone pavement. The main interest however was in the flora of the limestone pavement, and especially the masses of Bloody Cransebill and Common Rock-rose.

Blooody Cransebill is a member of the geranium family, and is a beautiful flower when seen on it's own like this.

However when it grows with Common Rock-rose it creates a simply stunning display!

Orange Tip butterfly. Is it my imagination, or should these be over by now? I guess it's another sign of how late the spring has been this year.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Marmora's Warbler and Iberian Chiffchaff Gwent

The discovery on Thursday of a Marmora's Warbler, only the 5th for Britain, at Blorenge, near Blaenavon, Abergavenny set the wheels in motion for a twitch to South Wales. We set off at 1am on Saturday morning and arrived on site at 4:00. Almost immediately we heard the bird, but it took until about 4:45 for us to see it. We stayed until 8:15, during which time the sun came out and the bird performed very well, it was seen singing, displaying and carrying nest material, sometimes quite close. Other birds at the site included four Cuckoos, Whinchats, Tree Pipits and Stonechats.

We also called in at Wentwood forest just south east of Abergavenney, to see my second Iberian Chiffchafff in a week! We left Wentwood at 10:15 and arrived back in St Helens at 13:30.

The scene at 7am (left). The dark thing on top of the bush (right) is the Marmora's Warbler at a distance of about 150m. It did come a lot closer than this, and possibly I could have got better photos, but although it showed very well at times, it was usually only for about 30 seconds, and I preferred to spend that time watching rather than photographing. The bird is of the Sardinian race which some authorities consider a seperate species to the Balearic race which is now known as Balearic Warbler. I have seen both races before abroad, but it was a UK lifer (377).

Friday, 4 June 2010

Banded Demoiselles, Sankey Brook

One of St Helens rarest and most beautiful species is now on the wing and should not be missed.
Up until about 5 years ago there had only been a handful of records of Banded Demoiselle in St Helens, but in 2006 the species exploded and they are now thriving on the Sankey Brook. The only thing which appears to be holding them back is the lack of suitable habitat in St Helens, because they require clean, medium flowing and well vegetated rivers in which to breed, and apart from Sankey Brook, that kind of habitat is hard to find in St Helens.
The best places to view them are the wooden bridge which crosses the brook at Havannah Flashes and the metal bridge near Mucky Mountains at Earlestown. Pick a sunny day to go though.

Male Banded Demoiselle (left) and female (right).

Getting a photo of them in flight is very difficult, because they have a peculiar, flitting type of flight, very unusual amongst dragonflies and damselflies, almost butterfly like, and they move their wings so fast. However, the photo above just about captures it, though not really in focus.

Sankey Brook, Earlestown (left) and near Havannah Flashes, Parr (right)

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