Thursday, 31 July 2014

Eccleston Mere

Kingfisher 1
Gadwall 1 m
Coot 100

Trying to keep awake here but it's tough........

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Eccleston Mere

Gadwall 1 m
Kingfisher 1
Coot 105
Mute Swan 1 adult, 6 cygnets

Sadly, one of the adult swans is dead, floating in the mere. I can't say why it died, but the other adult and all of the cygnets are ok.

Houghton Green Flash, Winwick

Common Sandpiper 2
Yellow Wagtail 1 male
Sand Martin 20
Lapwing 20

From the Office Window

A hobby flew past the window during a meeting today. South Warrington.

Spotted Crake, Burton Mere Wetlands

Spotted Crake 1 adult
Dunlin 5
Ruff 5
Black-tailed godwit 50

The crake showed well, but briefly, on two occasions. It walked quickly along the edge of the vegetation in a bay to the left of the hide at the back of the main scrape. They have bred at Burton Mere Wetlands this year, and yesterday two chicks were seen. Unfortunately I didn't see the chicks, but it was my first Spotted Crake for 17 years so I'm not complaining!

Year: 267 (Spotted Crake)

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Eccleston Mere

Kingfisher 1
Coot 100
Tufted Duck 10

Just waiting for something to happen at the mere. Can't be too long now................

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Great Orme, Llandudno

Our annual pilgrimage to the Great Orme at Llandudno was a week or two late this year, and perhaps that was the reason we didn't see some of our target species such as the lepdoptera silver-studded Blue, dark-green fritillary and Cistus Forrester, or plants such as spiked speedwell. However we did see several species of butterfly, including grayling, wall, gatekeeper and meadow brown, and there were still a few interesting plants, such as common rockrose and field scabious. Highlight was three Choughs, one on the cliffs on Marine Drive, the other two just below the summit complex.


Looking across the Conway estuary towards Anglesey from the Orme.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Dairy Farm Road

Hobby 1
Curlew 22 flew over

A couple of surprises at Eccleston Mere

A female banded demoiselle at the mere this morning was a very unexpected sight, and was unsurprisingly a new species of damselfly for the mere. They have become established in St Helens in recent years, but are still almost wholly confined to the Sankey brook, and any record away from there is a good one. They usually prefer slow moving, well vegetated, clear rivers, but it's not unprecedented for them to be found around lakes, and there have been a small number of records from Bold Moss in recent years. I can't imagine them breeding at the mere, there's just not the habitat, the stream is too small, so these extralimital records are probably individuals dispersing and looking for new sites.

Female banded demoiselle, not a patch on the male but still very nice.

On the water I was surprised to see a great crested grebe family with 5 chicks. I usually expect to see two or three. I don't think I've ever seen 5 before. There were at least 4 other chicks on the mere today, so if they can all fledge it looks like they will have had a good year this year.

Great crested grebe family.

Other birds at the mere today: Kingfisher, 2 mute swans with 6 cygnets, 100 coot, 12 tufted ducks.

A few grasses from Eccleston Mere

I'd actually gone to Eccleston Mere this morning to see how many species of grass I could find. In about a two hour period I was able to identify 20 species, as follows:

1. Soft brome - growing in the car park

Soft brome

2. Yorkshire-fog - abundant throughout


3. False oat grass - abundant throughout
4. Cock's foot - abundant throughout
5. Annual Meadow Grass - common, especially on footpaths and mown areas
6. Perennial rye grass - common throughout
7. Reed canary grass - common in SW corner and along ditches
8. Common bent grass - abundant throughout
9. Creeping soft grass - common, especially in SW corner

The hairy knees (nodes) of creeping soft grass are one of the best ways to tell it apart from the very similar Yorkshire fog.

10. Common couch - common in fields adjacent to the mere, dominant in places
11. Giant fescue - occasional along stream

Giant fescue

The overlapping auricles of giant fescue is a good way to recognise this grass.

12. Rough meadow grass - occasional especially along stream
13. Red fescue - common in fields, dominant in places
14. Crested dog's-tail - occasional in fields
15. Wavy hair grass - common on edge of woodland
16. Marsh foxtail - common on edge of arable field at end of stream

Marsh Foxtail

17. Timothy - common on edge of arable field at end of stream


18. Black bent grass - common on edge of arable field at end of stream

A field of black bent

19. Sweet vernal grass - occasional in fields
20. Tufted hair grass - locally common in fields

There will of course be other species, for example I'm amazed that I didn't find creeping bent which is one of the commonest grasses there is. It was almost certainly there, but I can't check every bent to see if it has stolens, and all of the bents I did check didn't have stolens.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A few dragonflies from Ynys-yir RSPB, Ceredigion

Small Red Damselflies mating in wheel formation.

Keeled Skimmer.

Black Darter.

Cardigan Bay

Aberaeron, Cardigan Bay.

Badger, Orielton

I sat up late writing my notes and just after midnight heard a noise outside the open window and was face to face with a badger! I watched it for about 20 minutes until it was joined by a second, larger animal.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Greater Horseshoe Bats, Stackpole, Pembrokeshire

Greater Horseshoe Bat 100+

Stackpole is one of the largest Greater Horseshoe bat roosts in the UK, with over 600 individuals. We were in position for about 9:15pm, and almost immediately saw the first bat emerge from what looked like a trap door in the roof of an archway. It looked huge in comparison to the Lesser Horseshoe bats which we have become accustomed to seeing at Orielton, but like the lesser, these bats came out, flew around for a few seconds, but then went back into the trap door. Soon we had three bats flying around above our heads, until at last one broke ranks and flew away under the nearby trees and was lost to sight.

By 9:45pm there were ay least 10 bats flying around under the arch, and many were now flying away, but were swiftly replaced by others emerging from the trap door. On at least two occasions we heard the slap of wings as they clashed. As the bats left the archway they would drop low and fly no more than about 0.5m above the ground for as far as we could see in the fading light. A memorable experience!

Bosherton Lakes, Pembrokeshire

We spent most of the day at Bosherton Lakes in sweltering heat. Loads of dragonflies to admire, mainly emperors, black-tailed skimmers and common darters. A chough flew over the dunes.

Common Darters copulating.

Reed Canary-grass

Silver washed fritillary, female.

A few moths from Orielton, Pembrokeshire

Another glorious day in Pembrokeshire. Last night I saw a badger in the grounds of the field centre and this morning we opened the moth traps and found lots of moths, including the following:

Four-spotted Footman, female.

Four-spotted footman, male

Black Arches

Blomer's Rivulet

The Coronet

Rosy Footman

Monday, 21 July 2014

Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire

Marrim grass

Common couch

Great green bush cricket

Angle Bay

Brookweed. Apparently this plant is part of the primrose family.


An uncommon pink form of female Meadow grasshopper.

Here is another pink form of Meadow grasshopper. Male?.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

An evening with the horseshoe bats at Orielton, Pembrokeshire

Greater Horseshoe Bat 6
Lesser Horseshoe Bat 38

A remarkable evening watching the bats at Orielton. Probably less than 20m from my bedroom door, I counted at least 38 lesser horseshoe and 6 greater horseshoe bats emerge from their roost in a storage room at the side of the stables. At about 9pm, in still reasonable light, one by one they started to emerge through a doorway, and there was definitely a difference in the method of emergence used by the two species, to such an extent  that you could confidently identify them by how the left the room.
The lessers, broadcasting on a frequency of 110khz, flew around in the room for a minute or two before coming right up to the entrance, but then turning back at the last second and going back into the room. They would repeat this for a further minute or two, and each time they came to the door they would come out a little bit further, almost as if they were checking how dark it was. Sometimes they would fly 10m or more beyond the doorway, before returning to the room. At last though they would go, they would come out at the top of the doorway and would fly up and away over the roof.
On the other hand, the greaters, on 80khz, flew out like a rocket, low across the ground, and remaining no more than 0.5m above the ground until lost to sight in the fading light.

Amazingly, virtually all of the lessers went over the same bit of roof to the left of the door, whilst all of the greaters came out of the doorway and went right, all following the same route.
Very difficult to capture any of this on camera, and even if I could it wouldn’t tell the story. All I can do is put it into words and leave you with the consolation of a photo of lesser horseshoe bat poo.

A Hay Meadow in Pembrokeshire

Wyndrush Farm

Purple Moorgrass (Molinia caerulea) one of the commonest and most distinctive grasses of the moorlands.

This spectacular looking plant is Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne), one of the commonest grasses in the UK, which probably grows in your lawn. This is in full flower!

Five-spot Burnet (I think!). Or it could be Narrow-bordered five-spot Burnet.

Spider in its funnel.

Leaf hopper (Cicadella viridis?)

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