Monday, 31 May 2010

Meare Heath NR and Ham Wall RSPB - Mon 31 May

After a few hours of searching for butterflies, we ended the day by driving up to Ashcott Corner car park and walking out to the drained lagoon at Meare Heath. Here we saw a summer plumaged Spotted Redshank as well as a single Common Redshank, eight Lapwings and over fifty Black-tailed Godwits. As we walked back to the car we saw a Hobby.
We then decided to walk out to the tea rooms at Sharpham along the track through Ham Wall RSPB. There was not a huge amount happening at Ham Wall but we did see a Bittern in flight and heard at least one booming. We also saw another Hobby and a Cuckoo was heard singing.
By the time we'd had our walk, our tea and cake and got back to the car it was getting late, so after a great day out headed back home.
UK List for 2010 now at 190 species.

Thurlbear Quarrylands and Mount Fancy - Mon 31 May

Considering it was a Bank Holiday the weather was pretty good! So we made a picnic and Ellie and I headed off for another new location and another hunt for some butterflies. We drove out past Ilminster and on towards Taunton before heading to West Hatch and to Thurlbear Quarrylands, a Butterfly Conservation reserve.
Being such a lovely day there was plenty of bird song, and before long I had heard several Chiffchaffs and Garden Warblers and had good views of both. However, it was the butterflies we were after here, and before long we found several Common Blues, both male:

And a couple of females:

We also saw a couple of Green-veined Whites and both Grizzled Skipper:

And Dingy Skipper (which really lived up to its name!):

We then drove about five miles down the road to Staple Fitzpaine and on down a narrow road to another Butterfly Conservation at Mount Fancy. We had a good walk about here, hearing several Willow Warblers but seeing few birds and also less butterflies than at Thurlbear Quarrylands, but we did see a few and some different species too.
At the northern end of the reserve we saw a pair of Orange Tips and another Green-veined White:

We also saw a Green Hairstreak and a Small Copper. After a great few hours we headed off.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Lankham Bottom - Sun 30 May

A new destination for Ellie and I today as we headed south for some ten miles or so to the Butterfly Conservation Reserve at Lankham Bottom near Cattistock. We spent about an hour and a half walking around the reserve, and whilst birds were thin on the ground we did see a few butterflies.
Despite the breeze and somewhat overcast skies it was a warm and pleasant afternoon and before long we could hear Yellowhammers singing and several Chaffinches were about. At least two Skylarks were singing and a few Linnets were flying around. Other than a couple of singing Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler there was not much else on the bird front.
We did manage to see several different butterflies including Red Admiral and Comma plus a couple of Speckled Wood. We also saw Common Blue:

Plus Brown Argus:

We also saw the day flying moth, Wood Tiger:

Finally, we saw Small Heath:

And Adonis Blue:

Ham Wall RSPB and Meare Heath NR - Sat 29 May

Despite the poor weather, Ellie and I headed up on to the Somerset Levels for a mid-afternoon walk. As we pulled in to the car park at Ashcott Corner the rain eased off and we walked out as far as the second viewing platform at Ham Wall RSPB. As we walked along there were several low flying Swifts whizzing around and as it had just stopped raining, there were lots of birds singing, including Common Whitethroat and Blackcap. We had hoped that we might get lucky and see a Little Bittern that had been seen the previous day, but there was no sign of the bird. We did see two Bitterns in flight though.
We then walked back to the car and on to Meare Heath, walking as far as the drained lagoon. On here we saw a Redshank, a couple of Lapwings and twenty or so Black-tailed Godwits. As we looked about we could see a bank of dark clouds rapidly approaching so we returned to the car just in time to avoid another heavy shower.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Meare Heath NR and Ham Wall RSPB - Tue 25 May

Another lovely day so I decided to pop up on to the Somerset Levels after work. I arrived at Ashcott Corner car park at about 6.15pm and walked out along the track on to Meare Heath. The drained lagoon produced a drake Garganey, my first of the year, and eight Black-tailed Godwits. Four Lapwing were also present.
I then walked out towards Noah's Lake and scanned across the area. A couple of Cuckoos were singing, one of which showed, if a little distantly. At least five Hobbies were in and around the trees on the western edge of Noah's Lake. I then retraced my steps and took the path to Noah's Hide. In the trees alongside the path I could hear a couple of Garden Warblers, but they stayed hidden in the vegetation. A Lesser Whitethroat was also heard singing and a small flock of nine Stock Doves flew other.
I then walked back to car park, over the road and on to Ham Wall RSPB. I walked out as far as the second viewing platform, but saw little of note. As I passed Loxton's Marsh I saw another Cuckoo singing atop a tree and a Bittern flew in to the reedbed. With not much else going on I returned to the car and headed off home after a good couple of hours birding.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Ilton Airfield - Mon 24 May

I decided to take a quick trip up to Ilton Airfield, just north of Ilminster, after my usual Monday night table tennis practice. It was a lovely evening and I could hear birds singing as I pulled in to the turning area at the south-western end of the airfield at about 8.30pm.
A couple of Chiffchaffs were calling away, and a Song Thrush was also in full song, but I was after a particular species tonight, and it was not long before I could hear a Nightingale blaring away from the undergrowth.
A Raven was also croaking from a nearby tree, and a Cuckoo was calling from the back of the airfield. The only other bird of note was a fly-over Great Spotted Woodpecker. With the light fading, I headed off home to catch the end of the England friendly.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Sutton Bingham - Fri 14 May

A brief thirty minute visit produced just four Tufted Ducks and a single Little Grebe on the West Pool. Whilst a Common Sandpiper was on the southern causeway. A single Reed Bunting and Sedge Warbler were both in song in the willows at the southern end of the reservoir.

Lesvos - Thurs 6 May to Thurs 13 May

A week out of the UK and away from local birding spots as I went to Lesvos for a birding trip with a few mates. We stayed for seven nights in self-catering accommodation in Skala Eresos, at a place called Heliotopos, and I would recommend it to anyone.
I had about eight or so target species for this trip to the Greek island of Lesvos, plus the hope of seeing a few eastern migrants. Unfortunately, the scarce migrants were not that forthcoming but I did manage to pick up the birds I was after with eight new Western Palearctic ticks.

My own personal highlights of the tour included Krüper's Nuthatch in the Achladeri pine forests:
Cinereous Bunting at Ipsilou Monestary:

Both Yelkouan and Scopoli's Shearwater's offshore, Olive-tree Warblers in full song in territory in the Napi Valley alongside some breeding Sombre Tits and several Western Rock Nuthatches across various sites in the north-west of the island.
Finally, a superb male Eastern Rufous Bush Robin which was holding territory:

We also managed to pick up a great supporting cast of birds, with great views of just about everything we saw. Birds such as Little Crake at Metochi Lake and Red-footed Falcon near Sigri were good finds, and breeding birds like Cretzschmar's Bunting, Rüppell's Warbler, Black-headed Bunting, and Rock Sparrow were a delight.
We were lucky enough to see large numbers of Red-backed Shrikes, particularly around the area south of Sigri, and several Subalpine Warblers with this individual showing very well at Kavaki:
Little Bitterns (below) seemed to be everywhere, plus a number of other species which would light up any birders day.

Our total trip list was 148 species, not bad for a week on the island, and we missed a few birds too!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Sutton Bingham - Mon 3 May

After being busy all weekend, I finally decided to get out and about for a couple of hours this afternoon and popped up to Sutton Bingham. I stopped off at the northern causeway first and scanned the main reservoir. Some eighty or so gulls were on the water, the usual mix of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, plus a couple of Black-headed Gulls. Over West Pool there were several Swallows and Sand Martins.
I then went down to the southern end and walked round the bottom half of the reservoir. Whilst there was nothing that unusual I did see a singing Reed Bunting and the Sedge Warbler I had heard on Saturday was still singing away. A couple of Common Whitethroats were also seen.
However, there was one surprise...I was shocked to see a Long-eared Bat in flight! I also saw a Red Fox and five Roe Deer.

On the butterfly front, an Orange-tip and a Green-veined White (pictured above) were noted.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Sutton Bingham - Sat 1 May

A very brief visit before work failed to turn up anything unusual. A Little Grebe was on West Pool and a Reed Bunting could be heard singing from some waterside vegetation.
At the southern end, a Sedge Warbler was singing but could not be located in the dense willows. Whilst a Peregrine was perched on one of the pylons.