Follow in Nigel's Footsteps

Friday, 29 May 2015

Red-footed Falcon...

I decided to head to Dorset on Bank Holiday Monday, primarily to look for reptiles but also on the agenda was a female Red-footed Falcon that had been hanging around the water meadows just south of Wareham for the last week. The first two hours were spent herping with very little to show for it, even though the weather conditions were perfect. I checked the bird news services and it was negative news on the falcon too. I decided to go and take a look anyway as I was so close to the bird it seemed daft not to.

When I arrived a small group had already assembled on the B3075 but the look on their faces indicated the bird had not been seen so far. Indeed people started drifting away and it felt like this was going to be a dip. Then I noticed Alick Simmons and Paul (Cookie) Cook had arrived and spent some time chatting with them. I was just about to leave when a guy further up the road started waving his arms - the red-foot had appeared! Suddenly it came cruising into view, circling quite low above the assembled group three or four times before continuing out of sight further down the meadow.

Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to get a photo, it was all over in less than a minute and quite frankly I'd just enjoyed the wonderful views of this stunning bird. Thanks to Cookie though for letting me use a couple of his shots.

Red-footed Falcon, Wareham: Paul Cook
Red-footed Falcon, Wareham: Paul Cook
Happy with that, I headed back to see if my luck had changed on the reptile front along with Alick and Cookie. Four Sand Lizards and a Green Hairstreak later I was happy I'd had a good morning out but it was Bank Holiday Monday and the traffic on the roads looked horrendous, it was time to head home and away from the mad house that is the A35.

Green Hairstreak: R. Harris
Orthetrum cancellatum, female: R. Harris
Sand Lizard, male: R. Harris
This one's starting to loose the bright lime green
colour for a slightly duller, post breeding colouration.
Sand Lizard, Juvenile: R. Harris

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Dazzling Damsels...

The pond at Whitestaunton continues to produce the goods with damselflies having now emerged and no doubt dragonflies not too far behind. Large Red Pyrrhosoma nymphula and Azure Blue Coenagrion puella are well represented at the moment with dozens of each vying for space in the sedges along the pond edge, occasionally settling within reach on the lower vegetation.

Coenagrion puella: R. Harris
Coenagrion puella: R. Harris
Pyrrhosoma nymphula: R. Harris
Pyrrhosoma nymphula: R. Harris
Pyrrhosoma nymphula: R. Harris
Pyrrhosoma nymphula: R. Harris

Friday, 22 May 2015

Pleased as Newts...

The garden pond at Whitestaunton is really coming to life now. A torch lit walk around the perimeter over the last few nights has revealed at least 15 Palmate Newts Lissotriton helveticus and a couple of Smooth Newts Lissotriton vulgaris too. I never tire of amphibians and the males are particularly handsome at this time of the year as they're out to find a mate.

The Pond...well established
and huge!
Smooth Newt, male: R. Harris
Smooth Newt, male detail of the tail: R. Harris
Smooth Newt, male - showing the bright
underparts and spotted throat: Roger Harris
Palmate Newt - pale, unspotted throat and filament
on the end of the tail (not shown in photo)
R. Harris
Palmate newt, male - showing filament
and webbed hind feet: R. Harris
Palmate Newt, tail detail: R. Harris

Night time counts over the last week by torchlight have given max counts of 26 Palmate and 5 Smooth newts but I suspect there are considerably more present. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Night of the Heron...

For one night only a smart adult Night Heron put in a brief appearance at Black Hole Marsh, Seaton last week. Dave Helliar got there in time to see it sitting in a tree close to the Tower Hide. I looked for it the following morning but unfortunately it hasn't been seen since:

Night Heron: Dave Helliar
Night Heron: Dave Helliar
There's a chance it could still be around - there's so much good habitat there and they can be very shy, so who knows...

More locally around Chard a single Black-tailed Godwit put in an appearance.  It's always a scarce bird to see in South Somerset and the May temperatures have started to bring out more insects too:

Black-tailed Godwit: Dave Helliar
Common Blue: Dave Helliar
Green Hairstreak: Dave Helliar
Grizzled Skipper: Dave Helliar
Four-spotted Chaser: Dave Helliar
Azure Damselfly: Dave Helliar 
Broad-bodied Chaser: Dave Helliar
Large Red Damselfly: Dave Helliar
Spring is always a good time to see foxes too, including this one near Chard:

Red Fox: Dave Helliar
Red Fox: Dave Helliar
Last, but by no means least, a summer visitor that has become incredibly scarce in our woodlands. As far as I'm aware no Wood Warblers have been seen locally near Chard but this one was present at a regular site on the Quantock Hills:

Wood Warbler: Dave Helliar
Wood Warbler: Dave Helliar
Wood Warbler: Dave Helliar
Thanks to Dave for his weekly round-up and some great photos too.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Good weather for herping...

Today was perfect for finding reptiles. Overcast with sunny spells meant that reptiles would be out basking at every opportunity. I caught up with my first Grass Snake Natrix natrix of the year - two in fact! The first was a huge female near Black Hole Marsh at Seaton and the second was this stunning male near Whitestaunton:

Grass Snake Natrix natrix, male: R. Harris
Grass Snake Natrix natrix, male: R. Harris
Grass Snake Natrix natrix, male: R. Harris
Grass Snake Natrix natrix, male
showing head scales: R. Harris
I also found three Slow Worms Anguis fragilis and this lovely male Common or Viviparous Lizard Zootoca vivipara. It's not uncommon to find ticks on snakes and lizards and this one had two on the body, just above his right leg.

Common Lizard Zootoca vivipara, male: R. Harris
Common Lizard Zootoca vivipara, male: R. Harris

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Hudwit Fever...

This is the reason Dave couldn't wait to get back. Unbelievably, after a 27 year gap since the last one, an adult Hudsonian Godwit (Hudwit) was found on Meare Heath scrape with a flock of Black-tailed Godwits! This is only the third time this species has been seen in the UK and was a major 'blocker' on most birder's lists. I was fortunate enough to see the first bird, also an adult, way back in 1981 when it graced a river bank at Countess Wear near Exeter in Devon and have seen them many times in Canada. As such, I didn't race out to see it although I did catch up with it at the end of this week and a cracking bird it is too.

Hudsonian Godwit, adult female: D. Helliar
Hudsonian Godwit, Meare Heath: D. Helliar
Hudsonian Godwit, Meare Heath: D. Helliar
And just a part of the crowd that have been flocking to see this rare American wader:

Hudwit twitchers: D. Helliar
And a short piece of video from me - taken in very windy conditions at distance so not my best work (even though it was on a tripod), but at least you can see what it is:

Hudsonian Godwit: R. Harris

Nice to see such a rare bird so close to home and congratulations to the finder Tom Raven - his heart beat must have gone through the roof when he realised what he had found.

Even closer to home - a few more butterflies seen by Dave this week:

Holly Blue: D. Helliar
Dingy Skipper: D. Helliar

Spring in West Cornwall...

Cornwall is a great place to visit at any time of the year but Spring can be particularly rewarding. Good birds, plants and insects can be found and if you are lucky with the weather the scenery can be simply stunning. Dave Helliar just got back from a week long trip and had a good one by anyone's standards...

Cape Cornwall: Dave Helliar
Choughs: D. Helliar
Porth Chapel, St Levan: D. Helliar
Common Lizard enjoying the Spring sunshine: D. Helliar
Cot Valley: Dave Helliar
Cot Valley: Dave Helliar
Glaucous Gull, Gwithian: D. Helliar
Glaucous Gull, Gwithian: D. Helliar
Glaucous Gull, Gwithian: D. Helliar
Towards Nanjizal: Dave Helliar
Nanjizal or Mill Bay: . Helliar
Nanjizal: Dave Helliar
Great White Egret, Marazion: Dave Helliar
Ring Ouzel, Kenidjack
Ring-billed Gull and a Med gull
Ryan's Field: Dave Helliar
Ring-billed Gull and a Med gull
Ryan's Field: Dave Helliar
Woodchat Shrike, Porthwarra: D. Helliar
Painted Lady: Dave Helliar
Small Copper: Dave Helliar
Wall: Dave Helliar
Dock Bug Coreus marginatus: D. Helliar
Dave also added an adult Purple Heron, summer plumaged Pacific Diver and Grasshopper Warbler to his tally for the week. What a great week...but he couldn't wait to come home...