Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Bats in the Garden...

It's been a fantastic evening for bats! It's only 8 degrees outside as I write this and there must be tons of insects about as it's one of the busiest nights for bats that I've had so far this Autumn. There have been at least two Serotines, Eptesicus serotinus constantly flying around the garden, a Common Noctule, Nyctalus noctula, which keeps coming and going and the Common Pipistrelle, Pipistrellus pipistrellus, which lives in the attic and has been hunting around the gables all evening. Naturally I got outside with the bat detector and made a few recordings:

Note the irregular rhythm to the pulses of the Serotine, very distinctive of this species.

To me the long ranging 'chip, chop' sound of the Common Noctule sounds very much like a horse trotting along a road, again very distinctive of the species.

Both Serotine and Noctule are large bats (for the UK) - both have wingspans over 30cm and when you get a view of either they can appear quite striking in size.

Just after sunset is the busiest time as the bats emerge to feed. Although I've noted activity of one degree or another throughout the night, things definitely get quieter after about 10pm.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Spider Season...

Autumn is the prime time for finding spiders in the UK. Many species reach adulthood in August and September and become much more noticeable and numerous. After a few short field trips in the past week I've found large numbers of Araneus species around including some spectacularly large specimens.

Araneus quadratus: R. Harris
They come in a variety of colours
Araneus quadratus: R. Harris
Araneus quadratus: R. Harris

Araneus marmoreus: R. Harris
Not the commonest species - always a pleasure to see.
Araneus marmoreus: R. Harris
Araneus diadematus: R. Harris
 This little Cheiracanthium erraticum is also frequently found at the moment, mainly in long grassy areas where they bend the tops of the stems over to make a little hideaway.

Cheiracanthium erraticum: R. Harris
Cheiracanthium erraticum hideaway.
R. Harris
Of course spiders aren't the only creatures you will encounter when searching through the undergrowth. I counted seven juvenile Common Lizards Zootoca vivipara sunning themselves too.

Common Lizard: R. Harris
Slow Worm, Anguis fragilis: R. Harris
Meadow Grasshopper, Chorthippus parallelus
Closer to home in the garden at Whitestaunton, the apple trees are laden with fruit, as they are in most places this year. The fallen bounty makes ripe pickings for the flies and wasps. This one is Vespula vulgaris.

Vespula vulgaris: R. Harris
Hoping the current run of good weather continues for a while yet. There are a few spiders I'd like to get under my belt this year and haven't really had the chance until now.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Buff-breasted Sandpiper...

While I was away in North America recently the American birds started turning up over here, including a smart Buff-breasted Sandpiper at White Nothe in Dorset, which Dave Helliar managed to see and get a few photos of:

Buff-breated Sandpiper: D. Helliar
Buff-breated Sandpiper: D. Helliar
Buff-breated Sandpiper: D. Helliar
Roesel's Bush Crickets Metrioptera roeselii were also found. This species has hugely expanded its range in the last decade or so, they are easily told from the similar Bog Bush Cricket Metrioptera brachyptera by their green face and cream border around the entire side of the thorax. I remember when I first saw this species back in the mid-eighties. They were really quite scarce then.

Roesel's Bush Cricket: . Helliar
Closer to Chard it's good to see so many insects still brightening up the day.

Hornet with prey: D. Helliar
Clouded Yellow: D. Helliar
Comma: D. Helliar
Harlequin Ladybird: D. Helliar
Comma: D. Helliar
Painted Lady: D. Helliar
Red Admiral: D. Helliar
Green Shield Bug: D. Helliar
A sure sign that Autumn is upon us, another Med Gull at Chard Res. This time an adult winter.

Med Gull: D. Helliar
Thanks to Dave for his photo round-up from the last couple of weeks.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Prince Edward Island, Canada...

Not a birding break unfortunately but a very busy work jaunt. Nevertheless I scored a few birds as I travelled around this beautiful and very under-watched province of Canada and I got a few photos as a bonus. Saw quite a few Belted Kingfishers, which were always distant but great to see:

Belted Kingfisher: R. Harris
 Bonaparte's Gulls were less common than American Herring and Ring-billed Gulls but there were still good flocks to be seen at times as well as a few individuals like this one below.

Bonaparte's Gull: R. Harris
First winter Common Tern: R. Harris
Double-crested Cormorants - part of a flock of 125: R. Harris
Double-crested Cormorant: R. Harris
Ring-billed Gull: R. Harris
I collected some shots of American Herring Gull - the variety in 1st CY plumage can be seen below.

1CY American Herring Gull: R. Harris
1CY American Herring Gull: R. Harris
1CY American Herring Gull: R. Harris
1CY American Herring Gull - dark individual: R. Harris
American Herring Gull: R. Harris
American Herring Gull: R. Harris
Gannets were flying past the hotel in Charlottetown
R. Harris
Black Guillemots: R. Harris
A group of Common Seals: R. Harris
Great Blue Herons are as common on PEI as
they are elsewhere in Canada: R. Harris
Great Blue Heron: R. Harris
Caspian Terns were seen frequently, usually three or four at a time together. 
Caspian Tern: R. Harris
 Best of all was this Greater Yellowlegs that not only hung on while I got out of the car but then walked closer much to the appreciation of my group, who also started snapping away.

Greater Yellowlegs, PEI Canada: R. Harris
Greater Yellowlegs, PEI Canada: R. Harris
Greater Yellowlegs, PEI Canada: R. Harris
Greater Yellowlegs, PEI Canada: R. Harris
Greater Yellowlegs, PEI Canada: R. Harris

I took a short hand-held video of it too but not easy to keep up with it.

Greater Yellowlegs, PEI, Canada

Passerines were a bit thin on the ground but you could always depend on Song Sparrows to pop up when you needed something to look at.

Song Sparrow (almost bald!): R. Harris
Song Sparrow: R. Harris

Lots of wild flowers still out over there too but my favourite is the insectivorous Pitcher Plant Sarracenia purpurea:

Pitcher Plant Sarracenia purpurea: R. Harris
Pitcher Plant flower: R. Harris
Pitcher Plant flower: R. Harris
In addition to these I also had several Bald Eagles, Semi-palmated Plover, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Sanderling, American kestrel, loads of Merlins, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Eastern Kingbird and American Goldfinch.