Friday, 26 April 2019

Orchids and moths...

A sudden (short-lived) burst of warm weather in the last week really helped bring on some of the local spring orchids, with this population of green-winged orchids starting to make for a fantastic display. Whilst there are still many more to flower, there are currently hundreds of spikes in perfect condition.

Green-winged orchids starting to cover the hillside

Many are in clumps and nearly all
are darker purple in colour

Close-up showing the 'green-winged' sepals

One of the warmer evenings also allowed for the first moth trap of the year in the garden at Whitestaunton resulting in a few nice moths for the year list.


Brindled beaury

Water Carpet


Muslin moth

Nut-tree tussock

Flame carpet

Waved umber

Ruddy highflyer

With the weather now taking a cooler dip again it could be a while before the moth trap goes out. With luck there will be some good birds to to see soon.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Up with the (Wood) Lark...

Saturday 20th April has been the nicest day so far this year. Hitting temperatures more reminiscent of a summer's day in July, clear blue skies and a warm, gentle southeasterly breeze - perfect Spring weather!

With this in mind, I headed off early this morning to Wareham Forest with Dave Helliar, on what has become an annual pilgrimage to see and hear some of our our spring migrants, hopefully see a few reptiles and add to the butterfly year list too.

Shortly after we arrived, we both picked up on a 'pale lump' sitting on the short turf about 15 meters away. Raising our bins, we found it to be a Woodlark. It showed extremely well for a few minutes and was a great way to start the morning. I think these are the best views I've ever had!

Woodlark, Dorset

Woodlark, Dorset

Woodlark, Dorset
Woodlark, Dorset: D. Helliar

This individual was soon followed by several other flyovers and eventually a singing bird - the epitome of Spring on the Dorset Heaths and definitely one of my favourite songs. Another classic heathland species is Dartford Warbler. We managed about 4 birds but this is fewer than other other years. We struggled last Spring too - perhaps 'The Beast from the East' took its toll on them last March?

Dartford Warbler, Dorset
Dorset sandy heaths are one of my favourite habitats
in the UK. 

There were good numbers of Stonechat and Meadow Pipit, at least two Cuckoo seen and heard and a ring-tail Hen Harrier was a highlight.

Stonechat,one of many seen scattered across the heath.
 Another bird we always hope for (but don't always see) are Tree Pipits. Initially a little concerned that we hadn't heard any, our fears were soon dispelled as not one, but about half-a-dozen were heard and seen in quick succession close to one another.

Tree Pipit - 5 or 6 of these seen
some performing their parachute display flight.
Tree Pipit, Dorset: D. Helliar

Surprisingly only a handful of Slow Worm Anguis fragilis and Viviparous Lizard Zootoca vivipara were the only reptiles seen, despite temperatures climbing to a very respectable level by mid-morning. 

We headed back to the car and switched locations where we soon found a pair of Sand Lizards Lacerta agilis, but that was our lot for the day and we didn't add any further to the day's reptile tally.

Sand Lizard, male - Dorset

Sand Lizard, female - Dorset

As for butterflies - much slower than expected but Peacock, Orange-tip, Speckled Wood and Brimstone made it onto the list....just. Good numbers of the day-flying Common Heath moth were also noted along with a single Green Tiger Beetle.

The journey home added a Green Sandpiper, which was hanging out on a flooded field towards Dorchester. Not a bad morning out by any standards but I'll have to go back, there's still some unfinished business on the reptile front.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Early Spiders...

Last weekend marked the start of the orchid season in the UK for my brother and myself  and the weather was perfect for our annual trip to the Dorset coast to look at the Early Spider Orchids.

These beautiful little orchids with their velvety brown 'spider' like flowers are nationally scarce and confined to short coastal turf along south-central to southeastern England.  They are among the very first orchids to flower and no orchid season would be complete without seeing them.

The Dorset coast, Early Spider country...

Early Spider Orchid 

Flowers resemble a spider?
You decide. 

No more than a few cm tall
you have to watch where you step!

A search for reptiles in the warm conditions also proved fruitful with 4 adders seen, including 3 males.

Adder Vipera berus, female
My first of the year!

Males are silver/grey and stunning.

Common Lizard Zootoca vivipara...
first of the year too.

The morning also yielded our first House Martin's, Swallows, Blackcaps and Willow Warblers of the Spring but the highlight was this flyover Red Kite.

Red Kite, highlight of the birds seen. 

Next, Early Purple and Green-winged orchids.