Friday, 29 June 2018

Transect Update - Week 13.

Once again I chose Sunday 24th to undertake my 'Week 13' transect walk on Ashtead Common under a cloudless sky and a temperature of around 24 deg. C so I was thankful for the overhead green canopy providing some respite from the sun.

On the quarter mile walk to the start of the transect I always stop at a sunny open spot where there is an area of brambles and this often provides an indication of what I may record on the actual transect.

On this occasion there were several Meadow Browns, Ringlet, Large Skippers and a single Marbled White (left) made a brief nectar stop. Unfortunately no Marbled Whites turned up during my timed walk. 

One of the resident Common Buzzards made a fly past as I started my timed walk.

Section 1 produced three new species for this year. First was the Ringlet (above) and ultimately I saw them in all 8 sections recording a total of 58 individuals. Next was a single Purple Hairstreak flying up through one of the oaks.

At the beginning of Section 3 I found another Purple Hairstreak settled on the bracken and when it turned around I noticed a black addition (see below) to the centre of its underwing. I am guessing this may be some form of tick that has attached itself. Sections 4 and 8 also produced single sightings of this species.

The third new addition seen in Sections 1 and 3 was the Silver-washed Fritillary and I logged a total of just four males with only one stopping long enough for a photo call.

As expected the most prominent species was the Meadow Brown again recorded in all sections of the transect with a total of 73 logged.

White Admiral (above) turned up in 5 out of 8 sections with a total of 10 recorded during my walk. With a cumulative count of 27 individuals on my last two walks makes 2018 the best year for this species.

Finally the walk produced sightings of 10 species including Small/Essex Skippers, Large Skipper, Large White and Green-veined White with an overall total of 166 individual butterflies recorded.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Transect Update - Week 12.

When I commence my weekly transect there is always a feeling of hope and anticipation about the species that might be seen. Having previously reviewed last years sightings and numbers plus reasonable weather conditions; 20 deg. C but a little cooler in the shade with some cloud cover being pushed along by a fairly brisk westerly wind; there was the prospect of a decent recording session. 

Section 1 produced 5 different species starting with this Large Skipper (above) plus Speckled Wood (2), Meadow Brown (3), Ringlet (2) and White Admiral (6).

White Admiral (above) would eventually feature in 7 out of the 8 sections on the transect producing a total of 14 individuals seen and the highest count for any of the four years I have carried out this survey.

Flag Pond produced the usual Broad-bodied Chaser (above) and Large Red Damselfly (below) with Meadow Brown and Ringlet being the main flutters in this section.

Section 3 produced five species (previously recorded) but not an anticipated Silver-washed Fritillary,  however a pair of White-legged Damselflies [male above and female below] put in an appearance.

Section 4, the largest open area of grassland that is slowly being swamped by bracken, produced one new species, a Small Skipper and a total of 25 Meadow Browns.

Meadow Browns eventually appeared in every section of the transect with a total of 44 individuals recorded. 

So my initial anticipation was rewarded with 8 species logged including Large White and Green-veined White culminating in an overall total of 77 individual sightings; again the highest 'Week 12' for the past four years.

Linking to:

Monday, 18 June 2018

Adonis Blue.

A windy foray across the southern slope of chalk down-land last Friday produced numerous Meadow Browns and Small Heath, a few tatty Common Blues plus recently emerged Marble Whites but my ultimate quarry, the Adonis Blue was very elusive.

Several other walkers indicated that they had failed to find an Adonis but undaunted I persevered and finally found one very flighty male that eventually alighted on Bird's-foot-trefoil and then partially revealed its distinctive upper wing colours before continuing its aerial foray.

After another ten minutes of fluttering around in circles it decided to land again but still only provided a restricted view of its upper wings.

Linking to:
Nature Notes

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Fast Fliers.

In a recent post "Thursley Common-Residents and Migrants" I promised some more images of  a migrant falcon that is known for its exceptional aerial acrobatics.

The Hobby (Falco subbuteo) that regularly catches and eats its insect prey on the wing.

At a distance it appears sickle-like in flight, often resembling a Swift when gliding with folded wings and can easily reach speeds up to 100 mph.

Its aerial agility also enables it to catch birds in flight, particularly hirundines, and I have, over the years, witnessed individuals chasing and catching both House Martins and Swifts.

Whilst not as agile as the Hobby, the Common Swift (Apus apus) is thought to be the fastest species in level flight; recorded at 111.6 km/h or 69.3 mph. I captured these images above my parents house earlier this week where for many years three pairs have nested and reared their youngsters.

Amazing to know that they feed and sleep on the wing and almost never land except at their nest sites. Swifts can't fly in wet weather in the UK so they fly around storms to find dry areas and is thought to be the only UK bird to adopt this method.

Linking to:
Saturday's Critters

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Transect Update - Week 11.

The first two weeks of June are known as the 'June Gap' when spring butterfly species are going over and before the main summer fliers emerge.

I carried out my 'Week 11' transect walk on Ashtead Common last Sunday and was therefore not surprised that a Brimstone failed to appear but recorded 12 Speckled Wood, the highest weekly count for this species this season so far. 

Three of only four other species logged were all new sightings for this season.

A female Large Skipper.

One of nine Meadow Brown.

White Admiral. Just three individuals logged.

White Admiral (Underwing pattern)

A few days later during a stroll on Epsom Common I spotted at least a dozen White Admirals in the space of 30 minutes and also photographed my first Small Heath (below) for the year.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Thursley Common - Residents and Migrants.

From late April into May I made several visits to Thursley Common NNR to check out both the resident and migrant species that inhabit this very important lowland site with its mix of heathland, acidic bog, pools and woodland.

A resident male Stonechat on sentry duty.

Over the years the population of Dartford Warbler (above) has ebbed and flowed due to the occasional severe winters and the devastating fires that have ruined their breeding habitats from time to time. Currently their numbers seem fairly stable and any opportunity to get a shot of an adult in its glorious breeding plumage is a bonus.

On one early morning visit I was fortunate to come across five Northern Wheatear (above) that had dropped in to refuel on their migratory northward journey from Africa. With the lack of cover I had to be content with a distant shot of just two individuals. 

Hearing the distinctive 'cour-lii' calls of a species that I frequently encounter on the south coast I turned my attention skywards to watch one of a pair of Curlew that regularly inhabit this site from April through to August. 

Moving further across the common to a stand of mixed woodland I found one of several male [Common] Redstart (below) that had just arrived from Africa and were setting up territories in preparation for the slightly later arrival of the females.

I spent some time in this spot watching the males chase one another and eventually grabbed a shot of one male that came a little closer, perching briefly, before continuing its aerial antics. 

Another Summer visitor from Africa is the Tree Pipit (above) typically vocalising from a high open perch.

Other species seen and or heard have included Blue, Great, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, Goldfinch, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Skylark, Woodlark, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Swallow, Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Hobby plus several views of single and pairs of Cuckoo. 

I often end any visit by returning to the boardwalk overlooking Pudmore Pond in order to catch a glimpse of one of any number of Hobby, (above) another migrant from Africa, hawking for their prey. I hope to share more images of this consummate aerial acrobat in a future post. 

Linking to:
Saturday's Critters
Nature Notes
Wild Bird Wednesday

Monday, 4 June 2018

Butterfly Transect Update.

After quite a long blogging absence I felt it was time to provide an update on my fourth year of undertaking butterfly monitoring on the northern boundary of Ashtead Common NNR, managed by the City of London Corporation. 
The transect, covering a distance of 1770 meters, follows tracks and footpaths through deciduous woodland, with many ancient oaks, and open grassy glades .

As in previous years the predominant early species on the wing has been the Brimstone.

The second most common species during the last six visits has been the Speckled Wood with the highest weekly count of nine yesterday.

At Flag Pond, probably a former clay pit (hence the water colour) linked to the nearby Roman villa complex, I tend to stop for a while to check out the wildlife. On the 4th May I recorded the first Large Red Damselfly and from mid May the numbers of Broad-bodied Chasers has steadily increased with White-legged Damselflies appearing in the grassland nearby. I have also seen Common Blue Damselfly and Beautiful Demoiselle here in the last two weeks.

While watching the pond life yesterday I heard the begging calls of young Blue Tits (below) from a tree behind me and turned round to find four hungry individuals squashed together in the cleft of the tree waiting for the parents to return with food. [Unfortunately I didn't have a long lens with me so these images are heavily cropped].

I have also recorded 22 bird species so far this year whilst walking the transect and two weeks ago heard my first ever Cuckoo calling on the common from woodland south of the Roman earthwork complex.

Other species of butterfly recorded so far this season, albeit in very low numbers, include Small and Large White, Green-veined White, Comma, Common Blue, Holly Blue and Orange-Tip (below).

Orange-Tip (female)
About a hundred yards away from the transect I saw my first Large Skipper of the year yesterday so hopefully they and a few other species will provide some photo opportunities in the coming weeks.

During yesterdays walk I watched masses of micro-moths, Green Oak Tortrix (Tortrix viridana). On two trees I estimated there were at least 300 fluttering and feeding. One individual dropped onto the bracken below allowing me to grab a quick snap. 
Below are just a few of the wild flowers that have finally emerged in the last two weeks.

Linking to:
Nature Notes


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