Spring was an utter disaster moth-wise: cold, wet and wind meant that we hardly put the trap out and and on the few occasions we did it was practically empty . June has started well, however, and numbers of moths have rocketed to the dizzy heights of average. We have had good diversity, though, with a number of new moths for the garden. Last night’s trap was excellent with three new moths, at least two of them migrants, and quite rare ones too: Beautiful Marbled and Portland Riband Wave, the other being a May Highflyer.
Here’s a few moths from recent traps and a couple of butterflies from our walks.
Continuing our Yorkshire weekend, we had an early morning visit to Strid Woods in Wharfedale. The Strid in late May is one of my favourite places, and this year it was as lovely as ever. With loads of Pied Flycatchers, as well as a few Spotted Flycatchers, Dippers, Redstarts, Goosanders, Common Sandpipers as well as the more common woodland birds, and the calls of Oystercatchers and Curlew from the moor above, it’s a great place to be in the morning. Unfortunately there were no Wood Warblers to be found this time, but a Tawny Owl with a well-hidden chick was a treat.
In the afternoon we went up Nidderdale to Scar House reservoir for a walk with Mum and my brother and sister in law. It was a bit quieter than normal in spring (apart from the racket made by a group of motorbikers scaring the sheep) but we still had nice views of Wheatear and many Lapwings.
Our week in Harrogate seeing my mum in her lovely new flat was curtailed to a long weekend, but the bank holiday heatwave made it a very pleasant trip. On Sunday, we managed to find the one place in Britain that was cold: the east coast had a thick sea mist and was decidedly nippy. To make it worse, all of the rarities there the previous day seemed to have left overnight.
However, Bempton didn’t disappoint, with many Puffins and all the usual seabirds showing well, although the light made photography a bit harder then normal. Flamborough was very quiet bird-wise, but a small ledge that seemed to be home to 8 Puffins was fun. The lack of anything else meant that returned early via the scenic route over the Wolds. The news of Bee-eaters over Bempton half an hour later wasn’t greeted with joy!
After doing very little last weekend, when pretty much everything went wrong (apart from flushing a migrating Nightjar on a local walk), and a hideous wet, windy and cold week, it was good to get out today on a very early, still and clear morning (although it was still a bit parky). The mission was to catch up with Turtle Dove, which is becoming ever harder to find, even at Woods Mill, a stronghold in Sussex. Leaving the house at 0300, we got to the mill stream around 0600, having added Spotted Flycatcher by the Adur. There was nothing there, other than a lot of Nightingales, so moving on to the Woods Mill reserve, and then on to Oreham Common, there seemed to be lots of habitat, but nothing doing. Eventually we did hear a distant bird, that promptly flew away, almost invisibly, but having stood around for a while we were able to track down a calling bird, which showed well and purred beautifully for about half an hour. Glorious!
On Sunday we covered over 30 miles again, in the hope of catching up with Grasshopper Warbler, that had eluded us the previous weekend. Leaving the house at 0145 might seem extreme, but if you want to catch the dawn chorus a long way from home it needs to be done. We were rewarded by one bird showing well and reeling almost continuously, although drowned out by a very enthusiastic Sedge Warbler right next to us. A cuckoo also showed off nicely. Then on to Pulborough, where the Nightingales were excellent. I’ve been pretty dismissive of Pulborough Brooks for Nightingale in the last few years, but this year they are superb. Yet another failure with Adder, though.
Back at home the Slow Worm count has risen to 14 and we have added two Grass Snakes.
It’s been a strange spring migration, it seems to be tailing off a bit, but we’re well short of what there should be. The constant strong and cold winds have slowed things down (and shut up those birds that have arrived). Last year on 25th April I recorded 25 Reed Warblers on territories in the brooks behind us. This year so far I have got up to 10 on 30th April. Numbers may be poor, but diversity is good – my on foot list stands at 170, way ahead of this time last year, although I’ve seen all of the easy stuff now, so things will slow dramatically from now on.
While dashing up to Cissbury Ring to catch up with the Ring Ouzel that had been reported (it turns out that there were two, but they were incredibly distant), I came across my first Cuckoo of the year. It called a couple of times, but moved along the edge of the wood with me, and occasionally posed nicely.
An early walk on Sunday had a nice fall of migrants including our first Willow Warbler of the year. A male Black Redstart was a new bird for the location. Walking down to the sea produced very little. This afternoon the wind turned south east, so it looked like the sea was the place to be. 3 miles later, the glorious sunshine at home turned into thick sea mist. If the tide had been out I wouldn’t have been able to see the sea. A walk along the coast and back home through the wetland produced nothing at all, until in one corner of a field there were 6 Wheatears, a different Black Redstart and our first Common Redstart of the year. Of course, having set out for a seawatch, I was carrying my telescope instead of my SLR, so the pictures are just phonescoped.
On the way back from visiting Karen’s dad in Liphook we stopped off at Iping Common and had our first Tree Pipit and Woodlark of the year, it’s a great place, but way too far to walk to. This evening a walk to the wetland behind us found me a Green Sandpiper and on the way back a Badger was so busy feeding that it ignored all of my attempts to get it to look up.
A 5:30 start today in the hope of catching up with the Nightingale, which has been at Cissbury Ring for the last few days, before work. After a couple of minutes debating where the bird was meant to be, it settled the argument by launching into seven minutes at full rawp. Quite magnificent! The Whitethroat singing quietly to itself on the way back was a new bird for the year, but was no comparison.