Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Papillon de Jour et la grande Vulcan

The weather forecast was indifferent as to whether or not we would get any sunshine but it prophesized no rain (probably) and good temperatures into the low twenties so I reckoned our chances of a good butterfly session at Fermyn Woods in Northants was promising. 

In way of a change we all parked at the main car park and spent a superb five hours ambling along the Orange Trail (taking in the bridal path Emperor alley) and clocked up an impressive 23 species.

Small Skipper
Essex Skipper
Silver Washed Fritillary
Large Skipper
Speckled Wood
Marbled White
Large White
Small White
Green-veined White
Meadow Brown
White Admiral
Purple Hairstreak
Purple Emperor
White-letter Hairstreak
Painted Lady
Common Blue
Holly Blue
Small Tortoiseshell

White Admiral
Painted Lady

Painted Lady
Small Tortoiseshell - Nick Smith
Large White - Nick Smith
Meadow Brown

The Silver Washed Frits were stunning and we even saw a pale silvery valezina female as they came down to nectar with an immaculate White Letter Hairstreak while countless Ringlets and gliding White Admirals danced in the glades.  The Purple Emperors were a bit tricky and only a handful of us saw one from several powerglides through the Oak canopy.

A Hummingbird Hawk Moth tore up the path like a kid on a scooter and Six Spot Burnets and Silver-Y moths were seen in the grassland along with Dark Bush Crickets and a solitary Pyramidal Orchid.

Silver Washed Frit - Mark vale

White Admiral

White Admiral

Small Skipper

Large Skipper

I have never seen so many hoverflies nectaring on Thistle (Creeping, Marsh & Spear), Teasel, Ragwort, Meadowsweet and Knapweed. Episyrphus balteatus and Syrphus sp numbered in the 1000's and I am happy that there were many banded Epistrophes ... and some Eupeodes corollae but I cannot be more certain. 

Episyrphus balteatus
Eristalis arbustorum
Scaeva pyrastri

Also seen were Eristalis pertinax, Eristalis nemorum, Eristalis tenax, Eristalis arbustorum, Volucella pelucens, Platycheirus sp, Helophilus pendulus, Scaeva pyrastri, Cheilosia illustrata, Spaerophoria scripta and a superb Sericomyia silentis

Hoverfly Bar
Syprhus sp but not sure....  not ribisii as black hind femur... I think

Dragons and Damsels did not want to be left out and Emperors, Brown and Southern Hawkers were terrorising the glades and rides and many species of butterfly has missing chunks from their wings. Azure, Blue Tail and Common Blue Damsels were picking off smaller prey and buoyant Banded Demoiselles did likewise but in a more graceful manner! Predatory Notch Horned Clegs (Haematopota pluvialis) were laying in wait on the wider rides and rose lazily as we walked along.  A few found accessible bits of flesh but although I did lose some blood, I think that my sun tan spray was putting them off!

Banded Demoiselle - Nick Smith

Banded Demoiselle

Four Spot Chaser

Female Emperor egg laying

Notch Horned Clegs (Haematopota pluvialis)
Misumena vitae

Bird wise the woods were quiet other than an occasional roving tit flock complete with Long-tails, sneezing Marshes, Treecreepers and Nuthatches while overhead a solitary Crossbill ‘gypped’ and the now expected and expectant Red Kites peered down on us from tree top height in the hope that we would either drop something edible or collapse from Clegg related blood loss.
Lunch time company
We actually spent lunch with these majestic bird wheeling over the picnic tables but it would appear that pastrami is not to their liking...

On to the Manton Bay end of Rutland Water for some end of day Osprey action and we were not to be disappointed with a single and three together in the distance as we walked down and the three chicks and both their parents around the nest from the hides.  Superb views were had and the male even flew off and came back with a large trout which he deposited for his three scaly youngsters to disassemble.  The views from the hide are actually very good and the family is not too far away and the screen in the hide is actually a fine accompaniment as you can then watch what happens after the fish is dropped.  One of the bolder kids was even doing practice dives and she has only been flying three days.  There were plenty of Coots and Mute Swans as well as Gadwall, Mallard and Tufted Duck broods and a snaky necked Great White Egret stalked among several Little Egrets. Hobby and Buzzard added to the raptor list.

Cracking Osprey shot by Mark Vale

    and yes I know I took a picture of the screen but I could see all four in the scope and it was just great to see Osprey family life close up
Inside the hide there were many green eyed Twin Lobed Deer Flies that needed rescuing and I would rather handle them and let them out then have them in there with me!  The same could be said of the rather splendid Horse Fly (Hybomitra distinguenda) that seemed grateful for my assistance and then posed for my camera and even had a little wash.  A new species to me with an orangey abdomen and bright green eyes with red stripes.

Horse Fly (Hybomitra distinguenda)

However the best was still to come as we were just following one of the Ospreys who was up having a hover quite close to us when, with a huge roar, the Vulcan Bomber passed over low and slow heading north! Incredible! Mark vale somehow managed a shot of both ‘species’ on the same view... undoubtedly a first...

Simply amazing....  well done to Mark and cheers for letting me use it

Oncoming trouble... oh and there are five Ospreys in this view too!

With rain clouds building to the west we headed back along the humid shore and just made it to the cars as the heavens opened in a refreshing deluge. With that it was time to head for home onto a bizarrely empty road network that saw me drop the lads off at Lakeside just over an hour and a half later after a most satisfactory day out in the sticks.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Botany Bimble

Last Friday I had a wonderfully relaxed two hour stroll around the marsh before we opened. Needless to say I had the place to myself and it was wonderfully warm and pleasant.  Ornithologically it was fairly quiet although I did get some lovely views of the Bearded Tits, nine more early moving Siskins and the first Yellow Wagtail since the spring but it was the flowers that caught my eye in the bright morning light...

So let me take you on a botanical tour of the trails of RSPB Rainham Marshes.  I will do my best with the identification and if anyone out there knows better please do correct me.

The last of the Bramble was still in flower as I headed for the Cordite and these will undoubtedly be our late Blackberries and once in the Cordite the over powering smell of pig sty greeted my olfactory senses with the hugely tall Hogweed doing its best to reach for the skies and persuade the local fly population that it is worth investigating. The only trouble with seven foot plants and their flies is the difficulty of seeing the latter... The Large Bindweed is busily wrapping as much of the other plant life in a green heart shaped blanket and despite the tenaciousness of it, it is a lovely flower.

Hedge Bindweed

Down towards the Ken Barrett Hide, Goats Rue and Chicory (with solitary bee attendants) grew in the dust alongside the path and the first almost naked stems of Common Ragwort (complete with stripy Cinnabar cats) could be seen in the sparse grass along with Perforate St John’s Wort with the tell tale tiny pin prick holes in the leaves.


Chicory with friend

Goats Rue

Common Ragwort
Common Ragwort and Cinnabar Moth Cat

Perforate St John’s Wort

Great Willowherb was in flower just beyond the KBH and was a welcome splash of vibrant pink and lone and very prickly Spear Thistle had pushed up through the Nettles.

Great Willowherb

Marsh Thistle

Down at the west end of the Northern Trail there was a nice clump of Goats Rue and the lovely pink florets of Flowering Rush growing in the ditch alongside Sea Club Rush and another similar species and Woody Nightshade dangled its purple and yellow jester hats over the boardwalk edges.

Not sure Rush

Sea Club Rush

Flowering Rush
Woody Nightshade

It was now time for yellow... lots of yellow with Bristly Ox Tongue fighting for space with Beaked Hawk's-beard (with the orange underside to some petals) and Smooth Sow Thistle. Clumps of lilac headed Creeping Thistle and white heads of Yarrow were attracting Gatekeepers while the yellows seemed favoured by bees and flower beetles both large and small.

Bristly Ox Tongue
Beaked Hawk's-beard

Smooth Sow Thistle

Creeping Thistle


Further on, past the Butts Hide and closer to the ground I found Cinquefoil and Meadow Vetchling (more yellow), both Red and White Clover and the last of the Scentless Mayweed. 

More tall yellows were next with Narrow-leaved Ragwort (also being consumed), Perennial Sow Thistle and its soft nodding heads stuffed full of the tiniest shiny blue-black flower beetles and way above everything else the twisted stem of a Great Lettuce with its sparsely spaced small flowers.

Field Bindweed

Meadow Vetchling

Scentless Mayweed

Narrow-leaved Ragwort

Perennial Sow Thistle

Great Lettuce

From here on I ambled back to the centre feeling like quite the botanist!