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#30DaysWild – Days 8 – 11

It’s proving difficult to blog every day for 30 Days Wild this year, but there is no need to worry. I am most definitely still connecting with nature every day!

Day 8

I actually had a day off from working on Wednesday (Day 8), though I spent much of it either working on my laptop or working in the garden. However, Matt and I did go for a lovely walk at lunchtime. Alongside admiring dragonflies and butterflies, we also heard a Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra) and I managed to get good views (but no photos) of a Whitethroat (Sylvia communis).

Day 9

The wildlife spotting started early on Day 9 when we emptied the garden moth trap. There was a good variety of species, above you can see Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae), Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi), White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda) and Green Silver-lines (Pseudoips prasinana). The morning was then further improved when I found out that the abstract I had submitted for giving a talk at Ento ’16 had been accepted!

I was working at Wimpole that day, so I took a lunchtime walk in front of the house. The lawn is absolutely gorgeous, as they let the grass grow long and there are lots of wildflowers amongst it. Including a Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera), as shown below. I think I may attempt to photograph the orchid in flower next week – though I don’t know if I will manage to find it again!

Day 10

On Friday I was working at Wicken Fen, leading KS2 school groups in pond dipping. We caught a silly number of newt tadpoles, and some absolute whoppers of diving beetles and their larvae. I recently learnt that the underside is useful in identifying the different diving beetle species, hence the photos below of their undersides! For example, I am pretty confident that the adult beetle below on the right is a Black-bellied Diving Beetle (Dytiscus semisulcatus). We also saw the food chain in action when a diving beetle larvae was caught with a water boatman in its jaws! I knew they were predators, but didn’t realise that they ate adult beetles of other species!

Day 11

I had yet another day off this week! Very strange indeed. My To Do list was depressingly long so I spent the morning and much of the afternoon attempting to tackle it, but I did manage to get out and visit a local nature reserve in the late afternoon. I decided to local Wildlife Trust reserve, Houghton Meadows. On the walk down the lane, I found a couple of feathers to stick into my hat which was fun.

Houghton Meadows is a lovely place, the fields were just brimming with flowers. Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) was everywhere, and so because it has parasitic properties on grasses (thus limiting their growth), there were other wildflowers everywhere too: Bird’s-Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Ox-Eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) and Red Clover (Trifolium pratense). The insect population was strong too, lots of Diamond-backed moths (Plutella xylostella), a Common Blue butterfly (Polyommatus icarus) and plenty of damselflies and dragonflies. I had particular fun photographing a male Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) through the grass stems.

On my walk back to the car, I was thrilled to find a family of Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus), as they were one of my favourite birds. Mind you, they are a nuisance to try and take photographs of as they move around so much! However, a couple of these particular birds didn’t move around as much, I think they must’ve been fledglings.

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When two become one

My camera has been returned to me! Woohoo! It feels good to have it back again, I feel like I’m whole again. Ok, maybe that is going too far, but it’s not far off! I have taken a couple of hundred photos since it arrived back, haha!

Not much wildlife worth noting for during the week. I did have a fab school group at Chesil on one of the days mind. Some KS3 (Yrs7-9) students from a local school looking for seashore creatures. A couple of the girls were particularly fascinated by the washed up Barrel Jellyfish (Rhizostoma pulmo). As the day was a bit of a jolly for them, I didn’t make them come down the rest of the beach with us. And I’m glad I didn’t, because when we rejoined them 15 minutes later, I discovered they had been watching a documentary on jellyfish reproduction on one of their phones!

Later in the week, I was visited by a friend who I’ve known for years but hadn’t seen for a few months. Trying to think of something fun for us to do, I booked us onto a Fleet Observer trip. It was great fun! Good views of the Little Terns (Sternula albifrons), plus we saw one of the Hares (Lepus europaeus). I am always surprised to see the hares on Chesil Beach! I didn’t manage to get a photo of it though.

Following a yummy lunch in Fortuneswell, we headed up to King Barrow Quarries Nature Reserve as it had been too long since I’d been there (i.e. more than a week!). Plus, I was hoping to get two new year ticks for my butterfly list. It was really blustery, but the quarries provided some sheltered areas that were filled with a nice variety of butterflies – including the wonderful Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) and even a Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus). Plus a Great Green Bush Cricket (Tettigonia viridissima) that I managed to catch – crikey, they really are big crickets, their name is well suited!

We also saw my favourite butterfly, the Chalkhill Blue (Polyommatus coridon)! What an absolutely beautiful butterfly it is!

Feeling windblown and warm from sun, we went over to the Portland Bird Observatory. The smallness of the world was proved when I met someone there who I had originally met in Wales back in 2011-2012 whilst on placement with the Field Studies Council! We had a lovely catch-up and he pointed in the direction of Puss Moth caterpillars that had been found not far from the Obs. With a bit of searching, my friend and I managed to find one of them, and thank goodness we did! What a fantastic caterpillar it is! I couldn’t believe how chunky it was, so I took a photo of my thumb next to it as proof of its size.

This weekend, the theme at Lorton was butterflies! I led my first ever proper butterfly walk (i.e. to paying members of the public, not foisting butterfly info onto friends/family)! Despite the nerves, it went well – we saw most of the butterflies that we get at Lorton. I also rounded out the walk to include some of the wildflowers that the butterflies feed on, plus stopping by the pond to see what was about there.

I was eye-ing up the antennae of the skippers, having told the group about the difference between Small (Thymelicus sylvestris) and Essex  (T.lineola) Skippers. The Small has orange/brown tips to their antennae, whereas the Essex has black tips. I didn’t see any Essex on the walk, but then my friend, and local naturalist, Sean Foote came over to Lorton to see the reserve. I pointed out where one of the Skippers was fluttering about and he was like “oh yeh, an Essex” prompting a “Whaaaaat?!” from me! True enough, it was an Essex Skipper!

On Sunday, I was helping out on a stall at the Weymouth Sports and Wellbeing Festival, promoting Natural Choices – for which Dorset Wildlife Trust are running some activities. We had our seaside model out and making plasticine figurines to go onto it.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dorset Wildlife Trust’s positions, strategies or opinions (or any other organisation or individuals for that matter).

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I’ve still got sand in my shoes

It wasn’t quite two weeks away from Dorset, but at one and a half weeks, it’s not far off Dido’s song lyrics. What a wonderful holiday it was too, I still can’t believe how much wildlife we saw in Scotland! Pine martens! Otters! Eagles! Western Scotland is definitely going on the list of places to revisit that’s for sure! And I know that Matt feels the same – especially since this was a revisit for him anyway!

Now I’m back in Dorset again. It has taken me a couple of days to switch from holiday mode to work mode. Luckily, I love my work and it is wildlife-related, so the jump wasn’t too big! Friday definitely shook me into place – we had a large group from a local school coming to the Chesil Beach Centre for two sessions. We decided to split them into two groups, because (a) it is more manageable for us, and (b) the children get a better experience in smaller groups.

I took one group, the Year 1s, and we headed out on a seashore scavenge. This involves a scavenger hunt where they have to find things from the list – e.g. something purple, three pebbles of different sizes, something that smells of the sea. I love this session as it allows the children to wander around (within a certain area and within sight) Chesil Beach, exploring what’s been washed up and working together as a team to find everything on their list. During this time, I visit each group a couple of times to see how they’re getting on and whilst doing so, do a little bit of a beach clean. Even in the limited area that we were in and being busy making sure the group were ok, I managed to collect a whole bag of rubbish! Rather depressing, but I use it as an educational tool to introduce them to marine litter and even talk a bit about currents.

In the afternoon, we became detectives and discovered seashore creatures along the edge of the Fleet Lagoon. Unsurprisingly we found plenty of crabs, mainly Common Shore Crabs (Carcinus maenas), which the children loved finding. I even persuaded a few of the reluctant children to hold a crab. Other finds included fish (though we couldn’t catch those), periwinkles, marine springtails (Anurida maritima), the cast off shells of crabs, limpets, topshells, anemones and sea slugs.

I was working up at Lorton Meadows Conservation Centre this weekend, and managed a couple of wanders to look for wildlife – during my late lunch break and then again after work. I finally saw my first Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) butterflies of the year, as well my first Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus), Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus) and Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) butterflies for the year. Other wildlife of note – 50+ Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) butterflies, hovering/hunting Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), a family of Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus) and Red-tailed Bumblebees (Bombus lapidarius). As my camera is at the repair shop, I have some blurry phone photos for you.

Additionally, the Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae) moth that I had collected as a caterpillar a couple of weeks ago and have pupated whilst I was in Scotland emerged as an adult moth this week. I released it back into the wild at Lorton, since I had found it there originally. A bit of an emotional moment. Not least because it is the first caterpillar I have managed to raise all the way through from caterpillar to adult!

In other news:

  • My guest post for the Wildlife Trusts blog was posted this week. I discuss an issue that I have been dwelling on for a while – the lack of engaging 16-30 year olds with nature.
  • I have been asking Findlay Wilde whether his guest post series, 13 Years Wilde, would (a) feature more female conservationists, (b) have a 50:50 ratio of female:male conservationists. Answers: (a) yes, (b) no.
    • Why am I asking? Well, to cut a long story short, there is an under-representation of women in STEM as a whole, but also in conservation. There are a number of factors involved, and a whole separate blog post (book?) would be required to discuss them in detail. However, for now, I’m saying that I would like to see this addressed where possible, and an equal (or at least nearly equal) representation of guest blog posts from conservationists is one way of doing so.
  • Following Scotland and this week, my butterfly life list is at 37 and my year list is at 30. Hopefully both will continue to increase this year!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dorset Wildlife Trust’s positions, strategies or opinions (or any other organisation or individuals for that matter).

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Day Twenty-seven of Megan & Matt Go Wild!

Welcome to our joint-blogging series for the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild Challenge – you can read more about the campaign and ourselves in our introduction page.

Matt (in western Scotland)

As the month draws to an end I’m considering how to make interaction with nature, and writing about it, a far more routine part of my everyday life. I suppose this means that #30DaysWild has achieved its goal.

Today was our final day in Scotland, and we made sure we took advantage. We visited the RSPB’s Glenborrodale reserve, where I held a frog and some butterflies. And I ended the week as I began it: with rockpooling and holding a crab.

We also saw porpoise and a golden eagle. This month has truly forced me to think hard about how much nature I actually get in my day to day life, even though I work in nature conservation. And I think it has had a profound impact on me. This wasn’t something I expected, but it is most welcome.

Megan (in western Scotland)

A day out today – we headed west again to visit a reserve we have often driven past this week and have often said “ooh, that would be nice to visit!”. So we went off to the RSPB’s Glenborrodale Reserve, and ascended the steep (ish) path. Note – this isn’t a reserve for those with limited movements! The terrain became mostly flat again once we reached the top. It was the worth the steep but short ascent, birds were singing and calling away throughout the woodland. We even heard a Grasshopper Warbler (Locustella naevia).

In terms of insects, the butterflies were rather showing off. Two (possibly three) Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene) butterflies were calmly fluttering about a clearing, the warmth in the air not enough to really energise them. As ever, I was excited to see butterflies but particularly so as these were a lifer for me! I had managed to miss them at Gilfach Nature Reserve last year, and they were on my list of species to see. That doubles my 2015 butterfly Wildlife Resolution! Four new species this year, crumbs!

Evidently, another butterfly heard my delight and decided to top the Fritillaries as we soon met a Chequered Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) butterfly. Our third this trip, and always a thrill to see – bearing in mind that this species is (a) beautiful and (b) limited in its distribution.

As Matt mentioned, we went rockpooling once we were back at the cottage. I had great fun watching the barnacles feeding and even spotted a small fish darting quickly from beneath a rock. And now I’m typing, but keeping a keen eye on the area beside the conservatory – the Pine Marten (Martes martes) will shortly appear I am sure!

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Day Twenty-two of Megan & Matt Go Wild!

Welcome to our joint-blogging series for the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild Challenge – you can read more about the campaign and ourselves in our introduction page.

Matt (in western Scotland)

If every day could be like today, life would be perfect, which really shows the value of going wild.

By 5am I was looking for otters. And as I’ve just been typing we’ve all dashed outside to see an otter at 9pm at night.

I’m now back at the iPad typing away having watched an otter make its way through the bay.

A few minutes ago I had a sore back from lying on the floor for three hours waiting for the pine martens with limited success. But it’s all forgotten after seeing my first Scottish otter in a while, and Megan’s first ever

And I haven’t even mentioned the extremely rare northern emerald dragonfly I spotted this morning or the chequered skipper butterfly we found, or the newts and toads I held.

Most importantly, I feel restored and refreshed, and have shared these experiences with amazing, talented, knowledgeable friends.

Megan (in western Scotland)

If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that I am already having a fantastic time in Scotland watching wildlife. The evening eclipsed all that when pine martens, yes PINE MARTENS!!!!!, appeared just outside the garden. Beth and I practically died of excitement – Beth cried and I was almost not breathing. It even came up onto the steps by us!

As I write now, it is early evening and we are all hanging out in the conservatory waiting for the pine martens to reappear. We think there are three individuals.

In terms of today, we went off to Claish Moss in search of more wildlife in different habitats. Very tiring walk, but totally worth it. There are no set footpaths on Claish Moss itself, as visitors aren’t encouraged since the bog is pretty dangerous to walk across due to, well, it being a bog. We went down a track in the neighbouring forest to access the reserve. There were lots of wonderful insects for me to marvel at including plenty of Clouded Border (Lomaspilis marginata) moths, dragonflies and best of all, a Chequered Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon) butterfly! This beautiful little skipper is found only in north-western Scotland and was one of the target species of this holiday.

Coming back to this post because OTTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My first ever!! After assisting on otter spraint surveys, dissecting otter spraint for dietary analysis, seen otter prints and finding otter anal jelly, I was desperate to see an otter. It is even one of my 2015 Wildlife Resolutions! When the call resonated through the cottage of “Otter!”, I was just putting my laptop onto charge. I raced through the house, almost knocking over a couple of the others and almost had a heart attack when I saw it. Otter!!!!

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Day Nineteen of Megan & Matt Go Wild!

Welcome to our joint-blogging series for the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild Challenge – you can read more about the campaign and ourselves in our introduction page.

Matt (in Worcestershire)

Today was the first day of my holiday. But much of it has been spent working in front of a laptop.

That’s because today is Rainforest: Live day – a project I set up and ran today for the second year in a row.

Organisations across the world have been using social media to share live wildlife sightings from their jungles.

It provides a window into what it’s like to be in a rainforest and reminds us of the positive reasons to save these incredibly special places.

The other part of my day was spent visiting an old haunt – an abandoned quarry that I know is home to a pair of peregrines.

Sure enough they were there, along with a juvenile bird they have raised this year.

I ran through the flowers chasing butterflies I wanted to identify, listened to birdsong and watched peregrines soar overhead. Today truly has been a wild day.

In real life I’ve experienced some of the best of UK wildlife; via social media I’ve witnessed some of the best wildlife our planet has to offer.

Megan (in Worcestershire)

Yes, we are in the same place again! Always a very exciting occurrence when you’re in a long distance relationship with someone. And almost straight away we were out watching wildlife together, as Matt wanted to show me a peregrine site. I wasn’t going to say no – I have only seen one peregrine previously, and it was for about 1 1/2 seconds!

I loved the abandoned quarry immediately, it was alive with birdsong and bright wildflowers, whilst butterflies, bees and moths were buzzing and flitting about on their business. And guess what? We saw the peregrine! Actually, we saw (and heard) 3 of them!! Two adults and a juvenile! Our British wildlife really is fantastic!

In addition, I have been helping Matt a bit with the running of #rainforestlive. It is fascinating to see the wildlife being spotted in rainforests around the world today – do go and check it out!

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Day Fifteen of Megan & Matt Go Wild!

Welcome to our joint-blogging series for the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild Challenge – you can read more about the campaign and ourselves in our introduction page.

Matt (in London)

Wild In Westminster

Between my four meetings in westminster today i went and sat in victoria tower gardens next to the palace of westminster and made a few calls. Watching the river flow past I spotted a peregrine flying west over the south bank.

There are few more poignant reminders of the importance of the people sitting in the palace of westminster taking action for nature, or of taking a few moments to stop and look for wildlife, even in the heart of london.

Megan (in coastal Dorset)

I wasn’t able to head out with the Pan-Species Listing Group when they went looking for a rare beetle on Chesil Beach on Friday, so attempted to look for it myself during lunch. I didn’t find it, but I did enjoy seeing what was out and about. The thrift (Armeria maritima) is beginning to go over, with many of the pink blooms losing their petals and becoming paper-like. An interesting-looking fly also caught my eye, and helpfully stayed in place for me to take a photo.

Being out on the beach, I just couldn’t walk past the litter that is strewn around (especially since one of my 2015 Wildlife Resolutions is to pick up litter!). It is a neverending job at Chesil, more litter is always being blown in from the sea or dropped by visitors. I did a #2minutebeachclean whilst looking for the wildlife.

#2minutebeachclean

 

That turned out not to be enough for me – after work I headed up to Portland Bill. I had seen Lulworth Skipper (Thymelicus acteon) butterflies there last year, and wondered if they were out yet. Turns out they aren’t (that I could find anyway), but it wasn’t a wasted trip. I saw around 25-30 butterflies – no lifers, but my first Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) and Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) butterflies of 2015. This takes my butterfly list of 2015 up to 25 for the year I think.

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A bit of this, a bit of that – but mainly insects

I have very exciting news for you – the kestrels are nesting (again)! There is a new female, whom the male has been keeping sweet with dead mammals and rodents, and last week she laid her first egg. As I type, I can see on the live webcam that there are now four eggs! The kestrels have also featured in the local news – Dorset Echo!

I also put together a video (my first) of their activities – seen via the screen in the Lorton Meadows Conservation Centre.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7CzDKdbTik

Matt came to visit at the weekend, which was fantastic as expected. Despite me working on Saturday, we had a wildlife wander during my lunch hour to admire the beautiful array of wildflowers and butterflies on the reserve.

A quick changeover occurred as Matt left Weymouth (for UN conference no less) and my mum arrived. Due to engineering works, I actually picked her up in Wareham and we had a lovely wander round the town – particularly as Purbeck Arts Week is on. We then decided to head over to Corfe Castle, as I have only ever driven through it. Only a few steps out of my car, and I was distracted – butterflies!! First I spotted a Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus), flitting about on a very steep slope by the car park. My ma was most bemused at me clambering up and down.

And then I spotted a small orange butterfly … a Skipper! My first orange Skipper of the year, the others being Grizzled and Dingy Skippers. But damn, I was out of practice at identifying these butterflies. It crossed my mind that maybe it could be a Lulworth Skipper (Thymelicus acteon). After all, I was in the right area (coastal Dorset) and they had started flying, but I doubted I would be that lucky, and decided it was probably a Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris). A back of camera shot uploaded onto Twitter, and I was proved wrong in doubting myself, it WAS a Lulworth Skipper! Lucky me indeed!

A stroll around the castle and town was fab – there are some really lovely shops, and I can confirm that the National Trust tearoom does a wonderful afternoon tea! In addition, my mum has proved herself to be useful as an assistant for spotting interesting insects … she may regret doing so as I now I will definitely be taking her out on more walks!

Back by the car park again and I was scrabbling around on the slope looking for Lulworth Skippers. Cracking little butterflies!

With very strong winds forecast for late afternoon, we ought to have left the house earlier on Monday, but neither of us could resist a lie-in. Additionally, my landlord’s cat was delighted to find me sleeping on the sofa and had made herself comfortable on my belly. In the end, we headed off but it took us a while to get to our destination as we pulled into a layby to admire Chesil Beach. Then again, distracted by nature – read more in Day 1 of Megan and Matt Go Wild.

Not long after, we stopped off again, this time for a quick lunch and browse at Felicity’s Farm Shop. Mind you, the browse wasn’t quick … or cheap. I can’t resist scrumptious local produce! Eventually we got to a blustery Lyme Regis, where we definitely got our fair share of sea air!

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The hills are alive, with the beating of wings

Crikey, what a week indeed! It has been a real cracking few days for seeing wildlife – with the exception of Thursday where it just poured down with rain! Otherwise, I have been out and about looking for different animals all over the place!

A team meeting summoned me to Brooklands Farm (the HQ of Dorset Wildlife Trust), where I did my best to pay attention rather than being distracted by the butterflies just outside the window (and the cake waiting on the table for our break!). Lunch was a quick affair, speedily munching food before heading out to the meadow with Steve and Steve (yes, two!). We were hoping for some blues (butterflies), but no joy. However, there was an incredibly fresh and clean Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) butterfly. As the name suggests, they are normally a bit duller in colour – it must have been newly emerged!

The sunny weather continued when I got back to Lorton Meadows, and duely spent some time by the pond after work. Just wonderful. I have actually been inspired to write a poem by the pond, my first poem in 7+ years! I need to tweak it a little, but maybe I will share it here one day soon.

The latter part of the week was particularly lovely as Matt was visiting. We may have gone a little OTT with our wildlife watching, but it was fantastic! Some really spectacular species seen (and heard). A visit to Cerne turned into a bit of a recce – the weather was just a little bit too chilly and windy for butterflies I think. We did see some wildlife of course, the highlights being a Green Carpet moth (Colostygia pectinataria – my first of the year) and a Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major – feeding on the ground which is a little unusual).

The sightings of awesome wildlife continued with a trip to one of the local RSPB reserves – Lodmoor. My second Speckled Wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) of the year was seen, though it landed rather awkwardly in the middle of some nettles (see top left photo below). However, I managed to get a decent photo of it despite that (see top right photo below)! Not long after, a male Orange-tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) was showing off the undersides of its wings (see bottom left photo below) – you can really see that green/white patterning! Another insect of note was a stunner of a dragonfly, a female Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa – the male has a blue abdomen in comparison). What a beauty (see bottom right photo below). Others insects seen: Peacock butterfly, Comma butterfly, Small White butterfly, Brown Tail moth caterpillars.

In terms of birds at Lodmoor – crumbs where to start?! I’m not going to lie – some of these were heard rather than seen, and Matt identified most of those (although I’m getting better at them!). I’ll go alphabetically:

  • Blackbird, Blackcap, Black-headed Gull, Black-tailed Godwit, Canada Goose, Chaffinch, Chiff chaff, Cetti’s Warbler, Common Tern, Coot, Cuckoo (seen not heard!), Dunnock, Gadwall, Great Black-backed Gull, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Little Egret, Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Shelduck, Sparrowhawk, Starling, Swallow, Swift, Tufted Duck, Whitethroat, Wood Pigeon.

The wildlife didn’t stop there. The sun was at its zenith high above us, and we continued on to our next appointed location. The local branch of Butterfly Conservation were running a guided walk along Weymouth Relief Road. This sounds a little odd, but actually, when they put the road in, they created habitat for butterflies and 22 species has been recorded there! Annoyingly, I managed to park in the wrong place, but even walking over to meet them – there was plenty to be seen (and also lots of prickly / stinging things to hurt myself with, d’oh!).

Upon joining the group, I was relieved to see that not all members of the walk were the usual crowd that I find at naturalist outings (60+ years, ~80% male). Not that their is anything wrong with the usual crowd! But it is always good to see diversity. The walk was fantastic, albeit breezy and I got to see my first (non-Holly Blue) Blues of the year! And a very rough-looking Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) too poor thing!

On Sunday, the sun was out again and not deceivingly-so, it was actually rather warm! We headed over to Cerne Abbas for a second time, feeling hopeful this time, to join another Butterfly Conservation Dorset Branch walk (joint with the Devon Branch). I was particularly excited as I had seen reports during the week of Marsh Fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) and Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina) butterflies being seen here (hence the first visit!). Would I be in luck? As we drove via the Dorchester relief road there were clouds ahead and I started feeling a little down. Second time unlucky too? Pulling into the car park, further assessment of the weather / temperature and we decided to continue feeling hopeful.

And boy oh boy we were in for a treat! Butterflies and moths galore – including those mentioned just now. The patchy sunshine meant that the butterflies were not actually flying around that much, which is just perfect for photographing them! They were incredibly patient models, posing nicely whilst we gathered round awestruck at their patterning.

I am not going to lie, I fell in love this weekend. With a Duke of all things. But can you blame me? A wonderfully delicate butterfly, and those contrasting colours are just gorgeous! And that isn’t forgetting that by seeing this lifer at the weekend – I have just completed another of my 2015 Wildlife Resolutions! To see 2 new butterfly species this year. The first was the Grizzled Skipper in mid-April at BC’s Lankham Bottom, and now I’ve seen a Duke of Burgundy too!

In other insect news – I also found (I think) the nesting site of a bumblebee at Cerne, plus an odd-looking wasp-type creature.

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Nature is full of drama

What a week of drama! So much wildlife has been seen and there have been stories worthy of a TV soap opera! And oh yes, there was that general election thing as well. I’ve written about that too.

In terms of the caterpillars, they are all still alive and munching their way through large quantities of leaves. I did get quite worried about the Garden Tiger Moth caterpillars at one point as they were not moving much, or eating much. And then I found what looked like half a caterpillar! But I still had three … turns out it was the skin of one! Evidently they outgrow them and shed them. It wasn’t long before the other two went through this as well. Just after they shed it, their hairdos look particularly fresh! They are called Fluffy 1, 2 and 3, whilst the green caterpillar has been nicknamed Jade (as suggested by Jennifer Hunt).

At Lorton, we have had a couple of school groups in looking for minibeasts – pond dipping, using sweep nets in the meadow and searching under logs in the wood. An interesting beetle, caught by a little girl, caught my eye and I took it back to the centre. My line manager identified it as one of the soldier beetles, and with a bit of further investigation I do believe it is Cantharis fusca which is Nationally Scarce species. [ID was confirmed by NHM Coleoptera, I said previously that it was a Red Data Book species, but it was downgraded in 2013]. In the woods, one group found a caterpillar, so I promptly potted it up (with some leaves of course). This one is called Fusspot as he/she seems quite fussy about food.

We had a bit of a work jolly on Thursday. As part of being a volunteer at the Chesil / Lorton centres, training is provided. In this case, training took the form of a trip over to Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve where we had a lovely wander in the sunshine (surprisingly pleasant weather considering the wind we’d had the rest of the week!). We found yet another caterpillar – now potted up and named (Arnold – suggested by Chris Calow), as well as plenty of flowers and even my first Wall butterfly of the year!

After our wander, we were given a guided walk by one of the rangers, during which we saw some more fantastic wildlife!

Back at Lorton for the weekend, and I was anxious during Sunday morning – the eggs had been unattended all morning, with just the quickest visit from the male Kestrel. Later on, he sat on them for a good long time, though as I type at 8pm, he is absent again from the webcam. My fears were confirmed when someone found some wings and feathers in the meadow near where their box is … Kestrel wings, and according to Sean Foote, they look to belong to a female!

To cheer myself up after this tragedy, I spent an hour or so sitting by the pond after work (busman’s holiday!) looking at the insects and listening to the birds. As you can see, it is a lovely spot to relax at. I watched a damselfly nymph crawl across a lilypad, attempt to climb a vertical leaf a couple of times, before it fell into the water. I saw a bright red beetle lurking in the shade of a post, and a spider waiting for its next prey item to appear. A fellow naturalist appeared and we discussed wildlife, before he spotted a damselfly on a nearby bush – my first of the year! Just after, I spotted a dragonfly exhuvia attached to a plant near the pond – a different shape to the one I found last week, thus a different species presumably!