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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