Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Lime Hawkmoth Caterpillar update!

My charges are growing!! They are 47 days old today and getting much longer and fatter! They are munching through leaves faster than I can pick them! A few of the larger caterpillars have shed their skin and it looks as though it won't be long before a few pupate.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Up a Hill, by a River, in the Woods and by Pools.

15/07/12....Titterstone, Clee Hill, Shropshire.
An early afternoon visit to Titterstone, Clee Hill did not yield many bird species due in no small part to the cold wind that was blowing! A juvenile Wheatear, juvenile Linnet, Swallows, Meadow Pipits , Pied Wagtail and 3 Kestrels which apart from Corvids were the only birds seen here. The occasional sunny spell did not take the chill off the wind but the views were spectacular!
Wheatear (juvenile)

15/07/12....River Severn, Arley, Worcestershire.
The River Severn at Arley was much better weatherwise after a hasty retreat from Clee Hill but not bird wise! The river was running fast after the rainy weather and the Mallards took sanctuary on one of the slipways to the river which just about had a couple of feet of standing room for the birds as the river was high after the rains. Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Blackbird, House Martin and Swallow were the highlight birds seen. Six-Spot Burnet Moths, Crickets, Ringlet and Small Skipper were a delight to see in one of the meadows. It was a peaceful and tranquil walk albeit for the hooting of the Severn Valley Railway trains. House Sparrows were in abundance and catching insects by the Cafe seating area, lovely birds to see as for me they are not a bird I see often enough nowadays!

Six-spot Burnet Moth
Common Green Grasshopper (Thanks Jason)
This tree trunk in the fast flowing river was small in comparism to a tree trunk that earlier had floated by, it was huge!

20/07/12....Bunkers Hill Wood.
The first sighting in the wood was a Southern Hawker Dragonfly flying around at high speed catching insects along the path, needless to say it was too busy to pose for a pic! Chiiffchaff, Blackbird and Robin were the only birds seen in the wood with Great Spotted Woodpecker heard only! Along the bridlepath to the smaller wood were Yellowhammer, Wren, Whitethroat, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch and Jay. Caterpillars were the treat of the day as I spotted several of the species mentioned with a beak full of them, especially so the Whitethroats and Yellowhammers. Martins and Swallows circled gracefully overhead catching insects, surprisingly I did not see or hear a Skylark. In the small wood I had great views of a Treecreeper as it spiralled it's way around and up a tree trunk.


21/07/12....Wassell Grove Fisheries.
I had a good few sightings within the first few minutes of my walk, they being Linnet, Blackcap (male), Great Tit (juvenile), Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Dunnock and Grey Heron and Common Buzzard in flight. Swallows and Swifts were good to see overhead, best to make the most of the Swifts as they will soon be on their way South. Whitethroat and Chiffchaff were heard only. The vegetation had grown very tall since my last visit, I was glad I had opted to put my wellies on as my boots would have been shall we say a little wet! I was well pleased to have spotted not one but two Southern Hawkers as they rested in the sunshine to warm up! I later saw a few Blue-tailed Damselflies, several Ringlet butterflies but not one Speckled Wood which is most unusual for here.

Blue-tailed Damselfly (female)
Blue-tailed Damselfly (male)
Southern Hawker (male)

22/07/12....Sling Pool.
An early morning visit to Sling Pool was made in the hope of seeing a few Dragon/Damselflies, none to be seen even though the sun was shining and giving warmth to the air! A Comma Butterfly settled on a path, looking a bit jaded and a couple of Ringlets flitted around and occasionally settling on the vegetation. Two nests of Peacock Caterpillars stood out like a sore thumb in the nettles. I wondered why they hadn't been picked off by the birds, maybe they do not taste as good as green caterpillars. There were plenty of Bees and Flies on and around the wildflowers and I reckon I saw a fleeting glimpse of a Scorpion Fly! The only bird seen was a lone Blackbird, there never seem's to be much bird life in this area. A walk along the paths will be in order on the next visit which should yield a few bird species.

Peacock Caterpillar nest.
Umbelifier and Flies

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Lime Hawkmoth Caterpillar Update....19/07/2012

The caterpillars are now 35 days old and doing well! They are eating 2 leaves a day, I think this will be at least 3-4 leaves very soon.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

A sunshine and showers long weekend in Powys, Wales....5th-8th July 2012

5th July. Bwlch Nant yr Arian
The first port of call in Powys was at Bwlch Nant yr Arian to see the Red Kites that are fed daily there. http://www.forestry.gov.uk/bwlchnantyrarian . Plenty of Siskins were great to see on and around the feeder by the Visitor Centre along with the usual woodland birds. A few Red Kites began to circle above as the time neared for the feeding. It was hard to estimate how many Kites came to feed, c100 easily! The day was warm but lacking sunshine which did not help with photographing the Kites. It was good to see them nevertheless, many were moulting and looking rather jaded! As we were leaving a leucistic Red kite appeared, I only managed a record image as it was fairly distant, it was noticeable that it had perched away from the other 'normal' Red Kites. I wonder if it get's harrassed by them? There are two walks around the reserve, one long and a shorter one around the lake. The shorter walk was chosen as time was getting on and the Kites were due to be fed. Goldcrest, Siskin, House Sparrow and Blackcap, Swifts and Swallows were amongst the birds seen on the walk. Whilst talking to a friend from the West Midlands Bob who had decided to spend a day over the border, a Moth landed on a leg of his camera tripod. I have identified it as being a Red-necked Footman, a new moth for me and a rather smart one too! Time to leave and the sun started shining, typical! Blwych Nant yr Arian is well worth a visit and one I would certainly visit again if staying in Powys. My thanks are extended to Ruth for suggesting a visit to this reserve.

6th July. RSPB Ynys Hir, Ynyslas Sand Dunes and Dylife Gorge.

Well, today was a day to forget weatherwise! The heavens opened and did not stop until around 8.00pm in the evening! A quick walk at RSPB Ynys-hir was a big mistake, even waterproof trousers could not cope with the torrential rain! A coach party of school children arrived at the reserve, such a pity they had such a dreadful rainy day for their visit. I did feel sorry for them but they did not seem to mind, I suppose at their age (9-10) they just enjoy the excitement of being away from school for the day! The RSPB volunteers said that it is difficult to go ahead with some of the planned outdoor reserve activities in such weather as we were having today. It was good to see the childrens enthusiasm and thoroughly enjoying themselves, budding wildlife watchers! After returning to the Guest House to change, dry off we headed for Ynyslas Sand Dunes.
 To say it was quiet is an understatement, 1 Black-headed Gull and 1 Herring Gull were on the sands by the parked cars, well 2 coaches (school children on a visit) and a couple of cars!

  RSPB Ynys Hir.

Ynslas Sand Dunes
On the evening we had a drive to Dylife Gorge, a former mining settlement. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dylife_Gorge
The panoramic views on the drive up the mountain road were splendid until almost reaching the top...low clouds giving a spooky atmosphere so high up the mountain! A return visit was made the next evening (7th) and the area was transformed in the evening sunshine! Buzzard, Skylark, Linnet, Swallows and Pied Wagtail were the birds seen. A Welsh slate viewing platform on the road two miles west of Dylife is dedicated to the broadcaster and author Wynford Vaughan-Thomas. In the distance you can see Machynlleth and the huge peak of Cadair Idris - the edge of Snowdonia. There is a reservoir situated at the top of the mountain.
 I would like to have a daytime visit on any future trip to Powys.

7th July. RSPB Ynys Hir (again) and the Dyfi Osprey Project.

Today was a much better day, a little overcast but dry! With wellies once again at the ready it was RSPB Ynys Hir that was the destination. The feeders at the Visitor Centre were full to almost overflowing, Chaffinch, Siskin, Greenfinch, Blue Tits and House Sparrow were in abundance on and around the feeders. A Great Spotted Woodpecker also put in a few appearances on the nut feeder, always a lovely bird to see! Several Grey Squirrels vied for the dropped seed under a feeder and I spotted one squirrel on a tree branch eyeing up a Chaffinch, surely not I thought, the squirrel cannot be that hungry.lol! A lot of the paths around the reserve were waterlogged, with the water in several places rising halfway or more up my wellies. Care had to be taken especially on the woodland walks as it was very muddy and slippery. Fortunately I managed to stay upright on the whole walk! Birds seen on and alongside the estuary were Common Snipe, L B B Gull, Cormorant, Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Little Egret, and a flock of small waders possibly Knot. There were literally 100's of Canada Geese on the water, I have never seen so many in one place before. Walking around the reserve and from the hides birds seen were Long-tailed Tit, Blackbird, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch, Sedge Warbler, Dunnock, Siskin, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Robin, Chiffchaff, Swift, Swallow, Magpie, Buzzard and a Red kite. I was told that the Red Kite is a youngster and is often seen over the marshes. A Blue-tailed damselfly was the only Odonata spotted here today.

A visit to the Dyfi Osprey Project was made later in the afternoon. The adult Ospreys were both perched by the nest on arrival and the chick was well down in the nest so not visible with bins and scope. I was told that the chick will fledge in a couple of weeks time, it is due to be ringed and possibly satellite tagged before it fledges. A pair of Water Buffalo fed in the marshes in front of the hide giving good views of these delightful and not often seen animals, one looked almost submerged in the marsh at one point. I was delighted to see Lesser Redpolls on and around the feeder that was in front of the Osprey viewing hide, I was told that they breed there. I had meant to ask if the Redpoll had reared any chicks but the subject changed to the Ospreys. Super birds when viewed closely as these were. Later a Reed Bunting was seen on the boardwalk preening in the sunshine, yes the sun did shine occasionally! The vegetation alongside the boardwalk was covering a lot of the edges of the boardwalk so not many Common Lizards were visible when the sun shone but I did manage to see 4 Lizards and take a photo of one of them before it scooted off under the boardwalk! Surprising only one damselfly was seen, this being a female Large red damselfly.

Despite the dreadful weather on Friday it was an enjoyable trip!