a week of Butterflies

The weather was warm to hot this week so again I concentrated on insects.

Admittedly a couple of days were mostly dragonfly searching but in the absence of any particularly interesting sightings I will stick with butterflies.

A comma from last week was the first of an obvious hatch

On Wednesday my car was booked in for a service in a North Bristol garage, so I took the opportunity to avail myself of the offered courtesy car and spend a morning in Lower Woods reserve near Badminton.

The shade was very welcome as the mercury hit 29 degrees C by lunchtime. Such heat meant that butterflies were very active and thus hard to snap but perseverance paid off with the two species I most wanted to see

First a couple of White Admirals were present, though they stayed a bit high even when perched

Next were Silver-washed Fritillaries. I was despairing of ever seeing one land when I met a fellow naturalist called Rod Holbrook whose work I had seen on twitter. He had only gone a few yards further dow…

In search of uncommon dragonflies

Last week's discovery of a Scarce Chaser in the Gordano Valley turned my thinking  towards other species that I have rarely seen and in particular the Common Clubtail.

Several attempts long ago in stretches of the Severn and also parts of Surrey had only ever resulted in a single distant sighting. While this was OK for my then target of seeing all the British breeding species I would love to see more, and also to get photographs.

Armed with a site near Tewkesbury recommended by a friend I set off Saturday morning with high hopes. Once there I met up with Jason, a local dragonfly watcher who had the same idea in mind.

Unfortunately, several hours searching failed to deliver and we both had things to return South for.

The morning was not wasted though with many Scarce Chasers tame enough to get decent pics of and a range of damselflies including a white-legged which we don't get on our patch.

Scarce Chaser males

Scarse Chaser female

Azure damselfly

White-legged damselfly

With de…

Dowlais the sad story of why waders fail here

While I have tried to be upbeat throughout this blog, there is no getting away from the fact that both lapwings and redshanks appear to have failed to fledge successfully again this year.

While not the whole story I suspect that a lack of water management may. be an important factor

These pictures really illustrate this better than any words of mine.

Between December and March we endured the wettest winter for some time and I started the year with very high hopes.

Mid December 2019

The situation in March was particularly promising,

Views from the side track and then the corner looking across from the seawall.

This corner view was then used to take pictures at regular intervals with my phone resting on the same fencepost each time

16th March below

31st March

Birding finishes with a bang and insects take over

Thanks to Aravind Ramesh  who found this Collared Pratincole on Severnside  there was an exciting local trip to be had. Joan and I waited for a few days in the expectation that numbers of people would be low and then went up. It was an unusual twitch as people sat or stood in twos spread along the river bank path but well worth it as I had only ever seen one in Britain before. What was even better though was to catch up with a couple of friends that we had not seen since the start of lockdown.

The bird flew several times for 20 to 30 mins at a time but never came particularly close. I did not fancy going up a narrower path to get closer either. So these are my best efforts.

Emboldened by this we had a morning on the levels seeing the usual species and enjoying the peace of this area
Coming from Scotland Joan misses the sound of cuckoos here so it was great to hear and see a few

Many sunny hours in the garden lead to a few excellent dragonfly sightings such as these two, Broad-bodied …

The tale of the bee and the wasp, a rarely seen story of solitary foes

Sitting in a different chair in the garden (I really know how to make lockdown more exciting !) I saw a drama unfold before my eyes over the course of an afternoon.

The protagonists of this drama are a leaf cutter bee (Megachile species);

 and a solitary wasp (Sapyga quinquepunctata) hereafter referred to as Bee and Wasp.

First up I saw the bee approach and check out a small hole in my garage wall

It vanished inside for a minute or so and decided that this was just the place to raise a family.

Over the next hour or so it made several visits with cut up leaves and bulging pollen sacks.

The leaves are used to build small cells into each of which the Bee packs pollen and then lays an egg.  The idea is that the eggs hatch into larvae that feed on the pollen until they pupate. Next spring new bees will emerge to repopulate the garden.

This time things took an altogether darker turn though.

Between two visits a different insect entirely suddenly appeared

This was the Wasp. It clearly saw tha…

Dragonflies around Clevedon and a first visit to the levels

Last week I managed my first dragon and damselfly pictures for the year with the expectation that I would get better views. And lo: it came to pass,

Much closer views of both Large Red and Azure damselflies on the vehicle track across Weston Moor reserve

Further into the reserve fields I came across this teneral Hairy Hawker Dragonfly, unfortunately its a very fussy background ( as my friends who know about such things are wont to say ) but that was my only sighting

Back in the garden, I briefly glimpsed a Blue-tailed Damselfly before being treated to a prolonged visit from a pair of Broad-bodied Chasers

Mothwise I ran the garden trap a few times catching a number of common species. The most photogenic, though was this Poplar Hawkmoth

With the general, albeit slight, relaxing of lockdown a visit to the public footpath through Ham Wall and Shapwick was both feasible and safe

I was happy to hear and sometimes see the typical species such as Bearded Tits, Marsh Harriers, Bitterns and Gre…

Mammals, reptiles and insects take over

This has been a really quiet week for birds with just an avocet on Dowlais early on to give variety. However other creatures have stepped up to the plate in force despite the cold winds

First up was this Common Seal just offshore at Dowlais one morning. A patient wait for the tide let me improve from the first snatched video, to a couple of much closer views

The seal seemed happy catching crabs and smallish fish, as far as I could tell

It is only about once every 5 years that Seals come this far up the channel to visit Clevedon in my experience.

The other really uncommon sighting, for me at least, came while I was looking for butterflies. Because of the cold wind I had only ventured a few hundred yards from home to the side of the Blind Yeo. My hope was that a rarely used fisherman's car park might have enough flowers to attract a small copper or an early common blue as it is quite sheltered.

While creeping around I heard a rustle beside a pile of wrapped up wood and was astonishe…