Night Heron at Cheltenham and Graylings on Brean Down

Sunday 6th - Monday 7th July 2014
Night Heron, Pittville Park, Cheltenham
After dipping it on back in June, I was pleased to catch up with the NIGHT HERON at Pittville Park this evening after it was re-found yesterday. It showed very well at times as it fished the lake edge.
I spent the afternoon at Brean yesterday with family and was chuffed to find two Graylings on Brean Down, towards the fort. It was quite breezy up there but the Graylings seem to manage to get back to the stony path whenever they flew up after appearing to be caught up in the breeze for a while, giving the impression they were about to be blown off the down never to be seen again!
Grayling, Brean Down, Somerset
Grayling habitat
There were also at least four Stonechats, the males sometimes launching into song-flight before dropping back down to a perch.
Stonechat, Brean Down


Large Blues, Orchids, and other Midsummer Things

Large Blue, Daneway Banks
Since my last post I've spent two weeks on holiday in the Canaries and apart from that I've not done a lot of birding really. The holiday, on La Gomera, was great, wonderful scenery, and plenty of wildlife interest - I will get round to doing a trip report some time. Bird life-ticks included Bulwer's Petrel and Little Shearwater (now regarded as a split to North Atlantic or Macronesian Shearwater), and Trumpeter Finch, the latter being quite numerous around the apartment site we were on. I can only offer a photo of the latter here:
Male Trumpeter Finch, Playa Santiago, La Gomera
Also one of two friendly neighborhood Hoopoes which I saw daily in the vicinity.
Hoopoe, Playa Santiago, La Gomera
The top photo is one of three Large Blues I saw at Daneway Banks on 29th June, and talking of butterflies, I made a trip to Whitecross Green Wood, Oxon, on 22nd June with Mark H. where we eventually, and I mead eventually, saw a single Black Hairstreak. It was a bit on the shy side, but still nice to life-tick this rare species.
Large Blue, Daneway Banks
Female Black Hairstreak, Whitecross Green Wood, Oxfordshire
Before we set off, Mark showed me one of the Elephant Hawk Moths  from his previous night's trapping:
Elephant Hawk-moth, Tuffley, Glos
The previous day I couldn't resist going for the lingering Cotswold Water Park Gannet on 21st, which was hanging around pits 57/58 (now called 'Somerford Lagoon' and 'Flagham Fen' respectively). It was also seen on pit 41 ('Freeth Meer'). I walked in from the Minety Road car park at Swillbrook Lakes and this is a pleasant walk, avoiding the 'bomb-crater' access road beyond the Lower Mill development.
Immature Gannet, Cotswold Water Park, Glos
This year seems to be a good one for Bee Orchids and I found my first this year at Kilkenny Viewpoint on 29th, and have since found a few more.
Bee Orchid, Kilkenny Viewpoint
I'll finish this post with a recent garden Hoverfly - Sphaerophoria scripta - not an easy ID but I recommend 'Britain's Hoverflies' by Stuart Ball and Roger Morris, an excellent book from the WildGuides, one of my favourite publishers (I haven't been paid anything to say this!).
Sphaerophoria scripta, Quedgeley


Dragons and Spotted Flies

Saturday 17th - Sunday 18th May 2014
Four-spotted Chaser, Woorgreens FOD
A catch up from the weekend is due. Saturday's highlights were Firecrests in the forest plus lots of dragonflies emerging and recently emerged at Woorgreens, with several Broad-bodied Chasers and a few Four-spotted Chasers.
Broad-bodied Chaser, Woorgreens FOD
Sunday at Hidcote Manor Garden produced at least two Spotted Flycatchers around the Lily Pond area, also a couple of pairs of mating Azure Dameselflies I couldn't see any Great Crested Newts in the pond, but there were several Smooth Newts and also some Acilius sp. aquatic beetle larvae. Also the magnificent Handkerchief Tree, Davidia involucrata, was in full flower, near the shop.
Spotted Flycatcher, Hidcote
Spotted Flycatcher, Hidcote, this male was singing frequently
Acilius sp. larva, Hidcote
Handkerchief Tree. Hidcote


Great Reed Warbler at WWT

Wednesday 14th May 2014
Male Great Reed Warbler
It was take two at WWT Slimbridge this morning (the Bonaparte's took two goes too!) but the GREAT REED WARBLER was much more obliging foe me this morning. Family commitments limited my time yesterday evening and I had to leave long before it eventually showed. Arriving not long after 8 this morning, it was out in the open at Robbie Garden hide and showed well as it foraged for insects. What a cracking bird to see and hear as it sang and called.


Bonaparte's at WWT

Monday 5th May 2014
Adult summer Bonaparte's Gull, South Lake, WWT Slimbridge
It didn't start well. I arrived at c 9.18am South Lake hide seconds, approximately ten, before it flew off. Gutted. The Little Gull was there again; and a first-summer Mediterranean Gull. I got some consolation in a male Garganey on the Bottom New Piece, a Greenshank on Top New Piece, and a Little Ringed Plover on the Rushy. Still no more news. The BONAPARTE'S GULL waited until I had given up, and was in my way home, before turning back up on South Lake. Quick 'U' turn. Got past a tractor convoy on the A38, an oncoming caravan on Kingston Road, long queue at WWT reception, and crowded boardwalk. Finally, arrived at the hide, and it was still there. Phew! A couple of record shots here of it asleep. It stayed asleep like this for some time, popping it's head up very briefly, then back to sleep. It then flew off again. And relax! The phone-scoped photo below gives a size comparison with the nearby Black-headed Gulls (very impressed with the camera on my new S4 by the way).
 And here's a much better photo by Paul Taylor showing the gull in all its glory:

Butterflies at Edge

Sunday 4th May 2014
Duke of Burgundy, Edge Common
Butterflies on the wing at Edge Common (a.k.a. Rudge Hill) yesterday included c5 Duke of Burgundy, four Green Hairstreak and three Dingy Skipper, plus several Orange Tips and a Speckled Wood; also several Scarlet Tiger larvae. Note: Natural England are surveying the butterflies here and many of the Dukes are being painted with small coloured spots,in case you see some strange markings on them.
Duke of Burgundy, Edge Common
Green Hairstreak, Edge Common
Garden Tiger caterpillar on Hazel, Edge Common
Also some Red Mason Bees and St Mark's Flies.
Red Mason Bee, Edge Common
St Mark's Fly, Edge Common
At Highnam Court in the afternoon the lovely sound of House Martins and Swallows hawking insects overhead against the blue sky added to the summery feel of the day. Several Large Red Damselflies were around the lakes.
Large Red Damselfly, Highnam Court
A very vocal male Cuckoo was calling from the wood for much of the time, a first for me at this site.
Spoonbill, WWT
Saturday I caught up with the Spoonbill at WWT and saw my first Swifts of the year distantly from Middle Point in the direction of the 100 acre; In the afternoon I visited RSPB Nagshead with Linda where birds included five singing male Pied Flycatchers, three singing male Redstarts and a singing male Garden Warbler.


Little Gull at WWT

Saturday 26th April 2014
Some photos here of the first-summer Little Gull at WWT Slimbridge today on South Lake today. A supporting cast included two male Ruffs, and small numbers of House Martins, Sand Martins, and Swallows.
It did land for a couple of short periods; here are a couple of dodgy-digi-binned shots: