Saturday, June 22, 2013

England I

On holiday to England for a while so no doubt there'll be a few new things to post on here (hopefully more than a few). Since the hosting gallery for this blog is going "waaa you have no file space left" I will be limiting the pictures I post.

Locally in southern Hampshire I was impressed to find a stag beetle threatened with being stepped on by frequent pedestrians. I did not have my camera with me, and this is the first time I've seen one alive so I was quick to carry it home (which admittedly was only a short walk down the street). Stunning beetle.

I was finally able to get good looks at shelduck. This common bird is one I apparently never recorded while in the UK before, one of many common birds I apparently just forgot to write down and photograph. Well here it is anyway:

Peregrine falcon at Calshot was a well-awaited tick and a bird I should have had ages ago.

21st June, 2013                                                                      

Hurst Castle has been a bit of a local favourite of mine. There are some good habitats around this coastal part of the New Forest with good shots at many sea birds, plants and insects. This place was once home to a colony of Glanville fritillaries as well, an early April-June species that would have died off several weeks ago if not earlier. It is not really known how these butterflies colonized here, but it is assumed that they have been blown over from the Isle of Wight, the nearest (and only) breeding area for the species in England.

The rain and strong winds didn't help with birds or insects and it was a bit of a dreary trudge along the shingle bank, a combination that probably would have sent a lot of people home. Eventually the rain did stop and the sun showed itself beautifully. The first sign of sun were cinnabar moths which popped up all over the place in the meadows along Hurst Castle. Small heath butterflies soon followed, a butterfly that never opens its wings except when flying.

A rather late small blue butterfly was an interesting initial encounter. These are also April-May flyers, at the latest trickling into early June. Unlike other blues it is most often brown in appearance. They are pale blue underneath though, similar to holly blues. Their host plant is kidney vetch, a scattered plant locally common on the Hurst Castle area. It can also be seen in the picture below:

While chasing small heaths for upperside shots I immediately came upon a "large heath" gliding around the meadows. When it finally touched down on the path it flicking its wings momentarily before settling. This behaviour is common in several carpet moths in Geometridae, but I have never seen it in a butterfly before. As I saw it head on there wasn't much to gather from this paper-thin view except dark antennae with obvious orange tips. So what was this odd butterfly? A bit of repositioning and there wasn't any doubt to what it was -- it was the fabled Glanville fritillary!

Fantastic. It was not particularly wary and I was able to walk it onto my hand for a split second before it took off. That's one tick off the wishlist!

But what was this early species doing many weeks after the latest known records for this species? It probably has to do with the poor spring the UK had this year. The incessant rain and cool temperatures seemed to have fluctuated a few species' flight times, proved by sightings such as that small blue earlier which was unusual but not as unheard of as a late Glanville. A fantastic sighting, and apparently this was actually the only known 2013 sighting of the species at Hurst Castle at all. Until I handed my sighting in, the Hurst Castle colony was thought to have been completely extirpated out from the cold winter of 2012 and torrential spring of 2013.

I paid a short visit to the marshes towards Keyhaven and Pennington as well. A few lagoons in and I was informed by a birder that the two distant white blobs were in fact a pair of spoonbills, a rather rare but increasingly abundant species in the UK. Of course, with the strong winds they were completely huddled up and the identifying feature was invisible, though the posture was notably different to that of a huddled little egret. When the black-tailed godwits took off there a short window opened up to see their unusual bills, but it was soon concealed after.

Another long-awaited new bird for me was stock dove, a pair of which were quite partial to the stone pathway along the marshes. A good end to a special kind of day that will become harder to find as I "tick" more and more species.

So? It's just a pigeon. Nothing special about that is there. See those everyday.
In the cities, in the garden. Its not like there is more than one type of pigeon out