7 August 2019

2019 / 66

Mostly clear sky and light SW wind, after some heavy showers. Mild evening 19°C
19:45 – 21:45 (with Alison Hughes)

It’s been nearly two weeks.
The Wood is rich and green, verdant in the summer evening light of the setting sun.
Returning brings with it deep, slow breathing and a strengthening sense of calm during these turbulent times. I’ve been to Norfolk in between visits too, revisiting old haunts and discovering the delights of The Broads. Work is busy, domestic life unsettling and stressful. Walk, talk and breathe…

Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Buzzard at the eastern clearfell, the former in iconic silhouette on a dead tree against the troubled sky.

It should have been quiet and peaceful, and for the most part the Wood’s dignity held its own, but the atmosphere was torn and spoiled by the presence of three young men with Moto-X bikes. They were up by the viewpoint, and tearing round the track in turns on two very noisy and smelly machines. Audible from everywhere, and to avoid being run over for a third time, or sprayed with mud, or otherwise jeered at – we headed right Where The Tracks Join and down round the West Wood into Marshalls. Quite a significant view from here, but it has narrowed this year in particular since the firs started to grow faster.

We cut back through the Chilworth Pines where the quiet has come to hide, and it felt extraordinarily peaceful here. A delight to share and just ‘be’. Among bats too. At least three circling around among the trees  and coming over our heads. Probably Pipistrelles, but in the enclosed space they seemed like a much larger species?
Two Green Woodpeckers passed through calling together, and there were still Nuthatch, Wren, Robin and Dunnock active. The first Common Earthballs (Scleroderma citrinum) have emerged – quite a few, including a dozen or more close together.
And what’s that other noise, that squealing? A Tawny Owl. I think it’s moving.
Must have seen us, she’s moved off. Further away now, listen.
At least I think it’s a female.

As I had hoped, the bikes had moved offsite by the time we got down to the track again, and it was already getting quite dark. Sunset tonight back to 20:42 I was hopeful of Nightjar, though they are hard work when not churring. One flew over our heads as we descended from the viewpoint to Where The Tracks Join! Jerky, paper plane movement, fast and low, disappearing in an instant. Possibly the same bird, but probably a different one, was up and flying around (again briefly) at the territory.
And moments later, the Hobbies obliged. Still here, still noisy. And still invisible!

It is a tremendous encouragement for me to observe the increasing number of corvids now using the ‘new’ roost in the northern belt. As we descended, just moment after seeing the first Nightjar, a ‘cloud’ of corvids came in from the west, shrieking, chattering and whiffling around. A delight for Alison, entirely new to seeing this kind of behaviour. I estimate at least 400 birds in this first battalion, and others joined them over the next half hour or so. By the time we arrived at the site, there were among the trees and very, very loud. Standing here also gave us a good chance to see the moon, a perfect half, and glowing in restful and pastoral golden light. Two planets up (thanks for the Sky App!). Jupiter straight ahead of us (due south) and Saturn to the south-east, a degree or three lower in the sky.

Passing clouds overhead, dimly lit by the moon. the softest of edges, the the thinnest wisps of drifting vapour ahead of the next storm. It’s raining hard now as I write this, an hour after getting home.

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6 June 2019

2019 / 56

Butterfly transect – Week 9

13:00 – 14:45
Warm 18°-20°C in the sunshine, but strong (3 – 4) wind from the South

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Everything is rich and green now, teeming with insect life and bursting with fresh early summer. Young birds and anxious adults whistle, squeak and hiss from every briar and bush – Song Thrushes in particular today. There’s one family here (above) in Q1, a second along Velmore and a third in the Northern Belt. Robins, Blackbirds, Blue Tits and Goldcrests too though it is approaching the time of year where it becomes very difficult to see anything!

As I walk round, I pick up at least four singing Firecrests and start to look forward to the late dispersal in October, when birds should be active and everywhere. I am called to stop along Velmore at one point by a thin song I struggled to recognise – a Treecreeper:

 

First butterfly is a moth – a Brown Silverline on Section 2 among the bracken – closely followed by the first Large Skipper of the year.

Bramble and honeysuckle flowering.

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Half a dozen Brimstones round and about – only one male though – and 4 Speckled Woods, the first on Section 4 for a change. here too just across the stream at a point where the sunlight falls onto an open bowl of holly, bramble, honeysuckle and bracken, there’s a flash of iridescent blue. Just a sparkle, glinting for a moment. Beautiful Demoiselle. A fabulous male.

Three into One this afternoon, and a third ‘first for the year’ just past the gorse gap walking along the track for Section 5. Two Meadow Browns, courtship chasing and occasionally landing on brash to take in some sunshine.

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I walked up onto the clearfell towards the High Seat, aware of just how many Foxgloves have flowered over the past few days. Many are hosting bumble bees and others. There has been a ‘hatching’ in particular of White-tailed Bumble Bees (bombus locurum) and I am delighted to come upon a nest on my way through the northern belt. Several dead workers at the entrance to what looks like a fox hole, and many more in a large clump of moss buried in a hollow at the entrance.

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Further along from here I am following tractor tracks and a Muntjac appears. Seeing me, it stops dead behind the bracken, not quite as out of sight as it thinks it is. I take one step forward and it breaks cover, skittering off a head of me, tail upright. Five minutes later there;s a squeal of warning… Remembering that FC have recently been talking about blocking up the access to the Wood illegally opened and used by the equestrians at the Farm. They have effectively done so with a new fence:

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Tadpoles too. The pool at the side of the traack has long dried up, but there are live and large tadpoles in the west stream that I hadn’t noticed before. And more in the channel that runs from the Woods by this new fence onto the farmland – the one that requires a bit of a jump to cross. Good to see. It must be this water I think that spawns the Demoiselles.

I came across 14 dogs today (fourteen!!) with just two handles.
Paws for thought…

And, mysteriously, the gates at the entrance were open – the chain and padlock have disappeared. Simon has been informed.

 

1 June 2019

2019 / 55

Sunny, clear and dry. Light W F1. 20 – 23°C becoming very warm.
09:00 – 12:00

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I am in the clearfell this morning, working quite specifically on clearing some of the rhododendrons that have seeded there. In flower, they are easy to see, and it really isn’t too bad. Probably a dozen patches, and some of those are quite small.
My first chosen target is a larger patch which it turns out grows either side of one of the two small ditches that run across the clearfell.

These are choked up with brash and overgrown in many place, so during the course of the rhodie cutting I pulled out and cleared a length of about eight feet. Not much in the scheme of things, but its a start. There is no water in these courses at the moment, just a boggy smell of thick slimy algae. I am of a mind to ask FC about getting a machine in to clear theses out – it may be beneficial to have relatively unrestricted watercourses here, especially if they could somehow be part of the pond location scheme. I recall being told that there should not have been any planting within 3m either side – but it seems the young trees that were put in have not established anyway.

It’s very different, being in the middle and looking out towards the rim of woodland:

 

Also evident, especially in these conditions, is that the environment here is not rich in birdlife. Yet. I am surrounded by buzzing insects and there are spiders everywhere. Some of the large funnel-webs hold dew and glitter like diamante in the sunlight – presumably to attract some of these insects in the absence of many flowering plants.
Pink is the order of the day now – many of the foxgloves are blooming and attracting bumble bees and lots of other pollinators. I noticed this on the way up the southside as well. For the most part, the yellows and purples have given way to pink. I think this is some kind of Cranesbill – another of those plants that seems to grow only on that east side slope:

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One other plant I did notice that likes only the open patches in full sunlight on the clearfell is this white ground covering species that looks like a heather…?

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As I worked, one of the Hobbys circled over a couple of times, and mid-morning, just about 11:00, I counted four Buzzards circling together. There’s only been three for a long time now – perhaps last year’s juvenile has attracted itself a mate.

But for company today – though intermittently and not close enough for a photograph – there is a Spotted Flycatcher at the end of the birch line. Impossible to know whether this is the same bird as that 250 away on Thursday…

I picked up two singing Firecrests – one in Q2 of the wayleave, and the other up on the South Walk approaching the top of the crossing.
Despite the sun, which became unbearably hot by 11:30, butterflies seem a bit thin  on the ground. Two Holly Blues in Q2 and otherwise up to maybe a dozen Brimstones (all females) around the clearfell. I saw Orange-tip males four times, but who is to say how many birds that is.

As I traversed the clearfell between rhodies, I looked intensely and keenly for snakes, but they still elude me.

Still practising with my son’s camera:

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Clearfell edge, looking east from the top

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View southeast from the top of the clearfell

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A pine cone, post Squirrel feat

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juvenile Long-tailed Tit

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Q2 of the Wayleave, looking east

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Copper Beech (Fagus sylvatica f. purpurea. ) – a new, natural sapling

 

And a couple of spoilers:

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24 May 2019

2019 / 51

14:00 – 16:00
Bright and ‘close’ – periods of stuffy warmth under cloud. Occasional sunshine
No breeze to speak of. 20°C

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Intersection of Velmore and The Broad from the Crossing. Needs a name?

Once I was walking alone
with a friend
And as we spoke
I felt the scene begin to change…

The overcast conditions this afternoon mean less butterflies are on the wing. There are a few Speckled Wood in the West Wood and down towards Marshalls, and two Holly Blues in the Northern Belt. Three Brimstone flutter across the clearfell as we get round the far side. I am pleased to have done the official transect count yesterday afternoon.
But in Q2, towards the Velmore Crossing, we do pick up rather a nice view of the Speckled Yellow moth (pseudopanthera maculana) recorded – and photographed – by other birders earlier this afternoon.

It’s a delight to be here walking with a friend, sharing the peace and restorative sanctuary of the Wood with new people. Not naturalists, but someone with a keen ear for layers of sound and an appreciation of the whole tapestry of the inscape. A Firecrest sang superbly down at Marshalls but refused to show itself. There was another in Velmore and a third along the Broad. Willow Warblers performing well – at least two singing males. First Nuthatches for a while, and TWO Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
We talked of birdsong in classical music, a conversation inspired by my experience of over 50 Cetti’s Warblers at Radipole Lake in Weymouth over the weekend. Mozart must have been influenced by them surely, when composing “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”. Listen to the opening bars and then to a Cetti’s Warbler

 

With Ali’s musical experience and knowledge, other pieces drifted through the afternoon. I have especially enjoyed the wonderfully dissonant ‘Oiseaux exotiques’ by Messiaen (1956):

 

We heard the Hobby calling twice, from the Upper Velmore area, but that didn’t want us to see it either. I was more than pleased to have a Swift overhead though. 61 for the year now, and a rare bird here. May not be another record this year. Watching this pass, we then picked up a Buzzard that drifted over and gave good views.

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Highlight today was the addition of a new flying insect for the list. A rather wonderful Black-headed Cardinal Beetle (pyrochroa coccinea) was flying around the edge of the eastern clearfell as we left, providing more evidence (as if any were needed) of the existence of fairies… Enid Blyton clearly also spent a lot of her time in woodland!

 

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Black-headed Cardinal Beetle pyrochroa coccinea on the east clearfell. Photo by Alison Hughes

 

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A man and a woman
Making their way
While birdsong around them
Soundtracks the day
A man and a woman
Walking as friends
Through tree-lined avenues
As sunlight descends

 

 

23 May 2019

2019 / 50

Butterfly transect week 08

Bright sunny and warm. 20°C with clear skies and small fluffy clouds to the west.
Wind very light 1 south

13:00 – 15:00

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Bracken rising a metre high in the wayleave

Brimstone
At least 10 around the site, 6 on transect and 3 of those in Section 3 (The Crossing)

Holly Blue
At least 5 around the site, all on transect except one. Two in Section 3 (The Crossing)

Speckled Wood
Four around the site – none on transect.

Orange-tip
Just one, the only butterfly recorded in Section 2 (The wayleave) among the bracken, which is rising fast.

Very warm this afternoon, and generally quiet birdwise, as I am now coming to expect at this time of day. Robins and Blackbirds very active feeding young – several of the former seen carrying food:

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Wrens, Goldcrests and Dunnocks all especially vocal; young Song Thrushes have fledged and similarly both Great and Blue Tits are busy; two Firecrests singing today, both on Section 4 of the transect, from the Crossing down to the gorse gap.

Today’s highlight steals the ’60th Species of the Year’ award from the Nightjar (which is here and was heard Tuesday night (21st May) for the first time goes to a rather wonderful little Spotted Flycatcher that I picked up flitting around the birchline at the edge of the clearfell south side. It called a few times too, which is unusual in my experience – a rather thin but persistent wheezy whistle. Despite having my son’s camera today, I spectacularly failed to get any pictures – the bird was constantly moving, and followed me along for a while until I finally lost it in a clump in the southwest corner.
Spring records in Southampton are rare – I had one that was commented on thus two years ago on 19th May.

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“Gossip”

 

11 May 2019

2019 / 42

20:30 – 22:00

Milder evening, with virtually no breeze and a clear sky. 12°C.

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Moon now waxing first quarter. It is surely time…?

I am in the High Seat by 20:45, having enjoyed watching the sunset coming down the wayleave. It is almost eerily quiet once the thrushes stop singing, although they go on well past the hour. Chiffchaff, Wren and Great Tit too.

From this vantage point, it is possible to watch one or two of the Woodcock cover a greater distance on their circuits, and I think tonight I am watching three birds. One is going round me, each time clockwise, passing close enough for me to see more than a silhouette. One or the other is in the air most of the time.

The hissing noise starts at 21:19.
From a distance, over in the large clump where the feeders and nets are. I hope this is not due to my intrusion last night?
But what is it?
Let’s go and find out…

Steadily across the ridges and furrows, brash and bracken. It’s uneven and hard work even in daylight, and I would never normally dream of doing this. Safe in the knowledge there are no nesting birds on the ground though, and I can pick my way over by moonlight easily enough. The sound is still there, and I am quite close. It must be 20-30 feet away. Voice Recorder app. Go:

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Whatever is making the sound is moving, and it seems to be coming from various heights, which is confusing me further. Sometimes at ground level, but now above my head in a tree. There’s something else calling too, very near. A dysyllabic ‘yelp’ : kwwp – kwwp”. Something moves to my left and flies off, calling that same two note gentle contact sound. It’s a Tawny Owl, and it is calling incessantly. In fact, there it is, straight ahead, silhouette on a thin branch of Yew!!

So wait a minute. The hissing noise is insistent, but still moving. There are two now, repeating the “psssttt” back to each other like kids in the back of a classroom. And suddenly I’ve got it because I can see more shapes in the tree under which I am standing – Tawny Owl chicks!
Two birds, flapping. One is looking at me, bobbing and staring with great interest. I’m sure i must have gasped aloud in my delight. But the one making the most noise, is in a different tree, slightly further away. I take a half dozen steps in his direction and press ‘Record’. After two minutes, the sound file gets interesting:

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This owl-ling (owlet?) is utterly charming. He is bobbing too, ducking and weaving. Calling to mum, the parent bird making the contact calls to her young, and circling the clump making sure they are all OK. And he is walking up the thin branch until it starts to bend significantly. He sits at a fork in the branch, and then jumps off, gliding in a wide spiral down out of sight. Falling with style!
It is too dark for me to see anything below the horizon.
And then he’s calling again – from the ground! And moving nearer – presumably walking?
Yes, because, there’s a hop up, the gentlest rustle of holly leaves or something similar, and there he is shuffling along the branch again!
His two siblings urging him on. They lack his confidence, though within a few minutes I realise they too can ‘fly’. One doesn’t move or squeak at all, just sits above my head trying not to be seen until a cue from his mother to move ‘somewhere’.
I record and watch in wonder for ten minutes, and then quietly back off myself, leaving them to their world.

Incredible. 40 years a birder, and until now I have never actually seen Tawny Owl chicks, though I have heard them before. Perhaps these are younger – I certainly struggled to know what on earth I was listening to. I think it was because they were calling the last two nights from the ground that especially threw me.

What an absolutely magical place this is.
It completes and fulfils me.

7 May 2019

2019 / 37

20:30 – 21:30
Overcast and dull, rain imminent. Wind SW 2-3

Weather permitting, this is the first of a week’s evening walks to determine the precise arrival dates for Nightjars. It’s too early just yet, perhaps, but May 12th is not far off now…

Nothing this evening, and no Hobby either, so it was a good opportunity to let the Woodcock take centre stage and have their time. They performed superbly.
First bird flew over the top of the Crossing as I walked down, and I worked out his circuit took in most of this south corner. Over the next hour, I counted 24 roding display flights and spent some time establishing how many different birds that is.
Over the coming days, I should be able to define territories as male birds tend to use the same route for their performance. As well as this one, there are two more along the south side; one that flies N-S along the edge of the clearfell, and another that crosses it diagonally anti-clockwise. There’s a least one that uses the Northern belt, and another over the east clearfell.

Add to this two birds seen together once right in the middle, and then THREE having a low level dogfight in Q3 I would like to think there are certainly six if not 8 birds involved. Great numbers, great show.
And as with a lot of these ‘specialities’, what fantastic quirky and enigmatic birds they are. Impossible to see outside of these stuttering, fluttering, squealing performance pieces. I heard the wings of two birds as they came overhead that close.

Nice to walk slowly tonight with such clarity of thought too, embraced by the safety and assurance of the trees. To be relaxed here in the dark is an especially amazing thing.
Light drizzle exactly as forecast by the time I left, and it has rained heavily all night since. First proper rain for some time.

Thee BATS too, presumably Pipistrelles. Evening butterflies.
Two Row Deer and one Tawny Owl calling down at Marshall’s. There may be good value in watching that side too…?

29 April 2019

2019 / 33

05:50 – 08:15
10°C, but with a strong chilly NW up to force 4. Shifting grey cloud – sunny intervals

Sitting thoughtful
Here with dawn
Watching nowhere birds that
That choose not to use
This vast of sky

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A lot can change in a Wood in a spring week. Flowers and new leaves pushing forth with purpose now – there is a verdant urgency about the place now that lifts my jaded spirit.
I have arrived only 15 minutes after sunrise, and the cloud cover lingers and it still feels dark and rather cold, but the smell of morning is crisp and clean.

A breakfast bowl of birdsong.
Wrens on the delivery shift today – lots everywhere. Occasionally one breaks cover and flies head high, for example, across the track, still in full song.
My pen emits a poetry of its own:

Little Wren
So loud, so lovely
Singing on the wing
between the hidings.
Your voice daytime waking
Beyond your tiny frame
I see you busy
Secret partner – 
We two, the same

I tried to go ‘the other way’ round today, but turned back after a few steps down the track, as it suddenly felt all wrong. Back up at the east clearfell, I am watched all the way by the Roebuck in the middle, accompanied by the additional chorus of Blue Tits, Blackbirds and a Robin. There are two Blackcaps, one each side and a distant farmland Pheasant sounds the 06:00 alarm.
In all today, a careful and deliberate count once again returns 13 Blackcaps – an exceptional population. I have 12 Chiffchaffs too, so very similar numbers of each maintained over two weeks now. It’s more rewarding to hear a Willow Warbler down at Marshall’s – making the diversion worthwhile after the farmland scan failed to revealed anything of interest. Hopefully, this bird will find a partner (if he hasn’t already) and stay to breed successfully this year.

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I love the light on the ash trees here. Arboreal erotica.

At the top of Q2, just as the sun starts to paint the sky bluepink, a Muntjac wanders across, oblivious of me. Duck behind a briar and watch him slowly, smiling. Go well, my little friend… I meet two more deer today, the Roe doe and her offspring crashing about behind the reedbed. They see me, and after a few moments of suspicious eye contact, they bounce off down through the northern belt out of sight.

I’m in Q2, watching the light fall on the grass and noting the ‘splashing’ of white against the green – Rowan flowers and Ground Stitchwort – when the ‘Lapwing and first Cormorant spot’  returns another flyover. Alerted from my daydream state by the call of geese, I look up just as two Greylags disappear behind the treeline and over the farmland. 55th year tick! Blackcaps number 7 and 8 either side- a second heat of sing-offs this morning, and two Chiffchaffs nearby. A third skips across without calling in front of me. Fresh moles hills reverse the cutting back towards the chestnuts.

It is windy today. The stiff, cold breeze has penetrated everywhere, even to ground level. The flowers are trembling and the grass shivers. A calling Siskin hits an oncoming gust and dives for cover in the top of a rustling Larch. There is nothing in the sky.
In the grass, a small yellow flower:

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Another new one for the increasing list – Tormentil (Potentilla erecta). Common enough everywhere across the UK. Rose family, abundant on acid soils, grassland, wooded verges etc. Added another later, as I walked back up the track along the south side. There are more dandelions here than anywhere else in the Wood, and the flora changes uniquely up the slope on the west end back towards the entrance.
Here are the only Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) I know of, just a few plants, on each side of the track. Native ones – darker blue, tubular. I love

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Violets among them, which is very encouraging, and closer inspection revealed another tiny blue purple jewel hiding in the grass which I have subsequently identified as Wood Speedwell (Veronica montana). Again, widespread and prolific, not a surprise anywhere – but I am new to flowers.

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By eight
It’s too late
The day’s begun
Birdsong is done

And the last scribbled lines of poetic reflection from this morning’s circuit. Written on the track, south side, in the corner of the wood where the stream makes it muddy:

This hazel
Curved in the wind
Dancing ribbon over stream
Reminds me of her hair
Across my face
From her Hengistbury head

 

22 April 2019

2019 / 32

07:00 – 10:15
Mild 10°C and hazy sunshine. Light Sw, becoming warm and brighter.

I come here today again seeking sanctuary and freedom, the gentle refreshment and awakening of a wood in spring. All around is green leaf, mist, birdsong and contemplative breathing space.
Wrens loudest today, and Robins. Two, three maybe even four male Blackbirds chasing around, flying fast and low across the east clearfell into various clumps. Scolding, agitated alarm calls. I can hear two Chiffchaffs, but at least four Blackcaps. Pause to separate one from the other – but yes, four between the top of the track and the stream. Inspired by such a good start, I make a note to purposefully count the Blackcaps, and on my circuitous route  I note 13 birds. This includes two very active pairs – the first females I have seen in the Wood this year. That compares with 8 Chiffchaffs – Blackcaps outnumbering the earlier arrivals for the first time. Significantly the highest count ever too, having previously recorded high totals of ‘only’ 8 each in 2017 and 2018.

Descending to the stream, there are violets on the right trackside most of the way down. One patch of 40 flowers. They contain in bursts all the way down to the wayleave.

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Approaching the start of transect Section 2, my eye is drawn to the standing water in the ditch at the side of the track. The Bog Beacon (Mitrula paludosa) fungus has flowered again and looks splendid – a rare specimen.
A jogger- in hi-vis orange – nods “Good morning” and continues off down The Broad. A deer barks, just to let everyone know he’s there. In section 2, the apple blossom I saw on Friday has come out in force, but I don’t recall it from last year. And next to this, the first of several flowering Rowan trees (Sorbus aucuparia)

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Chiffchaff, Bullfinch and Long-tailed Tit. Violets among the leaf litter; stichwort and Wood Spurge along the path. Great Tits and Stock Doves. I take a deer path into the firs for a few minutes, and disturb another gang of male Blackbirds.
The softness of young larches – leaves like fur…

Overhead, two Blackheaded Gulls flying north. And – what’s that?? Well, b*gger me – a LAPWING!! Yes, it really is, though I can scarce believe my luck. Unseasonal, and totally unexpected. It’s wonderful when diligent patchwork returns a random record like this. I haven’t seen a Lapwing in or around Southampton for over a year, and to add another bird species to the Hut Wood list is a fine feeling. 78 now – this is the first addition for 2019. It’s not in view for long and soon disappears over the farmland. Smile-making excitement, and my initial gloom is decisively kicked into touch.

Instead of coming out through the Gorse Gap this morning (after a lovely Treecreeper moment at The Bottom by the stream) I choose to cut through the Northern Belt (adding two more Blackcaps) and leave the wood at the Velmore ‘in’ by the outbuildings. There’s a man here with a bonfire. A second, cursory nod.
Magpie (3), Rook / Jackdaw (mixed 100), two hen Pheasants and one male. Pied Wagtail, Blackbird and two Mistle Thrush. A Buzzard takes off from a hedge and moves away. A distant Skylark lifting. two Goldfinches come into the wood, jangling overhead, and clouds of small micro-moths rise up from the muddy track by the gate.

At 9.00am, it’s lovely and warm at Marshall’s. The sun has just risen above the wood, and its light falls on the grass where a Jay is caught rummaging about in the spotlight beam. Also here, the third pair of Robins I have seen together. They all must have young somewhere? Th eAsh trees are still bare, like slim, naked thighs…
There’s ‘something big and clumsy’ cashing about in a Willow at the end of Q4, and I am drawn to check it out. This is how we find flycatchers- but it turns out to be a second pair of Blackcaps. It is grassy here and cooler, and scattered oak leaves lie where they fell on the thick grass. Another Chiffchaff showing well, and the morning’s first Nuthatch.

It’s bright again coming up where the tracks join, and I am shielding my eyes to see. Not up to the viewpoint today, but left from here along North Walk in what could be considered  the ‘wrong’ direction. The Ashy Mining Bees are active earlier than the Tawny ones – they really are beautiful insects. I take some time to inspect the pool, and realise how easy it is to overlook the surviving tadpoles. there are at least 30 still here, hiding in the soft mud and carefully under the floating (and sunken) large oak leaves. Lifting one of these gently, at least a half dozen hurriedly wriggle out. Encouraging.

A Peacock surprises me – an earlier flier. Simon is doing this week’s butterfly transect walk tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon. Hopefully some of Speckled Wood also on the wing this morning will pass onto his route. I count seven – including three amorous, spiralling pairs. And a Brimstone, later, up at the top of the Crossing by the logpile. The Crossing I note has no violets, or bees, although the former are emerging at the top and along the south side of the track.
The resident male Pheasant is cautiously walking up The Broad towards the fallen tree, and watching him from the Crossing it is a delight to greet a small group (maybe four?) Siskins dropping in.

At back up by the gate, Forget-me-nots, Dandelions and large patches of not-yet-flowering Herb Robert:

Herb Robert is very familiar: it lives with man, much as the Robin flips into his garden and to his back door’ – Geoffrey Grigson, ‘The Englishman’s Flora’

An excellent tally of 35 bird species, 3 butterflies, the Bog Beacon fungus and tons of flowers. Not to mention the Lapwing. A LAPWING!!

Live thy Life,
Young and old,
Like yon oak,
Bright in spring,
Living gold
(Tennyson)

19 April 2019

2019 / 31

14:30 – 16:00

Butterfly Transect Week 03

Bright, sunny and warm 20°C. Wind speed 1-2.
100%  sunshine – only shadow being that cast by trees
Warmest day of the year. Surveying in shirtsleeves

The colonies of Tawny Mining Bees (andrena fulva) are very active today – holes are spreading down the top of the track towards the start of Section 1; and down at the gorse gap on Section 4 they are extending similarly. Two Ashy Mining Bees (andrena cineraria) here today, both walking on the ground and using the clean holes.
In this same area, we came upon half a dozen Bee Flies (bombylius major) on the edge of the track too, flying and resting in the long grass. Charming little creatures – my daughter (aged 23) walked with me today and seemed genuinely delighted to see these.

Of especial interest today though are the large numbers of emergent Green Tiger Beetles 
(cicindela campestris) around sections 4 and 5. Impossible to photograph with my smartphone, and not allowing close approach. A ‘ferocious predator’ that will love the sandy soil and will feed on the larvae of bees and caterpillars

She did well this afternoon, and picked up the first of three newly emerged Holly Blues at the top of Section 1. It proved an inquisitive, approachable little creature and I had the opportunity to get a (poor) photograph of it when it landed on my boot:

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Among the fascinating range of micro-wildlife encounters this afternoon, our highlight was this amazing Common Frog (rana temporaria) that again my daughter saw first, half way along the north track, in Section 5 where we also had 3 Peacocks.
It was in the process of crossing the track from the tadpole ‘pool’ to a similar pool on the other side, murky and full of green algae and weed, and stopped its (slow) progress when we approached. A surprise to see of course, but even more so in the heat of the year’s warmest afternoon.

 

 

Different views show subtle changes of light on the creature’s skin, but this seems like an especially dark individual in my (limited) experience. That can be a response to particularly cold water, or age, but there are also some rare dark morphs. I have invited feedback on the pictures, and welcome more.

Another couple of  ‘flowering plants’ added this afternoon as well. In the trees at the side of Q2 behind my cleared patch there is what appears to be an apple tree that I haven’t notice before:

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And out on the clearfell, two patches of Hairy Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) “Lady’s Smock”have appeared, supporting the solitary bee colonies:

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I am learning SO much about the Wood this year.
Ecosystem discovery. Inscape awareness.

Birds today – 3 Buzzards, one Firecrest, 3 Blackcaps and 5 Chiffchaffs. Two Siskins encountered twice. are they breeding somewhere again.

Six butterfly species (35-38 individuals)

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
At least 12 present (15 counted), ten on the transect. First butterflies recorded on Section 2, but ones and twos throughout the Wood, moving up and down the woodland edges.

Small White (Pieris rapae)
At least 2 present, both on transect. I think they were this species, but I think I will have to be careful separating these from female Orange-tip…?

Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines)
Having got very excited about the first one on the last count, I was delighted to have at least three males today – one at the top in the same place as before, but then TWO others on section 4, including one along the stream where I had my first record. One alighted briefly on a Violet. AT least two others were (probably) females, but as I don’t know these from Small White yet, I need to work more closely on the ID…

Holly Blue (celastrina argiolus)
Always a delight, and the first of the year especially so. My daughter picked this up at the top of the track (Section 1) which is becoming our most productive section in these early counts. A male, which flew within inches between the two of us, and then settled briefly on my boot!! second at the top of Section 4 just past the crossing, and then a third flicking along through the trees between the wayleave and the crossing.

Peacock (Aglais io)
At least 8 present (a reduction in numbers) and 7 of these recorded on transect. One in section 3 sunbathing on brash, then three each on the track in Sections 4 and 5. We almost stepped on two or three of them. Very confiding on the ground.

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Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)
Five individuals, but none on transect. Two together and one separate insect on ‘section 6’ between where the tracks join and the scallops at Marshall’s on the west side. Two more, individual ones in Q3 and walking back up towards the wayleave.

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Q1 (looking up to the track) across the east clearfell