Thursday, 28 August 2014

Sunday 24th August - Glossy ending to last butterfly trip of the summer

It was Bank Holiday weekend and I took to family to Filey and Scarborough on the Saturday. It was a gorgeous sunny day as well. This meant a rare Sunday trip out.  

PJ had suggested we go for the ADONIS BLUE as our next butterfly tick but last weekend was quite dull and windy. This Sunday however was slightly warmer and less windy, so armed with directions from our personal Butterfly Trip Organiser DK, we headed down into deepest Gloucestershire, to a site called Rodborough Common, south of Stroud. 

Rodborough Common

One thing we've found with our quest for the 56/59 British butterflies it that we get to see different parts of the the country, and this area was another one we'd never visited before. The actual bank took a little bit of finding due to us not locating a cattle trough where we were supposed to turn left. Fortunately, they had  internet in the area and we soon found our grassy slope.

At first, all we saw a few Common Blues and with no sun and breezy conditions, things weren't looking good. Then sharp eyed PJ spotted our target - an amazing shade of blue - sitting in the grass. The Adonis Blue really did stand out. We enjoyed excellent views and at one stage it was joined by a Brown Argus.

 Adonis Blue and a few Brown Argus photo's

As we were running up and down the bank armed with our collecting jars and butterfly nets, we received news of a GLOSSY IBIS at Blithfield. It was an easy decision to make as it was the first record for the site. We headed back north up the M5 and eventually arrived in Tad Bay. A quick sprint down to the hide and we were soon watching a rather splendid Glossy Ibis - another addition to my Blithfield list!


We were having a rather nice time in the hide, sitting with Staffordshire stalwarts Richard Powell, Frank Gribble and even the Clayhead's No1 stalker Ian "I seek them here, I seek them there, I seek those dastardly Clayheads everywhere" Burgess arrived. Then, a nice young couple decided to walk in the top of Tad Bay and proceeded to walk up the far side of Tad Bay. They disappeared into the bushes at one stage to possibly look for insects or beetles or flowers maybe but by this time they had managed to flush everything out of the bay. The Glossy Ibis flew off over towards Blithe Bay, but it was not relocated and presumably just carried on flying.

As a catch up, last weekend we stayed in Staffs again, seeing an Osprey, Black Tern and Whinchat at Blithfield and the female Garganey at Branston.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Tuesday 5th August 2014 - Aston Rowant NNR, Bucks/Oxon

Some of the very observant ones amongst you will know that I usually celebrate my birthday on 5th August. This year was no exception. Due to exemplary behaviour, I was allowed to skip work as well. This is due to the fact that I never went to school on my birthday, and so I still continue with the tradition and try to never work on it either.

I've recently started trying to get a tick on my birthday, a feat I've never achieved in Britain yet. I was successful a few years ago in Tenerife when I managed to clean up all the island endemics on my birthday.

This year, I decided to try for some butterfly ticks instead. Armed with information from North Staffordshire's butterfly site expert DK, I headed down the M40 to J6 and Red Kite country, to a reserve called Aston Rowant.

The original forecast was quite favourable, with a sunny morning forecast, but as I drove south, it started to rain. Rain isn't quite the weather for butterflies, but I carried on regardless. By the time I arrived it had stopped, but it was a bit windy and dull. And for the first hour, I didn't see too much.

But it warmed up and bit and the butterflies started to show. I did manage to see my three targets for the trip, Chalk Hill Blue, Silver-spotted Skipper and Brown Argus. And a pleasant day was had.

Chalk Hill Blues

Silver-spotted Skipper

My finger to show how small Brown argus are

Brown Argus

Also bumped into these two beasts. 

A Field Grasshopper

...and female Meadow Grasshopper

My British Grasshopper list now stands at 2.

A finally to August. What can it bring. Well, it's been quite good in the past locally in August. Two of the best birds found locally in recent times have been found in August, namely the Westport Lake Sabine's Gull and Ring-necked Duck. And here's two pictures for you all to remind you of those great August days. 

Monday, 4 August 2014

Saturday 2nd August 2014 - An incredibly close shave

On 26th July 2014, we set off on our annual family, holiday. This year we were visiting Scotland, staying at Boat of Garten. I'd had the previous week off as well, but it was very quiet bird wise. I did manage one trip with CJW to Derbyshire, where we saw Dark Green Fritillary, another one to add to our list.

We also thought we'd had our second tick of the day with Brown Argus...until we got home and CJW pointed out a female Common Blue on the Internet. We're still novices at this game. Next we'll probably be ticking butterflies with green rings on their legs and counting heards only on our list in our desperate quest for the 56!

And so we headed off to Scotland. As we were nearing the Lake District, PLo texted me asking if I knew anything about a Lesser Golden Plover report from Drayton Bassett. As my Internet wasn't working on my phone, I wasn't receiving any news from RBA so I knew nothing. Then I received the report of a possible American Golden Plover there. I relayed the news to CJW and he started posting the news on @Staffsbirdnews. I was hoping, ideally, that nothing came of the report, as I was hurtling northwards on the M6. 

More news started to filter through, and it was finally confirmed as Staffordshire's first ever Pacific Golden Plover. Presumably it was the same bird as at Rutland Water last year, a bird I moaned about at the time saying why can't Staffordshire have birds like that. 

Aghh, not a good start to the holiday. As I ate up the miles, I started to reflect on how lucky I'd been when on my holidays. I hadn't ever really missed anything major, and in fact only last year I relocated the Rudyard Lake Caspian Tern the day before I flew out to Spain. I accepted it was my turn to be unlucky this time.

Another person affected by the holiday tick syndrome was PJ. Last year he went away just before me and on his return he was seen running down the track to Rudyard while still pulling his suitcase behind him, sombrero, beach towel and all. He was most fortunate to see the long staying Caspian Tern, and this year, he managed to return from Greece the day before the PGP turned up. What is it about summer holidays? 

Each morning during my holiday, I waited for news, and each day the PGP remained at Drayton Bassett. Towards the middle of the week, I started to actually think it would remain till the weekend, but I knew it would fly off towards the end of the week.

The weather was alright during our stay, but Friday started off wet, and was forecast to be wet all day. We were due to return on the Saturday anyway, so we made the decision to return home a day early instead. There's not a lot you can do in the rain in Speyside. And, with the PGP still present, it would mean if it stayed, I could go on Saturday instead of Sunday.  

During the journey home, there seemed to be more reports than usual of the PGP during the day, and with this being its 7th day, I just knew it would be it's last. 

We arrived home, and I was up early on Saturday morning. I was unable to sleep. The nerves were getting the better of me. I went to Westport and returned home early as it was my wife's 21st birthday. 

Then, just after 08:00hrs, the news I'd been hoping and praying for the last seven days came on the pager. It was still present for it's 8th day. My wife continued to open her presents.....GAS was not answering his texts. Time stood still. At 09:00hrs he picked me up and we were away. 

A brisk drive took place, and it was pouring down. I was hoping that as we drove east, we would be just in front of the rain. By the time we arrived at Drayton Bassett it was still dry, but as we walked down the canal it started to spit. As we walked along the towpath, I glanced through a gap in the hedge and noticed a group of birders standing by the scrape. A quick scan with my bins and there was the brilliant Pacific Golden Plover standing on the edge of an island. It was a beautiful sight. Eight days of build up. Eight days of nervous tension. And we'd achieved a minor miracle. 

We walked round onto the reserve and enjoyed excellent views until the heavens opened and we retreated back to the car. 

Soaked to the skin, and with suitcases to unpack, we returned home; birding was over for the day. After all, everything else today would be just an anti climax. 

Just phone photo's I'm afraid. My camera malfunctioned just before I went away. Its repaired now.

During the afternoon, our trip during the morning took on extra significance. News started filtering out that there was no sign of it during the afternoon, and by the evening it hadn't been refound. It turned out that at 12:30, just after the torrential downpour had stopped, it took flight.

We'd made it with just two hours to spare. Now that's close. But then again I think back to the SANDHILL CRANE flying off on the Friday afternoon. Yes, you owed me one for that and thank you for making the PGP stay! 


Sunday, 3 August 2014


Every year or so Mrs PJ needs her ' Greek fix '!! she loves the Greek Islands and would go every year if she had her way. I agree they are very nice but are a bit ' birdless ' especially in July. Lesbos being the exception but I would imagine thats a bit quiet in mid summer. So as I sat by our pool on the first evening with a cool Mythos & the latest Stephen King I was unaware of the show that was about to start. Our terrace overlooked a valley leading down to the sea, as I looked up I saw a Common Buzzard drifting over, I then spotted a smaller slimmer raptor a bit further away, as it turned and the evening sun caught it I could see that not only was it dark on top but also dark below I immediately knew that it was an Eleonoras Falcon, a bird I had seen in Morocco and on Lesbos but I had never seen a dark morph before. I ran in to get my camera, when I came back out there were 2 of them, then 3 & 4 of both light and dark morphs I didn't know where to look or which direction to point the camera in fact I think I probably panicked. There was no need to panic however because they repeated the show every evening, I had 12 birds all together on the second evening all fly catching some coming really close I even managed a few decent pics, they were brilliant & made my holiday.  

Other birds during the week included Scops Owl, Crag Martin, Pallid Swift, Sardinian Warblers and a single Bonellis Warbler - eastern I would of thought.

Butterflys were everywhere, some I've still got to identify but the more obvious ones included Southern White Admiral, Swallowtails & Scarce Swallowtails & Cleopatras.

Above - Cleopatra

Two Southern White Admirals

A Swallowtail

We also had a Praying Mantis on the table one evening, there's something unnerving about an insect that actually turns its head and follows you around the room !!