Sunday, 14 June 2015

13th June - Titchfield Haven, Denny Wood & Magdalen Hill, Hampshire

It has been around for some time, and when the weather changed and spoiled the original plans for today I met Ian at the Haven, and we set off along the canal path, heading for the Posbrook Floods and hopefully the Greater Yellowlegs.

With the tide high there was a fresh cool wind coming off the sea, and the sky was overcast which made it feel for the middle of June a very cool morning.  Along the path though the birds were singing, and the young were calling to their parents for a feed.

Above us a Chiffchaff sang loud and clear.

As we approached the footpath that turned off to the Floods the number  of birders increased, and as we made our way to the viewing point we could see quite a few already watching a group of Black-tailed Godwits where in amongst them was a sleeping Greater Yellow legs.

We watched and waited but the bird never really moved.  All around it the Godwits would stretch and flap their wings, a Black-headed Gull walked past and even a family of Mallards failed to disturb it.

It was though plainly different from the godwits, not least the yellow legs that seemed to be enhanced when the sun came out.  The plumage was distinctly darker than than the godwits, and the white made it look greyer.

We waited and waited, while more and more birders arrived, many I suspect coming from Church Norton where they would have twitched the Hudsonian Whimbrel, and then come here to pick up a Yellowlegs.

The bird never moved so we decided to head off.  Not the best of views but something tells me this bird is going no where, it seems to like this area and I would bet it will be around into the winter.

As we made our way back to the canal path, a Silver Y moth appeared in the grass by the side of the path.

Back along the path in one of the open areas we came across a dragonfly.  The sun was out but there was still a fair bit of a breeze about so it was not a surprise when the dragonfly settled in a sheltered spot in the sunshine.

After some debate we agreed that this was a Black-tailed Skimmer.  The male black-tailed skimmer has a grey thorax and a powder-blue abdomen with yellow spots along the sides and a black tip. This species can be distinguished from the others by its narrow abdomen with black tip and yellow spots along the side. Its behaviour, flying low over bare gravel and mud, is also characteristic.

Moving back into the trees by the canal we came across a family group of Long-tailed Tits, with several young birds just out of the nest.

The adults were close and the youngster started calling and begging.

And then the adult appeared and provided the begging fledgling with a meal.

A little further on we came across groups of Damselflies in sunny spots.  First were the Blue-tailed Damselfly, this is the female.  The male blue-tailed damselfly is mostly black in colour, with a pale blue band towards the end of the body, blue eyes and blue on the thorax. Females are variable in colour from blue forms to violet.   This is the blue green Typica sub species.

With the Blue-tails were Azures, a more common Damselfly.

We came across what was at first we thought a dead Water Vole, but as we watched it we could see it was just still alive, moving very slowly but still on its back.  As we pondered what could have injured it a Large Red Damselfly flew in.  Rather than dwell on the dying vole we concentrated on the damselfly.

Male large red damselflies are bright red with a black thorax and black bands towards the end of the body. 

We made our way back to the car and decided on heading off to the New Forest to investigate the bog and woodland around Shatterford.  After crawling for awhile in traffic through Lyndhurst we finally arrived in the car park and headed off towards the wood.

The heather and bog was very quiet as we crossed.  A Dragonfly put in a short appearance but did not allow identification and as we stood waiting it just disappeared.

As we came close to the wood there were several Chaffinches about, and we watched a female Redstart fly into one of the trees.  We made our way through the wood along the path, stopping at the fallen trees.  At one monster Oak that had succumbed to the weather and lay prostrate on the ground we found this beautiful Hornet.

At around 6 - 7 centimetres long it looked very impressive and threatening, but this insect is very rarely aggressive to humans.   Newly-mated queens hibernate during the winter, and emerge in spring to begin building a nest. They lay eggs that hatch into sterile female workers who take over nest building and collecting food for the developing larvae. Later in the summer males and fertile females hatch. These mate and the females become next year’s queens. The males, old queen and workers die in the autumn.

Both adults and larvae eat mainly insects. Adults may also take spiders and queens may supplement their diet with tree sap and windfall fruit. They also stock up on nectar before hibernating.  A little further on we came across another that was interested in the sap that was oozing from an Oak tree.

We could hear plenty of birds but the hoped for Redstarts were short in supply.  Finally we came across a female that was searching for food in the leaf litter.

We made our way slowly through the wood, stopping every so often to watch and listen, and we would see Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and families of Blue, Coal and Great Tits.

Above us in the trees we could hear the flapping of wings, we thought this to be Woodpigeon, but when I finally did look up and check I saw Stock Doves in some form of display, as the flapping turned into mating!

From the wood we headed out into the open towards the railway line.  As we walked through the bracken we would disturb lots of small cream moths.  They would fly a short distance then settle back down once again.

These were Brown Silver-lines, it flies in a single generation during May and June, and occupies woodland and upland areas where its foodplant, bracken grows in profusion.

We stopped at the open water where there was a pair of Lapwings with at least 3 chicks.  The Lapwings were a little concerned about us and one of the adults flew around us calling.  As we watched the Lapwings a male Redstart flew in, but only gave brief views, but then a dragonfly arrived and settled on the bracken. 

This one is a Common Darter, it is a small, narrow-bodied dragonfly which is on the wing from the end of June right through to October, or even November in a warm autumn. Male common darters are bright red while the females and immature adults are golden-brown which is what this one is.

This is a very common dragonfly, breeding in all sorts of water bodies from ponds and ditches to rivers and lakes. As their name suggests, common darters dart forward suddenly from a hovering position to catch their insect-prey. They then take their catch to a favoured perch to eat it.

Leaving ahead of us on the path was a Jay, always a lovely bird.

A stream crosses the footpath and make a sizeable pond where a Broad-bodied Chaser was hunting, flying around the pond, and then perching on the same stick in the water.

The broad, flattened body of the broad-bodied chaser is distinctive and makes this dragonfly appear 'fat'. The male has a powder-blue body with yellow spots along the sides and a dark thorax; the female is greeny-brown.

A little further on we stopped to watch two children dipping in a pond.  There were several smooth newts in the water, and is was nice to children looking for and being excited by wildlife.

Leaving the pond I noticed a small butterfly in front of us, it stopped on the heather and we could get closer.

A Silver-Studded Blue, it gets its name from the light blue reflective scales found on the underside of most adults and which are quite visible when light reflects off them. 

This one turned to show the underside.

Taking a liking to the heather flowers.

As we watched the blue a dragonfly appeared, this time the female Black-tailed Skimmer.

From the New Forest we drove to Magdalen Hill, just outside Winchester.  This is a reserve managed by the Butterfly Conservation society, and as we walked out onto the hill amongst all the flowers we realised that this was somewhere special.

The first lepidoptera we saw though was another day flying moth a Silver Ground Carpet.

There were also lots of other small white moths flying everywhere, these were Grass Rivulets.

Moving amongst the flowers we started top disturb butterflies, first the Common Blue

Then lots of Small Blues.

A tiny butterfly with a dark upper wing, and a pale almost white underneath.

Next was the first Meadow Browns of the year.

In a corner of the reserve with a lot of ivy and nettles we could see dueling fast flying butterflies.  As we got closer we could see they were Painted Ladies.

In total we saw at least six individuals.

The butterflies just kept coming, a Brimstone put in an appearance.

We then walked into a chalk area where there was a lot of vetch and these lovely delicate Harebells.

We walked around the reserve to where it looked over the fields and away to the south.  Below us a Kestrel was hovering.

It flew up around us and appeared above our heads.

Stunning views all around.

Another butterfly put in an appearance the Small Heath, in total there were four.

Then to round the day up nicely a Large Skipper became the days final year tick.

Nectaring on this Sainfoin, a lovely flower

The perfect end to what was at first a frustrating day, the butterflies and dragonflies though having made up for it in a great way.

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