Sunday, 26 July 2015

25th July - Titchfield Haven, Browndown and Thorney Island

A strange week, where I encountered very hot temperatures and a spectacular thunderstorm in Munich, Germany, to then come home to a day of torrential rain on Friday.  Saturday then, was very welcome. clear blue skies, a cool breeze and above all dry.

I met Ian at Titchfield Haven, the plan to spend some time there, and then up the coast to Browndown, and then where ever else the day takes us.  

As we waited for the reserve to open at Titchfield we were able to watch a Common Tern on the river.

First stop was the Meon Shore Hide.  There was plenty of activity with Black-headed Gulls, Common Terns and quite a few Avocets.  The water level on the scrape was quite high, probably as a result of Fridays rain.  It was the antics of the Common Terns that caught the attention though.

Flying around calling and upsetting the Black-headed Gulls before settling back on a post.

There were also quite a few juvenile Avocets, we estimated that across the scrapes there could quite well be around 40 - 50 Avocet.  This young bird was putting in some stretching before settling down to a nap on one of the islands close to the hide.

Others though were busy feeding in the open water, in doing so they could be seen to be in pairs and I wondered if these pairs were in fact sibling birds.

A pair of Reed Warblers were flying around in front of the hide, one stopping briefly at the base of the reeds.

We left the hide and walked around the west side of the reserve.  We were looking for the Greater Yellowlegs, of which so far during the morning there hadn't been any sign.

Along the path we came across this Blue-tailed Damselfly.

From the Pumfrett Hide it was much the same again with Avocet feeding, and Common Terns fishing.  On one of the islands we could see a pair of Mediterranean Gulls, and what looked like juveniles with them, although when one of the young birds seemed to beg at the adult it was chased off.

A Common Sandpiper joined the gulls on the island, but other than this and The Black-tailed Godwits there were very few other waders, the water level probably having an influence.  

We decided to head back to the east side, and along the beach there were 12 Turnstone and a Dunlin in summer plumage at the edge of the water.  Along the path there was a cut up Scots Pine, that in the sunshine was proving a magnet for the larger butterflies.  There were several Red Admirals and a Comma along also with this beautiful Peacock.

The hide was very quiet, and still no sign of the Yellowlegs so we decided to head back.  Just before the visitor centre we stopped at the pond and were given a cameo performance by several of the commoner birds, it was a lovely 15 minutes of entertainment.

First there was a large flock of juvenile Long-tailed Tits moving through the leaves and inspecting them for insect food.

A female Blackcap appeared from the same Hawthorn bush.

And was then joined by a juvenile bird that has still not fully developed the cap, black or red.

In a sunny spot a male Blackbird sat with its feathers splayed out catching a few rays from the sun, probably after recently having a bath.

Another bird to take advantage of the sunshine was this little Wren.  The post was probably nice and warm in the sunshine, so it decided to lay back and enjoy the warmth

But clearly it was comfortable and then turned around to get a better position, stretching its wings and tail to catch the maximum rays.

This position was clearly the right one because it then dropped off to sleep.

The sunshine also brought out a Common Darter that also warmed up on a dead log by the side of the pool.

In the trees there was a lot of activity, as well as the Long-tailed Tits there were Blue and Great Tits feeding along with a single Goldcrest.  At the back in the birch trees were several warblers, a couple of Chiffchaffs.

And a lovely lemon green Willow Warbler.

We left the birds to enjoy the sun, and made our way back to the cars.  One feature of the morning had been the quantity of Gatekeeper butterflies that were about, and as we passed the bramble by the side of the road there were more nectaring and getting up to no good on the flowers.

We set off to Browndown, the quarry there being two specialists, The Purple Hairstreak, and Grayling butterflies.  This is a coastal strip of shingle with heather, some gorse, plenty of Bramble and grasses plus a section of low height Oaks.

There were plenty of Linnets flying around, and one male perched in a bramble was showing off a splendid rose-pink coloured breast, I don't think I have seen one so bright before.

There were more Gatekeepers, and also a few Silver Y moths about to catch the ye as we walked through the shingle, but it wasn't too long before Ian found the first Grayling.  This butterfly sits with its wings closed.  If you are lucky it will just show the upper wing with an eye spot, but it will very quickly cover this up.  The underside has the perfect camouflage against the habitat we found them in, and it could be difficult to see them at first.

We made our way towards the group of Oak trees, finding along the way a Small Skipper on the pebbles.

There was also a Small Copper that didn't want to stay to be photographed

In the Oak trees the hope was that we could find the Purple Hairstreak.  We had seen them last week in Alice Holt, but Ian had some fantastic views last Sunday as with the Oaks being low on the shingle the butterflies just had to be at the right height.

We soon found one by knocking the branches, but it disappeared in the fresh breeze.  Soon after though Ian found another, this time sheltered in the middle of the tree.

It opened its wings at first, but then settled quite still on the oak leaf.

And I was able to get in quite close.

It was even possible to see the amazing detail on the head and eyes

We searched for more but could not find any, as a result we set off in search of the larger Grayling colony which we came across quite quickly.  This one settled in the heather.

Then another on more familiar habitat the pebbles.

the challenge now was to see if I could photograph one before it switched the upper wing down and covered up the lovely orange brown eye spot.  I manged it with this one.

Then we had a huge stroke of luck.  We came across two Grayling, and after a little duel they settled on the shingle, at firs apart, then they crept towards each other across the pebbles in what could only be described as a robotic type walk.

Once close together they would face each other and turn around as if attached, but also, wonderfully flicking the wings open, and showing the upper side that is rarely seen.

In all the photographs in books I have seen, I have not seen one that shows the upper wing, it is always the underside, and maybe the eye spot.  We watched as these two continued this dance.

Twisting and turning and flashing the lovely marked upper wings

They flew off together but settled back in amongst the heather close by.  The courtship continued, but this time I managed to get it on video.  Its not the best focus, but it shows the behaviour of these two lovely butterflies.

As you can see from the video they flew off, and we couldn't re-locate them, but at the same time our attention was directed to a Cricket in the heather.  This I think is a Grey Bush Cricket, which is commonly found on shingle, and coastal beaches

We decided to make our way back, now with the intention of going to Thorney Island where an Osprey had been reported in the morning.  However as we made our way through the heather we saw two Green Woodpeckers, one definitely a juvenile, and then by the gorse we came across a family of 5 Dartford Warblers.  Unfortunately they were either skulking through the gorse, or quickly flying between bushes, and managed to avoid the camera.

On Thorney Island we parked off the main road to the barracks and took a footpath towards the west side coastal path.  The Osprey had been reported from the southern end, so we would have to walk around the path.

On the Deeps there were Tufted Duck with Ducklings, and a pair of sleeping Great Crested Grebe.  On the mud with the rising tide there was a single Black-tailed Godwit.

And a pair of Greenshank and a Redshank feeding together.

We also saw distant Curlew, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher and a single Green Sandpiper.

We scanned the inland and coastal areas, paying attention to the posts and dead trees but there was no sign of any large raptor.  When we finally reached the southern end we were disappointed to find that there were model aircraft being flown in exactly the area where the bird had been reported.  Dejected we decided to head back.  A little way into the return walk a distant raptor raised the hopes but as it drifted closer it could be seen it was in fact a Buzzard.

The highlight of the walk back was a very confiding hunting Kestrel on the sea wall.

At times it seemed if it would turn and look at us as it hovered.

Turning finally for one last look before heading across the field to another spot.

It was now quite warm, and the grass and bramble by the side of the path were covered in Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown, but Ian did manage to find this female Marbled Brown, probably the last sighting of this year.

As we got closer to the cars a Skylark flew up close to us in full song.  Its funny, but as they fly and sing they are constantly looking about them, moving the head to see all about them.

Then another flying machine appeared, this time though man-made, a Spitfire that performed twists and loops over the island.

Back at the cars we brooded over the fact that Ian had once again failed with Osprey, but also reflected on a wonderful experience with the Graylings earlier.  Yet another day outside with the chance to experience some amazing wildlife.  I can think of nothing better.

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