Monday, 30 May 2016

30th May - Martin Down, Hampshire

Two days of sunshine over the Bank Holiday weekend, but by the time we reached Monday the cloud was back, and this time it didn't look as if it was going away.  The breeze had also picked up and with it coming from the north it was quite a cool wind.

Nevertheless we set of just before midday, heading west in the hope that the forecast was right and that this was the best chance of sunshine.

The weather was important as our destination was Martin Down and the hope was that we could find some butterflies, but as we arrived there was still complete cloud cover and a very cold wind that was sending the grasses in the field a dancing!

We set off along the path towards Bokerly Ditch, in the Hawthorn a Chiffchaff sang right at the top.

A little further on I heard the song of a bird, that is the main attraction here at this time of year, the Turtle Dove.  This one though was not behaving and all I managed was a breif glimpse as it flew from the bush as I approached.  This was to be the only one we heard or saw while here which was a little disappointing but probably as a result of the time of day and the inhospitable weather for this time of year.

We reached the ditch and headed west, very soon Helen came across our first orchid of the day, a very nice Fragrant Orchid.

This orchid is normally found on dry grassland, particularly with limestone or chalky soils.

A little further on Helen, as always, found the first butterfly of the day, just after I had remarked I doubt we would see any.  This was a blue butterfly, an Adonis Blue, the first of the year.

This butterfly is a species of chalk downland, where it may be found in warm, sheltered spots. The male Adonis Blue has brilliantly-coloured blue wings that gives this butterfly its name although here the wings were closed but it enabled us to see the blue at the base of the wings.

All around we could hear sing Yellowhammers, and one lovely male appeared on a small bush in front of us.

Another bird of open grassland, the Stonechat sang from yet another small bush in amongst the grass.

I had expected to see more orchids than we had found so far, but I was laos not expecting to see butterflies, so was pleased when Helen, again, found the next year tick, a Small Heath low down in the ditch.

There were small carpets of white and pink flowers lying low on the grass.  A little further on we came across some blue versions, and once home I was able to identify them as Common Milkwort, I am still learning when it comes to flowers.

It seemed that the white and pink versions were commoner than the blue form.

Then suddenly the ditch seemed to be full of blue butterflies, and as a little radiation was making it through the clouds, and lying low down to shelter in the grass they started to open their wigs and showed off the beautiful blue hue that gives them their name, the Adonis Blue.

In one place there were three warming up.

As I watched the Adonis a smaller blue butterfly flew in and settled with wings open, if not a little obscured by the leaves.  This was a male Small Blue.

We carried on, following the line of the ditch and very soon came across some more Adonis, this brought the total to eight along the ditch.  This time they sat with wings closed.

A lovely little butterfly.

The ditch continued to be the best place to find our targets.  Next up was a Burnt Orchid, so called because of the dark brown purple tips to the flower.

The yellowhammers singing had now been replaced by the jangling song of the Corn Bunting.  When you hear the song it is best to scan the tops of the bushes as this is likely to be the place they would sing from.  The tactic resulted in me finding this bird.

I counted five singing birds as we walked the ditch to the old firing ranges.

Just before we reached the old ranges we came across a good carpet of Common Spotted Orchids. As ever there was a considerable range of colour and spots.

I had looked in the places we have seen Bee Orchid before, but there was no sign.  The Spotted Orchids though were putting on a very nice show.

We managed to find one more orchid to make four for the day, first was one that was definitely past its best, but a little further on we came across one that was still very much in flower, the Early Purple Orchid just on the edge of its flowering period.

We then headed back down the main path, crossing fields that seemed to hide hundreds of Rooks and Crows, the calls of the young birds begging for food from the parents all around us.  A Cuckoo called as we approached the car, but we were not able to see it.

The sun never came out but we did manage to find the orchids, and also two smart butterflies, the first for the year.

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