I arrived at the car park in Sillens Lane, and as I waited for Ian to arrive I could hear at least four purring Turtle Doves almost all around me. I wandered off through the wet grass, and could see Yellowhammers and hear a Chiffchaff and Whitethroat singing.
Once Ian had arrived we walked down the main path towards the ditch. On either side in the hawthorn we could hear the Turtle Doves but couldn't see them. Eventually I found one sitting on the top of the tree, calling every so often with that lovely purring sound.
We tried to get closer using the smaller Hawthorn bushes as cover, but the dove was off and over the trees to settle behind us. As we made our way towards it but it then came back, and settled in a tall Ash tree.
Here it sat purring, the sound being produced in the throat, which can be seen to bulge as the bird calls.
It is a very dainty dove, smaller and darker than a Collared Dove and slightly larger than a Blackbird. The upper-parts are distinctively mottled with chestnut and black and its black tail has a white edge, which you can see clearly in this shot as it flew over our heads heading back to the Hawthorn bushes.
The bird has no connection to turtles, but instead, its name is phonetic, evidently derived from their purring turr turr turr song, which then gave it its Latin name Turtur, which when anglicised became Turtle Dove.
We made our way onwards towards the ditch, and could still hear more Doves calling from the scrubby Hawthorn bushes. Once again we were able to find one sitting on the top of the tree calling.
And then another a little further on.
These were the best views of Turtle Dove I have had since I used to just year tick them when I lived in Essex over 20 years ago. Today you have to go to specialists sites to see them, the reserve here at Martin Down is perfect for them. We counted at least eight separate calling birds, but there could also have been two more, but we could not be sure.
Leaving the Doves we walked alongside the scrub, where there were several Blackcaps singing.
But it was a more scratchy song quicker and longer than the Blackcap that caught our attention, and with some patience we managed to get in the end some really good views of Garden Warbler.
Once reaching the ditch, we were immediately surrounded by a carpet of Common Spotted Orchids, with spikes of the delicate white and pink petals appearing through the grasses.
One had eluded us as we watched the Turtle Doves, but as we walked through the grass and orchids the Marbled Whites started to appear. It was still early, but this did not seem to stop them. I managed to get the first of the year sitting on an orchid on the far side of the bank.
That was a distant shot, but a little later one appeared close and behaved to show the wonderful black and white markings on what is my favourite butterfly.
Then an orange butterfly flew past us at pace, but fortunately settled in amongst the grass for the first Dark Green Fritillary of the year. This looked like a freshly emerged butterfly, the pattern of orange and black looking superb.
I*n true Dark Green fashion it was off, and flew away from us so quickly that it was soon out of sight.
On the shorter grass I came across a blue butterfly sitting on the path, as I got closer I could see that it was an adult male Adonis Blue. The lovely shimmering blue of the upper wings.
And then the detailed spots on the underside.
But then it was back to the lovely Marbled Whites. The wild Common Valerian proving the attraction in the absence of their favoured Knapweed
As they nectared it was possible to get some different views, showing the under wing.
The wing position changing slightly showing the lovely chequered pattern underneath as it looks to probe the flower heads of the Valerian.
And then by scrambling down the side of the bank, and looking up at the butterfly a further interesting view was possible.
As we watched the Marbled Whites the familiar call of a Raven signalled a flyover by an adult bird.
There were quite a few Pyramid Orchids in amongst the spotted orchids, although many of them were just starting to flower.
As we walked along the side of the ditch Stonechat could be heard calling. There was a family group of young birds accompanied by a quite smart adult male.
He would be continually calling moving back and forth along the bank using the higher plants to perch on.
The spotted Orchids were much more developed now with some lovely spikes all alongside each other.
Ian then found a dead Mole on the path. I am not usually into photographing dead animals but in this case it was chance to look at an animal that is rarely seen, and what was really fascinating was the size of its front claws in comparison to the rest of the body. The claws and the powerful front legs as being instrumental in digging the many tunnels in which this secretive animal lives.
What was difficult to understand was what had killed the mole, there was no sign of any harm other than some blood around the mouth.
As well as the butterflies there were many day flying moths, mostly white and creamy as they were disturbed from the grass, but there were also these back moths which have a small tip of white on the front of the fore wings. These are called Chimney Sweeps.
We had now reached a line of Hawthorn bushes and scrub, and could hear Lesser Whitethroat singing. We made our way closer and realised that there were in fact two singing.
This male though came out singing, and like the Garden Warbler for a normally secretive bird gave some excellent views.
Back in late May when I was here with Helen we looked for the Bee Orchids. It was then probably a little bit early. Today we found two, but all but one flower had gone past its best.
The markings of the flower were a lot different from those we had seen on the orchids in Dorset a couple of weeks ago.
Around the orchids we also found a Silver Y moth. The blurred wing is where the moth vibrates its wings to warm up.
The grass land was now quite open, with lots of flowers, the yellow buttercups and a few ox-eye daisies. The Stonechats using the small hawthorn bushes to call from.
We then found another Dark Green Fritillary, and this one was much more accommodating.
The wings look a little worn indicating that this one has been about for awhile. As it nectared on the pyramid orchid it turned around showing the green underwing that gives the butterfly its name.
It also allowed for some interesting angles of view just like the Marbled White.
As we came away from the fritillary we disturbed a very worn Small Blue from the grass.
We had been listening for Corn Bunting, but up to now hadn't heard any, just Yellowhammers, in amongst the grass and bushes. But now we could hear one singing across the grass at the top of a Hawthorn bush.
We set off through the grass, stopping to take pictures. As we got closer we disturbed it and then we pursued it through the scrub, managing to get quite close, and able to watch it singing, throwing the head back to deliver the jangling song.
We made our way back along the ditch, and after some directions we managed to find some Burnt Tip Orchids, two were completely past their best, these two just about to go.
In the same location a Whitethroat family were busy in the trees, calls and a male singing in the trees.
With dark clouds building away to the west we decided to cut across the middle of the reserve to the car park, stopping only for another Dark Green Fritillary, out fifth of the day.
We decided to head to Shatterford, the target being Silver-studded Blue, that by now should be flying amongst the Bell Heather. The journey skirted some really dark clouds and what was a very nasty storm. When we arrived it was raining, and we had to wait and shelter before setting off through the bog. Once the rain had passed we headed down the main path, a Tree Pipit flew into one of the scrubby bushes in amongst the heather.
It didn't take too long to find the blues, all most immediately, as we reached a patch of flowering heather, there were three flitting about amongst the heather, and then settling on the sprigs of heather.
Then as the sun decided to come out, opening up its wings to show the dark outline and veins of the wings contrasting with the blue and white on either side.
Then seen perched on the Bell Heather flowers.
We headed into Denny Wood with only Robins to see and hear. The wood though became very important when the rain returned, this time with thunder and lightning and some very heavy rain.
The Swallows though took the chance for a wash and brush up. perching in the trees and preening and shaking themselves as the rain fell. It reminded me of the Tree Swiftlets we had watched in a similar down pour in Borneo.
When the rain finally moved through we walked on, through wetter conditions than we had encountered when we were here in the winter. A Little Egret was taking advantage of the flooded bogs.
From the bracken a bird flew up and settled in a tree to preen, it was a Woodlark, and one of three that we came across, probably a family party.
There was no sign of any dragonflies, and as a result no sign of any Hobbys. Out over the boggy heath Swallows and House Martins hawked, and they were then joined buy hundreds of Swifts, still no Hobby. The only falcons we did see were a male Kestrel perched at the top of a tree, and a very distant Peregrine that headed out over the top of Denny Wood.
With dark clouds all around us we decided to call it a day, it had though been quite a successful day with some excellent views of Turtle Doves and three butterfly ticks for the year.