Monday, 26 May 2014

Ham Wall & Shapwick & a bit of Crook Peak 25/5/14

 Ham Wall & Shapwick
A day of some cloud, sun and breezes on the Somerset Levels.  Arrived at 8 am to a full car park!
Paid a visit to Ham Wall first and we were greeted by the usual sounds of Cettis Warbler Goldfinches a Willow Warbler and Chiffchaffs singing away. Plenty of Swifts and Martins over the reed beds as well as some great views of Hobbies.  The Cuckoo was calling away in the background but unfortunately no sign of the Nightingale!
From the first platform we had a good view of a male Marsh Harrier but nothing much else around.  Walking down to the screens and new hide again there were plenty of Swifts screaming in the sky and the unmistakable song of Reed Warblers (sounds like hundreds of them) and a single Pochard and Coot on the Water.  The Mute Swans now have cygnets.
From the new hide it was great to see a Great Creasted Grebe with at least a couple of young hidden on its back - the young have such striking markings.  The Cuckoo was quite close and the Herons as always quite restless in the reeds.  We had a great view of a Bittern which unfortunately was a little too quick to duck into the reeds. Also had a fly past of a Great White Egret.
On to the Shapwick side and the scrape to our great surprise revealed a Black Winged Stilt the first one we have seen in the UK. Also on the scrape were the usual Godwits, Tufted Duck, Teal, Lapwing, Gadwall and a Little Egret.  Not a lot happening from Noah's hide but we did see a male  and female Marsh Harrier.  Once again from the Shapwick side a least two Cuckoos could be heard.
Crook Peak
On our way home seeing as the sun was shining a little more we spent half an hour on the lower slopes of Crook Peak.  Plenty of Common Blues and Brown Argus and a few Small Heath.  No sign of the Dingy Skipper but still a few Grizzled.  Great to see our first Large Skipper of the year.  We have since found out that this is the first for this year recorded for Somerset.  All in all a great day!

Great Crested Grebe plus one

Great Creasted Grebe plus 2 - just love the markings on the young

Black Winged Stilt - what a great surprise to see this graceful bird on the 'scrape'

Black Winged Stilt 

Common Blue - amazing artwork!

Large Skipper - stunning fresh colour and the first recorded for the year in Somerset!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Mendip Magic - Dragonflies to Butterflies 17/5/14

Our trek started at East Harptree woods and across the fields to West Harptree, Hinton Blewett, along the reservoirs near Litton and eventually back to our starting point a total of 9.5 miles.
Plenty of hills to climb with stunning views across to Chew Vally Lake as a reward.  Many fields a golden yellow of Buttercups and some open land full of Bluebells just simply beautiful.  The wild flowers everywhere are a delight to see from Stitchwort, Campion, Bugle, Ramsons, Vetch, Cow Parsley, etc the hedgerows are looking amazing.
A great sunny day for butterflies and those seen along the route were Peacock, Orange Tip, quite a few Brimstones, Speckled Wood, Large White, Green Veined White, Common Blue, Small Tortoiseshell and our first Small Copper of the year.
Saw our first Beautiful Demoiselle along a fast flowing stream and the lovely coloured Broad Bodied Chaser by a large pond. It was fascinating to watch the Chaser always return to its 'perch'!
On close inspection of the area around the pond the Spotted Orchids are in full leaf and have their flower stems forming.  There will be loads of these orchids appearing here soon.
Passing the 2 Small reservoirs we saw Great Crested Grebes, Little Grebe, Mallards, Tufted Duck, nesting Coots and a Moorhen. A Green Woodpecker was also seen along the way.
The stars of the day had to be the wildflowers, insects, bird song and stunning views.  We are going to have to return in a couple of weeks to see those orchids!

Bluebells - breathtaking with the sun on them

View across to Chew Valley Lake

Brimstone - a bit raggy and wind blown

Beautiful Demoiselle - great to watch in flight and brilliant colours

Face On - Beautiful Demoiselle

Small Copper - just the one seen today in an amazing Buttercup Meadow.

Buttercup Festival!

Tranquility by the reservoirs - nice lot of birds to be found here all seasons

Broad Bodied Chaser - great colours and two seen around the large pond

Broad Bodied Chaser - always came back to the same perch

Common Blue - female 

Across the fields - just love Springtime everything greening up!  What therapy!

Green Veined Whites - plenty on the wing today

Chew Valley Lake

Woodland - springing to life

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Mendip Butterflies etc 14/5/14

A bright sunny day is forecast so it's off to the Crook Peak area of the Mendips too look for butterflies.
Starting at the lower slopes it wasn't long before we saw our first Brown Argus in fact they could be seen everywhere and were the most numerous butterfly seen today.
The slopes are now covered in a variety of wild flowers and grasses from the bright yellow Rock Rose to large clumps of Scarlet Pimpernel etc.  The colourful array of plants and grasses in turn attracting a total of 11 species of butterfly seen today.
Great to see Small Heath and Common Blue on the wing and also plenty of Grizzled Skippers and a few Dingy Skippers.  Also seen were a few Brimstones, Speckled Wood and Large and Green Veined White. Walking up towards the peak sunning themselves on the rocks we spotted a few Wall Browns.  3 Pearl Boardered Fritillaries were seen in a gorse / grass area but they would only settle for no more than a second!
Not too many birds around apart from Stonechats, Whitethroat, Meadow Pipit, Linnets, Swallows, Green Woodpecker and a Buzzard and Kestrel.  
A great butterfly day though with stunning views as a bonus!

Brown Argus - a good number of these to be seen

Brown Argus - a friendly pair

Small Heath - first time view of this butterfly this year. Look quite orange in flight.

Wall Brown - catching the sun on a rock. Almost look like a fritillary in flight.  A good number of these seen towards the peak.

Meadow Pipit. The Mendips quite a stronghold for this pipit.

Stonechat - female.  The Mendips being a great area for seeing Stonechats.  It seems that a good number have come through the mild winter.

Grizzled Skipper - bigger numbers this year than last but it appears that there are fewer Dingy Skippers around.

Rock Rose - some areas of Wavering Down can be covered in this lovely flower.

Common Blue - what a beautiful blue looking quite large when seen with the Brown Argus.  

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Mendips Redstart, Bluebells and Butterflies 4/5/14

A mid morning walk around Charterhouse, Velvet Bottom, and Long Wood on a sunny blue sky day with high hopes of what we may see.
We had just left Charterhouse and spotted a lovely male Redstart singing away at the top of a tree.  Pleased to see that they are back on the Mendips.  The landscape of Velvet Bottom as always looks amazing greening up well now with thick patches of Bluebells in places and a few Early Purple Orchids here and there.  Early Purple Orchids are still plentyfull along the whole route and can be seen growing strongly in groups or occasionally a random one on its own.  Ravens and Buzzards can be seen and heard overhead and also Whitethroat and other smaller birds flitting to and from the scrub and Hawthorn. It is amazing how thick the flowers of the Hawthorn are this year. The Bluebells of Long Wood are stunning and the their scent intoxicating! A real carpet of blue that seems to go on forever - nature is so good for the soul! 
If you look carefully then you will also find the flowers of Yellow Archangel, Ramsons, Campion, a few Cowslips and Wood Anemones.
Orange Tips and Green Veined Whites were seen in many sunny open glades as well as the occasional Peacock.  
On our drive back home we stopped off at Crook Peak to look for butterflies.  In our half hour here we were able to see severel Grizzled Skippers and Brown Argus as well as more Whites and a couple of Brimstone.  This area is as well now coming alive with wild flowers the Rock Rose just coming out as well as carpets of Scarlet Pimpernel, Vetch etc.  Can't wait to return and look for more butterflies.

Redstart - singing from the very top of a tall tree! 

Early Purple Orchids - these were a good strong tall bunch with thick spotted leaves

Velvet Bottom - a great landscape to walk through.  

Orange Tip - quite a stronghold near Long Wood in the sunny glade.

Long Wood bluebells - a great year for bluebells everywhere.

Long Wood - ahhh - therapy!

Orchid amongst the blue 

Grizzled Skipper - a small butterfly with great markings

Grizzled Skipper - typical pose

Rock Rose - found all over the Crook Peak area.

Brown Argus - a great little gem

Brown Argus

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Uphill - local patch 21/4/14 Glossy Ibis to Orchids

A bright but cool start to our walk took us along the beach at Weston Super Mare towards the village of Uphill.  The tide was well out and we could only see a few Shelduck in the distance as well as Lesser Black Backed Gulls.
Our route took us around the golf course towards the boatyard. The scrub around the golf course we saw Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs as well as Goldfinches and Linnets.  Skylarks could be heard everywhere as well as the call of Reed Buntings. Our route then took us through the reserve and on to the sewage treatment works and the sluice gate. The Hedgerow along the route really greening up now.  Sedge Warblers were singing, Whitethroats, a few Swallows in the air but most surprising of all was a Glossy Ibis on one of the lagoons - wow!  On towards the sluice gate we saw a Wheatear, Kestrel, Canada Geese, and more Shelduck.  Along the return circuit along the bank 3 Whinchats one male and 2 female were seen flitting at the reed edge.
The hill is covered in Cowslips and Green Winged Orchids a stunning scene!  With the sun now warming up butterflies were busy finding nectar from bluebells etc. Peacock, Green Veined White and the lovely delicate Holly Blue.
All in all an awesome day at our local patch! 

Reed Bunting - plenty of these birds to be seen

Whitethroat - a great scratchy song.  Great to see these return to Uphill.

Chiffchaff - no mistaking this bird.  A powerfull song for a small bird.  Heard and seen all over Uphill.

Skylark - The Uphill area seems a stronghold for these beautiful songsters all year round.  Always makes usthink of summer when we hear them. 


Glossy Ibis - what a great surprise to see this on the lagoon.  We watched it for some time feeding and resting. 

Whinchat - female, another surprise of the day!

Green Winged Orchid - found in all areas of the hill along with Cowslips.  Both plants growing short and small but strong!!!

Green Winged Orchid

Looking towards Uphill church - Cowslips and Orchids

Holly Blue - such a delicate butterfly and a great contrast when it landed on a bluebell.  We have not seen one for a few years so it was great to see one on our local patch.

Uphill - looking back along our walking area.