Monday, 20 July 2015

Catcott Heath - Somerset Levels 19/7/15 Butterflies and Dragonflies

A late morning visit to Catcott Heath reserve.  The cloud had disappeared to reveal blue skies and sun.  We often visit this reserve in the winter months for birds but wanted to return in the summer to see what flowers and other life we would find. In total we saw 14 species of butterflies and at least 5 types of Dragonfly.
The track leading to the reserve is sheltered by brambles etc and this in turn attracted hundreds of Meadow Browns and several Gatekeepers. The reserve itself is brimming with both insects and wild flowers and grasses at the moment and is simply stunning to explore.  In one area of the wood at the end of the boardwalk is a sheltered glade full of bramble flowers. This area was just dancing with butterflies and a couple of Silverwashed Fritillaries whizzed through and only settled for seconds! Surprised as well to see a single Brimstone.  Hawkers and Darters were also present and it was amazing to see a Hawker take a Meadow Brown mid air!  Butterflies seen today were Brimstone, Comma, Small White, Large White, Green Veined White, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Tortoishell, Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Ringlet, Silver Washed Fritillary and Speckled Wood.
Lots of dragonflies and there were probably more than the 5 types we saw. Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Banded Demoiselle, Black tailed Skimmer and Southern Hawker.
Only a few birds were seen Little Egret, Heron, Cormorant, Buzzard and Little Grebe however it was for the insects and flora why we came and Catcott Heath did not disappoint!

   Yellow Loosestrife 

                   Common Darter 

    Southern Hawker

                   Green Veined White

   Silver Washed Fritillary - would only settle for seconds! 

                  Small Skipper

   Black tailed Skimmer

                   Brown Hawker - great colours and beautiful 'bronze' wings

    Banded Demoiselle - so graceful 

                   Southern Hawker - superb butterfly catcher!

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Priddy to Draycott Mendip hike & 16 butterfly species 18/7/15

Our hike took us from Priddy following part of the West Mendip Way to Draycott Sleights and back to Priddy a total of 10 tough stunning miles. The walk took us through a mixture of field, meadows and high rocky limestone areas each with its own rich variety of flora. Plenty of Scabious, Thyme, Kidney Vetch, Grasses, Knapweed, Thistles, Clarey and a few Harebells here and there. All great for the butterflies!  The butterflies seen were Comma, Small White, Large White, Marbled White, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, S.Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Skipper, Chalk Hill Blue, Dark Green Fritillary, Ringlet, Speckled Wood and Small Heath. A record Day for us. Birds of note were Buzzard, Raven, Kestrel and Skylark.
A beautiful walk with amazing views packed with flora and fauna.

   Meadow Brown

                  Skylark, one of many seen in the meadows. Wonderful to hear their song as well

    Coffee time looking across to Draycott Sleights, Cheddar, Brean and beyond!

                    Small Skipper

                   Chalk Hill Blue on wild Thyme

  Chalk Hill Blue - a real stunner

                   Chalk Hill Blue 

    Scabious, great for insects

                   Small Skippers and guest!

   Stunning views 

                   Kestrel at Draycott

   Marbled White

                    Painted Lady - great to see a few of these butterflies 

    Dark Green Fritillary. Only saw one near the end of our walk

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Ronda Andalucia - Eagles, Orioles & Bee-eaters. local trails and wildlife 10/6/15

A day around the local tracks and trails of Ronda today our target species Bee-eater, Hoopoe and Golden Oriole. Peter our brilliant guide over the last 3 trips knows the area inside out and has discovered some wonderful remote areas on all our trips.  The area around Ronda is just stunning and we will never tire of the mountains, golden fields of wheat and the many Olive groves, simply breathtaking and almost 'spiritual'!
Our first stop was to observe a Short Toed Eagle perched on a rock. This is the closest I have ever seen this eagle and it was great to spend some time just watching it, a great start to our day. Wild flowers were in abundance along the road and track side giving a great pallete of colours to the scene as we drove along. Griffon Vultures were seen almost everywhere soaring in the sky.
Along one roadside and we were lucky to see some Bee-eaters coming and going back to their nest holes. In quite a few places along our journey we had some great views of Bee-eaters a favourite with us all. Hoopoes were seen flying from grove to grove but never settled for that photo! Nightingales and various Warblers were heard all along the river track we were following - beautiful! 
After a stop for lunch we journeyed on to Cueva del Gato an area with a huge cave full of Alpine Swifts. The river flows by so there is an area of Poplar trees and varied plants. It was in the Poplars that we saw our first ever Golden Orioles - wow what a stunner! 
Our tracks and trails led us on through the fantastic scenery and another stop by the river we had a great view of a Little Ringed Plover and a Terrapin. Further on we stopped to top up our water bottles from a natural spring and here we saw 3 new Dragonfly species.
Just as we were returning to our villa, we saw on top of a wire a Southern Grey Shrike. A great final bird to another wonderful day.

   Short Toed Eagle 

                   Short Toed Eagle - so majestic and great to watch for some time before it took to the skies

    Wild Delphinium species

                   Typical Bee-eater pose

   One of many Bee-eaters seen by the river side

                   View from the 'ridge' towards Zahara - mountains and sun bleached fields

   Hairstreak species - plenty of butterflies around the ridge area.

                   Golden Oriole - star of the show!

   Golden Oriole - female. These birds are incredibly hard to see in the trees

                    Little Ringed Plover

    Demoiselle - unknown species

    Dragonfly - unknown

                   Chaser? Unknown

   Southern Grey Shrike

Barbate area Andalucia - Bald Ibis, Stilts, Egrets etc 8/6/15

An early start as we left the mountains for quite a long drive down to the Barbate region on the coast however we stopped along the way for coffee and a bite to eat in a local bar. The scenery and towns along the way provided great interest with plants and various landscape as well as looking out for wildlife.
We arrived at Vejer de Frontera, parked up and walked a few yards to the roadside where we found the small but growing colony of Bald Ibis. Wow what a success story of such an endangered bird.  In the car park itself was a huge 'rookery' of Cattle Egrets in various stages of nesting. Great breading colours on these Egrets!
From Vejer we journeyed on to Barbate hugging the coast and getting a glimpse of the African coast along the way. We drove onto a salt marsh area where we got some great views of Black Winged Stilts, Spoonbill, Collared Pratincole, Little Terns, Crested and Short Toed Larks, Tawny Pipits, Kentish Plover and a Great Egret.
After stopping for an excellent lunch we ventured on to a rice growing area. Here we found another 'rookery' of Cattle Egrets and Glossy Ibis plus a single Night Heron. The 'rookery' was buzzing with life, it was amazing to see a Glossy Ibis on the nest. We also had some great views of White Storks, Godwits and more Glossy Ibis and Black Winged Stilts in the rice pan area.
We the journeyed across a field and hill area with woodlands here and there. This area gave us some great views of Turtle Doves, Booted Eagle and a family of Red Legged Partidge. In summary another awesome day!

   Bald Ibis - feel so humble to have seen this incredibly rare bird

                  Another one for the colony 

    Beautiful bird! 

                   Cattle Egret in fine breeding colours

   Cattle Egret

               Guarding the nest

   First flight young Cattle Egret

                    Ahhhh! - one of the hundreds of young

   Young Collared Pratincole 

                   Tawny Pipit

   Crested Lark

                   Little Tern

  Black Winged Stilt - how do they balance on those legs?

                  Collared Pratincole - such striking birds

   Juvenile Pratincole 

                  Kentish Plover

   Guarding the young

                 White Storks - love seeing these

   Glossy Ibis on the nest. Love the blue trim to the bill!

                Glossy Ibis

    Booted Eagle

                 Turtle Dove - we saw good numbers on our trip

   White Storks - Juveniles!!!