Thursday, 29 August 2013

A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity missed!!

This incredible photo of a 10 - 12 ft thresher shark was taken from the Celtic Wildcat off the Pembrokeshire coast on Monday and has today appeared in several national newspapers. I was there on this small boat and I missed it. And for a shark enthusiast like me, oh, it hurts, more than any dip. This photo will haunt me forever, it will also be perhaps the best wildlife sighting I almost had. But I'm delighted for the Sea Trust to whom it has brought much-needed funds and publicity.

On the same trip we had a huge superpod of maybe 500 - 1,000 common dolphins, spread over a huge area, and many had young calves which they brought right up to the boat.

I did my usual stop in the Forest of Dean each way and had a few interesting sightings including lesser horseshoes at their usual roost and the unexpected sight of 15 spotted flycatchers in a flock that also comprised a tree pipit, nuthatch and family of willow warblers, a somewhat bizarre ensemble of birds!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Completing the set!

In 2007 I saw the last British butterfly which had hitherto eluded me - Chequered skipper. As I didn't carry a camera during most of my early butterfly trips I thought it would be worth completing the set again - with photos. And with this clouded yellow photographed recently at Kings Langley, that's all the British species, job done! What a great year it's been for butterflies. Fantastic!

It's been an excellent clouded yellow year this year and there was a recent report of 140 in a single field in Sussex! I looked for them on Therfield Heath 2 days running this week and saw just one. It was too quick for the camera and I failed to relocate it so I turned my attentions to the red kites and the many chalkhill blues present - a couple of minor aberrations noted including this worn female with white internal spots on the hindwing.

I also visited Wimpole a few evenings ago and got some practice in with the detector. One barbastelle noted and one noctule, despite the occasional light rain.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

More Celtic Adventures!

Well as usual I’ve not had time to update the blog. That is to say things have been happening faster than I can blog about it. That’s a good thing, it means I’ve been covering miles and seeing stuff rather than sat at a laptop! At such times it’s usually better to let the photos do the talking but boy, there are a lot of photos, so here is a quick summary of what I’ve been up to.

27 July – 5 August – Rat Island & The Scottish Safari

Along with 5 others of my ‘ilk’ I went chasing round Scotland (including the Hebrides) after some unusual mammals. The main target was black rat, with the last substantive colony on the Shiants, uninhabited islands in the Minch, but we fitted in plenty of other targets. Scottish wildcat was a great one to finally get, and beaver was new for me too. That’s something that could be quoted out of context, I mean of course the animal that fells trees and dams rivers!! Actually that’s quite an achievement, how many animals have the ability to do that? A true architect is the beaver!

Beaver, Tayside, Scotland

Other highlights included pine marten, 3 cetacean species (the group managed 7!!!) including a fantastic pod of Risso’s dolphins just off the Butt of Lewis and we had some cracking views of sea eagle and especially golden eagle.

Black rat, Shiants

Risso's dolphin, Butt of Lewis, Hebrides
Razorbill, Shiants

Puffin, Shiants

White-tailed eagle, Shiants
Golden eagle, Hebrides
juv wren, race hebridensis, Shiants

red grouse

Great skua, Shiants

As a group we managed an astounding 34 species but our own individual lists were very different. Of this I only saw 21 species (what was I doing??!!) so when I returned home I extended my own trip list by going straight out to Fowlmere for the evening. The result, 4 more species and a wonderful experience at a badger sett! Anyway it was quite a hardcore trip and the 3 vehicles used notched up over 2,000 miles each. Oops, that’s quite a carbon footprint.

Just days after returning from Scotland I headed for Wales to board the Celtic Wildcat on a cetacean survey day. Alas for the 2nd time in a week the weather forced cancellation of a boat trip (the other being to St Kilda). It would have been a completely wasted trip had it not been for the glimpses of wild boar in the Forest of Dean caught in my car headlights and the delightful spectacle of a lesser horseshoe roost.

For those who couldn't afford to get to Fair Isle for the net-happy Swinhoe's petrel, one of the features of August 2013 was the influx of long-tailed blue butterflies, specifically the apparent brood which frequented a clifftop at Kingsdown near Dover (where up to 7 adults were reported by a single observer). With France in plain sight it seems perfectly feasible these are the progeny of a genuine migrant from the near continent rather than a bonus purchase of someone’s mange tout from the local supermarket (as happened recently in Cardiff!). I mean even my phone went French for a bit we were so close. I found a female Long-tailed blue when I visited Kingsdown on 14th, flitting about the Everlasting pea plants growing in pink profusion on the cliff top. An examination of the plants afterwards yielded eggs on about half of them. That’s about 10 eggs in a 20 minute search – not bad at all! We headed home satisfied, stopping off to see the Bonaparte’s gull (again!) at Oare Marshes. Shortly afterwards I sent my photos to a guy in Sussex who had also found LTB eggs in his neighbourhood and was considering pupating the larva. Exciting times indeed for this little continental insect, though the good times may be short-lived as I hear they find it hard lasting out the winter. Then again, surely it gets colder on the continent? Something to look into, perhaps.