Thursday, 23 July 2009

Birding Holywell!

Small Skipper
Red Admiral Butterfly

Speckled Wood Butterfly

Comma Butterfly

Green Veined White Butterfly

Meadow Brown Butterfly

23rd July. I had planned to meet up with my mate Cain (Holywell Birding) today, so I was looking forward to spending time on his patch and my favourite area. You may know that it was Cain’s infectious enthusiasm that really began my keen interest in this area. On the way to the members hide there was more than a hint that today was going to be good for butterflies as every step seemed to bring more Meadow Brown Butterflies as I also watched the Swifts, Swallows and House Martins. I was approached by a lady with a photograph of a large moth and asked if I could identify it. Unfortunately I couldn’t, but advised her to look on the internet. Good to see people taking an interest.

The feeding station was quiet with only Great Tit, Blue Tit and Greenfinch making an appearance. There was no sign of the recently sighted Crossbills. The pond as could be expected at this time of year was fairly quiet, but there was some entertainment from at least five Grey Herons. Also on the pond were Mute Swan, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Coot, Black Headed Gull and Herring Gull. Pheasant called and the Sedge Warblers were their noisy selves. A Common Tern sat near to the island. After some chat and catching up we walked to the public hide and found the water of the pond quite high. After all of the recent rain I was surprised to find the pathways so hard and dry. Many more butterflies began to appear including more Meadow Brown, Small White and numbers of Small Skipper. I thought I had found a Large Skipper to, but having looked at the photograph it was another Small. I’ve not seen any Large Skippers for a while and will have to re-check their flying period. Now, I think it was here we found a snout moth species. Identified I hasten to add by Cain. If I was able to help with the plants and butterflies today he certainly helped me with the moths as my knowledge of them is practically nil. We found Greylag and Canada Geese in the meadow area and Whitethroat and Reed Bunting from the pathway. We took a walk to the small flash north of the main pond but there was nothing of note here.

We then made for the dene. I’m pleased to say that Speckled Wood Butterfly was found here again, as on a recent previous visit, as well as Green Veined White Butterfly. As well as the butterflies previously mentioned we also found during the day, Small Tortoiseshell (5), Painted Lady (4), Red Admiral (3) and Comma (3). Most of these seemed in pristine condition. On the small pool a Common Red Darter Dragonfly was found and I was able to introduce Cain to plants with wonderful names such as Enchanters Nightshade Circaea lutetiana and Nipplewort Lapsana communis! The Lesser Burdock Arctium minus reminded us both of the pop Dandelion and Burdock. The Enchanters Nightshade is an easily overlooked, but a beautiful plant especially when seen through the eye glass. It is worthy of comment and I quote below a passage from Richard Mabey’s Flora Britannica.

The sixteenth century Flemish Botanist Matthias de L’Obel reported that the botanists of Montpellier identified Bittersweet as the charm that Homer’s witch Circe used to turn Ulysees’s crew into pigs, but the Parisian botanists (‘Lutetiani’) favoured this species (i.e. Enchanters Nightshade), which thus became Circaea lutetiana and in English Enchanters Nightshade.’

Cain continued to help me with the moths and we found another snout species and another named something like Comela, I seem to remember. Oh yes, and I was tempted to taste the leaves of Wood Sorrel Oxalis corniculata as Cain has good knowledge of edible plants. I was told they ought to taste like apple. I’ll take his word for that! With all the dogs around in the dene, I don’t think I’ll be eating too many leaves! The woods were very quiet as far as birds go. A small flock of Curlew flew overhead as we took a break for a drink and bite to eat, on what was now a hot day.

The return walk through farm and grassland was interesting and birds seen included Sparrowhawk, Skylark, Linnet and Yellowhammer with quite a lot of song from the latter. Oh yes, and I mustn't forget the three or four Grey Partridges that flew low over the crops which announced themselves with calls. It also looked like there was a Harris’s Hawk on the loose, rising in the distance. I’ve also learnt a couple of new routes to take. Bit of interest historically too as we looked across to Seaton Delaval Hall and attached buildings. I think we may have caught a snatch of Lesser Whitethroat song. Butterfly sightings also continued. We found Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull and Sand Martins at the pond.
It had been a great few hours really well spent. It is very rewarding to spend time with someone who knows their patch so well and who has the enthusiasm for wildlife that Cain clearly has. I’m confident that it won’t be long before Cain has much more knowledge to pass on to me and others! It has perhaps seemed a fairly quiet day bird-wise, but in fact we ended up with 47 species of bird on the list on what had been in any event a really good all-round nature day

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