Thursday, 6 September 2012

Dragons on Path to Holywell

3rd Sept.  Today saw Sam and me down at St Mary’s Island at the start of the trek up to Holywell.  The tide was way out and there were lots of folk on the rocky shore on what was a warm and bright day.  We managed to ignore most folk as we spent the first part of the day practicing with ND and ND Grad filters.  Such was the concentration we didn’t really notice the folk, and anyone in the vicinity may have seen steam coming from my head!  We did manage to take in the hundreds of Golden Plover on the rocks, Oystercatchers, Curlew, a single Fulmer, Cormorants and Eider Ducks.  Anyhow, the filters are very effective and more practice is lined up.  Two small nature detectives approached us to show what they had collected in the rock pools.  Time passed by very quickly and after a walk across to the island we headed off towards Seaton Sluice where we had lunch.

A Common Sandpiper greeted us near the burn at Seaton Sluice, before eventually flying under the road bridge towards the sea.  Redshanks were as usual around this area.  Apart from a Kestrel, Great and Long Tailed Tits there wasn’t too much in the area as we walked towards the dene.  We did eventually come across numbers of dragonflies.  Most of them appeared to be Common Darters, the odd pair flying in tandem whilst other patrolled looking for mates.  We also had a good sighting of Southern Hawker (two I believe) and at the dipping pond we found Common Hawker.  The odd Common Blue Damselfly was also in flight.  The dragonflies were constantly on the move and proved difficult to approach for photos.  Eventually we did find a very obliging Common Darter which kept returning to the cameras.  Having spent a good deal of time here, it proved to be my best odonata watching so far this year.  I can’t help feel that they were watching us as much as we were watching them, especially the Southern Hawker which seemed to keep sussing us out.  Whilst watching, we listened to a Chiffchaff in song.

Male Common Darter (such was the wasted abdomen I began to wonder if this was a Ruddy Darter, but I soon saw the yellow legs to confirm the former)

Female Common Darter

Common Darter (by now we had found some quite settled darters and I was pleased with this image. 

We’d previously found Wall Brown Butterflies in courtship ritual and other butterflies seen today included White species, Peacock, Red Admiral and my first Comma of the year, around the same area that I have found them in previous years.  I was expecting to see Speckled Wood Butterflies, but didn’t.  I did however have one in the garden today, so that made up for it.  I believe that is the first time I have seen this species in the garden.  I believe I may have had a Holly Blue Butterfly back in the garden earlier in the week examining the Holly Tree, but I didn’t see it well enough to confirm for definite, although by its behaviour I’m quite sure that is what it was.  I also had a Sparrowhawk directly above me that day.

Further up the burn we found both Grey Wagtail and Dipper.  The Dipper is now over its period of elusiveness whilst it has been moulting.  There was quite a bit of calling coming from the usual nesting site.  We chatted to a couple of guys about some of the birds in the dene including the Kingfisher.  I believe they have seen it as rarely as I have over the years.  Sam and I decided that we required better lighting for photographs, although we both managed a decent photo of the Comma Butterfly.

Comma Butterfly
Once out of the dene and approaching the pond we had a sighting of a Short Eared Owl being harrased by a Carrion Crow and sightings of at least two Kestrels which could be heard as they flew off into the distance.  Sam had two good sightings of a Stoat, which somehow I managed to miss on both occasions!  Although it had appeared to double back on its trail, it didn’t appear a third time so a photo opportunity was missed.

The pond itself was seen in the good light which is often the case in this area of an evening.  The water is still high and I’ve given up hope of a repeat of last year’s good list of waders ever appearing.  Lapwings had been seen flying overhead.  The Black-necked Grebe remains.  I’m not sure why someone is claiming it to be a Pied Billed Grebe.  Perhaps a joke!  Little Grebes were numerous and Mute Swan, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Teal were about as were two or three Grey Herons.  The thing that caught the eye was a large moth near the window of the public hide.  I know little to nothing about moths.  Sam checked it out and thought it was nearest to a Lime Hawk Moth.  It seems to be the wrong time of year for them to be in flight however.  I’m sure someone can confirm one way or another.

In simple terms 'A Big Moth'.  Definite ID appreciated.
Thanks guys......Angle Shades it is
Chasing the dragons is becoming a habit.  It was I’m sure the worst time of day to be trying to photograph them.  It’s a while since I completed my favourite local walk so the day had been a good one which had thrown up a lot of interest.  Interesting things come to those who watch and wait.


  1. Some very nice close-ups of the Common Darter!

  2. Hi Brian,
    The moth might be an Angle Shades.
    There is a website called i spot check it out for id of lots of subjects !!

  3. Thanks guys.
    I've had a quick look at Angle Shades John and that could well be it, although the Lime Hawk Moth that Sam identified seems very similar too. The Angle Shades does rest on fences and similar during the day so fits the bill. I hope I can get a definitive id.:-) Cheers.