Monday, 3 July 2017

Saturday and Sunday 1st and 2nd July

Turtle Doves (c) Derek Latham
After some overnight rain both days were sunny and warm but not as hot as they had been in the last few weeks. It has been perfect growing weather for plants and for the myriad of insects that feed on them.

Knapweed (c) Bark              Flowering Rush (c) Stoneshank
There is a busyness about the smaller birds as they forage in mixed flocks in the hedges, ditches and rank vegetation. Other individuals can be seen gathering insects and then flying back with beaks full of food to satisfy hungry broods. The Turtle Doves are commuting between regular song posts along the bridleway and another way over in a dead oak in Long Meadow. They are often being seen feeding on the fine seed put down for them by the cattle corral.
Turtle and interloper Collared Dove (c) Derek Latham
Two Collared Doves have found this food supply as have a family of Mallards and they are all taking advantage of it.
The Marsh Harriers are still hunting over the whole moor and it’s no wonder, as I have heard today (Monday) that the first of the Marsh Harrier chicks has made a short flight above the place we think one of the nests is located. In less than half an hour three separate food drops were seen above this presumed nest which suggests there is more than one chick.
Still grinding out his song (c) Bark

Out in the grasslands there may be up to five Common Cranes. “Our” regular pair have been joined by another pair as well as the lone juvenile that has been seen intermittently over the last few weeks. On Monday (today) four birds were seen together and apparently comfortable in each other’s company and with the proximity of one pair to the other.
Bitterns are still being seen making what we assume are feeding flights most of these feature the northern Reedbed although birds have been seen landing in the isolated reed clumps on Greenaways. One bird coming from there flew over my head on Saturday morning on route to the reedbed. It was making a strange grunting call in time with its wingbeats.
Common Tern (c) Bark

At the second screen, there is lots of action on the tern raft. We manged to count nine chicks of very different sizes tottering about on it and feel strongly that there will certainly be more than this. The parent birds are bringing in lots of small fish for them, some of the fish are even longer than the chicks themselves and take a great deal of swallowing. We watched one of the larger ones take a good five minutes of gulping and gagging to get a fish down. It is no wonder that they are thriving so well given their abundant food supply.
Grebe pair with one chick. (c) Bark

There is a pair of Great Crested Grebes on the northern lagoon. They only appear to have managed to hatch one stripy chick, it is riding around on the back of one or either parent.

There are very large numbers of butterflies along the tracks and up in July’s Meadow. It is possible to get a sense of how rich the country side must have been before pesticides and intensive farming cleared away the weedy margins. Mostly Meadow Browns and Ringlets they have been joined by an emergence of fresh Gatekeepers, one of the prettiest and underrated of the commoner butterflies.
Fresh Gatekeeper (c) Bark
Walking between the first screen and the bridleway we spotted a Silver-washed Fritillary nectaring on bramble flowers. We decided to walk up along the southern side of Ashgrave and when we reached a bramble that was in flower and importantly in the sunshine, we saw over twelve of these beautifully marked, super bright creatures feeding and flirting with each other over the flowers. Who says that there is nothing to see in July?


Silver-washed Fritillaries (c) Bark

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