A dragonfly tick in Essex and other goodies in Kent, 16 July 2017

A now traditional Sunday out with Jus and Andy. This week we headed 'darn sarf' to Essex and then over the other side of the Thames Estuary to North Kent.

As a rare dragonfly was our first target we didn't need too early a start so didn't leave mine until about 09.00. We made our way down the A12 and onto Canvey Island to a ditch we had been given directions to. and within minutes we'd scored with several mega Southern Migrants Hawkers. My first dragonfly tick for many a long year! We went on to see c12 of these beauties within just the first 200 yards of the ditch and one that perched up allowing very close approach. Only 1 female was seem though. Also along the same stretch were loads of Scarce Emerald Damselflies, several Ruddy Darters plus c5 Marbled Whites, Essex Skipper, Wall Brown, Small Heath and a profusion of Common Blues.



 Southern Migrant Hawker


Scarce Emerald Damselflies


Marbled Whites

Small Heath

 Essex Skipper (in Essex!)

Next stop was a trip over the Dartford crossing to North Kent and Oare Marshes. I'd not been to this site before but it was lovely. The summering Bonaparte's Gull was present on arrival on the foreshore but quickly flew onto East Lagoon where it showed very nicely indeed. By far the best one I've ever seen in full summer plumage. The lagoon was full of waders too - 2 Spotted Redshanks, c10 Dunlin, 100's of Black-tailed Godwits, 1 Golden Plover and a scattering of Ruff. Add to that a Yellow Wagtail, Peregrine, Garganey, a singing Turtle Dove, a very pale Common Buzzard, Brown Hawker and Black-tailed Skimmer and it made for a very pleasant couple of hours.


Bonaparte's Gull

Last port of call was Cliffe Marshes where after a long hot walk we reached 'the 2nd viewing mound' past the black barn and got some very distant views of the Marsh Sandpiper plus the family of 7 Black-winged Stilts (3 adults and 4 three-quarters grown but flying young), 2 Water Rails, loads of Black-tailed Godwits, Ringed Plover and a Mediterranean Gull. Far nicer in my opinion was a bee tick in the form of the rare and localised Shrill Carder Bee at our feet! Along the track we also had a Grayling, my first of the year.

                Shrill Carder Bee

Minsmere day, 9 July 2017

It's not often we spend the whole day at one site but with nothing much else to get the juices flowing at the moment Jus, Andy and I headed to Minsmere for an extended mooch.

The primary aim was to see the long-staying Purple Heron which has been frequenting the reedbed and ditches in front of Bittern Hide. In the morning we spent a couple of hours in the hide and eventually the bird flew up but unfortunately for those of us in the right hand side of the hide it decided to fly left and miles away! The views were OK but we wanted much better. The supporting cast was pretty good however with a Hobby, a number of Bittern sightings including one feeding in the near pool, Marsh Harriers and Bearded Tits.


Bitterns


Deciding to return for another crack at the heron later in thee day we headed to the North Wall next where we were delayed by a lady reserve volunteer who showed us a few superb digger wasp sp by the path. We had Bee-wolf, Weevil-wolf, Ornate-tailed Wasp, Green-eyed Wasp and Ruby-tailed Wasp. This included Bee-wolfs and Weevil-wolfs carrying their prey items of Honey Bee and Weevil which was awesome! Jus produced his pheremone lure along the North Wall and with the conditions not really good enough it looked like we were going to dip until a Six-belted Clearwing suddenly appeared from nowhere and posed nicely.

Six-belted Clearwing

Bee-wolf

Weevil-wolf

 Ruby-tailed Wasp

A lovely Yellow-legged Clearwing then obliged to another lure close to Canopy Hide but was too quick for my camera. My clearwing list had gone from zero to 2 in a couple of hours!

After the obligatory visit to the cafe we set out on a wander along the south side of the scrapes and scored with 8+ Spotted Redshanks, several Ruff, c80 Mediterranean Gulls (including several young), 5 Little Gulls (4 ad sum and 1 1st sum), Sandwich Terns, Common Terns and loads of Barnacle Geese with young.


 Mediterranean Gulls

We opted to spend the time until 17.00 (if we needed to) back in Bittern Hide where this time the Purple Heron gave us some great flight views after a wait of about an hour. Loads more Bittern action and another different Hobby plus White Admiral back by the centre rounded things off very nicely.




 Purple Heron

      

Bee-eaters and Butterflies, East Midlands, 2 July 2017

I'd never been to see any of the previous breeding Bee-eaters that have turned up in recent years (mainly due to them being too far away) so with a small group close to the Notts/Leics border it was a bit of a no-brainer for our Sunday jaunt this weekend.
The whole 'event' at East Leake GPs was very well managed by the RSPB and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours there eventually seeing 5 individuals but most of the time it was 2 or 3 on view around a single tree between 2 gravel pits. There were plenty of Sand Martins breeding in the quarry too plus 3 Yellow Wagtail fly-overs, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard.




Bee-eaters

You know it's an important event when you get an AA sign!

Leaving the site we had planned to visit 'His Royal Highness' at Fermyn Woods in Northants next. Initially we went to the wrong entrance but at least that allowed us to take advantage of the cafe and the Red Kites circling low over the area. Re-locating we then walked into the wood along a ride and within a few minutes encountered a small group of people surrounding our 1st of several male Purple Emperors on the track! We went on to see 5 of these beauties including one flying round and then on the hubcap of a car back by the entrance! This ancient woodland is supurb for butterflies and we also saw numerous Silver-washed Fritillaries (including 1 valezina specimen), c15 White Admirals, 3+ Purple Hairstreaks plus the first Gatekeepers of the year, Red Admiral, Ringlets, Meadow Browns, Speckled Woods, Commas, Large Skipper, Small Skipper and Small White. Despite our best efforts though we couldn't find any White-letter Hairsreaks.





Purple Emperors


Purple Hairstreaks

Red Kite

Silver-washed Fritillary

Silver-washed Fritillary, valezina variant 


 
White Admirals

We ummed and arhed about our final location of the day but settled on Salcey Forest just to the SE of Northampton. Here we had direction of the best spot to check for the scarce and declining Wood White at it's closest site to home. The weather was very warm by now and along the track to the spot we located 5 individuals and eventually got 2 to settle long enough for some photos. Add Green-veined White, Large White and more Silver-washed Fritillaries and we were up to 17 butterfly species for the day. A calling Nuthatch was the only bird of note. 


Wood Whites  

Greater Tongue Orchid (Serapias lingua) new to the UK! 29 June 2017

A small colony of Greater Tongue Orchids (Serapias lingua), a Mediterranean species was very recently discovered in Essex and this morning I was lucky enough to be able to see them.
Having been initially found by J Pickering doing a survey, photos appeared briefly on the internet but were quickly taken down. The plot thickened! Cue a huge amount of detective work by 'Mr Orchid' Sean Cole culminating in two visits to Essex from his home in Worcestershire. Upon his 2nd visit armed with a little more detail from an eagle-eyed Mike Waller who had miraculously found them the day before and with myself, James Lowen, Dave Andrews and Will Soar we were able to locate them without too much trouble. Sadly they had mostly gone over but of the 80 flowering spikes 4 still had single reasonable flowers on top. As well as the 80 flowering spikes there were also 20-30 less well developed plants. As they spread vegetatively it suggests this small colony has been at this location for a few years.
We'll never truly know their true origin but the number, location and habitat could well point towards a natural occurence. Apparantly there are no known orchid growers within a large radius of the site so who knows!
In the same area 7 Bee Orchids were also seen.

Update - that evening Jon Dunn, orchid guru managed to successfully 'twitch' them from his home in Shetland (fair play!) and Jus also caught up with them. By the following morning they had all gone over leaving us all looking forward to June 2018!







Greater Tongue Orchids 
 
 Orchid nutcases! Photo copyright James Lowen.