Archive for the ‘Butterflies and Moths’ Category

My weekly wildlife walk takes me across the grounds of the estate where I live to the Tarn, a local park around a small lake. I am very fortunate to live on an estate with really nice grounds adjacent to a golf course and a park and so we see lots of wildlife.

After leaving the estate a short stretch of road leads to the entrance to the Tarn, descending from street level past the old ice well of Eltham House (now the clubhouse of the golf course).

I do this walk once a week and record all the wildlife I can see and hear. The results are then reported back to a number of different schemes set up to monitor the wildlife in the UK.

This week it is rather quiet. The Canada and Greylag Geese flocks are absent, they use a number of different sites in the area. There are good numbers of Mallard, Coot and Moorhens, so they have had good breeding seasons. The resident pair of Egyptian Geese still have 3 young but these are now indistinguishable from their parents. No dragonflies were seen, which is surprising as we usually have Common Darter present during August and only one butterfly, a single Speckled Wood was seen on the whole walk. It seems to have been a poor year for butterflies locally.

The weather forecast wasn’t promising but Keith and I decided to further explore the marsh at Tilbury Fort in Essex. We spent the morning in Gravesend and walked the usual route along the river and although the river was quite except for gulls, the gorge in the park produced 2 Garden Warblers, a Reed Warbler and a Grey Wagtail.

Making our way back along the promenade we caught the ferry over to Tilbury. On landing our attention was immediately drawn to a falcon chasing a group of Starlings. At first I thought it was a peregrine, but quickly realised it was too small and was actually a Hobby. I think a Starling would be too big for a hobby to catch (usual food is things like Dragonflies) so I can only think it was either practicing its flying or simply having some fun. It moved off quickly west following the river. On our last visit we followed the river walk but today we turned inland along the western edge of the marshes that surround the fort. Oystercatcher and Shelduck were on the river shore.

Little Egret, Kestrel, Lapwing, Grey Heron and a large number of gulls were on the marsh but sadly no other wading birds. A group of Common Swift passed over heading south. It was as we reached the far end of the path that the weather finally broke and we were forced to seek shelter from heavy rain. Once this had passed we made our way back to The World’s End, a pub on the river for some welcome refreshment.

Little Egret (Photo by Keith)

Returning to the ferry, Keith spotted a small brown butterfly in the vegetation, a Brown Argus, which is a species that I rarely see and so it was great to have a long look and to see all the identifying features. It was a good way to end the day.

Brown Argus (Photo by Keith)

It has been awhile since my last birdwatching trip, so it was with anticipation that I set off to meet Keith at Gravesend for a trip into unknown territory. We often walk the promenade at Gravesend, usually before RSPB meetings as it is a convenient place midway between our homes. On these walks we often look across the river and wonder about what is on the other side, around the town of Tilbury in Essex. So it was on this day that we decided to venture across the water and see what possible habitats we could find.

We took the ferry from Gravesend, leaving from Town pier.

and 10 minutes later were stepping ashore at Tilbury

Even as we left the terminal we could see the potential of this site for waterbirds and waders in the winter. Unlike the developed Gravesend riverfront, the Essex side, east of the terminal is just marshland (to the west is the cruise terminal and the container port!).

Inland from the river was a mosaic of grassland and pools which surround Tilbury Fort

Tilbury Fort was originally built by Henry VIII to protect London from ships coming up the river and eventually became one of a number of forts on both sides of the Thames. It has been updated in many conflicts and during times of tension since as can be seen by the current armaments, which date from WW2.

Moving on we passed more marshland until we reached the power station, where the path turns inland. We hardly saw anyone on our walk, although we did find our way blocked by a family of horses at one point.

There plenty of butterflies and it was nice to see some Marbled Whites, a species which seems to be spreading into London and is seen much more frequently than it used to be.

There was not a great variety of birdlife present, with Mediterranean Gull probably being the best sighting, but the site will be a lot more productive in the winter, when the water birds return to the river from their nesting grounds.

So with lunchtime drawing on, we made our back to the ferry and the crossing to Gravesend.

After lunch we did our normal walk along the promenade to Gravesend Fort and the local park.

The highlight of our walk was a Painted Lady butterfly, which we found in the park.

A good day out and some nice sightings but also we have identified another local area of potential, which we cant wait to return to in the winter months to see what is there “across the water”.

Sue and I trip down to see Keith on his home patch for a few hours birdwatching. Our first stop was the RSPB reserve at Northwood Hill in search of Nightingales and Cuckoos.

Both species are vocal when they first arrive in this country but soon fall silent, in the case of Nightingales, or depart after laying there eggs. so its important if you are going to locate them to do so early on. Both birds were in fine voice with at least 5 different Nightingales, and 2 cuckoos on the path down to the viewpoint. There were also a number of Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff.

Nightingale singing at Northwood Hill

Arriving at the viewpoint we had lunch looking over the marshes. Whilst having lunch we had a variety of birds singing from the surrounding vegetation including Nightingale, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap

After lunch we traced our way back to the car, serenaded again by Nightingales. The sun had come out and so had some early butterflies including Red Admiral, Peacock, Orange Tip and most surprisingly, a Painted Lady.

Blackcap (m). Photo by Keith

Our second stop was Keith’s local patch at Abbotts Court. A party of Swallows with one House Martin were over the lakes together with Blackcaps and another Cuckoo, which flew over our heads. A Reed Warbler was also heard.

In all we saw 40 species in a few hours and caught up with some of the recently arrived summer visitors.

a brilliant picture of a Tiger Swallowtail, just to remind us that summer is only a few months away

A Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly.

Butterfly #35 — talainsphotographyblog

I haven’t been able to visit the RSPB reserve at Minsmere since February so it was good to reconnect, even if only virtually and to hear how the expansion of the nuclear power plant at Sizewell is threatening to seriously affect this, the single reserve with the most diverse habitats in the UK.

It’s a very grey morning here in London, so here are some pictures of Butterflies from the Butterfly house to brighten up the day

On Monday Sue and I travelled down to Sevenoaks Nature Reserve to meet our friends Keith and Elaine for a, socially distanced, picnic lunch. It was the first time we had been able to meet up this year. After lunch Keith and I went for a walk around the reserve.

Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs provided most of the musical accompaniment as we searched each of the lakes that make up this reserve. Although the number of bird species present was low (not surprising at this time of year) we managed 6 species of Butterfly and 5 species of Dragonfly. it was a lovely summer afternoon and a lovely walk around the lakes.

Come with me to one of the best Nature Reserves in the country as we visited Oare Marshes last week. The best bird was a Little Gull, sadly to far away to photograph

We visited the centre last week. It was pretty quiet but it was a lovely walk.