Summer is here

I’ve not posted in a little while. A mixture of being very busy, very relaxed (on holiday) and more recently very hot. Working in thirty degree heat over the last couple of days has been somewhat taxing.

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It is starting to happen though. Invertebrate life is springing into action all over our reserves and as things quieten down with the bird life, we stop looking up and start staring intently into the long grass.  That isn’t to say that there aren’t any decent birds around.

Farlington Marshes nature reserve has had the usual, a mob of black-tailed godwits chattering away by the building or on the deeps. They were joined the other week by a stunning male ruff, in full breeding plumage. this chap has been frequenting various sites around the Solent for a few weeks now. There have also been a lot of bearded tits showing off in the reed bed.

The meadow browns have emerged en mass across most of our sites. Swanwick and Hookheath in particular. We have also seen silver washed fritillaries, white admirals and marbled whites, with at least one purple emperor reported as well.

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Swanwick Lakes nature reserve has also had its fair share of dragons. A walk through on Friday afternoon saw Emperor, black-tailed skimmer, red-eyed damselfly, golden-ringed, common blue, blue-tailed and small red damselfly. There have also been downy emeralds seen regularly, but not by me, despite a lot of trying.

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The orchids this year have been exceptional. North-east meadow at Swanwick Lakes nature reserve has had the most ever, as has Hookheath. Farlington has had a very good year, with common spotted and southern marsh orchids filling the top of the hay field and pyramidal orchids scattered along the path.

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All in all its been a good, yet warm, couple of weeks – and over the next couple, we should see a bigger emergence of species like marbled whites, gatekeepers and a few more silver washed.

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Too Hot Even for Butterflies

Another very hot day,  Rob and the Farlington volunteers were working over at Southmoor removing ragwort and spear thistle, I had intended to be with them but got called away to try to find the cattle at Swanwick which had been reported missing. in fact they were there, just being lethargic and hiding in the best shade they could find, as I said in yesterday’s post counting, or indeed even finding, cattle can be harder than you might imagine!

I did make it over to Southmoor for a couple of hours and progress son removing the ragwort was very good and the main field is now more or less free of it. The change in this field since the Wildlife Trust took on the management is extraordinary, it started as a long grass field with a dense thatch of dead grass and huge areas of dense creeping thistle and stands of ragwort. It now looks like a grazed permanent grassland, still with  along way to go, but on the way to being a real asset as a bit of shore side grassland habitat. The grass was alive with butterflies again, in fact it got so hot that many of them left the grass to rest in the shade of the hedges, I found this marbled white doing just that on the path along the northern side of the reserve.

marbled white

marbled white

I had to go over to Farlington to check on the cattle and do the butterfly transects. It was very pleasing to find 4 small tortoiseshell on the transects, they have been almost rare for several years, a remarkable change from their status as one of the most familiar of all butterflies in my youth. I also saw a good few small skipper and my first Essex skipper of the year. The biggest change over the last week has been the large-scale emergence of gatekeeper, in fact I probably missed quiet a lot of them as many were hiding from the heat on the shady side of bushes, one traveller’s joy covered bush had at least eight perched on it, all with wings closed.

gatekeeper on traveller's joy

gatekeeper on traveller’s joy

On the north-east wall I found a stem of cuckoo pint full of berries, they will turn red as they ripen.

cuckoo pint berries

cuckoo pint berries

I am pleased to say I also found all the cattle, although those on Main Marsh did need the use of the telescope.

I will end with a few pictures from Hookheath yesterday that I was unable to post. This pair of small skipper had been on  along chasing flight before landing and sitting still as though trying to decide if their relationship was going anywhere.

small skipper pair

small skipper pair

The answer, by the way, seemed to be nowhere as the female flew off strongly leaving the male alone. As well as the butterflies  here were a good few six-spot burnet moth on the wing.

six-spot burnet

six-spot burnet

One of the reasons it is such a good place for insects in the large amount of flowers everywhere. There are large stands of hogweed, knapweed, bird’s foot trefoil and lots of others including some spikes of betony.

betony

betony