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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Brown is the Colour

I was down at Farlington again this morning, to check the cattle, of which more later, and meet with Dave to discuss management over the next few months. I arrived early and had the best of the day as it was sunny initially and even fairly warm. Certainly warm enough for brown butterflies to be out, they are always keen to fly and their dark colouration means they warm up quickly in any sunshine that is going. In fact they often run the risk of getting too warm which is why they rather rarely bask with open wings like other species. However today was not that warm so they were trying to  catch all the rays that were available.

meadow brown female

meadow brown female

As well as meadow brown there were also lots of small heath about and a few small white. These were in the Bushes area, often a good place for small migrant birds at this time of year, but today it was fairly quiet. It was not only the butterflies that enjoy a little sunshine, I came across 2 magpie sat in a hawthorn, both were rather tatty birds in very active moult.

moth-eaten magpie

moth-eaten magpie

I also had to take some pictures of the old WW2 blockhouses for a possible small feature on the BBC “Coast” show, they want to see what there is to see and if it is worth coming here to do filming. I was also asked if I knew of anybody who had known them during their active period during the war, I do not, but do you? The east wall blockhouse is a very good vantage point for my cattle counts, as it is one of the few places that give a view of almost the whole Main Marsh.

Later in the morning I walked right around the reserve to look at up-coming tasks, although I will not be doing most of them as I am shortly to move on, I will be sorry to leave this fabulous place. It is not just the Marsh itself but the surrounding Harbour that give it such a special character. The whole is a remarkable survivor in the midst of increasing development and a truly amazing, world-class wildlife area, not half way across the world and seen only on television, but on the doorstep of tens of thousands in one of Europe’s most densely populated urban centres.

Langstone Harbour panorama

Langstone Harbour panorama

Having counted the cattle the grazier arrived and sorted a lot of them out and moved them into other fields as a preliminary step to moving some off site altogether, autumn is here and soon the cattle will be gone, replaced by brent geese.

On the walk round we saw a few birds on the Lake, including a juvenile curlew sandpiper and 11 pintail, along the Stream spotted redshank and little ringed plover, both also juveniles. There were few small migrants apart from at least 6 or so chiffchaff in the Point Field. I had a few whinchat and wheatear reported to me and out in the Harbour an osprey. As I arrived first thing, when the wind was less, 12 bearded tit were high-flying over the reeds near the Building, something they do as a precursor to heading off to look for new reedbeds.