Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Kiplingcotes and Goodmanham Wold

I headed for a morning walk at Kiplingcotes NR. The trip started with very brief sunny spells and cooler weather than yesterday. As I got in the reserve, there were plenty of rabbits grazing, most young of the year, and amongst them in the grassy plain there was a flock of Starlings with noisily begging young. Linnets, a Yellowhammer, a Pied Wagtail and a few Mistle Thrushes were also foraging on the grass.
Young rabbit on the look-out.
Mistle Thrush
Pied Wagtail
A male Linnet atop an ash.
The few sunny spells did stir a few insects into activity. I spotted these colourful hoverflies at the bottom of the chalk pit. 
Volucella bombylans, a bumblebee mimic.
and Xanthogramma citrofasciatum, a wasp mimic which was also a new species for me.
I moved onto the top of the reserve, were I found this day-flying moth
Burnet Companion moth, Euclidia glyphica, also a new one for me
Ot the top path, a Wall Brown butterfly.
and a Soldier beetle, Cantharis rustica.

There was a veritable bird chorus all morning. Willow Warblers, Yellowhammers, Chaffinch, Skylark and Great Tits were particularly vocal.

Male Yellowhammer singing.
After chatting to a pair of botanists that were visiting for the first time, I left the reserve and walked along the Hudson Way towards Market Weighton. The hedgerows were blooming with Hawthorn and crab apple in bloom, and with many wildflowers on the verges and the sunny spells lengthening the insects starting appearing.
This Willow Warbler's mate was collecting nest material and bringing it to the nest site. I was surprised to find that the nest was on the ground, in between grass and nettles of the verge, but this is apparently the usual nest location for this species.
A Speckled Wood settles after a fight with another male, wings a bit tattered.
There was a large patch of flowering brassicas (I'd love to know what they are!) that was teeming with insects. I think this is Halictus rubicundus.
A Rhingia campestris hoverfly, there were more feeding on Dead White Nettle
a green-veined white butterfly,
and many Nomad bees, with males checking females. Here a female Nomada flava,
and a male of the same species, and
a black and red leafhopper, Cercopis vulnerata.
A flowering vetch was briefly visited by a male Orange tip, of which there were many about, I saw four individuals at once, but they were in patrol mode in search of females, checking every other butterfly they encountered along the path. This was the only one that settled.
 A predatory sawfly, Tenthredo mesomela I think.
I heard the characteristic call of a Marsh Tit call and spotted the bird on the hedgerow. It approached me inquisitively when I imitated the call.
But then decided to sunbathe! it adopted a relaxed pose and stretched its plumage like so:
All that would have made for a great day out, but then a passing male Brimstone decided to feed on some Red Campion and then to have a lengthy stop to sunbathe on a cluster of hawthorn flowers. Having both the male Orange Tip and Brimstone sitting in a single morning was much more than I was hoping for.

Butterfly List (2 km2)
  1. Brimstone
  2. Wall Brown
  3. Large White
  4. Green-veined white
  5. Orange tip
  6. Speckled Wood
Bird list (2 km2)
  1. Blackbird 
  2. Blackcap 
  3. Bullfinch 
  4. Buzzard 
  5. Carrion Crow 
  6. Chaffinch 
  7. Dunnock 
  8. Goldfinch 
  9. Great Tit 
  10. House Martin 
  11. Jackdaw 
  12. Kestrel 
  13. Linnet 
  14. Magpie 
  15. Marsh Tit 
  16. Meadow Pipit 
  17. Mistle Thrush 
  18. Pheasant 
  19. Pied/White Wagtail
  20. Red Kite 
  21. Red-legged Partridge 
  22. Robin 
  23. Rook 
  24. Skylark 
  25. Song Thrush 
  26. Starling 
  27. Swallow 
  28. Swift 
  29. Tree Sparrow 
  30. Whitethroat 
  31. Willow Warbler 
  32. Woodpigeon 
  33. Wren 
  34. Yellowhammer

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Spurn Safari

Today we joined a Spurn Safari, organised by the YWT aboard their Unimog, a large, all terrain military vehicle that allows to traverse the low-lying sand bar that now separates Kilnsea from the point itself. The day was lovely, warm, blue skies, and with barely any wind.
We arrived in the morning and pottered around the dunes near The Warren, before a picnic. I photographed a Nomad bee on the clay cliffs with the hope of identifying it later, it turned to be Nomada goodeniana. 
Nomada goodeniana.
A yellowish, large dragonfly passed by, settling on some the marram grass, a lovely four-spotted chaser, Libellula quadrimaculata.
I collected some brown-lipped snails, there is always a good range of colour variants in the dunes, pink and yellow are not rare.
 This is the temporary visitor centre, a container with a front of boards. The old buildings around the Warren have now been dismantled.

A sand-hopper, Talitrus saltator.
A well marked male wolf spider, kindly identified by Matt Prince at Twitter as Alopecosa pulverulenta.

 After a picnic by the seawatching hide, we met by the Unimog. It is an imposingly tall vehicle and I wondered how we would climb onto it. All sorted! some comfortable steps were pushed alongside the vehicle by our guide Andy. Before we got going, he gave us a brief talk on Spurn. The breach in the autumn storms of 2013, meant that the road was washed away and cars couldn't make the trip to the point, hence the Unimog.
After about 20 minutes of bumpy ride along the sandy spit - with some hair-raising moments where the vehicle wobbled on the sand inclines - we were by the light house.

Since our last visit the lighthouse has been restored and is now open to the public. We climbed the 145 steps to the top, peeping on each window along the way to admire the view.
View from the top of the lighthouse towards Kilnsea, the Unimog visible.
The view towards the point.
 Andy had warned us of the brown-tail moth caterpillars and their irritating hairs. These hairy caterpillars were about in plague proportions, hundreds climbed the lighthouse itself and the sea buckthorn and other bushes were stripped naked of leaves.
Brown tail moth caterpillar
 There were other abundant hairy caterpillars, like the woolly bears, the caterpillar of the Garden Tiger, Arctia caja, which we often saw feeding on nettles. These roll into a ball when disturbed.
Garden Tiger caterpillar.
And several very large final instars of the Oak Eggar caterpillar, Lasiocampa quercus on the move.

 A view from the other side of the lighthouse showing its windows, which allow viewing as you climb it.

Although not as many as caterpillars, there were some butterflies on the wing. A single male Common Blue near the lighthouse, several Peacocks, a Green-veined white and a Large White. We may (or not) have briefly seen a Green Hairstreak.
Male Common Blue butterfly
On the point visitor centre, I was pleased to find a thriving colony of Pholcus phalangioides in the toilets (where else!).
We had a guided walk around the point, which covers a surprisingly large area. Birds were quite scarce all day, but Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats were singing. Many swallows about, with a few House Martins and a couple of Swifts.
 Overall a lovely day out, the views from the vantage point of the unimog are fantastic, and there was the bonus of being able to climb to the top of the lighthouse.

More information
Check the YWT events website for dates and times for a Spurn Safari.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

South Landing in Spring

Five months after my trip to South Landing, I visited again on Monday. The forecast was cloudy, but it was a pleasant surprise to see that it was actually warm and sunny, with some very light high cloud and no wind, a perfect day to see insects on the cliffs. In the car park there were many singing birds, including Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Yellowhammer, Whitethroat and Blackcap. The morning to come was forecasted by a Hairy-Footed flower bee feeding on borage by the visitor centre.
Female Hairy Footed flower bee, Anthophora plumipes.
Whitethroat singing.
At the beach, the tide was quite low, but rising and the sea as flat as a lake. I walked west on the sandy strip at the base of the cliff and then on the exposed rock, as always, marvelling at the enormous size of the exposed limpets. Three fulmars circled the cliffs, later settling on a shelf. A male Pied Wagtail, possibly nesting nearby, posed briefly on a rock.
Pied Wagtail
Chattering Fulmar pair.
Herring Gull looking alarmed.
I then returned to the landing higher up, right on the base of the cliff, and it bas buzzing with Tiger Beetles, Cicindela campestris. They are tricky to photograph with the sun blazing on the white of the chalk, so I used the flash to try and remove the strong shading. If you approach slowly and don't make sudden movements, you can get right to them with a bit of luck.

 I spotted some mating pairs quite high on the cliff, but later a pair was on the clay at head hight. I laid low hugging the rock and got this face on shot, showing how the male grips the female with his jaws when mating.

There were plenty of bees nesting on the cliffs. Some hairy-footed flower bees, many cleptoparasites, including nomad bees and ruby tailed wasps. This is the area with plenty of Tiger Beetles and bees.

I think this is a Halictus rubicundus.
A Nomada marshamella.
A mining bee, possibly Andrena nigroaenea.

I walked east from the landing. A pair of carrion crows fed on the beach, quite undisturbed with my slow progress up the beach.
A very nice surprise was the thriving colony of Sand Martins, according to the local Pat, due to some cliff falls exposing clay over the chalk. There were at least 10 pairs flying about.
A view of the new Sand Martin colony.
A sand martin on the cliff.
Another surprise was my first Marsh Harrier of the year, flying over.

Many butterflies on the wing: Several Wall Browns, two Peacocks, many Green-veined white, a Red Admiral, a male Orange tip, and a Speckled Wood on the ravine. 
Wall Brown enjoying the dandelions.
Speckled Wood.
Green-Veined White.
Another Wall Brown.
Nomada flava (likely) on daisy.
Yellowhammer by the visitor centre.
After photographing the walls on the landing itself, as I was having lunch, I made my way up the cliff and around the ravine before heading home.