Saturday, 27 August 2016

A mixed bag at Cranford Park today....including my first Spot Fly of the autumn

Nathalie joined me at Cranford Park today, initially to walk the butterfly transect with me, but also to have a look at what was about.
 
The butterfly transect took an hour longer than last week, because we kept getting distracted by other critters and birds.
 
It was a good count, somewhat down on last week, but although it was warm it was quite breezy.
 
Speckled Wood

Red Admiral

Green-veined White
Today's tally was.....
 
19 Green-veined White
8 Holly Blue
1 Red Admiral
22 Speckled Wood
1 Gatekeeper
11 Meadow Brown
 
total 62 butterflies, 6 species
 
but the icing on the cake was this gorgeous Jersey Tiger Moth that Nathalie spotted along section one of the transect.....

 
There were lots of Harlequin Ladybirds again today, in various stages from larvae to adults. Not only were they on the green gates by Roseville Road, but also on most of the Lime trees down the drive way, and on most of the Sycamores in the woods and along the river....
 



 
The mint in the Secret Garden has flowered and was attracting lots of these little hoverflies,
Syritta pipiens......
 
 
and along the hedgerow by the M4 wall there were plenty of Dock Bugs....

 
We found more Dead Mans Fingers fungi near to where I found the first patch a few weeks ago....
 
 
and right at the end of the transect, just as we were looking over the stone bridge towards the M4 a Kingfisher flew up the river. A nice end to the walk, especially as I haven't seen a Kingfisher at Cranford Park for some months now.
 
With the transect done, we had a wander around looking hopelessly for any signs of the Hobbys. We had no luck at all, although going by my records over the last two years the juveniles are normally fledged and calling loudly by now.
 
Up at the Headland area we searched for crickets and grasshoppers. Nathalie managed to photograph one or two, but I failed dismally.
 
But I did spot this Red Kite perched on one of the dead trees that border the back of the woods...
 
 
I wasn't the only one to spot it though, and soon a small gang of Jackdaws came over to mob the Kite.....



 
We decided to end our day back at the River Crane to hopefully see the Kingfisher again but it didn't reappear.
 
Instead we spent over an hour watching not one Spotted Flycatcher, but two.........
 
 
These lovely little brown jobs visit the park in spring and autumn during their migratory travels.
I've seen them at Cranford Park in exactly the same place before, so wasn't overly surprised to see them today, but having two on site instead of the usual solo bird was an added bonus.....






 
If you want to see them at the park over the next few days, stand on the stone bridge near the car entrance. Look towards the M4 and check the yellow lichen covered trees and the dead tree on the left hand side. The birds were also diving in to the willows on the right, then re-emerging and settling back over the river.
In one tree alone for a few minutes we had both Spotted Flycatchers, at least three Chiffchaff, a male Blackcap, a fresh Common Whitethroat and a juvenile Goldfinch.
 
Other birds seen today were one of the Buzzards in the woods, one or possibly two Kestrel out in the meadows, two Green Woodpeckers flying along the woods edge, and many large movements of mixed tit flocks with one including Goldcrest.
 
A really pleasant day with good company. Thanks Nathalie.
It was also good to bump into Sheila and actually show her the Spotted Flycatchers, her first ever.
 
 
 
 

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Transect training day, with lots more, at Cranford Park

Today I was off to Cranford Park to meet up with Paul Busby from the Herts & Middlesex Butterfly Conservation Society for some transect training.
 Over the last couple of weeks I've treated myself to two new books, and can highly recommend the Wildguides photographic guide. I'm addicted to it..
 

Armed with the Cranford CP Butterfly Transect map....

 
and the recording form...
 
 
Paul and I set off an a very interesting and informative walk.
 
The end result.....
Fitbit steps: 5553
Start time: 1200
Finish time: 1320
No.of butterflies seen in total: 87....
Green-veined White 15
Holly Blue 16
Red Admiral 2
Comma 2
Speckled Wood 24
Meadow Brown 28
 
I had a great time and am already looking forward to completing my first solo transect next weekend. It was also good to know that the White-letter Hairstreak that I found a couple of weeks is on the transect route, so a definite incentive to look forward to for next summer.
It was also lovely to talk about butterflies non stop without the feeling I was boring anyone !!
 
So just a few from today...
 
Red Admiral
 
 
Comma

 
Speckled Wood

 
Speckled Wood face shot

 
Holly Blue

 
Holly Blue face shot

 
Paul, thank you for a great walk and for all of your patience with my numerous questions. It really was a pleasure to meet you. Thanks for my training today.
 
After Paul left I went to one of my favourite hoverfly hotspots at the back of the woods. The sun was shining on and off, but it was fairly windy, so some of my photos aren't that sharp and it didn't help that the hovers weren't always happy to stay still so identification was a bit hit and miss today.
 
Volucella zonaria, at least eight of these monster hornet mimics on two neighbouring buddleia bushes.....
 


 
Helophilus pendulus below, just one poor photo of a male..
edit - thanks to the knowledgeable Roger Morris this is Helophilus trivittatus
 
 
Volucella pellucens, at least three present....
 
 
Eristalis sp, dreadful photo so definite id not possible...
 
 
Syrphus sp, only managed the one photo before it took off so id not definite...
 
 
By the Headland area I had been looking out for more hovers when I found this poor one....
 
 
It had become a Robber Fly's dinner......

 
Paul and I saw several dragonflies during our walk, and I've never been good for photographing one in flight. When they did settle, it was at a distant or fairly high up....
 

 
I think they are Southern Hawkers but happy to be corrected.
 
Other critters about this afternoon was this adult Dock Bug....
 
 
and a Red-legged Shieldbug, which I need to check my records on, as I'm fairly certain this is a new species for me. This little lovely was running across the path near St Dunstans so I popped it on a leaf and moved it out of harms way....

 
Late August is a good time to spot galls. I found two today, both on Oak.
The first is the Oak Apple gall, which does indeed grow to the size of a small apple....
 
 
and the second is the Knopper gall, which only affects the acorns of English Oaks. They start off green and sticky and eventually harden and turn red...

 
Other good signs that autumn is just around the corner are all of the plum trees are fruiting well. These ones are bordering the graveyard wall....

 
and there were plenty of Lords and Ladies, aka Cuckoo Pint, aka Arum maculatum in berry....

 
As always when I left the park I went via the Roseville Road alleyway. The green metal gates there attracted my attention last weekend with the number of Harlequin ladybird larvae, pupae and freshly emerged adults on the posts. Today there were more. I can only guess they are dropping off the overhanging branches, along with the many aphids I found with them....
 



 
One of my work colleagues recently asked me how I knew so much (when I was wittering on about butterflies and how some overwinter as eggs, some as caterpillars and some as adults) and I repeated what I say so often......Every day is a school day as you NEVER stop learning.
Today was another 'school day' after walking the transect with Paul. Great day.