Monday 14 October 2019

Summer Butterflying!!

Well, its been a while - but I haven't done any big holidays yet and birding has been  mainly at my local patch, Brascote gravel pits which has been fairly quite. It's started to pick up recently, with a Garganey which actually hung around for a few weeks, and two Great white Egrets - which are getting a lot more common in the county.  I've done a couple of twitches - one down to Cornwall for the Brown Booby and then to Anglesy for an Eastern yellow Wagtail..... but no images I'm afraid.  In the summer when birding goes quiet, lots of birders turn to other flying creatures like dragonflies and butterflies. I'm trying to see and photograph all of the butterflies of Britain (of which there are 59);  at the start of the summer, I had seen 48, so I was keen to add a few more to list this year. It started on the 15th of May, when, along  with my mate Ben Croxall, we headed for Bison Hill in Bedfordshire for the Duke of Burgundy.  We saw the butterfly but didn't manage to get any images which gives me a great excuse  to return at some point!
Again with Ben, on the 22nd May, we went to the Wyre Forest in Gloucestershire in search of the Pearl- bordered Fritillary; this is a great site and we saw lots of these butterflies.
 Pearl-bordered Fritillary

 Underwing of the Pearl-bordered Fritillary
(note the 'ducks head' -the orange patch with the black spot -  which is a good field characteristic)

 Pearl-bordered Fritillary

On May 27th, I went to Strumpshaw Fen (an RSPB Reserve in Norfolk) with my good friend Dave Gray in search of the Swallowtail. After walking around the reserve for three hours and almost giving up, we came upon a group who  told us they had seen one in some scrub-land close to the carpark; it was only a couple of minutes later that we saw this stunning butterfly in flight (but again, no images - so that's another site I will have to re-visit!)

My wife and I had decided to visit Wadebridge in early June to go to the Royal Cornwall Show, so we made arrangements to meet the warden of Lydford NT (near Okehampton) who had very kindly agreed to take us to Lydford Gorge in the hope of seeing Heath Fritillary and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Again, what a great site - and we managed to see both species.Many thanks to Colin for sharing his time and knowledge with us.
 Heath Fritillary

 Heath Fritillary underwing

 Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary

 Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary

My wife had been saying how she would like to visit Osborne House again (on the Isle Of Wight) as she hadn't been there in many a year, so we decided that we would try to kill two birds with one stone by visiting sometime in June, to coincide with the flight period of the Glanville Fritillary. This is probably now one of  the only reliable sites left in Britain for this particular butterfly. We found ourselves at Compton Bay, however the weather was far too windy, with gusts of upto 50mph, so no joy. We returned the following day, and despite it still being very breezy, it was warmer, and we spotted the individual below on the footpath!  This was our one of only two butterflies we spotted, so we were very happy. As an aside - Osborne House is amazing and well worth a visit.

 Glanville Fritillary

 Glanville Fritillary

In a beautiful day in early July, Dave and I went in search of the Large Blue at Daneway Bank in Gloucestershire. My first observation on entering the site was the vast amounts of Marbled Wite butterflies on the wing; I've never seen so many at one site! After an hour of looking for our quarry, we eventually saw some, including a couple who were mating. 

 Large Blue

 Large Blue

Large Blues mating

I am pleased to be able to say that my British Butterfly list now stands at 55; only left 4 to get - but one will need a trip over the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland for the Cryptic White. It's a hard life!!

As always, thanks for stopping by to read of my exploits. It won't be so long before my next blog this time, as I'm going to South Africa in the not too distant future........

Thursday 2 May 2019

Australia Part 4 -Kangaroo Island

The final leg of our Australian adventure was via a two night stop-over in Adelaide before boarding an early morning coach to the place we had been so looking forward to - Kangaroo Island! After a forty minute ferry crossing, we arrived on the island mid-morning and had our first new birds - a colony of Black-faced Cormorant in the small harbour at Penneshaw. After picking up our hire car and checking into our hotel some 400 yds away (The Seafront Sorrento) we set out to explore, having decided to go to the furthest point first - Flinders Chase and Admirals Cove areas, about 150km away. Flinders Chase area gave us Cape Baron Goose, Red Wattlebird, Silvereye and Eurasian Goldfinch

 Cape Baron Goose

Flinders Chase visitors centre gave us confiding views of Superb Fairywren and a few other species we had already seen on the mainland.
We then moved on to Admirals Cove where we saw a colony of New Zealand Fur Seals and our first views of Pacific Gull - and what a beak it has!!

 Female Superb Fairywren

 Pacific Gull

We had been given a site which we would pass on our way back - Hensons Bay Wildlife Sanctuary - which normally had Koalas in the trees so we diverted in - and guess what? - we had our first views of a Koala - at last! ..... and it had a joey too! We also had a really good view of a large male Red Kangaroo

 Koala with joey
New Zealand Fur Seal

 Red Kangaroo (male)

Day two saw us at Kelly Hills Caves where we enjoyed a couple of hours walking around the hills. Birds of note were Scarlet Robin, White-eared Honeyeater, Striated Thornbill and Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo. We decided to go and try to find Murray Lagoon but we never did find it - I think it had dried up. We did, however find ants.... millions of them and if you stopped moving at all, they swarmed all over your feet. Poor Sue had them running up the inside of her trouser legs which absolutely freaked her out! On the way there though, we did have another fantastic experience - a male Koala was just walking along the roadside; he sat down, had a good look around and then disappeared back into  the bush. Brilliant! We also had a near miss with a large Tiger Snake that was just laying across the road.... fortunately, I managed to avoid running it over.

 Koala walking along the roadside

 Red Wattlebird

 Scarlet Robin

 Striated Thornbill

On the back roads coming away from Murrays Lagoon we saw Wild Turkey and an elusive Echidna. Not a very good image, but you'll get the idea....


 Male Superb Fairywren

 Wild Turkey

 Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

Our penultimate day on the island and we went to Duck Lagoon which is a good area for birds. On the way we had a flock of Little Raven flying overhead. At the lagoon we had Hoary Grebe, Freckled Duck, Australian Shoveler and a great view of an Australian Oystercatcher.  

 Hoary Grebe

 Australian Oystercatcher

We meandered our way back towards the hotel, stopping at Emu Bay where we saw Sooty Oystercatcher (no image) and not far from our hotel, Sue pointed out a big bird perched. Reversing quickly down the road, I managed to get a couple of images of a Wedge Tailed Eagle as it took off...

 Wedge Tailed Eagle
 Wedge Tailed Eagle 

We saw the Wedge Tailed Eagle again on a couple of occasions - but distant. In the evening we went to the local cove where Little Penguin (Fairy Penguin) where they frequent but we weren't fortunate enough to see any - we did add Tamar Wallaby to our mammal list though.

Our final day and we stayed quite local as we were sailing back to the mainland mid-afternoon. We had been told of a site just outside Penneshaw for the only Cockatoo we hadn't seen - the Glossy Black Cockatoo, so we set off in search of them. We managed to locate them as although initially we couldn't see them, Sue heard them cracking open the pine cones. We saw the female first and then a few flying away. As we went back into town a local caught our attention saying he thought he'd seen a whale in the bay so we stood and watched with him. Sure enough, he had - it was a lone Humpback, about 500 mtrs or so off the harbour and this was the last image I took on Kangaroo Island.

Humpback Whale

After having a drive around locally, we found a lagoon (Salt Lagoon) which had over a hundred Banded Stilts and also a Greenshank. My last two birds were Common Bronzewing and White-fronted Chat.  Love Kangaroo Island and what a great adventure we had down-under!  We drove over four thousand km, saw some amazing things and bumped into some really nice people too. I'd go back in a heartbeat and would seriously recommend Australia to anyone!  
Sorry this Blog has been a long time in compiling but I've had a few other things to attend to. 

As always, Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip. Hopefully not too long before another adventure!

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Australia part 3

Another early start from Townsville for the long drive north towards our final destination in Queensland - Cairns!  We had been told of a place called Tyto Wetlands which we would pass on our journey, so stopped for a walk around there to stretch our legs. This proved to be a great area, with birds of note - Green Pygmy-goose, Yellow Honeyeater, Crimson Finch and Indian Peafowl. As we were getting back into the car, there was a commotion overhead and a Nakeen Kestrel was being mobbed by some local crows.  We also saw our first Wallaby and perched on a lamppost - a pair of White-breasted Woodswallows looking all loved up


White-breasted Woodswallows

Onwards toward Cairns.....
As I said previously - we had also been given some good info on a possible area for the magnificent and elusive Cassowary. We decided to detour into Mission Beach en route in the hope that we might be lucky - and guess what? we were! As we were approaching a left hand bend, a car coming the other way started flashing his headlights and signalling us to slow down; this could only mean one of two things - a speed trap or.........  see below!

Male Cassowary

Juvenile Cassowary

Prehistoric or what?

Arrived at our accommodation - On The Beach at Trinity Beach - for our last week in Queensland before flying to Adelaide 

Our next bird watching adventure was to the Daintree River for a very early cruise. We had to set out VERY early, as Sue thought Daintree was about 30 km north of Cairns, when in fact, it was more than 100km! - and we needed to be there for 0600.....  Well worth the early start as Alex, our guide (Daintree River Wild Watch) was extremely knowledgeable about the flora, fauna and avifauna.
We saw some wonderful birds including Black Bittern; Papuan Frogmouth; Spotted Whistling Duck; Great-billed Heron; Shiny Flycatcher; Yellow-spotted Honeyeater; Azure Kingfisher and Macleay's Honeyeater. Below are a few images of the birds we saw on our river trip

Shiny Flycatcher

Azure Kingfisher

Sacred Kingfisher

Great-billed Heron

Papuan Frogmouth

Papuan Frogmouth

Spotted Whistling Duck

 Australian Darter

Cattle Egret coming in to roost - Alex said sometimes there can be hundreds coming in to roost.

Welcome Swallow (this was nesting on a moored boat at the jetty)

White-faced Heron

 Glossy Ibis

After leaving Daintree, we decided since we were in the area, we would get the little river ferry over the Daintree River and have a look at Cape Tribulation.  Not much of note - but we did see signs 'Beware Cassowary'.  We never thought we would be this lucky......

 Locals told us they have never seen one - and we were lucky enough to have two separate sightings!

We were just sitting quietly when we heard some rustling in the leaf litter and saw these Scrubfowl.

 Orange-footed Scrubfowl

Rae Clarke of Birds Queensland had put us in touch with a local birder who took us to several sites including Lake Morris Road which was up in the mountains, ending up at a lovely overview of a reservoir. We had Forest Kingfisher - and a free cup of tea! (there's a hot water tank with free tea bags, coffee, sugar and milk - you just help yourself! - Very civilized!!)  We had brief views of Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher (what a tail!) and Pied Monarch. After a nice lunch in the Cairns Botanical Gardens, Graham took us to a mangrove swamp near the airport, which really was birdless - but the light was fantastic through the trees - and we saw some mud-skippers! Then we continued on to the infamous Cairns Esplanade where we had great views on Nankeen Night-heron. We waited a while for the tide would turn, bringing the many waders closer to us, where we noted Grey-tailed Tattler; Terek Sandpiper; Great Knot; Eastern Curlew and lots of Godwit, before Graham left us and we headed off towards our apartment.  

Forest Kingfisher (sorry about all the 'noise' but it was distant)

Nankeen Night-heron

Grey-tailed Tattler

Great Knot and Terek Sandpiper 

Gull-billed Tern

Today is one of our R&R days so we headed out onto The Great Barrier Reef with Seastar Cruises. The crew were very welcoming and also very knowledgeable about things above and below the waterline. Our trip consisted of two opportunities to snorkel the reef, and a landing on Michaelmas Cay. What a fantastic day we had - saw a Green Turtle along with huge Giant Clams and hundreds of colourful fish swimming around the reef. Michaelmas Cay has only a small area for humans, the rest being roped off to protect the many birds breeding there, which include Crested and Lesser Crested Tern; Sooty Tern; Common Noddy and Brown Booby. We also saw two Lesser Magnificent Frigatebirds perched on the far side of the Cay.

Our boat

Lesser Crested Tern colony

Brown Booby with Chick

Common Noddy

Common Noddy with chick

More Lesser Crested Tern

The boatman coming to drag me away from the Cay and back to the boat. If you are ever lucky enough to visit this area, I can strongly recommend going out to snorkel the reef - it is absolutely amazing.

On our penultimate day, we set off to find Mareeba Wetlands (a drive of about 75 minutes inland)  Imagine our dismay when we got there to find it was closed for some maintenance work! We did manage to tick Australian Raven and Eastern Koel, along with Spangled Drongo; Torresian Imperial-pigeon and Australian Pipit during our journey, so not a complete waste of time.

Spangled Drongo

Torresian Imperial-pigeon

Australian Pipit

Our final day in the Cairns area, so we decided to go find Hastie's Swamp in the Tablelands. It proved to be very profitable not only for the bird life (Swamp Harrier; Pink-eared Duck; Forest Kingfisher with mouse and Common Sandpiper) but we met a couple of ladies in the hide who asked if we had seen Tree Kangaroo or Platypus at all??  We hadn't as people had said it's a case of 'right place, right time' so we were really excited when one of the ladies (Sandy Carroll) told us of two different sites which were (kind of) on our way home where she could almost guarantee they could be found.

Great Egret with catch

Forest Kingfisher with mouse

Red-backed Fairy-wren

After thanking the ladies for the info, we left Hastie's Swamp in search of these mammals.
The nearest site was for the Platypus, at Peterson's Creek in Yungaburra. When we arrived there, we checked out the viewing platform but didn't see anything, however, a young Canadian couple had seen one and took us to the site further along the creek. Within a few minutes, there it was - just going about it's business, totally oblivious to us. What a truly enigmatic creature - and what a wonderful experience as we never expected to see one!

Duck-billed Platypus (smaller than I realised they are)

 Never expected it to show so well!

Having a bit of a wash and brush-up

The next place we had been directed to was the Nerada Tea Plantation on the road between Malanda and Milla Milla, They serve a lovely cream tea, of which we partook, before going outside with one of the staff who directed us to the tree where one was feeding. We didn't even know there was such a thing as a Tree Kangaroo!  As we drove out of the plantation, we spotted a Buff-banded Rail on the roadside - another tick and another great day.

Tree Kangaroo

Buff-banded Rail

We set off back towards Cairns, arriving back on a different route which left us about 20km further south with dusk drawing in but our fantastic day still had more to give. We were driving back along the Bruce Highway when I suddenly started to see large black birds coming onto the street lights, and realised they could only be Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos. We counted approximately 36 birds. Great end to our Queensland experience.  

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos

Tomorrow we fly down to Adelaide and a much cooler climate, in readiness for our trip to Kangaroo Island (or K.I if you're a local)  This will be the last part of our adventure Down Under!
As always, thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed reading about the third part of adventures in Australia. I shall be doing a blog on our exploits in Kangaroo Island soon.