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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Big Butterfly Count

Comma
Small Tortoiseshell
I have taken part in the event over the years.  It is an excellent way of involving people in nature and giving everyone who takes part some ownership in the decline of butterflies.


Bur, for the last couple of years I have undertaken a weekly butterfly transect - waling a set route on a day when conditions are good for seeing butterflies.

This occupies me for an hour and a half for 30 weeks of the year - spring to autumn - and as well as being good exercise, it has really honed my butterfly identification skills.

Red Admiral

Silver-washed Fritillary
Today (17th July) was challenging.  The temperature in the shade, that is, under my car, was 22͒C.  Half the walk is through the woods, in the welcome but humid, shade.  The rest is in the open with hardly a breeze today.  Near the start, section two takes me down 50 step to the the river valley.  At the end of next three sections, near to the sea, I have to climb about 100 meters to  the top of the cliffs on the South West Coast Path.

Peacock
Gatekeeper
But, this was not the most challenging part of the walk.  It was the sheer number of butterflies I counted; 127 butterflies of 12 species in all.  It's times like this that it takes at least two to survey, one to spot and identify, the other to log them all.  And, if you want pictures too, an additional cameraman would be useful.

I'm not complaining though, it was the best transect of the year - so far.

Oh, I didn't really miss the Big Butterfly Count.  I walked to a different cliff, at Stanbury for lunch on Friday and in the first 15 minutes recorded 27 butterflies of 7 species, plus a couple of day flying moths all of which have been submitted to BBC.






Monday, 17 July 2017

Snakes and Ladders

My Butterfly Transect takes me from the Bush Inn down into the Tidna Valley then follows the stream to the coast before climbing the cliffs of the South West Coast path then returning inland at this high level to Crosstown.

It is a wonderful walk in all weathers but there is almost always at least a breeze at the coast so butterflies dwindle to almost nothing.  The path upwards has steps but it feels like climbing a ladder it is so steep.

The cliff path is generally of great interest with all sorts of invertebrates to be found.  These range from tiny 14-spot Ladybirds, through Oil Beetles, Bloody-nosed beetles, Ivy Bees, Bee Flies and occasionally the odd Common Lizard.


video


In April I was disappointed to hear that there had been an avalanche along the steep stepped cliff that I climbed forcing closure of the path.  I investigated and heard that part of the fall had been filmed.  A huge amount of land had slid down into the sea closing the path for up to 6 months.

(Thanks Niki Olde for the smartphone video clip)

Adder
I managed to work my way around the closed path, but it was a very steep slope among quite a bit of rough vegetation.   However due to the path being closed and a diversion provided that avoided the cliff top for about 100 meters, there was little disturbance.  Later that month I was delighted to come across a basking Adder.   It moved as soon as it saw/felt my presence, but not before I managed to get
a picture.

The closure continued for a few weeks until the National Trust rangers got to work.  After a couple of weeks the new path was ready and I tried it out.  It has many fewer steps, and a long slow slope.  But it is a little bit further inland and a little more sheltered.  I now see more butterflies on this sector than I did before, so it's not all bad news.
Tidna Shute with cliff path and avalanche

The new path is a lot better - thanks National Trust.



Saturday, 29 April 2017

Bee Flies

Large Bee Fly - Bombylius major


Is it just me or is everyone seeing more Bee Flies this year?

Last year was the first time I saw one of these enigmatic creatures. I had noted Facebook postings about them and was delighted when I saw my first one. No chance of a picture, but I was able to get a distant, and not too sharp, photograph of the second one.

And that was it for 2016 both were fairly close to the sea where I usually see other bee predators such as Oil Beetle, One at a woodland edge, the other almost on the cliff edge.

So this year I thought myself lucky to see anther one this month in a roadside verge. It was most obliging and settled so that I could easily see the black fore edge of its wings confirming Bombylius major. Then I saw my second one in a woodland ride in Coombe Valley Morwenstow, quite near to the old mill. This was less obliging but it was easily identified.

Then came the third one. As I was sitting eating my lunch, I spotted a Bee Fly from 5 metres hovering over bare soil in my garden. Yes again I managed a photograph, but in my garden? I would never have hoped to claim one on my home ground.


So, is it me getting my eye in or are there really more Bee Flies about?

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Canada Geese on Lundy

On Pondsbury

On 19th March, during breakfast, we became aware of the unmistakable honking of Canada Geese flying over our accommodation, Quarters. Visibility was not great and nothing was apparent in the immediate vicinity from either of the windows. A little later, around 9:30am, two Canada Geese were seen landing in Light House Field but quickly walked over the horizon.


Whilst walking north, later in the day, the sound and then sight of a pair of Canada flying over us at Quarter Wall towards Pondsbury must have been the same pair.


Breasting the rise so that Pondsbury came into view confirmed that they had settled on one of the tiny grassy islands in the middle of the pond. Both were preening along with half a dozen Herring Gulls on the water. On my approach the gulls flew off, but these two seemed unconcerned and continued preening.


On our return from the North End, both birds had gone but when we entered the farmed land, they were both seen, at around 1:30pm in Brick Field.



In Brick Field
They appeared to be searching for an appropriate breeding site, but not finding it, they were not seen again during our stay.


Canada Geese, although common on the mainland are a Lundy rarity.  These are the first birds seen since 2012 when a 1st winter bird was seen between 29th and 30th October.  They are only the 16th record of Canada Geese seen on the island.