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Summer 2019

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Early summer is the time that we usually shift our attention from logging in migrant birds to observing our breeding birds in their various habitats. The habitats that we visited this year included woodlands and streams in mid Wales, coastal cliffs in Pembrokeshire and Yorkshire, forests in Yorkshire and scrubland and wetlands in the eastern counties of England.


Pied Flycatcher


The RSPB reserve of Dinas in mid Wales is likened to the rain forests of the tropics. This is due to its rich and varied flora and fauna. Here we found many bird species that are fast disappearing from other parts of the country. Pied Flycatchers are an iconic species of Sessile Oak woods in western Britain. As their name suggests they require an insect rich habitat and somewhere to nest. Availability of natural nest holes in trees was recognised as a limiting factor, so at Dinas and other reserves, the provision of purpose built nest boxes has been enormously beneficial to this species and the closely related Spotted Flycatcher.



Dipper


Other specialities at Dinas that we encountered included Wood Warbler, Common Redstart, Nuthatch and Tree Pipit as well as more common species. The stream that flows rapidly through the reserve holds Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Goosander and Common Sandpiper and the hills and cliffs on the opposite side of the river to the wood hold Peregrine, Kestrel, Red Kite, Buzzard and Raven. The moorland and reservoir upstream of the reserve add Wheatear, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit to an already impressive bird list.



Chough in flight


Skomer is one of the islands located off the Pembrokeshire coast. I had not been for a few years because in order to get on the 10 o'clock boat to the island you have to be in the queue before 6 am, such is its popularity. For the last few years I have visited Ramsey instead, which is equally as beautiful, has more Choughs and Wheatears, but sadly lacks the iconic Puffins that Skomer is so famous for. So this year I joined the queue for the Skomer ferry at 5.40 in third position.

Chough
Once I had got my ticket at 8 o'clock I was able to spend an hour or so exploring the National Trust property called The Deer Park opposite Skomer. There are no deer and in fact it is a headland largely composed of the rabbit grazed turf beloved of feeding Choughs.



Puffin


The short ferry crossing was particularly rough and most of the 50 passengers got a soaking from the spray as the little vessel carved its way through the angry waves. However it was well worthwhile as I spent a very productive 5 hours not only photographing puffins at very close quarters, but also watching a host of other seabirds.

The interior of the island is a mixture of moorland, bracken and carpets of bluebells and red campion. Up to 5 pairs of Short-eared Owls nest on Skomer representing more than 25% of the total Welsh population. You can test your ID skills on separating Meadow Pipits from Rock Pipits and observe moorland specialists such as Wheatear and Stonechat. There are also some meres on the island where duck breed. I watched a family of Shelduck; the adults valiantly defending thei ducklings from predation by the numerous gulls. Although the island is riddled with burrows, you are unlikely to see Skomer's most common bird.

Puffin
This is because the Manx Shearwaters only return to their burrows at dusk to avoid predation by gulls. In fact there are over 120,000 pairs of Manx Shearwater on Skomer and together with the colony on the nearby island of Stockholm is by far the largest concentration of breeding birds of that species in the world.




Shelducks and ducklings




Gannet at Bempton Cliffs

If you can't visit Skomer then the RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire is relatively easy to access. Here there are puffins too and Bempton is also famed for Britain's only mainland colony of Gannets.

Kittiwake in flight
Like Skomer, Bempton hosts all of our breeding auks; except Black Guillemot. There are also significant numbers of breeding Fulmars, Shags and one of my favourite Gulls; the Kittiwake, as well as Tree Sparrows and Corn Buntings; two farmland birds in steep decline elsewhere.



Guillemot




Razorbills



Summer is obviously the best season to observe the widest selection of butterflies and last year after a disappointing spring with the early emerging species rather scarce, summer butterflies flourished. This year the spring was more favourable, so typical butterflies of this season such as Orange Tip and Brimstone were quite abundant.


Dark Green Fritillary

Now that summer is here there has been a notable invasion of the migrant Painted Lady and very good numbers of all the more common brown species. Red Admirals have also been plentiful and our wild flower borders in the garden have proven attractive to them. Here in Lincolnshire we have also seen the return to old haunts of species thought to have been lost in the county.

Marbled White
As mentioned in a previous Country Eye, the large and beautiful Silver Washed Fritillary now graces some Lincolnshire woodlands with its presence. Dark Green Fritillaries have also reappeared in one or two of their old haunts. Marbled White Butterflies (really a brown) seems to have increased and should be sought in flower rich meadows across the county.





Painted Lady



Red Admiral



Silver washed Fritillary










Common Lizard


One unexpected find in a flower rich meadow restored by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust was a Common Lizard sitting on one of the stiles!

 



Ian Misselbrook
July 2019

 

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