Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring in the air!

Spring is in the air, and the first Bee-fly of the year always puts a spring in my step! This individual was spotted yesterday at Afton Marsh. It may very well be the freshly-emerged individual that I found in exactly the same place in Afton Marsh back on the 12th March. It looks like it could be used as a dart, but any precision-guidance actually relates to the rear end rather than the head because the female flicks her eggs at the nesting holes of solitary bees and other insects, which is pretty nifty!

A few days ago I did a lesson for a Reception Class at Yarmouth School looking at Bugs & Flowers. I took in some Hazel catkins to show the children.

They were fascinated by the catkins - the male part of the plant, and also enjoyed searching for the delicate 'female' flowers which are seldom noticed!

Further afield, there are some beautiful Wild Daffodils flowering at Firestone Copse at the moment.

Narrow-leaved Lungwort tends to be confined to Dorset/Hampshire and the Isle of Wight - this flowering clump was the first time that I have come across this species.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

West Wight Birds

First thing yesterday morning I opened the back door and a stunning male Black Redstart hopped up onto the fence from where it had been feeding below. I had been wondering what my 100th West Wight bird species of the year would turn out to be and it turned out to be a real beauty. Here is the list:

1)      Black-headed Gull (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
2)      Blackbird (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
3)      Shoveler (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
4)      Mallard (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
5)      Pintail (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
6)      Carrion Crow (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
7)      Blue Tit (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
8)      House Sparrow (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
9)      Wigeon (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
10)  Gadwall (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
11)  Oystercatcher (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
12)  Mediterranean Gull (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
13)  Black-tailed Godwit (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
14)  Teal (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
15)  Redshank (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
16)  Rook (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
17)  Great Black-backed Gull (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
18)  Cormorant (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
19)  Brent Goose (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
20)  Shelduck (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
21)  Little Grebe (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
22)  Lapwing (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
23)  Golden Plover (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
24)  Dunlin (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
25)  Little Egret (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
26)  Coot (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
27)  Greenshank (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
28)  Grey Heron (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
29)  Kingfisher (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
30)  Wren (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
31)  Curlew (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
32)  Pheasant (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
33)  Magpie (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
34)  Moorhen (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
35)  Grey Plover (1st January – Western Yar Estuary)
36)  Wood Pigeon (1st January – Mill Copse)
37)  Robin (1st January – Mill Copse parallel hedgerow)
38)  Stock Dove (1st January – Mill Copse).
39)  Mute Swan (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
40)  Kestrel (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Meadow).
41)  Jackdaw (1st January – Yarmouth Green).
42)  Herring Gull (1st January – Yarmouth Green).
43)  Pied Wagtail (1st January – Fort Vic).
44)  Goldfinch (1st January – Fort Vic).
45)  Feral Pigeon (1st January – Fort Vic).
46)  Great Tit (1st January – Bungalow feeder/Fort Vic).
47)  Starling (1st January – Golden Ridge, Freshwater).
48)  Barn Owl (1st January – Heathfield Road box).
49)  Ringed Plover (1st January – Norton Spit).
50)  Turnstone (1st January – Norton Spit).
51)  Rock Pipit (1st January – Norton Spit).
52)  Common Gull (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
53)  Buzzard (1st January – Mill Copse).
54)  Red-breasted Merganser (1st January – Bouldner Forest).
55)  Canada Goose (1st January - ?? Field).
56)  Knot (1st January – Freshwater Causeway).
57)  Jay (1st January – All Saints Churchyard).
58)  Sparrowhawk (1st January – All Saints Churchyard).
59)  Goldcrest (1st January – All Saints Churchyard).
60)  Firecrest (1st January – All Saints Churchyard).
61)  Dunnock (1st January – All Saints Churchyard).
62)  Redwing (1st January – All Saints Churchyard).
63)  Stonechat (2nd January – Freshwater Bay cliffs).
64)  Meadow Pipit (2nd January – Freshwater Bay cliffs).
65)  Fulmar (2nd January – Freshwater Bay).
66)  Chiffchaff (2nd January – Causeway field hedgerow).
67)  Green Woodpecker (2nd January – calling by Afton Marsh).
68)  Chaffinch (2nd January – Yarmouth Mill Stream garden).
69)  Song Thrush (2nd January – Yarmouth Mill Stream garden).
70)  Greenfinch (2nd January – Mill Copse).
71)  Common Snipe (3rd January – Rofford Marsh).
72)  Linnet (4th January – Tennyson Down).
73)  Gannet (5th January – Freshwater Bay).
74)  Guillemot (5th January – Fort Vic)
75)  Great Crested Grebe (5th January – Fort Vic).
76)  Greylag Goose (8th January – Mill Copse Pool)
77)  Reed Bunting (8th January – Western Yar Estuary).
78)  Goldeneye (8th January – Western Yar Estuary).
79)  Peregrine Falcon (8th January – Western Yar Estuary).
80)  Long-tailed Tit (10th January – Freshwater Causeway).
81)  Grey Partridge (10th January – Western Yar East fields).
82)  Shag (6th January – Freshwater Bay).
83)  Tufted Duck (11th January – Yarmouth Station Pools).
84)  Water Rail (13th January – Freshwater Causeway).
85)  Great-spotted Woodpecker (16th January – Western Yar).
86)  Collared Dove (16th January – Western Yar).
87)  Bullfinch (16th January – Western Yar).
88)  Skylark (17th January – King’s Manor Farm)
89)  Green Sandpiper (29th January – Freshwater Causeway).
90)  Red-legged Partridge (3rd February – Causeway Field).
91)  Yellowhammer (3rd February – Lee Farm, Thorley).
92)  Long-eared Owl (6th February – Western Yar).
93)  Raven (7th February – Golden Hill CP).
94)  Eider (8th February – Fort Vic).
95)  Lesser Black-backed Gull (25th February – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
96)  Cetti’s Warbler (4th March – Rofford Marsh).
97)  Woodcock (5th March – Afton Marsh).
98)  Mistle Thrush (7th March – Fields off Wilmingham Lane).
99)  Coal Tit (12th March – Afton Marsh).
100)                      Black Redstart (14th March – 7 Golden Ridge).

I've done very little sea-watching this year, so the list is lacking any of the Divers, plus Razorbill and Common Scoter, which I would have expected to come across without too much trouble. It's also meant that I've not seen any Kittiwakes yet after seeing so many last winter. Other big surprises are the lack of Treecreeper, Fieldfare and Little Owl. The big disappointment is missing the 4 Spoonbills that spent a bit of time circling over Yarmouth a few days ago - it's still a bird that I'm yet to encounter in the UK. Although much of my time over the coming months will be taken up pursuing 6-legged fare, I'll still be on the lookout for new bird species, particularly as the migrants begin to arrive!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Afton Marsh at Night

A few nights ago I left the Trailcam out next to a pool surrounded by trees at Afton Marsh. I was quite pleased with the footage:

It looks like a dog Fox and vixen spent much of the night, on and off, enjoying the morsels I had put out. I'm pretty sure that the stockier-looking, broad-faced individual is a male, and the other one is certainly a vixen, as evidenced by the way in which she leaves her calling card towards the end of the clip. There's a bit of dominant behaviour witnessed right at the beginning of the sequence and the male is also seen drinking from the pool. At one point a Badger trundles by, but doesn't show too much interest in the food that is left. It certainly needs a tail trim!

The first Sweet Violets are now flowering in various places, including the roadside at Afton Marsh, the only one of our Violet species that is scented, hence the Latin name, Viola odorata. The Reader's Digest field guide to wild flowers points out what I think is the most fascinating piece of information about this flower:
'In less sanitary days the flowers were strewn on the floors of cottages and churches to sweeten the air and conceal the musty smell of damp - even though the scent of Sweet Violet is lost almost as soon as it is detected. It was, indeed, this very property that made it so effective: the flower produces with the scent a substance called ionine, which quickly dulls the sense of smell, so that not only does the scent of Violets vanish, but other odours too. This can be proved by sniffing the flower until the scent is lost, then holding it away for a moment before sniffing again: the scent will return until the ionine does its job once more.'

This afternoon I disturbed a Woodcock on the reserve, the first one I've seen here.