Sunday 13 June 2010

Pure gold

When the farm was acquired back in 2001 and we started to take stock of what species we had, it was generally believed that Marsh Fritillary wouldn't be one of them, on account of the fact that it's probably too exposed. The following summer, one day in July, I was therefore pretty surprised to find a single, very worn individual, leading us to wonder if we could have a colony after all.

Well it turns out that we did. Our best counts were of 18 butterflies in 2004 and 12 in 2006. Then we had that run of lousy summers. After seeing just two specimens in 2007, we had two blank years and we reckoned the colony had been lost. But.....last weekend Dougy was mooching around along the western edge of the heathland and, lo and behold - two beautiful, crisp Marsh Frits!

This morning, despite the fact that it was overcast with quite a cool breeze at home in Wendron, I eventually mustered enough enthusiasm to go down to the farm to join Dougy in looking for them again. As is so often the case when all points north are shrouded in cloud, the sun was blazing on the southern end of the Lizard.

As it happens we didn't find any Marsh Frits, but we did see some Small Pearl-bordered, along with Large Skippers and Common Blues, and lots of Common Heath moths, Four-spotted Chasers, Black-tailed Skimmers and some pristine Emperor dragonflies.

We started to wander over to Ruan Pool and Dougy idly remarked that it was time we found something good. Suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks. Did I just hear a Golden Oriole??? A brief pause. YES I DID!!! It was singing repeatedly. From a tall willow hedge not 50 yards away. I just couldn't believe it. Sure it's a bird we always hope for, but in warm south-easterlies in late April or May, not a rather cool north-westerly airstream in mid June when Cornwall hasn't appeared on the scarce/rare birds websites for some while. Anyway, we walked the hedge for a while, hearing it all the time, but they are sods to see in the foliage. It then moved across one of the meadows to another hedge, but a few minutes later we had great flight views as it flew back across. It was clearly a 1st summer bird, a bit green and streaky, but with a nice yellow rump.

Amazingly this was my first oriole in Cornwall in nearly 25 years birding here. And of course to see it at the farm was just priceless.

Saturday 5 June 2010

Creatures of the night

I had the moth-trap running at the farm on Wednesday night, its first outing of the year. With a clear sky and fresh south-easterly wind, conditions were not ideal and I only had 80 moths of 24 species, plus a few cockchafers. Clockwise from left: Puss Moth, Eyed Hawk-moth, Cockchafer and Elephant Hawk-moth. The moth species list for the reserve is 294.

Thursday 3 June 2010


I sat in the old hide at Ruan Pool this morning, watching the same 1st summer Hobby that we saw earlier in the week. At first it was hunting from a perch on a dead branch, making short dashes to the ground to pick up prey. When the temperature reached the point where the dragonflies started flying, things got very exciting. It would come dashing towards me, then shoot back and forth across the pool, making sudden twists upwards to catch its prey. After a few minutes it would return for a short rest before doing it all over again. It made at least a dozen forays in the hour that I was there and it was extremely efficient, catching around 25-30 dragonflies in that time. There were moments when it flashed past only feet away and at one point it nearly came straight through the hide window! These are among my best shots.