2021 Hampshire Nature Notes Blog 

 Duke of Burgundy has now emerged at Noar Hill ........

Thursday 22nd April Oxenbourne Down A warmish day once the sun had risen above the Coombes of Oxenbourne Down today. The site has had a lot of serious scrub bashing and large swathes have been cut, so here the Silver-Spotted Skipper has a larger area to utilise once the areas flora and fauna comes good .. after its rained. The Cowslip content on the down is very poor, but on the lower slope there are good swathes of Primroses which have escaped from gardens. Butterflies seen today were Speckled Wood (1) Orange Tip (1) Large White (1) Grizzled Skipper (2) and Peacock (1). The down is a few days behind many areas of the Butser Hill complex, so it was little wonder I never saw the Duke of Burgundy today.

Tuesday 20th April Noar Hill NNR My first outing to Noar Hill today in perfect weather conditions, and the butterflies didn't disappoint. The Duke of Burgundy was located about mid-day, when it was probably the warmest, and after about three hours on site, and on a second pass of the area where I saw it. The male was flying and having a go at several bee-flies that came too close but most of the time it was settled enjoying the warm sunshine giving me good views of its exquisite patterning on the underneath of its wings. Other butterflies seen today were, Brimstone (10) Peacock (5) Holly Blue (3) Orange Tip (5) and of course the Duke. There is a lot of management going on in the pits at the moment, lots of scrub is being cleared, by Hants and Isle of Wight Nature Trust.

Sunday 18th April Matley Heath New Forest A visit to the New Forest in almost perfect conditions. The morning the wind was a little cool, but by the time mid-day came around it was quite warm. Lack of rain makes the New Forest look very barren and 'grey' in colour and certainly not very welcoming. However I had my trusty Emperor Moth Pheromone slung on to the side of my camera case. It took awhile before anything to happen, but after about an hour a very fast moving object started taking an interest in my camera bag, and once I had put it down it Identified itself and it was a perfect Emperor Moth, and settled down on some very dried up Heather at first, and then disembarked and flew onto my camera bag, where it stayed and settled down, and was very tame. Other butterflies seen were good numbers of Brimstones, and Peacocks were seen also. Bird life was quite good a couple of nesting Lapwings were seen on the ground and flying, Woodlarks, Redstarts, several Stonechats, and several birds not readily identifiable. Back at the car-park another Emperor Moth was seen flying like fury in and around the cars, it must have sensed my pheromone and was hunting it, but sadly it lost contact and disappeared.

Saturday 17th April Milton NNR and Foreshore A Walk along my local nature reserve today , I saw very disappointing numbers, the best count was Small White (12) Peacock (3) Comma (1) and Small Tortoiseshell (1) and last but not least Green-Veined White (1). Still no showing of Speckled Woods or Holly Blue yet. The cool weather and drought is keeping the many flowers very stunted at the moment. In my garden the Bee house is hatching out bees which is a great only after six months.

Thursday 15th April A few pictures from today at a private site that I am helping in conservation circles, ie re-wilding. The weather was very cool again but when the sun did come out for lengthy periods it did warm up, bringing out many Orange Tip males and a few Peacocks, along with the odd Comma and Brimstone. A Long Tailed Tits nest was found amongst some Blackthorn thickets. Some Roe Deer were seen but other than that there wasn't much else.

Tuesday 13th April Portsdown Hill Looked promising at first with bright sunshine, but the threat of cloudy and wet weather was on the horizon, and I could see in the distance Gosport getting a soaking at times during the morning. However on Portsdown Hill there were modest numbers of butterflies, however now we are into the middle of April I would normally expect something a lot better but it hasn't been a normal year so far, with cool winds blowing from the the North. The Brimstone was the most common butterfly seen with numbers seen (10) then came the Peacock with a count of (8), then the Small White (6) two female Orange Tips were seen at the base of the large chalk pit area, these were seen settling on Dandelions, but were quite jittery. A Painted Lady was seen on the slopes of the downland with a Comma as well. The Cowslips are becoming more common due to the grazing regime up there. The Kestrels were giving some lovely flying displays, and Buzzards were seen but the Peregrines were not seen.

 Friday 9  April 2021 Milton Lock NNR  A warmer day today and out in to the local Nature Reserve at Milton Lock but sadly like this year it was a big disappointment, with no butterflies recorded at the NNR except one small White, there was however Whitethroats singing in the Hedgerows, with Goldfinches and Robins in chorus. Along the foreshore there was a pair of Small Whites mating, and by the allotments I sniffed out a female Small Tortoiseshell laying eggs on Nettle. At home I found a lovely fresh Angle Shades moth on my Porch windowsill sunning itself, but other than that its been one big disappointment.

Monday 29th March Milton Foreshore: Beautiful warm day today with plenty to see and hear, many birds are now nesting and the trees and shrubs about are in full bloom. At Milton Lock Nature Reserve there were Comma and Peacock butterflies seen, and along the fore shore Small Whites are now becoming more frequent, along with Brimstone, more Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshell. I've seen a report that Mediterranean Gulls have been seen with the Purple Sandpipers still at Southsea Castle which I must get to before they fly back to whence they came!

Monday 22nd March 2021 Portsdown Hill (WEST) Almost a summer's day as another trek up Portsdown hill finds good amounts of butterflies, although still only four species. These were Peacock (12) Brimstone (8) Small White (2) and Comma (1). Peacocks were feeding mainly on Pussy Willow buds, and the Brimstones were patrolling up and down the rides on the down. Plenty of Birds of Prey to be seen as well with my first Red Kites being observed, along with other Kestrels and Buzzards, plus the Peregrines were seen flying in a pair westerly, but were not settled down. Lots of Honey bees on the Pussy Willow flowers just covered in nectar.  

Friday 19th March Milton Lock NNR and Foreshore. A warmish day with a slight cool wind blowing in off of the sea, where the NNR reserve at Milton Lock there was a Brimstone flying in and around the bramble. Also passing through was a Small White and also sunning itself on some concrete was a lovely Comma. On the foreshore there were plenty of Hawthorn bushes well out in blossom where there was a disappointing total of just one Small Tortoiseshell feasting on nectar in a very sunny position.I've noticed so far there has been a distinct lack of Peacocks, whether they didn't like the cooler winter, or I've just been unlucky, but this specie I normally see the most of in the March and April months. There were hundreds of Brent Geese in the fields, by the waters edge, and Starlings were doing small 'murmurations' close to the Falklands memorial. Swans have paired up and were testing their flight feathers and going from the salty sea to the fresh water lakes.

Wednesday 17th March 2021 Portsdown Hill The weather today was once again a big let down, it was promised a nice sunny day and what we got was an overcast day with a cool feel. There was very little in the way of invertebrates to be seen, there was one Small Tortoiseshell but it wasn't very active. The birds were about but not in any great number lots of Robins in the hedgerows, and Stonechats were heard and seen. One Peregrine was seen hunting in the field behind James Callahan roundabout. And several Kestrels were seen in the Chalk Pit. Skylarks were singing on the wing which always gives me hope for a good spring.

Tuesday 9th March 2021 A visit to Portsdown Hill today just to exercise the muscle called the heart after my scare in January. I'm pleased to say everything went well, no huff's or puff's so the flora and fauna seen was Small Tortoiseshell (3) and the Peacock (1). The best count came from the Brimstone where I counted up to (8) all males flying in and around the areas of scrub bashed hedges. There was also some Bee flies seen, and several Hummingbird Hawk Moths and the birds of prey were very impressive, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine Falcon, Buzzard. 

Saturday February 27th 2021 another warm day in Cosham and would you believe it the Large Tortoiseshell was back for another sunbathing session. This time Graham had his camera ready with a lens which highlights the beauty of this rare butterfly. It was in his next door neighbours garden so it had not travelled far. As you can see from the photographs its in superb condition and I have highlighted the wing patterns for ID purposes.

 

This butterfly has obviously overwintered as an adult, where I hear you ask, well there may well be areas like Hilsea Lines and North Harbour, which are very sheltered and have lots of trees and shrubs in which to hibernate.They could  even have Elms in which these butterflies could breed, as we know North Harbour has the White-Letter Hairstreak breeding on the Elm trees there. Could we have a small population of Large Tortoiseshell butterfly breeding in Portsmouth?

 

Photo copyright Graham Roberts and I thank him for allowing me to put these wonderful pictures on my new web site! What a way to start the year!

Saturday  February 27th 2021 Milton Lock NNR and Allotments

Another warm day and the first Brimstone Butterfly was seen flying in and around the NNR today. Also there is a lot of Female Bumble Bees flying around and necturing on the sparse wild flowers.The Kestrel was still on patrol over the Allotments, and there were Grey Squirrels in the trees, enjoying the sunshine. Also around the Allotments there was a Comma butterfly as well.

January 2nd 2021 - Eastney Beach, with it being Saturday I strolled down to Eastney beach where there were lots of people getting out and about , obviously getting exercise because of Covid. I saw at least a dozen to two dozen Turnstones out along the pebbled shore line quite close to the waters edge. I sat very close to them and they were obviously quite tame, and used to people strolling up and down the beach. The weather was just perfect, with no wind and the sun was just breaking through the clouds. They patrolled up and down the beach and then took off, and then landed again a bit further down the beach.

Covid -19 Restrictions

 January 7th  & 8th 2021 - with the Covid crises in full swing I am obviously limited to where I can walk so I'm pretty much limited to Southsea and my back garden. Yesterday there were a lot of Brent Geese in the fields around Southsea, especially the football pitches hundreds of them all nibbling away at the grass. Today being a lot colder I put out the bird feeders in the back garden as soon as they were full of nuts the Goldfinches soon arrived with multitudes of Sparrows. There has been the odd Robin looking for tit-bits on the ground, and a few days ago I had a lovely Wren flying about. The first time I had seen one of these birds in the garden.

January 17th 2021 A short stroll around my neck of the woods today, as usual it mainly birds being seen. Along the Milton foreshore as the tide was coming in, there were lots of Brent Geese  and where the sun was out and no wind there was a nice reflection of these birds as they swam around the inlet. There were plenty of Black-headed gulls on the wing, and Mute swans swam along the shore line eating scraps of food as they were being fed by passers-by. Starlings and Sparrows were busy in the hedgerows, and there was a lonesome Cormorant sat on a red height marker, enjoying the sunshine.

February 26th 2021 My first outing in February due to my Heart attack and so it was just around the corner to visit the Milton Lock NNR. Despite the warmth of the sunshine the only butterfly seen today was a Small Tortoiseshell, which was patrolling up and down the site, obviously looking for for a female and was guarding his territory. Buds are starting to come on the trees, and shrubs, and my Kestrel was again sitting on fence next to the Allotments, looking for a tasty morsel. There was plenty of birdlife in the mudflats as the tide was ebbing but the invertebrates were rather disappointing.

26th February 2021 I have been sent three pictures of a Large Tortoiseshell which was seen in a garden in East Cosham this was about three o'clock in the afternoon, and it was seen on a window sill first sunning itself for a few minutes, and then it flew up and rested again for a few minutes. Luckily Graham Roberts had his mobile phone where he took some pictures of it. It then flew away possibly going north. The house is quite close to Portsdown Hill, and another was possibly seen again in the garden in 2020. Does this lend itself to a migrant, it was in very good condition, or there may well be a small colony here in Portsmouth/Cosham, as there is a lot of Wych Elms dotted about. Over the years there has been a spate of sightings, one of which was a specimen at Fort Cumberland which stayed in the area for a few days, also there seems to be a colony established itself on the Isle of Wight, which is seen every year. I'd be interested in people's opinions .