2021 Hampshire Nature Notes Blog
Monday 14 June Hinton Ampner A visit to the Natural Trust site was a very warm day with many butterflies on the wing and birds as well. In the eaves of the outhouse of the main Stately home were some swallow nests and the Swallow's could be seen zooming in and out and catching many flies on the wing and then returning to their nest feeding their young. There were also Swifts seen as well doing the same thing. One quite rare bird these days was seen a Thrush feeding on the garden lawn, I dont see these lovely as nearly as much as I used to many years ago. Butterflies seen were Red admirals and Painted Ladies on the Red Valerian on the walls of the buildings and Common Blues were seen in the buttercup filled meadows dotted about. Large areas of woodland supporting very old Oak trees, and in the hedgerows were re-generating Wych Elm. I wonder if there are unknown colonies of White-Letter Hairstreaks here. Other butterflies seen were Holly Blue, Brimstone, Peacock, Comma, Meadow, Brow, and Speckled Wood. If you interested in Stately Homes then this is worth a visit which is close to Alresford half-way between Petersfield and Winchester.
Saturday 12 June Oxenbourne Down NNR Visited Oxenbourne Down NNR for the last time for the adult Duke of Burgundy of which I saw (5) all in a woeful condition, which isn't surprising really. Today was a good day for invertebrates, and the butterfly count was as follows : Small Heath (7) Common Blue (45) Brimstone (10) Large White (1) Speckled Wood (3) Dingy Skipper (5) Grizzled Skipper (8) a mating pair, Dark Green Fritillary flying at great speed over the down, Comma, Red Admiral, Large Skipper (3) Meadow Brown (2) Green Hairstreak (2) Moths were quite good as well with countless Speckled Yellows, the most I've ever seen I think. Common Carpet, Burnet Companion, Six spot and five spot Burnet Moths, and Cinnabar Moths
Tuesday 8 June Compton Chine and Afton Down Isle of Wight
A beautiful day greeted me today as I set off on my annual pilgrimage to the Isle of Wight.Compton Chine looked splendid with all the wildflowers in bloom like Thrift, Horseshoe and Kidney Vetch and Birds-foot Trefoil sprawled all over the site. The butterflies were equally impressive with well over (50) odd Glanville Fritillaries seen on the wing. many of them still in excellent condition, and others a little worn. There were Large Skippers, Common Blue, Small Blue, Meadow Brown, Dingy Skipper, Red Admiral, Small Heath, White Plume Moth, Cinnabar Moth, Stonechats, Rock Pipits, Skylarks, Broad Bordered Chasers, Blue Damselflies, and Bee Orchids all at Compton Chine keeping me rather busy for many hours. At Afton Down there were at least a dozen or so more Glanville Fritillaries to be seen especially close to the main road, and also good numbers of Adonis Blues, which looked in good condition as well, Green Hairstreak and the usual Dingy Skipper Small Heath, Common Blue and last but not least Brown Argus.
Sunday 6 June Portsdown Hill Field Trip The day started with rain and the sky was a heavy lead colour so things didn't look too promising from the word go. However even at Portsdown Hill we decided to give it a go even though the threat of even more rain looked almost certain, we set off around Fort Widley and saw Small Blues, Common Blues, Holly Blues, Burnet Companion Moths, Common Carpet Moths, Pyramidal Spotted Orchids, Common Spotted Orchids, Early Purple Orchids and all of the Vetches were in bloom looking like a yellow carpet all over Portsdown Hill. Some of us attempted to go down into the large chalk pit to see the varied bird life, but our main quarry was absent from being on the wing, probably too cold. We did see some more Small and Common Blues, and Bee Orchids,but three butterfly species was the grand total. I'd like to thank all those who were brave enough to come along despite the weather.
Saturday 5th June Meon Valley In near perfect conditions today in the Meon Valley and the butterflies are becoming greater in numbers, especially the Small Blue and Small Heath, and Common Blue. On the wane now is the Duke of Burgundy with several seen in worn condition, although there are still some specimens in very good condition Dingy Skippers are looking ragged as well, but it was good to see more moth species today like 5 spot burnet moth, Mother Shipton, Burnet Companion, and Common Carpet. There are some lovely wildflowers starting to come into blossom most of the vetches and Orchids and Twayblade. Mother Roe Deer were seen in meadows tending their Calf’s.
Wednesday 2nd June Old Winchester Hill Another visit to the last Meon Valley site which now completes all of these Duke of Burgundy sites in 2021. Old Winchester Hill is not well known as a Duke of Burgundy site, but it had small pockets of the insect and if you know where to look then they will turn up in not great numbers (7) today but its a tick in the box. Today I found the area where they are breeding on the Eastern slope, where there is plenty of Cowslip in amongst the scrub. It not for the faint hearted, as some of the slopes almost go up vertically. Anyway I found the Duke and surprise surprise, they were all in pristine condition... I've been looking and studying this butterfly now for 25 odd years and this year really takes the biscuit. One male was probably new today, and the butterfly has obviously been emerging, as I met a Natural England ranger, who was doing a transect and he had seen at least two in a copse about a fortnight ago..so they then stopped because of adverse weather conditions, and then the warm weather comes along and they start to re-emerge. Other butterflies seen were (25) Adonis Blues including several females, Small Heath, Small Coppers, Grizzled and Dingy Skipper, Brimstone, Small Blue, and Common Blue was really living up to its name.
Tuesday 1st June Oxenbourne Down They say mad dogs and englishmen, go out in the midday sun, today about 12:00 I had just about melted so I stepped into Oxenbourne Down at about 08:30 this morning with a much cooler atmosphere and it was delightfully pleasant. The butterflies were on the wing and my quarry the Duke of Burgundy had its best count of the season, (16) were seen most of them were quite fresh females, but some of the males were quite tatty now, a few days of warm weather and they soon become tatty. I dont know whether it was the heat of the moment or what but it was quite bizarre seeing a female laying eggs on Wild Strawberry.! Yes you did read that right, there were plenty of cowslip leaves about but she opted for the Strawberry leaves. Also a female was seen imbibing on Hawthorn blossom, another oddity, although I usually see them on Hawkbit or Wild Strawberry flowers. Other butterflies seen were Small Heath(40) Common Blue(50) Brimstone(22) Peacock(2) Red Admiral (2) Green Hairstreak (6) Grizzled Skipper (10) Dingy Skipper (25) Small Copper (4) Speckled Wood (1) Brown Argus (1), Treble Bar Moth(2), Cinnabar Moth (1), Mother Shipton(1), Burnet Companion(1), but the Speckled Yellow Moth was very numerous.
Sunday 30th May Martin Down Field Trip Where do you start on a day like today, perfect weather, perfect company, and glorious scenery and butterflies,moths,and birds to boot. We started off at Sillens Lane but it was a bit crowded, and there were lots of people about however we branched off into the wilderness, and soon got into our stride with butterflies being seen in the grasses like Small Heath many Small Blues, and Small Copper, with the Skylarks overhead. In fact by the time we had got to Bockerly Ditch the Small Blue was the most numerous butterfly, and I had soon counted well over a hundred, along with Grizzled Skipper, and Dingy Skipper which just as numerous. The surprise was on a scrubby bank with lots of Cowslips was a male Duke of Burgundy. What a triumph, it has been seen at this site over the past few weeks, and I was just lucky enough to see it sat on a leaf for a quick photo, but I've been here for 30 odd years and always left with nothing. Other butterflies with good numbers were Adonis Blue although they were only just really emerging along with the enigmatic Marsh Fritillary, we saw up to (17 or more), Brown Argus were about and Common Blue, and the most Green Hairstreak Ive ever seen in one day (9). There were a few Moths like Mother shipton Moth, Cinnabar Moth, Yellow Shell, Common Carpet,Burnet Companion, and Speckled Yellow. In the Hedgerows there were Yellow Hammers, Redpoll, Linnets, Blackcap, Skylarks, Whitethroat, Corn Bunting,and the odd Roe Deer on the grassy plain. I want to thank everyone for coming along today, to make it such a magical day.
Saturday 29th May Butser Hill NNR Today I concentrated on Butser Hill having a look at some scrubby areas I've never really looked at for the Duke of Burgundy. The species has had a bad spring and consequently numbers have been extremely low at all sites visited. So I thought I would look at the best site in East Hampshire, the weather was a thin veil of cloud, very warm and sunny at times, which really boosted the temperature. I looked at West Butser Hill which is a scrubby escarpment , which is usually good for the Duke when its out in good numbers, but alas today I only saw (2) here both females. I then went to a SSSI close-by and here there weren't any Dukes to be seen which is normally an overspill from the main colonies. I then looked at the scrubby escapement behind the large copse of Beech trees in the coombe. Here I found the scrub was ideal for the species, and I saw (7) here including a mating rejection.From there I was down in the valley floor, the 'coombe' is where I see most of the specimens. It didn't disappoint, here there were (25) which doesn't sound a lot, but when the species is having a poor season then this is a triumph. So all together there were (32) Dukes, and they were all in remarkably good condition. Ramsdean Down has a good reputation for a good count so I could have easily have had twice to three times as many counts of Dukes today.
Other species seen were, Dingy Skipper (65) Grizzled Skipper (25) including a mating pair, Small Heath (25) Common Blue (58) Small Blue (1) first one of these I've seen at this site, Small Copper (1) Brimstone (20) Brown Argus (20) Green Hairstreak (3) Orange Tip (2) Large White (1) Speckled Wood (2) Common Carpet Moth(2) Silver-'Y' Moth (1) Cinnabar Moth (2) Mother Shipton Moth (1). All in all a very satisfactory day.
Thursday 27th May Meon Valley. One of the few days where it was warm enough to walk around without a coat on, and we're nearly into June! In the Valley I saw a few Duke of Burgundy’s but this year they really are scarce, the combination of a drab winter, very cool March and April with temperatures at night at times well below zero, and then the gales and howling winds and the deluge, has not stood them in good stead. A couple of Small Blues were seen, and Orange Tips are still on the wing, along with good numbers of Brimstones, however the Dingy Skipper seems to be hard to find now. My only second Holly Blue was spotted today, and a Common Carpet and a Silver ‘Y’ moth.
Wednesday 26 May Bentley Wood It seems an awful long time since I've written 'Field Trip' in my notes but today was really the first official one which was allowed more than 6 people. We went to Bentley Wood in pleasant sunshine to start the trip with, but alas it soon clouded over with short intervals of sunshine. Only one of the target species was seen due to the weather having delaying many species this year. (15) Pearl-Bordered Fritillaries were seen, along with several Grizzled Skippers, Small Heaths, Marsh Fritillary (1) Brimstones, Treble Bar Moths, Speckled Yellow moths, Mother Shipton Moths along with several Slow Worms, Common Lizards, Broad Bordered Chasers, and I heard the Cuckoo for a lengthy time at last. In the book at the car park there wasn't any mention of the Duke of Burgundy being seen, probably still too early, even at this late date, and certainly no Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillaries, if they are seen at all this year here. The wood was alive with bird song which is so pleasing in itself, but it is very wet underfoot, almost like it was in the 1980's.
Monday 25 May Oxenbourne Down It's been well over a week since I ventured out which goes to show how bad May has been, but today there were small pockets of sunshine between the heavy leaded clouds, which gave me some views of some species, mostly of which were roosting and were just waiting for the sun to shine long enough to warm them up. I saw (5) Duke of Burgundy's, all of which were in very good condition, Small Heath (6) Brimstone (8) Small Copper (3) Common Blue (2) Small White (2) Dingy Skipper (7) Grizzled Skipper (2) Speckled Yellow Moth (3) Cinnabar Moth (1) Treble Bar Moth (3). The weather is looking better in the next week so watch this space....
Monday 17 May Oxenbourne Down There are very few little windows of opportunity at the moment when the sun is out when out and about, that you really have to grasp the nettle and take a risk of being soaked for about 10-20 minutes of butterflying. On Oxenbourne Down today, it was obvious is was going to rain so I had to risk just going up to the top of the down so I wouldn't be too far from some form of shelter.But taking that risk was certainly worth it, as I saw in about twenty minutes, and only ten minutes of actual sunshine, there were, (6) Duke of Burgundy's, (4) Small Coppers, one female looking to lay eggs, (5) Dingy Skippers, (1) Grizzled Skipper (2) Peacock's (1) Small Heath and several treble bar moths. I got back to the car just in time when the heavens opened up. I could hear a pub lunch calling!
Tuesday 11 May Oxenbourne Down The weather turned out better than I thought today, still lots of cloud and heavy rain in the distance, but I managed to avoid it and saw plenty to keep me satisfied. On top of Oxenbourne Down I saw (7) Duke of Burgundy's these were in two areas where I hadn't seen them before both look good scrub wise and there is a lot of cowslips now growing up there. Two were also seen in the Gorse strewn area which is becoming almost impossible to get through now in places, but still two Dukes braved the terrain. All the Dukes seen were almost certainly males very fresh even today or yesterday emergence. Peak won't be until 20th May or later at some sites. Other species seen were Orange Tip (1) Dingy Skipper (20) Small Copper (4) Silver'y'moth (1) Small Heath (11) Grizzled Skipper (11) Brimstone (10) Speckled Wood (1) Painted Lady (2) Peacock (3) Small White (1)
Friday 7th May Meon Valley Visited a site in the Meon Valley today to be greeted with a few very freshly emerged Duke of Burgundies. However they are really struggling with these temperatures. The month of April really did knock them back with average temperatures at night in the Meon Valley was (-4 ) at most sites, which has the the species quite late to the party, in present terms. Although if you back in time records will tell you in the last 60-70 years that the species never emerged much before May 10th. Because of the Global warming situation it has moved into April and could if winters become even milder males could be seen at the end of March! Other species seen today were good numbers of Brimstone and Peacock, Dingy Skipper, and several Small Heaths.
Thursday 6 May Oxenbourne Down A chance with the weather, but for an hour the sky was just a blanket of cloud but the magical time of about 11:00 seems to be the time when the weather changes for the better, and today it became quite warm and at Oxenbourne Down with very little wind I was on the hunt for the Duke of Burgundy again. I managed to find it in a new area, in a very scrubby area, with some good cowslips stands. Two males and two females were observed, and they seemed to be enjoying the sunshine once it broke through the veil of cloud. Other species weren't great in number, but the following were observed: Small Copper (3) Common Blue (1) Dingy Skipper (6) Grizzled Skipper (3) and of course the Duke of Burgundy (4). The top of Oxenbourne Down was once covered in a Conifer tree plantation, it was clear felled and twenty years on there are numerous areas of Cowslips generating and last year I discovered females laying eggs in a new area, and this year another area is looking good for the species. There is probably now at least 5-6 areas on site all well separated from each other so this species looks well established on site.
Wednesday 5th May Beacon Hill NNR Exton: Another very cool day with ever threatening rain clouds marching over the sky, drenching Bishops Waltham in the distance as I took in the magnificent scenery that is the Meon Valley. I never saw any butterflies until I got around to the southern part of the Hill Fort where there are some sun traps and this is where I saw all of the following species, which to be honest for May is very poor to say the least. Small Heath (3) Peacock (3) Duke of Burgundy (1) Brimstone (2) Small White (2) Orange Tip (3) Green Hairstreak (1) Small Copper (1) Brown Argus (1) Dingy Skipper (12) Grizzled Skipper (8).
The main part of the down the scrubby northern part is shut off with grazing so any Duke of Burgundy's there are off limits, but the Cowslip count is very good here, in fact all over the downland. Once all of the Ash dieback trees are eventually cut down this landscape around the site will look totally different.
Sunday 2nd May Butser Hill NNR Another day of good periods of warm sunshine interspersed with cloud cover when the temperature dropped by several degrees. Butser Hill was quite busy but once down in the scrubby coombes the butterflies were out in moderate numbers. It's still very cold at night I think this is hampering emerging butterflies especially Duke of Burgundies. Butterfly count was as follows: Grizzled Skipper (18) Dingy Skipper (16) Duke of Burgundy (9) including a mating pair Small Copper (2) Orange Tip (1) Small Heath (3) Brimstone (2) Peacock (2). I heard and saw the cuckoo several times which is better than in 2020 as I never heard it last year.
Saturday 1st May Meon Valley It really looked promising today, despite below temperatures at night, in fact it’s been the coldest April since 1970 and the month has been the frostiest on record. Despite this I had high hopes for my species the Duke of Burgundy to start a bit of movement, but in places today about mid-morning it was really sunny and warm in the Meon Valley, but looks are obviously deceptive. This was the first time I’ve been out butterflying in nearly 40 years and drawn a blank not just on my species… but on anything! I was glad to see a few beautiful Hares, in fact I stalked one and he took no notice of me until I got to about 50 yards from him. I saw at least three, and a Roe Deer. In the skies the Buzzards are very common now out hunting looking for carrion to feed any chicks that have been born, and the very common Red Kite was out doing the same.
One thing I will say the Cowslips are now looking a picture in the fields and downland, and with the promise of rain in the forecast they should really perk up ready for any female Duke to lay her eggs.
Thursday 29th April Oxenbourne Down Another very cool day, and the threat of rain clouds were never very far away, and so the butterfly count was quite minimal. Peacock(1) Duke of Burgundy (1) in Wascoombe Bottom, Brimstone (1) Small Copper (3) one was a female and she was laying eggs on Sorrel in Wascoombe bottom. Dingy Skipper (4) and last but not least one Grizzled Skipper. All in all the butterfly count in April has been really poor, and it's been the coldest April since 1970. Last year in 2020 was one of the hottest how things change!
Monday 26th April Oxenbourne Down and Wascoombe Bottom Still a very cool breeze keeping the temperatures down and in the morning at Oxenbourne Down I was wandering around for a good 90 minutes without seeing anything. But the sun did warm up a bit as the temperature went up a few degrees which made a difference. One Duke of Burgundy was seen and also down in the Coombe known as Wascoombe bottom there was no breeze at all and very warm indeed. Here there were Grizzled Skippers (12), Dingy Skippers (9), Orange Tips (7), Peacock (8) One Small Copper, and Speckled Wood, and several Brimstones.This is the best count so far in 2021.
Sunday 25th April Butser Hill NNR Gale force winds and really cool temperatures kept any sign of the Duke of Burgundy down today,and for that matter most other species. The only species of note were well over (30) Grizzled Skippers so they have emerged in good numbers, and I had a Emperor Moth buzzing around me down in the coombe opposite Ramsdean Down, obviously he detected my Lure which is attached to my camera case, first time I've ever noted one on Downland before.Other species of note were a couple of Speckled Woods in the wooded area around the car-park and a couple of Dingy Skippers as well. I noted one Early Purple Orchid and many Hairy Violets the best i've ever seen on the downs. We seriously need some rain, as this photo shows its bone dry and all the Cowslips are really stunted.
Ive been taking some pictures of foxes close to home and think these two are males which have become too old to breed and tend to wander off doing there own thing.
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 .
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