Sunday, May 30, 2010

River Thame & its valley @ Starveall Farm, Buckinghamshire

During the late afternoon of Friday May 28th my walk took me around Starveall Farm and down into the shallow valley of the River Thame. About 75% sun during the walk but the breeze limited the temperature to 19°C at the start reducing to 17°C at the end. Nothing in particular targeted but enjoyed views of a range of birds, insects and plants. Of note were the following:

Green-veined White (Pieris napi)

Butterflies seen:

• Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines); 7

• Green-veined White (Pieris napi); 2

• Whites (Pieris sp.); 3

• Peacock (Inachis io); 1

Mayfly - possibily Ephemera danica

Other insects:

• Damselfly, the Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens); 3

• Mayfly, sparse swarming by the river and a short distance from it. I think they were all Ephemera danica given the large size and brown wing markings.

Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi)


• The notable plant in flower was Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi). Seen in the ‘Rushy Meadow’ on the valley side.

A good range of both resident and migrant species seen or heard during the walk as is normal for this site. Two good breeding records obtained for the Tetrad:

• Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus); ♀ seen obviously feeding young down by the River Thame;

• Starling (Sturnus vulgaris); rowdy group of adults and fledged young feeding around the River. I suspect they were attracted by the swarming Mayflies.

Other birds of note were:

• Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo); 1

• Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea); 2

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lea Park, Thame, Oxfordshire

Infrequently seen in the garden but seen and heard over the last week - Coal Tit (Periparus ater). A single bird viewed at feeders twice and heard once in song.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rushbeds Wood and Lapland Farm

I spent most of this morning (09:40 to 12:25) doing a bird survey of Tetrad SP61S for the BTO Bird Atlas 2007-11 ( 23 species seen/heard during the 2 hour survey period with 3 others added after the survey was over.

Though I focused mostly on doing a comprehensive bird survey, there was some digression as the stunning weather brought out the spring butterflies (see list of 8 species below) and 5 Hornets (Vespa crabro). I am always in awe of this mighty insect. Well, it is mighty for the UK!

Butterflies seen:
• Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines); 12

• Green-veined White (Pieris napi); 2

• Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus); 7

• Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages); 1

• Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus); 3

• Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria); 4

• Large White (Pieris brassicae); 2

• Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas); 2

Lea Park, Thame, Oxfordshire - May 21st & 23rd 2010

Families in the garden! House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) ♀ feeding a recently fledged chick around the bird feeder. This seemed to inspire a Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) to do the same with its offspring!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chiltern Hills (Buckinghamshire) - woodland and chalk grassland bank

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus); pair mating

Fly Orchid (Ophrys insectifera)

Fly Orchid (Ophrys insectifera)

I needed a break from emails and conference calls so took an hour or so out to walk through a wood to a choice chalk grassland bank in the Chiltern Hills. Given the weather (24°C and 70% sun) the target was butterflies of which I saw a reasonable number. However, I was more stunned by the botanising! One wood edge orchid species I rarely see (Fly Orchid - Ophrys insectifera) and one rare grassland species that I have never seen before (Military Orchid - Orchis militaris). Photographs of both are included with this post, as are shots of Chalk Milkwort (Polygala calcarea), Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa) and, in the woods next to the bank, Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon).

Military Orchid (Orchis militaris)

Military Orchid (Orchis militaris)

Chalk Milkwort (Polygala calcarea)

Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa)

Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon)

Butterflies seen on the grassland bank:

• Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines); 2

• Whites (Pieris sp.); 5

• Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus); at least 30 individuals and a mating pair (see photograph included with this post).

• Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages); at least 10 individuals.

• Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi); 5

• Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus); 5

• Peacock (Inachis io); 2

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Emmington (Oxfordshire) - 09:00 to 11:25

A morning walk focused on completing my early season BTO Breeding Bird Survey ( over 1km square SP7402. This, followed by result collation and submission to the BTO website when back home.

During the survey 24 bird species were seen and counted. A reasonable total though I did start walking the transect late and the weather was not spring like. Outside the survey I did see one bird first for the year - House Martin (Delichon urbica). Also spotted, but this time during the survey, a Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) mobbing a Red Kite (Milvus milvus) over a recently harrowed field. I wonder if the Lapwing was protecting fledged young.

So, the walk today was bird focused with little time for anything else. However, a Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus) was a great distraction!

Lea Park, Thame, Oxfordshire

We have had a ♂ Blackbird (Turdus merula) in the back garden for many months with a flash of white on his back and a slightly deformed left wing. It was nice to see him feeding a recently fledged chick yesterday.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lea Park, Thame, Oxfordshire

More excitement in the back garden! Night visitors are leaving their calling cards (see photographs); European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) droppings.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lea Park, Thame, Oxfordshire

The Box (Buxus sempervirens) bush in my back garden is, discretely, in full flower and attracting numbers of bees. I assume them to be Honey Bees (Apis mellifera), but photographs included above should anybody disagree!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Whitecross Green Wood (SSSI) & Asham Meads (Murcott Meadows SSSI) - 16:10 to 18:15

I finished work just before 16:00 today to take a walk through Whitecross Green Wood (SSSI) and then onto Asham Meads (Murcott Meadows SSSI). The temperature was around 14°/13°C; so, mild with sunny spells. The following were of note.


• Buzzard (Buteo buteo); 1 calling Asham Meads.

• Whitethroat (Sylvia communis); 1 calling Asham Meads.

• Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita); in full song in all wooded areas.

• Willow warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus); in full song in all wooded areas. In fact, they seemed more frequent than the Chiffchaffs.

• Linnet (Carduelis cannabina); 1 Asham Meads.

• Yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava); 1 seen along track between Wood and Meads.

• Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus); 1 obviously feeding young Asham Meads.

• A pair of Curlew (Numenius arquata) feeding in the Upper Marsh field at Asham Meads.

• Numbers of Swifts (Apus apus) hawking over the RSPB land east of the Meads. My first of the year.

• Swallow (Hirundo rustica); 1 over Asham Meads.


• My second orchid of the year! Many flowering spikes of Green-Winged Orchid (Orchis morio) scattered over the fields of Asham Meads.


• Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines); 4 at Asham Meads.

• Small White (Pieris rapae); 1 at Asham Meads.


• Brown hare (Lepus europaeus); 2 Asham Meads

• Muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi); 1 southern edge of Whitecross Green Wood.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Aston Rowant NNR (Linky Down) - 11:15 to 13:00

My spring Sunday walk on Linky Down was more like an autumn walk! The temperature was 6°C with light rain, a cool stiff wind and a sky full of cloud. The following were of note.


• Buzzard (Buteo buteo); 1 calling.
• Red Kite (Milvus milvus); possible nest site seen.
• Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca); my first of the year calling from a scrub patch on the down.
• Whitethroat (Sylvia communis); 1 calling.
• Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita); 1 in full song.
• Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula); 2 calling overhead, my first for some weeks.
• Linnet (Carduelis cannabina); very infrequently seen by me. However, there was a pair in the Juniper (Juniperus communis) scrub on the down with the male showing well.


• Common Twayblade (Listera ovate); population alongside track at SU722964. Most were in leaf only (see photograph above) but two seen each with a flower spike emerging. My camera ran out of battery after I had photographed one plant in leaf so could not take a picture of the plants with flower spikes!