The hot weather at the moment is making it hard to be out birding for any length of time, but it has been a bonanza for summer insects, especially those most colourful avian insects, the butterflies and dragonflies & damselflies. So an afternoon walk this week in the blazing sun was not quite so ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’ as it seemed!
The reward for braving the elements was two insects that had never before been recorded on my local patch, Newchurch Common, one butterfly and one dragonfly. The first of these was found near Big Pool, where a flash of scarlet caught my eye and as the insect landed I could see the tell-tale ‘waisted’ appearance and bulging back-end of a male Ruddy Darter dragonfly. Stalking it so as not to scare it off, I managed a few shots on my phone, a great addition to the patch odonata list. The very next day another afternoon visit produced not only a repeat sighting of the same Ruddy Darter but also a new species for the year in the form of a Migrant Hawker, seen in aerial combat with a Brown Hawker over Big Pool.
On the first visit, as usual, butterflies were a feature of all the habitats on site, but noticeable with the prolonged dry, hot spell they were in lower numbers. This is probably due to many nectar plants dying due to lack of rain and even the grass has dried to a crisp. Several species were seen in small numbers, including Holly Blue, Common Blue, Small Copper, Gatekeeper, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell. Best of all was saved til last when I was glancing at the trees by the entrance track on leaving. A small darkish butterflt skittered across the leaves of the oak up towards the canopy, unmistakeably a Purple Hairstreak. Another new insect for the patch, what a great day!
Birdwise a lot less to excite, but the undoubted highlight was a new bird for the year on my second visit, a Hobby, always great to add this dashing little summer Falcon to the patch yearlist. Other noteworthy sightings included Green Woodpecker, Stock Dove, Linnet and the most unusual sightings two duck species which are more usual in the winter months, Teal and Gadwall. This was a surprise, both being seen on Big Pool, where also the first retuning Little Grebe was seen, back from it’s breeding site elsewhere.