21 Jul 14

Priorslee Lake: 4:26am – 6:10am // 7:35am – 9:16am

13.5°C.> 22.5°C
Fine and clear start with cloud only to very far E: later puffy cloud bubbled up. Moderate N wind. Good visibility.

Best this morning was the reeling Grasshopper Warbler at the lake. A very odd date for song which is usually given only on Spring passage and at the breeding site. I would expect breeding to have finished and as far as I know the species did not breed at the lake this year. Some warblers do sing on Autumn passage, and indeed on the wintering ground, but I have never heard of Grasshopper Warbler doing so. It was hard to pinpoint exactly where the song was coming from as there was a lot of leaf-rustle from the wind in the poplars but it seemed to be in or near the Ricoh hedge, about where I heard a bird on 12 April. After one prolonged burst the bird shut up and was not heard again.

Other noteworthy news is the loss of the only surviving cygnet. I now learn that there were, briefly, 3 cygnets: but that one perished with a day. Some of the locals are pointing the finger for the latest loss as the speed-boat used by the water-skiers. It is possible: but I think much more likely explanations would be predation by a fox; or that it simply died – it never seemed to be a particularly perky individual. I could not find any body or remains.

(80th visit of the year)

Other notes
9 Cormorants early flew over in 3 small groups: later 2 more flew over the opposite way.
3 Canada Geese stopped off at the lake: the cob Swan with no cygnet to protect took no notice.
As a footnote to yesterday’s comment on Sparrowhawk breeding this morning I briefly glimpsed one bird moving in the trees: and I also saw the female fly fast and low away from the nest area.
The Swifts appeared in small numbers to the SE of the lake (presumably where the wind was lifting the insects over the dam) but after a few minutes they flew off W.
A single Swallow was seen flying high W well to the N of the water.
Two House Martins briefly came down to drink.
Blackcaps very quiet today: while song will diminish as breeding finishes there were very few calling either today.
One of the Chiffchaffs definitely sounded as if it might be practising singing with odd splutters mixed in with calls – a young bird get ready for next year?
4 large bats this morning.

3 + 3 (2 broods) Great Crested Grebes
11 Cormorants over
2 Grey Herons
2 Swans
6 Greylag Geese outbound
3 Canada Geese
20 (?) Mallard
2 + 3 (2 broods) Moorhens
36 + 20 (8 broods) Coots
34 Black-headed Gulls arrived briefly
2 Lesser Black-backed Herring Gulls over
21 Common Swifts
1 Swallow flew by
2 House Martins
6 (6) Song Thrushes
7 (4) Reed Warblers
7 (5) Blackcaps
5 (2.5!) Chiffchaff
Corvid roost dispersal: 211 Jackdaws and 76 Rooks

“its waning”: the moon that is.

Sunrise: such as it was.

The dead Elephant Hawk Moth had fallen from the roof of the Priorslee Avenue tunnel this morning allowing a close-up of the somewhat faded markings).

The wasp waist and the long antenna (that were constantly moved around) identify this as a species of Ichneumon or parasitic wasp. Further than that ... Most species in this large group of insects do not have the black and yellow colouring.

This was a welcome sight as I ‘missed’ it last year and thought I had in 2014 as well. No problem identifying it as one of the burnet moths – a day-flying group with a metallic black sheen and red spots. The question is then which species. The choice is basically Five-spot or Six-spot, but is confused by the fact that the spots are in pairs and can be fused so that the number can be hard to ascertain.

Luckily it was rather docile and allowed me to pick it up and get a shot at a better angle and I am going for five-spots in which case, on distribution, it has to be a Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet (the border is on the hind-wing and not visible here). Confused? So am I!

Common Willowherb has just about finished flowering now and it won’t be long before the hairy seed-pods split and masses of equally hairy fluffy seeds are released in vast numbers.

What’s this? well ...

A touch of flash reveals a grass-head and all the seeds. Good job I don’t get hay-fever.

And another. “What species of grass?” I hear you ask. Err ...

This is, I think – umbellifers are hard – Wild Angelica (Angelica sylvestris). The flowers and stems are often, but not always, mauve- or pink-tinged and like most umbellifers very attractive to insects – here Rhagonycha fulva (Hogweed Bonking-beetles).

Have we just had a bath then? This juvenile Great Crested Grebe seems to be in need of a good preen.

This damselfly caught my eye as it looked ‘different’. Looking at the photo I was struck by the pale legs but the markings are wrong for White-legged Damselfly and I suspect it is just a trick of the light.

Common species when posing so well have to be photographed. A Common Darter female or immature male.

(Ed Wilson)


Priorslee Flash: 6:20am – 7:10am

(68th visit of the year)

Sparrowhawk over here as well as the lake.
After a single Black-headed Gull on the water a party of 14 flew in, with 12 birds flying straight out.
At least one of the House Martins was a begging juvenile.
In addition to the singing Song Thrush another bird was seen collecting food.
A Chaffinch caused me no end of time this morning: when I arrived it was singing continually but only the first part of the song. It was still doing so when I completed my circuit. Listening hard I could almost convince myself that it sounded equally likely to be the middle part of a Wood Warbler’s song. Since the latter species is almost never seen away from breeding sites it needed checking. It took me over 10 minutes to find the bird even though it was moving about the trees as it sang. And yes: a Chaffinch!
Probable Cnephasia stephensiana (Grey Tortrix) micro moth on the lamps.

2 + 1 Great Crested Grebes
1 Grey Heron
2 Swans
48 Greylag Geese
1 Cackling Goose
176 + 1 Canada Geese
The all-white feral goose
21 (20) + 5 (1 brood) Mallard
1 all-white feral Mallard-type
8 (6) Tufted Ducks
3 + 0 Moorhens
14 + 7 (? broods) Coots
15 Black-headed Gulls
5 House Martins
2 (1) Song Thrush
4 (3) Chiffchaff

This small moth is likely Cnephasia stephensiana (Grey Tortrix) though I am far from certain: if so it is a new species for me in Shropshire.

A juvenile Grey Heron and a juvenile Coot surprise each other.

(Ed Wilson)


The Wrekin: 9:30am – 12:20pm

Only my 6th visit of the year. It was a splendid clear morning and I knew I would get some new butterflies for the 2014 site list.

Though not directly comparable as I varied my route it was very, very quiet. I knew that, for instance, Pied Flycatchers are more or less impossible to find once they start breeding so I was expecting little. In the end I recorded just 5 Chiffchaffs, all calling, as the only warblers: and just 2 Meadow Pipits and no Tree Pipits.

I did add Kestrel and Swallow to my 2014 site list. In fact a party of c.25 Swallows was harassing the Kestrel. Somewhat oddly these Swallows were generally flying high E in a tight party and gave the impression that they might already be starting to move: but perhaps that was just where the wind was lifting their insect food as it hit the scarp of The Wrekin.

All the expected butterfly sps. The current large influx of Small Tortoiseshells was very evident here as well. There was also an unexpected Dark Green Fritillary – my first in Shropshire and perhaps my first in the UK!

A posing Large White.

Crows are normally surprisingly wary and do not allow these sort of shots. Does the red at the base of the gape suggest it is a juvenile? I think the feathering on the top of the bill suggests otherwise.

Was only able to ‘grab’ a single shot of this flighty butterfly before the sun went behind a cloud and all the butterflies disappeared. My first Shropshire record of Dark Green Fritillary.

The Swallows did not like the female Kestrel seen hovering here – and were flying at it to try and shift it.

Here it is in full-hover: note how the small feathers at the bend of the wing – the alula – are extended to help ‘spill the air’ like the leading edge slats on modern aircraft. And the wide, spread tail.

 And from a different angle.

(Ed Wilson)