Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Green Hairstreaks on Otley Chevin

Having read reported sightings of Green Hairstreak in Otley, we headed straight for the heather and bilberry field as suggested in the Friends of Chevin Forest Wildlife Spotter Guide. On arrival, we noticed an animated binoculared group wandering around the heather, and knew instantly we'd found the spot.   

Within a few minutes we spotted our first Green Hairstreak on the margins of the field. Tricky to spot as they're so small and well camouflaged against the surrounding foliage.

Once we became accustomed to their appearance, flight patterns and their habit of returning to the same vantage point we hunkered down to observe them and try for a few pics.

This one with damage to its hindwing.

The field of heather and bilberry from the lower path, where two Red Kites soared overhead.

Can anybody help me to identify this moth please? Edit - Thanks to Dean for his idenitification of this day flying Common Heath. 

Two Meadow Pipits perched on the lichen covered stone wall at the bottom of the field, we've seen lots of Meadow Pipits before at Otley Chevin and also further up on Ilkley Moor.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Lawnswood Cemetery, Leeds

A wander around the grounds of Lawnswood Cemetery on a sunny afternoon gave us a view of the first Red Admiral of the year. I was pleased with this one because I've previously seen them much later in the season. This one (one of two) proved to be pretty bold and a bit of a show off, and I'm happy to have captured the detail on the underwing.

Bringing new meaning to 'a butterfly on the wing'.

On our return to the same sunny spot the Red Admiral was still there, the sun had moved round by this point so it was sunning itself with open wings on a bed of crisp, golden oak leaves.

A metre or so from the Red Admiral we watched a Holly Blue (two in two days!) flit around the upper branches of a sun drenched holly tree, too restless and too far out of reach for a pic. Within closer viewing distance, we spotted 6 Peacock (Inachis io), along the route, this one showing a little damage to its hindwing.

We must have seen over 30 Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) butterflies throughout our wander, bathing in pools of light, and then spiralling high up into the canopies whenever a second butterfly invaded its patch.

Jays are a frequent sight, and today was no exception (10), other feathered inhabitants included Wren (5), Robin (4), Mistle Thrush (2), Wood Pigeon (12) Blackbird (6) Chaffinch (4) Great Spotted Woodpecker (1) Great Tit (10) Blue Tit (8) Long Tail Tit (2) Chiff Chaff (2) Magpie (7) Treecreeper (1) Crow (5).

Ending with a splash of colour, the pink blossom of Sargents Cherry (Prunus sargentii) enhanced by the backlit leaves of a Copper Beech in the background.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Adel churchyard butterfly sightings

During a previous visit to St John the Baptist churchyard in Adel, we caught a brief glimpse of a blue butterfly on the wing a few metres away for no more than a few seconds before it disappeared. Convinced that with good weather and a bit of patience we might manage a better sighting, on our return visit we were chuffed when it eventually appeared in the holly tree nearby.

It's a female Holly Blue, identified by the black margins to the upper forewing which are lacking in the males. It appeared to favour the newly emerged flowerbuds, flying to one bunch, settling for a minute or so before seeking another.

The next couple of pics indicate its intentions more clearly, it appears to be in the process of laying eggs, Thomas, J & Lewington, R (2010) The Butterflies of Britain & Ireland,  refers to the Holly Blue depositing eggs 'laid singly at the base of flowerbuds. In spring, by far the commonest host-plant is Holly, whereas most midsummer eggs are laid on the flowers of Ivy.

The egg hatches after approximately two weeks, at which point the caterpillar attaches itself to the fruit, making a hole in the surface to eat the contents. Must remember to look out for signs of the caterpillars in a fortnight or so.

Another highlight was this male Orange Tip, one of five in the churchyard. Although its a common butterfly I really struggled to photograph one last year as they appear to be constantly on the go but this one took a more relaxed approach to life, languidly feeding on dainty forget-me-nots. 

This one viewed from the opposite direction, where you can clearly see the green mottled pattern on its underwing.

Its a great spot for butterflies, we spotted a Green Hairstreak here last year and will be looking out for their return over the next few weeks, Small Coppers are regular visitors too. Other butterflies on the wing included Green Veined Whites x 5, Small White x 4, Large White x 2, Peacock x 3, Speckled Wood x 3, Small Tortoiseshell x 1.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Adel churchyard bluebells

Adel Churchyard has a fine display of bluebells at the moment. Just as the daffodils have faded, bluebells, forgive-me-nots, honesty and wild garlic, take their turn to flower in the grounds of the churchyard. The afternoon sun filtering through the emerging canopies to create patches of dappled sunlight on the native bluebells.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Nan Whin Woods, Tong

We visited Nan Whin Woods at the weekend, near Tong. Once we headed out of the woodland and into the valley I was amazed at the number of butterflies on the wing. Approximately 8 x Orange Tips, 12 x Peacocks, 5 x Small Tortoiseshell, 7 x Comma, 5 Whites and my first Brimstone of the year, I'm guessing a male because of its bright yellow colouring.

The only ones that stood still for a moment were this Comma.

A dainty White on a dandelion

This striking Comma in profile, the white comma visible on the underwing. Yes it is sat on a piece of poo.   

We heard a few familiar 'chiff chaffs' throughout our wander and eventually spotted two birds in a hawthorn, its not a great pic but enough to show that its a ChiffChaff, we watched it fly up into the air and floated down on spread wings which I read is common behaviour for courting males.

Having underestimated how warm it was, at this point we were a little parched, and made our way out of the valley and headed towards Goodalls ice cream parlour on Tong Road. Due to our in built foody sat nav we ended up joining the main road a mere 10 metres from the entrance to the farm! Kerching! Andrea had Chocolate and Pannacotta and I had Chocolate and Hokey Pokey then we turned around.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

From my window

This morning, from an upstairs window we spotted a Peacock butterfly settle on the back of the house in full sun, where it remained for 5 minutes. It's the first butterfly to add to this year's list of sightings from the window, which is pretty good considering its a very small garden near a busy main road.

Other sightings include Goldcrest, Waxwing, Kestrel, Jay, Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Long Tail Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Greenfinch, Wood Pigeon, Magpie and a Pipistrelle Bat.   

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Waxwing and other things at Kirkstall Abbey

Walking along the riverbank by Kirkstall Abbey I heard a familiar trilling in the treetops, and looked up  to see a flock of 20 Waxwing. Up until a couple of months ago I'd never knowingly seen Waxwing but was confident of a sighting having heard reports of flocks appearing in previous years in the urban parks of Leeds to feed on winter berries.

I consider myself lucky to have spotted them in Leeds on 4 separate occasions.  Firstly in January from my bedroom window (15), then half an hour later in the centre of town (50) and then my previous sighting during a coffee run at work (15) in a beech tree beside the Students Union just over a week ago. I'd read that they visit from November to March so I assumed that would be the last opportunity of the year to see them before they head back up to Scandinavia .

Walking on, I spotted them again in the treetops overlooking the rugby pitch, next to a busy Kirstall Road, Kirkstall Abbey is visible in the background.

Looping back down by the River Aire, on the opposite riverbank this Fox strode purposefully throught the grass, stopping to watch us for a few minutes before heading into the scrub. If I happen to see it again it'll be easily identified as it appears to have half a tail.


Other wildlife included a couple of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel, male and female Goosander, Wren, Mistle Thrush, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Jackdaw, Wood Pigeon, Mallard, Moor Hen and two Treecreeper's going about their business in this riverside willow.

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