Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Monday, 30 April 2012

What a difference .....

Today was almost unbelievably different to Sunday - sunshine, warmth, dry. Just in time to get back into work .... At lunchtime I nipped over to Grove Park, still a few Wheatears knocking about.

Difficult to count accurately with all of the usual weekday disturbances as the birds were constantly moving about. I counted a definite 10 and assumed that at least the 12 from yesterday were still around. Back again this evening, and eventually I made a couple of counts of 15 - brilliant. I found that a small group were milling about immediately next to the builder's portacabins - in fact at one point four flew in and settled underneath one of them for a few minutes. Much better light earlier today though again the birds were always distant for photos. Light this evening still mainly good but with a bit of on/off cloud. To put this Wheatear-fest into context - this is not some reknowned migrant hot-spot, hilly high point, or vast grassland. This is a pathetic remnant bit of rough ground slap bang in the middle of a business park and within spitting distance of both the M1 and the Fosse Park retail center.

Meanwhile, whilst it was dry today the torrential rain yesterday ensured that the River Soar properly overflowed - flooding a sizeable area around Jubilee Park. In fact it is pretty much inaccessible now as the River course is hidden. The pool is now impossible to make out. Jubilee Lake would be a better description. I parked up anyway and had a walk along the main road taking a few snaps and checking the flooded areas for anything interesting - a Common Sand, a nice Little Egret and a skanky juv Grey Heron were all I could muster. Apart from a couple of Tufted Ducks well away from where I think the pool is.

The only other thing I noted was this smashed up Woodpigeon corpse at head-height in a bush - I reckon it has hit and bounced off a lorry .......

Sunday, 29 April 2012


In fact today was beyond miserable - the rain from well before dawn until late in the afternoon has at times been of biblical proportions.

This evening during the only clear interlude, after a hearty roast dinner suitable for a wintery Sunday, I nipped back to Grove Park to see whether the Wheatears from yesterday had lingered/scarpered/drowned. Turned out that they were still knocking about (presumably the same group anyway) and I made a positive count of 12. After a a re-count (12 again), I noticed that it was getting dark very quickly and within the 3 minutes it took to walk back to the car the skies pissed on me once again. It went from fairly reasonable early evening light to darkness and back during a 20 minute monsoon. April fucking showers my arse, I hope some bugger is building a big boat ........

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Grip, Flood, Chats

Today was shaping up from the off to be truly crappy in lots of ways; dull and threatening skies plus chores and other things to do - going out birding or anything else was unlikely. By mid-afternoon I was on my way home from the other side of Leicester, listening to the footy and enjoying the last game/win of the season. The mighty City had not long finished the season on a high when I trundled up the driveway with the phone bleating a text at me. It was from the Hooded Birder - Otter at Jubilee Park! Amongst a collection of expletives and mutterings, I quickly realised that dashing over there immediately was futile and sure enough a follow-up text confirmed that it had melted away. Gripped.

Nevertheless I took this as a proverbial kick up the jacksy to get myself out and onto the patch. I started at the Otterless Jubilee Park which was, frankly, wet. Pretty much the whole playing field was under water and the river bank was breached at several points. I chatted to some old boy whilst there: he'd been earlier in the morning and assured me that the high water levels now were actually significantly lower than they had been. It was bloody cold and breezy aswell, and the whole idea of looking for migrants seemed bloody ridiculous. Nevertheless there were plenty of birds around feeding, singing and generally doing. Most noticeable were Swallows - very hard to count moving flocks of hirundines so I guestimate at least 200 Swallows and 30 House Martins knocking about. Small groups kept breaking off from the main pool and river, swooping and flitting around over shallower flood-pools.


That lake is a kids playing field


Wellies essential when the site is like this, unless you like cold wet feet. I don't so I had my wellies on. ARSE - why is my left foot starting to feel cold and - BOLLOCKS - wet. With newly-discovered leaking left welly I headed back to the car via one last look at the pool. Nice - Common Sand again on its endless circuitous route around the pool shoreline.

Once at the car I decided that the left foot situation was bearable for a few more minutes whilst I checked out the newly-created delta over on the other side of the patch off of the Guthlaxton Trail. The water here was higher aswell and the marshy delta was now more of a pool with small islands. No sign of any Snipe, but I was pleased to find another Common Sand. Now I was feeling throughly chilled - absolutely ridiculous conditions for late April.

I decided to nip home, get some dry footwear and a coffee and go and checkout Grove Park as I have done a few times over the last week or so. I'd just pulled my wet welly off when the phone bleated again - this time Dave Gray was letting me know that - ARSEHOLES - lots of Wheatears were at Grove Park, news he'd got from Colin Green. Fecking typical. Dry footwear, coffee on board and I was back out heading to the north-west of the patch. Immediately when out of the car I scanned and counted five Wheatears. I remembered that the Hooded Birder was keen to see local Wheatears and texted him. Just after that Dave rang - he was over on the other side of the scrape where he thought he had six Wheatears. We quickly established that we weren't looking at the same groups. Andy HB turned up and we both went over to Dave's side. Another quick count and I had seven in total on this side, which potentially meant 12 in total. We took up a different viewpoint looking over the whole scrape and over several counts we got to a definite 11 though there was some movement between counts and I reckon this is the minimum rather than absolute. The light was absolutely dire, and despite best efforts none of the birds were entirely confiding. Pants record shots were the best I could hope for.

Not a Wheatear ...

Friday, 27 April 2012


I'm off to the flicks with the kids shortly ........

Post flicks edit:
If you like this genre: go as soon as possible - it's awesome
If you don't like this genre: go as soon as possible - it's awesome

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Stubbs, Plate 7, Fig 13a

As hoverflies go (at least in my very limited experience) this one is a real tiddler - Neoascia tenur. It was also nigh on impossible to get a decent photo in dull evening light with a very flightly beast. This one is the best of a bad bunch in that it shows the slightly waisted abdomen (though not as dramatically as in Sphegina clunipes), a yellow abdominal band and clear wings.

Having found an Early Grey resting in the garden yesterday evening, and with it having beeen the first mild/dry day for a fair while, I put out the garden MV last night. It was raining by early morning and the whole catch consisted of four Hebrew Characters. Complete pants. I did pick up a garden yeartick though with an Agonopterix arenella that came to a lit window on the other side of the house.

Today it rained pretty much all day; the bottom end of my garden is flooded again. I really should plant some phragmites down there and see if I can get breeding Bittern on the garden list .....

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Patch Delta

I enjoyed a great hour or so after work today, in some nice mild late afternoon sunshine for a change. I headed over to the south-eastern corner of my patch along the Guthlaxton Trail. I didn't go far, just a small area of paddocks and fields between an industrial estate and the River Sence. On one side of the trail there is a series of what were slightly marshy fields last time I visited (which was a fair while ago), but after all of the recent rain this area is now beyond a marsh and is more like a full-blown delta. Looks brilliant for passage waders - shame it's in such an unlikely place for passage waders.

Five Grey Herons were huddled in one corner, and I scanned meticulously all around - surely at least one Yellow Wagtail would have the decency to stop by. Or not. There were waders there though, including a Snipe furtively probing amongst tussocky bits. It was a long way off though ......

During the whole visit though I didn't hear a single warbler, the only wagtails were Pied and the only other birds I noted were Reed Bunting and Swallow, and a Mallard family party on the 'delta'. Still looks a very good area to keep an eye on over the next week or so - more rain forecast tomorrow to top it all up.

Otherwise I pointed the camera at a couple of inverts, potted up a tiny hovefly which I am hoping will hang on for some photos tomorrow, and also potted up a micro larva that was sitting on top of a dandelion flowerhead.

Dock Bug

Cream-spot Ladybird

Biggest surprise of the day was finding a moth at rest in the garden ....
Early Grey

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Ticking Fleurs

I had thought about heading over to Ketton Quarry today, but with the continuing 'any minute now' showery weather I decided to stay local - no point spending an hour either way in the car (+ the liquid gold that runs it) in inclement conditions. Instead I headed over to Huncote Embankment and I walked around with the camera, with my bins deliberately left behind. I've come to realise that I can only focus on one thing at a time with any great success: if I am out birding with bins and camera, I see less 'other stuff' on the ground; if I am out with just the camera, I see more 'other stuff' on the ground and miss distant and flyover birds, and if I am out with a net I often miss anything that is not flying within a couple of meters of me.

Today a walked around with my face looking down and slightly ahead, the best way to spot the odd interesting plant or invert. And it worked fairly well, as I ended up finding/noticing a number of new for me flowers and a beetle. These ones.

Changing Forget-me-Not - a really tiny flowering plant, with loads of ripening flower spikes barely poking out of the short grass. The flowers change colour as they mature, from cream/yellow to pink/violet/blue.

Germander Speedwell - think I've just been overlooking this.

Ivy-leaved Speedwell - another tiny one that I've been ignoring.

Pretty sure this is Thread-leaved Water-crowfoot. No floating leaves, five petals with no overlapping, and it was in the shallow part of the large still pond rather than in flowing water.

Chrysolina hyperici - minus one antenna

The quarry was looking decidedly big and deep today for some reason. Click for bigger - those things in the middle at the botton are actually big quarrying lorries.

Glorious sun behind me, rain looming ahead ......

I did say that I would not be manically chasing 'Pan-species' ticks, and to be honest I'm not - they are just coming along naturally and with so much common stuff that I've never bothered to notice or ID it's pretty easy at the minute. 2070 as of today.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

I sometimes wonder ....

... is it worth it?

For the first time since 30/03/2012, I put a garden moth trap out. It wasn't because I thought the conditions were good - there were heavy miserable rain-laden clouds gathering at dusk and I anticipated that it would piss down again during the night. It was also distinctly cool. I put it out because it was Friday and I have committed to take part in the GMS scheme - something I've never bothered with previously. The first Friday in April I was away, and last week I didn't bother, so irrespective of conditions I felt obliged to put it out this week. I thought that whilst draining out the trap there may be at least something sheltering on an egg box. As it turned out, the trap was bone dry this morning, the skies were clear and bright and it was bloody cold. The trap held an impressive-for-April FUCK ALL. Well not quite, there was a lone torpid lacewing clinging to the side. So much for that then.

Seeing as it was a fairly nice morning, I decided on yet another wholly uncharacteristic visit to the birding patch. I started at Jubilee Park - lots of singing stuff (Blackcaps, Chiffs, Wrens, Song Thrush, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunt, bla bla) but nothing really exciting. Not a sniff of any new-in Yellow Wags, Wheatears or anything else. I next went to Narborough Bog - and at least here a lone Whitethroat had the decency to show itself and sing briefly. It was a mobile bugger though and I wasn't surprised that it had moved on by the time I got back to where it had been after a throrough walk-around the whole site. Again stuff singing, Willow Warblers, Chiffs and Blackcaps included, and a nice Great Spot and Kestrel, but ......

So by mid-morning I'd spent a couple of hours out, enjoyed some peace and birdsong but really not seen a lot. Even the camera had a morning off as I saw no interesting inverts either. I got home to more peace (Josh was out at football training and Nichola had taken Alex to Karate) and rustled up some fried-eggs on muffins with black pepper and a large mug of tea - just the job. Sometimes when you're out you think to youself 'why did I bother?' and wish you'd just had a lazy lie-in instead. But soon after you are back in you realise that, actually, it's always worth getting out. You go out and see nothing, then okay at least you know nothing was there, but you stay in and see nothing then what are you actually missing?

Yesterday I potted a small weevilly beetle type thing at dusk on the inside of the kitchen window. I got the camera sorted and set about getting a record shot and trying to ID it. Turned out to be a common bean weevil. No idea what it was doing on the inside of the window, can only presume it flew in at some point when the patio door was open.

Bruchus rufimanus (sometimes called Broad Bean Weevil) - a new one for me

The day soon turned showery/rainy, but in between there were a few bright spells during which a couple of things hit the camera sensor ...

Now I know what happened to the small fat balls that disappeared ......

... though this fat bastard is another contender!

Common Sand - KOAN Sound

Quite nice and bright this morning for a change (compared to the incessant rain of recent days which has varied between miserable to biblical). I was at work and missed it all, as it was pissing down again by mid afternoon. There was a brief interlude later in the afternoon, and happily this coincided with a tip-off from the Hooded Birder about two Common Sands at Jubilee Park. I've seen one here before, and the nature of the pool is that you can only view a relatively small part of the overall shoreline which makes looking for a shoreline hugging small wader pottering about a bit of a lottery. Not only that, but they'd flown off a short distance to one of the inaccessible pools. I dropped in any way on the way home anyway, after a quick stop at another site within my greater Soar Valley South patch to check on the now resident LRPs. As soon as I was overlooking the pool I picked up a couple of yeartick House Martins amongst a few Swallows - nice. A short while later, and one Common Sand pottered into view for about 10 minutes before it pottered out of view again. If I'd stood there for an hour it would probably have worked it's way around and be back in view but I needed to get home. Didn't point the camera at anything, and I've got nothing else to post, so here's some tunes to wake you up from the excellent Koan Sound ..... turn it right up .....

Thursday, 19 April 2012

English Midlands Drought Continues

Nipped over to Jubilee Park this evening - although the sun poked through for a few minutes whilst there it was much too late in the day to be of any birding use. But you never know, with these appalling drought conditions anything could happen. It didn't. Apart from a few Swallows, singing Blackcaps and Chiffs and 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls in a field, the only really interesting thing was a Fox scampering through a field with something in it's mouth (couldn't tell if it was a Pigeon or a small Rabbit) whilst being chased by a flock of mixed corvids. So I just took photos of the park and the on-going drought.

I did notice that many snails were frantically trying to escape the arid terrain ....