August birding (& insect) highlights

A black-necked grebe off Hill Head on 7th was a good start to the weekend but it didn’t continue. A walk along the canal path on Saturday (8th) with Dan Houghton and Alan Butler yielded very little, and asides from the regular species and 5 dunlin, the reserve didn’t have much to offer either!

Black-necked Grebe, Hill Head, 7th August 2015.

Black-necked Grebe, Hill Head, 7th August 2015.

Dan and I returned to Titchfield Haven on Wednesday (12th) to be greeted by no less than 6 green sandpipers, somehow our first for the year here. What’s more, the day continued with 3 little terns in amongst the common terns and 2 black terns picked out by Dan in the Solent later that day. Tern action at last. It started to feel as if the migration was really getting going!

Black Tern, Hill Head, 25th August 2015

Black Tern, Hill Head, 25th August 2015

Saturday (15th) was another relatively quiet day bird wise, although during the ringing session down at Titchfield Haven we did have 107 birds. Almost all of these were reed and sedge warblers, not unexpected for the time of year, with a few willow warblers and whitethroats mixed in. We’ve also been ringing waders down at Farlington Marshes, with 11 dunlin and a common sandpiper ringed on 12th.

Willow Warbler, Titchfield Haven, 31st July 2015

Willow Warbler, Titchfield Haven, 31st July 2015

A garden warbler, our first of the year along the canal path, was rather pleasing on Sunday (16th), and quickly followed by a male redstart in a field close by. Added to this, Dan picked up the call of a flyover tree pipit but we never did locate it. My next patch tick of the day occurred when finally catching up with the regular barnacle geese. Sadly, they’re far from truly wild, migrating between here and Portsmouth…

Waders were about too, with turnstones, ringed plover, a dunlin and two sanderling on the beach. The 3rd year yellow-legged gull is still enjoying its time at Hill Head, briefly joined by an adult on 15th, while the common scoter numbers fluctuated – rising to 32 on 13th and back down to 7 on 16th.

Yellow-legged Gull, Hill Head, 19th August 2015

Yellow-legged Gull, Hill Head, 19th August 2015

There were a few more migrants about on Wednesday (19th), a sign that things are moving through, though it seems most are still on the East coast. A walk along the canal path with Al and Dan yielded a single wheatear and whinchat, as well as a second wheatear down on the beach. Warblers were aplenty with numerous whitethroat, blackcaps and reed warblers. Another personal highlight for me (and patch tick) was a rook, in nearby farmland.

Osprey!” – the highlight of Friday (21st), when I finally caught up with one of the lingering birds. They seem to travel between here and the Isle of Wight, before continuing the journey south. During the short time I was there, a greenshank was the only wader of note, but it was nice to watch 2 kingfishers fishing and bearded tits hopping around in the reed bed.

A little stint started the day off nicely at Hill Head on Saturday (22nd) morning. The mini wader fest continued when Dan and I headed over to Hook-with-Warsash to see the wood sandpiper that had been found moments earlier. That was a lifer for me, so I enjoyed comparing it to the green sandpiper it was associating with. We also had a flock of 30 yellow wagtails.

It sounded like Sunday (23rd) would be rather quiet on patch, but I decided to give it a go anyway. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised with a ruff and knot alongside the regular waders and other passage species. I wasn’t expecting it to get any better, but it did. 5 wood sandpipers dropped into the scrape just as I was about to leave. I wonder what’ll turn up next?

4 of the 5 Wood Sandpipers, Titchfield Haven, 23rd August 2015

4 of the 5 Wood Sandpipers, Titchfield Haven, 23rd August 2015

It seems the answer to that question was a puna teal – an escaped bird no doubt. Not quite what I had in mind, nor was it what I’d hoped when first setting eyes on it! Hill Head, however, yielded at least 9 black terns on 24th (that were then flushed by an osprey) and 7 or more on the morning of 25th, as well as a decent number of gannets, 3 knot and a kittiwake. Consolidation for getting soaked and rather cold.

And now for the insects… The afternoon of 8th was spent with Dan at Whiteley Pastures – part of Botley Wood, on the edge of the business park. It was a pleasant walk and nice to spend some time admiring the insect species as well as spotted flycatchers and a vocal kingfisher. Many were seen and photographed including Tratiomys potamida (a soldier fly),  Eristalis nemorum (a hoverfly) and Phasis hemiptera (a rather large & colourful fly).  A ni moth (Trichoplusia ni) caught in Dan’s garden was another insect highlight for the week.

More were pointed out to me and admired during the numerous trips to patch, some of which are photographed below – Chrysotoxum festivum, long-winged conehead (Conocephalus discolour), a Coelioxys species and Eristalis intricaria.

My personal highlight has to be the ruby-tailed wasp (Chrysis species), a species I’d always wanted to see, that landed in front of us at Titchfield Haven on Sunday (17th).

Ruby-tailed Wasp, Titchfield Haven, 16th August 2015 (Dan Houghton)

Ruby-tailed Wasp, Titchfield Haven, 16th August 2015 (Dan Houghton)

Continuing along the insect theme, I ran the moth trap on Monday night (17th) which resulted in around 40 moths of 23 species. Many were new to me again with some colourful highlights being rosy footman (Miltochrista miniata) and poplar hawkmoth (Laothoe populi). A migrant migrant moth species – rush veneer (Nomophila noctuella), and many more Blastobasis rebeli – what seems to be a rather rare moth that’s now naturalised in Hampshire!

Thanks to Dan Houghton for providing most of the photos!

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