Sunday, 19 May 2019

Otmoor Butterfly Survey

Carried out my May Butterfly survey for the RSPB at North Otmoor today. The weather was pretty perfect; calm, above 20 C and sun with cloud. Had Common Blues, Small Coppers, Orange-tips, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacocks, Brimstones, Speckled Wood and a Small White. There were also a few day flying moths including Burnet Companion, Cnephasia sp and a good selection of Odonata including 20+ Broad-bodied Chasers, Hawker sp (probable Hairy) and Large-red, Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies. 

It was pretty good for birds too with highlights including 2 Garganey, 1 Greenshank, 1 Ringed Plover, 12 Hobby hawking over Greenaways and 2 Marsh Harrier. Ebird list HERE. Garganey and Ringed Plover were Otmoor ticks taking my Otmoor bird list to 122 (HERE- although Ebird has added plastic stuff too). 

 Small Copper with longhorn micromoth sp
 Common Blues 
 Broad-bodied Chasers (above and below) 

 Distant Garganey with Gadwall and Mallards
 Greenshank (above) and Ringed Plover (below)- on Barn Field 

 Male Curlew- was displaying over the MOD field 
 Willow Warbler singing along the North Otmoor footpath 
 Black-headed Gulls and Common Tern (below) hawking over the North Otmoor canal for Mayflies  

 Mayfly- a big emergence of these today along the canal attracting hawking gulls and terns. There were also 12 Hobby hawking over the main reserve with gulls so maybe they were feeding on these too?
 Barn Field looking very wet at the moment 
The mobile obs at North Otmoor- popped into Waterperry Farm Shop on the way and rustled up local reared free range Lamb chops and local asparagus with a cup of tea and full cream farm milk.  

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Farmoor Reservoir

Did a couple of hours at Farmoor Reservoir today with Jacob. Ebird list HERE. Highlights included the 3 Black Terns that have been around a few days, 8 Common Sandpiper, 4 Ringed Plover , 1 Oystercatcher and the usual Yellow-legged Gulls. 

 Black Terns (above and below) 

 Common Sandpipers- I counted 8 but another birder had 9. There were 3 Sanderling here yesterday, and a couple also at nearby Grimsbury Res in last couple of days. At Beddington in the week there was Turnstone, Whimbrel and a few Greenshanks so waders have obviously been on the move in the last week in the easterly airflow. 
 Second-summer Yellow-legged Gull 
 First-summer Yellow-legged Gulls (above and below). The top bird has dropped three primaries and the bottom bird six, with the covert moult also more extensive in the bottom bird. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Cross Channel Weekend

Had a weekend in the campervan visiting Peter Adraiens in Belgium and did a bit of cross-channel birding to boot. First time I've over-nighted in the van completely off grid and used the Eurotunnel too. Did a bit of a recee of a few sites (Cap Gris-nez, Cap Blanc-nez and Wissant Marsh) ahead of planning some future long weekends. Here's a few pics; 

 Great Egret (above) and Spoonbill (below)- classic cross channel birds. Also heard Short-toed Treecreeper and loads of Nightingales, good numbers of other migrants, heard Cuckoo and if I had more time Crested Lark, Black Woodpecker, Bluethroat and Savi's Warblers were all available locally. Amazing what difference a sliver of sea makes. A bit more on Cross Channel Birding HERE

Female Hairy Hawker (above and below) - the central dot on s1, elongated spots on abdomen and two black lines on sides of thorax are all indicative of Hairy Hawker. You can also see the hairs on the below shot. 


 Wall Browns (above on Thrift and below). Interesting variation in colour and pattern. 

 Great Yellow-cress
 Roe Deer? at Wissand Marsh 
 View over towards Cap Gris-nez
 Cap Gris-nez
Over night spot with the truckers 

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Green Party MEP candidate visit

Haven't had much time to get out in the field this week as been using up the energy that I stored up on holiday last week to catch up with the ongoing formal complaint to Sutton Council, a major paper that we are currently working on, Green Party, Extinction Rebellion and One Planet meetings  and it was back to money work today. 

One of the Green Party MEP candidates, Scott Ainslee, a TV and stage actor (HERE visited us for our local Green Party meetings and did a joint talk for Extinction Rebellion and the Green Party about how to drive the climate and ecological emergency petition forward. Scott is a Green Party councillor in Lambeth council who recently declared one there. While I was away the petition reached the necessary threshold of 1500 to warrant a full council hearing so now we have two petitions about Beddington Farmlands and other local environmental issues that will be heard by council committees this summer.  

 Scott Ainslee with our local Green Party group
A useful reminder of the state this planet is in. Some interesting ideological responses to this sad state on Johnathan Newman's facebook page HERE

Monday, 6 May 2019

Balearic/Mediterranean Endemics on Mallorca

A few notes on some of the endemics encountered on our recent trip to Mallorca.

Balearic Warbler 
Compared to the closely related and often considered conspecific Marmora's Warbler, Balearic Warblers differ in having a paler throat and often brown markings on the belly and flanks (extreme birds can recall Dartford Warbler). Belearic also shows more orange at the base of the bill and structurally are more long tailed and Dartford Warbler like whereas Marmora's are more Subalpine Warbler-structured. 
The songs of Balearic and Marmora's are also distinctly different


Moltoni's Warbler
 Moltoni's Warbler differ from other members of the Subalpine Warbler-complex mainly by the salmon pink underparts and the narrower sub-moustachial stripe. The moult strategy is also different with a complete moult on the wintering grounds by all young birds and some adults. 

 The complete moult in the wintering grounds infers that fresh looking birds in Spring with fresh primaries with a hint of pink salmon underparts are Moltoni's Warblers.  
A presumed Moltoni's Warbler- a bird in the picnic area on Cabrera island. Subalpine Warblers also pass through Cabrera so careful identification is required, preferably involving hearing the diagnostic rattle call of Moltoni's. 
Song and call of Moltoni's Warbler including the diagnostic wren like rattle. 
Subalpine Warbler taxonomy across Europe is complex with some authorities splitting Western and Eastern Subalpine Warbler in addition to Moltoni's Warbler,  Further taxonomic divisions include ibiriae and inornata within 'Western Subalpine' and Shirihai and Svensson also divide Eastern into cantillans and albistrata . Currently IOC have a Subalpine-complex two way split; Moltoni's and Subalpine Warbler. For the Subalpine complex vocalisations see link below: 


In comparison to the Moltoni's Warbler photographs on this post, here's a bird photographed in the Western Sahara last Spring showing more orangey underparts which is indicative of 'Western' Subalpine Warbler. Typically Western Subalpine Warbler should show more orangey and deep peach red underparts with Eastern showing more brick red underparts. According to Shirihai and Svensson inornata of NW Africa is more orangey than iberiae of Iberia and this bird does seem to fit inornata fairly well. 
Another 'Subalpine' Warbler photographed in Morrocco a few years ago. The bird actually seems to show quite a pinkish toned underparts, and seems to have completely moulted recently so could be a possible Moltoni's candidate. (Maybe I've seen one before without knowing?). Moltoni's do move through NW Africa on migration.  

Mediterranean Flycatcher
Mediterranean Flycatcher differs from Spotted Flycatcher in being overall smaller, a more sandy coloured ground colour with almost diagnostic white stripes on the crown and generally little streaking on the breast. 
Mediterranean Flycatcher is not split by Shirihai and Svensson. There are two races balearica and tyrrhenica which are split from Spotted Flycatcher into Mediterranean Flycatcher  by IOC. 
More on Med Flys HERE
Balearic Shearwater
The 'original' Balearic split, once Yelkouan and Balearic Shearwaters of the Mediterranean were considered conspecific with Manx Shearwater. 

Balearic Woodchat Shrike and other endemic sub-species 
This local sub-species (badius)  lacks the white primary base patch of nominate Woodchat and also has a generally deeper bill and a different pattern of black on the forehead. There are other  Balearic/Mediterranean sub-species of European birds including Great Tit, Crossbill, Linnet, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and others. 
The Mediterranean race of Linnet, mediterranea generally have more vibrant red on the breast and crown.

Mediterranean Shag
Desmarestii, the race of Shag in the Mediterranean is smaller and long-billed than nominate Shag and the immature birds are characteristically very white on the underparts and more grey toned on the upperparts. 

Lilford's Wall Lizard 
Of course it's not just endemic birds on the Balearic's and in addition to Lilford's Wall Lizard (above) there is also Majorcan Mid-wife toad and Ibiza Wall Lizard on the herping front more here and over 120 endemic plants on the botany front. 

REFERENCES
Shirihai and Svensson Handbook of the Birds of the Western Palearctic
Nils Van Duivendijk, Advanced Bird Id Guide, The Western Palearctic
BB, Vol 112
Speybroeck et al, Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Britain and Europe