Monday, 15 June 2015

Wild Winkworth, early June 2015

June already? It seems like the Bluebells and first Chiffchaffs were just yesterday but Spring is already now a distant memory and we have reached the halfway point of the year and Winkworth is bursting with life - so much so it's hard to know where to start with this blog post...

The arboretum is now teeming with fledgling birds, with young Wrens, Robins, Tits and Blackbirds all over the place. There are many birds still busy feeding young in the nest though, like the pair of Treecreepers I discovered on the 8th carrying food into the wall of the boathouse where I could hear the nestlings squeaking away.
The waterbirds too are at varying stages in the breeding process. As I have mentioned before there are now many ducklings of both Mallard and Mandarin to be seen on Rowe’s Flashe Lake and the four Canada goslings are growing bigger by the day. We now have three Little Grebe nests - two towards the southern end of the lake and this one in the channel in the north-east corner.
Meanwhile, as of the 14th, the Moorhens were still incubating eggs in front of the boathouse but there was sadly no sign of the eggs or any young the following morning. 
Rowe’s Flashe also remains the best place to see a Grey Wagtail in the arboretum, as there are usually at least two around, although I still haven’t confirmed breeding of this species here this year. I did manage to film this male having a bit of a preen in an Alder by the boathouse though on the 10th.
Always one of the latest summer migrant birds to return to our shores, and now sadly an increasingly uncommon sight in Surrey, it’s always a welcome occasion when one stumbles across a Spotted Flycatcher. I had caught a glimpse of one down in Furze Field on the 4th but thought perhaps that was just a bird passing through on its way further north. Then last week I’d thought I heard one calling in the vicinity of the tearoom but discounted it, but on the morning of the 11th I decided to investigate further and sure enough found this one high up in the Oaks on the front lawn, singing intermittently and living up to its name by sallying back and forth from various perching points and catching flying insects. It was still there as of this morning (15th) although so far no sign of a mate.
On the 15th while carrying out the morning site check I flushed a Cuckoo from long grass along the top path out to Sorbus Hill; only about the third time I've actually seen one here this year. It's good to know they're still around as I haven't been hearing much of the singing male recently. It's likely the pair we saw in Phillimore last month will have bred by now and there could well be a young Cuckoo in a nest already being fed by an unsuspecting host bird somewhere in the arboretum.

Ravens have been seen a couple of times this month - three flew north first thing on the 4th, while on the 9th I managed to get a 'blink and you'll miss it' bit of footage of the one which circled low over the Magnolia Wood area for a short while.
On the 5th I noted two Crossbills flying north over the Badger’s Bowl – the first time I’ve recorded this species here. After a brief intermission since the dispersal of the large flock that wintered at Winkworth the calls of Siskins have become a commonly heard sound again recently and I suspect there may be some breeding somewhere in the vicinity of the Foliage Glade.
Talking of the Foliage Glade, I grabbed this bit of film of one of our wild Honey-bee colonies in a Scot’s Pine in this area of the arboretum the other day. The bees are becoming very active now, particularly the one in the boathouse.
In terms of butterflies we are now into the ‘June Gap’ so there hasn’t been all that many of late, this not helped by the often strong and chilly breeze. Nonetheless it's been good to see a few Small Heaths around in Rowe's Flashe Meadow as well as the first Meadow Browns of the year on the 15th.  
There have been a few nice moths around though, with Small Magpie, Pale Oak Beauty, Straw Dot, Burnet Companion and the migratory Silver Y all seen in the past few days, amongst others.
Small Magpie (Anania hortulata)
Pale Oak Beauty (Hypomecis punctinalis)
Straw Dot (Rivula sericealis)
Silver Y (Autographa gamma)

Dragonflies and damselflies are becoming a more regular sight now, with Beautiful Demoiselle, Broad-bodied Chaser and others seen recently - it was nice to stumble across this pair of Blue-tailed Damselflies in a copulation wheel by Rowe’s Flashe Lake on the 4th.
On the 15th I saw my first Slow-worm of the year, along the Spring Walk - thanks to fellow gardener Giles for spotting this one!
Meanwhile, a Common Toad was seen loitering near the public toilets on the 8th...
On the wild flower front there really is so much to see now so I may do a separate post on that at some point, but very worthy of note here are the Common Spotted Orchids which are really starting to put on a great show all around the arboretum. 
There have been several Stoat sightings in the arboretum recently, generally in the vicinity of Rowe's Flashe Lake. I've not seen one here yet but hope to soon - keep your eyes peeled if you're visiting!

Anyway, that's about it for now, otherwise you'll all be falling asleep. Here's a couple of shots of Buff-tailed Bumblebee on Comfrey to finish. 


Monday, 1 June 2015

Wild Winkworth, late May 2015

A slightly longer gap between blog posts than usual as I’ve been away for a week on the Outer Hebrides. It was rather chilly up there, as you might imagine, but I gather it’s not exactly been tropical down here in Surrey either! Nonetheless, the arboretum is looking wonderful at the moment, the many vibrant and fresh greens providing the perfect backdrop for the multitude of flowers on the trees and shrubs. The wild flowers too are starting to put on a great show, from the delicate pinks and blues of Vetches and Speedwells to the bright yellows of Irises and Meadow Buttercups and the striking white of Ox-eye Daisies. The Bluebells may be all but over but in the more wooded areas of the arboretum the first Foxgloves are beginning to flower.
There is much new life to be found in the bird population in the arboretum too, Rowe’s Flashe Lake is now teeming with young Mallards, as well as several Canada goslings and a few Mandarin ducklings. This female Mandarin was vigilantly guarding her young on the edge of the meadow on the 30th
Meanwhile Coots and Little Grebes are still on nests towards the southern end of the lake, while Moorhens are nesting right in front of the boathouse balcony, the eggs clearly visible when the adult bird vacates its position.
There are currently at least three active Great Spotted Woodpecker nests around the arboretum – in Bluebell Wood, at the top of the Spring Walk near the Viewing Platform, and by the path that runs between Holly Wood and Magnolia Wood. The latter is the easiest one to find because of its proximity to the path, and on the 26th I captured this brief bit of footage of the female bird bringing food to the noisy nestlings...
Jackdaws, too, are nesting all over the place, with clearly well-grown nestlings calling from various trees holes in Bluebell Wood. Meanwhile, on the slopes below the Owl Bench there are various Blackcap and Chiffchaff nests in the bracken and brambles.
In addition to the ducklings and goslings on the lake, I have started seeing juvenile Robins and Blackbirds around recently, as well as several family groups of Long-tailed Tits. On the morning of the 31st, I stumbled across a female Mallard on the gabions at Rowe’s Flashe Lake with all her ducklings taking shelter from the rain underneath her.
Other highlights from the past couple of weeks have included the first Hobby of the year, over Rowe's Flashe Lake briefly on the 26th and the first dragonfly I've seen here this year, an Emperor, hawking about over the slopes of Sorbus Hill on the 30th.
Another striking insect to look out for is the Scorpion Fly (Panorpa sp.) - there are plenty of them around at the moment, like this one I photographed out on Sorbus Hill on the 30th.
While out strimming and blowing paths with volunteers on the 26th I filmed this Tiger Cranefly (Nephrotoma sp.) ovipositing (egg-laying). I thought it looked a bit like it was on a pogo stick!     
Finally on the 'cool bugs' list for this blog post is the Violet Ground Beetle (Carabus violaceus) I spotted in the Badger's Bowl on the 30th. A common enough species but always nice to see.