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Birdwatcher’s Diary No.210

Published on: 22 Jun, 2020
Updated on: 22 Jun, 2020

By Malcolm Fincham

For a good few years, I had toyed with the idea to visit Hutchinson’s Bank Nature Reserve, for an opportunity to see Glanville fritillary butterflies for the first time.

Hutchinson’s Bank Nature Reserve,

The reserve is at New Addington near Croydon, and numbers of Glanville fritillaries, having been introduced there, have remained reasonably stable for a decade or more. They can also be seen at two smaller adjacent reserves – Chapel Bank and Threecorner Grove.

Britain’s rarest fritillary, the Glanville, has its stronghold on the south coast of the Isle of Wight. Unfortunately, for the most part, many, if not all, have been reintroduced and limited to just a few sites in South East England.

Glanville fritillary butterfly at Hutchinson’s Bank Nature Reserve.

I had only stepped a few feet inside the gate at Hutchinson’s Bank before I saw and was able to photograph my first ever sighting of one. As well as seeing a handful more during my time there.

The Glanville has had numerous changes of name over the years. Originally called the Dullidge fritillary, as it was found in Dulwich. Then the Plantain fritillary, after the food plant of its caterpillars. It had also been known as the Lincolnshire fritillary at one time.

Glanville fritillary butterfly at Hutchinson’s Bank Nature Reserve.

Finally, in the 18th century, it was re-named the Glanville fritillary to commemorate Eleanor Glanville. She was a distinguished butterfly enthusiast of the time. Apparently, when she died her will was contested by her son on the grounds that any woman studying butterflies could not be of sound mind. He won the case, too!

That leaving me a little troubled as what might become of my future?

Small blue butterfly at Hutchinson’s Bank Nature Reserve.

Adding to my butterfly sightings while visiting the reserves were a good number of small blues, previously viewed this year on Pewley Down, Guildford.

Dingey skipper butterfly at Hutchinson’s Bank Nature Reserve.

Also finding a dingey skipper, now coming to the end of their brood.

Dark-green fritillary butterfly at Sheepleas.

Adding a dark-green fritillary to my day list, having had my first sighting the previous day at Sheepleas.

Large skipper butterfly.

Along with a large skipper.

Marbled white butterfly, seen at Sheepleas.

My first marbled white butterfly of this year fluttered by, unfortunately not wishing to stop for me photograph.

Not wanting to neglect my local haunts, I continued to visit Whitmoor Common, when time allowed, during the first weeks of June.

Skylark on Whitmoor Common.

It was refreshing to continue to hear a skylark singing after many years of its absence there.

Woodlark on Whitmoor Common.

The more favoured song to my ears was that of two singing woodlarks. This is the second successive summer I have heard the woodlark’s delightful song there, and always a sound to savour.

Hobby hunting across Whitmoor Common.

Hobby perches up on Whitmoor Common.

Across the heathland, a hobby could be viewed as it hunted back and forth along the distant treeline.

Male linnet on Whitmoor Common.

Linnets continued to be seen in healthy numbers. The singing “cock” linnets looking radiant with bright red chests on display.

Silver-studded blue butterfly on Whitmoor Common.

A fine addition to this year’s sightings was a silver-studded blue butterfly. This delectation of the heathland appeared to have been the first to have emerged just in time to synchronise with the first few sprigs of heather starting to bloom.

Willow warbler on Whitmoor Common.

Two willow warblers could be heard singing among the silver birch trees.

Nightjar roosting, Whitmoor Common.

And fortune came my way when I was attracted to the sound of a nightjar “churring”, as it sat, perched out on a branch, just prior to nightfall.

A surprise sighting while visiting Trigg’s Lock, near Sutton Green, was a bar-headed goose, grazing in a nearby field alongside a group of Canada and greylag geese.

Bar-headed goose fresh in from its flight at extreme altitude migration across the Himalayas?

Normally, the bar-headed goose breeds in Central Asia in large colonies near mountain lakes and winters in South Asia, as far south as peninsular India. It is known for the extreme altitudes it reaches on its migrating across the Himalayas.

Not so sure this one was fresh in from its migration across the Himalayas?

At Britten’s Pond, off Salt Box Road, Guildford, a healthy brood of goslings could now be viewed.

Canada geese with goslings on Britten’s Pond.

Families of Canada geese had joined up making a long line of goslings across the water.

Greylag geese with goslings at Britten’s Pond.

Greylag geese were also present with a large group of their goslings on show.

Red kite.

As mentioned in my previous report, red kites continue to be increasing around the Surrey countryside. On June 9, 17 red kites were reported at Thursley Common. It seems they were taking advantage of the recent heathland fire.

Meanwhile, at Tice’s Meadow near Farnham the same day, news came through that morning that two black-winged stilts had arrived. I had seen one at Moor Green Lake last year, as well as ones that bred at Medmerry in Sussex six years ago.

Black-winged stilt at Tice’s Meadow.

As a “key worker”, I must confess I was a little rueful of the opportunity to see them, especially as they were so near to home. Reported to be still present that evening, I was able to view them then, having completed my day’s work.

Although as distant from view from “Horton’s Mound” as they had been all day, I was able to record a few shots of one of them.

While the guy, next to me took a shot video through his “scope” that he later put YouTube.

Viewing hide under water at Tice’s Meadow.

Black-headed gulls nesting on flooded hide.

Although water levels had subsided there since my previous visit before lockdown, the new hide was still partially under water, with the addition of black-headed gulls nesting on its roof.

Swift at Tice’s Meadow.

While well over 100 swifts could be seen hunting across the water.

With a taste of some long awaited freedom, I was tempted for the first time since restrictions had been enforced to visit Farlington Marshes, near Portsmouth.

Among the highlights were the summer visiting terns.

Common tern.

Common terns, although seen locally, are always a delight to watch.

Sandwich tern at Farlington Marshes.

Sandwich tern at Farlington Marshes.

Sandwich terns were a new addition since my visit there back in early March.

Little tern at Farlington Marshes.

I also added my first of the year sighting of a little tern.

Cetti’s warbler at Farlington Marshes.

A Cetti’s warbler, a bird much more often heard than seen, showed incredibly well for once.

Mediterranean gulls at Farlington Marshes.

Mediterranean gulls were easy to spot among the black-headed gulls (that actually have brown heads).

Bearded tit at Farlington Marshes.

Looking out across the reed beds, although quite distant, a family of bearded tits could be seen fly-catching just above the reeds.

Lapwing at Farlington Marshes.

Lapwings looked resplendent in their shiny plumage as their feathers glistened in the sunlight.

Little egrets splashing about at Farlington Marshes.

Several little egrets could also viewed, lustrous in their beautiful white feathered outfits.

Oystercatchers in flight over Farlington Marshes.

A large flock of more than 100 oystercatchers flew in off the sea as high tide approached, eventually settling on a stretch of mud beside the main lagoon.

Mute swan at Farlington Marshes.

One of several mute swans present there took flight. Heading my way, I took a few photos as it flew close overhead, over the seawall and out on to the sea.

Brent geese at Farlington Marshes that have not migrated.

All the wintering large contingent of brent geese had now migrated on their 2,500 mile journey back to their breeding grounds in the Arctic Tundra of northern Russia. All that is, apart from at least three I could still see. Perhaps lame, or maybe just too lazy to attempt such a long flight?

Following the trail of butterflies now starting to emerge, I also made a few excursions in and around the local Surrey Hills. It was by now possible to meet up with Bob and Dougal at a few locations too.

Bee orchid at Clandon Burial Ground.

At Clandon Burial Ground we were able to find several bee-orchids growing.

White admiral butterfly at Bookham Common.

While at Bookham Common, we added a white admiral butterfly.

Green-veined white butterfly.

Green-veined white butterfly.

Silver-washed fritillary butterfly.

As well as silver washed fritillary butterflies to our year’s sightings.

Marbled white butterfly.

While at Sheepleas, marbled white butterflies had begun to emerge. Unlike the previous one I viewed at Hutchinson’s Bank, these were much more obliging to have their photograph taken.

House martins nesting again in Wonersh.

Finally, in Wonersh the house martins I had first reported last year had returned. And having refurbished their nests from their successful previous year of breeding, they were already starting another year’s brood.

House martin leaves the nest site.

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test 4 Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.210

  1. Paul Mattos Reply

    June 23, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Fantastic article as always. Nature is awesome and great that this mentions wildflowers and butterflies as well as birds. How about some reptiles and moths as well?

  2. Keith Meldrum Reply

    June 23, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    What superb photographs. Thank you so much.

  3. Jean Smith Reply

    June 24, 2020 at 7:44 am

    Really enjoyed reading the diary. You do get around.

  4. Andy Kittow Reply

    June 27, 2020 at 10:12 am

    Well done Malcolm Fincham

    I’m envious of some of his sightings. Superb photos. I didn’t know Black Winged Stilts were so close to home.

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