Fringe Box



Birdwatcher’s Diary No. 306

Published on: 17 Jun, 2024
Updated on: 17 Jun, 2024

By Malcolm Fincham

The weather remained cool during the first weeks of June as a north-westerly flow kept temperatures down across the UK.

Crikey! Fresh snow on the Cairngorms in June!

There are even reports from a long-time friend and wildlife observer, now living near the Cairngorms, that snow has  been falling in the Scottish highlands.

Southern counties of England fared much better, although even here we felt fortunate when on a few occasions when the sun shone and daytime temperatures touched 20c.

My personal challenge when the sun did shine was to attempt to keep up with seeing some of the butterflies as they began to emerge. Along with anything else to take my interest in the way of a photograph while on my travels about the local countryside and beyond.

Adonis blue butterfly, Denbies Hillside.

A visit to Denbies Hillside on Ranmore Common near Dorking early in the month saw my first few adonis blue butterflies starting to emerge on their first brood of the year.

Rose-chaffer beetles buzzed about me, looking rather dapper in their shiny metallic-green outfits when I eventually caught up with one for long enough to photograph.

Common blue butterfly, Pewley Down.

As well as a few common blue butterflies which I later saw at numerous other venues I visited.

Small blue butterfly, Pewley Down.

On June 5 at Pewley Down I found my first few small blue butterflies, which had started to emerge along the south-facing slopes.

Meadow brown butterfly.

I also spotted my first two meadow brown butterflies of the year, although unable to gain the enthusiasm to chase them around the hillside for a photo when I was sure to get plenty of opportunities during the weeks to come.

Small heath butterfly.

Small heath butterflies had become the most prominent of sightings at the areas visited during the first weeks of June.

Green hairstreak butterfly.

And green hairstreak butterflies continued to be seen at a number of locations.

Swollen-thighed beetle.

Strangely interesting to me were a few pictures I took of what seemed to be swollen-thighed beetles, also known as the thick-legged flower beetles.

And it just takes one look at a male to see why as they have huge green bulges on the femora of their hind legs.

Clandon Wood Burial Ground.

At Clandon Wood Burial Ground the wildflower meadows had begun to flourish, with ox-eyed daises now being the most dominant.

Bee orchid.

Looking more closely among the variety of flora, it seemed to be a good year there (as well as at many other sites visited) for one of my favourite orchids, the bee orchid.

Young kestrels, Clandon Wood Burial Ground.

Annually breeding there with a nest box provided are a pair of kestrels, and this year was no different. Two of the four young kestrels could already be viewed peering out and appearing soon to be ready to fledge.

Swallow at Clandon Wood Burial Ground.

Although it was a little too early and too cool and overcast to see some of the regular butterflies, I did allow myself a few moments to attempt to photo the swallows hawking over one of the ponds.

Speckled wood butterfly.

A visit to the Riverside Nature Reserve near Burpham on June 7, saw little in the way of butterflies apart from a speckled wood and a brief glimpse of a passing red admiral.

Damselflies by Stoke Lake.

However, a few species of damselflies could be found by Stoke Lake.

Great crested grebe family, Stoke Lake.

Out on the lake a pair of great crested grebes could be viewed now raising two young at their side.

Reed warbler, Stoke Lake.

By the lakeside reed warblers were busily, toing and froing back and forth, through the reed beds, feeding their young, some of which had already fledged their nests.

Young reed bunting.

A young reed bunting could be viewed, still in attendance of its parents.

Male reed bunting.

The adult male looking quite different with its black head-mask.

Female reed bunting.

The fledgling much more resembling like its mum.

Egyptian geese with two gosling at Stoke Lock.

At Stoke Lock a pair of Egyptian geese were still in attendance of what were now just two remaining, but rapidly growing, goslings.

Red kite over the Slyfield recycling centre.

Red kites continued to feature among the gulls viewed across the river in the direction of the recycling centre.

Grey wagtail with a mouthful of bugs, by Stoke Lock.

By the lock-side a pair of grey wagtails could be watched hunting over the river for insects, collecting them in reasonable mouthfuls, then taking them to feed their young.


It was also nice to capture a few photos of greenfinches, these having declined greatly in past decade, but seemingly beginning to stabilise a little at the riverside, as well as at a few other sites I had visited locally.

On June 9, in the company of Bob and Dougal, and taking advantage of the forecast of at least a sunny morning. we made an early start on a trip to Wiltshire.

Winterbourne Downs, Wiltshire.

Our first stop was to Winterbourne Downs, were the south-facing chalk downland holds a wealth of important biodiversity in the way of flora and fauna.

The area is part of a conservation project launched by the RSPB in the 1980s, mostly to protect stone-curlew habitat.

Garden warbler, Winterbourne Downs, Wiltshire.

The bright morning sunshine was evoking much bird sound on our arrival. Even welcomed by the delightful sounds of a garden warbler as we walked up the track from the car park.

An view point erected by the RSPB allowed views across the fields to where at least two pairs of stone curlews had recently been seen.

Stone curlews, Winterbourne Downs, Wiltshire.

Although quite distant to photograph, much better views of one pair could be attained through a telescope.

Skylark, Winterbourne Downs, Wiltshire.

Further up the slope the path opened out alongside flower meadows where we were treated to the sights and sounds of singing skylarks.

Corn bunting, Winterbourne Downs, Wiltshire.

Corn buntings.


And yellowhammers.

Marsh fritillarily butterflies at Winterbourne Downs, Wiltshire.

An added bonus, and a lovely addition to this year’s first sightings, were marsh fritillary butterflies. Still looking very prominently marked even although now coming to the end of their reign.

A visit to Amesbury on Salisbury Plain gave us the opportunity to once again view those magnificent great bustards, having previously seen written about in my past of reports.

Great bustard.

Now reportedly being a self-sustaining population of more than 100 birds, although quite distant, several could be found.

And although being Europe’s heaviest flying bird, with only the South African Kori bustard being the heaviest in the world, it’s incredible how elusive they can be while feeding within their surroundings.

Whinchat, Salisbury Plain.

A bonus bird of the day was a singing whinchat, although disappointed with myself for not getting a decent photo of it while it perched briefly on a post.

Corn bunting.

I did gain some credence by getting a rather pleasing shot of one of many corn buntings in the area from the back of Bob’s car!

Silver-studded blue butterfly, Thursley Common.

Back in Surrey on June 11, while visiting Thursley Common, where the first few sprigs of heather had started to flower, silver-studded blue butterflies were starting to emerge. I counted at least five males, but no females, as yet.

Dartford warbler, Thursley Common.

Dartford warblers seemed abundant during my walk, flitting back and forth between the gorse bushes, with their contact calls heard regularly and even managing a few photos.

Roe deer, Thursley Common.

At one point, a roe deer could be viewed running through the heather.

Male common redstart, Thursley Common.

Also, during my walk, getting what I feel are my best photos this year of a male common redstart.

Female common redstart, Thursley Common.

Adding my first photo this year of a female common redstart.

Common lizard, Thursley Common.

Along the boardwalk a few common lizards could be noted, attempting to gain some warmth from the timber boards.

Tree pipit, Thursley Common.

I was also alerted to a tree pipit briefly still in song, perhaps indicating it was ready to take on a second brood? As it perched up just long enough for a photo.

Woodlark, Thursley Common.

And a few of those melodic woodlarks were also back in song.

Female stonechat, Thursley Common.

While both male and female stonechats were regularly on show.

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