July 12, 2016 by Jackson Hellewell | Comments Off on Purple Emperor at Straits Enclosure, Alice Holt Forest
This Sunday I visited Straits Enclosure in hope of spotting the elusive Purple Emperor. Luckily enough it was sitting in the middle of the path apparently eating some very old fox/dog scat. It stayed there long enough to allow me to take some good photos but then it flew away shortly after I arrived. We watched it floating around in the tops of the oak and hazel surrounding the path. It settled in the tree tops a few times and soaked up the sun for a while. It didn’t come down to the path again for long though.
It was far bigger than all the other butterflies that were around and seemed to be a much more powerful flyer.
Before I saw the Purple Emperor there were other great butterflies on the bramble flowers like white admirals, ringlets and commas and along the way there were little frogs and toads crossing the path.
There were many commas and ringlets flying about. It seems to be a good year for both species.
I was surprised at how many white admirals there were at straits enclosure; three or four at a time! I had considered them as being quite rare but there seemed to be a few around.
Small baby frogs and toads were crossing the path whilst we were on it.
July 7, 2016 by Charlie Hellewell | Comments Off on Home Farm, Burkham – Woodland Trust
It’s astonishing how quickly wild flowers can take hold if they are given the right conditions to flourish. This is certainly true of the open pasture at Home Farm in Burkham near Alton, Hampshire.
The 300 acre site was purchased by the Woodland Trust in the early 1990s and has since been planted with thousands of broad leaved trees such as oak, ash, beech, cherry and field maple interspersed with hedgerows and pastures.
A large portion of the site was originally planned to become a domestic landfill site but with the help of a substantial donation from Lord Sainsbury, the Woodland Trust was able to purchase it and manage the land to the benefit of visitors, landscape and wildlife.
Now, more than twenty years since the Woodland Trust first took ownership and following their effective land management plan the site is full of life and a delight to visit.
A walk following the mown paths across the meadow in June or July displays the beautiful diversity of grasses and wildflowers. Skylarks have taken hold in the meadow and along with the yellowhammers provide a constant soundtrack to a visit.
This morning I wanted to linger in my walk as there were butterflies everywhere, basking in the early sunshine. Marbled whites seem to do very well here and particularly favour the field scabious at the meadow edges.
The Woodland Trust have done a fantastic job with Home Farm and should be commended on creating a beautiful place to visit as well as a developing habitat for a variety of wildlife.
June 8, 2016 by Jackson Hellewell | Comments Off on Bass Rock and Craigleath – Gannets and Puffins
Over the half term holiday I’ve been staying in a lovely little town in Scotland called North Berwick. North Berwick is the nearest town to the world famous Bass Rock – the iconic volcanic structure jutting above the sea. Just 20 years ago the island’s white top now stained with both gannets and their guano was only partially covered with birds. But recently more and more gannets have come back to the rock so that it has almost got to the stage where soon there will be no more room.
The boat trip allowed you to get very close to the gannets but the choppy sea made it difficult to take a picture. The one below is probably one of the best as you can see the creamy colours of the gannet’s plumage and the brilliant blue ring around it’s eye.
Not only did we go to Bass rock, but we also got to go to Craigleith, a nearby island with puffins, guillemots, razorbills, cormorants, shags and fulmars. There were many of these birds nesting on the island.
Craigleith. Another picture demonstrating the difficulties of taking a picture on a RIB.
A very cute picture of a puffin sitting in the water.
Gannets sitting on poo-stained rocks.
The sheer number of gannets in the sky was mind blowing. Most of these were mainly juveniles socialising whilst all the adults were on the ground breeding.
This plant below has been a real problem on islands such as Craigleith. It is called tree mallow and it is an invasive species that is a real threat particularly to puffins; as their roots block up the burrows the puffins use for nesting. In the picture below you can see a bit that was inaccessible so was left. You can see its size compared to the cormorants to the left of the picture and why it poses such a great threat.
Luckily for the birds there are volunteer groups and projects like SOS Puffin run by the Scottish Seabird Centre that help try and get rid of the plant. Every year teams of volunteers cut back the invasive mallow so that there is room for the birds to nest.
May 23, 2016 by Jackson Hellewell | Comments Off on Tawny Owlet in Nesting Box
Very exciting news, the tawny owl box that I made with my Grandpa and put up in the woods in January 2015 has tawny owl chicks! I couldn’t have been more happy.
I only found out so recently because there is no camera inside or outside the box, so when they poked their heads outside it was a great surprise! The chicks downy fluff is very interesting. It is great camouflage for moss and lichen and other nest materials. This coat of feathers would be moulted for a new set of adult feathers.
I have only seen two but there may be more inside as the average brood of a tawny owl is 2-3 eggs. They already seem to be able to climb out of the box and look at the outside world. This will be very useful when it comes time for the owlets to fledge. I’ll post more updates as soon as I can.
May 23, 2016
by Jackson Hellewell Comments Off on Water Voles at Titchfield Canal
Yesterday afternoon we went for a walk along the canal at titchfield which leads to the reserve there. We were really lucky to see a lot of water vole activity there.
Not 20 meters down the track we saw a water vole happily munching on some vegetation on the opposite side of the river. It seemed unfazed at the people walking by.
onthe way back we saw this one swimming back and forth across the river with bits of reed and grass it seemed to be making a nest in side the closest river bank.
I spotted this jay sitting on a post and displaying similar behaviour to a flycatcher; flying a few meters from its perch to grab a fly and then land in the same spot. When it landed with a dragonfly in its mouth I realised it was doing exactly that but with a much bigger prey.
There were many Banded demoiselles flying around the canal this one stayed in one place long enough for me to take this picture.
Yo could hear the Greater Spotted woodpecker chicks in one of these holes in the tree next to the path.
April 25, 2016
by Jackson Hellewell Comments Off on Winnall Moors Nature Reserve
At the weekend we visited Winnall Moors Nature Reserve in Winchester. Its such an oasis of calm and wildlife in the midst of a city (less than a mile from Winchester High Street). We hoped to see kingfishers and water voles but they weren’t showing while we were there. The warblers were in fine song however and we sat for quite a while in the sunshine at the pond area surrounded by reeds and the reed warblers. I managed to get a photo of one.
Marsh Marigold at Winnall Moors
April 18, 2016
by Jackson Hellewell Comments Off on First Cuckoo, bluebells and goshawk
Heard my first cuckoo for this year on Saturday whilst on a bike ride. Its great to hear it again.
The bluebells in the wood are looking (and smelling) amazing now. I’ve been trying out an experiment with my trail camera and the bluebells. More to come later.
Also saw the goshawk again yesterday. This time it was riding a thermal over the woods opposite our house with some buzzards which was good for size comparison. I tried to get the camera on it but it was too far away and too high up.
April 7, 2016 by Jackson Hellewell | Comments Off on Chiffchaffs officially back in my patch!
Although I have heard 1 or 2 Chiffchaffs a day for the last week or so I don’t call them ‘officially back’ in my local area until I have seen one and heard a lot more per day. On Saturday I heard at least 12 when I was on a cycle ride and so I am now officially saying they are back in my patch.
Also I have seen another summer migrant in and around my local patch, the Swallow! I have seen a couple now, hopefully more and more will be arriving soon and they will start to nest. They seem to be very early this year, probably another side effect of the weird winter that we had, the first time I spotted one this year was the 31st of March!
March 7, 2016
by Jackson Hellewell Comments Off on Goshawk seen over my garden!
Yesterday whilst in my garden I heard all the small garden birds suddenly break out in alarm calls and then the pigeons shot from the tops of the trees where they had been roosting.
Looking up, I was amazed to see a goshawk fly over my garden. It was massive (probably a female) it didn’t flap once whilst overhead, it just glided across at incredible speed.
Luckily I wasn’t the only one to see it. There were several of us in the garden as it was Mother’s Day and my uncle who is a very experienced birder verified that it was indeed a goshawk.
It was all over in seconds as it headed from the woods opposite towards what we now call Goshawk wood (where I have previously found evidence of a goshawk plucking post. See post). We are now forever looking up in the hope of seeing it again!
Here’s a similar view of a goshawk. Of course I didn’t have my camera with me when ours flew over so I was unable to take a picture so this brilliant photo was taken by Lewis Thomson.
Image thanks to Lewis Thomson
March 6, 2016
by Jackson Hellewell Comments Off on First Bluebell 2016
Its been a very wet but mild winter. Much of the woods has been impassably muddy recently but there are signs that things could be getting more spring-like… Mum spotted the first bluebell on the 5th March. A good couple of weeks earlier than normal. Here’s one just coming into flower that we found at the weekend, also a frosty looking robin.