Sunday, 25 October 2020

Whitchurch - Rose-coloured Starling

Having seen several Rose-coloured Starlings over the years including a Summer adult, I was prepared to miss out on this latest reported bird. It's been fifteen years since my one and only Shire tick however, at Porth-y-Waen back on 18th November 2005, so the 'need' to see it kicked in! I thought I'd better make some effort!

Despite the lack of Rosy plumage, juveniles have a touch of class about them and are usually quite confiding. This one was no exception!

Having arrived early afternoon, the sun was in short supply but it peeked out on occasions and what a difference!

And a bit of blue sky always helps...

Too much clutter in the way for this image so a big crop but I did say confining...

In a sense, I hope the bird moves on to warmer climes as survival becomes a big problem if serious winter weather kicks in. I well remember the Port-y-Waen bird died a few days after seeing it!

Friday, 23 October 2020

A few Shropshire Butterflies from 2020

After writing a review of the 4th edition of WILDGuides 'Britain's Butterflies, I thought I'd go through some of the images taken throughout Shropshire during 2020 and most of which not blogged? Odonata and Orthoptera came first this year but here's a selection using the taxonomy order of the new book! Some of the species had full blogs, click on the links for more images etc...

First off Essex Skippers taken at Venus Pool on 13th July. More images here

No shortage of Small Whites at VP either, from July / August the first with cloud cover followed by another in sunshine!

Again at VP, wherever, whenever, Green-veined Whites were busy ensuring their population for 2021?

A hovering male Brimstone at Aston locks on 15 August plus another one at Venus Pool on 7th August.

One of my main aims of the year was to get some 'decent' images of Wall. Two visits in early August produced the goods, traditional... Full account here

and on flowers... 

Here's a Speckled Wood, in bright sunshine looking as if he want's to be a Wall?

A Ringlet on Bramble blossom...

A couple of angles on Meadow Brown...

The Bog produced plenty of Grayling on 24th July,  nice to see them busy on Bramble blossom.

The first of two Shropshire 'lifers' - Marbled White at Venus Pool on 10th July. Read the full story here

Here's Silver-washed Fritillary, one of several showing really well at Llanymynech Rocks on 26th July... More pics and full review here

And my second local lifer of the year - Dark Green Fritillary at Titterstone Clee on 16th July. I was looking for a certain Damselfly but this was a splendid surprise! More pics and full story here

Some striking Nymphalids starting with Red Admiral...

Not every butterfly was in large numbers, this was one of the least productive years I can recall for Painted Lady! This one at Llanymynech Rocks on 26th July.

Peacock as ever stunning in shade or sunlight!

A pristine  Small Tortoiseshell at Venus Pool on 3rd August.

A Comma at the same location on 11th July

Followed by this striking partly while aberrant version on 25th July... More pics here

A long season for Small Copper, pics taken in July and September...

Common Blue seemed to take forever to get going, this male at Venus Pool 6th August...

And finally, another aberration - this female 'caeruleomarginata' at Venus Pool on 29th August. A few more pics 

That's all for Butterflies in 2020, roll on 2021. If we aren't locked down, I may have a full year at these?

Oh and while you are here, check out my review of the new WILDGuides field guide to Britain's Butterflies, it's a must have!!

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Book Review - Britain's Butterflies 4th ed. 'WILDGuides'

Autumn may not be the ideal time to publish a Butterfly book but delayed by COVID-19, the 4th edition of WILDguides Britain's Butterflies is now available and it's a must have!

A lifelong interest in Butterflies began for me in the 1960’s when as a young budding naturalist ‘The Observers Book of Butterflies’ became a source of wonder and inspiration. Fast forward another forty years to the millennium and with the dawn of the digital age, I bought my first digital camera and needing a new reference book I bought the WILDGuides first edition of ‘Britain’s Butterflies. Using photographs, cleverly arranged on a montage of food plant flowers or habitat, this edition would still be adequate for the novice but times move on. The fourth edition of this ground-breaking book has now evolved into the benchmark for modern photographic field guides. The original duo: David Tomlinson and Robert Still, joined by David Newland and Andy Swash from the second edition have ensured the book keeps pace with modern taxonomy and uses the best available photographs. The foreword, written by Julie Williams CE of Butterfly Conservation, reminds us of their alarming decline around the world and the need to conserve them - hopefully their work will ensure that future generations, are inspired by butterflies too.

Right from the start, this book looks and feels well made with a soft yet durable cover (flexibound). Weighing in at 610g and measuring 8 ½ x 6”, it will easily slip into a backpack. There are over 600 high quality colour images and 76 colour distribution maps throughout the 256 pages which cover in detail, the identification of all 59 butterfly species that breed regularly in the UK in addition to former breeders and migrants. Written with an easy-going style, it will appeal to the beginner but is worthy of a place in the bookcase of the more advanced observer. The sections on food plants and on recording / monitoring have been expanded and the species order has been revised to reflect the latest taxonomy.

The introduction sets the scene for making butterfly identification as simple as possible then covers how butterflies and moths differ and their biology. The sections on ‘where to look for butterflies’ and their identification by ‘type’, separated into six families and then eleven broad groups (eg ‘Browns , ‘whites and yellows’, skippers etc) is a sensible approach for the beginner. A brief section on colour variation and aberration whets the appetite for more advanced identification. References to other books are included, which provide more depth of information. 

The bulk of the book deals with species accounts which are covered in an exemplary, consistent format and how appropriate that the first section commences with a favourite for many observers - the Swallowtail. 

Where this book excels, is the ease with which species can be found with each having a double page spread, information on the left and relevant images on the right.

The conservation status, legal protection status and measurements of each butterfly are followed by an up to date distribution map which colour codes the main breeding range, secondary breeding and for extinct species, the former location. The tried and tested ‘clock diagram’ uses another colour coded scheme to clearly denote when each life stage occurs, noting that in the north of the species range, this may be slightly later. Tips on where to look for the species plus possible confusion species followed by a concise summary of the species’ status in Britain and Ireland.

The colour plates are superb, males and females are distinguished where possible, sometimes with annotated close up images or including both upperwing and underwing shots when appropriate.   Some images of subspecies (eg Silver-studded Blue and Grayling) and forms (eg Comma) are included and a list of subspecies is included in the main national list (page 237 onwards). 

Former breeding species, rare migrants and vagrants occupy the next thirty pages, detailing their likely origins.  The very rare migrant, Scarce Tortoiseshell, is included in this section and is only ‘new’ species addition since the first edition. There was an exciting record of sightings at different places in south-east England in 2014. Southern Small White gets a mention too, expanding its range rapidly in Europe and recorded near Calais in 2019. Some records of either may of doubtful provenance but who knows whether these small advance parties could one day become UK colonists?

 A section on food plants, details the associations, sometimes unique, of caterpillar species with a particular flower or tree. The food requirements of the adult butterfly may differ from that of the caterpillar as the priority is finding good sources of nectar. Searching for the correct food plant may help the observer find the target butterfly? The early life stages of butterflies are covered next with close up images of the eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises, noting when and where you might find them.

The concluding section features a complete list of British (and Irish) butterflies, tips on butterfly watching and photography, butterfly conservation plus recording and monitoring. Having found your butterfly and photographed it, the online presence of butterfly conservation and regional groups ensure images can be enjoyed by a wider audience and these act as ‘news’ of emergence and productive sites.

Published by Princeton University Press on 14th September 2020, the target price of £17.99 can currently be found as low as £13.40 at various outlets. Be sure you are buying the correct edition, with a picture of the Comma on the cover!

This field guide is an absolute ‘must have’ for anyone contemplating a wish to identify and learn more about butterflies. Whether simply observing butterflies in the garden, the countryside, local nature reserves or whilst on holiday, it contains all the information you need when in the field to identify your ‘finds’. For the price, this fourth edition is a snip and will bring you right up to date! Happy hunting next spring…

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Venus Pool - Brambling arrival

The pool was very quiet today but at least there was a fair bit of activity in the arable field hedgerow. Highlight was my first Brambling (female) of the Autumn (one was also reported the previous day)

A couple of Yellowhammer too...

Plus at least 20 Reed Bunting.

Red Kite have become 'daily' birds nowadays, how times change...

Plus a female Sparrowhawk hunting...