19 May 2019

19 May 19 - Garden Orange-tip

If the weather is warm & sunny, I sometimes see Red Admirals or Peacocks flying around my garden in late Winter, which have hibernated as adults in the previous year. However, one of the first species of the Butterflies to emerge as adults around my garden are Orange-tips. They are also one of my favourite UK Butterflies. Males are always first on the wing of the two sexes and can regularly been seen enjoying my flowers, especially the Bluebells. Females emerge later & are less generally obvious & erratic visitors. So, I was pleased to see one settle on a white variant of my Red Valerian & enjoy a quick roost as the sun went in. She was there long enough to take my first photos of a female Orange-tip.
Orange-tip: A well camouflaged female against the white Red Valerian
The males are far more obvious, especially in flight, when they cannot be confused with any of the other UK Whites.
Orange-tip: Male at Old Harry (4 May 15)

15 May 2019

15 May 19 - A Is For Alexandrine

I was having a final look at the recent Durlston Bee-eaters, before heading home, when three silent Parakeets flew high over the Durlston Long Meadow field. I had a quick look at them with the bins & was surprised to see one was noticeably larger & longer-tailed than the others. It looked large for a Ring-necked Parakeet & so I picked up the camera to take a few photos. They circled the field once before flying back towards Swanage. Locally, Ring-necked Parakeets are a regular, but erratic sight, ever since an ex-publican of the Bankes Arms in Studland released about a dozen or so individuals when he left the area in the early 1990s. I had a quick look at one of the photos on the back of the camera. I saw two were juveniles & the long-tailed individual was an adult. It still didn't feel right, but they were only Parakeets & I assumed perhaps it was an oddly long-tailed individual, being accentuated by the two youngsters. I made a comment about the ages & thought I would have a proper look when I got home. In the end, I had forgot all about them in the few minutes it took me to get home. The following day, I saw a tweet from the country recorder, Marcus Lawson, about an Alexandrine Parakeet at Durlston & it immediately made sense. I hadn't considered other Parakeet species. When I looked at all the photos, I found a photo of the upper wing & the large red wing patch. Clearly, an Alexandrine Parakeet had been released or escaped & joined up with the local Ring-necked Parakeets.
Alexandrine Parakeet: Flying above a juvenile Ring-necked Parakeet
Alexandrine Parakeet: Alexandrine Parakeet is larger, long-tailed & heavier billed than a Ring-necked Parakeet
Alexandrine Parakeet: Had I looked at this photo, the red patch on the wing coverts and heavy red bill would have been immediately identifiable as an Alexandrine Parakeet
Alexandrine Parakeets were named after Alexander the Great. Apparently, they first brought back to Europe as exotic pets following his conquest of the Northern India.
Alexandrine Parakeet: A perched individual from Chiriyi Tapu, Andamans (22 Dec 13)

15 May 19 - B Is For Bee-eaters

I was working at home on Wednesday, when I saw a message at lunchtime of seven Bee-eaters at Durlston: the excellent Dorset County Council reserve at the Southern side of Swanage. I couldn't head up quickly due to work. I could afford to be laid back on this occasion, having been lucky enough to have seen a flock of six Bee-eaters at Durlston on 31 May 97 & a single exactly fifteen years later to the day. Maybe I should pop up on 31 May 27? They were still present when I finished for the day, so it was time to grab the camera & pop up to Durlston. I could see a few parked cars just outside the park entance & a small huddle in the field on the Eastern side of the entrance road. As I walked up to the small gathering, I saw Peter Moore lift his camera: clearly, they were still here. For the next hour they regularly flew over the fields on both sides of the entrance road. I've now seen eighteen good Birds at Durlston: a Red-footed Falcon, a Red-flanked Bluetail, a Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler, a self-found Bluethroat & fourteen Bee-eaters. A bit more variety would be nice!
Bee-eater: They really are too bright for the British countryside
Bee-eater: They are even better on the upperside
Bee-eater: Doing what their name suggests
Bee-eater: An unidentifiable Bumblebee: one of a number of species with a yellow band on the body
Bee-eater: This individual with a lop-sided tail moult and a notch in the inner primaries on the right wing was the most photogenic
I left about 20:00 as the light levels were starting to drop & I didn't think I was going to get any better shots. They must have headed off within the next thirty minutes, as one of my mates arrived about 20:30 & failed to see them. Presumably they roosted locally, but they didn't return to Durlston the following morning. Hopefully, the Dorset Spring isn't over yet.

10 May 2019

10 May 19 - Golden Brown

It's that time of year when there are a number of youngsters from the early local breeders appearing in my garden. Normally, I expect to see two or three young Dunnocks appearing over the course of the breeding season. It not always easy to be sure how many youngsters are around, unless I see them together or can learn the subtle differences in plumage to separate them. Hopefully, I continue to see the same individuals over the following few months, until they become a lot harder to pick out from the two pairs of resident Dunnocks that have territories that include my garden.
Dunnock: Juvenile. Typically my Dunnocks look like this individual photographed at Studland (14 May 14)
However, this year is going to be a lot easier to keep tabs on one of the individuals as it is very distinctive. It's been around for a few weeks now, so clearly has worked out how to survive so far. They get a bit of support from the parents in their first few days of fledgling, but like a number of my other garden Birds, are far too quickly left to sort themselves out.
Dunnock: Juvenile. This cracking golden-brown individual has been around for a few weeks now
These photos were taken through the kitchen window & hence, they aren't as sharp as they would otherwise be.
Dunnock: Juvenile
The pale plumage is going to be a result of some leucistic genes, but I've never seen any of my local Dunnocks look pale before. So, it's possible that a wandering Dunnock has briefly entered the area or perhaps it's just some genes that haven't popped up in the twenty plus years I've lived here. David Attenborough highlighted that the often overlooked Dunnocks have a lot more spicy sex lives than people had assumed. So, it would be nice to think that there is another explanation, that my garden played host to the UK's first African Desert Warbler.
African Desert Warbler: It's unlikely this was a parent, but it looks like it might just have been. Western Sahara (8 Feb 14)