Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Record sighting of Red Kite

I've just seen 4 Red Kite together over the woods at the back of my garden in Darley Dale, a record count locally for me. It looks like they were heading towards Matlock but then turned towards Oaker. 
They all look like moulting adults, so could be failed breeders for one of the populations to the north or south of Derbyshire.

Red Kite

Orchids in Wragg's Quarry

There are dozens of flowering spikes of orchids appearing in Wragg's Quarry at the moment. When they first appeared around 2011 I'm sure they were all Northern Marsh Orchids but now there appear to be a wide range of hybrids with what looks like Heath Spotted Orchid.
Many of the hybrids are tall flowering spikes which is a feature of hybridisation.
What ever they are there are some superb examples!
Northern Marsh Orchid with close-up lower petal insert
Heath Spotted Orchid with close-up lower petal insert
hybrid Northern Marsh x Heath Spotted Orchid with unmarked leaves
hybrid Northern Marsh x Heath Spotted Orchid

Monday, 11 June 2018

A second record of Morophaga Choragella the Large Clothes Moth

Simon caught this moth in Darley Dale a couple of days ago. I caught one on July 2016 so it looks like this moth is perhaps recently established in the area. We are not aware of any other Derbyshire records but it would be surprising if there are not some to the South as it looks like the moth is spreading North. 
There are a handful of records from Nottinghamshire but otherwise is restricted to the south east of the Country
Morophaga choragella © Simon Roddis
NBN Atlas records of Morophaga choragella

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Mandarin broods - Chatsworth

I had just been thinking that I was overdue seeing Mandarin with young but made up for it this morning with at least nine broods on a 1km stretch of the River Derwent between Chatsworth and Rowsley. All looked to be of a similar age.
Mandarin female with young

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Orchid hunting around the Via Gellia

I spent the afternoon, which started cool and overcast but ended in sweltering sunshine, searching for some of our early flowering orchids around the Via Gellia. My main target was the Burnt or Burnt-tip Orchid but I think I was slightly late as I only found three flowering spikes and only one of these was in reasonable condition. Nearby were the shrivelled stems of two Green-winged Orchid which I have still yet to see in good condition locally so will have to return a little earlier next year.
There were however lots of Fly Orchids and these appear to be flowering later than normal, as I usually expect to see them at their best in the last days of May. I didn't search all that hard but only found a single Frog Orchid.

Burnt Orchid
Fly Orchid
Frog Orchid

Marsh Pug and other day flying moths of the limestone grassland

I spent the afternoon exploring the edges of the Via Gellia looking mainly for orchids, which I've posted above but also some of our day flying moths.
I have looked many times for the Marsh Pug which is very thinly distributed in Derbyshire and was very pleased to finely catch up with one today. In some parts of the country they are quite a dark moth but in Derbyshire they are this pale tawny brown. They feed on Field Mouse-ear as larva and I suspect that it what this adult has settled on.
Marsh Pug 
In the same area there were a lot of Grass Rivulet including a rather dark barred individual which is unlike any I have previously see. 

Grass Rivulets typical example at the top and a dark barred individual below

The striking Wood Tiger was also on the wing in good numbers, looking like many had recently emerged. I was also surprised to see the Cistus Forester at several locations and in reasonable numbers so it looks like they are having a good year.
Wood Tiger

Cistus Forester
Finally I saw one or two Mother Shipton with its striking wing markings.
Mother Shipton

Walking around some fields had almost no insects and a very  few plant species and others were a riot of colour with a variety of plant species including several orchids and it was in these fields that the moths were to be found.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Turtle Dove - Matlock Forest

I saw my first Turtle Dove locally in almost twenty years today in the Matlock Forest area.

Turtle Dove - male, in the lower photo it is giving its distinctive purring call

I moved to Derbyshire from Yorkshire in 1997 and at that time the Turtle Dove could be regularly heard calling from the pine trees on Flash Lane. A few years later they had gone locally and since then have gone from much of the UK. The BTO estimated the population decline since 1994 as a scary 93% by 2016 in the UK with a 78% decline across Europe between 1980 and 2013.
It's not surprising therefore that scientists have talked about possible global extinction for the species, suggesting it could go the way of the North American Passenger Pigeon, with a population in the millions in the middle of the 19th Century by around September 1, 1914, the last known Passenger Pigeon, a female named Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Experts have put forward four main factors associated with the decline of Turtle Doves. These include the loss of suitable habitat in both the breeding and non-breeding range, unsustainable levels of hunting on migration and disease.
In Derbyshire, according to Frost & Shaw in The Birds of Derbyshire the county population was estimated as probably in the region of 50 to 100 pairs in the late 1990's but is now no more than 2 or 3 pairs. The book also notes;

'..a small outlier [population] existed at around 300m in the pine plantations of the Matlock Forest area, where up to nine territories were occupied during the 1990's, but these are now believed to have gone'

They are secretive birds nesting in tall trees and apart from the distinctive song are very unobtrusive could one or more pairs have continued to breed unnoticed in the area or have birds returned?

I made a sound recording of the lovely purring song. This doesn't seem to work if you use Safari as your internet browser but is fine with Google.


Friday, 1 June 2018

Little Ringed Plover - Beeley Flash

In terms of habitat we have no wetlands in the immediate Darley Dale area so species that require these habitats are inevitably rare locally. I've mentioned before the small pool which has appeared for the last few winters at Beeley and which can hold water in to the summer. I try to visit the pool at least weekly as it offers the potential for a number of species which are unlikely to be seen elsewhere. 
Today the pool held a single Little Ringed Plover which is the first I've seen in the Matlock/ Bakewell area.
Only recorded for the first time in Derbyshire in 1950 the species is now regular at many of the counties wetlands and approximately 40 pairs now breed in the County.
Little Ringed Plover
The photo shows well the yellow eye ring which is one of the features which distinguishes it from its larger cousin the Ringed Plover.
Last weekend a moulting drake Gadwall was on the pool which is now home to around a dozen moulting Mandarin and 3 families of Mallard.

Gadwall - moulting male
The water level is falling rapidly now so I'm not sure how much longer the pool will last.
Beeley Flash

Saturday, 26 May 2018

First brood of Stonechat

Came across a pair of Stonechat with three recently fledged youngsters this morning.
Stonechat, male with two youngsters below

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Red Kite over Harewood Moor

My second Red Kite of the week, or possibly the same bird as this one seen briefly over Whitesprings plantation on Tuesday. This bird drifted over Harewood Moor towards Chesterfield this afternoon.
It surely can't be long before they are breeding in Derbyshire, if indeed they are not already doing so, or even locally for that matter. This bird looks like an adult with an inner primaries on each wing lost to moult.
Red Kite

Monday, 21 May 2018

Lesser Whitethroat - Rowsley

After hearing Lesser Whitethroat on Saturday on the edge of the moor I had another singing male this morning by the A6 just north of Rowsley. Both birds are probably migrants heading to breeding grounds further west or north.
First time for photos of the smart, grey and white, Lesser Whitethroat on the blog.

Lesser Whitethroat

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Oystercatcher - Chatsworth

The Oystercatcher was still on the nest at Chatsworth this morning. Not sure if it will be brooding eggs or small young now. It was looking a little perplexed by the rapidly changing scene around it as preparations gather pace for the Royal Horticultural Society Show in June.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

More Spring migrant arrivals

On a beautiful Spring morning it looks like most of our returning migrant birds are now back. I added Common and Lesser Whitethroat this morning, the latter is scarce on the eastern side of the Derwent and generally doesn't breed here but is commoner towards Carsington. I also saw my first Swifts, with a dozen over Rowsley although there were reports from Matlock at the start of the week. 
I've yet to see Spotted Flycatcher but they were present at Carsington on Tuesday and I haven't yet been up to Matlock Forest for Nightjar but birds were churring there on Monday (7th May) which is an early date.
Whitethroat - arriving back a little later this year
Unsurprisingly with the recent sunny weather Common Lizards are also enjoying the weather with this small, perhaps 1 year old, individual on Flash Lane. Finally the Large Red Damselfly have at last emerged from my small pond.

Common Lizard

Friday, 18 May 2018

Little Owl - Winster

Whilst I've been away James came across a pair of Little Owls on his drive to work and I managed a trip out to see them this morning and fortunately one of the birds was sat out.
Owl populations in the area, apart from Tawny, fluctuate markedly from year to year. Barn is badly affected by prolonged cold spells with ground snow which can wipe them out completely. Long-eared's on the moor fluctuate with the vole and mice population whilst Short-eared appears now to be only a casual visitor. 
The Little Owl has disappeared from regular sites around Darley Dale and off the moor so there is only a regular pair I've featured in the Bakewell area and this new pair located by James but I do see them occasionally on Bonsall Moor and there is probably a reasonable population there, using the many old barns, some of which are provided with access for Little Owls.
In any case, it's always a treat to see any owls locally.
Little Owl

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Wood Warbler - Halldale Wood

The first report of a singing Wood Warbler was on 10th May in Halldale Wood, whilst I have been away, but what is presumably the same male was still singing there this morning.

Wood Warbler
I've mentioned previously that the local population of Wood Warblers has declined markedly over the past two decades and last year I'm not aware of any records from Halldale which used to be one of the best places to hear their trilling song so its pleasing to have at least one male back there this year. The wider Derbyshire population faired better during the first decade of the 21st Century but has been subject to significant fluctuations from year to year and it looks like the overall trend is sadly one of decline.

The UK Wood Warbler population has declined by 69% since the mid 1990s and has been lost from 50% of its former UK range. However, the causes of this decline are unknown and may be driven by factors at their wintering sites, or migration routes or a combination of these. In order to try and understand the factors affecting Wood Warblers abroad the RSPB has attached tiny geo-locators to a number of Wood Warblers from Dartmoor and the New Forest populations which is further explained here.

I made a recording of the Wood Warbler singing this morning. On the recording you can hear the distinctive liquid trill three times followed by the peu-peu-peu-peu notes at 40 seconds and finally finishing with another trill.

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