Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Brown Argus - Lathkill Dale

Good numbers of butterflies on the wing today in the hot sunshine. Another Painted Lady at Lathkill Dale but my main target was the Brown Argus and I noted over a dozen, it was quite breezy which made photography a little difficult. 
Historically treated as a race of Northern Brown Argus but now generally considered a Peak District form of the Brown Argus.
Brown Argus


The migrant moths which have been gracing moth traps from the south coast to the midlands are still eluding me, but the warm southerly winds over the next few days may do the trick. 
Still catching a reasonable variety of moths but nothing special, this Phoenix was the best of last nights catch, like a number of other geometers such as the Red-green Carpet the Phoenix tends to rest with the abdomen curled upwards.


Painted Lady - Bonsall Moor

A walk round Bonsall Moor early morning produced a good showing of orchids with Common Spotted the most obvious but Pyramidal, Fragrant and Bee Orchids were all in reasonable numbers. 
A singing Lesser Whitethroat proved typically elusive, and, like the Yellow Wagtail, is only seen occasionally on passage on the gritstone moors but is widespread if thinly distributed in the White Peak.
Plenty of butterflies on the wing; Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Common Blue and only my second Painted Lady of the year. Butterfly Conservation has predicted a major invasion of the Painted Lady this summer but this one looks like its been here a while.
Painted Lady

Sunday, 28 June 2015


A grey day today, at least until late afternoon when the sky cleared. The nesting season is just about over for the majority of Peregrines with the young having fledged now although birds can still be found in the nesting areas.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Common Lizard - pregnant female

I can only assume from the size and shape of this lizard that it's a pregnant female. It certainly looks to be in good condition and has what must be one of the longest tails I have see.
Common Lizard - pregnant female

Monkshood - Cupola Ponds

The Monkshood has been in the press this week following the tragic death of a gardener who had been in contact with the plant. Although the plant is known to be poisonous this appears to be an extreme reaction.
It's described as a rare established perennial in The Flora of Derbyshire, I came across this plant on the edge of the Cupola Ponds near the Red Lion at Stonedge. It is widely cultivated in gardens and there are various hybrids recognised so it's impossible to know if this is a truly wild example but its a very striking flower.

Monkshood distribution from the Derby City Council flora website

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Greater Butterfly Orchid - Abney

I've been browsing my copy of the new Flora of Derbyshire by Alan Wilmot and Nick Moyes. 
When I ordered the pre-publication copy at £25 I though it would be just an updated version of The Flora of Derbyshire edited by A.R. Clapham and was very pleasantly surprised to receive a book of a similar size to the Birds of Derbyshire with distribution maps for the majority of species as well as many colour photos.
If your interested in the flora of the County then this book is a must but even if you have a more casual interest it's a nice book for the coffee table.
I added a new orchid to my Derbyshire list today; the Greater Butterfly Orchid which has a restricted distribution in the County and is a rather tall and impressive member of the family.
Greater Butterfly Orchid

Cistus Forester - Longstone Edge

Very windy on Longstone Edge this afternoon but managed to locate the Cistus Forester, this is a small day flying moth with a body length of about 10mm so it takes a bit of locating. With the sun out the metallic green wings are striking.
The Cistus Forester has a conservation category of Nationally Scarce B, which indicates that it has been recorded from only 31 to 100 10km squares in Great Britain since January 1980.
Cistus Forester

Orchids - Wragg's Quarry

Heath Spotted and Northern Marsh Orchids amongst the Birdsfoot Trefoil in Wragg's Quarry. It looks to me like the number of Heath Spotted are increasing and the Northern Marsh decreasing. There are also Common Spotted near the pond and one or two Common Twayblade so an impressive showing.
Orchids in Wragg's Quarry

Monday, 22 June 2015

Osprey - Rowsley

Ken located an Osprey sat in a tree north of Rowsley late afternoon. It was raining quite hard at the time so it looked unlikely to fly off immediately but as I arrived it dropped in to the river and caught a small trout. It then flew off in the direction of Haddon Hall, presumably looking for a tree in which to eat the fish.
Not sure whether this record constitutes the last of the Spring or the first of the Autumn? Looking at the plumage it certainly looks like an adult with quite a lot of damage to the flight feathers and tail. This bird is likely to be slowly heading South but could stay in the area for a while, fingers crossed.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Red-necked Footman - Flash Lane

Ken came across this Red-necked Footman today on Flash Lane. This is another scarce moth which appears to be moving in to the area. Like the Orange Footman it feeds on lichen growing on oaks Beech and Larch so these two species have similar habitat requirements.
Red-necked Footman (c. Ken Smith)

Common Sandpiper youngster - River Derwent

An endearing family of 4 downy young Common Sandpiper with both adults in attendance on the River Derwent this morning between Rowsley and Chatsworth. Even at this age they bob up and down just like their parents which is quite comical.
These are the young of the colour-ringed bird which I have photographed previously.
Common Sandpiper - chick

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Quail - Elton Common

Simon sent me a message yesterday to say that he had had two, possibly three Quail calling at Elton Moor late yesterday evening. I spent this evening in the area and heard one bird calling intermittently shortly after 9pm, doing the distinctive three note 'wet-my-lips' call. I was taken completely by surprise when it flew across the field in front of me and only managed a rather blurred photo as it was landing.
I have only previously seen one Quail in flight before in the UK and that was about ten years ago when one circled my moth trap in Darley Dale calling late one summer evening! 
The Quail is scarce in Derbyshire and numbers recorded, usually just of calling birds vary but the Elton Common/ Pike Hall area appears to be one of the more reliable areas for them.
Although the photo is poor I've posted it as I'm unlikely to get another!
Quail landing in wheat field

Yellow Wagtail - Elton Common

At least two but possibly more Yellow Wagtails at Elton Common this evening. The Yellow Wagtail is quite a rarity in the Darley Dale area, typically I will only record one or two a year and then as birds flying over calling so this is its first appearance on the blog.
I think they are slightly more frequent in the limestone dales than around the gritstone moors. Nice to be able to see these birds on the ground.

Yellow Wagtail - male

Orange Footman - Darley Dale

This Orange Footman was a nice addition to the garden list last night, first recorded in the local area in June 2013 by Simon and only added to the Derbyshire moth list as recently as 2004 so this is a moth which appears to be gradually spreading north.
A flock of 10 Crossbill flew over Flash Lane this morning but little else of note.
Orange Footman

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Redstarts at their nest

A pair of Redstart near Stanton actively feeding young in a large Birch tree.

Redstart - male and female at nest

Monday, 15 June 2015

Long-eared Owl update

The breeding success of Long-eared Owls has been much lower than last year. I think this is down to the lower numbers of voles available. I watched one adult hunting for 1.5 hours during which time it brought in two chicks, which were probably Pheasant, I haven't seen them catch young birds as a prey item previously. Locally at least they appear to take small mammals almost exclusively, at least in the twilight hours when they can be watched.
By comparison last year I watched one owl catch 8 voles in 45 mins and another take 5 voles in 15 minutes. I think last year was exceptional for vole numbers and that this was mirrored in other areas of the country.
This photo is of an adult taken at the start of the month carrying a vole, taken at around 9pm just as the sun was setting which highlighted the bird and its pale wing edges.
Long-eared Owl with vole

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Bumper moth catch

Despite, or perhaps as a result of the change in the weather, I had a good moth catch last night, by current standards at least.
A total of 67 moths of 33 species is my best catch this year and included 8 Elephant Hawkmoths, Scorched Wing, Gold Spot, Freyer's Pug and both Alder Moth and Dusky Brocade shown below. 
The rain during the day curtailed any bird watching.
Alder Moth
Dusky Brocade

Friday, 12 June 2015

A morning with the Wood Warbler

I returned for another look at the Wood Warbler and took a few more photos.
Wood Warbler
I took a short sequence of video with the Wood Warbler singing. I was using a monopod so the image is a bit shaky but the song is nice.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Banded Demoiselle - Darley Bridge

I spent a few hours this afternoon looking for Banded Demoiselles along the river bank by Darley Cricket Club. I eventually saw a female but Ken had seen several including this male he photographed earlier in the week. Both Ken and Simon Roddis have seen Banded Demoiselles in this area in previous years but they appear to be in small numbers. They can be seen more reliably along Cromford Canal. 
It would be interesting to know if they occur further up either the Wye or Derwent.
Banded Demoiselle - male (c. Ken Smith)

Broad-bodied Chaser - Darley Dale

I record most Broad-bodied Chasers at my small garden pond and this female is no exception spending most of the afternoon on the tip of a garden cane. I also had a male fly over the garden this morning, they seem to favour small pools over some of the larger ponds which attract other dragonfly.
Broad-bodied Chaser - female

Peregrine Falcon

It looks like the young Peregrines on Belper Mill will be leaving the nest in the next few days as will the Derby Cathedral youngsters. 
This is an adult female making a high speed turn.
Peregrine Falcon - adult female

Tawny Owl - youngster

June and John Oliver sent me this great photo of a young Tawny Owl taken near Tansley. It looks like it's probably just taken its first flight and ended up close to the ground.
Despite the fact that the Tawny is our commonest owl locally and occurs in all habitats from the river valleys to the upland areas of both the White and Dark Peak they are seldom seen and, as with other owls, the increased activity when they are feeding young or encounters with the young are probably the best chance of a decent view.
Tawny Owl younster (c.June and John Oliver)

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Red Kite - Beeley Moor

A distant view of a Red Kite which crossed Beeley Moor this morning with Longstone Edge in the background. My third record of Red Kite in the past week with one over Rowsley last Thursday then one from the garden on Saturday. Could be several birds in the area at the moment.
Red Kite

Monday, 8 June 2015

Common Swifts mating

Hundreds of Common Swift moths over the fields bordering the railway line in Darley Dale this evening. All the males searching for females to start the breeding cycle.

Common Swift - mating, male lower

Holly Blue Butterfly

A Holly Blue in the garden this morning, a common and widespread butterfly locally but the first time I have put it on the blog. Not a great example with the wing tips missing.
Holly Blue

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Fox and cub

It's a little while since I have seen any of the local foxes but I came across what looked like two young adult foxes with a single cub this evening. 
Fox with cub

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Great-spotted Woodpecker feeding young

Not sure how many young are in the nest hole, perhaps only one, as all the food looked to be going to this one. The average brood is 4 to 5.
Great-spotted Woodpecker at nest hole

Friday, 5 June 2015

Wood Warbler at last

For once I'm happy to be proved wrong! A couple of days ago I commented on the decline of the Wood Warbler and speculated that they may no longer occur in the Matlock/Bakewell area. Today I had a male singing in the woods at Darley Dale - so there is at least one bird in the area. 
It may be that the spell of cold weather delayed their arrival although as I mentioned they have been recorded at Padley Gorge.
Wood Warbler

Hobby - Beeley Moor

It's good to be able to report on a species which is on the increase in the County. Although the number of breeding pairs has more than doubled in the past two decades to an estimated 33 pairs in 2011 the majority are in the south of the County and it is still a rare breeding bird in the Peak District. 
Locally they are most likely to be seen in the late summer feeding on Northern Eggar moths on Beeley Moor. They are surprisingly elusive during the breeding season so I was pleased to find this bird perched up this morning. 

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Redstart - Rowsley

Although this male Redstart still looks quite striking you can see that he is already entering the post breeding moult. This will be completed during June/July, by which time he will look like the brown female, before starting the southerly migration to wintering grounds in sub-Saharan Africa.
Redstart - male

Return of the Nightjar

Fantastic display from the Nightjars last night in Matlock Forest. A male and female chasing each other through the woods with calling and wing clapping. Hopefully we've lost the wind now and its starting to warm up so there should be a few more moths on the wing for them.

The return of the Nightjar almost completes my list of summer visitors, the only one missing is the Wood Warbler which I have looked for. Numbers have continued to decline both nationally and locally over the past 20 years the BTO breeding bird atlas estimates the population may have fallen by as much as 65% and I fear we may have lost it from the local woodlands. There have been records just to the north from Padley Gorge  but it will be a sad loss if they are no longer in the Matlock to Bakewell area of the valley.


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Yellowhammer - Harewood Moor

The Yellowhammer has a fragmented distribution locally, it's commonest on the mixed farmland around Alicehead Road but also occurs on the road to Holymoorside, Upper Loads and in small numbers on Sydnope Hill and Bent Lane. I record them less frequently in the winter.
Yellowhammer - male


Moth trapping has been poor to say the least, due to the cool night temperatures and strong winds. I have caught a few moths including my first Poplar Hawkmoths of the year and this nice example of the Seraphim.
It's an uncommon moth in Derbyshire, associated with ancient woodland, the food plant is Aspen and Black Poplar but I do catch it most years probably originating from the Clough Wood area.
I think the common name Seraphim derives from the biblical six-winged angel. The Seraphim moth is unusual in that the small hindwing in the male has what appears to be a second rudimentary wing attached to it thus giving it the appearance of six wings.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Hen Harrier's tale

Sad news today covered by both the Guardian and BBC that a fourth Hen Harrier has gone missing in the Northern Pennines;

'Fourth Hen Harrier's disappearance sparks fears of extinction by persecution

The mysterious disappearance of a fourth hen harrier from a nest in the Pennines this spring has renewed fears that England's most endangered bird of prey is being persecuted towards extinction.

The RSPB and Cumbria Police have launched an appeal for information after the male bird vanished on 23 May from the RSPB's Geltsdale reserve, where it had established a nest with a female. Without the male providing food for the incubating female her clutch of five eggs was abandoned.'

Guardian 02.06.15

Towards the backend of the winter a superb male Hen Harrier made several visits to Beeley Moor and was also recorded on at least four separate occasions at the DWT Avenue Washlands.

I was lucky enough to get some photos of the bird but for obvious reasons the presence of the harrier was not publicised. 
The last successful nesting in Derbyshire was in 2006 although there have been several attempts since.

Hen Harrier - male

Monday, 1 June 2015

Swift - Chatsworth

The Swifts have been back for about a month now but not in big numbers, the cold temperatures and consequent lack of aerial insects can't be good for them. They breed in the older parts of Darley Dale with generally about a dozen pairs in the village.
I've been waiting for a blue sky to photograph them and it finally arrived this morning, but not for long!
Several brood of Mandarin on the river and a couple of female Gooseander. Two skeins of Canada Geese, totalling about 80 birds, flew over heading North which was unusual. 

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