Thursday, 22 July 2021

Hat-trick

The local Herring Gulls love a flying ant hatch. We've had three or four in the last few days, and the first time it happened I was on hand to check out the wheeling flock for any oddities. Just the one small gull among them, and by a minor miracle it was an adult Med Gull, a long-awaited garden tick. Also an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull and, among the Swifts higher up, a Hobby. That was Sunday evening, and since then the best ant-eater I've managed is a Black-headed Gull or two, which isn't bad for here.

Finally I've managed a couple of early morning jaunts too. On Tuesday I arrived at Burton Bradstock at the same time as a pod (or several small pods) of Common Dolphins. Probably 20 or more individuals. Lots of action, but boy are they hard to photograph! Quickly they moved away east and further out. Off Cogden were also at least three or four Harbour Porpoises, one of which breached fully (vertically!) which is a first for me. They were quite distant and proved impossible to photograph.

At Cogden his morning I saw my first juv Willow Warbler of 'autumn', but little else. I still haven't chanced upon a juv Yellow-legged Gull...

The closest I got to the 'perfect' shot. Burton Bradstock at 06:00 on Tuesday.

Cetaceous action

It's not often you'll see the Scoters' reflections as they pass by over the sea.

Marbled Whites have been everywhere lately. This one on a teasel.

More Common Scoters. These nine from this morning.

At lunchtime today I got a dragonfly tick. For some time now I've been hoping to see Scarce Chaser one day. Previous 'possibles' have always proved to be Black-tailed Skimmers but, finally, the real thing...

Male Scarce Chaser. The blue eyes are a major feature. I couldn't see them in the field, but there they are in the photo, large as life.

This evening I scratched an itch. Since nailing Lulworth Skipper the other day, I've had a hankering to find one at Cogden. I wasn't sure whether Lulworth Skipper was actually on the West Bex and Cogden butterfly list, but as Cogden's western border isn't far from the Burton Bradstock colony I figured there was a possibility it might be found there too. I guessed a crucial factor would be the presence (or not) of Tor-grass, the food plant. Only one way to find out...

And so commenced a very enjoyable couple of hours this evening. Straight away I could see that Tor-grass was indeed present, though not loads. Eyes down...

Lots of Silver Y moths underfoot...

...also a few Ringlets...

...billions of Gatekeepers...

...and slightly less than billions of Marbled Whites.

An early skipper. This one looks really good for Essex Skipper, with what appear to be neatly black undersides to the antennae tips.

There were certainly decent numbers of skippers about. They all seemed to be Small/Essex types, and in the apparent absence of Lulworths I made it my goal to try and clinch an Essex Skipper. Getting photos of the skippers was as tricky as always, and I was just tracking one individual when it landed alongside another. And, surprise, surprise...

No doubting the identity of the top one, with that little circle of golden marks on the forewing: it's a female Lulworth Skipper! And I cannot help thinking the lower one must be a male. Though I wouldn't stake my life on it. That's Tor-grass they're perched on.

Well, that was a nice reward for a bit of speculative effort. I only got the one photo of both together, so here's the female alone...

Lulworth Skipper. Subtle, but quite classy.

It just remained to get some record shots of both Small and Essex Skippers...

Small Skipper. A male, with the longish, curved scent mark on the forewing. Also, it's obvious that the antennae tips are orange underneath.

A good Essex candidate, with those black under-tips. An excellent candidate in fact. A bit uncooperative though.

Definitely an Essex Skipper. A male, with the diagnostic short, straight scent mark, parallel with the outer edge of the forewing. The antennae tips look great too of course.

Comparison of male Small (on the left) and Essex Skippers, showing the difference in shape of the scent marks.

I certainly hadn't expected to score a hat-trick of skipper species at Cogden, but finding Lulworth Skipper there was really the icing on the cake. Down on the beach I could see lots of activity, as folk enjoyed the balmy evening in various ways. Meanwhile I was prodding about in the long grass completely alone and undisturbed, barely even thinking about birds. I can think of worse ways to pass a couple of hours...

7 comments:

  1. Great images again Gav, I love the line of scoters. A perfect hat-trick of the little brown skippers too, I wonder how many people would have noticed any difference.

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    1. Thanks Dave, it's so rare to have the sea as calm as that. In this case literally like a mirror!

      I think one reason the skippers appeal to me is their subtlety, the effort needed to identify them. A bit like gulls! 😄

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    2. I think we've already guessed that :oD

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  2. Yes, great line of scoters Gav. I could be mistaken but was that a BB Albatross in the background over the second to last bird in the line?

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    1. Cheers Ric. There is a Dorset record of BBA, past Durlston in February 1980. And now another. Well spotted! With that clinching photo I'm sure we'll have no trouble from the BBRC...

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  3. That first Marbled White and Scarce Chaser photos are fabulous Gav...

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    1. Thanks Stewart. I'm no photographer, but it's amazing how much difference some decent furniture and a nice background can make. That teasel would be great on its own!

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