Saturday, 1 August 2015

Birthday Butterfly Binge

No parties or copious amounts of alcohol for me on my Birthday. Though this was mainly due to my "remote" surroundings here at Invermark I can't say i'm too peeved. This year I opted for something a little different and booking the day off to celebrate/mourn my 22nd I decided to spend the day further getting to grips with the lepidoptera of the estate. To date our butterfly surveys here at Invermark have been less than successful, namely due to a combination of bad weather and altitude. I have however managed to wrack up an impressive tally in my spare time however, all of which will go towards the final report. 

A much less waffly post on this occasion with pretty pictures replacing words. All in all, yesterdays trip was a resounding success. During my few hours in the field 32 butterflies were located in the vicinity of Loch Lee, most of which appeared somewhat sluggish due to the weather and thus proved uncharacteristically photogenic.Of the 32 individuals noted during the trip 18 of them were Common Blues, by far the most numerous butterfly here at Invermark now that Northern Brown Argus numbers appear to have tailed off. Despite this apparent drop in numbers, 3 NBA were noted yesterday whilst 5 newly emerged Ringlet hung around on various Juncus stems waiting for the sun to emerge. The final two species observed include 3 Small Heath complete with glorious little eyespots and 2 Dark-Green Fritillary, perhaps one of my all time favourite British butterflies. 

Dark-Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja)
Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)
Common Blue pair
Ringlet (Aphantopus hyperantus)
Far from dull!
Common Blue (Female)
Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)
The butterfly selfie saga continues..

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Glen Esk Escapades..

A real mixed bag this week comprising fabulous encounters with usually cautious mammals, basking snakes, brilliant bird life and even a few marvelous moths courtesy of my newly acquired Heath trap. Glen Esk continues to both surprise and delight and to date, everyday I spend "in the field" is a little different. The last eight weeks here at Invermark have gone a long way to altering my opinions of "desolate Grouse moors". Whereas I freely admit the vast majority of estate have some major flaws (perhaps the nicest way of putting it) Invermark it seems, bucks the trend. Here upland wildlife abounds, as you will soon see..

Adder (Vipera berus)
First up and earlier in the week I was rewarded with yet another memorable encounter with my favourite British reptile, the Adder. The individual in question (shown above) was located from the Land Rover sunning herself in the road and appeared somewhat reluctant to vacate even when the truck drew close. Realizing this was the case the vehicle was promptly stopped and a few photos were obtained before the snake was ushered off of the track to safety. I will never understand how these beautiful reptiles earned their harmful reputation! Since arriving here at Invermark I have encountered perhaps ten or so individuals and all have proven placid beyond belief. People must learn to look past the fangs! Anyways, continuing with the theme of close encounters I later encountered one of the Adders favourite food sources, a delightfully rustic Bank Vole. The individual in question (shown below) beggared belief as it set up foraging and grooming itself almost by my feet. Had I been a Buzzard I fear my fluffy little friend may have met a somewhat grizzly demise. Bank Voles are one of our commonest rodents though one that I have very little experience with. Their ginger coloration and longer tail setting them aside from the slightly commoner Field Vole. The vole spent a good ten minutes scampering around in the Heather before disappearing down its burrow and leaving me somewhat flabbergasted. Lovely! Moving on and two more excellent mammalian encounters were had later in the day with a Water Vole seen briefly as it half jumped half belly flopped into a stream after catching sight of me. The second came in the form of an unusually confiding Mountain Hare (shown below). Indeed since arriving at Invermark I have encountered what seems like a 1000 Hares whilst surveying on the hills though all have been typically flighty and none have posed for a photo. This one was thankfully a little different and obviously misjudged the effectiveness of its camouflage as it attempted to hide amid some very green grass. 

Bank Vole (Myodes glareolus)
Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus)
On the avian front, this past week has thrown up a whole host of glamorous raptors with the unbridled highlight of the week not one but 3 Golden Eagles, all in the air together. On a smaller but no less interesting note, I have on three occasions during the past week left the Bothy to be greeted with crippling views of the resident Osprey whilst Peregrine, Merlin, Kestrel and Buzzard were all noted on more than one occasion and a newly fledged Hen Harrier put on a good show in one of the far flung corners of the estate. Am I correct in thinking that bright legs indicate a young bird? Anyways, elsewhere other birdy highlights include 3 Black Grouse in the air over Loch Lee and a Little Grebe on the Loch itself, a new species for my ever growing site list. Though both Golden Plover and Dunlin remain in force most of the other waders seem to have departed Invermark for warmer climes it seems. The odd Lapwing, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Common Sandpiper does still remain but for the large part numbers of each seem to have tailed off massively in recent days. Likewise passerines seem to be few and far between with most of "our" Spotted Flycatchers, Redstarts and Ring Ouzels now having fled. I did however encounter my first juvenile Cuckoo of the year and for the first time was lucky enough to witness it being fed by its Meadow Pipit surrogates. Hoorah! 

As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, this week has found me increasingly focussed on the nocturnal Lepidoptera of the estate. I have found my fair share of interesting (and rare) day flying moths during my short stint here but until now had not even began to explore the nocturnal offerings of the site. All that changed this week however with at least 30 new moths trapped and identified, some of which were entirely new for me. Among these Northern Spinach, Purple Clay & Common Lutestring and three additional and rather obscure little mircos that barely warrant inclusion in this post. As ever, my attentions have been firmly fixed on the more photogenic residents of the moth trap with Garden Tiger and 4 Large Emerald my personal highlights. The prize for most numerous species of the week goes to the lovely Lesser Swallow Prominent (shown below), the only species to be trapped in double figures, no doubt due to the surplus of Birch in the area. The former is however followed closely by Smoky Wainscot, Green Carpet and Purple Bar, all of which have proven plentiful this week. Moving on and additional goodies lured in include Antler Moth (shown below), Light Emerald, True Lover's Knot, the aptly named Beautiful Golden Y, Brown-Line Brown-Eye and both Dotted and Ingrailed Clay. Not a bad haul for my first few days trapping. I am however quite surprised that I have not yet encountered any of the common Underwing species! I cannot complain however having noted both Beautiful Yellow and Small Dark-Yellow Underwing during my stay. Both considerably more appealing that the Large Yellow Underwings that overrun my garden back in Northumberland.

Garden Tiger (Arctia caja)

Large Emerald (Geometra papilionaria)

Lesser Swallow Prominent (Pheosia gnoma)
Antler Moth (Cerapteryx graminis)
Grey Mountain Carpet (Entephria caesiata)