Friday 30 June 2017

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary

I have to say that at Lochan Lodge it was handy having a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary colony just 100 metres from the door. Every time the sun came up I took a walk through the strip of marshy grassland. I took far too many photographs and I have to admit in the end I was looking for something unusual or an aberration.


Difference in the sexes is obvious - female upper - male lower

Marsh Thistles are an important nectar source

Likely to be a few next year.


In the end we became quite friendly

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Arctic and Great Skuas

I first visited Handa Island back in May 2014, (blog here). I thought at the time I had gone too early as I saw few Arctic Skuas, plenty of Bonxies but none on nesting territories.  I just had to have  a return visit to redress the balance. So whilst on holiday in Scotland I booked a day tour with David Slater of Birding Ecosse fame/notoriety. Money well spent as, along with other birders Alan and Tony, we had a whale of a time. A great day out - highly recommended.

I found Dave's description of the Arctic Skua as a Spitfire and the Bonxie as a Bomber most fitting. The Arctics or Parasitic Skuas as they are known elsewhere terrorised everything, including each other, whilst the Bonxies appeared to target the Auk species.

As it happened I only photographed the Skuas but there were thousands of other birds present. On the Great Stack there were Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Razorbills, Guillemots, Puffins, Ravens and sundry gulls. As we were waiting for the return boat Alan managed to find a "Tystie" or Black Guillemot, really nice to see as I needed it for a year tick.

Arctic Skua - dark phase


Arctic Skua - pale phase

Another - this one was carrying a ring - white "D9" ??

Fighters need to be kept in tip-top condition




Great Skua or Bonxie not quite so agile

Definitely a heavyweight

Not many on the ground

A bit intimidating for any prey

White wing patches - classic id feature.

Stunning rugged scenery with a pristine beach thrown in - what more could you ask for.


The Sound of Handa

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Northern Brown Argus

There is a small but thriving population of Northern Brown Argus, Aricia artaxerxes of the Scottish form artaxerxes, located just outside Grantown on Spey. Normally I would have recorded these and put a vague location on the blog but given how fragile and small this colony is, it is better that people are aware that it exists and that it needs to be protected from unintentional damage.  I believe that his far outweighs any damage that may be caused by true butterfly enthusiasts and of course that its existence has already been published on the web, but not widely.

How this site came to exist I have no idea, my books tell me that NBA like thin base rich or alkaline soils, especially limestone.Well the whole area sits on an acid platform, whether the site was created when the new Spey Bridge was constructed and the connecting road added or from the construction of the electricity sub-station, where the track leads, I know not. What is blindingly obvious is the change from acid to alkaline demonstrated by the indicator plants on the grass verges on both sides of the road. The whole site can be no more than a couple of acres - so if you go please treat it with care.

The last pictures on the blog show where the site is and the access.

Six spot Burnet - another good indicator.

As I jumped over the gate, there in front of me a fresh Northern Brown Argus.


The location.

On the A95 south of Grantown on Spey, just up from the Spey Valley Smokehouse...


... a metal gate..

...small area just inside the gate..

..and a track to the sub-station and another productive area in the wayleave.

White-faced Darter

This year our later visit to Scotland was meant to coincide with peak dragonfly emergence. Unfortunately the weather gods did not smile upon us, with leaden skies, cold temperatures and weak sunshine for a lot of the time. However, early on I managed to record White-faced Darter, Leucorrhinia dubia at the reliable venue in the Abernethy Forest.
Sadly this site is not the best for photography as you cannot leave the boardwalk. During our stay I managed to find a much better venue where few people venture and will afford excellent opportunities for the future. So only one of my targets achieved -  the Azure Hawker will have to wait.


The only Brilliant Emerald, Somatochlora metallica that I found, and that was well up in a tree.

Plenty of Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Cordulegaster boltonii to be found at Trinafour, Glasdrum and in the Abernethy Forest.

The first post holiday day out had to be a dragon expedition. First venue was for a Sussex Common Clubtail, unfortunately a negative result - perhaps next year. So on to Thursley Common where Martin was seeking Black Darter and Small Red Damselfly. Such is the quality of this site that we recorded both inside the first twenty minutes on a day with precious little sunshine.

Appreciating the heat of the boardwalk.

Black Darters were emerging regularly, they appeared very weak, this one clinging on in a light breeze


Black-tailed Skimmers still going strong.

Nice to see an Emerald Damselfly

A usual inhabitant of the boardwalk.

Sundew thriving and flowering

At first I thought this might be a Volucella but now I am leaning to Sericomyia silentis, a wasp mimic  rather than a hornet mimic