Category Archives: NWG News

The Latest news from the Netherfield Wildlife Group and it’s activities at the Netherfield Lagoons Local Nature Reserve, Nottinghamshire.

Bat Patrol – 21st May

Saturday evening was very windy and over cast, not auspicious for an evening watching bats. However, twelve people met at 20.30 by the iron gates, complete with binoculars, torches and bat detectors, and we made our way onto the site, seeing a fox on the way. We had at least an hour to spend before sunset and the emergence of the bats, so the plan was to see what other crepuscular wildlife was about. We made our way to the Causeway to listen for the already departed Nightingale (just in case) and then made our way round to the north east corner of the Deep Pit, by the bench, to look out for the Barn Owl. On the way we saw lots of small groups (probably family parties) of Starlings, dropping into one patch of the Slurry Lagoon reed bed. The top of the nearby pylon was covered with Starlings and groups detatched themselves to glide down to the reed bed and dive in.

We waited for some time but there was no sign of the Barn Owl, but we did see a Rabbit. The wind was not dropping but the Swifts were hunting over the site, some swooping very close to us, and we looked out for a Noctule amongst them, as I have seen them in the past. As we waited, a hawkeyed Alan Edge said, “A badger !” and, to everybodies amazement, a Badger came up the bank from the Gravel Pits, ambled across the path and, when it saw us, bounded into the Deep Pit. That was my first sighting of a Badger on the site and the highlight of the evening.

The light was beginning to go so we made our way to the river, by the railway bridge, and switched on the bat detectors. Almost at once what was probably a Daubenton’s Bat was picked up, but it flew away and wasn’t picked up again. Instead the deafening clicks of a Noctule were heard and some managed to see it above the bridge against the last of the light in the sky. On past visits, in calmer weather, the air above the river has been full of swarms of flying insects, but tonight the wind had either blown them away or put them off coming out, so there was little to entice the bats. We waited a bit longer but only picked up the Noctule or Noctules and so decided to try our luck in the comparative shelter along the Lower Path. By the Irish Bridge we detected Common Pipistrelles and again by the Car Park, inside the metal gates. Steve Wilkinson managed to shine his torch on some so that everybody heard the call on the bat boxes and saw the eratic nature of its flight as it flew in a circuit above us.

At about 22.30 we left the site, everybody very pleased with the sighting of the Badger. We had in fact seen more species of mammal in one visit than any of us are normally privileged to do, so the evening was a definate success.

Warbler Walks – 27th April and 1st May

Eleven people met by the footbridge for the first led walk of the year. The sun was shining brightly but the wind was quite strong, making it difficult to catch the strains of warbler song.

We started with the easy ones and soon Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were identified by song. Seeing them was another matter. A Willow Warbler did sit up nicely, but it was against a very bright sky and nearly a silhouette. Whitethroat was soon scratching out its song but, again, was difficult to see. We heard a lot of sub-song from Whitethroats and Blackcaps which were reminiscent of Garden Warbler and a useful lesson in the pitfalls of being too eager to identify a bird by song alone. The fluty notes of the Blackcap were, however, quite distinctive and so four warblers were identified between the steps and the causeway.

The causeway was buzzing with Reed and Sedge Warblers and I thought it would be an easy matter to point out the differences. The birds had other ideas and, before the group had assembled to listen, fell silent. After a while the Reed Warblers began to sing but they were deep in the reeds and impossible to see. I pointed out the rhythmic quality of their vocalisations and hoped that a Sedge Warbler would start to sing. Eventually one did but it was a rather half hearted singer and hidden in a bush. As we listened a Lesser Whitethroat sang its staccato ‘jug,jug,jug,jug’ and some managed to hear the quieter pre-emptive part of its song too. More Blackcaps were singing and then the quieter, dryer song of a Garden warbler was picked up. Unfortunately this was not heard to everyone’s’ satisfaction and we only counted it as a half warbler.

Whilst on the causeway most of the group managed to get a distant view of the splendid male Garganey that is currently staying with us. They were also introduced to the male Mute Swan that likes to ‘hang’ with us by the bench. He made quite an impression on one or two of the group. Unexpectedly the Cetti’s Warbler then rattled out its short but loud song and after a couple more performances most of the group had heard it enough to remember it, if and when they hear it again. At this end of the causeway the Sedge Warblers were singing more confidently and their distinctive ‘buzzy’ beginnings were easy to pick out. I then pointed out their mimicry and we noticed Yellow Wagtail notes in the song.

We walked to the railway bridge to see the Swallows and Sand Martins at their nests and then along the Deep Pit bank in the hope of hearing a Grasshopper Warbler, as two of the group had heard one there on their way to meet us. Unfortunately this was not to be but we did hear lots more Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Willow Warblers.

So we ended on a tally of eight and a half warblers and, as the group made their way off the site, I went for a last walk round. Unbelievably there were Lesser Whitethroats singing everywhere now and a Garden Warbler sang from the top of and ash sapling, giving me brilliant views. All ten warblers were heard, but sadly not by the entire group.

The second walk, on the Sunday, was not so well attended with only five people joining in. We did, however, manage nine warblers this time, but the Grasshopper Warblers kept schtum. The first warbler encounter was by the footbridge where the uneasy ‘teck – teck’ calls of a Blackcap and the ‘hweet – hweet’ contact calls of a Chiffchaff were pointed out.

We walked along Willow Walk and then turned along the Lower Path, towards the river. This path is sheltered by high banks on both sides but catches the sun all morning. This makes it very popular with insects, especially butterflies and we found a very early Small Copper sunning itself beside the path. There is lots of dense scrub and some tall trees and so it is ideal for a range of warblers. Soon the song of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Blackcap could be heard and some of the songsters were seen well. In the distance a Lesser Whitethroat was heard but several of the group had difficulty hearing this. Since Wednesday several more Garden Warblers had arrived and they were singing well further along the path. Two were singing quite close together and a Blackcap was singing close by. This gave us a chance to compare these two species and most people felt confident about identifying the two after a few minutes.

At the railway bridge there was not quite so much activity as on the previous visit so we walked along the River Path to see what was about. Soon there were two Sedge Warblers singing against each other and Whitethroats doing little song flights. As we walked along the path there were more Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers, with another Garden Warbler and a Blackcap. Suddenly the ‘zii – ti’ call of a Kingfisher was heard and a bird shot over our heads and towards the gravel pits. Unfortunately only one person was quick enough to see it.

As we walked along the outside of the boundary hedge more Sedge Warblers were heard on the other side and Garden Warbler and Blackcap were picked up again. We re-entered the site on the north east corner and walked towards the Large Gravel Pit.  Here we soon heard the rhythmically calm song of the Reed Warbler with the excited Sedge Warbler song for comparison. The hoped for Grasshopper Warblers were still keeping quiet so we made our way up the bank to the Deep Pit.

We walked south along the east bank, listening for more warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat was heard again but the strong wind made it difficult to hear. Soon the Cetti’s Warbler belted out its short song from the Deep Pit as we walked towards the Causeway. We walked along the Causeway, hearing more Reed, Sedge, Garden and Willow Warblers with Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Chiffchaff and another Lesser Whitethroat and then looked for the Garganey on the Slurry Lagoon, finishing the walk by the bench. The final tally was nine warblers as the Grasshopper Warblers had stayed obstinately quiet.

Refurbishment of Tern “Hotel” – April 6th

The addition of fresh  gravel and raking over the tern platforms took place on Wednesday afternoon 6th April after poor weather caused the postponement from 4th April.

Although the day was bright and sunny there was still a fairly fresh south-westerly breeze as Pete Smith accompanied by Dave Gartside and Rob Woodward set about the launch of our new boat on the south-eastern side of the Deep Water Pit, watched from a safe distance by Pam, Archie, Darren and  Alan.

Since Pete could not see where he was going, Dave stood at the water’s edge giving hand signals like a policeman on point duty. In spite of this, Pete finally reached  the  tern platform in the teeth of the breeze. Observers on the bank top could see that he was not able to maintain contact with  the platform and that he was soon back on the shore, quicker than he went. After a discussion, Dave appealed to the watchers for a, preferably, small and lightweight volunteer to go out with Pete on a second attempt. He had hardly finished speaking when Archie was over the fence like a two-year old.

Owing to certain dimensional problems it was found that it was necessary to row the boat backwards and to tie the oars to the rollocks with gaffer tape to give them some chance of a safe return. Upon reaching the platform disaster was narrowly averted when both of the crew leaned to one side to hold on to it, causing a shift to that side of the two sacks of gravel. There  was only about a centimetre of freeboard between them and an unplanned bath!

The attention to the platforms was  completed and it was noted that the second platform seemed to have dragged it’s anchor which was probably the cause of the slope. The three Common Terns which had already arrived from Africa were left in peace to resume their quarrel over possession with the Black-headed Gulls and the Cormorants.

Finally there was a discussion about the report, from the boat crew, concerning some knocking sounds on the bottom of the boat. This remains a mystery and it was suggested that further investigation of the Deep Water Pit was required.

Wildlife Seeker – August 2010

As August was a wildlife seeker trip I searched the internet to see what was around. As there was nothing really exciting it was decided that we went to Norfolk.

Five of us left in one car and we reached Cley at about 10.30 am. We made our way to Salthouse beach car park and spent the next three-quarters of an hour sitting below the dunes – out of the wind – doing a bit of sea watching. Gannets were going south in variable numbers. There were the usual gulls and a few waders passing by. A small flock of Common Scoter were seen off shore. It was hoped that there might be Shearwaters and Skuas moving through. The only skua species we saw was so far out we couldn’t identify it.

We decided we would head for Titchwell; at least we could sit in a hide out of the wind.

Alas – it was not to be. We were almost in Stiffkey when the car we were in broke down.

While we were waiting for the breakdown truck Marsh Harrier was seen.

We arrived back in Nottingham at about 3.00pm so a few of us decided to call at the Lagoons for a couple of hours. While there we added Red Admiral and Speckled Wood to our trip tally.

Total trip records (2009 in brackets)

Birds 168 (148) Mammals 12 (6) Butterflies 23 (15) Dragonflies 7 (3) Others 7 (1)

Birds and Butterflies

Otmoor and Bernwood 2010

After picking up Brian, Norman and Steve we set off on the first of our two Wildlife Seeker trips. As there was nothing exceptional around, I set off down the motorway to Oxfordshire and to the first of two new sites for the NWG trips.

The first site was RSPB Otmoor. We arrived with the sun shinning and within minutes Steve heard a Turtle Dove. As we walked up the track towards the feeding station we noticed that the path verges were full of butterflies – Common Blue, Small and Green-veined Whites, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper. The bird list was growing slowly with the commoner birds.

There were dragonflies all round but unfortunately we were unable to identify them except for Ruddy Darter. We continue along the nature trail calling into the new hide then up to the viewing screens. Along the way two Kestrel were seen sitting on the fence posts. After about five minutes at the viewing screen we added Green and Wood Sandpiper to the growing bird list. Two eclipsed Garganey were also seen.

Between the two viewing screens we were amazed at the numbers of Common Blue butterflies on the Thistles. There were in excess of 1500 – every flower head had a butterfly on it. I had never seen anything like it. It was a photographer’s dream – if they would sit still.

On the way back towards the car park Brian commented that I had promised him Hobby. At the screen one and possibly two were seen but very distantly. A little later Turtle Dove was heard again and we all had good views thanks to Steve who found it sitting in a dead tree. We also had one on the path in front of us on the way back to the car. Red Kite was numerous with eight seen on the site but the best but most unexpected bird of the day was yet to come. As we approached the feeding station a small flock of birds rose into the air calling. Steve and Norman identified them immediately as Common Crossbill – 27 of them. There had been an irruption of them nationally in the past week with sightings from Northern Scotland to Kent but nobody had expected to see them in Oxfordshire.

As we had lunch in the car park we had a Hobby fly over the cars to every ones delight.

With the daily bird tally standing at 53 and the butterflies at 9, we set off to the second site of the day – Bernwood Forest and Meadow – another new site for us.

Having told the others that this was a good butterfly site, I was a little apprehensive as the sun had gone in although it was still quite warm. It was then that Marsh Tit was heard, being the only bird at this site that was added to the daily list.

As the sun broke through and the others were watching a Silver-washed Fritillary I saw a Weasel run across the path. We turning out of the wood and into the meadow and were greeted to three of four Marbled White butterflies. A little further on we saw a small group of Small Skippers but try as we did we couldn’t turn them into Essex Skippers!

We left the meadow returning to the wood. The sun was shinning through onto a path of bramble were we did manage to see one Essex Skipper – the black tips of the antennae showing very clearly. We meet a couple who told us were we could see Purple Emperor and White Admiral so we set of in search of them. Stopping at a crossroads, Brian spotted two Fallow Deer on the path in front of us about 200 yards away. Crossing the path was an army of Wood Ants making their way from their huge mound of a nest to their feeding areas. Brian pointed out how lucky we were as, if this had been Africa or South America we would have to have waited for them to pass as you would not have dared to have tried to pass them. As we continued we were seeing Silver-washed Fritillary, Specked Wood and the common butterflies but not the ones we wanted. We were almost at the point of giving up when a Red Admiral was spotted, the only one of the day. Soon after a White Admiral was seen but there was no sign of Purple Emperor. Ringlets were seen taking the daily butterfly tally to 17 of which 13 were new to the yearly list.

As we sat in the car park having a cuppa, a Silver-washed Fritillary gave Brian a good opportunity to get a photo.

The daily bird tally was 54.

The yearly trip totals are (with 2009 in brackets): Birds – 166 (141): Butterflies – 22 (14):

Mammals – 11 (5): Dragonflies – 6 (1): Others – 7 (0).

Sun Hats and Sun Cream

Padley Gorge – May 2010

On what was to be the hottest day of the year so far, Deryck, Jackie and I left Nottingham at about 0730 to meet Brian, Norman and Steve in Baslow, Derbyshire. While we waited a Garden Warbler was singing near the stream. We looked for Dipper, as this was a spot I used to see them regularly but not today.

We moved off to our first stop at Padley Gorge. We parked up, dosed up with sun cream and donned our sun hats then set off down the Gorge. Our target birds being Spotted and Pied Flycatcher and Common Redstart. It wasn’t long before Redstart was heard but not seen. Continuing down the path we soon had views of 2 pair of Redstart at two nest boxes, close to each other. A few yards on down the path we were soon enjoying views of Pied Flycatchers, again at a nest box. A few of the group went a little further down the Gorge to see if they could connect with Wood Warbler but to no avail. Cuckoo could be heard calling all round but not seen. We had good views of a Nuthatch, a Treecreeper and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. With the weather so warm there were Wood Ants all along the woodland path. Also seen were Small & Green-veined White Butterflies along with Orange Tip and Peacock. We returned to the cars, the day trip list now standing at 22 birds, 2 mammals and 4 butterfly.

We moved on about a mile to Surprise View Car Park were after a coffee break we moved onto the open moor for the first time. Here we added Tree Pipit and Carrion Crow to the day list along with a fleeting glimpse of a Green Hairstreak butterfly.

We moved on again, this time to Stanage Edge, taking a slow walk up to the edge over the open moorland. On the way we could hear a Reed Bunting calling from a gully and Curlew were heard across the moor. As we approached the Edge brilliant views of Green Hairstreak were obtained and photographed. Then the next target bird was spotted sat on a rock – a male Ring Ouzel. 3 males and a female were seen before we left the Edge. A Buzzard was seen being mobbed by Curlew.

Wearily and hot we returned to the cars to move on the Cutthroat Bridge, near the Ladybower Dams were we stopped for lunch.

After a refreshing break, another load of sun cream applied we set out on what I believed to be a steady walk around the moors. I had done a similar walk about 10 years ago and had found it very pleasant. Oh how the memory fades! The path we took was not the path I had taking all those years earlier. We were however rewarded with fine views of a Whinchat. A little further on we entered the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust reserve – Ladybower Wood. The track here was very rugged but again we were rewarded with the first sighting, on our trips, of a Grizzled Skipper. These are tiny butterflies, about 22 – 26 cms

(about 1 inch or less)that can easily be over-looked. (See article – Dingy and Grizzled Skipper) Three more were found a little further on along with a Small Copper. While in the wood a peregrine glided over the treetops.

We continued on the path past the rear of The Ladybower Inn were Jackie had a visit from a strange little creature on her camera case that Brian and Norman did their best to photograph. Jackie and I later identified it as a House Longhorn. Also in this area were a few Rose Chaffers.

While going through a conifer plantation we had views of Siskin and Goldcrest.

The path seemed to go on and on, out of the trees and on to the open moor, getting steeper all the time. We were all shattered on getting to the top but here we were rewarded with fine views of Red Grouse and two chicks. After a well-earned rest we continued down hill on a well-worn path towards the cars. On the way down Stonechat were heard but we could not locate them.

Although it had been a very hot and tiring day, all agreed that it had been worth the effort with good views of the surrounding countryside and some wonderful wildlife.

I would like to thank Neil Matthew for providing us with such a good itinerary.

The yearly trip lists now stand at: – Birds – 145 (117) : Butterflies – 8 (10)

Mammals – 6 (5) : Dragonflies – 0 (0) : Others – 3 (0)

2009 in brackets.

Lincolnshire 2010

After having picked up various passengers the two cars left Nottingham at about 8.15 am and we made our way to Whisby Nature Park near Lincoln for 9.15 am were we met up with Jack Driver. The early rain that fell on Nottinghamshire was now falling on Lincolnshire so we donned our waterproofs and set off to find our target bird of the day – Nightingale.

According to the sightings board there were six singing males on the site. Looking on the nearest lake Pete found a pair of Little Ringed Plovers changing over nest duties while in the background a Nightingale was singing. A Sparrowhawk shot past the group so fast that not all of us managed to see it. We looked for the singing Nightingale without success so it was decided to go to the area where I had seen them on previous visits.

Having turned the corner at the northern end of Coot Lake we were deafened as one was singing very close to the path and it wasn’t long before Pete had found it. What a stunning bird – in full view. The problem was that not all the group had seen it and nobody had brought a camera as it was thought that they would only be heard and not seen.

We moved on, hearing three or four more before Pete again located one competing with a very high pitched Grasshopper Warbler, that not all the group could hear, and a Garden Warbler. The Nightingale was about 50 metres away over the railway. After watching the Nightingale I decided that I would leave the group and see if I could see or hear the Grasshopper Warbler on my own. I managed, after a few minutes, to get a short snatch of its song before the Nightingale drowned it out again. We made our way back to the car park, the sun shining now. Three Nightingale were seen with at least a further five heard.

With the trip list now standing at 26 we said our goodbyes to Jack Driver and made our way to RSPB Frampton near Boston, seeing Red-legged Partridge and Hare on the way.

The first birds seen at Frampton were a pair of Black Swans, obviously escaped from a collection but seemed to be doing well in the wild. We were surprised to see that the Brent Geese were still in the area as we had expected them to have gone to their breeding grounds by now. After a break for lunch and a cuppa we set off down the path towards the hides. On a small tree a Corn Bunting was singing while a Whimbrel was seen to land on the wet meadow. Steve spotted a Stoat as it ran from the meadow and over the road – our second mammal of the day. As it tried to rain again we made our way towards the first hide but stopped again as a photogenic Corn Bunting sat on a post for us. As we were about to go into the hide several Twite were seen on the wires. In all we counted 15. We were told that during the winter there were several hundred on the reserve. Also seen from the hide were two White Wagtail, Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit. Meadow Pits were singing as we left the hide to go back to the cars. Jackie spotted a female Wheatear on a fence post. From the car park I looked at the Barn Owl box through my binoculars and thought I saw part of the face of the Barn Owl. Sure enough as soon as a telescope was trained on the box the head of the bird could be seen. We were doing well as we had seen 63 species on the day.

We made our way north of Boston to Freiston RSPB reserve. Upon arriving we noticed a Pale-bellied Brent Goose in among the Dark-bellied. Although only a sub-species I would not be surprised if it is not split in a few years time to be a species in its own right.

We made our way to the sea wall as high tide was due at about 4.00 pm. The tide didn’t cover the marsh but birds were being moved all the while giving reasonable views of Knot, Eider, Curlew and Grey Plover. A Peregrine was seen as were two Fulmar. Near the car park the fields were scanned and Jackie spotted a fairly distant Yellow Wagtail.

Overall 81 bird species were seen taking the year’s list to 137 compared with 102 this time last year. The mammal list is at 6 (5 in 2009). Only one butterfly has been seen that of a Large White. This time last year 8 had been seen.

Cricket and Grasshopper Walk – 18th August

Six people turned up for this walk, despite the threatened rain. As they collected by the foot bridge first a Migrant Hawker flew overhead and then a Southern Hawker came to check us out, before settling on the hedge. It was mainly green and black but the blue on its last two abdominal segments showed it to be a male.

We entered the reserve and went up the steps to the seat. Just by the seat we found the first Long-winged Cone-heads and soon had one in a viewing pot for everyone to see. Although superficially like a grasshopper the incredibly long antennae suggested its true affinity to the bush-crickets. We then caught our first grasshopper with much shorter and thicker antennae and were just getting to grips with its pronotum when the first shower struck. The group dived under the nearest bushes and tried not to get too wet, peeping at the glowering sky from time to time and saying encouraging things like, ‘It’s getting brighter over there.’, ‘I think it’s slackening off.’. When we were all soaked the rain stopped and the sun came out. We identified the grasshopper as a Meadow Grasshopper by the shape of its pronotum, which is the armour like scales that cover its neck and shoulders.

As we walked along to the Causeway the sun warmed our backs and we began to dry out. On the Causeway we located several Roesel’s Bush-crickets, but could not actually see any. Three of our company had ears that could hear them, but the frequency was too high for the rest of us so Alan got his bat detector out and soon pointed out two or three. They are very hard to approach and tend to go silent long before you are close enough to see them. The distinguishing mark on the Roesel’s is a yellow line all the way around the border on the side of the pronotum, but we were unable to point this out. However we did manage to connect with another species of grasshopper, the Field Grasshopper. Again it is the pattern on the pronotum that gives the most significant clue to its identity, followed by the fact that it has a hairy chest. We now began to realise the difficulties involved in identifying grasshoppers as we found several small chestnut brown ones. These were assumed to be nymphs although they were seen to be stridulating like the adults, one even seeing off a much larger adult Field Grasshopper. The pronotums on these nymphs were not well developed or marked so they gave few clues to the species. The other problem with identification is the fact that the same species of grasshopper comes in two or three different colour ways and all can be present on the same site.

We dried out in the sun as we struggled to get to grips with orthopteran identification and were all completely dry when the next menacing black cloud sailed overhead. ‘It won’t rain on us.’ and ‘Look its raining over Carlton’ soon gave way to ‘Let’s go to the railway bridge’ and ‘Run’. The front-runners made it to the bridge still dry but the rear guard were soaked as they staggered through the downpour into the shelter. Even the swallows were staying on their nesting shelves under the bridge. Coots were diving by the bridge and surfacing with large round items in their beaks, surrounded by a screen of water droplets as the raindrops bounced and shattered on the river surface around them. I wished I had a camera with a telephoto lens. Soon the rain abated and we came out from under the bridge. We were just about to go up the steps by the Deep Pit when a Whimbrel called as it flew overhead on its way to the south. This encouraged us to go to the Causeway again so that we could see if anything else had been brought down by the rain onto the Slurry Lagoon. We found three Wigeon that had not been seen before the rain but nothing else. The grass was quite wet now and it was noticeably cooler so that there was little insect activity to detect so we called it a day and went home, having identified four orthopteran species.

Butterfly/Dragonfly Walks – 28th July and 1st August

Both of these walks were quite well attended with six and ten people turning up at each, respectively. Despite the weather being overcast on both occasions the air was warm and the insects showed in sheltered spots. When the sun did briefly shine it warmed up incredibly quickly and insect activity increased.

On the first walk, as I had seen a Southern Hawker on the way to meet the group I took them first along Willow Walk, but unfortunately we did not see it although we did find Gatekeepers, Large Whites and a Speckled Wood. Along the Lower Path we came to grips with Large White, Small White and Green-veined Whites, looking at each species in a book and comparing their markings so that most people soon had no trouble identifying their Whites. There were very few Ringlets and Meadow Browns about but plenty of Gatekeepers. All along the Lower Path there were abundant Common Blue Damselflies and just one or two Blue-tailed Damselflies and, near the ‘Irish Bridge’ we found a Brown Hawker. We walked around the banks and found some Common Blue butterflies and there were dozens of Six-spot Burnet cocoons attached to the wire of the Deep Pit fence. We walked back along the north east side of the Slurry Lagoon and found some Small Skippers and one Essex Skipper and the Long-winged Coneheads were thick in the grass, which gave people a foretaste of the Cricket and Grasshopper walks. We gave the Willow Walk and Southern Hawker another try before finishing and the dragonfly was obliging, giving prolonged close views as it patrolled its patch.

The Sunday walk was slightly more successful as the sun came out more and there was more butterfly activity. On the Lower Path we were surprised to see a Weasel that was hunting along the path and coming towards us. It kept darting off the path to one side or the other and reappearing again. As the morning warmed up more butterflies emerged and a splendid Red Admiral was seen, followed by several Peacocks and Commas. This time the ‘Irish Bridge’ gave up a Migrant Hawker and three Brown Hawkers were seen as we followed the path. Several times we were distracted by the numbers and variety of the hoverflies along this walk especially when one or two exceptionally large species were seen. Near the river two Small Tortoiseshells were feeding on the Creeping Thistle flowers. As it was fairly warm we went to the Small Gravel Pit to see what activity there was and found several damselflies emerging from their larval skins and clinging to the reeds. Other Common Blue Damselflies were egg laying, some females going right under the water to lay on vegetation. A Black-tailed Skimmer landed on the beach in front of us as we watched the emerging damselfly nymphs and one or two Blue-tailed Damselflies were also seen. We walked back around the Deep Pit and there were a lot more Common Blue butterflies about than on the previous walk and we finished the walk looking at the Long-winged Coneheads again.