Another unsuccessful go for the Green Hairstreaks was preceded by a circuit of Blotts where I fortuitously got two Linnets for the price of one….
….and a lark ascending.
In searching for the elusive butterfly, I was distracted by a few flowers: I suppose this ranks as Wild PansyViola tricolor but mmmm – only two colours so not the genuine article which is apparantly rather rare.
With wifey looking for the elusive Orange Underwing moth but it eluded us. Hoping for an early Green Hairstreak but hopes were dashed. However a Common Tern was on Blotts and a Reed Warbler sang from its margins. A Holly Blue obliged, and a Willow Warbler was full of the joys of spring.
In the afternoon I visited Stanton Golf Club for a look at the excellent work their ecology group is now achieving. I was particularly impressed by the potential this newly cleared pond has for becoming a really marvellous wildlife pond; especially as they have found a way of controlling the water level. It should develop a really diverse flora and be brilliant for amphibians and invertebrates.
Our first ‘square bash’ of the season to fill in some squares with missed early-season plants for the forthcoming national atlas. We succeeded in that and added a few nice surprises as well in the form of Greater StitchwortStellaria holostea and Rue-leaved SaxifrageSaxifrags tridactylites, this time in flower. There were lots of these on a pavement in the village.
The churchyard has a massive old poplar with the biggest looking girth I think I’ve ever seen on a tree. Sadly despite some surgery to its upperparts, it looks to be nearing the end as it also had the biggest bracket fungus I’ve definitely ever seen at its base.
The sun shone and the butterflies were busy. Lots of Small Tortoiseshells and Orange-tips several Brimstones and singles of Holly Blue, Green-veined White and Speckled Wood.
These flies are Face FliesMuscari autumnalis or at least I’m fairly confident that they are. Hickling is a dairy village with next to nothing in the way of arable but several fields of rye-grass leys for sileage. Face Flies pester cattle by feeding on secretions from around the eyes though these were just enjoying the warm sunshine after a long hibernation.
These friendly and inquisitive heiffers accompanied us for a spell.
A wander along Lings Lane to the meadow that I manage but don’t visit often enough nowadays with the thought that a migrant Wheatear or Ring Ousel might come my way but the nearest I got was Tim the farmer describing a Wheatear he’d seen the previous day. I did get my first Swallow though and there were three Buzzards wheeling around and a Chiffchaff was chiff-chaffing away in the meadow.
This little plume moth has been in the kitchen for a couple of days and although I could see that it wasn’t the common one – Emmelina monodactyla I didn’t have a proper look at it until this morning and it seems to be Brown PlumeStenoptilia pterodactyla although the flight time is given as late May to early August. I suppose it could have been accidentally brought in and the warmth has hastened its emergence but it seems unlikely as its food plant is Germander Speedwell and it overwinters in a stem. I can’t see what else it can be. Brown Plume is nationally common but it’s a first for me.
Early mistiness melted into blue sky and a very bracing NE wind that kept us wrapped up and hatted for most of the day. It turned out to be generally disappointing in terms of bird interest, the highlights being lots of Avocet and Ruff with a bonus Wheatear.
It was also disappointing that I hadn’t checked the charge on my camera and it ‘died’ after four shots; this was its swansong.
I think I saw the Long-billed Dowitcher. It was an odd-shaped blur with a long bill and a supercilium, lumbering about on the edge of a distant island and the telescope was being buffeted by the near gale and it soon disappeared. We had another look later with no luck.
We had seen two Little Ringed Plovers together near the path and briefly befriended a fellow birdwatcher who accompanied us as we passed the spot. We pointed them out. Two Ringed Plovers pottered about and we felt rather embarassed. Thankfully, after a few moments an LRP wandered into view and we regained our credibility.
I remembered I had a mobile phone camera for this one.
English ScurvygrassCochlearia anglica is bigger than the Danish one that is in flower all along the roadsides at present.
With a much improved weather forecast since Sunday we wandered the western side of Netherfield Lagoons once again with the tape lure for Willow Tit and once again, no response was found. The sunshine was enough to bring out a Small Tortoiseshell and we spotted two more at Gunthorpe before a dark cloud blotted the sun out and the chill of the 6°C set in.
More Marsh-marigoldCaltha palustris near Gunthorpe Bridge, but this one looked more like the garden cultivar with bigger leaves and flowers than the wild plant. Later, we spotted some on an island that looked more like the native form.
A new location for Greater ChickweedStellaria neglecta followed. This is a scarce and overlooked plant and quite rare in Notts.
During much of the day, dozens of Black-headed Gulls were hawking over the pits for what appeared to be an emergence of chironomids. These are non-biting midges and, needless to say, small, so the energy expenditure in picking off such morsels seems high. Perhaps slow gliding flight is so efficient that a nutritious midge now and again is worth it.
At the pit nearest the village, BogbeanMenyanthes trifoliata was waking up for the spring. It is another scarce plant in Notts but which has been present here for many years.
My first Sand Martins and Willow Warbler and a Cetti’s Warbler were at Netherfield and Blackcap and Chiffchaff song accompanied us throughout the day. Dave heard a Golden Plover at Gunthorpe.
I nabbed the only day of the week, if the weather forecast proves to be correct when a butterfly might be active though with a maximum temperature of about 12°C, I wasn’t optimistic. This is the first day of the first week of the Butterfly Conservation transect season and despite the chill, the sunshine brought out two Commas and ten Small Tortoiseshells making it worthwhile.
Meanwhile, the garden moth trap has had a steady trickle of early season moths during the latter part of March with the month attracting totals of 23 Hebrew Character, 54 Common Quaker, 40 Small Quaker, 3 Early Grey, 15 Clouded Drab, 5 Early Moth, 16 Emmelina monodactyla, 2 Twenty Plume, 1 Brindled Beauty, 1 Epiphyas postvittana and 1 Pine Beauty.
A day around the “healh or valley of Cot(ta)” once again centred around the Willow Tit survey and once again with negative results. We started along the canal and finished with an extensive look at the woodland to the south of the settlement. A few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were singing and we found a single plant of Marsh MarigoldCaltha palustris (at the second attempt).
At least part of the plantation woodland is known as Cotgrave Gorse and is shown as such on the 1824-1839 Cassini reprint but other bits have developed naturally from abandoned fields into maturing woodland with some botanical interest in the way of Hard-shield and Soft-shield Fern Polystichum aculeatum and Polystichum setiferum, Sanicle Sanicula europaea and a “scold” of Jays. Also, in addition to the extensive patches of Garden Yellow ArchangelLamiastrum galeobdelon ssp. argentatum there was a small patch of what is presumably ssp. montanum, the native variety.
Next to the old Fosse Way, is an area which has been graced with dumped bales of waste plastic bags and somewhat less disgraceful garden plants including Great Forget-me-notBrunnera macrophylla.
To the west of the Owthorpe road is some more recent woodland, one of which has emerged from an abandoned quarry. Here Dave picked out a single Nonesuch DaffodilNarcissus x incomparabilis …
… and a soon to be flowering European LarchLarix decidua.