Heathland Specials

by A warbler a day

This weekend my walks have been mainly around heathland habitats. Yesterday I went down to the New Forest basing myself around Beaulieu Road Station. In the morning I went for a short stroll along the track leading from the Forestry Commission car park. I almost immediately encountered several Meadow Pipits singing as they ‘parachuted ‘ back to the ground. At the top of the hill is some large gorse bushes and as hoped they were home to a Dartford Warbler which helpfully perched in the open for a few seconds. I also saw a Curlew flying over. On the walk back I spotted a Brimstone Moth, a common moth but not one which is often seen during the day. I also saw my first Crambid moth of the year, Crambus pascuella. As I reached the car park I heard the unmistakeable song of a Woodlark, a series of repeated phrases that fall in pitch as they speed up. A quick scan of the pine trees found the bird which then flew to the ground. After lunch I went on a longer, and muddier, walk through Denny wood and the Bishop’s Dyke and Shatterford areas. I was hoping for dragonflies but all I found were a few Large Red Damsels. I faired better with birds and moth though. I saw 3 male Redstarts, 1 in Denny Wood and 2 in the trees by bridge at the southern end of Bishop’s Dyke. Another Dartford Warbler was spotted , this time singing from the top of a pine sapling the bridge over the railway. Not far from there I spotted both Common Heath and Latticed Heath moths, whilst there were several Brown Silver-line moths flying around Bracken, their foodplant, along Bishop’s Dyke. I ended the day with a stroll along the sea at Lepe Country Park where I hoped to see plenty of Terns. Unfortunately all I got was one distant Sandwich Tern. However I did manage to spot a Lesser Whitethroat along the path to Stansore Point which more than made up for the lack of Terns.

Today I went for a quick spin around Rooksbury Mill before heading to Greenham Common in search of Nightingales. Rooksbury Mill provided good numbers of Damselflies, Blue-tailed, Azure and my first Common Blues of the year. At Greenham Common I added a female Broad-bodied Chaser to my list. I went for a long circuit of the site ending at the Fireplane where I saw the Nightingales last year. There was one about today, though it was singing from deep inside a tree. Fortunately I managed to see some other nice species. A Garden Warbler was spotted singing near the Fireplane, where I also saw a Woodlark perching on top of a building with a mouth full of insects. I had earlier got an even better view of one on the ground less than 10 feet away from me. Other birds seen included a male Sparrowhawk and a Red Kite both flying low over Crookham Common, several Lapwings mobbing a crow and several Willow Warblers. I also added a couple of day-flying moths to my year list, another Crambid, Crambus lathionellus, and a Cinnabar.

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