First in the Peterborough area for many years and the first twitchable for decades (my first locally). Great find by Andy Frost and Neil Crossman while surveying a newly 'rewilded' part of the Great Fen project between Holme Fen and Farcet on what used to be Whittlesey Mere over a century ago. That's Yaxley in the background.
It's been a bit quiet for birds from the office window recently but that changed yesterday when a Waxwing settled on the top of a tree opposite for about 10 minutes. It only left when I nipped out to try and get a better photo. Then today a Woodcock cruised past looking for somewhere to get in cover. Neither were firsts, in fact there have been quite a few Waxwings during invasion years.
10 days to do a trip around France in the camper van. We started via Folkstone then took the Dover to Dunkirk ferry. A calm crossing with just a few Gannet, Kittiwake and a Great Skua until a couple of Grey Phalarope drifted by. A Grey Seal just outside Dunkirk harbour was a bit of surprise.
This bug was on board. A recent colonist from North America that arrived in Europe in 1999 and is now well established both sides of the channel.
Western Conifer Seed Bug Leptoglossus occidentalis
First stop was Versailles. A couple of nights in a wooded campsite with Ring-necked Parakeets flying over and Nuthatches calling among the oaks and sweet chestnuts. A day at the palace was minor let down. The buildings are opulent and impressive enough but the gardens were large and overly formal and a bit dull without the fountains going. The Queen's Hamlet was interesting though and there were a couple of Coypu grazing by one of the lakes.
Coypu Myocastor coypus
There were a fair few dragonflies about in the warm weather including Emperor and Common Darter.
Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum
Next stop was the Lot region. The fascinating caves of Padirac, with its impressive doline, underground river and calcifications (where bats leaving at dusk would have been a great option if the weather had been better), and Pech Merle, with properly ancient cave paintings and footprints, and the soaring citadel of Rocamadour, with its towering pilgrimage churches stacked one upon the other, Crag Martins constantly wheeling around.
The weather was better at Peche Merle and as well as some showy Nuthatches these butterflies were around. Clouded Yellows are a bit of a nightmare, especially females which this one seems to be. I'm inclined to think it might be Berger's Clouded Yellow based on colour tones and habitat but it's impossible to tell.
Speckled Woods on the continent are rather different to British ones. Pale areas are more extensive and yellowy-orange rather than whitish.
Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria tricis
Pushing further south we moved on to the amazing restored medieval city of Carcassonne. A hot day this far south resulted in some excellent insect and reptile action. I was particularly pleased with the Bloxworth Snout which I'd not seen before.
Bloxworth Snout Hypena obsitalis
Carpenter Bee Xylocopa sp.
Fire Bug Pyrrhocoris apterus
Mallow Skipper Carcharodus alceae
Geranium Bronze Cacyreus marshalli
Hummingbird Hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum
Common Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis
From here to Narbonne, the furthest south for us on this trip, things looked decided more Mediterranean. It was very warm at our campsite on the beach at Les Ayguades near the little fishing village of Gruissan. We hired bikes and cycled along past the coastal lagoons picking up plenty of common birds like Fan-tailed and Sardinian Warblers, plus the odd Kingfisher and a flock of Pallid Swifts. It was again the insects that provided a first for me though. Great Banded Grayling normally flies up to the end of September, which is why this late individual is rather tatty. However it was a large and welcome addition to the trip.
Great Banded Grayling Brintesia circe
Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombii
Second day here winds got up producing good seabirds. The drive home included Griffon Vultures and Red Kites and some more good seabird action on the ferry. A Grey Seal and 2 Porpoises were the highlight though.
This year wildlife has taken a bit more of a back seat as we've been enjoying a series of brilliant music festivals. And it's on a very hot walk from our campsite to the Chacombebury Festival near Banbury that we came across these. There were also more Marbled White butterflies in the fields here than I've ever seen before but they were very active and I didn't get any suitable photos.
The way these pairs of White-legged Damsels sit while laying eggs is very distinctive.
A weekend camping in the van near Lathkill Dale in some rather poor weather. However it did clear in the late afternoon on both Saturday and Sunday so we got out for walks in the Dale on Saturday and at Bolehill Wood and Quarry (at Padley) on Sunday. The Dipper and lepidoptera were at Lathkill Dale and the Woodpecker nest and Pied Flycatcher were in Bolehill Wood along with Spotted Flycatcher and other woodland birds. Redstarts were fairly common in both places. The Mandarin was in the grounds of Padley Chapel.
Dipper Cinclus cinclus, Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major & Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca
A couple of videos from a visit to Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve. Huge numbers of common seabirds (except Fulmar, which were oddly scarce) going about the, occasionally violent, business of breeding. The continual noise from the Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills and Gannets provides the backing track.
The reserve is also blessed with many Tree Sparrows around the fields along with a few Corn Buntings.
Look out for the crafty Guillemot towards the end of the Gannet fight in the first video.
Hugh Wright found these first thing today. A nice trip of 3 birds, 2 more colourful females and one rather duller bird. This particular field has a strange attraction for the birds and among several previous occurrences was a bird I found here 6 years ago almost to the day.
The beginning of April found us back in West Penwith again, this time in an amazing little campervan from Bumble Campers, a local firm converting a van for us at the moment. More of that another time but first some wildlife from the trip.
One of the best birds was my third Cornish Surf Scoter. This one was hard to see in the wet foggy conditions of Mounts Bay near Penzance, and certainly too hard to photograph. Once the sun came out we took to walking the coast paths and gazing out to sea from our campsite at Treen Farm. Gannets, Manx Shearwaters and Guillemots were on the move at sea with Fulmars on the cliffs, Sandwich Terns in Whitesands Bay and the odd Raven and Peregrine kicking about.
My first trip to Morocco this year was to the Fes area in the north of the country to visit three UNESCO World Heritage sites: the medinas of Fes and Meknes and the Roman site of Volubilis.
As always though the wildlife got a look in. The highlight for me was around 10 Short-toed Eagles plus a few Booted Eagles and Marsh Harriers migrating north over our villa just south of Fes one lazy morning. Other migrants were fairly thin on the ground but it was nice to be among Swallows in early March and the vast numbers of Alpine Swifts around the towns were very impressive. The blue form of Moroccan Rock Lizard was also entertaining at Volubilis. Also there Moroccan Hairstreak was a first for me.