Sunday, 3 July 2016

June Highlights!

Places Visited: Outer Hebrides; Amwell/Balls Wood/Hertford Heath; HMWT Thorley Wash and London Zoo.

WeatherMostly showery, with a few sunny periods.

June’s weather was quite poor overall, which meant a paucity of outings this month. I guess a week-long trip to the Outer Hebrides early on, was a reason, too.

Although, the weather up there was actually outstanding. Bright, warm, sunny skies and a flat calm crossing, both ways. Quite unusual for the North Atlantic, I was told.

I ventured up there with two targets in mind. One, to set foot on St. Kilda and, two, to see the endemic St. Kilda Wren. Everything else would be a bonus. And there were plenty of them!

I had also ventured up there with my wet weather gear, plus lots of winter woollies, as I expected it to be both wet and cold. In the event, I wore t-shirts most of the time.

Not only did I see and photograph a St. Kilda Wren, I also spotted around 60 other species of bird, including lots of Wheatear, Willow Warbler and Common Snipe. However, it was the quantity of seabirds that took my breath away. Gannets, Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills and Arctic Terns, to name but a few. Together with Eagles, Golden and White-tailed and Skuas, Great and Arctic. The sights, sounds and smells will stay with me forever.

The endemic St Kilda Wren
St Kilda village

Gannet around one of the Sea Stacs
White-tailed Sea Eagle
There was also plenty of Cetacean action, as well. 3 species of Dolphin, 2 of Seal and lots of Minke Whales. Lots of Harbour Porpoises and a sighting of up to 7 Otters, on one day, were a thrill to see. Then there was the odd sight of seeing Primroses blooming right next to Bluebells! There were many more highlights, too numerous to mention. I would certainly visit again.

Common Dolphins
I returned home to find the weather had deteriorated, somewhat. Over a week later, Ron suggested we pay a visit to Balls Wood and Hertford Heath, with Amwell tacked on, at the end of the day. I hadn’t visited BW for a few years, while it was my first visit to HH. At the Heath, I was delighted to have my first-ever sightings of Scarce Emeralds. The first Ruddy Darters of the year appeared, too. Other ‘firsts’ included Common Emeralds, Black-tailed Skimmer and Emperor. In all, there were 14 species of Odonata seen that day.

Common Emerald 
Ruddy Darter
Scarce Emerald
On the insect front, I was ecstatic in finding a Black-headed Cardinal Beetle, plus sightings of a Longhorn Beetle, Speckled Bush Cricket and a fantastic view of a Ruby-tailed Wasp. There were plenty of butterflies on show, with lots of Skippers, plus first sightings of Cinnabar Moth, Meadow Brown and a Yellow-tailed Moth caterpillar.

Black-headed Cardinal Beetle 
Longhorn Beetle
The birds weren’t ignored, with 45 species seen. Red Kite, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Common Tern and plenty of Warbler action, being the highlights.

It was an excellent day out, thanks to my driver, who gets a special mention.

Black-tailed Skimmer
Ruby-tailed Wasp
Next up, was a walk along the River Stort to HMWT Thorley Wash. Ron hadn’t visited before and was keen to have a look. We had another excellent day.

The bird list was quite low, the highlights being Common Tern, Swallow, Grey Wagtail and, again, plenty of Warblers.

Banded Demoiselles along the River Stort
However, it was the invertebrates that we had come to see. There was, of course, plenty of Banded Demoiselle action. In fact, scores of them, delighting us. We also managed to spot all the usual Blues, a few Large Reds and one Hairy dragon. Peacock, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshells were among many butterflies seen.

Common Tern

Dark Bush Crickets, Dock Bugs, Green Nettle Weevils, Longhorn Beetles, Mayflies, Mint Leaf Beetles, Scorpion Flies and Thick-kneed Beetles were all fantastic to see. We spent most of the day with our eyes down.

For my last trip of the month, I decided to pay my annual visit to London Zoo. Always worth the effort, for all the exotic bird species on show. I concentrated on them, rather than anything else.

I had to, really. There were hundreds of children about, looking at all the ‘stars’ of the Zoo. It was also a bit pricey, to be honest. Hey, it’s only once a year!

Humboldt Penguin
Pekin Robin
Splendid Sunbird
The exotic birds are always a delight to see, but the penguins were also good value. A visit to the Butterfly House was excellent and there was even a Broad-bodied Chaser to be seen, flying around the ponds.

Blue Morpho
Indian Leafwing

So, only 4 trips this month. Blast the weather! However, they were all excellent days out, though St. Kilda was undoubtedly the highlight. It was definitely a case of wearing a Kevlar-enforced pair of trousers this month!

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