Way too hot for any confusion…

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Picked up Bazzo at lunchtime, but with the temperature becoming perilous for ice creams, bedding plants and choccies, we agreed the best thing was to head for somewhere with at least a semblance of breeze (not that we had any ice creams, bedding plants or choccies – but you can’t be too careful).
Hesketh Out Marsh it was then, which gave up the fine full-on summer plumage Spotted Redshank (but not right away), single Arctic Tern, 20+ Little Egret, 40+ Avocets, Red Admirals, Meadow Browns – and then, Help Ma Boab, a troublesome wader on the same pool as the adult SpotRed.
Conveniently it was partially hidden at first behind a spit, but appeared to be an adult Spot Red either coming out summer plumage or completely failing to get into it in the first place.

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So far so good, but PROBLEM!!! The bird had a clearly upturned bill with no hook on the end and there no hint of any supercilium business going on – this sent my sun-boiled mind racing, even after it wandered off to show long, long, red legs, no white in the wings and totally SpotRed jizz…I’ve never seen a SpotRed without a clear hook at the end of the bill.
Wrong size with the wrong coloured legs for any of the more interesting tringas, it was way too hot for hassle like that today.
Both birds were distant (however the hook on the summer plumage bird was clearly visibly at the same range – leave it John!!!), and grudgingly we put the weirdy one into the SpotRed camp.
Bazzo had the wisest solution to the bill problem as we barrelled back towards Southport with the temperatures soaring and clouds of dust billowing up in the rear view.
“It probably snapped off”, he sagely declared.
Indeed.
So two SpotReds and an Arctic Tern, a few Dunlin, Lapwing, Redshanks, hordes of Little Egrets and Avocets and a juv hyperventilating Cormorant….very nice.
Marginally cooler last night, when Dempsey Towers enjoyed an excellent moth haul at the trap, including two Bordered Sallows.

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Over 120 moths in the trap, including perennial faves like Buff Arches, Spectacle and Figure of Eighty, but just one hawkmoth – a Poplar.
Equally exciting was an Orange Ladybird (halyzia sedecimguttata), a beastie I have never seen before, but is spreading steadily northwards.

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Spitfire easy; Hobbys hard.

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Called in at the wondrous Lunt Meadows this afternoon, in time to watch two Hobbys dealing aerial death to the site’s dragonfly population.
Breathtaking to watch the two of them as they twisted and turned in the air, repeatedly scoring – very cool (although not if you were a Four Spot Chaser or Black Tailed Skimmer).
However they proved near impossible to digi-scope, unlike the Spitfire that was roaring above Dempsey Towers earlier in the day, presumably as part of an Armed Forces Day flypast.

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At least I assume it was a Spitfire (plane buffs may like to help me out?) – it certainly had a great big noisy growly engine, and when I looked at it I came over all William Walton and Benjamin Britten.
In contrast the Hobbys zoomed in and out of my eye-piece at what appeared to be twice the speed of sound today (which is of course my excuse for the blurry pics)…zooooooooom!!!

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Little Egret, Blackcap, Sedge and Reed Warbler, with a few Meadow Browns out too.
Yesterday in the dunes at Ainsdale good numbers of Dark Green Fritillaries were bustling over the Creeping Willow and a very worn Painted Lady tottered through the Bog Pimpernel – superb, so it’s a shame some shit-for-brains decided to set fire to an area of dune there last night.
Makes you wanna weep, doubtless I’ll get more on the scale of the damage tomorrow…

Mud and feathers.

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No stars on the RBA map over Bardsey and a strong westerly meant planning for an early morning crossing and a spot of bunting hunting tomorrow was pointless, so I spent an hour or two at Marshside.
Bumped into Ralph Jones and we scurried down to Nels against the rain and wind – it was more like March than June this morning.
Water levels have dropped nicely and there’s lots of exposed mud, strewn with the moulted feathers of scabby wildfowl heading towards eclipse plumage, but a juv Ringed Plover was worth a grilling (they always are).

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About 25 Redshanks and a similar number of Blackwits were joined by small parties of Dunlin, two or three adult Ringed Plover and a few Curlew, but not much else.

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Best of all was a fly-through Great White Egret that headed high south west over Marshside One and Southport, that I managed to get in the ‘scope long enough for that great big yellow bill to shine in the hard light.
Three or four Little Egrets today too, Bee Orchids going over now near Sandgrounders Hide, Northern Marsh Orchids still showing off on Marshside Two and a Common Tern paid a brief visit to the lagoon.
Reed Warblers occasionally squawking away under Nels despite the reeds whishing about in the wind.

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Not for want of trying

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Four calling Crossbills low over the car park at Lifeboat Road, Formby, this morning while I was concluding an orchid walk* was enough to tempt me into a lunchtime seawatch at Ainsdale today, especially as it was nice and cloudy and a westerly was freshening up.
Gave it 45 minutes – it was not great.

Ainsdale 1300-1345:
Gannet 8
Manx Shearwater 4
Common Scoter 2
Med Gull 2
LBB 5
Curlew 5

Observant readers will note I have included waders on a seawatch count – this is never a good sign.
I’ll be counting BHGs and Cormorants next.

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It was very quiet, but two Med Gulls calling loudly as they drifted north up the coast over the beach were cool (they still hold novelty value for me, despite the fact they are so regular now), and a pulse-ette of Manx Shearwaters were enough for a quick lunchtime hit.
Taking out a birding walk from 1145-1430 at the National Trust at Freshfield tomorrow as part of their “Bioblitz” event if anyone wants to come out to play…

* Five species on this morning’s guided walk orchid lovers – Bee Orchid (natch – good numbers have been out along the coast for the last two weeks, although the cold winds mean many are quite stunted), Southern Marsh Orchid, Common Twayblade – a first for the site (I think), Early Marsh Orchid coccinea, and 11 Dune Helleborine, the latter a good way from flowering.

I love potatoes!!!!

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When the darkness stops crashing down and you can start getting glimpses of stuff again, the only sensible thing to do after twisting your melon backwards over a Stonechat (just how far east can you go until west comes round again???) is to head off and have a look at a nice “easy” Blue Headed Wagtail – so many thanks to Colin Bushell for this bird out at HoM.
Great views of it perching up in the spuds at the west end today, and while it was certainly quite subtle and pale in coloration, the amount of yellow on the face and up under the ear-coverts, and the messy markings made pinning it down to a specific race, cline, flare or drainpipe, about as worthwhile as trusting a cricket-loving grice farmer with a Hen Harrier.
That said it’s always lovely to watch a Blue Headed Wagtail, especially as “bog standard” Yellow Wags, Avocets, Arctic Terns, Little Egrets and singing Skylarks were the backdrop.

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Wall butterfly on the bank, with Red Admiral and Painted Lady moving along too.

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Two Eiders made me feel old as they dropped in amongst the grace of the Arctic Terns that danced through the air above the lagoons – HoM never fails to please (and ten out of ten to the fatso Little Owl on the lamp post just before Marshfield Farm).

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Here’s hoping…

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I wasn’t going to bother with press releases on this “new” blog, but I’ll make an exception with this one from my old friend Liam Creedon at Butterfly Conservation, mainly because the 2009 mega-movement of Painted Ladies was such a stunning spectacle.
A few have already moved through the dunes at Ainsdale this week – perhaps that’s just the tip of the iceberg..
Over to Liam and the butterfly boys (superb shot above is by Matt Berry)…

“The UK is braced for a once in a decade influx of Painted Ladies with the potential for millions of the butterflies winging in from southern Europe as part of the longest butterfly migration in the world.
Unusually high numbers of the orange and black butterflies have been reported amassing in southern Europe at the critical time of the year for them to spread northwards into Britain.
The butterfly is a common immigrant that migrates in varying numbers from the continent to the UK each summer, where its caterpillars feed on thistles.
But around once every ten years the UK experiences a Painted Lady ‘summer’ when millions of the butterflies arrive en masse.
The last mass immigration took place in 2009 when around 11 million Painted Ladies descended widely across the UK with the butterflies spreading into the most northerly parts of Scotland.
Since then the UK has experienced five years with below average numbers but scientists are hopeful that 2015 could be very different.
Painted Ladies are experiencing their best year on the continent since 2009. The offspring of these butterflies could be UK bound imminently.
Butterfly Conservation reported that some butterflies arrived during mid-May, but a spell of poor weather temporarily halted the immigration.
Recent warm sunny conditions has seen Painted Lady numbers soar once again with reports of large numbers of the butterflies seen at south coast sights – suggesting a large scale immigration may once again be about to take place.
Butterfly Conservation is asking for the public to record sightings of the butterfly to help chart the progress of any potential immigration during the summer.
Richard Fox, Butterfly Conservation Head of Recording explained: “The Painted Lady migration is one of the real wonders of the natural world.
“Travelling up to 1km in the sky and at speeds of up to 30 miles-per-hour these small fragile-seeming creatures migrate hundreds of miles to reach our shores each year, even though none of the individual butterflies has ever made the trip before.”
The Painted Lady undertakes a phenomenal 9,000 mile round trip from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle each year – almost double the length of the of the famous migrations of the Monarch butterfly in North America.
Research using citizen science sightings from the 2009 migration revealed that the whole journey is not undertaken by individual butterflies but in a series of steps by up to six successive generations.
Radar studies revealed that after successfully breeding in the UK in 2009 more than 26 million Painted Ladies returned south in the autumn, many flying high in the sky out of the sight of human observers.
Painted Lady sightings can be recorded via Butterfly Conservation’s Migrant Watch scheme”.

Where’s the “Stonechats” book when you need it?

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It seems to be a great year for Stonechats on the coast this year – there are two a pairs at least close to the office at Ainsdale, and I’ve encountered several pairs elsewhere. but this critter stopped me in my tracks when I was in Slack 170 this morning – strikingly black and white above, with startling huge white wing patches and a big collar.
In some positions it appeared to have a white rump (see last two really bad pics), although in others a buffy one.
In flight it was so black and white it reminded me of the bastard love child of a Pied Fly and a Masked Shrike!
One of the browner resident male Stonechats chased it off over the dunes in the direction of Pontins, but I managed these dodgy “point and press” pics (if only for a scope) as it perched up once or twice.

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Not pale enough for one of those supersexy Caspian jobs (at least I don’t think it is), but a stunning bird nonetheless.
Anyone got the big boy “Stonechats” book to hand so we can play with groovy latin names and use italics?

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Rather wearing

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Bright as the morning was, the continued strong south westerly was getting a bit of a drag down at Marshside – it doesn’t seem to be good for much at the moment, unless you are a Yankee thrush on a far flung island/headland, or a Swift that particularly enjoys low level forays over Marshside One.
It’d be a different matter if it was bringing in a few quality seabirds to the coast.
One of the Med Gulls was busy collecting mud (someone’s gotta do it) on the Sandplant lagoon and battered and worn Common Blues were grimly hanging on to the vegetation on the bank on the way down to Sandgrounders.

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With time tight I had a quick look from the platform on Hesketh Road, where all was as it should be, and the swarm of hirundines and the aforementioned Swifts were mighty impressive, before getting summery and indulging in a spot of botanising in the dunes at Ainsdale.
Most stuff seems to be predictably late (the Northern Marsh Orchids appear more advanced on Marshside One than in the small pockets of duneland I checked today), but at least the Adder’s Tongue Ferns were flourishing in the Adder’s Tongue Fern place, and Common Twayblade was well up.

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Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Sedgies and Blackcaps belting away.