Monday, 6 April 2009

Monday 6th April 2009

Given the weather forecast and work days , today was the only day available to check out Fackenden Down for reptiles , so , as the sun showed hazily , I set off .
A stiff , cool breeze was blowing across the site , and that was reflected in the numbers found .
Only three Adders were recorded , none of them under refugia , and the most interesting one , was this male that saw me as I saw him , sunning himself by the side of the path , then exiting , stage left , at a good rate of knots . On a previous visit , a local couple told me that they see Adders on the side of this path quite regularly . I have been checking , but this is the first sighting of the animals in this location .Slow Worms did better , with 14 being recorded , including these two nicely coloured ones . No Grass Snakes were found , but a couple of Common Lizards did put in an appearance .
Birdwise , I got my second singing Blackcap of the year , right down at the furthest part of the reserve . Whilst taking this , very close , I heard the mewing of Buzzard . I crept further along the track and found a Jay doing a perfect impression of a Buzzard , much to my disappointment . I also recorded my second Swallow , and whilst watching that , had a large bird stoop from a great height , coming down just below Poll hill Bank , but too far to identify .Also seen , Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker , and singing Yellowhammer and Chiffchaff .
Butterflies were poor , just 2 Brimstone and a Peacock .
During the visit , I found my first Cowslips of the season , and the odd one or two flowers had already opened . The leaves of many of the chalk grassland flowers are really pushing through now , which makes me wonder why the two ponies are still grazing the furthest field , especially as that is the most productive for Orchids . Apart from Dandelions , the only colour on the slopes is that from the blue of Ground Ivy ,

and that of Violets .
Amongst the many stands of Primrose , I found this one . All but one flower being the standard Primrose colour , then one pink one . In the hedgerows , the Spindle, with it's ribs along the stems , is shooting well , and will produce those beautiful fruits in the Autumn .
The best find on the site was under one of the felt refugia . Looking very much like a giant Ladybird larva , this is in fact a Glow Worm larva . I have seen the females lighting up in the Summer , but it is my first sighting of the larva stage . It was about 2 cms. long .
As I drove back , the sun was still showing , so I decided to have another go for the Brimstone female egg laying . On my way to where the Buckthorn grows , I passed the Mahonia that I posted yesterday , and feeding on it was a female Brimstone . Was this a sign of good luck I asked myself . Leaving the wooded area and walking on the heathland area , the wind had started to pick up , and the odd cloud loomed into sight . I sat on a log pile and waited , and my wait was rewarded with a female flying in , being buffeted by the freshening breeze . She flew around checking every tree and shrub , disregarding everything , until she found Buckthorn . Then , she layed about 6/8 eggs , mostly on seperate branch ends . This was followed by fluttering down to the ground , exhausted , whilst she prepared more eggs . Then she would lay that batch . After 3/4 batches , she headed for the Gorse , to feed before carrying on . By the time I left her , she must have layed approximately 75/100 eggs . As the old saying goes ' Third time lucky ' .
I thought at the time that it was just one egg , but when I enlarged the shot at home , there are in fact three eggs on the branch . Not the greatest shots . but the wind was making everything very mobile .


Warren Baker said...

Persistance seldom goes unrewarded greenie! A nice piece of wildlife in action. Well done.

ShySongbird said...

Great post again, the Glow Worm larva was really fascinating.

John Young said...

Great post Fred.

Kingsdowner said...

Fascinating stuff - the master at work.