Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Wednesday 29th.April 2009

With the probability of being grounded tomorrow due to the weather , I grabbed my passport and headed for deepest Surrey early this morning . The site I was heading for is a release sight for two of the rarest reptiles in the UK , being Smooth Snake and Sand Lizard , and they were my target species for the day . I have been sworn to secrecy over it's whereabouts , so deepest Surrey is all I can say .
Arriving on site about 0930 , there was still a cool wind blowing , but the birdsong made me forget that . 2 or 3 Willow Warblers were competing against each other , and the were interspersed with two Tree Pipits , my first of the year . Blackcap ( pictured ) and Chiffchaff joined in , and in the distance a Cuckoo . It gradually worked it's way towards me and I was ready with the camera , but then it went off in another direction . Other birds seen/heard included Coal , Blue and Great Tit , Bullfinch and Chaffinch ,Wren , Robin , Pheasant , Song Thrush , Nuthatch , Jay , Carrion Crow , Sparrowhawk , Swallow and Pheasant . On previous year's visits , I have been treated to views and song of Dartford Warbler , but it wasn't to be today .
I headed straight to where the Sand Lizards were released a few years ago , and where I have been fortunate enough to get shots of a single animal on two occassions . The conditions seemed ideal , with the sun just warming up their bank of sand , but it wasn't to be today , despite a lot of walking and concentrated looking , none were seen . What were about in numbers , were Green Tiger Beetles -Cicindela campestris , scuttling around on the open areas , and flying off as soon as I got too close . By 1130 , and with no sightings of Sand Lizard , I changed my attention to the rare Smooth Snake . I was luckier with this species , finding one after about half an hour of looking . As can be seen from this shot , it does not have the zig-zag back pattern of the Afdder , or the yellow collar of the Grass Snake . It is also a smaller animal than either of the other two snakes .
A close up of the head shows the round pupil , same as the Grass Snake , not like the vertical pupil of the Adder . He stayed posing for so long , then made his way off . I found two Smooth Snakes and whilst looking , came across two female Adders , this being one of them .
As I said , the wind was quite strong , and at one time , I sat and watched a Dor Beetle -
Geotropes stercorarius , making several unsuccessful attempts to take off from the Heather . Eventually , after a long struggle , it made it into the air , and I was lucky enough to capture that moment , as the wing covers were lifted and the wings deployed . All over the site Billberry is finishing flowering , and the small fruits are starting to form .I mentioned the other day that I recorded good numbers of Brimstone butterflies at Salt Box Hill , but this site was incredible for the species . I only walked a small part , but would estimate seeing 50+ Brimstones , and not a surprise really , as I passed a small copse that was made up completely of Buckthorn , their food plant . I can honestly say , I have never seen so much Buckthorn in one place . Other species seen were , Orange Tip (2) , Large White (2) , Peacock (3) and Speckled Wood (2) .
Earlier in the day , I had missed a photo chance of a Roe Buck , as it crossed the track behind me , and by the time I turned around , got the camera out , he was gone into the vegetation . Just after passing the Buckthorn copse , I saw movement , and it turned out to be a Roe Buck getting up onto it's feet . It could well have been the same one , but I couldn't be positive . As I made my way back to the car , I found this on the ground .
I've told Carol that when I go , I would like my ashes sprinkled over a nice bit of countryside , seeing as I spend most of my time there . Obviously this person thought the same , but why didn't they take home the urn ?


Ken Browne. said...

Hi Warren
It looks like you had a really lovely day, plenty of variety,Good picture of the beetle with it's wings out.I know what you mean about having your ashes skattered at one of your favourite places It is something I want done.
About the weather tomorrow, THere is a chance you could be in for a nice day Warren, a bit cooler but possibly no or a little rain. Mind you, what they say, and what happens is 2 different things.

Warren Baker said...

Hi greenie,
I see Ken has flattered you by giving you a new christian name. Lets hope they get it right on your urn!
Nice post today, never seen a smooth snake.

Warren Baker said...

Despite our plumages being quite different from one another, - in all seasons, and me not quite attaining full adult plumage yet - Ken has still made a schoolboy ID error. Yes I think I will lend him some of my pills.

Ken Browne. said...

Just realised what I called you, only Warren beat me to it.I must have been given some of Warren's tablets in my tea.Sorry about that.

Steve said...

Souds a great day again Fred. I have only seen Smooth Snake once in Dorset and Sand Lizard at Thursley.....long time ago now. Great pictures.

Anonymous said...

That's a terrific shot of the beetle taking flight.

ShySongbird said...

Another fascinating post, a beautiful photo of the Brimstone and a stunning capture of the Dor beetle taking off.

Kingsdowner said...

Good report Fred, with the smoothie as icing on the cake.
Good shot of bilberry, which is new to me.

As for the urn, coincidentally another correspondent had a similar experience: