After two very hard days back working on the Greensand Ridge , my Warden is back on light / supervisory duties , so guess who was on heavy duties ? , I set off this morning in hazy sunshine to do the Down House bird survey . Unfortunately , contractors are working on the gravel paths in the main garden and walled garden , so I wondered if it would be worth it at all . As it happened , I did record 20 species during my visit , the best of the bunch being a Garden Warbler in the woodland by the Golf Course . Would have been better with a hirundine or two , but I had to wait till I got home , as whilst having a coffee with Carol in the garden , she spotted our first Swift over the house this year . Just 5 Speckled Woods were recorded at Down House , whereas the garden did better again with Speckled Wood , Orange Tip and Holly Blue , all joining us for coffee .
After lunch , still in hazy sunshine , I set off for Burnt Gorse , to look again for the early Skippers . As is usual for me , the sun became more and more watery , and I didn't hold out much hope on arrival . But I was wrong , as after just a few minutes of searching , I found the first of 7 Dingy Skippers . Well named , and looking more like a moth than a butterfly , and with the typical Skipper clubbed antennae . The wingspan of this species is only about 30mm. , so with the drab colour and it's size , it is not easy to follow them in flight . A flash of orange had me thinking of an early Small Heath , but when it settled , it turned out to be the day flying moth Burnet Companion , so named as it is usually found in the same habitat as Burnet moths . I had sightings of Peacock , Orange Tip and Holly Blue , but no sign of Grizzled Skipper . Right down at the bottom of the slope , I found a mating pair of Bee-flies-Bombylius major , although the one on the right seems to have touched down , all wings are still working hard . It was soon after that another movement led me to the first of 2 Grizzled Skippers recorded today . This species has a wingspan of about 26mm. , so are even harder to find or follow in flight . Things were quiet around the Wayfarer bush at the top of the slope , just 2 Green Hairstreaks recorded , but it appears that a cafe has opened on this prime real estate , now that the flowers are opening . Leaving Burnt Gorse , I headed to check on the Bird's nest Orchids , but still , no sign , but I did find a very freshly emerged Speckled Wood nearby . The Orchid bank was my last visit , and it looks as if it will be a good year for Common Spotted Orchids , with good numbers already showing in leaf . Another member of the Orchid family , the Twayblade , are just getting their flower spikes , unfortunately , they get no more colourful than this usually . But , today , I did find an unusual variegated specimen , the like of which I have never seen before .
Arriving home , Carol was in the back garden trying to get rid of a Magpie that was attacking a family of Blackbirds . Three times she had to drive it off , and this seemed to be what it was after , a juvenile , which got under some plants , and stayed there , motionless .
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