Thursday, 19 September 2019

Butterfly Aberation.

Occasionally aberant forms of common butterflies turn up, and I was lucky enough to see one on the Broncham Hill section of the Ridgeway at the weekend. I was very puzzled at first as it was unlike any of the  Dorset species normally seen, but its size and behaviour hinted that it might be some form of Small Copper, and so it turned out to be. Devoid of the normal coppery red colour, this is the rare aberant albino form, Lycaena phlaeas alba.  
Small Copper, albino form alba.                    Photo.  Jill Weller.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Migratory Birds

September is the month when many of the birds that have spent the summer with us start their migration south, mainly to Africa. Portland is an important take-off point, with daily records being being put online by Martin Cade, the warden of the Portland Bird Observatory, ( Inland funnels to Portland include the Hog Hill/Maiden Castle valley with reports in the last week of Redstart, Wheatear,  Winchat, Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher and Corn Bunting. 

Daily reports of Dorset birds, including many from the Martinstown area, may be seen at

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Sad news of my Cuckoo.

An email from BTO today bringing the sad news that Nussey the Cuckoo I sponsored this year is likely to be dead.

Nussey.   Photo. BTO
Unfortunately the challenging conditions have also impacted on Nussey who has already attempted two trips to Africa and retreated to Europe.  Abnormally low temperatures were received at the time of the last messages (16 August), having previously been fine. He was not migrating at that time, so the low temperatures were not due to high altitude, and the battery was also much lower than previously, further suggesting he was dead.
The droughts and exceptionally high temperatures in Europe appear to have proved difficult for our Cuckoos this year, however the five south of the Sahara are still regularly transmitting. Valentine, PJ, Carlton II and Tennysons' tags have all sent signals during September and the last signals received from Senan's tag were at the end of August and show him still in Burkina Faso.

Three others of the tagged Cuckoos have died in Spain this year, but the rest are now in Africa. I will have a look at their details and sponsor one of them.

I check occasionally to see where readers of this blog are coming from.  In the last month there have been 62 page views from the UK, which I feel is satisfactory, and 7 from France which could be accounted for by visitors from the valley. The surprise though is that there were apparently 154 pageviews from Russia and 148 from the Ukraine. Who would have thought there was so much interest in our valley wildlife in those countries? I fear the worst. 

Monday, 2 September 2019

New Damselfly.

Banded Demoiselle                           Photo John Elliott
This year is proving to be very good for Dragonflies and Damselflies in my wildlife garden. Two recent arrivals are a Common Darter and a Banded Demoiselle, the latter being a first record in the valley. It is supposed to prefer slowly flowing waters in contrast to the very similar Beautiful Demoiselle which likes fast flowing streams and occurs down the Weymouth Road. The obvious difference between the two is that the wing colouration of the Beautiful Demoiselle extends over the whole wing length wereas the Banded lives up to its name and has only a central pigmented band.

Also on the garden pond, a Common Darter which visited briefly.

Common Darter.    Click to enlarge.  Photo John Elliott
Also towards bottom left, a Helophilus Hover Fly, but which one in this very numerous Genus I don't know.

No news yet of my sponsored Cuckoo. It is one of four which have gone silent this year in Spain.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Weymouth Relief Road.

Adonis Blue.      Click to enlarge   Photo. john Elliott
In rather dull and windy conditions a walk down the Weymouth Relief Road bridleway to look for butterflies proved disappointing as far as numbers were concerned, but the dozen that were seen were quality.  The brilliant Adonis Blues, seven of them,  provided the main interest. together with two tattered Painted Ladies and a single Brown Argus. The Painted Ladies which take part in a staged movement north in the early part of the year are probably now moving back south towards Africa where they will over winter. Amazingly some of these tiny, fragile insects will end up south of the Sahara desert.

Wheatear.        Click to enlarge.   Photo. John Elliott
Seen perching on the walls or fences and moving south to their winter quarters were several Wheatears. This very fresh looking one is probably one of this years brood.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Migrant Cuckoo.

Nussey.            Photo BTO
My sponsored Cuckoo, Nussey, which got as far as Morocco on its first attempt to migrate and then backtracked to Spain, has not responded to the tracking satellite since the 10th of August, seventeen days ago. There must now be concern that the bird is in trouble and if not already dead, will be unable to tackle the difficult Sahara crossing to its Central African rainforest winter quarters.

Hundreds of butterflies on the Forage Kale in the field halfway up the hill to Ewelease Dairy today. All three species, Large White, Small White and Green Veined White were present .Some thousands of Caterpillars could arise and munch away at the Kale, not leaving much for the cows.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Beech Trees in Danger.

Phytophthora kernoviae is a fungal type pathogen which was first seen in Cornwall in 2003 and has since spread into Devon, South Wales, Cheshire and Scotland, but has not, so far, been reported in Dorset.
 Beach trees are one of the species affected and symptoms are bark lesions and necrosis (blackening and death) of leaves and stems. It is disturbing therefore that one of the beaches on the Church Green is showing darkening of the stems and leaves at the ends of branches, which could be consistent with necrosis rather than normal autumnal browning. The fungus is easily spread and the danger must be that it may infest the Copper Beach in Hardy Close and also the tree in the Manor House grounds, which could well be the oldest, as well as the largest tree in the village.

Necrosis of Church Green Beach.         Photo' John Elliott

This is a young tree which may well have to join the two Cherry trees which have recently been removed, as well as the Chestnut, which is infected with the micro moth Horse-chestnut Leaf Miner, Cameraria ohridella. The brown patches are where the minute larvae have been eating away at the inner parts of the leaves.