The first few Willow Warblers and a couple of Sedge Warblers ticked the ‘start of autumn’ box nicely, but apart from a Grey Heron, a calling Green Sandpiper and a juvenile Mediterranean Gull it was fairly quiet for birds. Still, the butterfly transect showed a slight recovery from last week, featuring good numbers of Chalkhill Blues (52), the autumn’s first Wall Brown and a quite superb and apparently very fresh QUEEN OF SPAIN FRITILLARY that was basking on the track by the Lower Wood. Sadly I only had my mobile phone with me – this one was photographed on a trip to Bulgaria in spring 2008. A Southern Hawker was also in the valley.
The results of the weekly butterfly transect served to confirm suspicions expressed last week, with numbers of most common species falling back in the dry conditions, though at 18 species variety was pretty good. Chalkhill Blues were in decent numbers and present in 7 of the 10 sections, which is a good result for those who have put in a lot of hard work in creating and keeping grassland corridors, and the first fresh Common Blues were on the wing. However, Marbled White is close to the end of its flight period, only 4 skippers were recorded and the buddleia bushes continue to be devoid of insects.
A morning of wall-to-wall sunshine was excellent for butterflies, which included the first Chalkhill Blues of the season. However, in a walk from the lighthouse along the cliff and around the farm there was just one small skipper and none were recorded on the weekly transect walk. They should be in profusion at this time of year and I wonder if they are suffering the effects of last summer’s drought and high temperatures. It is also notable that Chalkhill Blue was the fourth species to be recorded this year on a record early date, suggesting that climate change has brought emergence dates forward in as short a period as the last 12 years. A Brown Hawker was also seen during the transect walk.
Well, a visit in overcast and not particularly warm conditions with a light NE breeze served to confirm that autumn is yet to start, the only bits of interest apart from the locals being 6 Swifts and 4 Sand Martins NE along the cliff, although 48 Swallows were feeding over the farm fields.
Well, we survived the weekend’s Folk and Ale bash in Sandwich more or less unscathed and the beautiful weather, if a tad subdued, lasted well into today. The butterfly transect was similar to Saturday’s effort, though the first summer emergence of Small Coppers was evident, but a worrying aspect of the walk was the absence of any nectaring butterflies on the buddleia at the bottom of the valley, a situation that seems to be reflected everywhere. There was some avian activity, mainly down to Crossbill(s) that was/were calling from one of the clifftop gardens.
More or less calm and sunny, conditions were perfect for the weekly butterfly transect walk and numbers responded accordingly, with 203 butterflies, including the first Gatekeepers of the season. However, the best sighting was of a male Red-veined Darter on the clifftop; clearly a migrant and the first I can recall seeing here.