Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Dorset Holiday-Day 10: Higher Hyde Heath

So today was our last day in Dorset, we moved on to Fareham today so it was farewell to all the heathland. The day started well as I found more unusual moths on the toilet block. This time it was Pebble Hooktip, a first for me, and a Large Emerald. As usual, I hoped that this would be a good omen for the day
-Pebble Hooktip Moth
-Large Emerald Moth
Today my family was going to Bovington Tank Museum, while I wandered over to Higher Hyde Heath, the last reserve I had flagged up. It was some walk to get to the reserve from where I was dropped off since we could not really go up to the reserve to go back with the caravan on the back.
On the way there the heat really started and I considered giving up. I did see a few things on my walk Common Emerald Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly and Large Skipper. There were also some Large very orange fritilaries, none of which would land for a photo. The only other things I found were 6 Spot Burnet Moths, which had been in abundance through the whole holiday.
-Large Skipper
I turned down the road the reserve was meant to be on and there I found some drainage ditches along the side of the road. In these there were 2 Keeled Skimmers hunting, so I decided to take some photos since they decided to perch very conveniently. 
-Keeled Skimmer
And just up from the pool there was some ragwort, with some Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars on it, which were my first of the holiday.
-Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars
I was beginning to doubt if this reserve I was looking for actually existed, as all the entrances on my OS map seemed to have vanished or not existed. Even more worrying was the sound of gunshots that kept coming from where the reserve was meant to be.
My doubts were laid to rest when I found an entrance stile to the reserve, only on it there was a notice saying that the reserve was only open on Mondays, and the rest of the time it was owned by the shooting club. I diddnt really know what to make of this, but decided to plow on and see if the reserve section on the other side of the golf club road I had not yet reached was accessible.
At the stile though I noticed some bracken in front of me which had drawn the attention of some oddly flying insects which when they landed turned out to be rather striking beetles. A little bit of book looking in when I got back and it turns out that these are Strangalia Maculata. Whatever they are they are very striking.
-Strangalia Maculata
I continued to make my way down to the golf club road, and along the road I continued to encounter the large orange fritiliaries, but they continued to not land. 
I made my way along to the golf course road and there found that I could access the reserve, but that there was a lack of a definite footpath. I made my way across the heath away from the shooting club. I wont write it all down here as it turned out to be a pretty pointless section of walk. I flushed a few Common Lizards, but never long enough for a photo. I also flushed a Sika Deer, and on the dried up remains of ponds there were Black Tailed Skimmers, Keeled Skimmers and Common Blue Damselflies. The most notable part of this section was that I found a Brown Hawker hunting near the woods at the top, which was my first of the holiday and meant I reached my target of 20 dragonfly and damselfly species.
However, the lack of path turned into a problem as I kept falling into old stream beds which had become overgrown, and in the heat this was very annoying, so I only spent around an hour there before deciding to go back to the tank museum and endure what I would.
On my way back via the road though, I found the entrance to the reserve, which I passed before without noticing. Feeling very relieved I wandered down and was delighted to find that the reserve even had its own notice board, which had a map, which showed a much smaller reserve than my OS map had led me to believe, but it did have a hide. 
Therefore, since it was nearly lunch time that's the way I headed. My reserve walk started well as in a big tree above me after I had started I spotted a Nuthatch, my first of the holiday. The distance to the hide was short and so not a lot happened on the way. There was a Golden Ringed Dragonfly hunting the path on the way down but more significantly perhaps, there were some Ruddy Darters perched next to the path, a species I don't often see.
-Ruddy Darter
I settled down in the hide to have lunch. It looked out over a small pond where there were loads of dragonflies, but all too far away for identification. I had been in there about 10mins when I heard voices outside and two other people walked in. During the whole week these were the only people I had seen also birding. One was a fireman who was surveying the heaths due to the dry, hot weather and the obvious vulnerability of the heaths. The other was the reserve warden, so I asked him about the fritilaries. He said that they were likely to be Silver Washed Fritilaries since it was about the time for them to come out. He said that the best I had to see one landed would be down at the bottom in the woodland.
The fireman then commented on the heat and said that he was going outside to take some heat readings on the decking next to the hide. When he came back in he said that there was a large sand lizard sunning itself on the decking, so I went outside to see if I could see it. The warden said I should wait 5 mins if he was not there when I got out because he soon would return. I went out and spotted the lizard resting under the decking. I waited for some time without taking a picture but he did not seem keen to come out. I knelt down to look under since so far all I had got was an excellent view of a Sand Lizard's bum. I did see its face when I knelt down, but then he moved his head so I couldn't see it any more. Therefore, I took some snaps of what I could see, but the camera click disturbed it and he dissapeared under the decking. 
-Sand Lizard
After that I went down to where the warden had said I should go to see the fritilaries. I headed down that way-towards the ponds of the reserve which were under woods and so there was very little light there, but in the clearings he said they might be. He was right, but once more they were but they were reluctant to land and so I was unable to get some photos. However, they were not the only wildlife down that end of the reserve. I was walking through the woods when a dark darter sized dragonfly flew at me. It was the eyes that got me again and I knew instantly that it was a Downy Emerald but at the same time it vanished into the woods and I did not catch up with it again. I headed back up to the open space where the hide was to see if I could have any more fritilary luck up there. 
Once there I noticed that there were some metal plates laid down for reptiles, so I had a look. It was unfortunate that I could not flip the tins over as I had done before because of the growth over them. When I flipped the first one I found up there were two Slow Worms under it, but I could not flip up the tin and so I could not really get the photos I wanted. I made a fist of it though and got a few nice record shots.
-Slow Worm
I checked the other tins and doubled back on myself to find more. I found about 7, but only one other had anything under it, and that was also a Slow Worm. I did however, had the same problem as what I had done before with not being able to flip up the tin. 
-Slow Worm
Since I had moved back to where the hide was I was once more in the hunting region of the Golden Ringed Dragonfly and I saw it land on a random pillar in the middle of the road. Once more I found that it was to flighty for me to get close enough for a real photo, but I did get a site record shot.
-Golden Ringed Dragonfly
I headed off down the path that I had been going down where the tins had been and found myself in a large tarmaced space where birch trees and shrubs had pushed through the cracks in the tarmac, creating a very odd habitat. There were more tins here but none had anything under them. 
The area was odd, and there was plenty of Budlia, but no fritilaries. There was however an Emperor Dragonfly hunting the area and it was keen to land so I could actually take some emperor photos which did not involve it ovipositing.
-Emperor Dragonfly
I followed the path down from the tarmaced area and it led onto the proper heath. This section of the reserve did not really excel, as the only thing I saw was a Comma Butterfly, though it did perch rather conveniently 
-Comma Butterfly
The final section of the heath before I re-entered the proper reserve at the woodland bit was more boggy and here I found some Black Tailed Skimmers here, though that was about all. 
Back in the woodland area I had another quick look to see if there were any Silver Washed Fritilary, and was on my way back up when in a clearing I spotted one that was landing, though it was landing some way from the path. I spent around half an hour watching and trying to photograph this butterfly though my final efforts left a lot to be desired. 
They are an impressive butterfly and no mistake, the second largest wild butterfly I have ever seen after swallowtail. It flew quite close to me as well but never chose to land close, except on on occasion, where it landed on the top side of a leaf and I was on the bottom side of it...
-Silver Washed Fritilary
I would have liked to have stayed longer here, to see if the butterfly would land closer, but decided it was probably about the time I should be setting off back to the tank museum, since I had told my parents to give me half and hour and the actual walk too an hour and a half.
I left my final site in Dorset feeling very good, but it was not over yet as on the walk along the side of the road I spotted another Silver Washed Fritilary on a bramble bush by the side of the road, and this one was a bit more photogenic, though a a passing car disturbed it before I had really got going and so I only got a few photos. 
-Silver Washed Fritilary
I made my way to the tank museum absolutely exhausted. The only other thing I had seen on my walk were some Bonobos at the monkey world zoo.
The journey to the new campsite was very hot, but that's about all I can remember. The new campsite was one we have been to once before, and no need to be reminded of that since its the only time I have seen a nightjar. So even though we had only just arrived my dad and I set off to look for nightjars where we had seen it before. We had no luck and we only heard distant churring, but the warden has told us of a better site, so hopefully we will get them before the end.

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