Another scorching day, another trip to a heathland wildlife watching. This time I was going to Tadnoll and then Winfrith Heath nature reserves. These were quite close to the camp site, so I walked most of the way there.
When I was nearly at Tadnoll a Sika Deer wandered across the road in front of me. It seemed to be limping, and when I got a bit closer I could see that one of its back legs seemed to be twisted to the side so it stuck out perpendicular to what it should. It looked fairly horrific, but when it saw me it had the energy to run away, so it clearly did not have too many issues.
The reserve had a notice board, and on it I noticed that it said that there were ladybird spiders on the reserve. That got me interested, besides that it claimed all 6 British reptiles, dartford warblers and the rest of the regular heathland animals. As soon as I got onto the heathland I was delighted to notice that they had lain out corrugated iron sheets for the reptiles, the first site I had found where this had been done. Therefore I started to lift them up to see what was about. I had a look under the nearest one and there was nothing there.
I then had a look under another which was a bit further from the path. I lifted it up and was amazed to find underneath a lovely Smooth Snake. Britain's rarest reptile looked rather lovely, and all its scales looked clean and shiny. I took plenty of photos, but had noticed that there was some wood covering its head. This was quite annoying as you need a license to touch the snake, so removal of the stick would require some skill. I managed to get it away without touching the snake, which, once the stick was removed, sat up and began to taste the air. I don't see many snakes being from Yorkshire, and this was the first time I had ever seen a wild snake taste the air with its tongue. Follows is my log of photos from possibly the best find of the holiday.
After a good ten mins watching the snake I decided to was probably a good time to leave it before I did something wrong. As I was putting the tin down I noticed a snake skin on top, at about the same size of the snake underneath. I was en-devour to say that this was the reason the snake seemed in such fine nick. Needless to say, I kept the skin as a little souvenir of my first ever smooth snake.
I checked the only other tin I could find, but there was only another skin under that one. It was a much bigger skin though, I think probably grass snake, though I did not find that snake. Near to that tin there was a drying up pool surrounded by gorse, and here I got my first dragonflies of the day: Keeled Skimmers as well as Large Red Damselfly and Common Blue Damselfly.
I wandered round the rest of the reserve but the heat, well over 30 degrees, seemed to have made everything wisely take cover. Therefore I did not see much else on Tadnoll. On the bird front I spotted a Stonechat, Linnet and a hunting Kestrel, but it remained quite there too.
I wandered down to the floodplain to make my way to Winfrith. On the floodplain I sat down to have a drink and see what there was in the river there. There were quite a few Banded Demoiselles as well as a large Golden Ringed Dragonfly. The dragonfly was not keen to land, but I managed to get a few record shots of where it was.
-Golden Ringed Dragonfly
While I was sat there I noticed a Brimstone butterfly land on the thistle next to me. I don't see many of this species, and it was a first for this holiday.
After crossing the floodplain and been eaten by horseflies I made my way on to Winfrith. The reserve climbed steeply and I found a tree with a pool underneath. While I was walking up I saw that there was a small brown bird calling from the tree with the familiar song. It was a Tree Pipit, the first one I had seen this year. I was able to get quite close while it was still in its display flight, but it was not keen on me taking photos.
In the pool I spotted that there were some newts, which were the first I have seen this holiday. I don't really know what kind they were but I think that they were Smooth Newts.
Around the pond there were plenty of Dragon and Damselflies. The dragonflies included Black Tailed Skimmer but the main species was Broad Bodied Chaser, which chose to land right in front of me. I was able to get my best photos of this species yet. It was a lovely male and seemed not bothered by my being there.
-Broad Bodied Chaser
I made my way round Winfrith but there was not much around, probably as a result of the heat, and that's the reason that I wandered into wool for lunchtime.
After lunch I returned to Winfrith, but this time I made my entrance at the south gate which was where the proper path and gate were. There was a notice board but it was the same as the one at Tadnoll. This section of the reserve was quite boggy, so I hoped that there would be lots of Dragon and Damselflies around.
I wandered onto the bog to see what there was, but the first thing I saw was a Lapwing. It was obviously flustered by my being there, though I was no where near its nest. There were plenty of Dragonflies; Keeled Skimmer, Black Tailed Skimmer and Broad Bodied Chaser, but here it was the damselflies that really caught my attention. I spotted another Scarce Blue Tailed Damselfly but this time I needed no book to help me identify it. This time, since I was confident of my i.d. I was able to confidently take more photos of this species...
-Scarce Blue Tailed Damselfly
I made my way down the path and saw plenty of heathland birds, not least another Dartford Warbler flyby that I could not relocate, as well as Yellowhammer. I also spotted a large orange fritilary butterfly but it would not land and I lost it without knowing what kind it was. I also spotted a Green Tiger Beetle and got to watch it savage a Wood Ant, but as before it would not let me get close to it for a photo.
I made my way back on to Tadnoll as I made my way back to the campsite. On Tadnoll there continued to be limited wildlife. I went round all the tins again but this time there was nothing. On an old wooden pillar though there was a stonechat male calling.
I wandered off, back to the caravan site by the road. I was impressed by the reserves but fancied that the heat had rather killed off quite a bit of their wildlife that otherwise would have come out. The way back was not particularly exciting until I was almost back. Then I flushed a large group of Sika Deer that were feeding by the side of the road. They called with their girly screams before running back to what they thought a safe distance.
I considered coming back to these reserves the next day, but then decided to just go somewhere else and see if I could get anything else new.