April 2022

Saturday 30th. This morning’s first surprise was a Sedge Warbler, chuntering away from the hedge behind the garden pond; only our second following one in the same spot on May 7th last year. Moths were rather disappointing until a Streamer appeared just outside the patio doors and around 9.15 a flurry of 9 Swallows and 3 House Martins flew N across the valley. All was not finished, however, as a male Orange Tip made it 9 butterfly species for the garden so far this spring.

Would you believe it? Having last been to the races when I was about 15 with my Uncle Douglas who took me to Ripon in Yorkshire we went to Cattistock Point to Point in the afternoon and had a jolly good time. As if the horsing about wasn’t enough, a Red Kite flew along the valley.

Wednesday 27th. Last night turned up Lunar Marbled Brown, which we recorded only once in Sandwich, White Ermine and Shuttle-shaped Dart and new micros Agonopterix yeatiana and the snappily-named Pseudoswammerdamia combinella. More good news came with our internet connection being re-established; all down to a faulty lead, apparently.

Lunar Marbled Brown

Tuesday 26th. A big fire at the scrapyard along the Portesham road last night coincided with the loss of our internet connection, so my capacity to update blogs and the like has been temporarily suspended. Last night’s moths were unspectacular, to say the least.

Monday 25th. The last couple of days have been warm and spring-like and last night brought our first ever Northern Drab, together with species new for the year in Common Wave, Green Carpet and Sharp-angled Peacock.

Sunday 24th. The fields to the east of us have been spread with organic material (to put it politely) and ploughing was under way this morning. Predictably this attracted a horde of corvids and gulls (Med. Gull was frequently audible), a couple of Buzzards and a Red Kite. The middle of the day was punctuated by a very pleasant lunch at the Saxon Arms in Stratton and by the time we returned home the temperature was up into the mid-teens; enough to tempt out our first Green-veined White of the year.

Friday 22nd. Yesterday was the final day of pupil-dilating eye drops, following my escape from Moorfields last Friday, so over the next few days my eye will hopefully feel less like I’ve just had 12 pints of lager. Currently, my depth perception is significantly reduced, so it is particularly difficult to follow things in flight and driving is out of the question. The last couple of nights have been pretty duff for moths but last night turned up Knot Grass, Pale Prominent and, high up on the cottage wall, our first White-spotted Pug, confirmed with the aid of our spotting ‘scope!

Wednesday 20th. It has been something of a struggle for butterflies so far this spring, but with the thermometer reaching 16°C and the breeze dropping away it really felt like spring at last. Four species appeared in the garden: Small White (3-4), Large White, Holly Blue and Small Tortoiseshell (4-5). Last night’s mothing, however, amounted to just an Early Thorn and a Muslin.

Tuesday 19th. Last night was a bit quieter for moths, but still produced our first record of Brindled Beauty, a species we never recorded in Kent.

Brindled Beauty

Monday 18th. Early Tooth-striped, Nut-tree Tussock and Least Black Arches appeared for the first time in last night’s trap, along with further signs of immigration with the capture of a Dark Sword-grass. However, for butterflies it continues to be a bit of a struggle, with just one Peacock in the garden despite some warm sunshine and a gentle breeze.

Least Black Arches

Sunday 17th. Although numbers remain fairly unimpressive, last night’s moths included Pale Pinion and a striking Shoulder Stripe; one of my favourites that we trapped only twice in Sandwich. Next we drove to Lodmoor and in bright sunshine with a gentle SE breeze added Whimbrel, Common Tern and Common Sandpiper to our year lists, then dropped in to Radipole where Reed and Sedge Warblers and Sand Martin were also new.

Shoulder Stripe

Saturday 16th. Still hampered by a fully closed eye, I couldn’t resist running the moth trap last night and although numbers weren’t great Silver y, Angle Shades, Muslin, Flame Shoulder and Waved Umber were all new for the year. An easterly breeze took the edge off some warmth in the afternoon but Brimstone and Small White appeared in the garden; our first butterflies here this month.

Wednesday 13th. Prior to setting off for London thefirst Whitethroat of spring was singing from scrub behind the cottage. As it turned out the overnight stay I had been led to believe turned into two and I returned home on Friday on a crammed 5-carriage train (instead of the usual 10) that was already full when it reached Clapham Junction, with as many waiting there as were already on the train. However, having got on at Waterloo I had a seat all the way and reached Dorchester just after 2. The operation went well, apparently, and the staff at Moorfields were really nice, especially Anand, the nurse who looked after me on Thursday and Friday. He even phoned when I had reached home to check that all was OK.

Tuesday 12th. Rather gloomy this morning with a few spots of rain on a gentle ESE breeze. Half an hour in the garden produced a male Wheatear on telegraph wires along the road, a party of 8 Swallows that flew across the valley shortly after and 3 adult Med. Gulls that flew noisily overhead. To round things off 9 Roe Deer in the field behind us was a new high count for April. I also received a negative Covid test result, so it’s off to Moorfields tomorrow for radiotherapy on my eye, involving an overnight stay and return on Thursday.

Sunday 10th. Although it was calm at home, by the time we reached Portland Bill at 9 the wind had got up from the SE, though it remained sunny. It was obvious that Wheatears were all over the place, with at least 40 at the Bill and the lower slopes inland and a Willow Warbler was in bushes by the Pulpit Inn. However, the sea was most productive, with eastward movement consisting of 12 Common Scoters, 2 Great Northern Divers and 2-3 Manx Shearwaters along with a constant toing and froing of Gannets and auks. A brief stop for coffee at Ferrybridge coincided with low tide and waders were represented only by a Ringed Plover and 4 Dunlins.

Raven and Jackdaws waiting for opening time

Friday 8th. With three days of gales out of the way it was a relief to be able to do some birding from the garden, even if it was overcast and light rain was falling intermittently. Just about the first birds to come into view were 2 Swallows that spent a few minutes around the cottage, while 2 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs were singing nearby. A Pied Wagtail was the first to appear this month, a Little Egret flew in from the east and on to fields below the farm, probably different to 3 more that were standing by the cattle feeder along the old railway a few minutes later. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was shinning up a telegraph pole along the road, 2 Lesser Black-backs flew N across the valley, followed by a Grey Heron that dropped into the gardens up the road to round off a very enjoyable hour or so.

Monday 4th. Once a stiff W wind had subsided a bit and the sun appeared, albeit reluctantly, a female Sparrowhawk appeared over the valley, soaring away to the east. The first here since 14th February, she was almost certainly a migrant. A further sign of movement came with my first Swallow of the year over the reeds at Radipole; adequate compensation for a visit to the dentist.

Saturday 2nd. Despite a late start a couple of hours on the cliffs at Weston on Portland in bright conditions with a gentle NE breeze was very pleasant, even if little was moving. 2 Wheatears on a ploughed field at Barleycrates Lane were new for the year, 8 Stonechats were scattered about and 3 Chiffchaffs were in the Southwell area. Here’s one of the Stonechats, photographed by Karen on her trusty Panasonic Lumix …….

Stonechat

Friday 1st. The new month began with a very nice surprise. Scanning the recently ploughed field across the road, which looks good for a migrant Wheatear, a movement in the hedge caught my eye and there was a superb male Redstart, luxuriating in the sunshine. An hour and a half in the garden produced nothing unexpected in a cold N wind, though a Blackcap was singing from the hedge behind us.

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