Friday, 17 May 2013

A good hobby – in more ways than one

It is always nice when you can spend at least some of your day at work doing what you love best, even better when it means you can leave the computer and the office behind and head out into glorious sunshine and count butterflies!

Yesterday I did just that. We are doing a butterfly transect on the nature reserve where I work (RSPB Pulborough Brooks) this summer; a type of survey which runs along a set route and involves recording species and number of butterflies seen along designated sections of the route, at regular intervals such as once a week. Records on the survey yesterday included brimstone and peacock, green veined white and a good number of small white, along with additional sightings of orange tip, many more small whites and a speckled wood, all of which were unfortunately off the transect route!

All the tree species are well into leaf now, the oak being the slowest to burst its buds. Below them, flowers are blossoming; carpets of hazy bluebells, splashes of bright pink campion and constellations of white starry stitchwort.

I was serenaded all around the trails by bird song; blackbirds' flute-like notes, song thrushs' repetitive phrases, blackcaps' warbling and whitethroats' scratchy song. The nightingales were the loudest however, the best two spots for these that I encountered were the entrance to Fattengates Courtyard and along the Pig Run by Little Hanger Hide. (Just ask at the visitor centre if you are unsure where these places are on the reserve). It was a nightingale infact that lead me to my favourite species of the day – a Hobby. 
This small falcon is a migratory bird of prey and usually arrives here in Southern England in spring, after the swallows, martins and swifts have arrives. These agile expert aerial hunters often add the nimble swift to their menu, but will also catch smaller prey such as dragonflies. This individual was perched in the top of a dead tree at Jupps Viewpoint, near to Nettleys Hide, causing a nearby nightingale and other small birds to shout their high-pitched alarm calls, which attracted our attention. This was my first Hobby for the year, they have only been around for the last week or two!

My final sighting as I left work at the end of the day was and other first for 2013; a small copper butterfly! A beautiful dainty little creature. 

The reserve I work at is an RSPB reserve called Pulborough Brooks. a beautiful place with fantastic facilities, just inside the South Downs National Park in West Sussex.
 Take a look at the website for full details and directions: www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/p/pulboroughbrooks

If you visit the reserve this summer, don’t forget to look up to the sky. You might be lucky enough to spot a Hobby, performing its aerobatics high up against the clouds on sharply angled wings, over the wetland or the heathland. farmland and hedgerow birds such as bullfinch and warblers can bee seen here too, and out on the wetlands and pools lapwings mingle with ducks and geese.
If birds aren’t your thing and the smaller beauties of life catch your eye, look out for the shimmering dragonflies and damselflies that are emerging from our ponds to zoom over the water, the dainty butterflies that flutter along the flowers and hedgerows, or the lizards that rustle in the undergrowth and bask in the sunshine. 

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