Friday, 25 July 2014

Elan Valley Wildlife & Kite Extravaganza

On Thursday, we went for a walk around the Elan Valley in Powys - a beautiful place, sometimes affectionately called the 'Welsh Lake District'.

There was plenty of bird action, with swooping house martin overhead, as well as plenty of pied wagtail (unusual for me to see these anywhere other than supermarket car parks), and a pleasant surprise was a pair of peregrine falcon that were chasing away a carrion crow from the cliffs seen to the left of the photo above.

Peregrine falcons - great to see these masters of the sky in flight!

I can't do a blog without talking about butterflies, sorry. There were large numbers of beautifully colored fresh small tortoiseshell out, as well as a ringlet, meadow brown, small skipper, a couple of stunning peacock, and a bit tattered, but still incredibly quick on the wing dark green fritillary, which was lovely to see.
 Very fresh small tortoiseshell feeding on ragwort - stunning blue border around the wings.

Peacock - you can just see the upperwing pattern being lit up against the pitch black underwing.

Very speedy dark green fritillary takes a rare break to nectar on a thistle.

After bothering a sufficient amount of butterflies, we headed down to the red kite feeding station at Gigrin Farm  - a great opportunity to see wild red kites come into feed. They certainly didn't disappoint. There must have been hundreds of red kites in the sky at any one time, performing almost impossible looking acrobatic feats for their size.
One section of an incredible kite filled sky.

The kites are fed bits of beef and sometimes lamb, and this attracts other birds too, such as carrion crow, raven and buzzard. The buzzards would get mobbed if they came in to feed at the same time as the kites, so they waited on the sidelines for the kites to finish feeding.

Turning to come down to feed - very impressive!

 "Damn these kites. Soon I will have my revenge."

One kite was following another, making begging calls, and reluctantly, the food was passed to the individual underneath.

Food pass

One of the kites coming in caught my attention, and it was something I'd never seen before, a leucistic red kite.

Leucistic red kite, tagged by, I believe, the BTO - black and orange 51.

 It's amazing just how pale this individual is compared to the others!!!

This was a fantastic opportuity to see and photograph wild red kites, and although it felt a little bit like 'cheating' because they are being lured in - where else would I get this kind of photographic opportunity? The white kite was a great bonus, too!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Mumbles to Caswell - a butterfly adventure.

Decided today to go in search of a butterfly I have yet to see, the silver-washed fritillary. I knew that there had been previous sightings of this species in Bishop's Wood, Caswell, so decided to head there. After cycling to Mumbles, we started the walk along the Gower coast path to Caswell. Shortly after setting off, we were joined by this rather handsome speckled wood.

Speckled wood at Mumbles.

There were a lot of butterflies out today due to the hot weather, including a lot of meadow browns, various whites, and we seemed to be interrupting a gatekeeper party, as we must have seen 50+ along a small stretch. Another fan of the rocky cliff path was the grayling.

Grayling showing its typical resting spot, although hindwing is visible.

Always a lovely species to see, approaching Langland bay there was a lovely fresh red admiral, who, after being chased off several times by a terrirotial male meadow brown, had to have a little sit down for a while.

Red admiral showing stunning underwing patterns.

Arriving into Caswell Bay, we walked through the car park approaching Bishop's Wood, and our attention was drawn by orange shapes flitting around the tree canopy. One sat down and rested near the top of a tree, but after taking a photograph, it was a very lovely, if slightly disappointing comma.

After following several of the orange shapes sailing around on the wind, one came down and began nectaring, and it was, finally, a lovely silver-washed fritillary.


The car park at Caswell sits on a woodland edge, and as well as silver-washed and comma, we saw red admiral, green-veined white, and a lovely, perfect little fresh holly blue.

Very convenient fritillary watching place! Caswell bay car park.

On the walk back, there were still plenty of butterflies about, but it was lovely to find a bloody-nosed beetle, my favourite beetle species.
What time is it? Beetle time.

Had some very nice views of stonechat, as well as possibly my best ever views of a hovering kestrel coming back into Limeslade Bay, so that was a lovely bonus!

 Stonechat male.

 Hovering kestrel, always amazing to see.

I know there are a lot of people not that interested in insects, so I put a fluffy bunny in, too, seen at Mumbles.