Quarry Hangars NR, between Merstham and Chaldon, Surrey ... 29th June 2011

A return visit to Quarry Hangars NR on the North Downs in the hopes of finding more butterflies than on the last visit.

I arrived at about 6.30 a.m. and soon found several magnificent Roman Snails.

A few Marbled Whites were on the wing, along with Ringlets and Meadow Browns and the occasional Large Skipper and a few Small Skippers. A Yellow Shell moth and a lot of Common and Garden Grass Veneer moths were also seen.

The panoramic view from this reserve is quite breathtaking.

I was soon joined by Richard Bartlett, who is very knowledgeable when it come to plants and moths.
We covered Quarry Hangars and moved across the bridle path to the adjoining Park Ham nature reserve. There were far more wild flowers present including a Bee Orchid, many Pyramidal Orchids and numerous Yellow Rattle.

A buck Roe Deer ran across the meadow and I had seen two hinds here when I arrived at the site earlier in the morning.

Several Silver Y moths were on the wing along with Six-spot Burnet Moths and one or two Cinnabars. We found a Six-spot Burnet larva and several cocoons.

Richard noticed a small reddish grass moth and he managed to get a remarkably good photo of it. It goes by the superb name of Rosy-striped Knot-horn Oncocera semirubella.

Hopefully, there will soon be some decent birds to report.

Graham & Richard

Quarry Hangars NR, between Merstham and Chaldon, Surrey ... 26th June 2011

My wife, Sue, and I decided to have a stroll at a Surrey Wildlife Trust nature reserve on the southern face of the North Downs, not far from where we live. Referring to the 'southern face' makes it sound a bit like the Eiger and there are similarities.

Parking in the aptly named Springbottom Lane (you need a spring in your bottom to climb the path to the top of the reserve) we entered the reserve via a kissing gate. The steps up the slope are daunting especially if, like me, hip joints are past their best.

Fifteen minutes of huffing and puffing and resting to let the pain subside saw us reach the top of the slope. One small step for man - one giant leap for a pair of old gits!

Don't be fooled by this photo - it's a lot steeper than it looks.

The view from the top is pretty impressive.

Birdwise, this is not a very productive site with only a male Kestrel and a few Goldfinches and Robins seen. Sue thought she may have seen a Tree Sparrow briefly and I guess that it is not impossible given the habitat, but a stake-out of the area failed to produce any further sightings.

Given the lack of birds, our attention turned to the plants, butterflies, moths and insects.
There were a few Marbled Whites on the wing along with a couple of Ringlets and numerous Meadow Browns.

A single Small Heath completed the butterfly list.

The moths and insects were interesting but, being no expert, identifying them is always a bit of a challenge for me.

Downland Conch Aethes tesserana

Common Plume Moth
Emmelina monodactyla (there were loads of these about)

Black-striped Longhorn Beetle (male) Stenurella melanura

Cryptocephalus coryli

Green Dock Beetles Gastrophysa viridula ('misbehaving')

The only orchid I could find was this single Pyramidal but the area has recently been grazed by sheep.

Dwarf Thistle is quite abundant along with Weld, Rosemary, Field Scabious and Wild Thyme. Loads of other plants were present but I haven't a clue what they all were.

A couple of interesting fungi were present. The first is Jelly-ear and I think the second is Glistening Inkcap but, as with all my plant and insect identifications, I could be wrong.

By now, it was getting pretty hot and uncomfortable so we creaked our way back down the steps to the car.

Back home in time for the Formula One. I watched the start and remember seeing lap eleven and then snored my way through to lap fifty-one! Good race (what I saw of it!)

Graham & Sue

Old Lodge NR, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex ... evening 14th June 2011

Paul kindly took Gordon and myself down to Old Lodge reserve in the evening for a Nightjar session. We were not to be disappointed.

Arriving around 8 p.m., the reserve was obviously quieter than when Sue and I visited earlier in the day but quite a few Common Redstarts were still calling but not showing themselves.

Heading down the valley towards the brook, a Tree Pipit was heard distantly and Gordon spotted a large raptor heading away over the ridge of the MOD land - a RED KITE.
We headed on up the far side of the valley and took up position for our stake-out by a large area of heather next to a conifer wood.

A Badger trotted along through the trees about 20 yards away from us and several Fallow Deer were in the area.

After quite a wait and as the light faded, a WOODCOCK flew over the tops of the trees at the edge of the conifer wood, giving its distinctive call. Presumably the same bird returned some time later and it, or another, flew back low over our heads in typical butterfly flight.

A NIGHTJAR was heard distantly and it wasn't too long before one was churring not far from where we were standing. Gordon headed along the path towards it and soon we were treated to the sight of two males flapping low over the heather. These were joined by a third bird that flew in low over our heads.

By now, the mosquitos and midges were giving us a hard time but it was worth the irritation. The Nightjars headed off over the MOD land and, although we knew they would return, it was getting too dark to get any more good views so we headed towards the car park.
A Tawny Owl was calling in the distance and nine Fallow Deer were gathered near the path.
A very enjoyable evening and well worth the effort.

Paul , Gordon & Graham

Old Lodge NR, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex ... 14th June 2011

Arriving at the reserve at 10 a.m., we were soon greeted by a stunning male Common Redstart within one hundred yards of the entrance gate.

This turned out to be the first of many, with a total of 15 birds seen (comprising nine males, 2 females and five juveniles).

Surprisingly, only two Stonechats were on view, a male and a female, and two Swallows were skimming low over the heathland, presumably picking off the Common Heath moths which were abundant.

A Common Whitethroat was singing from high in a conifer and a Nuthatch was calling loudly. An adult Great Spotted Woodpecker tried its hardest to lose a juvenile that was following it everywhere it went. Only one Tree Pipit was heard and three Pied Wagtails, all males, were on an area of short grass. Two Willow Warblers, seven Chiffchaffs, a singing Goldcrest, several Coal Tits and many over-flying Redpolls were also noted.

A Common Lizard, an Emperor dragonfly, 3 Broad-bodied Chasers, several Small Heath butterflies and 4 Fallow Deer were around the reserve, one of the last mentioned giving an agility display.

The best was kept for last, when Sue said that a Collared Dove had just landed in a dead tree. I was puzzled that a Collared Dove would appear on the heathland but, before I got the scope onto it, it began purring - a stunning TURTLE DOVE. A bit of a rarity these days and only my second sighting of this species so far this year. Not a bad way to end our four hour visit.

On returning home, I received an email from Paul informing me that we were returning this evening to Old Lodge for a Nightjar and Woodcock session - more on that tomorrow.

Graham & Sue

Old Lodge NR, Ashdown Forest, East Sussex ... 7th June 2011

An early afternoon stroll around part of Old Lodge Nature Reserve, on the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, produced eleven Common Redstarts (eight of which were stunning males), three Tree Pipits, a Cuckoo, three Common Buzzards and five Stonechats (including a juvenile).

The Heath Spotted Orchids are just coming into flower on the reserve and a few moths were on the wing, mainly Common Heaths but there were also a few Brown Silver-lines.


HEATHER (I think it is Bell Heather)


An Emperor dragonfly and a few Large Red Damselflies were around the pools and several Wood Ant nests were alive with activity.


Graham & Sue