Saturday 14 May 2016

In-tents discomfort

The rest of the family are down in Swanage in a tent for a family gathering, and, thanks to many years of moaning about the bad backs and sleepless nights which I get when camping, I have been spared the privations of life under canvas for this weekend at least. Speaking of tents, it was tents of a different kind which enabled me to catch up with the Dorset bird of the year so far today: specifically, the communal tents of Brown-tail Moth caterpillars which adorn the hedgerows of Portland, and which represent the Great Spotted Cuckoo's equivalent of an-all-you-can-eat buffet. This rare southern European visitor arrived at the Bill on Friday morning, but on moving up the island and discovering the high concentration of caterpillars on Reap Lane, it stuck around until today enabling many admirers to see it. It is the first of this species to be seen in Dorset for over a quarter of a century.
A rare view of the Great Spotted Cuckoo out in the open
Feeding on caterpillars in a favoured hedgerow
Downing another one
The Cuckoo was commuting between two hedgerows allowing some opportunities for flight photography
Revealing buffy underwing coverts here...
...and the impressive tail shown to its full extent
Attractively spotted upperparts
A handsome, 1st summer bird
And here's lunch: Brown-tail Moth caterpillars - the hairs are an irritant to human skin...
...but obviously not to the stomach-lining of the Great Spotted Cuckoo
This is the communal tent, photographed in late April when the caterpillars were much smaller
Dorset is enjoying a good spell for continental over-shoots: I caught up with this Black-winged Stilt at Lytchett Bay on the way home from work one evening this week...
...and a Red-rumped Swallow at Lodmoor en route to see the Great Spotted Cuckoo

A booming Bittern could also be heard at Lodmoor - a wonderful sound to hear in Dorset

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