Wednesday 1 January 2020

2019: also good for...

After a few posts celebrating the birding highlights of 2019 it's important to say my eyes remained open to non-avian subjects too. The search for exotic butterflies, dragonflies and reptiles normally has to wait until the spring but a period of unseasonably warm weather in February made 2019 slightly different. Reports of multiple Large Tortoiseshell butterflies on Portland saw me head down there to see my first. Subsequently some doubt has been cast on their provenance, but the one I saw in Tout Quarry was still spectacular. The warm weather early in the year also brought the local Adder population out of hibernation and afforded the rare opportunity to witness the 'dance' of rival males.
Male Adders at Swineham
The first time I had witnessed this behaviour
The Adder dance was an impressive spectacle
A Grass Snake kept company with the Adders
Large Tortoiseshell, Tout Quarry, Portland, 27th February
A Hummingbird Hawkmoth also enjoyed the warmth of Tout Quarry at the end of February
I still have a handful of British dragonflies and damselflies left to see in Britain so made the effort in the summer to see one of the more spectacular, Brilliant Emerald, at one of its known sites in neighbouring Hampshire. This proved tougher than expected, with one individual showing briefly early morning before being seemingly displaced by the similar but more numerous Downy Emerald. My only other dragonfly 'tick' of 2019 came in the form of a female Vagrant Emperor, which I jammed in on Portland thanks to a kindly gent who stood watch over its roost site in the long grass next to the Obs quarry.
Brilliant Emerald in Hampshire
The green brilliance of the Brilliant Emerald became obvious in profile...
…compare with the darker-bodied Downy Emerald
A few years ago, Red-veined Darter would have been a major rarity in Dorset - it's now commonplace at Longham Lakes
Similarly, Southern Migrant Hawker was first recorded in Dorset last year but bred this year in Poole Harbour
Female Vagrant Emperor on Portland, 27th October
A few new moths visited by garden trap in Wareham, my favourite being the common but still stunning Burnished Brass. But the most impressive new moths of 2019 were both day fliers and required me to travel a little further afield. Not too far in the case of my first Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth which graced the pollinator garden at nearby RSPB Arne, but to the other end of the kingdom for my most spectacular moth of 2019: the Kentish Glory which I saw whilst on a family holiday in Speyside at Easter. The assistance of my excellent ex-colleague Tom Prescott was essential in this regard. Several other successful twilight trips were completed with James Lowen as part of his 'moth year', the book of which is now awaited with great anticipation.
Kentish Glory at Granish
This is a male
It never landed so I had to 'spray and pray' for sharp flight shots
A spectacular moth
Dingy Mocha was one of the highlights of a mass trapping session in Wareham Forest with James Lowen, Phil Saunders and the folks at Footprint Ecology
Burnished Brass graced the trap in my Wareham garden
A very dark Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth at Arne
Whilst in Speyside I also had high hopes of photographing Mountain Hare. Sadly the first one I saw was dead on the road - still warm from a recent hit and run. Happily, the ones son George and I watched bounding up the slopes of Cairngorm on an early morning trek a few days later were very much alive - the undoubted mammal highlight of 2019.
This Mountain Hare met a sad end on the road to Speyside
Mountain Hare, Cairngorm
A careful approach was needed to avoid them bolting up the steep incline
A wonderful habitat in which to see these animals
We made sure we were first up the mountain on the morning I took these pictures
Another first - George came with me up Cairngorm!
Adders at Swineham

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