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Summer Diary 2012

(Click on the images for a larger picture)

We should have realised that the unseasonably warm weather in March and the water authorities declaration of a widespread drought would be the precursor of a wet summer! Normally during the summer months my interest turns to insects and flowers. I noted an unprecedented number of butterflies on the wing in March but the three months of rain that followed, meant that I saw very few species until July. As I write in mid July, the weather is still unsettled, but it seems in every short sunny interval butterflies take to the wing.

Fragrant Orchid

One little gem for butterflies and flowers that I have only just discovered is a cutting adjacent to the busy A52 in south-west Lincolnshire where the road crosses the limestone ridge. This tiny area has a rich limestone flora including Fragrant Orchid, Greater and Black Knapweed, White and Bladder Campion, Field Scabious and a wide variety of different legumes. In a short sunny spell between showers in early July an assortment of butterflies were exploiting this rich nectar supply.

Ringlet Butterfly
Ringlets, Meadow Browns and the much declined Small Heath were all on the wing as was my first Common Darter dragonfly of the year.

Skomer Puffin

I have been lucky enough to visit several seabird colonies this summer. Skomer Island off the Pembrokeshire coast is always a delight and it is arguably the best place to see Puffins in Europe.

Puffin with Sand Eels

Sand Eels seem to be in good supply this year as I watched these comical little birds running back to their burrows with beaks full of them.

Puffin and Sea Campion

Portrait of a Puffin
(The Poser)


The other auks on the island; Razorbills and Guillemots all had eggs or young and along with the Kittiwakes seemed to be doing very well.

Kittiwakes with Young

Ardnamurchan Peninsula in May was less hectic but it did afford superb views of Black Guillemots and Manx Shearwaters.

Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire, an RSPB reserve holds Britain's only mainland Gannet colony as well as a superb variety of seabirds including puffins.

Gannets Collecting Nest Lining

Despite most Gannets having well grown young, we witnessed the adults gathering grass from the cliff top to line their nests.

If our seabirds are doing well the same cannot be said for many of our other birds. Many lowland and wetland nesting birds were flooded out in April and those that attempted to nest again later in May and June met the same fate.

Pembrokeshire Raven Family

Ravens are amongst the earliest birds to nest and I watched a family party during a hike along part of the Pembrokeshire coast path. In Lincolnshire our local Ravens were ousted in their attempt to nest high up a BT telecommunications tower by a pair of Peregrines. The Peregrines eventually nested there themselves and three young were produced and ringed on June 1st. The BT riggers climbed the dizzy heights and lowered the chicks in a basket to the licenced ringers below.

BT Rigger Retrieves Peregrine Chicks
Each bird was weighed and measured and given two rings. One is a coloured ring to enable identification of the bird through good optics and the other is the one that is returned to the BTO after the birds' demise.

Chicks are Lowered to the Ground

Unfortunately two of the chicks succumbed to the cold and wet conditions that dogged the whole of June but I am pleased to say the third bird survived and took its maiden flight on the morning of the 7th of July.

Chicks are Weighed and Ringed

The installation of a special nesting tray and the supervision of the ringing operation was all facilitated by my friend Bob Sheppard who is also responsible for many of the owl boxes in Lincolnshire and elsewhere. I am delighted to inform you that in Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee year his services for conservation were recognised by the award of the British Empire Medal.

Peregrine Tray at the Top of the Tower


Bob Sheppard BEM with Peregrine Chick

The Author with Peregrine Chick

Fulmar Approaching

Turtle Doves have suddenly become very rare. So far this year, I have only seen three locally. They have certainly been in sharp decline for the last few years whereas only ten years ago they nested in my garden. The reasons for the decline are still not understood, but rather than anything happening here, the decline is likely to be to do with their migration or perhaps their wintering grounds. Outside of the British Isles , Turtle Doves are hunted relentlessly. This has certainly contributed to their decline, but climate change and increasing desertification along their migration route are also likely to be major influences .It would be such a shame if this beautiful dove follows the same path to extinction as its cousin the Passenger Pigeon.


Ian Misselbrook
July 2012


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