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Autumn Diary 2023

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Migrant Hawker

This autumn has been extraordinary in a number of ways. As you know we experienced some lovely warm weather in eastern England which lasted well into October. Scotland endured rather different weather with heavy rain which caused widespread flooding and damaged crops and farmland.

Red Admiral butterfly

Here in Lincolnshire, even as I write in mid October, after the first grass frost, there are still some insects on the wing. Notably Red Admiral butterflies which peaked in early September with as many as fourteen on one buddleia bush in our garden. Some dragonflies were also active well into October; mainly Migrant Hawkers and both Common and Ruddy Darters.

Lesser Yellowleg

This autumn will also be remembered for the number of rare birds that reached or shores, especially vagrants from America. At the RSPB's Frampton Marsh, where I volunteer,

Buff-breasted Sandpiper
no less than five American waders (or perhaps I should use the American term for what we call waders; shorebirds) took up residence. Pectoral Sandpipers, which have become annual visitors were not unexpected but Lesser Yellowlegs, White-rumped Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper and Buff-breasted Sandpipers got the twitchers pulses racing.

Most of the American birds were blown across the Atlantic by gales and storms. Hurricane Lee was probably responsible for many of the arrivals. Ireland, Wales and the south west of England enjoyed the best of this bounty including both a Magnolia Warbler and a Canada Warbler in Pembrokeshire.

My wife and I spent two weeks on the Greek island of Lesvos where we witnessed migration in full swing as well as a wealth of wildlife that is native to this jewel of an island. Managed to see 126 species of birds during our stay as well as other interesting wildlife that included both Balkan Terrapins and the closely related European Pond Tortoises. Swallowtail butterflies are always nice to see and Lesvos hosts three species of Swallowtail.

Balkan Terrapins

Swallowtail butterfly

Other interesting insects include the European Praying Mantis; so called due to the distinctive posture of the first pair of legs.

European Praying Mantis

European Bee-eater

Birds migrating across the island during our visit included hundreds of European Bee-eaters in their gaudy plumage. Red-backed Shrikes which used o breed fairly commonly in the UK and the rather drab Spotted Flycatcher - a bird fast declining in the UK.

Red-backed Shrike

Spotted Flycatcher

Greater Flamingos

Other birds that can't fail to demand attention from even tourists with no interest in wildlife, included hundreds of Greater Flamingos, mainly on the salt pans, Dalmatian Pelicans and one of my favourites; the Black Stork. Incidentally a juvenile Black Stork has taken up residence on the Lincolnshire coast and has often been seen flying over Frampton Marsh.

Black Stork

Fallow Deer

Back home I realised that autumn has really arrived during a visit to one of the local woods when my ears were assaulted by the sound of rutting Fallow Deer. Locally Fallow Deer are very numerous, and they come in a range of colours from pure white, through the typical dappled coat, light brown, dark brown and very nearly black. One of the dominant bucks is virtually black and fired up with testosterone, it stood its ground when I approached until I was only 50 metres away from it. It is a big beast and when it bellowed loudly, I confess that I was a little unnerved!

Black Fallow Buck

Fallow Does

Ian Misselbrook

October 2023

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