Wednesday 31st August 2016

Birding in the rest of the summer holidays was hit hard by the fact that Rosie was still working full-time. In August, the conditions have to be just right, otherwise it's just another birdless scorching summer's day. If there has been rain, or an easterly, or if the winds are strongly northerly, it is worth spending time out in the field - but only if this coincides with a convenient date.

 seawatchers at Jaonneuse

seawatchers at Jaonneuse

It wasn't until the final week or so that we had even semi-decent seawatching conditions. On 21st Aug at Jaonneuse the wind was probably a little too westerly, but a few of us gave it a go, and we were really pleased that we did. This was not mainly for the birds but for the great views we had of a group of Bottlenose Dolphins which were just offshore for quite a while, breaching and feeding in front of us. I had seen a few Common Dolphins before, but this species was actually a tick for me, despite them not being too uncommon around the island's seas. I really should have got slightly better photos but they kept popping up unexpectedly and I was just too slow. We estimated that there were about 8 individuals which stayed for about 10 to 15 minutes before moving on.

 Bottlenose Dolphin - Jaonneuse - 21Aug16

Bottlenose Dolphin - Jaonneuse - 21Aug16

We did see a few birds however, mainly shearwaters. I did not see all the ones counted, but the totals for the seawatch were 78 Balearics, 38 Manx and 3 Sooty Shearwaters, a few of these coming relatively close. We also had 4 Bonxies - my first skuas of the year.

 Sooty Shearwater - Jaonneuse - 21Aug16

Sooty Shearwater - Jaonneuse - 21Aug16

I tried another seawatch from Jaonneuse on 29th Aug, with a good wind direction, albeit not too strong. We had better variety this time even though the volume of birds was lower. We had some great views of Arctic Skuas - 9 sightings in total - but the 3 Bonxies were more distant. We had all three common shearwaters again, but just 13 in total, and a surprising 6 Fulmars. A juvenile Kittiwake was also seen.

Earlier in the month, on 16th Aug, I had a bit of a free morning and popped into the hide at Claire Mare. The wind was in the east and I was hoping for maybe an Aquatic but the wind was too strong for the mist nets to be open. A juvenile Little Ringed Plover, a Green and a Common Sandpiper were feeding on the pond. On the way home, there were lots of gulls feeding in the surf at Grandes Rocques and I was surprised by a first-year Common Gull amongst them in the sunny weather.

The wind continued easterly on 17th Aug and a little rain in the afternoon forced me out onto the patch where a Spotted Flycatcher was the highlight of a few migrants at Rousse. I also saw a new species for the site - a Red-legged Partridge - but its tameness showed exactly why we demoted the species to a non-wild status. We now assume all partridges to be recently 'put-down' birds.

 Little Egret - Claire Mare - 16Aug16

Little Egret - Claire Mare - 16Aug16

 Spotted Flycatcher - Rousse - 17Aug16

Spotted Flycatcher - Rousse - 17Aug16

 Red-legged Partridge - Rousse - 17Aug16

Red-legged Partridge - Rousse - 17Aug16

On 13th Aug, I went to Candie Gardens to help at La Societe's Junior section "bat and moth" evening. Trouble is when doing these demonstrations for the youngsters, it doesn't get dark enough until way past their bed-time, so not that many moths arrive at the white sheet. We got a handful of interesting ones however, including a fine-looking Acleris literana, a new species for me and only a handful of records for the island. A beautiful green colour with tufts and black markings - quite a distinctive beast. We also had smashing, head height views of the Common Pipistrelle bats as they fed over the lower gardens as we stood on the top.

 Acleris literana - Candie Gdns - 13Aug16

Acleris literana - Candie Gdns - 13Aug16

I managed just 6 nights of moth-trapping in the garden during the month of August which was shamefully poor. The most interesting species which came to light was a pale-looking mocha sp on 6th Aug. These can be quite difficult to identify and I was hoping for the Jersey Mocha, a species that I really would have expected by now. However, the dark-bordered pale hindwing spot seemed to rule out that species and I can only see it as Clay Triple-lines, a new species for the garden and with very few records for Guernsey. Mochas are very variable, each individual a slightly different colour and pattern, but catching what appeared to be another one on 14th Aug, and then another one on 27th Aug was something of a surprise.

 Clay Triple-lines - garden - 14 Aug 16

Clay Triple-lines - garden - 14 Aug 16

 Clay Triple-lines - garden - 6 Aug 16

Clay Triple-lines - garden - 6 Aug 16

The other main moth of interest from the trap was a Tachystola acroxantha on 27th Aug. This little brown species with a fire-coloured tail-end is very distinctive and this is only the second record for Guernsey. It is not a native species but an import from Australia. The most exciting species that came to the moth trap light was a fine Lesser Stag Beetle which I found breakdancing on the patio in the rain. This species is a pretty large beetle for local standards and clearly designed for battle. When I offered it my finger, it reared up, spread its jaws and was ready for a fight!

 Tachystola acroxantha - garden - 27Aug16

Tachystola acroxantha - garden - 27Aug16

 Lesser Stag Beetle - garden - 17Aug16

Lesser Stag Beetle - garden - 17Aug16

 Canary-shouldered Thorn - garden - 14Aug16

Canary-shouldered Thorn - garden - 14Aug16

 Carder Bee tongue - I found a dead bee in a flower which had kicked the bucket with its tongue out - I used the stacking software to get an extreme close-up

Carder Bee tongue - I found a dead bee in a flower which had kicked the bucket with its tongue out - I used the stacking software to get an extreme close-up

During the month I was lucky enough to take possession of a fancy bat detector. This was not one of the hand-held ones which picks up the calls and converts them to sounds, but a detector which you can leave out overnight and recognies when it has heard a bat. It saves each call as a computer file and you can download the data the next day. It was almost ten years old and noone had managed to get the software working, but with a little trial and error I managed to install it on Windows 10 - which was something of a shock.

I have left it out on our shed roof a couple of times and it has recorded plenty of calls, which you can convert to a sonogram using another piece of software. All the bats it picked up were Common Pipistrelle (the main species we get here) which can be recognised on the sonogram by "hockey stick" shaped calls at about 47kHz frequency. One of the problems with having an interest in bats is that there are hardly any species to record, but I am sure that I can get a few more with persistence. However, because I'll probably be in bed at the time, its not like I'd be able to put them on my list anyway!

 Common Pipistrelle - garden - 26 Aug 16

Common Pipistrelle - garden - 26 Aug 16