On 7th July I went on a butterfly twitch! A Large Tortoiseshell had visited a garden near Paradis Quarry, Vale, on and off during the previous two days and once I heard that it had been seen again I thought it was well worth going for. I should say that the owner of the garden does have an interest in insects and was happy for me and Andy to appear there - it wasn’t just some random persons garden we piled into! It wasn’t there when we arrived so we waited around for a while, enjoying a nice Hummingbird Hawk-moth hovering around the flowers that the tortoiseshell was favouring. I wandered round for about half an hour or so and was thinking about returning home when suddenly it flew in and started feeding at the Red Valerian. To say it showed well was an understatement and we were able to snap hundreds of photos as it ‘nectared’ just a couple of yards away. This is a new species for me for Britain* and also for Guernsey, where I have now seen 26 species of butterfly, including other rarities such as Long-tailed Blue, Swallowtail and Brimstone. The next species may be a bit tricky but I predict Orange-tip, as a couple were seen earlier this spring and so it may just be colonising.
Not surprisingly July was quiet for birds but one species which this month is really good for is Crossbill. There had been a couple of flocks sighted the previous few days so I was on the look-out for some. On Friday 12th July I exited the school, cup of tea and sandwich box in hand, to take my place by the tennis courts for lunch duty, when a group of 10 finches flew noisily past me. With their front-heavy appearance and harsh calls they were clearly Crossbills and they only flew past at just above head height, just skipping over the top of the astroturf fence. A good one for the lunch duty list.
The next day I paid a visit to Pleinmont to take in the huge flock of Balearic Shearwaters that had built up and I was able to ‘scope them distantly from near the end car park. They were very far away - just left of the lighthouse in the pic below - but it was more the spectacle rather than the views that was amazing. After two summers of there not being any, these birds had come back in numbers. The last time they congregated we thought that about a thousand birds was incredible - this time I estimated about 3000. There may have been even more as other people had thought so. For a species with an estimated world population of just 19,000 birds, this is rather a large chunk of the species all in one place. Traditionally, Balearic Shearwater has spent the non-breeding season in the Bay of Biscay but, perhaps due to changes in temperature of the sea and so changes in the distribution of food, they are now mostly seen north of the Brittany peninsula in summer. Although some people thought that this was a mixed flock of Balearic and Manx, all the birds I saw were brown, albeit distantly brown. It would be nice to take a boat out next time to see them properly.
Other than the birds mentioned, I had a few mid-summer Med Gulls on the beaches, a couple of Firecrests in the valleys and I managed to bump into the pair of Cirl Buntings whilst on the school sponsored walk. The terrific news about the latter is that a young juvenile Cirl Bunting has been seen at Pleinmont so we have a new, and totally unexpected breeding species for the island.
The moth trap was out most weekends and especially in the very hot last week of the month. Despite the warm conditions, I didn’t get anything new for the garden in July but the best moths were my second ever garden Splendid Brocade and Sitochroa palealis on 23rd. A selection of the month’s photos are below.
On a separate note, I have recently passed a milestone, having now been doing my wildlife blog/diary for a whole decade! 10 years straight - quite a achievement. A couple of times I have had to catch up a few months at once, but there are not really any gaps in sightings. When I started out it was an old-style blog with more regular posts, sometimes every few days, and it included other things about everyday life and ‘amusing’ bon mots and ‘hilarious’ comments, not just wildlife. When I transferred to this new site in 2016, I mostly removed the non-wildlife stuff (mainly due to it being too cringey!). The old site is still there though https://lalarinho.webs.com/apps/blog/ . Nowadays “blogs” are not really fashionable as social media has taken over as the place to talk about what happens in everyday life and to display your witticisms. So that’s why I now think of it as my wildlife “diary”. It may seem self-indulgent to some people to post what I have seen online, but I look at it as a snapshot of a typical birders sightings at a particular place and time, and it may be of interest to someone in the future. I would always be writing up my sightings anyway so I may as well put it online. Anyway, below was my first ever post back in summer 2009 when I was a younger, handsomer man and Fan-tailed Warblers were breeding on my patch! It sounds like I had a very busy trap that weekend and was probably waiting for a stressful inspection week to finish before starting the blog. Onwards to another ten years!