Thursday, 11 July 2013

Chiltern Hills (10th July)

Since the weather was clear and sunny, I cycled to the Ivinghoe Hills for a bit of butterflying (or whatever you care to call it).  I arrived late morning/early afternoon and headed for Pitstone Hill with my first target species in mind.  I was glad to hear at least one singing Quail near the footpath running through the corn field and there may well have been two individuals!  However, since they were close together I couldn't be certain it was the same individual following me around (although I find this unlikely).  It/they kept singing regularly for the duration I was there (1-2pm) but refused to show.

Pitstone Hill

Corn Bunting

It was nice to encounter some ex-common farmland species, including a total of 5-6 Corn Buntings, 3-4 at Pitstone, 1 at Incombe and single at Beacon Hill.  Several Yellowhammers were dotted around the area and a Garden Warbler appeared along the edge of the woodland at Steps Hill foraging with a tit flock.  Raptors included the usual Buzzard, Kestrel and Red Kites but I had my eye on the ground most of the time, looking for butterflies, so I may well have missed several fly-overs.

The Dark Green Fritillaries certainly made it difficult for me to get photos as they were almost permanently in-flight.  However, persistence paid off and I eventually locate some perched individuals.  There were a number of freshly emerged fritillaries on the south facing slope at Incombe Hole but I only encountered a single individual whilst at the beacon.  Other species included Small TortoiseshellsRinglets, Meadow BrownsCommon BluesMarbled Whites and a Speckled Wood.  Scouring the hillside also rewarded me with 2 Chimney Sweepers, an uncommon moth in the south and a specialty on chalk downland.  Large numbers of Pyramidal Orchid and Fragrant Orchids were also in flower!

Dark Green Fritillary

Chimney Sweeper

Fragrant Orchid

Next, a second stab at the Quails but this time, despite trying at an ideal time from late afternoon to early evening, I couldn't locate any singing birds!

At the onset of darkness, I tried one final site in Ashridge for roding Woodcock.  Yet another dip (the third time so far at this site for this species!)  Only a Fox showed itself for my troubles and on my return at 11:30pm a Tawny Owl started calling at Tring station.

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