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Local Weather

Wednesday 12th to Thursday 20th April

Wednesday 12th April 2017:
Visited the Common early afternoon and undertook a walk around the Cook's Garden Centre side.  The weather was mild and cloudy.  Whilst walking around the Broom scrub a ♂ Emperor moth that was patrolling landed a short distance away and perched up for a long period of time.  This was great to see, especially as I hadn't used a pheromone lure this visit.  Also of note during the walk were 2 Comma and a ♀ Orange Tip.

Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavonia)

Thursday 13th April 2017:
The temperature was cooler for today's visit and the sky was overcast.  I walked a circuit from Lower Poolands car park, during which I observed ♂ Emperor moths patrolling in 2 locations.    In the broom scrub at the south end of what was the plantation there was a Common Green Lacewing present.  A 7-spot Ladybird was also noted.

Common Green Lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea)

Friday 14th April 2017:
It was warm and sunny on the Common today but sadly I only had chance for a very brief visit as I had prior engagements.  To maximise my visit I walked a number of the tracks through the gorse scrub at the northern end of the common.  Here I recorded my first site Speckled Wood of the year and also 2 Common Heath moths.

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)

Saturday 15th April 2017:
I had a fairly uneventful visit to the Common today with the only highlight being a single Swallow over heading west.  Also, a ♂ Emperor moth was seen patrolling the heath on the Lower Poolands side.

Monday 17th April 2017:
Today there were 4 Swallows present feeding over the Common.  Two Green Woodpeckers appear to have paired up on the SE side of the site.  A ♂ Emperor Moth was again seen patrolling.  Also of note were the Oak Apple Galls that were starting to develop on a some of the Commons Oak Trees.  These are caused by a tiny parasitic wasp (Biorhiza pallida) that lays it's eggs inside a leaf bud.

Oak Apple Gall (Biorhiza pallida) in early stage of development

Tuesday 18th April 2017:
It was a warm, sunny afternoon on the Common and I decided to walk a circuit down from the main car park to the gate opposite Wilden Lane along the gorse covered bank, back through the gorse scrub and around the former plantation area.  My prime objective was to try and connect with Green Hairstreak butterfly which had now been reported on the wing at the site.  Sadly I was out of luck but I did have a reasonable haul of butterflies including:  1 ♀ Large White, 4 Speckled Wood, 2 Orange Tip and 1 Comma.  Another invert of note was my 1st Gorse Shieldbug of the year.

Large White (Pieris brassicae)

Gorse Shieldbug (Piezodorus lituratus)

Many Blackcaps were singing today and in one area I saw a ♂ & ♀ Blackcap together.  Also of interest today was a Bank Vole that I saw scurrying across the grass near the main car park picnic area.  Bank Voles are a chestnut/brown colour, have rounded faces (i.e. quite blunt noses) and have fairly short tails.

From the Common I decided to head over to Hillditch Pool and make the most of the fine weather.  Again it was the butterflies that were the stars of the show with 1 Holly Blue (my site first for 2017), 1 Large White, 4 Orange Tip, 7 Small Tortoiseshell, and 2 Peacock observed.  Also of note was a single Dock Bug that was on a (yep, you guessed it) Dock leaf.  3 Swallows were wheeling about overhead.

Dock Bug (Coreus marginatus)

Thursday 20th April 2017:
I decided to revisit Hillditch Pool this afternoon and, on arrival, was immediately struck by how many St Mark's Flies were on the wing.  Being a dull day there was little activity on the butterfly front with only a single ♂ Orange Tip of note.  Both Wolf Spider (Pardosa amentata) and Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura mirabilis) were observed during the visit.  Two Swallows were observed skimming the surface of the pool to take a drink and a Grey Heron flew over heading NNW.

Wednesday 6th to Saturday 8th April

Wednesday 5th April 2017:
Today's weather was mild and overcast.  I walked a circuit from Lower Poolands car park to the main car park and back around.  There had been a noticeable increase in Willow Warblers overnight with 3 singing birds noted today.  Also new in was a singing Blackcap.  The only other notable bird record was of a single Meadow Pipit that flew over heading North.  The only butterflies observed were a single Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell.  I also observed my first Ashy Mining Bee of the year during the walk.

Thursday 6th April 2017:
The weather was much better today for my visit to Hillditch Pool and the sunshine bought certainly bought out the butterflies.  The highlight being a ♂ Brimstone that flew past, a first for me at this site in 2017.  Also recorded were 3♂ Orange-tip, 4 Small Tortoiseshell, 2 Comma and 1 Peacock.  On the bird front a Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming and a ♂ Blackcap was singing.

Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines)

Comma (Polygonia c-album)

Off-common at Hartlebury village I saw my first Holly Blue butterfly of the year fluttering about near St. James Church.  Hopefully be able to pick one up at the Common or Hillditch during the next week.

Friday 7th April 2017:
I only had time for a short walk around the upper area of the Common from the main (Wilden Top) car park.  It was fairly unproductive on the invert front with only a ♀ Orange-tip and a Harlequin Ladybird of note.  That said I recorded my 1st Yellowhammer of the year for the reserve singing from one of the trees between the car park and the farmland on the NE of the Common. 

Saturday 8th April 2017:
The weather was warm and sunny today and I decided to undertake a circuit from Lower Poolands.  Within the broom scrub near the former plantation there were a good number of Common Heath moths on the wing.  I also recorded a Zebra Spider on one of the tree stumps.  These tiny jumping spiders are well named with their black and white striped bodies.

Common Heath (Ematurga atomaria)

Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus)

At a small number of locations around the Common I used a pheromone lure to attract ♂ Emperor Moths.  This is basically a small rubber bung that is impregnated with chemicals that mimic the scent given off by a female Emperor. In each location I attracted 2♂ Emperor Moths to the lure.  These stunning day-flying moths are a speciality species of heathland & moorland and are one of the Common's star species.

Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavonia)

Also of interest during today's visit was seeing a pair of Kestrel together,  hearing a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and observing a Dark-edged Bee-fly.

Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th April

Monday 3rd April 2017:
There was a slight change in the weather conditions today.  It still felt mild and fairly warm the sky was cloudy & overcast.  I headed over to Hillditch Pool for my visit and was primarily looking for inverts.  I only observed 2 butterflies, both being Small Tortoiseshells

I did however observe the following for 4 species of  Bumblebee:  Buff-tailed Bumblebee, Common Carder Bee, Red-tailed Bumblebee.  I also noted a small number of Drone Flies (which are common bee mimic hoverflies)

Tuesday 4th April 2017:
Today I decided to walk a circuit from the car park opposite Cook's Nursery.  Walking across the heath towards the terrace bank I recorded 2 ♂ Orange Tip butterflies.  Whilst nearby, a ♂ Kestrel was busy hovering and hunting for prey.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

The sandy paths were alive with activity with good numbers of the tiny Sandpit Mining Bee (Andrena barbilabris) active and to a lesser extent, small numbers of it's associated cleptoparasite the Sandpit Blood-bee (Sphecodes pellucidus).

Sandpit Blood-bee (Sphecodes pellucidus)

Along the terrace bank a Willow Warbler was singing from the immature Birch trees. This was my first record of this summer visitor on the common this year.

Things became even more interesting down at The Bog where I observed a Smooth Newt in one of the rear ponds.  I also flushed a Common Snipe from one of the nearby channels.  It flew of heading North.   (I know, 'flush' & 'bog'....you couldn't make these things up!)

Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th March

Saturday 25th March 2017:
Today's weather conditions were really good with sunshine and clear blue skies the order of the day.  Being a weekend the Common can tend to be very busy people wise so I decided to spend my time at the quieter Hillditch Pool NR.  It proved a worthwhile visit as the glorious weather had bought out the butterflies.  During this visit I recorded 4 Commas and 3 Small Tortoiseshells

A rather worn Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

During the visit I also observed my first Alder Fly of the year.  Alder Fly larvae are aquatic, so the adults are often found in close proximity to ponds and slow moving rivers where they can look almost moth-like with their sluggish flight.

Alder Fly (Sialis lutaria)

Sunday 25th March 2017:
The fine weather continued and today's visit was another productive one.  I walked a circuit on the south side of the common from Lower Poolands car park up to the former plantation and back around through the heather and gorse.  During the walk I observed my first Peacock butterfly of the year and my first Dark-edged Bee-fly.   I also noted 6 absolutely stunning Tawny Mining Bees

Peacock (Aglais io)

Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major)

Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva)

The undoubted highlight of the visit came from the most unexpected of places.  As I was walking along I noticed something glistening and partially protruding from a mole hill.  Being the curious kind of fella that I am I went and had a closer look.  on removing the said item from the mound of soil I was surprised and pleased to find that it was a piece of stone-age worked flint.  I have a reasonable amount of experience in collecting flint tools as, a number of years ago, myself and my good friend Craig used to walk the freshly ploughed fields at Lutley (near Halesowen) looking for such items and we both built up collections of various blades, scrapers and chippings.  I was aware that a small number of Stone Age flint tools had been found previously on the Common as it is a topic that is covered in Hartlebury Common - A Social and Natural History by JJ Tucker, S Zaluckyi and PJ Alma.  I can only think that the process of a mole excavating its tunnels bought this item to the surface after who knows how long.  Fascinating stuff!

Flint Microlith found on Hartlebury Common, 26th March 2017

Monday 20th to Friday 24th March

Monday 20th March 2017:
A cold, cloudy, damp  morning on the common with little of note but for 3 Meadow Pipits that flew over heading N and 2 Stock Doves that were over heading NE.  Also noted were a ♂ Kestrel and a 4 singing Chiffchaffs.

Tuesday 21st March 2017:
The weather hand improved slightly for today's visit although the blue skies were complimented by very cold strong winds.  A few more inverts were now active with Green Tiger Beetles, Yellow Dung Flies and an Tawny Mining Bee all noted. Green Tiger Beetles are a speciality of heathland, moorland and sandy grassland.  They are voracious predators of other invertebrates and great to watch as they are fast, agile hunters.

Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela campestris)

Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva)

Thursday 23rd March 2017:
Today's weather started with blue skies but quickly turned cloudy.  I decided to pay a visit to Hillditch Pool.  Primarily I was looking for toad spawn but couldn't find any along the accessible fringes of the pool.  However it was nice to see the stunning yellow flowers of the Marsh Marigolds coming into bloom. 

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

I also observed my first Tree Bee of the year.  The Tree Bee is a recent colonist and was first recorded in the UK in 2001.  Since then it has steadily spread rapidly across the country.  It is a very effective pollinator and it's arrival doesn't appear to have been damaging to our native bee populations.

Tree Bee (Bombus hypnorum)

Friday 24th March 2017:
Today bought about a big change in the weather conditions with blue skies, sunshine and no breeze.  As a result I encountered my first Common Lizard of the year basking on a south facing log. 

Common Lizard (Zootoca vivipara)

On the invert front the Green Tiger Beetles seem even more numerous, especially amongst the broom scrub where the southern end of the plantation used to be.

Birdwise, Linnets had returned to the common for the breeding season with 2 males perched up  singing.  The Linnets tend to move away from the common during the winter months to join other linnets in arable areas where they can form quite large flocks that feed in the stubble fields or on fresh plough.  At my former local patch of Shenstone there would regularly be a flock of 200-300 Linnets present most winters.

Saturday 4th to Sunday 12th March

Saturday 4th March 2017:
Not much of note from today's visit to the Common other than a bit of bid movement.  I observed a flock of 27 Fieldfare that flew over heading ENE and 2 Mistle Thrushes heading E.  It's quite possible that the former were on their journey back to Scandinavia, as these birds that have wintered in the UK will migrating back during the next month or so.  It was also nice to hear a ♂ Blackbird in song for the first time this year.  The Common's many Dunnocks, Robins and Wrens were also in good voice.

Dunnock (Prunella modularis)

Monday 6th March 2017:
A mild sunny day saw 2 Small Tortoiseshell butterflies on the wing along the main embankment between the lower and upper terraces of the Common.   On the bird front:  3 Common Buzzards were up soaring overhead and Green Woodpecker was also noted.  A Treecreeper was present in the wooded area that runs alongside The Bog.

What was also interesting to see during this visit was the amount of active Caddisfly larvae that were present in one of the pools near the rear of The Bog.  In it's larval stage the Caddisfly surrounds it's body in a case that it constructs from materials such as plant matter or grains of sand (depending on the species).

Caddisfly Larva (Limnephilus sp.)

Also of interest during today's visit was some Winter Polypore fungi that I found growing on a dead branch. 

Winter Polypore (Polyporus brumalis)

Wednesday 8th March 2017:
Today saw a return to the gloomy overcast weather and for my visit I decided to walk a circuit around the upper terrace from the main car park.  The highlight was flushing 3 Meadow Pipits from the Broom scrub at the end of the now cleared plantation area.  Also during this walk I found some nice examples of Moss Bell fungi.

Moss Bell (Galerina hypnorum)

Saturday 11th March 2017:
Today I decided to cover the section of the Common on the cook's nursery side of the Worcester Rd.  The skies were again overcast but the temperature felt very mild.  At the stand of mature silver Birch I observed a Chiffchaff flitting about and singing sporadically.  The first of the summer migrants had returned.  Hearing it's song made it felt like Spring had finally sprung!  Also at the Birch stand was a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers.  The male bird was drumming occasionally against a dead Birch trunk. 

It was a pretty good day invert-wise too as I recorded an Orange Underwing moth flitting around over some of the younger trees in the smaller birch covered area.  3 Small Tortoiseshell butterflies were noted and a number of Buff-tailed Bumblebees were also active.

Sunday 11th March 2017:
I returned to the Cook's side of the Common, this time with my sound recorder in hand.  There were now 3 Chiffchiffs singing from different areas in this section of the reserve and I managed to record one of them (click on SoundCloud player at bottom of page) before the peace was shattered by a kid on a mini moto bike and one on a mini quad bike tearing around.  Grrrr, so much for all the notices on the gates to the site!

I decided to head over to Hillditch pool for some relative peace and quite.  I sat  for a while just listening to the bird song when I was treated to the strange quacking like sound of a Common Toad croaking from the pond's fringes.

26th & 28th February / 1st & 2nd March

Sunday 26th February 2017:
I started the visit by heading straight to The Bog (ahem).  There was no sign of any Snipe today but it was a welcoming sight to see that the Frogs had spawned there since my previous visit.  2  Common Buzzards were up soaring over the lower area of the common.

Spawn of the Common Frog (Rana temporaria)

From The Bog I decided to avoid the Sunday crowds and head over to the much quieter Hillditch Pool & Coppice.  There were good numbers of Redwing present in the wooded areas surrounding the pool, one of which decided to take a bath in the muddy shallows.  Also noted were 2 Goldcrests, a Treecreeper and a ♀ Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Tuesday 28th February 2017:
There wasn't much happening on the Common this visit due to the dull, cold weather but a Great Black-backed Gull that came over mobbing a Common Buzzard was an unexpected bonus addition to my site year list. 

From the common I once more headed over to Hillditch for a mooch about.  Birdwise, the most interesting sighting was the 2 Cormorant that flew over heading SW.  One I did notice during the walk was a few small groups of Crocus that were just coming into flower.  Although not a native UK species these naturalised plants certainly add a splash of much needed cover.

Early Crocus (Crocus tommasinianus)

Wednesday 1st March 2017:
Although it was another dull overcast day it did feel noticeably milder.  I started this visit with a renewed sense of optimism and was duly rewarded with the sight of 7 Common Buzzards up over the common gradually drifting west. 

Whilst walking on the Cook's Garden Centre side of the common I also spotted a Ruby Tiger moth larva moving hurriedly across the grass track. A pleasing find and a sign that it was a bit warmer today.

Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa) Larva

Crossing over the A4025 that cuts across the common I was saddened to see a dead Badger at the side of the road.  It is worth recording as it shows that the species is present in the area but the loss of such a great creature is sad all the same.

Over at the Rush Pool the Common Frogs had been very busy producing a mass of spawn which measured approximately  2ft x 2ft (that's just over 0.6m x 0.6m for you metric types).

Common Frog (Rana temporaria) Spawn

Thursday 2nd March 2017:
A rare sunny day on the common saw my wife and I undertake a bit of a walk (after visiting Cook's to buy some plants).  I was hoping to perhaps see an overwintering butterfly on the wing but it wasn't to be.  There were however plenty of Honey Bees visiting the Gorse flowers as well as a single queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris).  My first bumble of the year.

On the bird front it was reasonably quiet although the nice weather meant that Common Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were all observed up over the common.