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Local Weather

Saturday 23rd to Friday 28th April

Saturday 23rd April 2017: It was warm, sunny afternoon on the Common and I decided to have a look for the Green Hairstreak butterflies that had been observed on the NW side of the Common just over a week ago during a similar really sunny day.  I was in luck and on arriving at the location I was greeted by the sight of 2 stunning ♂ Green Hairstreaks chasing about over the scrub.  Thankfully these territorial individuals were landing now and then on their favoured perches and I was able to get some photos. After spending a while observing these beautiful butterflies I continued my walk taking the path that runs below the steep gorse bank.  Just past this bank at the junction of footpaths I recorded a 3rd Green Hairstreak flitting about over the Brambles, Broom and young Silver Birch. 

Whilst walking my circuit which then took me through the gorse scrub on the upper area of the Common and back around to the main car park I noted 4 other species of butterfly:  7 Speckled Wood, 2 Orange Tip, 1 Holly Blue and 1 Large White.

Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi)

Tuesday 25th April 2017:
A ♂ Lesser Whitethroat was new in today with an individual perching up & singing regularly on the scrub North of the main Wilden Top car park.  For me, a Lesser Whitethroat's rattling warble is a real highlight in terms of Spring birdsong!

Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca)

Wednesday 26th April 2017:
Today I paid a visit to Hillditch Pool and decided to walk along the pool's fringes looking for inverts.  I was in luck as I flushed a Large Red Damselfly. My first Odonata (that's dragonflies and damselflies to you and I) record for the site this year.

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)

Thursday 27th April 2017:
I started today's visit at the main car park.  The Lesser Whitethroat was still singing from the scrub near the cattle grid and a Common Whitethroat was singing from the bramble scrub next to car park.  A pair of  Linnets were also present in this area. 

From the northern side of the Common I headed over to the western side (other side of the A40250) where a 2nd Lesser Whitethroat was present singing.

Linnet (Carduelis cannabina)

Friday 28th April 2017:
Today I paid a visit to Hillditch Pool.  Sadly the weather had  dropped cooler and there was very little butterfly activity (just a single Small Tortoiseshell) and no sign of any damselflies.  Still, it was an interesting visit birdwise as a number of species seem to be pairing up with pairs of Treecreeper, Song Thrush and Jay all observed.   A single female Goldcrest was also noted.

From the pool I headed over to the Common where the undoubted highlight was seeing a flock of c.60 House Martins wheeling about overhead as they gradually drifted off heading NW.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos)

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