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27th February to 10th March 2019

Wednesday 27th February:
The warm spell continued and today's visit to the Lower Heath area of the Common was a productive one on the invert front.  A single Comma was noted there and I also observed my first Orange Underwing moth of the year flitting about around the top of a stand of Silver Birch.

Comma (Polygonia c-album)
















As well as the aforementioned Lepidoptera I also recorded 3 species of ladybird:  Pine Ladybird, 7-spot Ladybird and 24-spot ladybird.  The latter being my first sighting of this species for the year.

24-spot Ladybird (Subcoccinella 24-punctata)

















Friday 1st March:
The unseasonably warm spell had come to an end and cold strong winds were now very much in effect as with it many of the inverts seen over the previous week had gone back into cover.  So, I decided to spend some time visiting the water bodies starting with The Bog and Rush Pool.  

Sadly The Bog remained dried out and there was very little of note there.  Rush Pool on the other hand was far more encouraging.   It was great to see that, since Worcestershire County Council and Hartlebury Common Local Group volunteers had cleared the trees/shrubs growing within Rush Pool, not only has the water level increased considerably but also Frogs had returned and spawned there successfully.  Also of note near to Rush Pool was some nice clusters of Scarlet Elf Cap fungi.  A ♂ and ♀ Mallard were also present on the pool.

Common Frog (Rana temporaria) spawn at Rush Pool
















Scarlet Elf Cap (Sarcoscypha coccinea)
































From Rush Pool I headed over to Hillditch Pool.  On arrival a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming from the coppice.  A Grey Wagtail flew over the pool and headed towards Titton Brook and 2 Ravens flew over 'kronking' heading West.  Also of interest was an empty Duck Mussel shell that I found at the edge of the rear pool there.

Duck Mussel (Anodonta anatina) shell

































Saturday 9th March:
It was very quite visit to the lower terrace of the Common today and the strong cold winds meant that most things, birds included were sat up taking shelter.  I did, during an all too brief sunny spell, see a rather nice male House Sparrow perch out and start singing from the Gorse next to the Bog Car Park.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
















Sunday 10th March:
The weather was slightly better today with blues skies and occasional sunny spells but the strong cold wind remained.  Starting with a walk on the Lower Terrace I was pleased to see that the seasonal pond had a reasonable amount of water within it.

The Seasonal Pond - Lower Terrace
















From the Lower Terrace I headed over to Hillditch Pool.  There were two Mistle Thrushes present in the paddock adjacent to the pool and a Sparrowhawk flew through the coppice.  On the pool itself the leaves of  Yellow Water-lily were just beginning to break the surface.

Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)
 




Monday 18th to Monday 25th February 2019

Monday 18th February:
I only had time for a brief visit to the Common today so I decided to check out Rush Pool and The Bog.  There was no sign of any Frogs or spawn on Rush Pool although the water levels are returning nicely since the work parties to cut back the trees and shrubs there.  Sadly, the same cannot be said for The Bog which had all but dried out again.  Whilst walking the length of The Bog I was treated to the sight and sound of a ♂ Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)
















Wednesday 20th February:
This afternoon I decided to have a mooch about around the Oak wood and heath on the SE side of the Common.  The weather was quite mild and Spring like so I thought there may be the chance of an invert or two.  I wasn't disappointed as I saw two queen bumblebees:  a Tree Bumblebee and a Buff-tailed Bumblebee.  There were also a few active Honey Bees visiting the Gorse flowers.

Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum)
















It was quite a productive visit on the bird front as I added two more species to my site year list.  A Cormorant flew over heading SW and a single Lesser Redpoll was feeding in the Silver Birch trees.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
















Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret)
















Friday 22nd February:
As the week progressed the weather became warmer (unseasonably so in fact) with temperatures in the mid-teens as opposed to around the usual 7 or 8°C.  This meant that more inverts were likely to emerge (and yes I do like my invertebrates!).  I undertook a walk on the SE area of the Common again and started checking the gorse bushes for any ladybirds that may have been tempted out of hibernation.  I was in luck and found a pair of Pine Ladybirds that not only had emerged but decided to start mating too. 

A single Raven that flew over 'kronking' heading SE was another site year tick.

Pine Ladybird (Exochomus quadripustulatus)
















Saturday 23rd February:
The warm sunny weather continued and more Pine Ladybirds have emerged.  On one area of Gorse on the Upper Terrace of the Common I counted 14 of these diminutive ladybirds.

Else where on the Common there were good numbers of Redwing present in the SE Oak wood, with a number of them being in sub-song.  It was really great to hear this warbling vocal.

Redwing (Turdus iliacus)
















Monday 25th February:
The unseasonal temperatures kept rising and today was official the hottest UK February day on record with the temperature reaching  20.3°C in West Wales.  On the Common it was an amazing 18°C. 

For my visit I decided to focus on the Lower Terrace and the Terrace Embankment and was soon treated to my first butterflies of the year in 2 Commas that were flitting about over the lower area.  On the embankment itself I recorded 3 Small Tortoiseshells, all of which were basking on the warm bare sandy areas.  I also observed my 2nd species of ladybird, a 7-Spot Ladybird.  A small number of Pine Ladybirds were also present on this area of the site.

Comma (Polygonia c-album)
















Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)
















7-Spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata)
















Pine Ladybird (Exochomus quadripustulatus)

Thursday 7th and Saturday 9th February 2019

Thursday 7th February:
February is a pretty quite month on the Common and today's walk around the Lower Terrace and the  Lower Heath areas were pretty unproductive.  A rare high point during my amble came in the shape of  the 3 Common Buzzards that drifted over heading west.  Other than that there was little else of note to report. 

Common Buzzard (buteo buteo)
















Saturday 9th February:
It was another quite walk around the Common today as I took in the Lower Poolands area and the Upper Terrace.  A single Meadow Pipit that flew over the former plantation area calling was a welcome year tick for the site but as with my previous visit there was little else of note.  That said Spring is around the corner and from March a number of the site's many invertebrates will be active, the walks will become a lot more interesting and I will be a much happier fella! 

Addendum:
One thing I have noted during my walks on Hartlebury Common during 2019 is the distinct lack of Green Woodpeckers.  They were once quite numerous on the Common but in 2018 I noticed my sightings of them getting less numerous, in fact I didn't see one at all in the later 5 months.  Why this decline, I have no idea.  Generally they don't move way from the site in the autumn/winter and the habitat is as good as it has always been for them if not a little better since areas have been grazed by the Longhorn Cattle.  They like to feed on the short grass lawns where access to their favoured food (Ants) is much easier (this is why you will often see them on the greens of golf courses).  Last summer I do recall a dog walker telling me that they had seen a dead one on the Common so perhaps this was the end of the final breeding pair their? All I can hope is that a new pair (or more) set up territory on the reserve.  I will keep you updated on this.

Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)

Tuesday 29th January & Monday 4th February 2019

Tuesday 29th January: 
This afternoon I paid a visit to the Oak woodland at the SE of the Common.  It was a fairly fruitless walk in terms of adding new species to the year list but a perched Common Buzzard, a ♂ Great Spotted Woodpecker and 5 Jays made for pleasant viewing.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
















Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)
















Monday 4th February: 
I re-visited the SE area of the Common again this afternoon.  It was nice to see a nice groups of Snowdrops in bloom along the southern boundary of the site.  Also of note were many leaves/shoots of Lords-and-ladies that were starting to appear in some areas of the woodland.

Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)
















Lords-and-ladies (Arum maculatum)

As with my last visit to this area the Jays were noisily making there presence felt although not one wanted to perch nicely in the open for a photo today!

 Jay (Garrulus glandarius)

Wednesday 23rd to Saturday 26th January 2019

Wednesday 23rd January:
A dull, cold, blustery day provided little of note on today's visit to the Common.  The only real highlight was seeing a flock of 57 Redwing perch up briefly in the trees along the NE boundary of the site near the Wilden Top car park.

The only other addition to my site year list was Oak Moss lichen which is quite abundant in places on the branches of some of the Oaks in the SE woodland.

Oak Moss (Evernia prunastri) lichen

















Friday 25th January:
Today I undertook an amble around the Lower Heath area of the Common.  At one area of the walk I  I could smell the unmistakable pungent odour of a Fox's marked territory.  I will monitor for activity in this area over the coming months.

Also of note were 3 Cormorant that flew over heading NNW towards the River Severn.

Saturday 26th January:
Today I undertook a walk along Hillditch Coppice.  A couple of the many Lesser Celandine their were in bloom and I've got to say it was nice to see a splash of colour.

Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna)
















Also of interest during the walk were a couple of additions to my 2019 site fungi list that came in the shape of  Coral Spot and Willow Bracket.

Coral Spot (Nectria cinnabarina)
















Willow Bracket (Phellinus igniarius)
















During my amble I also noticed a number of leaf mines on the Bramble leaves.  These mines are caused by the larvae of a micro moth called Stigmella aurella feeding within the leaves.

Stigmella aurella leaf mine

Thursday 17th January 2019

Hartlebury Common - Lower Terrace:

This afternoon I took a walk around the lower terrace of the Common.  It was a sunny day with blue skies and a cold breeze.  On the bird front it was a case of the usual suspect with the highlight being  a Kestrel hunting.hovering over the terrace.  Also noted were Carrion Crows, Magpies, Robins, Wrens and Blackbirds.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
















Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
















Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)
















The days best find however came on a much smaller scale in the form of a Longitarsus dorsalis beetle.  This minuscule beetle of only 2-3 mm in length was basking on a fence post that was catching the winter sun.  These cracking looking invert has a scattered distribution in Worcestershire (possibly due to under recording) and favours sites where Ragwort is present as its larva feeds on the roots of said plant and the adults its the leaves.  There is certainly plenty of Ragwort present on the lower terrace of the common and I for one hope that it isn't all pulled out in future as it is such an important plant in sustaining a number of our invertebrates.

Longitarsus dorsalis beetle

Friday 11th & Saturday 12th January 2019

Friday 11th January - Upper Terrace:  
Today, I parked up at the Wilden Top car park and undertook an amble around the Upper Terrace of the Common.  Large numbers of birds were feeding in the paddocks between the common and Stourport Riding Centre including 71 Redwings, 1 Mistle Thrush, 11 Greenfinch and 19 Goldfinch

Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)  & Redwing (Turdus iliacus)
















The terrace itself was pretty much devoid of bird life which is not surprising as not only is it the winter months and many species are not present this time of year and secondly this area of the Common just gets so busy with dog walkers so is perhaps not quiet enough for many species aside from the more confident ones such as Robins and Magpies.

The walk did however yield a new fungi species for the year list is Velvet Shank.

Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes)
















I was also saddened to find a dead Fox underneath one of the hedgerows along the eastern edge of the common.  There was no sign of external trauma to this individual so perhaps it had died naturally or maybe it had ingested something toxic, who knows, this is all just conjecture.  The only positive that can be drawn from finding this Fox is that it is unlikely to be a lone individual and, sad that it is, it serves as a record that this species of mammal is still present on the Common.

Fox (Vulpes vulpes) deceased
















Saturday 12th January - Lower Poolands:
For this afternoon's visit I focused my attentions on the Oak wood and heath on the SE side of the Common.  Starting in the woodland I added a new year tick to my site bird list as a ♂ Bullfinch was present skulking in the bushes (see poor record shot below).  Bullfinch is a species that I have only recorded on a couple of  occasions and both previous times were in Hillditch Coppice.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
















I then spent a while mooching for fungi through the decaying logs/stumps along the pylon ride. Here I added Sulphur Tuft to the year list and discovered another fungi, Split Gill, which I hadn't previously recorded at the site before.

Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasciculare)
















Split Gill (Schizophyllum commune)
















I also found a nice group of the wonderfully named Cow Pat Gem fungus growing on the remains of (yes you've guessed it) a cow pat.  These tiny disc fungi are bright orange with a granular outside edge and can form quite large swarms over dung.

Cow Pat Gem (Cheilymenia granulata)
















On the ground amongst the heather I was able to identify another of the moorland/heath land lichen in Cladonia portentosa.  This branching lichen is a bit reminiscent of ball of wire wool in shape.

Cladonia portentosa lichen