Sunday 2nd August 2015.
I made arrangements this morning to meet up with John Goodall at his house for a visit to Old Winchester Hill this morning. The weather forecast looked good for a nice sunny morning and the possibility of a few migrants looked promising. However, the day kicked off with a very early start (two hours before my alarm clock went off!) to check on the moth box.
A total of 20 moths of 12 species were present this morning which included another Garden Tiger (probably the same one as yesterday), my first Mother-of-Pearl of the year in the garden and one Silver Y.
John and I arrived around 7.45am within an empty Old Winchester Hill car park and letting Scruff out, we made our slow journey around this superb area of natural history. Both Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were singing near the entrance and the familiar quiet calls of Bullfinches could be heard deep within the bushes. As we moved further along the footpath, Blackcaps could be seen flitting within the brambles along with many more juvenile Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs.
Butterflies were slowly making their first morning flights with Small and Large Skipper seen perched on grass stems and brambles, catching the early morning rays of sunshine. A few Meadow Browns danced over the tall grass and the yellow Wild Parsnips and the occasional Chalk-hill Blue butterfly, our first of the year, drifted past. It was to be a very good morning for butterflies with Dark Green Fritillary, Ringlet, Red Admiral, Peacock, Painted Lady, both Large and Small White plus Gatekeeper being seen. A Brimstone was also a nice surprise and I am happy I have one confirmed Essex Skipper I photographed. Both the Ringlet and Dark Green Fritillary were new for the year.
Birdlife was rather limited, but good numbers of the aforementioned warblers were seen along with a healthy number of Yellowhammers along the footpath. Just the one Common Whitethroat was seen on top of the old Fort, but no other warbler species. A male Kestrel hunted south of the Fort, but there were no Buzzards or Kites seen this morning, which was disappointing. A Green Woodpecker flew over the top of the Fort and landed in the lone tree while the odd Skylark popped up briefly and burst into song. It will not be long now before we are graced here with some more interesting migrants.
We saw our first Southern Hawker dragonfly of the year, buzzing along the side of the hill near the copse below us and the plants were still in full bloom here, especially the Marjoram which attracted a lot of the butterflies. Five and Six spotted Burnet moths were on the wing as were a good variety of Crambid Moths, which Scruff disturbed as he walked ahead of us (on his lead, ofcourse).
On the way back to the car, we bumped into Dave, who is a familiar face here and keeps an eye out in the car park for any dodgy characters up to mischief. He was recollecting how much of the bird and insect life has disappeared around here over the last 25 years, with many birds down by 65% in some species. It is worrying what will be around when our Grand kids are at our age?