Leader Lucy Starling
Seven members joined me on a breezy morning with sunny intervals, threatening black rain clouds at times and below average temperatures. Our route took us into Bushy Norwood NT flower meadow and pasture, the footpath along the edge of the golf course, behind Bath University buildings to Quarry Road, back into the University complex and the pond, before returning to The Avenue. I recorded our species highlights.
We found a variety of butterflies, mainly Meadow Browns but good to see reasonable numbers of male and female Common Blue. It was a shame not everyone saw the Brown Argus but all saw the Small Copper. A clump of Buddleia in the middle of Bushy Norwood pasture attracted Red Admiral , Peacock, Brimstone, Large White and Small Tortoiseshell.
Our first stop for bird watching was an old oak tree for an obliging Tree Creeper exploring the bark for insects and grubs. Green Woodpecker and Nuthatch called briefly as we made our way to the top of the field where I hoped to find Spotted Flycatcher among the oaks, beech and ash trees above the bramble bushes. Thankfully, we found two, feeding on flying insects in their distinctive way.
It was a busy fifteen minutes, watching the flycatchers, a Willow Warbler, in its autumnal yellow colours, a Common Whitethroat, Blue Tits and Goldfinches.
I could only find a Dark Bush Cricket in the brambles and long grass by the golf course (there are Roesel’s Bush Crickets here too). We added Comma and Speckled Wood to our butterfly list and then our first Odonata species, a female Common Darter, shortly before our second, a female Southern Hawker. The stone wall and grassy bank above Quarry Road can be productive on a warm and sunny afternoon and I invariably find a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in late summer: today was no exception! This insect was very mobile and not easy to follow. A clump of marjoram attracted several Gatekeeper butterflies.
Lunch was taken by the University pond where we watched a Barn Swallow swopping to drink water. A female Mallard was very protective of her brood of ducklings (photo at head of the page © Andrew Harrison) from an opportunistic Lesser Black-backed Gull which kept diving at a Grey Heron that posed no threat to its juvenile youngster. A Green Woodpecker “yaffled” out of our sight and alarm calls went up as a female Sparrowhawk flew low over the pond and away into tree cover. A male Emperor dragonfly was seen over the lily pads before we departed.