May 2012

Article text
Marsh Fritillary.
On the weather front May was a month of two halves. The first fortnight was cold and wet and this was followed by a taste of summer for a couple of weeks although the 31st saw the second highest rainfall of the month. During the first two weeks of the month rain fell on 10 days, whereas in the second fortnight we only had 3 days with rain. Overall the average daily maximum temperature was 16.30C, slightly higher than the normal. The average nightly minimum was 7.90C which was again slightly above the norm for May. The high temperatures at the end of the month obviously brought the averages up. We had 35.8mm of rain during the month still significantly less than the average of 55mm for May. The cold start to the month meant that many insects were late emerging. I didn’t manage to find green hairstreak butterflies at Donna Nook until 16th May whereas last year I had photographed them on 25th April. Dragonflies were also late emerging and I didn’t even manage to see any at Messingham until 22nd of the month and I didn’t manage my first dragonfly photograph until the 30th.
My first outing in May was to Bonby Carrs, near Elsham, on 5th. It was a showery, cool day but with a north-westerly airstream providing excellent light when the sun did appear. During the spring, Bonby Carrs has proved to be an excellent location for seeing and photographing some of our summer visitors as well as resident birds. It has been particularly good for wheatear and yellow wagtail and later on, two or three sedge warbles were singing and displaying from the cover of the undergrowth. Yellowhammers and linnets have also shown well, although I have found the linnets difficult to get close to for photography. Other people have seen and photographed whinchat down here during May and I was delighted to find grey or English partridges both here and at nearby Worlaby Carrs. In the bird watching days of my youth I remember grey partridges were very common and being excited at my first sighting of a red legged or French partridge. Grey partridges subsequently became scarce and it is now a pleasure to achieve good sightings. I have had some excellent bird watching and photography here on several other days during May.
During the early part of the month the blue tits were busy as usual in the nest box. Our cat George was also moulting even more than usual and so we were brushing him more regularly and placing the fur in a bird feeder. It was highly amusing to watch the blue tits collecting the fur and taking it back to the nest looking like old men with white handlebar moustaches. I began to put meal worms out again for the robin as well as the blue tits. We very soon had starling families homing in on the feast and it was fascinating to see the juveniles lined up along the fence while the adults gathered beaks full of meal worms and then went down the row feeding each in turn.
On 11th May Heather and I took the caravan up to Flamborough for a few days. We arrived at the end of the wet weather and were grateful for the new (second hand new that is) Landrover Freelander which romped across the boggy field. Although we would rather have arrived in sun, the heavy showers produced some stunning rainbows. Fortunately the next morning dawned bright and sunny and the field soon dried out. We were only a short walk along the cliffs to Bempton RSPB reserve and I took myself along there both Saturday and Sunday mornings. I always enjoy a visit to Bempton. The cliffs here are impressively high and vertiginous and during the breeding season the air is thick with whirling seabirds. It really is seabird city with all its evocative sounds and smells! There were particularly good views of the gannets which were wheeling past at cliff top level and even settling on the cliff tops to collect grass for nesting material. As well as the gannets thousands of other birds were noisily and busily going about the business of breeding: kittiwakes with their loud, instantly recognisable calls, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars and, if you are lucky, it is possible to see the ever popular puffins.
I made my first visits to Messingham Sand Quarry Lincs Trust reserve during May. It is always a delight to listen to the varied songs of the plentiful warblers here: chiff chaff, blackcap, willow, reed and garden warblers. On the 8th may we had the privilege of being able to watch a swan’s egg hatching. The adult birds had nested close to the public path through the reserve and already had two chicks. Although dragonflies were thin on the ground at the beginning of the month by the end they were plentiful, particularly four spotted chasers. I was thrilled on 30th to find some newly emerged broad bodied chasers. These are stunning insects and when immature appear to glow amber gold from within. As they mature, the males turn a beautiful powder blue with vivid yellow spots on the sides of the abdomen. There are also hairy hawker dragon flies at this time of the year but they rarely perch and are a challenge to photograph. Early butterflies on the wing included brimstone, orange tip, green veined white and a few common blues.
One other location I have visited during May is Chambers farm Wood near Wragby, particularly for the rare marsh fritillary butterfly. These tiny insects were not in evidence at all on 23rd as they had not yet emerged. A few days later however on a very hot 28th they were plentiful and I managed to secure excellent images. I was also shown where some butterfly orchids were growing but as they were not yet fully in flower a later visit was going to be necessary.