Wildlife Notes for Great Ovens Heath by John Wright - September

A sunny day on 1st September resulted in several butterflies, including gatekeeper, grayling, common blue and peacock all putting in an appearance.
In addition to emerald damselflies and common darters, a southern hawker dragonfly was also on the prowl. This large species is common in Dorset and appart from its distinctive colours, is also memorable for its tendancy to come up close to investigate you as you walk through the area where it is catching its prey.

Peacock

Peacock

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

Southern Hawker

Southern Hawker

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

As swallows passed overhead, a small bronze-coloured common lizard basked in the autumn sunshine. Common lizards produce live young, in contrast to the egg-laying sand lizards also present on Great Ovens Heath. This is the ideal time to spot common lizards and sometimes both adults and juveniles can be
seen basking together.

Common Lizards

Common Lizards

Photograph:Ken Dolbear

Once again, I saw a sparrowhawk over the heath,initially being hassled by two crows. In flight it wasn't much smaller than the crows and must have been an
adult female. It then turned tables on the crows and chased them through the dead trunks of maritime pines in the north-east corner of the reserve before
heading off east for better cover where it wouldn't be disturbed.

Domestic Apple

Domestic Apple

Photograph: John Wright

After a holiday break, my next visit wasn't until 20th September. It was pleasing to see plenty of yellow and purple across the heathand and to find
that several of the butterflies and dragonflies seen earlier in the month, including southern hawker, were still around. There are one or two domestic
apple trees within the heath, no doubt the product of long discarded apple cores and one in particular was bearing attractive but probably bitter fruit.

Field Grasshopper

Field Grasshopper

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

The field grasshopper, a common species found across a wide range of habitats was still active on the heath, and can live well into October and even
November. It has wings which extend beyond the hind knees, brownish colouration and in the male, the tip of the abdomen is red.

Greenfinch

Greenfinch

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

Appart from chiffchaffs, pied wagtails, swallows, house martins and meadow pipits passing through, it was also very noticeable that finches such as
linnets, goldfinches and greenfinches were gathering into flocks.However, stonechats were still announcing their presence from the top of gorse bushes
and one dartford warbler was calling as a party of three ravens flew over.

Speckled Wood

Speckled Wood

Photograph: John Wright

On my final visit for the month, and with the 'Indian summer' persisting, I was surprised at the large number of swallows feeding on insects caught
in the updraught of southerly air above the hill at the north end of the reserve. There were still a few butterflies on the wing including small white,
red admiral, grayling and a speckled wood. This last species can have three generations per year and is the only British butterfly to be able to overwinter
either as a caterpillar or a chrysalis

Siskin

Siskin

Photograph: Ken Dolbear


As usual, I heard siskins calling. Some of them breed in Wareham Forest and are, no doubt, joined by others for the winter. But the 'chi-chi-chi'call of
redpoll overhead was a sure sign of the progress of autumn and the reality that temperatures will soon start to drop.