Wildlife Notes for Great Ovens Heath by John Wright - August

Rare plants come in many shapes and sizes and some may not impress. However, my walk on 2nd August revealed the presence of a Nationally Scarce plant which made my day. As you can see from the photo, which also includes a 1p coin, Yellow Centaury is easily missed! Although I only found a few plants, it can occur in numbers in winter-wet habitats subject to disturbance. The same day, a Raven flew over and another male Brimstone Butterfly put in an appearance.

Yellow Centaury

Yellow Centaury

Photograph: John Wright

A week later the Dorset Heath along the west-east path towards the northern end of the reserve was still in full flower, but I also noticed additional plants some distance from the path which were hybrids between Cross-leaved Heath and Dorset Heath. These plants seen to show hybrid vigour and can eventually become quite large dome-shaped bushes. Family parties of Stonechats were making themselves obvious with their contact calls but the Dartford Warblers were very quiet.

Dorset Hybrid Heath

Dorset Hybrid Heath

Photograph: John Wright

By the middle of the month the Dartford Warblers were more vocal and were joined by a variety of summer migrants moving south. Several Willow Warblers were picking insects off bushes, Swallows were calling overhead, a Common Whitethroat appeared on a gorse bush and a Redstart flitted between the Alder Buckthorns

Common Redstart

Common Redstart

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

To my surprise, I finally saw my first Painted Lady butterfly of the year. These long-distance migrants from North Africa arrived in huge numbers in the spring of 2009 but few have been seen in the last two summers. This one settled in front of me on the sand and displayed open wings but then closed them, showing effective camouflage.

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

Photograph: John Wright

A few late summer flowers are appearing on the firebreak, amongst them an attractive alien plant, sometimes also encountered on allotments and gardens called Weasel's Snout.

Weasel's Snout

Weasel's Snout

Photograph: JohnWright

A week later I encountered a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by a group of small birds. This is always a good month for seeing Sparrowhawks because the youngsters are still around in numbers and learning how to hunt their prey. A few days later I saw anotheer individual, this time flying quite low with the characteristic Sparrowhawk flap-flap-flap-glide-flap-flap-flap-glide mode of flight.

Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

Willow Warblers were still moving through and I was lucky to see a group of three Redstarts giving their usual 'hooeet-tic' calls as they flew between birch trees and bushes on the reserve.