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------------------------- December 2003 ------------------------

Heavy rainfall is an unwelcome sight for most of us at any time of the year, but for wildfowl, flooded meadows and swollen rivers provide plenty of places to feed and bath. The south coast, with its estuaries, marshes and gravel pits is an ideal wintering refuge for wildfowl during the winter months. The diversity of species gives the opportunity to study each one and gain familiarity with them as they go about their daily business. Ducks and geese come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in almost any habitat but they should normally be near water.


Perhaps the most familiar is the Canada Goose above, which was originally introduced to our shores, but is now firmly established as a resident breeding bird. This large dark brown goose can be readily identified by its long black neck with white cheeks.


Wigeon can be found feeding on coastal or inland meadows and will often roost on the sea. This species is a winter visitor to the south coast where flocks can number several hundred, the male has a distinctive rust coloured head with a yellowish forehead, whereas females are more uniform brown in colour.


Another brightly coloured duck is the Shoveler, so called due to its shovel shaped bill, which it uses to filter out small prey from the silt of freshwater pools and lakes. Male birds have a bright green head and chestnut flanks, which contrast sharply with their white underparts.


Not all species of duck spend their time inland, sea duck such as Eider and Scoter use the warmer sea temperatures of the south to spend the winter. Large flocks of Eider above, can be found in the Solent sometimes coming close into the shore. Sea duck are diving ducks and can spend long periods feeding under the surface, often re-appearing quite a way from where they went down. The male Eider is mainly white with a black forehead, green nape and pinkish breast, the female is barred brown.
Photographs copyright - Trevor Codlin

------------------------- August - September 2003 ------------------------

For any regular viewers who have been enjoying this wildlife section, I would like to apologise for not having submitted anything recently. With the good weather I have been spending my time in the field gathering more information for future articles. It seems like an age since we last had such a sustained spell of warm, dry weather, which has not been ideal for farmers or gardeners but for those of us who are interested in moths it has been excellent. Every morning when I visited my trap there was usually a surprise for me.
Even those with just a casual interest must have noticed the small hummingbird type things flying around your garden. Many of these moths have come from France and Spain and have been brought north by the warm airflows coming up from the south. Others have bred on the south coast after arriving in the spring. But whichever way they arrived, this year has been a spectacle to see.
The Convolvulus Hawkmoth (above) is one of the largest moths in Europe and is an annual visitor to the south of Britain, but usually only in small numbers. This year however they have arrived in their hundreds. These large moths can often be found at rest on fence posts or tree trunks. They are ash grey in colour, with a variably marbled and streaked forewing, the male is heavily marked with blackish streaks and bands. They can appear from June through to November and are usually distinctive due to their large size, although beware of confusion with the Privet Hawkmoth which is only slightly smaller but is darker in colouration.


The Hummingbird Hawkmoth is another visitor from the continent, which has managed to get a foothold in the south-west. These aerobatics experts buzz around the garden at high speed before hovering in front of a flower to draw nectar. When airborne they are unmistakable, as they are the only hummingbird type insect liable to be found in this country. Look out for their black and white striped abdomen and orange patches on the wing.


September is an ideal time to get out and look for unusual birds and whilst some can be real exhibitionists and can be enjoyed by all, others can be very elusive and are only seen by the select few. The Red-backed Shrike was once a common breeding bird in Hampshire but for reasons not understood by us it is now extinct in Britain. Occasionally though young birds turn up on migration, as this individual did near Gosport. Shrikes are regularly known as butcherbirds due to their habit of impaling their prey on the thorns of bushes or barbed wire creating a larder. This bird is one of this year's youngsters, which can be identified by the heavily barred plumage.


Aquatic Warblers are also annual visitors to this country, but are very rarely seen due to their love of damp wet habitats. It is usually only bird ringers who carry-out survey work in reedbeds who are lucky enough to see them. The Aquatic Warbler is an internationally endangered species and one whose population has decreased by 40% over the last 10 years. They breed across eastern Europe in wet marshy places, and can be distinguished from the very similar Sedge Warbler by the strong crown stripe, straw coloured braces and black centred feathers on the back.
Photographs copyright - Trevor Codlin

----------------------------------- June - July 2003 ----------------------------------

Hampshire Orchids - The rich diversity of Hampshire's flowering plants is at its height during June and July with the emergence of a bizarre and colourful array of orchids. These spectacular plants can be difficult to find and are often in very small numbers, but when seen will leave you full of intrigue and amazement.
The Bee Orchid can be found in small numbers at a number of sites across Hampshire, its height can vary from fifteen to forty centimetres with five to seven broadly lanceolate leaves. Its flowers have formed to exactly mimic a Bumblebee so on first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that's what you were looking at. Another Orchid that has evolved to resemble an insect is the Fly Orchid, it is a slender plant which is usually much taller than the Bee Orchid, growing up to sixty centimetres in height. Its flowers are dark brown in colour with a velvety finish and a distinctive rectangular blue patch in the middle.
The Sword or Narrow-leaved Helleborine is a member of the orchid family growing from fifteen to forty centimetres in height producing delicate white flowers that are usually heart shaped with an orange spot at the base. Not exactly one of the most beautiful looking plants in Hampshire, the Birds Nest Orchid is so called because its roots vaguely resemble a birds nest. This strange looking flower is unusual as it lacks any green, with the whole plant coloured yellowish-brown and appearing to have no leaves. It is usually perennial but occasionally monocarpic, dying after flowering.
Photographs copyright - Trevor Codlin

 Sword or Narrow-leaved Helleborine.

 Fly Orchid.

 Bee Orchid.

 Birds Nest Orchid.

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All Photographs Copyright Trevor Codlin 2002 - 2003