Chairman Peter Shallcross and I have had two similar experiences when birds suddenly flew out or up and we stopped to look. Peter was at Clarendon, approaching a battered old wall when a spotted flycatcher flew out - and looking carefully inside, there were its chicks. (Apologies to those who viewed the photo of the yellow wagtail! - it belongs in another story.)
I was out on my favourite orchid hillside, towards Berwick St John. I'd 'done' the orchids and was thinking of walking on round, so set off across the big sheep field on the top of the hill. But I changed my mind and turned back. I was using the 'transept' method (of which more shortly under 'Reporting') of scanning left and right as I walked, when suddenly this bird shot up from under my feet, flashing white feathers in its rump. I stopped dead and looked down, and was absolutely thrilled to see this tiny nest at my feet. Peter identifies the eggs as a meadow pipit's. What a treat!
Facebook readers will know that Peter had a similar experience, finding a skylark nest near a path.
So be very careful where you walk especially if you're not on a path, and keep a very good lookout!
Chairman Peter Shallcross reports -
'Last year, six juvenile white-tailed eagles were released on the Isle of Wight, where they haven’t bred since 1780. Like the great bustards on Salisbury Plain (which we visited last August), they tend to travel widely when young and some of them go as far as Norfolk before returning. In fact, I saw one over the farm in Wardour, where it slowly drifted across the sky towards Donhead.
'They have been likened to a ‘flying barn door’, as they are so large. The buzzards spiralling below, keeping an eye on it, were certainly dwarfed.
'With the weeks of hot weather there have plenty of thermals for the buzzards and red kites to use.'
Ever wondered why and how bindweed climbs one way and honeysuckle the other? Flanders & Swan had their own ideas of course in their classic 'Misalliance' song but to understand what's really going on, Andrew Graham has an explanation - go to our Field Trips page - something to watch out for in the hedgerows along our fields and lanes.
Moth phobics will have to acknowledge objectively that this is a magnificent creature - once again spotted by Dick Budden in his patch near the Nadder. Andrew Graham commented, 'It's a Scarlet tiger moth. There are quite a few of them around at present. There are generally one or two fluttering around in my garden of a sunny evening at the moment. Splendid beasts though.
'There are lots of Hawk Moths about at night as well.'
So, for moth phobics like myself, keep those windows closed till you've turned the lights off!
This is the pond on Martin Green's farm near Sixpenny Handley, where we should have been on Thursday. Go to our Field Trips page for what we might have seen - and which you may well see if you go out walking on Cranborne Chase.
Andrew's fabulous photos of the night-flying moths are just half the story. There are also their day-flying equivalent, though in my experience usually a lot smaller and sometimes less significant.
Some are just as beautiful, however. The little Emerald moth is my current favourite. I noticed lots of little grey moths flitting around, and it was only when I looked at my photos that I noticed the emerald body so I think they must be the females. Along with the 6-spotted burnet, they seem to be the most common at the moment.
Some people are commenting that there aren't many butterflies around. Patrick Barham, writing in The Guardian, says not to panic! We see a first flush of the hibernators - brimstone, peacock, small tortoiseshell - when the warm weather comes, along with the orange tip, that harbinger or spring. But then the early ones get down to reproduction, so in June it's caterpillar time. Some are incredibly well-camouflaged, such as the orange tip. Others are bristly, to put off predators. Or weird shapes and colours, like the vapourer moth.
Then, come proper summer (we hope!) out come the flashy newly-emerged main summer brood and maybe the migrants such as the painted lady.
It is thought that this may be a spectacular summer for butterflies: let's hope so. And please send us your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone looking up - keep an eye open for what The Guardian newspaper calls 'the Ferrari of the skies' in this piece. The hobby has distinctive black and white striped underside.
If it's not me, Elizabeth, website editor (keen but ignorant), I'll say so.