Home arrow 2010 Diary arrow June 2010. Summer, Puddles and Butterflies.
June 2010. Summer, Puddles and Butterflies. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jos   

Grizzled Skipper


Bird migration down to a trickle, but breeding season in full swing - Lesser Spotted Eagles, Barred Warblers and much more. Better still, butterflies in abundance - Grizzled Skipper and both Green and Black Hairstreaks early in the month, Lesser Marbled and Glanville Fritillaries soon after, with more Black Hairstreaks and a Northern Chequered Skipper as added extras. Later, as sun mingled with rain, localised species such as Large Blue, Spotted Fritillary and Woodland Brown added extra spice. 45 species of butterfly recorded by the second half of the month.



Purple-shot Copper

1-2 June.


A good couple of days to kick the month off, both a Wryneck and Common Rosefinch in the garden, plus Common Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers feeding youngsters in nestboxes. Better than the birds, however, plenty of butterflies - the first Heath Fritillaries of the year, the first Purple-shot Coppers, the first Amanda's Blue, all most welcome. Tops though, one Grizzled Skipper, a lone individual on vetch at a roadside stop.





5-6 June. Visitor bags the lot.


Day One.

In darkness, I wait. 1.00 a.m., lights approaching, a vehicle pulls off the road, a rendezvous - Finnish-based birder Mark descends, a weekend’s birding about to begin. Mission, locate the summer specials, primary targets Lesser Spotted Eagle, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Barred Warbler.

Five hours later, to a serenade of Common Redstart, so the day begins. Onto the local patch, soon engulfed by the eons of birds - two a penny Red-backed Shrikes, stunning males and cryptic females, Icterine Warbler cranking up the vocals, Hawfinches flitting over. First port of call, Lake Papis, Black Terns hawking the still waters, Great Reed Warblers in sound competition with Sedge Warblers, an occasional burst of Thrush Nightingale. Just round the corner, Common Rosefinches adding their explosive songs, a couple of Little Ringed Plovers quietly picking their way along a pool’s edge. More birds, a Black Redstart on the track, Whinchats by the dozen, the first Marsh Harriers of the day, a distant Bittern booming.

HoopoeI however had suggestions to get moving, for a Barred Warbler to figure on the day’s menu, the early hours could be crucial. Off we bumped, down an atrocious track, my car suffering its usual mistreatment, Mark more impressed by the heaps of dragonflies rising, constant clouds of them disturbed by our passing - Scarce and Four-spot Chasers predominating, Northern White-faced Darters also abundant, several others in numbers. En route, bowing its head in song, our first Hoopoe of the day, plus an equally vocal Wryneck, both good birds to get things going. Arrived at my chosen patch of bushes, clambered out of the car. Golden Orioles in song in front and behind, Red-backed Shrikes adorning the top on the bush. Glorious sun climbing, casting off the morning chills, then a flit of a bird. Up out of the top of the bush, a song flight, then flutter down to the next bush, male Barred Warbler, super. Glaring yellow eye, shrike-barring, a well-marked stunner, the first target bird of the day to fall. A good ten minutes with this bird, the female also creeping about, then onward we wandered.


Lesser Spotted Eagle




At risk of bogging the car, we abandoned it to take a stroll - most pleasant, hawking Black Terns suggesting the location of this year’s colony, plus the first butterflies of the day on the wing - a Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and a tatty Amanda’s Blue. T’was now 10 a.m. however, time for raptors to begin their soaring ways, target number two on the cards. Much scanning of the skies - several Common Buzzard on the wing, an occasional Marsh Harrier, one distant Osprey, then fantastic displays by a Hobby, revelling in the hordes of dragonflies. Drove a few kilometres to the fish pools, Whooper Swans trailing cygnets, Common Rosefinches singing from wires, then the shout - Lesser Spotted Eagle distant. A short dash by car, then above, cracking views of a pair in courtship, butterfly display and dive, soaring up then repeated, rituals of spring, a joy to one certain observer below. Hobby number two tries to distract, fails miserably, the Lesser Spotted Eagle responding by appearing even closer overhead. A few photographs, then off to meadows yonder the eagles stray, show over. Further wanders added Penduline Tit.






Maybe coffee time? A rather sly suggestion, as I knew the most direct route to the only café nearby would take me straight through my butterfly haunts. It might take a while to get there, I hinted. And it did, an extended pause for an unexpected Red-throated Diver that circled overhead, then numerous stops for assorted butterflies - neither the abundance nor variety that will grace the area in July, but for season starters, the offerings were good - an early Black-veined White, plenty of both Small Pearl-bordered and Heath Fritillaries, a couple of Large Skippers, but the best of the morning so far came courtesy of Mark - shuffling over, showing a little green thing on his camera screen, ‘what’s this?’ he asks. Er, responds I, where was that? A moment later, we are at the spot - not one, but two Green Hairstreaks, a most delicate butterfly, not very abundant and by no means a species I see every day.

Black HairstreakEventually made the café, sat outside, second serenading Common Redstart of the day, plus a Spotted Flycatcher swooping from pines. Had the munchies as dictated, then headed off for afternoon adventures. Fifteen minutes later, piled out of the car for another Lesser Spotted Eagle, the stop also producing views of a Marsh Warbler and, just up the road, a Great Grey Shrike and few White Storks behind tractors. My destination though was the meadows end, another of my favourite butterfly sites. And impressive it was, not only a Queen of Spain Fritillary and a Northern Chequered Skipper, neither in my expectations for this day, but also one fabulous Black Hairstreak, only the second I have ever found, a real highlight for me. Mark clicking away too, this butterfly lark most contagious! Overhead, another Lesser Spotted Eagle, in bushes nearby another Barred Warbler, views rather more brief than in the morning. A Corncrake gave a short burst of call, Red Fox and Hoopoe trotted down tracks.

Mountain Hare


Now late afternoon, the call of Ropejos forest called. A half hour drive, up sandy tracks, into restricted military lands, then onto open heaths. A former Soviet military training base, the sands are a mosaic of shell craters, gaping dunes and regenerating heath, i.e. the little desert of Lithuania, perfect home to a few restricted range species, one being Tawny Pipit, others including Wolf, Smooth Snake and Nightjar. Tawny Pipit was the quarry, off we went, following a long of low dunes, stepping around old ammunition, then twenty minutes later spotting our first bird, a Tawny Pipit plodding along the sand, another success. Cutting back to the car, up flushed two Black Grouse, both males, then the discovery of another Tawny Pipit, this one in aerial display for long periods. Day nearing its end, I then decided to take a ‘new route‘ back, branching off onto a track I have never explored. Had absolutely no idea where I was going and my mobile phone welcomed me to Belarus (!), but the route was simply excellent, the remainder of the day one little surprise after another - via many kilometres of forest track, first a Grey-headed Woodpecker (only the second I have seen in this area), then two Green Woodpeckers a couple of kilometres apart (the first I have seen here), then two drumming White-backed Woodpeckers (also the first in this area). The latter birds, choosing a swampy stream to inhabit, gave Mark plenty of opportunity for close encounters with mosquitoes. Then a real bonus - seven Mountain Hares galloping through the forest, a species I have not seen in Lithuania for many a year.


Just as I pondered the possibility of being lost, out from the forest we emerged - 25 kilometres or more of sandy tracks over, soon reoriented, back to Vilnius we went, the last treat of the day a singing River Warbler. White Storks were already asleep atop nests, we had been in the field for 16 hours, pizza in Vilnius beckoned.


Lake Papis



Day Two

After the bumper harvest of the day before, I thought it only natural to inflict a little pain upon my visiting birder buddy. Over morning tea in my garden, Pied Flycatchers, Tree Sparrows and Nuthatches all on offer, plus the regular Common Redstart and a distant booming Bittern, off we went to Labanoras, home to my land and the last key species on Mark’s ’most wanted’.

White StorkUpon my feeders, breeding in the swamps beyond, my little slab of land is a little oasis for woodpeckers, a total of land is woodpeckers - eight species recorded, all but one breeding. And of those, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, the object of Mark’s desire, is the second most abundant. However, Mark's visit coincided with the probably the worst week of the entire year to find the blighters - luxuriant vegetation concealing quiet adults and a million mosquitoes to keep you company. All started well, a Black Kite sitting in the meadow, White Storks on nests all around. Into the forest we went, Pied Flycatchers at their nestboxes, a pair of Long-tailed Tits with youngsters, plenty of Common and Pool Frogs hopping about. Walked my trail, the ‘easy’ way to see the target bird. Naturally we didn’t see it…but I was celebrating, five years of walking my forest, a certain large beastie was still eluding me - I see their tracks and droppings almost daily, heard them crashing off into the swamplands on several occasions, but today was finally the red letter day, the animal was to appear in the flesh. Just as we rounded a corner, admiring a Beaver lodge to our right, one mother Elk and a calf emerged from hazel thickets, startled by our arrival out they went, splashing into the water and wading of through the trees. I was happy, but there was a certain target bird to still think about!

The next section of forest was a semi-submerged wild area where no paths exist. The hike began, a Common Crane winged over, one Marsh Harrier too, but soon we were in the depths of the woodland, battling thickets, avoiding water and despairing at the quadrillion mosquitoes that seemed delighted at our arrival. A good hour of this, balancing on sodden logs to cross dark waters, bashing through yet more unforgiving terrain. We saw almost no birds - a few Pied Flycatchers, several Wood Warblers, one or two common added extras.


Middle Spotted Woodpecker



Eventually, I had to admit - Mark was going to be the first person in history to dip on Middle Spotted Woodpecker on my land. We retired to the haven of meadows, the mossies never venturing there. A few butterflies about - Amanda’s Blue and Purple-shot Copper - but taking the day’s prize for the cuteness, even better was a Roe Deer fawn that we stumbled upon - concealed in deep grass, we actually almost trod on it, seeing it only as I was above it!




It was now decision time, in just a few hours till Mark needed to be at an airport. We could accept defeat or try an alternative woodpecker locality. I suggested a short rest in my cabin overlooking the feeders, down we walked. Stop! Male Middle Spotted Woodpecker on the feeders!!! And there he was, a right stunner on the closest feeder, probably smirking at endeavours Mark had endured in the previous hours trying to grab a glimpse. We admired, Goldeneyes with young on the water behind, assorted singing birds the backdrop.

It was time to leave, a Wryneck popped up and sang, we went to the airport.



12 June. Butterfly Bonanza.

Glanville FritillaryA week after finding my second-ever Black Hairstreak, I stumbled upon a small colony of them today - at one of my favourite butterfly haunts, at least four sunning on bushes at a woodland edge, a most welcome addition. Not just Black Hairstreaks on this day either - a splendid mix of 25 species, the best tally of the year so far, many new butterflies emerging in pristine condition. Amongst numerous Heath and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, soon found a few Queen of Spain Fritillaries, then a fly-by Silver-washed Fritillary, followed by highlight of the day, one Glanville Fritillary, my first at this locality. Adding yet more quality, four Lesser Marbled Fritillaries, several Red Admirals and, among the smaller species, Large Skippers in abundance, a Green Hairstreak, a few Large Chequered Skippers and the first Common Blue of the year, along with the first Pearly Heaths. On the edge of forest nearby, a Moorland Clouded Yellow appeared, also two Black-veined Whites.

Roll-on the rest of the summer, the 2010 butterfly season has started off most excellent, 34 species already seen.

Next day however saw a dip in temperatures - no butterflies on the wing! Still, one Wryneck at the nest in Labanoras and both Golden Orioles and Icterine Warblers singing adjacent to the Vilnius garden.



The days ticked by, a quick trip to Poland scoring a triumphant success, one that I awaited many years for, more of this later.


17-19 June. Dodgy Weather, Butterflies in between.

Some damned horrible weather, persistent rain dampening efforts to search for butterflies. In between the days of rain however, some not bad spells - relative warmth, good sun and plenty of butterflies making their first appearances of the year.

Woodland BrownAt a locality near Vilnius, found the previous year, Woodland Browns reappeared for the second consecutive season, a good showing of this restricted range species - at least six on the paths and shrubbery edge. Also six White Admirals, several Small Heaths and a Pearly Heath. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the city, a wander across abandoned meadows notched up yet more species - both Amanda's and Mazarine Blue, early Meadow Browns, my first Large Copper of the year, along with Ringlets, Small Heaths, the first Chestnut Heath and a usual collection of added extras, including Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, Small Tortoiseshells and Large Chequered Skippers. A faded Painted Lady, the second in a week, was unusual, this species usually occurring much later in the season.

The butterfly highlights of the week all waited till the 19th however - following a whole day of rain on the 18th, a sunny morning tempted me to the south of the country, focussing on the woodlands near the Belarussian border. Still early in the season, but a fine array of species already present, albeit in mostly low numbers. Top joys of the day were the emergence of both Spotted Fritillary and Large Blue, both butterflies that are rather localised. A good supporting cast too, including Heath, Small Pearl-bordered and High Brown Fritillaries, my first Scarce Copper of the season, plus Amanda's Blue, Small Tortoiseshell Ringlet, Small Heath, Large Chequered Skipper and Large Skipper. Unfortunately, soon after midday, all clouded over, end of the butterfly action.

One non-butterfly highlight to mention - a female Elk trotting off through the forest with a young calf, very nice. Also one Brown Hare, plus a few birds to note in the period - Woodlarks, several Little Terns and a Whiskered Tern about the best of the offerings.


Plastic Fantastic, on a pool near here...



24 June. New Species, Return of a Species.

Double goodies up on my land at Labanoras - yet another gloomy cloud-laden day, but a red-letter affair nonetheless. Almost eight months since they mysteriously vanished, Nuthatches are back! A brief glimpse of one a week earlier, but today back on the feeders, two in constant attendance, a most welcome returnee! And in the understory adjacent, a small phylloscopus flitting about - Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs both common, Wood Warblers too, but one quick glance at this fellow and it was immediately clear, my land had just notched up its 148th species - one smart Greenish Warbler.

Also of note, a Marsh Harrier over the raptor point, a Montagu's Harrier nearby. Wrynecks continue to call in the regeneration, a Short-tailed Field Vole made home under my new critter boards


Last Updated ( Thursday, 24 June 2010 )
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