Friday, 17 August 2018

More arable plant porn

This afternoon's visit to Langley Bottom/Vale Farm was enlivened by a fine show of arable flora, including a profusion of blue-flowered Scarlet Pimpernel, masses of Small Toadflax and both Sharp-leaved and Round-leaved Fluellen, up to a dozen Ground Pine plants and some 'well over' Common Cudweed (first image). Marvellous stuff!

Ground Pine - up to a dozen plants are huddled in a corner of a field at Langley Bottom Farm this year. This species is doing really badly elsewhere.

Scarlet Pimpernel of the blue-flowered form. There are fewer plants that stir the blood so much. The third photograph shows some Small Toadflax on the right hand side.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Maiden's 'Blotch'

This morning's garden MV haul was small and one of little variety, but every catch is different and something of note is usually involved - such as this well-marked Maiden's Blush (above) with extensive dark blotching along the outer edge of the fore-wing. A 'normal' individual is shown below.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Not just honey on my toast

A lazy, yawning start to the day, with a large mug of tea and toast with honey. About two hours later than planned I arrived on Epsom Downs, took up an elevated position overlooking the southern woods and farmland, and started scanning. After half an hour it was obvious that there wasn't much doing, with a band of c10 Swallows hawking up and down the valley and just the odd Chiffchaff and Blackcap breaking cover or calling from the nearby scrub. Then at 10.00hrs a large raptor came into view and was at once identifiable as a Honey-buzzard. The light was against me so I could not attempt to age it even though it was relatively close and low. It slowly carried on southwards and out of view. A fine cameo performance. Afterwards there were 6 Common Buzzards, a Kestrel and a Hobby putting on an air show, but nothing to usurp our earlier guest. I have been fortunate in recording Honey-buzzards several times within the uber patch, not the result of great birding but testament to the fact that if you spend a lot of time outdoors and looking up such birds will surely come your way. Here they all are - those in the autumn of 2000 were part of the unprecedented national influx:

2000   Nork, Banstead
             An immature south on 22 September
             Epsom Downs
             Four, circling on 30 September
2008   Nork, Banstead
             A single moving WSW on 19 September
2012   Canons Farm, Banstead
             An adult low then circling SE on 25 August
2016   Nork, Banstead
             A juvenile low then SE on 22 August
2018   Epsom Downs
             A single low S on 15 August

Monday, 13 August 2018

Getting better

Since my return from Cornwall I've been a lost soul. The Surrey downs are just not hacking it for birding (they only ever do in short, sharp shocks). My time spent at Canons Farm and Priest Hill has been time wasted, so this afternoon I took myself off to Epsom and Walton Downs and - hey presto - things seem an awful lot better.

The birding wasn't exactly a match for Spurn and Fair Isle, but there was enough (at a local level) to feel vindicated, with a Hobby, 2 Red Kite, a covey of eight Red-legged Partridge and a handful of Chiffchaffs. This area has potential, but there again I say that about almost everywhere.

Non avian highlights were a robust, healthy plant of Red Hemp-nettle on Langley Bottom Farm (above), a Hornet dwarfing a bog-standard wasp on a fallen apple (below) and the magnificent stand of Blue Globe-thistle that was full of butterflies, including a few Holly Blue (bottom).

Friday, 10 August 2018

Gone but not forgotten

If you thought that I would have ceased to bang on about Hawfinches (now that the irruption is but a dim and distant memory), think again. I miss them. I miss them a lot. As any regular visitor to this blog will know, I wrote quite a bit about them. They became, for a number of weeks, my focus. So, as a way of reliving the event I've collated those posts together, edited them and can offer, to those of you who are not already sick and tired of Hawfinches, a PDF to download. Join me once again and immerse yourself in those wonderful days when they were the commonest species on 'my' North Downs slopes.

Just click here!

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Coming to a fence near you

This morning I was cutting back a Laurel bush in the back garden and kept disturbing Jersey Tiger moths, no doubt roosting up after having been summoned by the MV moth trap last night. A few settled on a nearby fence. After singles on August 17 2012 and August 1 2013, it has became a regular visitor to the MV, peaking at six on August 13 2015 and then, this year, it has all gone 'gangbusters'. The past three nights have yielded totals of 27, 27 and 30. If you don't get them yet, you soon will! 

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Final heatwave offerings?

The garden MV is always interesting during hot weather. In such times moths that are not resident in the area will often turn up in the garden, and last night's representative offering was the wetland-haunting Gold Spot. A smart species (above).

Cydia amplana (above) may not be as showy, but I was very pleased to find one in the MV alongside the Gold Spot. It is a migrant (and maybe breeding in England now) but regardless of status was my first anywhere. With the heatwave about to break the hope of further wanderers will, in all likelihood, be reduced.