Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Local moths for non-local people

Most lepidopterists that visit Dungeness have one specific target species in mind and that is Sussex Emerald. It is only known as a resident from here, although the odd wanderer is recorded nearby. The foodplant, Wild Carrot, is not an uncommon plant, so why the species cannot spread from this tiny foothold in England is, to me, a bit of a mystery. There are two local MV traps that will produce this moth in late June and July - the one at the bird observatory and the other in Dorothy Beck's garden. Between them they will record over 100 individuals in a good year. This year has been characterised by a late and small emergence. I saw four at the observatory and seven (including the individual pictured above) at Dorothy's.

One of my favourite moths at Dungeness is White Spot, whose larval foodplant is Nottingham Catchfly, which goes some way to explain why this species is local. The flight period was just coming to its end when I arrived at the very end of June.

There can be fewer more attractive pyralids than Cynaeda dentalis (above). It is another moth of local distribution and feeds on Viper's Bugloss, as does Ethmia bipunctella (below).

There are plenty more 'Dungeness specialities' to whet the moth hunter - a few more will follow in the next post...

Monday, 30 July 2012

They think it's all over - it is now


After 29 days of self-indulgent shingle bashing I have returned to family and home. My wife hadn't changed the locks, my daughters seemed to remember who I was and the dog certainly recalled that it is me who repeatedly throws her ball up the garden for her to fetch. There was so little post waiting for me that it made me feel irrelevant... no time for a leisurely merge back into normailty however as it was off to the slopes of Box Hill to roar on the Olympic road race cyclists.

Back on June 29th I arrived at the not unattractive building (pictured above) that houses Dungeness Bird Observatory. It has undergone extensive refurbishment so now has a modern kitchen, new flooring, a comfy lounge that boasts a fine wall-mounted flat-screen TV, and a cleanliness that is not what one used to associate with observatories. It costs just £10 a night to stay, this reducing to £7 if you are a member. For a budget break it comes highly recommended.

I was resident for exactly one month. I had a brilliant time. I had no expectations other than to selfishly relax and enjoy the varied wildlife on offer. I was lucky in that the wet spring and early summer had conspired to produce a late and lush flowering - for more detail on this see a later post. The stubborn position of the jet stream meant three weeks of south-westerlies (although Dungeness was mainly warm and sunny as the rain bands swept past us only a matter of miles to the north) and then a late shift that saw a mini heat wave for the last week. Insect migration was not a feature, although a few did get through, the identity of these will be revealed in a later post. The resident goodies all performed, particularly the moths! Again, good fuel for future posts.

I didn't really chase the pan-species list. In fact I came to the conclusion that it is counter-productive to do so. Interest in my core groups was reignited, particularly moths, so my time was (and is) better spent on these. That doesn't mean to say any interesting looking invertebrate will be ignored - it won't!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Almost over

My month at Dungeness is almost complete. I have gathered a wealth of memories thanks to the people I have met (including many old friends), the wildlife on show and the special place that this shingle peninsula is to me. So, if you can be bothered to wait a few more days I can promise you umpteen posts on a variety of subjects that may just last for a further month or more. Enjoy the sunshine!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Shingle minded

It's been a while since I posted. The reason being, my mid-life crisis - a cry for help, call it what you will. Back in february I fancied taking the whole of July off and 'doing' natural history. My boss - aka my wife - said yes, (how Katrina puts up with me I don't know) so selecting anywhere in the world to go I settled on... Dungeness! I know, I could be watching hummingbirds in the Amazon or gorillas in Rwanda, but instead I have elected to stay on the shingle of my youth. So far, a week in, it has been a good choice. Cheap accommodation and marvellous weather while everyone else seems to be getting wet.

Because of the wet spring and even wetter early summer the shingle has flowered like never before. There are literally millions of blooms colouring the peninsula, like a grand desert extravaganza. Nottingham Catchfly, a local species, is abundant. Sheep's-bit is strewn across the pebbles. Viper's-bugloss is vibrant. I have managed to photograph quite a few new species for my 'photo list', including Yellow Vetch, Small-flowered Catchfly and Sand Catchfly.

It has not been conducive for big catches of migrant moths - or small catches of migrant moths for that matter - but I have still seen Langmaid's Yellow Underwing and Evergestis limbata, although both are considered colonisers here.

My pan listing is rumbling along, although I am acting laid back and have decided not to chase everything. And if I'm being honest not feeling nearly competent enough to start calling the lichens, mosses, beetles etc that have come my way. I've taken pictues of bugs that will be looked at several weeks from now. Internet connection is slow, so no images I'm afraid. They will appear later. Much later.

By the way, Dungeness Bird Observatory has had a major upgrade, with a new kitchen, flooring and a wall-mounted f-off TV. It helps while away the down-time...