Thursday, 20 September 2018

The land of the dinosaurs


The image above was taken from a hill to the west of Charmouth, looking eastwards along the Dorset coast. The highest point is Golden Cap, with the distant cliffs beyond that being east of West Bay. You can walk this stretch of coastline on a footpath that, give and take the odd cliff slump, allows you to tip-toe along the edge of hair-raising precipices and stunning scenery. For the birder it is an overload of senses. On the one hand you marvel at the habitat set before you - miles and miles of hedgerows, cliff top scrub, meadows untouched by fertilisers, small pools and streams - but on the other hand there is so much of it (and it extends way inland) that coverage cannot be anything other than poor. A team of a thousand birders working together would just scratch the surface, so the handful of locals that are present have a hard task of it. My short stay was exhilarating and frustrating in equal measure, there being so much promise which is made hard by a testing landscape. There is, to be frank, too much habitat!

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Sort of sea-watching

Charmouth could not be any more tucked into Lyme Bay. It's not the sort of place that anybody would pick as a place to sea watch from - you can see Portland Bill to your left and a number of Devon headlands off to your right. Maybe the best time to scan seawards is during stormy weather, when the odd bird may seek shelter. It was debatable as to if today could claim to be 'stormy', more like 'windy', but the optimist in me thought it was worth a go. The result was so-so, with 98 Gannet and 3 Fulmar west. On the beach, a first-winter Common Tern and two Mediterranean Gull (adult and 2nd winter) brightened up what was fast becoming a dreary day. This afternoon I wandered Stonebarrow Hill and the slopes barely seeing a bird. I saw nor heard a warbler all day...

A low moth trap total did include this Clancy's Rustic, named after my old mate Sean.

Monday, 17 September 2018

A wild egret chase


Even in the sleepy backwater that is Charmouth it is still possible to be gripped off. I was watching a Dipper (above) in nearby Lyme Regis when Richard Phillips kindly texted me (while on his way to Tresco) to inform me that there was a Cattle Egret in Charmouth. I may have only been down here for two days but now (ridiculously) think of myself as a local - I was gripped off! I had walked to Lyme so faced a lengthy journey back along the not easy to traverse beach. To cut a long story short I duly arrived at the Egrets last reported site (a field with cattle as to be expected) but of the bird there was no sign, although three Yellow Wagtails dodging the hooves were some compensation


But fear not! My new found local knowledge had me walking up Old Lyme Hill to gain a panoramic view across the surrounding farmland, and BINGO, there it was, strutting its stuff some half-mile further east. I wonder if it will gather some mates?

The garden MV supplied me with a Box Moth (they really are spreading) and two L-album Wainscot (above)

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Getting to know you

Part of the joy of getting to know an unfamiliar patch is stumbling across areas that look promising. This evening I found myself wandering across a farmland footpath that took me up to the top of the under cliff to the east of the golf course. The rough grassy area had it all - isolated trees, low hedgerow, patches of scrub - with the added bonus of elevation and almost 360 degree views. A place to return to. I also found a number of spots to the east of Charmouth, at the top of the under cliff, where hedge lines and streams meet before seeping over the edge. In each place were birds, with a small pool acting as a bathing place. Again, places to return to.

It wasn't heaving today, but persistence payed off to a point, with Sparrowhawk, Hobby, Peregrine, Swallow (50), House Martin (30), Stonechat (5), Whitethroat (2), Blackcap (2), Chiffchaff (13), Raven (3). A grassy cliff top held at least 50 Autumn Lady's Tresses (pictured).

It is hard to complain about the lack of birds when walking amongst such an arresting landscape. The birds are there, it's just a case of looking. For me, it beats following the crowds to the latest rarity or proven hot-spot.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

And now for something completely different

Charmouth, in west Dorset, is most probably best known as a site for geology - cliff slumps, fossils and part of the World Heritage Jurrasic Coast. It is not, however, considered to be a birding hotspot, although local birder's, such as Richard Phillips, have found such goodies as Pallid Harrier, Glossy Ibis, White Stork and Yellow-browed Warbler in the past couple of years. I have been an infrequent visitor here during family holidays, and have always longed after spending a bit of 'proper' birding time on the cliff-tops, river valley and coastal scrub - well now I am.



A brief wander during the middle of the day revealed a few migrants, such as a Spotted Flycatcher, 10 Blackcap and 2 Chiffchaff. A Cetti's Warbler was most probably a resident. A modest start, but why use up all your luck on day one? Mad gamble or inspired choice? The next week (or two) will tell.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Of Fuz-clackers and Willy Wickets

Looking through Bucknill's 'The Birds of Surrey' you are obviously transported back in time - the book is now 118 years old. What is most striking comparing it to a modern day county avifauna is that the Victorians just didn't count the birds that they came across - no flock sizes, no estimation of visible migration, just vague statements - 'large numbers', 'many', 'an increase' - all a bit frustrating, and little to be able to compare with today's data.

At the back of the book is a charming table called 'Glossary of local names' which lists at least 150 alternative names given to birds by the folk of southern England back in Victorian times, and these are a few of my favourites...

Blue-felt (Fieldfare)
Chattermag (Magpie)
Cherry-chopper (Garden Warbler)
Clod-bunting (Corn Bunting)
Cricket-chirper (Grasshopper Warbler)
Cuckoo's Mate (Wryneck)
Deviling (Barn Owl)
Ditchwatcher (Pied Wagtail)
Emmett (Wryneck)
Fallow-chat (Wheatear)
Fern-owl (Nightjar)
Fire-eyed Chat (Dartford Warbler)
French Pie (Great Spotted Woodpecker)
Fuz-clacker (Stonechat)
Heather-bleater (Common Snipe)
Hedge-poker (Dunnock)
Juggler (Garden Warbler)
Mudstopper (Nuthatch)
Nettle-creeper (Whitethroat)
Shufflewing (Dunnock)
Spink (Chaffinch)
Willey Wicket (Common Sandpiper)
Woodhacker (Nuthatch)
Yaffle (Green Woodpecker)

Some of these are terribly descriptive and sum up the character of the species in one or two words. The 'country folk' back then really observed the birds around them. And what is obvious is that, because of how common some of these birds must have been, alternative names came into being - indeed, in the case of the Red-backed Shrike it was so much apart of the 'summer scene' that it garnered several - Butcher-bird, Butcher-boy, Common Flusher, Flusher-shrike, Horse-match and Jack-baker. The same is true of the Wryneck. Imagine being so familiar with a bird, and so much in touch with nature, that a species could gather so many alternative names. And now? Most people couldn't tell you a Wren from a Rook. And they certainly wouldn't be able to walk down the lane and see a Butcher-bird in the hedgerow...

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

45 minutes

My failed attempt at the 'Nonsuch Park' Barn Owl was not just a question on timing - I had taken up position in the wrong place! Armed with new, and correct, information (thanks Jack), I spent a wonderful 45 minutes this evening with a suite of notable birds as the light slowly died. At 19.45hrs the first Barn Owl appeared, hunting over rank grassland, oblivious to the remaining joggers. It was soon joined by another, 100m further north, that patrolled a wide swathe of oatmeal-coloured grass. After 20 minutes they joined forces but soon disappeared into the hinterland of this large park. They were accompanied throughout by the calling of at least four Tawny Owls.

When I first arrived a low-flying Hobby was hunting, but unlike my previous visit the number of insects on the wing were low, no doubt due to the chillier air. I was surprised to see a Little Egret in the dusk, heading purposefully southwards. A magical evening's birding.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Five minutes


The light is fading and the warmth of the day is still with us. I'm in Nonsuch Park at the south-western edge of what is Greater London, a park that once housed King Henry VIII's palace, built in honour of Anne Boleyn. Like the nearby green oases of Richmond and Bushy Park, it is a large area of wild grassland, copses and standard trees. For the birder, a little bit of time spent on site is rewarding - which is why, as dusk is gathering, I am stood scanning the not unattractive scene before me for a Barn Owl, which has been delighting local birders. I feel self-conscious, a lone man lurking at the shadowy edges of a copse as the late dog-walkers and joggers pass me by.

A Hobby flies into view, close enough to take in all its colours even though colour has largely bled from the day. It is still hunting, and I watch spell bound as it catches moths, some quite sizeable individuals, devouring them on the wing. At 19.50hrs, in almost dark, it decides to head off to roost. And at 20.10hrs, owl-less, so do I.

This morning I received a tweet from Jack Barnes. He too saw the Hobby. And also the Barn Owl, which appeared at 20.15hrs...

Sunday, 9 September 2018

"Should I give up birding"

A young birder, who I do not know, recently sent out a short tweet along the lines of "Should I give up birding?" The reasons for this distress signal are not known, so it would not be wise to judge it without knowing those reasons. There were several responding tweets, ranging from the "No, don't do it!" brigade down to the "Well, if you are suggesting doing it, then why not do it" camp. I was stuck somewhere in the middle, pointing out that birding does not need to have an 'on' and 'off' switch and that it was perfectly OK to pause for a while. It got me thinking...

There does seem to be an assumption, among many active birders, that to stop birding - whether it be for five minutes, five hours or even five years is a bad thing. An act of treason even. Birding, they say, is an internal state of being for the serious birder and anybody that phases out, even for a short time, is not the real deal. There can be peer pressure to remain birding as much as somebody might be experiencing peer pressure to stop. Most 'phasing' birders who then return into the arena will often bemoan the rarities that they did not see during their exile. So it wasn't the birding that they missed so much as the missing rarities, and a blind adherence to the list.

But why phase in the first place?

Girlfriends. Boyfriends. Getting married. A career. Lack of spare time. A genuine loss of enthusiasm for the subject. And on the latter, who hasn't trudged around seeing very little only to be cheesed off by the ornithological haul attained elsewhere - it is sometimes enough to question why you do it. But then that question isn't so much about birding rather than rarity or number. Birding is as much about a back garden Dunnock as it is a Wryneck on top of a coastal gorse bush.

I have never phased, although there have been many times when I've gone out primarily to botanise, or look for butterflies and moths. Birding has taken a back seat. When I have stayed at bird observatories or gone on birding holidays abroad I will take a day out  - I'll read, sleep, have a drink, just generally chill out and reset the ornithological button. I couldn't watch football or listen to music for a solid week so why should birding be any different. To some, that is anathema. Bird, bird, bird until you drop is their mantra. Well, in my book, that exposes a dull individual.

So, back to the original question. "Should I give up birding?" Maybe the most sensible answer is yes. Do something else. Buy a metal detector. Follow a football team for a season. Read the entire works of Charles Dickens. Learn French. Get on a bike and cycle across the countryside. Bake cakes. Visit art galleries and museums. Get pissed. And then, in a few months time, take a check - do you miss birding? If you do, you may well want to start up again, but do not let yourself get back into a rut or find yourself taking notice of the naysayers. And if you find that you're not missing it at all, then you made the right choice, didn't you?

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Yet another Hawfinch update


Thanks to some additional information courtesy of fellow Hawfinch enthusiast Hugh Price, I have updated the Surrey Hawfinch Irruption PDF that can be viewed by clicking here.

Also, if you have nothing better to do, why not take a look at my collective blog posts which give the same irruption a personal slant. You can view that by clicking here.

You cannot get enough 'Hawfinch' in my opinion...

Shingle birds


This Great White Egret was taking exception to a small group of Common Terns that were chasing each other and squabbling just above it. Strange to think that not that many years ago this individual would have been the subject of a nationwide twitch.


And talking of 'colonisers' here's another, albeit an earlier adopter of the UK as home. Cetti's Warbler really started its northwards spread back in the 1970s, and, apart from the odd cold-weather set-back, has been expanding further north into the UK ever since. At Dungeness it is now a relatively common and widespread breeding species.


The bird in the middle of this photo is the American sub-species of Black Tern. The dusky flanks and underwing do make it easy to pick out in the company of its European counterparts. This bird was present for over a week on the RSPB reserve.


A modest passage of waders was enjoyed during my weeks stay, with Curlew Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Avocet, Spotted Redshank and Ruff being the stand-outs, although had I seen the brief staying Terek Sandpiper then that would have undoubtably been the highlight. Several Common Sandpipers (above) came close enough to be 'snapped'.


But it is the chats that are my favourites, and none sum up the Dungeness experience better than a Wheatear, here resplendent in the morning light against a backdrop of honeyed shingle.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

A few notable moths

One of the attractions of Dungeness is the chance of coming across uncommon - even rare - migrant and resident moths. If the observatory MV's don't catch them, then one of the outlying traps might well do, and the widely scattered team of moth enthusiasts will kindly advertise such captures. I jammed into a few on my recent stay...


Beautiful Marbled. A screaming rarity until recently, but now recorded annually in the country. During 2018 up to seven have been trapped in the Greater Dungeness area alone, with a cluster of others in Suffolk. James Lowen referred to this individual as "a rose petal, pot pourri." Well put Sir! Stunning.


Orache Moth. Established on the Channel Islands, this striking noctuid still has the ability to create a sharp intake of breath when seen. This specimen came from Barry Banson's Greatstone garden.


Convolvulus Hawk-moth. Big. Striking. A crowd pleaser. Seen from several of the traps placed across the peninsula. Almost to be expected down here in early autumn.


Marsh Mallow Moth. This highly localised resident had eluded me, until Martin Casemore found one in his Lydd garden. Maybe not a looker, more of a purist's moth.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Slender Hare's-ear



After a week at Dungeness I have returned home, with plenty of images and snippets to bore you with. For a starter here is Slender Hare's-ear, a species of coastal salt marsh and grassland. I had long wanted to see it, and although I knew of several locations just hadn't got around to doing so - until this morning. Thanks to the Dungeness boys I was able to stop on the way home, close to the Kent/Sussex border. The directions were so good that I just strolled up to it!

Friday, 31 August 2018

A question of Common Buzzards

Common Buzzard used to be a screaming rarity in the south-east of England. Some time in the late 1980s they started to appear with more frequency, although it was still a good day if you saw one. My first in Surrey and Kent was not recorded until 1995. By the turn of the millennium numbers were definitely on the rise, to the point that it was no longer a surprise when one flew into sight, but they were normally encounters with single birds. Then came the multiple encounters, and the rest, as they say, is history.

At Dungeness, the Common Buzzard story is a similar one of gradual infiltration as a regularly encountered species. It is now a few years since a scan of the horizon - especially from the RSPB reserve towards Lydd - almost guaranteed seeing Common Buzzard. In recent times there has been a new dimension to sky watching here - that of 'raptor days' - primarily on sunny and calm days in April/May and August/September, and the Common Buzzard is a major component of them.

Today saw a rewriting of the record books. There was little sign of any movement until c14.00hrs, but while birding at Galloways, Mark H and I were aware of six Common Buzzards drifting above the shingle in an easterly direction. We soon moved to Springfield Bridge for a better vantage point, to be joined by Sean C. For the next hour a further 31 Common Buzzards moved through, arriving from the NW to N and drifting off between E and SW, after gaining height. We felt that the movement had ended by 15.45hrs. We were wrong. At approx 17.30 Martin C, scanning from his Lydd garden, was able to count 14 in the air together. We also learnt that Barry W, birding at Caldicot Lane during the mid-afternoon, recorded 27 moving through - some of these were almost certainly the same as ours.

These numbers are unprecedented at Dungeness. They leave in their wake a number of questions. Where are they going? What makes them move? Are they 'local' youngsters just exploring? Do some cross the channel or do they head back inland? This is what makes birding fascinating - nothing stays the same and we are always learning, always questioning.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Counting cattle

How can a flock of big white birds be so difficult to count? When Colin T located eight Cattle Egrets in a field close to Boulderwall Farm, the quickly gathering clans, scopes at the ready, attempted to match his count. The egrets chose a roughly vegetated field with plenty of dips and folds which, together with the cattle, provided plenty of hiding places. Eight became nine, soon ten, then finally eleven. Were there any more lurking unseen? Martin C's evening egret roost count numbered six Great and eleven Cattle, so some vindication was had for our final daytime total. 'Our' flock may be 40 short of the recent Devon 'mega count', but it was impressive all the same.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

During (and after) the rain

A steady rainfall from 08.00 - 14.00hrs saw plenty of tea and coffee drinking before us birders scattered to all four corners of Dungeness to see what the precipitation had brought us. I chose a very dry corner courtesy of the RSPB hides. The open water on both Burrowes and ARC were covered with hawking Sand Martins, some 2,000 of them. However, as arresting a sight this undoubtably was, the lack of grounded waders was disappointing.

After the rain came sun, and, back at the observatory came the flycatchers with it. Figures that 30 years ago would have barely raised an eyebrow are now notable - 10+ Pied and 4 Spotted. I spent several hours watching them, along with the ever expanding chat flock in the desert, that comprised 13 Stonechat, 5 Whinchat and a Wheatear.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow

A strange day, with soporific spells interrupted by sudden bursts of 'happening'.

The first occurred at 06.15hrs when a tight flock of  c400 Sand Martins appeared low over the point, slaloming through the bushes as if water flowing around a boulder. They were silent, which matched the calm cotton wool weather.

The second was a mass emergence of flying insects (sorry, I cannot be more specific) that shook up hundreds of gulls into a spot of aerial snacking, to be joined by 1,000+ Starlings, doing their best to mimic feeding hirundines.

And last, but not least, when the sun burned away the stubborn cloud in the early afternoon up to 200 Migrant Hawkers took to the wing, filling the lower trapping area air space with their erratic patrolling.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Feasting on the leftovers

After a three month absence, I'm back on the Dungeness shingle for a stay. For how long? A piece of string comes to mind...

My itinerary on arrival was one that was target specific - RSPB for American Black Tern and observatory fridge for Beautiful Marbled. Both successful. Both worthy in their differing ways. The purist will salivate at the subtle tern and deride the Lepidoptera in the pot. However, my purity is sullied.

What was unadulterated was the splendid loose flock of chats that I spent over an hour with in the desert, with up to eight Stonechat, two Whinchat and a Wheatear. They tolerated me as they moved around a small area of gorse and broom, in the process picking up 3-4 Whitethroats and two Great Tits that adhered themselves to the mobile chats.

As dark fell we wandered out to take in the Mediterranean vibe of the singing Tree Crickets. It's good to be back.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Arable awakening?


Pipit Meadow* is the rather twee name that has been given to a field in the 'greater' Canons Farm area, just north of Ruffett Wood and south of the housing in Holly Lane West. When I first knew of the area some twenty years ago it was a grassy field which was, shortly afterwards, ploughed and planted with crops. And then, maybe two years ago, the field was left alone and allowed to revert back to 'the wild', whatever that means in reality. As can be seen from the picture above, it has a patchy look to it, with bare areas offset by carpets of returning wildflower. Today I took a closer look.

I cannot claim that my 'look' was a thorough one. I spent an hour criss-crossing the field, which is at its highest in the south and drops before flattening out along the northern boundary. The northern half seems to be better for plants, and here the most obvious species is Scarlet Pimpernel, great carpets that must number in millions of flowers. Dotted amongst this are a number of 'arable' species that gives hope that the seed bank is well - Round-leaved Fluellen (below), masses of Black-bindweed, Dwarf Spurge, Sun Spurge, Field Pansy and a few plants of Cornfield Knotgrass. This latter species is not a common plant in my limited experience, but I've seen it already this year nearby at Langley Vale. Also recorded today were Redshank and Tomato. I'm hoping that local expert-botanist John Peacock may have some insight as to the flora that used to be recorded here. I will certainly be returning for another look in the hope that more hidden treasures will decide to pop up.

* A much better name would be Woodlark Meadow, as it was here that I found a flock of three feeding one October afternoon several years ago.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Multi-tasking


This afternoon's visit to Canons Farm was made with birds firmly in mind. We are now into late August, the time for chats, warblers and hirundines to build in numbers as they pass through on their way southwards. Southern coastal watch-points are doing OK as it goes, and as much as the inland birder does not set their sights as high as 'our friends by the sea', it is fair enough for us to hope for a few ornithological crumbs to come our way.

After a couple of hours of tramping around the patch, I was deflated. The hedgerows and copses were empty. No calling warblers and no proudly perched chats. To save the day I needed to take off my ornithological hat and replace it with my botanical one. The new destination was the steep field to the east of Fames Rough, where a rather fine colony of Devil's-bit Scabious can be found. Was it having a good year? Oh yes! Tens of thousands of flowerhead were blooming - and this is a scarce plant locally. Take a look for yourself:





I walked back across Canons Farm buoyed by such a sight - I do like a mass flower! And seeing that in my beatific state the lack of passage migrants was all but forgotten, of course one decided to pop up, a lone Whinchat in Poultry Field (top). It kept its distance but was savoured all the same.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The sativa set


To complete the photographic record of the three sub-species of Medicago sativa, I returned to Epsom Downs to take pictures of Lucerne (M sativa ssp sativa). The mauve to purple flowers are an indicator, but the twisted fruits (2-3 spirals) are a giveaway. I'd better find a new subject to post about - these flowers are becoming the new Hawfinch!!



Tuesday, 21 August 2018

An instructive clump of Medicago



Yesterday afternoon's visit to the clump of Sickle Medick on Epsom Downs started an interesting online debate. I had posted photographs of the plant(s) on the Surrey Botanical Society Facebook group which elicited responses from several botanists, including Ian Kitching who suggested that the plants could be, in fact, yellow-flowered Sand Lucerne. He then added that there might well be Sickle Medick also present, having had a look through my images of the flowers and fruits. The simple truth is that I had not been a thorough enough botanist, and checking the photographs again it was obvious that a larger plant, with a much different jizz, was present. I needed to go back... and did so this morning, delighted to find both Brian and Linda Pitkin already present. They too had been inspired to get to the bottom of this Medicago conundrum.

The bottom line is that there ARE two sub-species present - both Sickle Medick (M sativa ssp falcata) with yellow flowers and fruits that are nearly straight to curved in an arc - and Sand Lucerne (M sativa ssp varia) with flowers that can appear multi-coloured and fruits that can curve and spiral with 0.5 to 1.5 turns. As Brian mentioned to me, there can be some overlap, although the Epsom Downs plants were straightforward once you got your eye in. The varia was a larger, more straggly plant, with the falcata more ground-hugging, although whether this is a reliable feature I do not know. The images above clearly show that the same plant can exhibit different coloured flowers, with deep purple, yellow and green petals all on show. Yesterday's post showed this species (varia) old, dried fruits, and below are some fresher examples. And yesterday's images of the fresh fruits of falcata can now be joined by drier, older examples (bottom)



It has been an interesting exercise. I now feel a lot more confident with being able to differentiate between these sub-species, and it is pleasing to know that all three - the other being Lucerne (M sativa ssp sativa) -  can be found on Epsom Downs.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Sickle Medick? er, maybe not... but then again...


Sickle Medick (Medicago sativa ssp falcata) is a sub-species of the sativa family (the other two being Lucerne and Sand Medick). It is supposedly a native of East Anglia and can sparingly be found in a naturalised state in the south-east of England. This afternoon, after learning about a clump on nearby Epsom Downs, I went and took a look. As you can see from the image above, it is very close to the main grandstands - and, from the image below, also very close to the road!


The colour of the flowers help to differentiate this species from Lucerne (which are purple). Sand Lucerne also can exhibit yellow flowers, but can also show a bewildering palette, including a dense blue that is almost black! It is then that you need to check the fruits: on Sickle Medick they are curved (below) rather than spiralled. I have since been informed by a far more experienced and knowledgable botanist than I that this is, in fact, Sand Lucerne (varia). And now the suggestion is that Sickle Medick (falcata) is present too.



There is quite a bit of Lucerne elsewhere on Epsom Downs, but this is the first time that I have seen Sand Lucerne and Sickle Medick in Surrey. I have passed the site many times and have obviously overlooked it. The area has a recent history of soil disturbance, so no doubt the plant came in via a works vehicle while tarmac was being laid or fencing erected.


Sunday, 19 August 2018

It's all about the hunt

I was recently watching the comedian Stewart Lee on TV. He talked about his love of music and how, when touring the country, he used to visit the local record shops in the hope of tracking down the albums that populated his 'most wanted' list. After twenty years of this devotional persuit he still had many gaps on that list, and each time he unearthed one it was a delicious victory. He left the shop clutching the newly possessed vinyl with a sense of pride and achievement. Then along came the Internet and within 24 hours he had bought all of his 'missing' albums. Their ownership was hollow. The joy of the hunt had gone.

I can identify with that. As much as instant gratification is bestowed upon you the anticipation and, at times, lengthy wait to possess whatever it is that you have been persuing, is missing. Our hunter gatherer urges have once again been cauterised. Take this object of desire:


I have been scouring all the second-hand book shops that I come across, and have done so over the past six months, from Edinburgh to London to Brighton. I know that it is rare and that my chances of finding one are slender, but the hunt is half the fun. I could go online tonight and buy one (£100-200 for a good conditioned original) or order a modern reprint for £65. But where would the fun be in that? No, instead I will enter each and every ramshackle, dusty and musty book dealers that I come across, seek out the natural history section and - while holding my breath - find the New Naturalist shelf. There usually is one. When the day comes and a copy is there - well, it will be an itch that has finally been scratched. I might even get it for a good price as well.

I could draw an analogy here to patch-watching and twitching, but that would be too predictable, wouldn't it...

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.