Saturday, 19 June 2021

Sigma men

Are you a Sigma male? This relatively new 'character type' has been put forward by Ric (see comments section for last post) as an explanation as to why I (and people like us) think and behave as we do. So how do you know if you are one? A quick online search suggests that you (we, I) are if:

You love being alone but value other people.

You are a silent leader.

You can adapt to different situations.

Treat everybody around you the same way.

Doesn't need a social circle to be yourself.

Understands the importance of silence.

Morally grey (or worse)

Hates living life safely.

Social skills could use some work.

Incredibly self-aware.

Master of own fate.

Could be an alpha male if wanted.

Hmmm... I started off thinking that, yes, I must be one, but as the 12 points continued found that I disagreed that they were describing me at all. I have highlighted those that I identify with strongly in bold and those that I do not in italic. Those in blue I do not feel strongly one way or another.

Alpha male? No, I'm definitely not.

Beta male? Not that either.

Sigma male? On the above criteria not a whole one, but more Sigma than the other two.

Or maybe it really is just all a load of old b.....

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Staying put

Two weeks ago I was in West Sussex, on a beautiful sunny day in which I met up with a couple of friendly faces from my birding past (you can read about it here). I took a detour on my way home, to Shoreham, to see plant that I have long lusted after, Starry Clover (pictured above). The drive was a lengthy one considering the short distance, and the traffic seemed to be back to pre-Covid levels, with plenty of queues, hold-ups and busy junctions. I crawled into Shoreham - the clover's home - and parked up by the fort, to be greeted by hundreds of people flopping about the beach, strolling the paths and enjoying ice-creams, drinks and the sun. My clover quest was a rushed affair, due to the species being by a busy footpath, with my self-conscious attempts to photograph the flowers drawing plenty of bemused attention. I then, rather reluctantly, walked some 500m to check on a site for Childing Pink, at a small cordoned off area of sandy ground, along the harbour's edge. It was heaving with people, bikes, dogs and balls. I couldn't wait to get away, and barely checked for the plant.

Driving home, along busy roads, I wondered as to whether or not my trip to Shoreham had been worthwhile. Admittedly, I had seen the clover, but it was not the enjoyable experience that I envisaged. What did that say about my apparent success in seeing my clover lifer? Surely having seen it was the reason, the purpose of the visit, so it would suggest that it must be classed as mission accomplished, job done, thumb's-up all round? Clearly not.

What was the fly in the ointment then?


The older I get, the more my natural history experience needs to be one of solitude, 'quietness', spirituality and contemplation. These are reasons why I didn't go and visit the River Warbler in Somerset, drive up to Northumberland for the stint or even go down to the shingle Kingdom of Dungeness to watch the 'three pratincole' show. I don't know whether I am an 'anti-social, social' person, or a 'social, anti-social' member of society - whatever it is, they are the traits of somebody who feels happy in their own company up to a point. Losing myself in the landscape - be that a vast panorama with accompanying big sky, or a hogweed choked footpath brim full of insects - is my safety valve, my comfort blanket, my safe place. A time to switch off from normal life, divorcing yourself from the long list of negatives that blight our lives in 2021. 

I have a list of 'summer' targets - butterflies, moths, plants and other inverts - all written in a book, with timings, locations and other information just waiting to be accessed and acted upon. The Starry Clover entry has been dealt with, its presence on the list removed. But as for the others? I doubt that I’ll move on any of them in 2021…

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Look what’s popped up...

When I took the lawn mower out to tidy up the front lawn I was staggered to see this Pyramidal Orchid standing proud. It was a bit the worse for wear, having had the leaves nibbled - most probably slugs - but the flower head was present and just starting to flower. The garden is on chalk with just a shallow depth of earth. The closest Pyramidal Orchids are maybe 3/4 of a mile away. Our front lawn has a good natural flora, with species such as Blue Fleabane and Small Toadflax cropping up, plus common calcareous grassland plants. I mowed around the orchid and am proudly watching it open up.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

First moths origins

Since 1987 I have recorded 409 species of macro moth in the garden. I thought it would be interesting to see what new species I have recorded over the past 15 years and a breakdown of their possible origins.

2006 Striped Hawk-moth (01/09), Pinion-streaked Snout (22/09), Pine Carpet (14/10), Blair's Mocha (28/10)

2008 Buff Footman (01/06)

2009 Dingy Footman (02/06)

2010 Toadflax Brocade (23/05), Orange Footman (04/06), Hoary Footman (25/07)

2011 Rannoch Looper (03/06), Tree-lichen Beauty (02/08)

2012 Jersey Tiger (17/08), Gypsy Moth (18/08)

2013 Royal Mantle (16/07), White-point (04/09)

2014 Grass Rivulet (07/06), Dark Spectacle (03/09)

2015 Cypress Carpet (26/06)

2017 Yellow-legged Clearwing (13/06), Orange-tailed Clearwing (18/06), Scarlet Tiger (19/06), Scallop Shell (08/07), Clifton Nonpareil (23/08), Delicate (25/09)

2018 Great Oak Beauty (09/06), Kent Black Arches (06/07), The Mocha (07/07), Oak Processionary (19/07), Gold Spot (06/08)

2019 Langmaid's Yellow Underwing (04/08)

2020 Dewick's Plusia (10/08), Heath Rustic (14/09), L-album Wainscot (15/09)

Migrant   Expanding resident   Colonising adventive   Hot-weather wanderer

The colour coded key above may not be totally accurate - some might argue that the Jersey Tigers are not from expanding residents but from adventive stock - and that the Clifden Nonpareil appeared as a migrant in what was a tremendous year for them, regardless of whether or not they set up new colonies at the same time. The number of expanding residents is clear to see, particularly the four species of Footmen in a three year period, all of which are now regularly recorded. There are also a few species that, although resident in England, are not found close to Banstead and are moths of specialised habitat - they always seem to pop up during hot weather, hence the 'hot-weather wanderer' tag. Some of these new species, considering how infrequent they are, come in clusters, such events being driven by the weather conditions as much as by chance.

What next? If I was to put on a bet it would be for Oak Rustic, a species that has already colonised just north of me. I would also have a cheeky punt on Dark Crimson Underwing which has colonised Wimbledon Common, that is less than 10 miles away as the moth flies.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Moth bothering

The garden moth trap has started to produce decent numbers and species diversity, although that headline moth has still yet to appear. My highlights over the past week have been Alder Moth (above) and Figure of Eighty (below). A few migrants have also started to show, but limited to low numbers of Silver Y and the micro xylostella. My garden is at its 'mothing' best during the months of June and July, when wanderers infiltrate the catch - not just migrants but also habitat specific residents that go wandering. An exciting time of year here in Banstead.

Thursday, 3 June 2021

A few longhorn beetles

A few invertebrate images from yesterday afternoon's visit to Headley Heath. Once I start looking down rather than up, I know the summer is here...

Stenocorus meridianus, a big brute of a longhorn that just wouldn't keep still for me. Thanks to Martin Fowlie for correcting my identification.

Anaglyptus mysticus  - and very smart too

My favourite species from the Headley Heath session was this Rhagium mordax

If you fancy finding some longhorn beetles for yourself find a few recently felled tree trunks like this and just spend 15-20 minutes nosing around. Look under the peeling bark but try not to break it off.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Lesser Marshwort

On the edge of Headley Heath is a pond that was home to the exceedingly rare plant, Starfruit. It was a well-known site amongst botanists and saw a steady stream of them come to pay their respects over the years. The pond was not managed, it became overgrown and when a mass of cleared vegetation was dumped by its side the Starfruit had had enough. It disappeared.

Three years ago the pond was cleared. The surrounding vegetation was removed, and the Starfruit's seed bank was shocked back into life. You can read about my audience with this reawakening here. Sometime last year I was browsing online when my attention was drawn to this very same pond, with a reference being made to the presence of Lesser Marshwort - not a rare species, but certainly a local one. I had not seen it before, in all likelihood I had overlooked it over the years across several locations. This afternoon I went back...

The plant was found quickly, but there wasn't a lot of it and had I not known it was there could easily have missed it. It grows in the water, with thread like submerged leaves and palmate ones above the surface, together with tiny white flowers of five petals. It is one for the connoisseur, a delicate and unassuming thing. 

Location of most of the Marshwort, just a metre away from the pond edge

Submerged leaves, different from those upper leaves in the top picture.