Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Plum Pimpernel

I do love the colour variation in the flowers of Scarlet Pimpernel, with the intense blue being a firm favourite. However, on farmland at the base of Denbies Hillside I came across a plum - or mauve - coloured flower, the first ones that I have seen. The photos most probably do not do it credit, but it stopped me in my tracks. It was so good I went back for seconds later in the visit. No colour correction has been made to the images, the bottom photograph has a 'normal' coloured plant alongside for comparison.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

A close dragon

An afternoon visit to Headley Heath was fairly uneventful, although a couple of Garden Warblers were seen and heard in amongst the many Blackcaps, at least four Willow Warblers were on territory, my first Large Skipper of the year was on the wing and, at the 'Starfruit Pond', there were many Broad-bodied Chasers in action, including one that kindly kept posing for me on a close branch.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

#MVBirdRace 2020

For the past six years, a group of mid-Surrey birders, loosely based along the River Mole valley, have held an annual bird race in late-May. Due to the ongoing lockdown it looked as if this year's bird race might fall by the wayside. However, David Stubbs (now of Norfolk, formerly of Buckland) stepped in and put together a rescue package. Instead of teams madly thrashing around the defined Mole valley area for the day, individuals were invited to bird from midnight to midday, on foot or on bicycle, venturing no further than 5km from home. Many took up the challenge and a number of teams were then formed, with the final competitive totals being derived from the member's cumulative score. I found myself together with two Surrey stalwarts - Steve Chastell and Robin Stride - under the name of The Three Tringas. It would be grossly unfair to Steve to suggest that this was a coming together of the old boys, but it was not too far off the truth.

This morning was a cool and blustery affair, with sharp showers starting to get a grip towards noon. It didn't make for ideal birding conditions, but everyone took it on the chin and just got on with it. The area covered went beyond the Mole Valley. A few of the competition's original participants had moved away from the area, and some of the others do not live within the defined borders, so wherever you were became the place that you birded from. This did of course skew the results, but that was neither here nor there, it was very much about the taking part. Given the wide-ranging geographical spread, most individuals recorded between 55-60 species and team scores were largely c80-85 species - apart from one team that is, that Robo-birder collective 'Linnet to Win It' who trounced us all. We could look for excuses - they had better habitat, possess younger ears and eyes, etc, etc - but they just know their stuff and the area incredibly well.

My own total was a meagre 56 species with a combined score of 85. I spent half the morning at Canons Farm (the hoped for Yellowhammers all present and correct) and the rest of it on Epsom Downs (where two pairs of Red-legged Partridges performed.) Nothing unusual came my way, but a pleasant time was had, with just a touch of masochism to keep me alert and on my toes.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Ptycholoma lecheana

My year's aim of finally getting to grips with the 'microlepidoptera', and in the process record my 1,000th species of moth, has taken a bit of a hit owing to the Covid lockdown. Now that travel restrictions (within reason) have been loosened, I feel able to visit sites within the county. I also dusted down the MV last night and ran it for the first time this Spring in the back garden. This striking Tortrix, Ptycholoma lecheana was the highlight, a new species for me. It is not uncommon, so I would suspect that I've overlooked it in the past. Is the 1,000 target still on for 2020? I doubt it.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Lockdown 50

It's a ND&B tradition to post musical lists now and again, so, here in all its glory is my 'Lockdown 50' - just tracks that have been played throughout this testing time, some glorious, some soothing, some... well, I'm sure you get the picture. In no particular order, no more than one per artist:

Harvest Moon - Cassandra Wilson
Outdoor Miner - Wire
Sketch for Summer - Durutti Column
Final Day - Young Marble Giants
Seek It - Richard Hawley
Young Love - Mystery Jets
Les Fleurs - Minnie Ripperton
Stay High - Brittany Howard
Song 4 Mutya - Groove Armada
I Just Want to Celebrate - Rare Earth
Don't Talk to Me About Love - Altered Images
Clarence in Wonderland - Kevin Ayers
Fox on the Run - Sweet
American Woman - The Guess Who
Good Souls - Starsailor
Spell - Hot Chip
Never Let Me Down Again - Depeche Mode
In The Street - Big Star
I Saw the Light - Todd Rundgren
The Crunch - The Rah Band
Sylvia - Focus
Medicine Show - Big Audio Dynamite
A Kissed Out Red Floatboat - Cocteau Twins
Picture Book - The Kinks
It's Getting Better - Cass Elliot
Ordinary World - Duran Duran
Northern Lights - Renaissance
Pump it Up - Elvis Costello
Street Life - Roxy Music
What is Life - George Harrison
Caravan Girl - Goldfrapp
Golf Girl - Caravan
Alexandra - Laura Marling
TooTime - The 1975
Free Man in Paris - Joni Mitchell
Mountain Energy - The Fall
Careering - PiL
Dumb Waiters - The Psychedelic Furs
(Get A) Grip - Stranglers
Love Will Tear Us Apart - June Tabor, Oysterband
Heroes - David Bowie
Perfect Day - Lou Reed
Steady - The Staves
I Know What I Like - Genesis
Joanni - Kate Bush
Jesus Was A Cross Maker - Judee Sill
Afternoon Delight - Starland Vocal Band
Outer Space - John Grant
The Sea - Sandy Denny
Wichita Lineman - Glen Campbell

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Broad-bodied Chaser

Hot and drowsy, with just the scratching of Whitethroats and the dribbling juice of the Blackcaps to trouble the thick air. A few Common Buzzards, the odd Red Kite and a Sparrowhawk to disturb the clear, deep blue. Spring seems sprung. Summer has unfurled its intent.

I had a brief encounter with a female Broad-bodied Chaser at Canons Farm this afternoon. It kept alighting on a small area of vegetation in a woodland ride, but was terribly wary, allowing me snatched images. The backlit picture pleased me, far more than a standard frame filler would have - you can appreciate the structure and fretwork of the wings to a greater degree. These ancient insects are wonders to behold, art nouveau with wings.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Cydia ulicetana

It's not rare, very small and hardly colourful, so Cydia ulicetana is doomed to be a moth that gets little attention, although somebody has made some effort and given it an English name - Grey Gorse Piercer. Can be found in numbers on a gorse bush near you now! I think it has a lot going for it myself...