The ramblings of an all-round naturalist based in north Surrey
The 'boys' of Summer
Red Bartsia - it must be summer
When do you know it's really summer? Are you one of those people who think summer begins with the summer solstice? Or when the schools break up for the six-week holiday? Is it when test cricket starts, or the football season ends? For me it's when I see Red Bartsia in flower. There is always a mixture of pleasure at seeing it again and sadness that the year is yet again careering onwards. I then start to think of summer as becoming long in the tooth when I see the first Harebell - as much as I like what the autumn brings, an air of melancholia briefly visits me when the first pastel blue bell nods my way. From a moth perspective, a Copper Underwing in the MV leaves me in no doubt as to it being summer. Birds are trickier. My problem with 'summer' birds is that I reckon that the first signs of autumn passage appears as early as June, when waders such as Lapwings and Green Sandpipers start to bother the notebook. Therefore I'd plump for the flocking of young Starlings as the undeniable sign of avian summer. The messy, whirring flocks of squabbling birds, a patchwork of pale buff and early adult gloss plumage is as much a summer scene as ice cream vans, lobster pink shoulders and the smell of barbeques. As for autumn... I'll save that for later.
Yesterday evening I had written a lengthy post on the subject of birding behaviour during the second lockdown, but then deleted it rather than publish it - this after a bit of soul-searching when I thought better of it, and decided that it might ruffle a few feathers That wasn't something that I wished to happen. So I tweeted this instead: As can be seen, it has gathered a lot of interest, with over 58,000 views, 40 Retweets and getting on for 950 likes. But what about the 'not likes'? Even though I do put out the odd contentious tweet from time to time I am still a sensitive soul and do not like to think that anybody would be upset by what I post. I felt happy that the above post would be taken as a pat-on-the-back to those birders who have stuck to the government lockdown recommendations. Plenty haven't - or at least have played loose with the nitty-gritty of lockdown - and this has annoyed me somewhat. I could go into a bit more detail, but really don't want to.
I don't know what has sparked it off, but a number of birders on social media have voiced their dissatisfaction about the way in which certain organisations are managing nature reserves. Along with my thoughts about the Surrey Wildlife Trust's custodianship of Holmethorpe (see last post), there have been missiles lobbed at the Kent Wildlife Trust (Oare Marshes) and the RSPB (Dungeness). I can add my two-pennies about the latter... The reserve at Dungeness has come on an awful long way since my first visit in 1976. There has been much beneficial habitat creation, with 'new' reed beds that now support Bitterns, Marsh Harriers and Bearded Tits, and a mosaic of water bodies that are excellent for wildlife beyond birds. The visitor centre, when it was opened, was a massive step up from the wooden hut that used to stand there. And where there was just the one hide, at least nine are now scattered across the reserve. So, what's not to like? If I were being uncharitable, th
A mild spell of weather during the 'dark' months of November, December and January will alert most keen students of moths to switch on the MV/actinic trap. Apart from the small selection of species that are still on the wing during the winter there is the chance of picking up a few migrants, especially if the mild weather is due to the airflow coming up from North Africa and Iberia - and that is the case right now. There have been migrants coming to the Banstead MV over the past couple of nights, but so far have been confined to just the expected - a few Silver Y and Udea ferrugalis . However, hope is high, as there are plenty of high value moths being recorded along the south coast and in SE England. Last night's haul here was fair, with a cast of late-autumn regulars that included this Satellite. The trap is on once more. My walk out to inspect it in the morning will be one filled with more hope than usual.