Showing posts from August, 2012

Beginner's luck

How do you p*** off the local birding fraternity? This is how... Do not bird for weeks on end. Bowl up to the local patch with an air of nonchalance and without your telescope. Listen to them regale you with how much effort they have put in for not a lot of return. Wander off on your own and within an hour have a fly-over Honey Buzzard that is a patch first. Leave an hour later to go home for lunch. I know, what a mean, jammy way of going about things. However, I could suggest that had I lucked into a Montagu's or Pallid Harrier then I might feel a tiny bit more guilty. Sorry David and Ian, but over the course of the year you will both give me a good ornithological kicking! And you can always claim that I'm stringing...

A bloody good moan

This blog used to be about things other than 'what I have seen recently'. Apologies for my slipping into the safety of uploading images of moths from the back garden and neglecting the seething inner me. Such internal energy needs to be released... Bookshops My first moan is about the books to be found populating the natural history section in 'all good bookshops'. Whoever orders what appears on the shelves needs to go on a course designed to inform them on what the customers really want. My local Waterstones is a curious mix of the bleedin' obvious, with titles such as ' Johnny Kingdom's 100 species of large mammal to see before you die ', ' The RSPB book of Quaint Garden Birds ' and ' Bats - they are really nice and not at all scary ' vying for attention alongside a plethora of natural history writing which has been infiltrated by a trend in reprinting the flowery diaries of long-dead Victorian gentlemen. If you wanted to buy a selec

Moth patch turns purple

Friday night's MV trap produced the garden's first Jersey Tiger, Saturday night was even better and provided me with my first ever Gypsy Moth and last night a proper migrant turned up in the guise of a Vestal (pictured above). I have recorded this species once before here in Banstead, back in August 2003. Mothing has a habit of throwing up good species in clusters, so I'd better keep switching that bulb on each evening.

A gypsy in the garden

It was oppresively muggy last night, the temperature here in Banstead not dropping any lower than 18 degrees C. I woke from a fitful sleep at about 3AM and decided to get a drink of water and, while up, check the moth trap in the back garden. The MV is placed against a white wall and this wall was well populated by resting moths - mainly Willow Beauties, but also an individual that set my alarm bells ringing - where had I seen that before? It then registered that it was a male Gypsy Moth, a species I hadn't in fact seen anywhere, macro number 389 for the garden! With the current weather conditions and plenty of migrant activity on the south and east coasts I would like to think that this is a primary migrant. However, there is a small population of this species in South London that DEFRA are trying to eradicate, so it could conceivably be a wanderer from there, although if I were a betting man I would bet against it. For all I know the men from the government have killed them

I've been expecting you...

One of the delights of moth trapping is the 'not knowing' what is going to turn up. You don't have to rely on wandering migrants to give the trap an injection of surprise as there are plenty of residents that decide to go for an excursion away from their normal habitats. Increasingly we are witnessing species that are starting to colonise from the continent, or some that used to hug the coast but are now heading inland. Over the past few years Small Ranunculus, Toadflax Brocade and Tree-lichen Beauty have done just that (I have recorded them all from my Surrey garden). There remained two others that have also done so, colonised areas around where I live, but had yet to grace my Banstead MV. One is Cypress Carpet. The other decided to come and pay me a visit last night and it is pictured above in all its glory - Jersey Tiger. If there are any moth-ers out there trapping Cydia amplana and have a few to spare, please send them my way. I'm drawing a blank.

Dewick's and Rosy

Dewick's Plusia  Rosy Wave You might be getting a bit tired of these Dungeness moths by now (at least those of you that are still left visiting this ailing blog), so I promise that this will be the final revisiting of my 'summer sojourn'. The first image is a bit of a cheat as the Dewick's Plusia actually came from Sissinghurst, some dozen miles inland. I had seen this species before, back in 1988, from Greatstone, where it had settled on the glass of a lit window of an estate agents shop. The second moth is of one of three Rosy Waves that were trapped in Barry Banson's Greatstone garden. I helped him process his two traps each morning which was tremendous fun and very rewarding. Back to more local stuff from now, and with a scorchio weekend promised maybe something of note will come along...

The garden still provides

Tree-lichen Beauty - the second succesive year that I have recorded this species. I've seen it nowhere else except for my back garden. Toadflax Brocade - a resident now in its third year. I have found larvae on Purple Toadflax by the garage door If you wait long enough the species will ultimately come to you. It's not that long ago that Toadflax Brocade was a coastal specialist and now it has colonised parts of London and Surrey. And it wasn't that many years ago that Dave Walker, warden at Dungeness Bird Observatory, let me know that he had just trapped the first UK modern day record of Tree-lichen Beauty. I considered driving 90 miles to look at it, but decided not to. I only have to walk 10m from my back door to the MV now to see one. Strange days...

Box Hill, Straw Belle, Wiggo and Cav

When it was announced that the 2012 Olympic cycling road race route would include the Box Hill zig-zag there were understandable concerns. Such an event would attract a large crowd, but how could they be accommodated without widespread damage to the chalk downland and its accompanying rare species? I was present two weekends ago to witness the event first hand. I had tickets for the lower slopes and we were led to the roadside vantage points without the need to walk across the fragile slopes. Further up the hill was another viewing area, rather knowingly called 'Straw Belle slope', named after one of the species that there were concerns over. On the day I couldn't see how the disturbance had effected the habitat further up, but today I went to take a look... The first thing that struck me was how little of the grassland showed any disturbance at all - a single path led from the lower zig-zag car park up to the 'Straw Belle' viewing area. Here the roadside exhibi

Goat Moth

I've always hankered after seeing an adult Goat Moth. They have something of the unobtainable about them, being a species that has a low population level and can be difficult to track down unless you know of a larvae infected tree that might just bestow upon a visiting lepidopterist an imago sitting on the trunk. I came across the rather stunning individual pictured above in an altogether easier fashion - it was brought into the RSPB reserve at Dungeness by a member of the public. Result!

Nowt to do with natural history

I was sent this bit of prose that appeared on a Fulham Football Club related website - it does say an awful lot that I wouldn't mind betting that many others would agree with. I'm not a knocker of football - it is my number one sport of choice although I am beginning to pall with the whey-faced spud-heads that get payed such obscene amounts of money to perform with such pedestrian ability. That they get paid well is not an issue, but the current salaries are just out of hand. Our society has created it, along with high property prices and big business greed. Enough of that, over to Fulham FC... I may not agree with every sentiment, but it does get me agreeing along with most of it. I FEEL so sorry for our professional footballers – icons of our times, or so they believe – as they get ready for a new, exciting season. I don’t think since l888, when the first football league started, have our pro players been so utterly embarrassed, humiliated and shown up. How can they ever

More moths

L-album Wainscot - not in Surrey Archer's Dart - not from my back garden Dark Tussock - and neither is this. If you think that I've run out of moth images from Dungeness, then think again. I've not even used the best one yet - I bet you cannot wait (stop yawning at the back there...) Anyhow, here are three species that are local, none of which I've seen away from the Kent coast.

Big blue beastie

This big blue beastie is Helops caerulens, a large darkling beetle that can easily be found after dark crawling over the wooden railway sleepers some 50m east of the bird observatory. I knew to look because Mark Telfer told me about them. I did find some smaller beetles that defied identification. Where's a coleopterist when you need one?

The Great Flowering

The resident botanists are refering to it as a once in a lifetime event. I am just grateful that I was able to witness it. Due to the wet, cool spring and early summer, Dungeness was blessed by a late and profuse flowering of many species, the quantity of which was only surpassed by the vigour of the blooms. When I arrived the Nottingham Catchfly was peaking, the subtle scent charging the evening air. Cat's-ear, Sheep's-bit, Viper's Bugloss, Mouse-ear Hawkweed and even the normally shy Dodder were putting on a spectacular show. After a week went by the modest Wood Sage burst into life, millions (literally) of plants carpeting the shingle with great rafts of off-white flowers. But, nothing lasts for ever... when I left Dungeness the Catchfly was all dried seed head, the Sheep's-bit looking sad, the Wood Sage browning at the edges. The following images cannot capture the event, but apart from my memories it's all that I can offer. Wood Sage - dominated the vegetat

They came, they saw, they colonised

Moths have a good habit of jumping from the European mainland and colonising the south-east of England, mainly thanks to global warming, a weak Euro and a wish to escape from bland Europop. Dungeness being just about as south-east as south-east gets on this island of ours therefore gets to paw these colonisers before most other places. Take this Plumed Fan-foot for example. In 1995 Barry Banson checked his Greatstone-based MV (just north of Dungeness) and spied an unfamiliar moth. It was the UK's first Plumed Fan-foot. I was lucky enough to visit Barry on a daily basis during my stay and to go through his two MVs. We recorded four individuals which pleased me no end. Cypress Carpets may be old hat now, but I still don't see that many of them. We recorded this species frequently enough at Barry's and the bird observatory to make mention of it almost pointless. How times change. Evergestis limbata hasn't quite got to the level of making lepidopterists yawn ye