Sunday, 30 June 2013

Stag Beetle

Female Stag Beetle - found crawling across the grass in the back garden by my elder daughter Rebecca.

Lesser Stag Beetle, taken last year, for comparison

Friday, 28 June 2013

Needletail overkill

I think I might be on a hiding to nothing, but here goes...

There has been an awful lot of coverage about the demise of the White-throated Needletail on Harris. Too much coverage to be frank, with the word, 'tragic', to the fore.

Let's just look at the facts. A lost bird, thousands of miles from home, and destined to fly the skies of northern Europe on its own, collides with a wind turbine. This act, of a bird fatality at a wind turbine, takes place many times a day. For statistics, there are plenty on the internet to digest, such as here. A White-throated Needletail is, beyond doubt, a most sought after species for any birder, let alone a lister. But, is the loss of this individual any more important than that of a Meadow Pipit that may have been breeding nearby? I could argue that it is of less concern. The Needletail wasn't going to breed and it wasn't going to get home. No collective fuss is made of the loss of other birds killed by wind turbines, at least not to this extent.

There have been other rarity losses over the years, down to various Sparrowhawks, cats and cars. These weren't tragic either. Tragedy is the death of a young person, an horrific accident, an apocalyptic natural disaster. Not the accidental death of a lost bird.

I partly blame the 24-hour fast-food news culture, that needs to constantly feed itself and over sensationalise what is going on. It demands attention. It needs you to join in, to comment, to tweet, to 'like', to link. And so the maelstrom grows.

My thoughts aren't anti-twitcher. Yes, it's a shame that such a wonderful bird is no longer flying free in the skies above Harris, but I bet a few hundred Common Swifts have also died during the past few days. Is that tragic also? I didn't see any of these deaths mentioned.

Maybe part of the USP about this story is that the bird collided with a wind turbine. Had it flown into a window I wouldn't mind betting that the story wouldn't have gone beyond the birding fraternity. Wind turbines are a bone of contention, an environmental hot potato. I personally think that they are ugly blots on the landscape. The RSPB think that they are a viable alternative to nuclear power. We all need something in place to produce our power in the coming years, so if not nuclear and if not turbines, then what?

I haven't seen a rabid call to ban these 'Neddletail-killing death contraptions', but I bet if I looked hard enough, they exist.

If you were planning to head to Harris this weekend to see this bird, then I'm sorry that your hopes were dashed. But the fact that you are not able to go is not down to a 'tragedy'.

Also see this take on the incident.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

These are a few of my least favourite things

Rare geese
Cackling Canada, Richardson's Canada, Greater Snow - I'm struggling here to keep my eyes open I'm so underwhelmed. A small rare goose in amongst a gathering of hundreds of commoners does nothing for me.

Expensive and over-rated. The bubbles get up my nose, give me heartburn and then later a headache. Non!

As a spectator sport, mind-numbingly boring. A team of tall freaks run down one end and aim a ball at a hoop. Then the other team do the same but up the other end. Over. And. Over. Again. Sometimes one of them misses. Final score - who gives a damn.

Maybe I have never been blokey enough to become a biker, either an oily rough one or a clean Goldwing owner. I just about get cars, but that is only so that I can differentiate them by their colours, not the model.

Staines Reservoir.
This place has received absolute devotion from regular observers down the ages, who swear by its magical abilities to entice rare birds to linger awhile (and for them to linger themselves for days, nay, months on end). I just swear at its monotonous visual qualities - wide grey sky, wide grey water, long metal fence. Considering that I have seen Baird's Sand, Long-billed Dowitcher, Buff-breast Sand, Wilson's and Red-necked Phalarope here, plus a load of good ducks, divers and grebes, you would think that I'd be kinder to the place. I'd sooner stake out a Tesco car park.

Never worn a pair. Would feel like Mr Smith from The Matrix if I did. Or Roy Orbison.

Why faff around in the garden with coals that won't light and then either undercook or burn your food when you've got a perfectly good kitchen only feet away? I know, it's to smoke out your neighbours, impregnate their washing with odours of charcoaled chicken legs and pretend that you're having a great time while either sheltering from a shower of rain or exposing your lillywhite skin to harmful UV rays.

The Clash
Darlings of the punk and rock intelligentsia. I could never listen to them when they were at their height, far to worthy and knowing for me. Went to too many parties where Sandinista went on the turn table.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Time out

This afternoon, the Harris White-throated Needletail was seen to fly into, and collide with, a wind turbine, resulting in its death. I am now expecting a number of irate birders calling for the closing down and removal of such facilities. It might be worth reading this link before coming to such a conclusion.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Afternoons with Swifts

This particular post has been prompted by Paul Trodd over at Plovers Blog...

Midsummer at Beddington Sewage Farm back in the 1970s frequently meant trying to catch Swifts. For such a fast-flying (and generally high-flying) species, trying to catch them is not an easy task. It takes cunning, it takes guile, it takes... well, to be honest, it takes a bit of muggy or cloudy weather to bring the birds down low so that they feed only inches above the ground. Because Beddington was one big insect attractant (rank vegetation, sewage settlement) it was also a virtual cafe for insectiverous birds. If the Swifts were low, then Beddington would be hosting them in their hundreds, possibly thousands.

We still had to catch them though. Running after a Swift with a giant butterfly net would have been futile, so we used to call upon the services of a mist net. If you haven't seen one, a mist net looks like a giant elongated hair-net (most between 20 - 60 feet long and up to eight feet deep). This net would be erected between two upright poles. They were fine enough so that they were difficult to see. A bird would hopefully fly into one, become temporarily tangled  before being expertly removed by a fully trained ringer.

A free standing net however would not fool a Swift. You needed to be a bit cleverer than that. So, 'flicking' was devised. This meant that two of you held the poles (at either end of the net) horizontally, low against the ground, until a Swift flew towards you. Teamwork was needed at this point, as one of you would call out, and in unison the net would be brought up into a vertical plane. Hopefully the Swift would be intercepted in flight. This worked remarkably well, and some afternoons (it seemed to be an afternoon pasttime) we trapped up to 50 individual Swifts.

There are two things that most birders do not know about Swifts. Firstly, they have very sharp claws. After a Swift ringing session your fingers would be covered in scratches. Secondly, most of them play host to flat-flies, quite large creatures that crawled over the Swifts body underneath the feathering. These quite unsavoury things would often jump off and onto the ringer and being the size of a flattened baked bean could cause panic.

The ringing recovery rate of Swifts would have been low but for the efforts of ringing teams up and down the country flicking these scythe-winged beauties. Foreign recoveries, understandably were rare.

I enjoyed these timeless afternoons, always on warm days, with the smell of rank vegetation, a subtle whiff of effluent and the torpor of the thick air cut through by the scream of Apus apus.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

What a difference 50 miles makes

Visiting friends who were staying on the West Sussex coast at Bracklesham Bay, I was surprised by how much more advanced the roadside vegetation was here. The Hemlock was head high, the Common Mallow well out and a medley of thistles on the go. Back home the Hemlock is knee-high, the Common Mallow is only just beginning and as for the thistles, they're more stop than go. I can only assume that being 50 miles further south equated to a milder and kinder few months for these plants, hence a more normal flowering time. North Surrey is still catching up.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Longest day

Today marks the Summer Solstice, the longest day. Although being a person with no fixed religious beliefs, I can, however, understand and identify with the 'spirit' of the wild - the power of the sun, the moon, the weather, the seasons - and have almost adopted the longest and shortest days as a sacred time. Maybe it's my Wessex roots bubbling to the surface, even after a 120-year absence (my Great Grandfather left the Vale of Pewsey at the end of the 19th Century and headed to London). I've been to visit that part of Wiltshire many times and it does exert a hold on me. It just feels special.   

It was a medieval custom to collect flowers on the longest day, which was considered to bestow upon them additional healing properties, thus apothecaries would make special efforts to gather such herbs on this very day, including (so the historical record states) St John's Wort, Chamomile, geraniums, Thyme, and Penny-royal. This year the St.John's Wort is hardly in flower and both Chamomile and Penny-royal are rare indeed. Another reason these plants were sought after is that they released fragrant aromas when thrown on bonfires, a common practice during midsummer festivals at the time. This was believed to eradicate bad luck and negative energy. I can almost smell that scent, released into the warm, smoky air as the light fades on a downland hillside.

I may not be burning wild flowers later this evening, but I do like to sit out in the back garden as the light starts to bleed away on June 21st and celebrate the fact that it is still light at 10pm, the Swifts are screaming overhead and that another summer has come my way. It is all too easy to take such things for granted.

Maybe I'm a closet Druid?

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Yes, it's Homoeosoma sinuella!

The MV haul gets larger and more diverse by the day, but still not up to the levels expected by mid-to-late June. Today, rather than feature one of the more colourful or characterful species, let us celebrate the 'small brown job'.

So, please give a round of applause to Homoeosoma sinuella!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Day-flying moths

At last some hot, sunny, dry and calm weather. Ranmore was my place of choice, with the slopes at Denbigh's and White Downs being checked. There was a lot more insect activity than of late, but butterfly numbers were still poor, although these did include 4 Adonis Blues.

Day-flying moths were to the fore, with 100+ Five-spot Burnet, 4 Lace Border, 3 Burnet Companion and single Mother Shipton and Clouded Buff.

I was pleased to finally catch up with Woundwort Shieldbug, found on Hedge Woundwort. A smart little fella.

Lace Border - restricted to the North Downs in Surrey and Kent, plus outlying colonies in Gloucestershire and Norfolk
Burnet Companion - foodplants are clovers, trefoils and vetches
Mother Shipton - named after the outline of the old crone's face
Five-spot Burnet. Why isn't it Narrow? Don't ask me, but earlier flight time and habitat would point to this species.

Woundwort Shieldbug on a Hedge Woundwort leaf

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Turning on, tuning in and dropping out

Headley Heath didn't really produce the goods this morning. It was warm but dull, so insect activity was suppressed (or should that be depressed). Even walking through vegetation that would normally unleash squadrons of disturbed flying things yielded little. Plants, too, were not playing ball. I even wandered over to the Martagon Lily site (which I have seen fully in flower by early June in some years), but could only find tight buds on up to 25 plants. It has been known from here since the early 19th century. Shame I cannot show you a bloom as it is rather fetching.

I sat down close to a fine specimen of Hound's-tongue (above) and huffed a bit - the morning had not been inspiring. However, the view from where I sat was magnificent, the air was warm, so I closed my eyes and let my senses take over. Bird song filtered up to me from the valley below, the chalk downland herbs were sending delicate wafts of scent my way - life wasn't so bad after all. Opening my eyes the wall of green ahead of me was vibrant. Surely this was enough? At times I am guilty of trying to put a name to everything that I see as if this is the sole purpose of my being outside. This is woefully short-sighted. To be bathed aurally, visually and olfactually (is that a word?) regardless of the specific identity of what species are bestowing this upon me should be enough. I need to remember this on days when it all seems like too much effort. In future, at moments of frustration, I will sit down and follow an old hippy idiom - 'Turn on (close my eyes), tune in (be aware of my senses) and drop out (give myself up to the sensations)' 


Monday, 17 June 2013

Man Orchids and maybe a thousand Green Hound's-tongues

I'm guilty of taking Man Orchids for granted. In 'my' part of Surrey they aren't exactly common, but there are quite a few places that you can go to and expect to see them at the right time of year.

Today saw me visiting one such place, a small meadow not far from Box Hill. I could only find the one, but that was good enough. The number of Common Spotted Orchids here was low and Fragrant Orchids were only just starting to show themselves.

An hour later found me on the other side of Box Hill where I came across 39 more spikes of Man Orchid in a place that I hadn't recorded them before. This site had moderate numbers of Common Spotted and Fragrant Orchids - Common Twayblades were in fine number across the greater Box Hill area.

Other botanical highlights included Common Figwort, White Helleborine, Greater Butterfly Orchid (17 spikes), Sainfoin, Common Hound's-tongue, Tutsan, Hieracium maculata (in profusion at Brockham Quarry), Viper's Bugloss, Yellow-wort, Deadly Nightshade, Hoary Plantain, Horseshoe Vetch, Common Rock Rose, Juniper and Clustered Bellflower.

The wall of green above may not look all that inspiring, but it's a national rarity - Green Hound's-tongue. I found between 800 and a thousand plants along a 40m section of footpath at the base of the southern scarp between Box Hill and Brockham Quarry. It looked as if this area had been cleared several years ago. Most of it was over, with the odd flower still to be seen. I was able to look at the rim-less nutlets (those of Hound's-tongue have an obvious thickened rim). I've never seen such a large colony. There were plants disappearing into the wood behind, so an accurate count would be worthwhile. Maybe I should have stayed and done just that...

Sunday, 16 June 2013

More worthy links

I have added three further links to my blog list (see right).

They are Gilbert White's Ghost (Hampshire based all round natural history); Matt Eade's Blog (young Sussex birder cum twitcher) and The Trappings of Success (Bedfordshire moths). All are worth a look in your moments of idleness, or in a need to get away from pictures of my bloodied eye.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

My eye and moths

In the grand tradition of all blues singers, I woke up this morning - trouble was, my right eye felt a bit odd. I looked in the mirror to be astounded by the fact that the white of my eye had turned entirely purple-crimson! It felt dry and itchy and my vision was blurred. So, instead of going off to look for plants this morning I was at Epsom Hospital (via a very efficient 111 call).

Before all of that, I had put out the MV last night, so, one-eyed or not, they needed doing. A slightly better haul than of late (but that is all relative, it's still pants). Highlight (!) was a Shoulder-striped Wainscot (above).

Back at the hospital, the doctor informed me that I had apparently suffered a subconjunctival haemorrhage - not uncommon and not serious. I just look like an extra from the Walking Dead. Last June it was a tick and suspected Lyme Disease - maybe next June I can go for bovine TB.

Nice eh? I won't be winning any 'Bonny Baby' competitions for a while, will I

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Wish list

I tell you want I want, what I really, really want...

I've just typed that realising that there are some younger visitors to this blog who will not understand that cultural reference. And there will be plenty more who will dispute that it has any cultural content at all.

If I could bestow upon myself a single bird, plant and moth, what would they be?

The rules are simple - it must be feasible (so no Hawk Owl perched on top of a Ghost Orchid), it will be self-found and it has to be local.

Bird: Stone Curlew. Preferably one March or April morning, sticking out like a sore thumb on a stony field. Canons Farm or Epsom Downs will do. Added bonus would involve a bit of flying around and a bit of calling.

Plant: Lady Orchid along 'my' bit of the Surrey North Downs. There are historical records, they do occur both west and east of here and the odd Lizard Orchid still pops up to surprise botanists, so why not? I'm sure a hidden plant or a bit of wind-blown seed from Kent is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

Moth: I walk over to the back garden MV still groggy with sleep - it's been a muggy night. I bend down to peer into the trap and see one big hawk-moth atop an egg box. It is! Death's-head! I've only seen one before (at Dungeness) and it didn't disappoint. One in the garden would be special. Patton's Tiger would be nice as well. And a Passenger - oh, I did say just one didn't I. OK, Death's-head Hawk-moth it is then.

Now that I've let these be known, they won't happen. When I'm out birding and start scanning the sky for an Alpine Swift I know that I've just jinxed the chances of finding one. I'll then change target and work the hedgerow for a shrike, but there can't be one now can there, not after I've thought it. So what's left? A Red-rumped Swallow? A Pacific Swift? No chance, not now - if I find something now it will be something totally unexpected like a Roller - but I've now cursed that species as well, haven't I. Ad infinitum...

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

June (it rhymes with moon)

Thundry Meadows in Surrey, taken last June... honestly

Gavin Haig over at Not Quite Scilly has recently posted about the month of June and what it means for gull watchers. Plagiarism is really a form of flattery, so, not one to mind stealing another's good idea, I thought that I'd do something along the same lines...


Spring migration has finished hasn't it? No more falls, sea-passage has gone dead, so it's time to get around to reading all seven volumes of the Game of Thrones saga? Think again pal! This is the period to expect the unexpected. A day's birding might comprise 3 Spotted Flycatchers and a Reed Warbler, but the fifth bird is just as likely to be a Bee-eater or a Woodchat Shrike as it is a Cuckoo. Observatory log books are full of June days that were very low on quantity but bursting with quality. This is no time to have another cup of tea as opposed to bashing the bushes or staring into the sky - what do you think the birders at Spurn were doing today? They are now bathing in the glory of a Pacific Swift by saying no to lolling around dreaming about the coming autumn. Also, if you call yourself a real patch watcher then there's the little matter of checking on the breeding success of your resident species. Autumn migration has already started - waders that have failed to breed start to turn up and will include some sought after species. And we mustn't forget those weather induced movements of swifts, the spectacle of several thousand Commons moving ahead of a front is worth the admission price alone. I could cross reference Spurn again at this point.

It's all kicked off big time. Even in a late spring (such as this), species start to catch up and a profusion of flower will be there for the naturalist to enjoy. But beware... there are going to be a lot of confusion groups ready to trip us up. Crucifers, grasses, sedges - I could go on - will test the best of us. A good tip is to learn one or two of the obvious ones. Try Quaking-grass or Wood Melick from the grasses, both distinct with few confusion species. When in the presence of a non-botanist use every opportunity to show them these species and they will assume that you must be an expert in this field. This is also the month when birders become botanists but they are usually only interested in orchids - honorary birds if ever there were.

This year is a bit of a damp squib for moths, but with an increase in the number of species on the wing things should pick up. If you are new to the game then you have made your first error - start looking at moths in February or March when there is less to sort through and fewer species to trip you up. Peering into a full trap in June will only cause you panic. But if that is what you have to contend with then just ignore anything small or brown - learn the pretty ones and slowly build up to things like pugs.

Other invertebrates
Where to begin? I could suggest not to start at all, but that would be defeatest. Just remember that most of what you will find would tax an expert in possession of a microscope and a set of German keys, so the beginner, or, like me, the bluffer, needs to be aware that the chances of positive identification are low. However, some are do-able and even those that are not a fascinating to observe. A garden full of hoverflies are a delight even if you cannot name them.

Try not to get too depressed when you realise that it starts to get darker earlier from June 21st. Embrace the biting midge and stinging wasp. Getting your feet and trousers soaked with early morning dew is a minor inconvenience and it will all soon dry off when the sun gets up. Goosegrass balls, Burdock burrs and grass seeds are a pain in the proverbials to remove from clothing, but they are only doing their job. And if it all gets a bit slow, then remind yourself that autumn isn't far away...

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The bee's knees

The latest book to tickle my fancy is Dave Goulson's 'A Sting in the Tale'. Dave is an academic who has studied bees since he was knee-high to a grasshopper (or should that really be knee-high to a bee?). This study has taken him, at times, to the other side of the world, and although such trips are recalled, they are usually done so in the context of the UK's bumblebees.

This book functions on many levels - it is an accessible life-history of UK bumblebees but also pure entertainment, in that it is written in such a jargon-free style and the author's enthusiasm for the subject comes across - he wants us to embrace the bee. Whether or not the reader is 'into' natural history this book works.

It has changed my perception of bees - after reading this work you cannot look at them again in the same light. The book is cleverly constructed so that the reader is not bombarded with facts - make no mistake, these are there and in plenty, but the narrative which runs through extracts any dryness that similar works can exhibit. Highly recommended by the North Downs and beyond reading circle.

STOP PRESS: I have just received, from those lovely people at British Wildlife Publishing, volume 2 of the new British Wildlife Collection series, Meadows by George Peterken. As with the first volume (Mushrooms by Peter Marren), it is a gloriously produced book, and if it is half as good as the first  I will be well pleased.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Martin Down

Yesterday was spent wandering over the chalk downland reserve of Martin Down in Hampshire. The sun shone, it was pleasantly warm and a stiff north-easterly kept me cool. It was altogether most agreeable!

I had been here once before (in 1981) in the company of Alastair Forsyth, after we had spent a day's birding in the New Forest. After a few beers in a nearby pub we slept in the reserve car park (me in his car, Alastair in his tent) and awoke to Barn Owl and Stone Curlew.

I began by parking at the car park on the A354 and walking the entire western length of the reserve along the Bokerley Dyke, a Romano-British defence ditch. This area appears to be as rich in plants and butterflies as anywhere else on the reserve, so if your time here has to be brief, concentrate here. Very soon I was finding Field Fleawort and Burnt Orchid (above). Apart from Horseshoe Vetch there was not a lot of the 'indicator' plant species of chalk downland out in flower. By now I would expect to see Bird's-foot Trefoil and Wild Mignonette all over the place - there was little of either. Orchid numbers were low and I only found two Butterfly Orchids (not yet fully out, so defying specific identification), four Green-winged Orchids and a handful of Common Spotted.

I was delighted to come across the seed-heads of Pasqueflower (above), here on the edge of its UK range. As gaudy and showy as the flowers are, I think these, along with Goat's-beard, have a far more interesting pappus.

As the day warmed up, the butterflies came out, but again in depressed numbers. Most numerous were Dingy Skippers and Small Heaths. Adonis Blue was easy to find with at least 10 keeping along the edges of the dyke. A single Marsh Fritillary defied being photographed. Other highlights included Small Blue, Grizzled Skipper and Green Hairstreak.

Adonis Blue - how much bluer can it be?
Green Hairstreak - not shy about posing
Dingy Skipper - not so dingy after all

I explored most of this large reserve, comprising steep downland, farmland with plenty of hedgerows and small copses. The song of many Skylarks was a constant presence and it was an honour to be serenaded by purring Turtle Doves (this species demise is a modern tragedy). Although looking firmly at the ground and not birding, I did clock-up Raven, Hobby, Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Cuckoo and Lapwing. As I returned to the car as the afternoon wore on I came across an area of grassland that had been scrapped clear of vegetation to try and encourage Stone Curlews to breed. Echoes of 1981...

I have to end on a more sombre note. Invertebrate numbers were awful. On such a sunny and warm day I should have been surrounded by bees, wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies and moths. I wasn't. At times there wasn't a single one on show. This is downland in June on a good day - the flowering season might be delayed, but there were still plenty of flowers out to visit. Worrying.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

A party political broadcast on behalf of moths

Moth numbers are undoubtably depressed. Back garden mothing has taken on a whole new ball game, with vacant egg-boxes and empty pill-boxes being the normal state of affairs. At the moment I'm not even bothering - the night's are decidedly chilly and those brave lepidopterists that are switching on regardless are not being rewarded for their efforts. I thought I'd look back twenty years to see what sort of numbers I was able to record then - all counts being of macro moths coming to a single 125W MV trap in my suburban Surrey garden. I stopped counting every moth in 1994. There are times when I wish that I had continued to do so, as I would now hold data for 26 continuous years from the garden.

The following represent the highest count gathered from the first 10 days of June:

1990 - June 9th: 435 of 38 species
1991 - June 7th : 65 of 25 species
1992 - June 7th: 225 of 39 species
1993 - June 8th: 253 of 39 species

As can be seen, 1991 was a cool and dull spring. Most of these counts were not un-representitive of the ten-day period that I looked at. Not terribly scientific, but a picture can be built.

Early June 1996 was exciting. There was a massive arrival of migrants, with Painted Lady and Silver Y to the fore (I had 50 and 2,000 respectively in the local park one afternoon). My garden MV produced a Gem, nine Bordered Straws, plenty of noctuella, xylostella and ferrugalis. Not bad for a site 50 miles away from the sea. I didn't do full counts at the time, but the numbers were high.

It is getting worrying. How many years have moth numbers been falling now - is it four or five? It is most probably more noticeable in town gardens, although some coastal trappers are experiencing similar low numbers. I have read that populations can be cyclical, but are we now reaping what us humans have sown?

I've often thought that, in a hundred years time, man will look back on the mid and late 20th century, shaking their heads, and mutter "Did they not realise what they were doing to themselves and the wildlife of the planet?" Maybe some of us did, but those that wielded the power were not interested if it got in the way of personal short-term gain.

Iron Prominent - catch it while you can...


You always open yourself up to failure and are on a hiding to nothing when announcing a project or admitting to setting targets. Such is this post.

I have a couple of weeks off work and am setting aside a handful of days to go looking for specific species - here they are:

Wood Tiger, Narrow-bordered Bee-hawk, Cistus Forester, Scarce Forester, The Forester and possibly Black-veined Moth.
All would be lifers. I have sites for them all but they are somewhat weather dependent, all being day-flyers. This weekend looks the best bet for these as the longer term weather forecast is unsettled. The other spanner in the works is the late season. Are the forester species on the wing yet? Has the late spring affected the numbers of Wood Tigers and Bee-hawks? No doubt I'll find out soon enough. Also I will be giving my newly purchased clearwing pheremones an airing - I have had a few half-hearted attempts already, but the weather has not been ideal and, of course, flight emergence may have been delayed. I have only recorded four clearwing species before, so there are plenty more to hunt down.

Bastard Balm, Wild Gladiolus
Both have evaded me in the past, but I have sites (New Forest area). In fact , there are a handful of less showy species in this area that I still have yet to see, so I could fill my botanical boots, so to speak. Not so weather dependent but, as with the moths, what has the cold spring done to flowering times and numbers?.

Now just sit back and watch me fail...

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Aw shucks!

I've noticed across blog-land that if you post something of a serious nature (badger cull, buzzard nest blasting, environmental doom, Turtle Dove massacre or political shenanigans) you will get no comments, or hardly any comments at all. Yet, if you put up a picture of a Robin on a spade, or a butterfly sunning itself, half-a-million Americans will comment "Aw shucks!"

So, in an attempt to alienate my stateside visitors, and to be satirical, cop a load of this:

Monday, 3 June 2013

Plastic not fantastic

Please take a couple of minutes out of your day and read this article by John Lister-Kaye about our failing environment. I hope it's wide of the mark because, if it's correct, things are going horribly wrong. Thanks to Alan Tilmouth for tweeting about this yesterday.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Back garden MV

Living in suburbia and running an MV trap do not make good bedfellows. There is a lot of extra light pollution to contend with (which may reduce the effectiveness of the MV) but the main problem is that of running such a bright light in the vicinity of other peoples houses. I'm lucky in as much as my immediate neighbours are highly tolerant of my activities. I do try to lessen the impact of the MV however - it is placed behind a garage, up against a wall and is also shielded from other house's windows by a mature ash tree. Although this cuts down the area from which the light can be 'seen' by moths it hasn't stopped this site producing some very good migrants over the years, plus (when moths seemed more plentiful), 500-600 macros in a night. The garden macro list currently stands at 389. Micros are work in progress...

I still get excited when I go to check the trap. At the moment counts are very depressed. This morning, after a cloudy and quite mild night, my high hopes were soon cut down to size. Only two noctuids were present, one being the season's first Heart and Dart, the first of several hundred no doubt.

This morning there was also a Grey Pine Carpet (above), Broken-barred Carpet, Red-green Carpet, 3 Brimstone Moths... I could go on, but not that much further and the quality only falls away from there. So far, this year has been pretty dismal moth wise. I have a few target species that I want to find, away from the safety of the north downs, and some of them fly in June. I'll let you know how I get on.