Showing posts from August, 2013

Not Quite Dorset

I've just spent a week in Dorset with the family, in which the world of natural history was put to one side, apart from a single day when I took the coastal path out of Lyme Regis and headed westwards to meet a tall stranger with a penchant for Cadbury's Chocolate Buttons... I arrived at Seaton, just over the county boundary into Devon, where Gavin Haig (he of Not Quite Scilly fame) met me for a most enjoyable tour of the birding patch that he is lucky enough to have on his doorstep. The small band of regular birders (some of whom I ticked) have turned this sleepy edge of the county into a birding hot spot. We started at Seaton Hole, where we viewed the very bushes that were once haunted by a Hume's Warbler, while scoffing Lemon Sponge Cake and a mug of coffee - us that is, not the warbler. From here we could also gaze along the cliffs to Beer Head, the site of yet more birding successes. The jewel in the crown of the area must be Black Hole Marsh (above), a recent

Another kick in the guts

I would urge you to read Peter Alfrey's post here . He wrote it before the Mayor of London gave the Beddington incinerator the 'thumbs-up', but in his post he clearly sets out how big business - in this case Viridor - have failed to meet previous environmental promises to the Beddington Sewage Farm area.  Despite this failing, they have now been granted permission to construct and operate an incinerator on the site. Any compensatory promises towards the provision of 'wildlife' areas cannot be taken with anything but a pinch of salt. I first went to Beddington as a schoolboy birdwatcher in 1974. This was during a 'quiet' period in its birding history, as the flooding of large fields had been stopped and most of the drying out of sludge took place in small banked beds. However, the hedgerows, dykes, charming brick-built outbuildings and mature willows, oaks and elms were still present and bestowed upon the site a feeling of being in a time-locked piece of co

Unexpected pan list ticks

18-spot Ladybird - you can see how small it compared with a finger tip Leith Hill was the venue for an afternoon of wandering the greensand slopes in the company of my family, plus an obligatory stop at the tea room in the tower for some excellent National Trust cake - oh, so Surrey - I could almost be an extra in Downton Abbey don't you know (albeit sent downstairs once my true station in life was discovered). As always on such walks I took my binoculars and camera just in case . I didn't expect three lifers! The first is a bit of a cheat. Monkey-puzzle is found on the upper slopes of Leith Hill, looking terribly naturalised - this species appears listed in the botanists bible Stace , so I'm having it. The second is a commonly naturalised plant that I must have walked past time and time again - Shallon. There are virtual forests of the stuff at Leith Hill. The third tick was a little more pukka, being an 18-spot Ladybird found by my eldest daughter Rebecca as we sat

A moth miscellany

Rosy Rustic - signs that autumn is on the way... Alliteration - don't you just love it? I could have gone further - 'A massive moth miscellany' or 'My meagre marvellous moth miscellany' but then that would be over-egging the pudding, wouldn't it? Back to the reality of the MV trap haul this morning. Numbers were depressed and by far the best species recorded was the autumn's first Rosy Rustic (I don't trap that many to be honest). It is shaping up to be a good time for Straw Dot - I recorded eight yesterday which is my highest single night count in Banstead, and another couple this morning. There are certain moths that evoke the passing seasons. When those cold winter mornings start to give up Brindled Beauties and Twin-spotted Quakers, I know that spring is on the way. When late April catches start to include prominents and Lime Hawk-moths, then summer is just around the corner. For me, it's high summer when Scalloped Oaks and Marbled Beaut

A mystery Fan-foot?

I trap The Fan-foot and Small Fan-foot quite regularly in the garden, so when, this morning,  I first laid eyes on the individual pictured above I was at first unsure as to its identity. There didn't seem to be an outer cross line on the upper wing so was it a worn Clay Fan-foot? Looking at my photographs I'm not convinced that the outer cross line is missing after all. But there still seems to be something about this individual that doesn't seem right. Isn't the gap between the 'S' shaped middle cross line and the straighter inner cross line quite wide? Any thoughts? UPDATE: The moth-lord himself, Sean Clancy, has identified this individual as The Fan-foot.

Another common micro says hello

Another MV trap to check and another new species of micro says hello - this is Lathronympha strigana, a common moth that feeds on St.John's Wort (particularly Perforate). I really should take more time to identify the micros that I trap, rather than just take notice of the more bizarre and colourful ones. Pan listing gold...

Blogs that you should read

On the right hand side of this blog you will see ' My blog list ' which is basically a collection of other blogs that I really like and enjoy visiting. I use it to quickly access them and hopefully to also tempt visitors to North Downs and beyond to spend a little more time in other peoples cyberspace. This miscellany of sites will educate, entertain and exasperate in equal measure... I thought that I'd do a little round-up of them, to big them up (they all deserve it) and try to tempt the casual visitor to embrace them further. The old guard These are the blogs that I have been following for a number of years, and some of them were kind enough to link to my own blog in its early days.In no particular order Cabinet of Curiosities is Phil Gates micro take on the natural world in the north-east. His ability to capture the minute detail of its wildlife is marvellous and his knowledge is deep. Alan Tilmouth is the most serious of my links and I do at times feel rather f

The Magic Roundabout

Sutton town centre is pedestrianised and during the summer months a children's fun-fair roundabout is present.It is what you'd expect from such a ride - small cars, buses, planes and horses for the little tots to sit on as they are propelled in gentle circles - but the music that accompanies them is not! My head was first turned by the use of 'People are Strange' by The Doors - not the normal expected fayre of 'Laughing Policeman', 'Agadoo' or 'The Birdy Song'. When I returned fifteen minutes later it seemed as if the proprietor was playing the 'Strange Days' album in its entirety. Two days later The Crazy World of Arthur Brown were belting out 'Fire', a few days after that I heard Led Zeppelin's first album and today it was some weird West-Coast American psycadelic rock that I couldn't identify*. I checked out the bloke in charge of the ride and he looked blissfully unaware of the music and didn't look like the so

Greater Dodder and a micro with a long name

Greater Dodder (both pictures) on Common Nettle, banks of the River Mole, Mickleham I found myself along the banks of the River Mole at Mickleham this morning, searching for Greater Dodder. I had found the plant here before, but my recent searches had drawn a blank, so I was delighted to come across four healthy patches, all on Common Nettle. Also recorded was Water Chickweed, Arrowhead and Yellow Loosestrife. After wards I headed up the hill and into Norbury Park, where Broad-leaved Helleborine and half-a-dozen Silver-washed Fritillaries were the highlight. The garden MV was quieter than of late, although a Dark Sword-grass was noteworthy. A common micro was welcomed to the list, Aspilapteryx tringipennella (below)

From rarity to commonplace

When I purchased the first edition in Skinner in 1986, it did not include Tree-lichen Beauty. I was blissfully unaware that this species even existed until a few individuals started to appear on the south coast in the very early 1990s. By the time that the British Wildlife Moths Guide was published in 2003, there had been at least 40 individuals recorded. Fast forward 10 years and Tree-lichen Beauty has established itself along the Kent coast; parts of the Sussex, Essex and Suffolk coasts; and the London area. My back garden can be included in the latter. My first only appeared in 2011, to be followed by seven more up until the end of 2012. This morning I had four come to the MV. It is clearly established in the Banstead area. There was quite a bit of variation with the four trapped - the image above is of the two extremes. This species feeds on lichens found on trees, so there seems no reason for it not to spread further. The latest distribution maps do show some outlying dots

Confessions of a tweeter

I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter. For those of you who are unsure as to what Twitter is, it is an online social networking and microblogging service that allows users to post 'tweets' (messages) that are allowed to contain no more than 140 characters. I was an early user of this service as, working with journalists as I do, a number of my colleagues adopted it as a means of gleaning information. Further down the line they realised that they could use it to spread their work to a larger audience. I, on the other hand, found out that I could gather natural history information. It was not until last autumn that I came to the conclusion that I needed to take it far more seriously, as a large number of local birders were sending out any 'scarce bird alerts' by tweeting rather than texting, which had until then been the prefered means of information dissemination (that sounds very media savvy, doesn't it). Without Twitter I was finding myself out of the


Common Dodder, modest flowerer and to see such a show is not that common  No, not the shambling walk of the elderly, but a parasitic plant that is an unsung member of our flora. It is one of those species that isn't common, but can be prolific in a small area. Yesterday's walk around Chipstead Bottom revealed a lovely flowering patch at a site the locals have christened Sheep's Brow. There were plenty of small insects nectaring on the blooms. I wonder if any of them are as local as the plant is?

Clouded Yellow steals the day

Clouded Yellow of the form helice, a welcome surprise this morning. The first CFBW Bird Group ‘Butterfly and Plant’ walk was held today, which I co-lead with Paul Goodman. Our group comprised 20 in total, with familiar faces such as Peter Wakeham, Peter Alfrey, Neil Stocks, Ian Jones and his wife, Ian Magness and, of course, David Campbell (who ensured that there were at least one pair of eyes trained onto the sky). We basically walked along Chipstead Bottom and then looped through Banstead Woods before retracing our steps back to the Holly Lane car park. It was a great success, with a total of 23 species of butterfly being seen, including a magnificent helice form of Clouded Yellow, which performed immaculately for the cameras. Also seen were a Painted Lady, 3 Silver-washed Fritillary, 50+ Chalkhill Blue and 5 Purple Hairstreak. Plants were not to be outdone, with a single (unflowering) Cut-leaved Germander, a new White Mullein plant being found at a new site, Pale St.J

Jersey Tiger

Cannot be bothered to write much today, so please make do with a photo of this Jersey Tiger, second garden record, trapped this morning.

A few migrants

The back garden MV provided 13 Silver Y and a Dark Sword-grass last night. Apart from the odd xylostella it has been a migrant-free zone so far this year. Two irregular moths were also recorded with the garden's fifth Rosy Footman and seventh Ear Moth (below).