Showing posts from July, 2014

Another big'un

This is another one of the big, easy to do hoverflies - Volucella inanis . (Not as easy to do as I blithely claimed. Andrew Cunningham has quite rightly pointed out that this is V. zonaria) It barged it's way past all of the puny flies, wasps and beetles to land on some ivy and show off its awesome build. They really are spectacular these large hoverflies. If only they were all as easy to identify - but there again there wouldn't be any challenge, would there?

It's that big hoverfly with the white saddle

This is Volucella pelluscens . It's a hoverfly and it's one that you, me and the person with no natural history knowledge at all can safely identify, because it is large and has a body coloured and patterned like a Giant Panda - all you need to do is master the Latin name to score extra brownie points. The garden MV is being hogged by Tree-lichen Beauties and Jersey Tigers at the moment. Who could have predicted that a few years ago? I'm still hopeful of a screaming rarity coming my way, but in the meantime have to make do with these recent colonists.

A clearwing before the rain

A poor image, I know, but it is all I have of a Red-belted Clearwing that came to a pheromone in Derek Coleman's Carshalton back garden before the black clouds gathered, the thunder rumbled and the rain fell. Our trip to hunt down Red-tipped Clearwing was thus abandoned. - at least we had this initial success. A much brighter capture was this Scarce Silver-lines in my Banstead MV last night. It isn't annual here and I always get a thrill out of finding this particular moth amongst the egg boxes.

Interesting times

I doubt that there has ever been such an interesting time to be a naturalist in the UK. It seems as if we are living through an unprecedented era of 'loss and gain'. Land use, climate change, edge of range - they all get the blame (or take the credit) for what we observe. Let's just take my back garden moths as an example of how things have evolved. I moved to my current home in August 1987, and, almost 27 years later, am still recording in it... This is an area that shows up the changes the clearest. When I first put a moth trap out in the garden, I would record such species as Garden Tiger, Red Underwing and Golden Plusia with some regularity. I haven't seen any of the mentioned species for at least 15 years here in Banstead. But a whole cast of moths have moved in, that, back in 1987, were but foolish dreams: Small Ranunculus (first recorded in 2004), Toadflax Brocade (2009), Tree-lichen Beauty (2011), Jersey Tiger (2012), White-point (2013). I'm still waiting

You can have any colour, as long as it's orange or yellow...

Jersey Tigers are on the wing down here in sunny, hot and tinder dry Surrey. Three were in the garden this afternoon (the three liberated from the morning's MV without doubt) and one of them was of the form lutescens that exhibits an underwing which has a yellow base colour rather than the usual deep orange. I took a photograph of each as a comparison - both were taken in the shade and are actually quite a good representation of the actual colouring. I don't know the percentage of each form, whether or not it varies regionally or even if it is dependent on local conditions - somebody out there knows, no doubt.

An agreeable stagnation

I'm 21st in the pan-listers league table with 3332 species. That's me that is, dropping like a stone as each week progresses, watching the latest addition to the 'pan-family' go straight in above me. My last additions were Hairy Mock-orange and Bladder Senna on the 24th of June (that's almost a whole month ago!). Admittedly there has been a great deal going on in those four weeks, some pretty momentous stuff, and other stuff that has been time consuming, but still I have had the luxury of spare time in which to go out and look... And I have looked. I've looked for butterflies. I've searched for plants. I've done a bit of birding, but none of it - none of it at all - has been driven by the need for lifers, the want for a tick, the scratching of an itch that only a brand spanking new observation will stop. My time in the field has been so laid back that I've been virtually horizontal. And I like it. I like it a lot. Whatever comes my way will do so a

Tree-lichen Beauty

From a UK screaming rarity to a 'nightly' back garden moth, the Tree-lichen Beauty has had its status re-written several times over the past twenty years. I have started to trap it on most nights now, and during last summer had a peak of four on one evening. The individual photographed above shows a particularly colourful moth - some of them can appear almost monochrome.

Dylan time

Blogs. One of the great things about them is that they vary so much. In the 'natural history' department of blogland we have the 'went there, seen that' type; the photographic showcase; the site specific and the stream of consciousness variety. There is a place for them all, but I enjoy mostly the latter. These blogs are like lucky dips - you just don't know what the post is going to be about and whether or not you will be informed, entertained, annoyed or delighted (or, at times, all four!). I still lament the demise of Gavin Haig's ' Not Quite Scilly ' but I have a replacement, and that is Dylan Wrathall''s ' Of Esox and observations '. You can access it quickly by clicking here. Dylan might rock a few boats and could be accused of telling it like it is, shooting from the hip, posting before thinking about the consequences and being provocative, but this is all good in my book. It shows that he cares, that he has an active mind and th

Festoon frenzy

Alright, a frenzy is a bit of an exaggeration, but this summer I have trapped four Festoon in the back garden, where as my total between 1987 - 2013 was also four. It's not as though mature oak and beech woodland has suddenly made a dash towards my garden, is it... Also last night saw the year's first Toadflax Brocade at the MV, a recent colonist to the garden. There was a time when Dungeness was the only place that I saw this species - Dave Walker told me recently that this has become a much scarcer capture in the bird observatory moth traps - some turnaround.

Just butterflies

I spent this morning and early afternoon in the Juniper Bottom/Top/Box Hill area, otherwise known as 'Hawfinch Valley'. None of the monster-billed finches were seen or heard, but the butterflies were out in force. At least 60+ Silver-washed Fritillary (above), 8 Dark-green Fritillary and a single White Admiral were the highlights. The zig-zag downland was, however, disappointing, with little on the wing and my hunt for an early Straw Belle proved to be a failure. However, in such glorious surroundings and in matching weather it would be churlish to complain.

Life, death, flying, the World Cup and never being able to stop

The Geometrician - Banstead? Dungeness?? No, Greece I'm afraid... Sorry for the lack of recent posts, but I've been otherwise occupied... Halkidiki, Greece A family holiday was taken on this eastern mainland peninsula and as an experiment I left my binoculars behind -after all, it wasn't a birding trip. But I couldn't keep my eyes totally off of the bird life. The hotel grounds provided Sardinian Warblers, Cirl Buntings, Red-backed Shrikes, Pallid Swifts, Red-rumped Swallows, Bee-eaters and Crested Larks. From my sun bed on the beach I watched a flock of c30 Greater Flamingos heading north. Butterflies were thin on the ground although a few Geranium Bronzes proved that this species is continuing to expand. Even though the nights were muggy and there were plenty of flood-lit white walls the only moth excitement was provided by a Geometrician (see above). Botanising was spent in a parallel universe in which species were at once familiar but also slightly different

Utter bollocks?

Why do you bother with natural history? What makes you pick up a pair of binoculars, switch on a moth trap or take a flower identification guide off of a bookshelf ? And are the reasons that you do so today the same ones that made you do so when you first started out on this great adventure? The beginning is where we will most probably find our 'natural history purity', when our feelings towards nature were not clouded by detail. My beginning was staggered - a Tawny Owl that used to sit on a lone conifer in my parents back garden in 1971; an Elephant Hawk-moth that was found resting on a basket of washing in 1973; and the 'dam-buster' of a Jay that hopped around on a Sutton lawn in June 1974 that fired my imagination enough to go out and buy a field guide. The following weeks found me sitting at a bedroom window with my Dad's cheap binoculars, marveling at what type of bird came visiting. They weren't 'species', they weren't a number, they were