Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Indian summer rolls on

...and on with glorious sunshine and high pressure and the occassional unseasonal moth in the garden moth trap. Birding has been restricted to the levels over the period since my last posting apart from a couple of brief evening forays to Beachy. The best bird day recently was the 14th which produced my first jill Merlin of the autumn on Down Level with the same or another on Horse-eye on the 20th. The 14th was also notable for smaller passage birds with Spotted Flycatchers by Horse-eye farm and near Downash, and Garden Warbler, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, Whitethroats, and Chiffchaffs along Downash road. The 2 Marsh Harrier were ever present along with Raven, Snipe, and Little Egret, and Reed and Sedge Warblers continue to pass through/ remain present in small numbers. Meadow Pipits are on the increase with several flocks of double figures scattered across the levels on the 20th and 21st and regular individuals flying over the garden and a Kingfisher was watched fishing along White Dyke on the 20th.
Mothing at this time of year drops off in number terms but also has some bonuses in the form of some quite striking species which are late emergers. One of the best of these has to be the Pink-barred Sallow and one of these graced my trap on the night of the 23rd along with a new species for the garden in the form of Lesser Treble-bar which is pictured below. The Frosted Orange is another late emerger and the individual pictured left was trapped on the night of the 19th. Other noteworthies for the garden included Lime-speck Pug on the 12th, Small Blood-vein and Old Lady on the 14th, Ruby Tiger 17th, Spectacle 17th & 19th, Oak Hook Tip 17th & 19th, L-album Wainscots 21st (2) & 23rd (2), and Rosy Rustic on the 23rd.

Along with the moths, insects in general are becoming fewer in number with dragons reduced to Migrant Hawkers (20+), Common Darter (10+), Brown Hawker (1), and Azure damselfly (3), on the 21st. On the same day butterflies comprised Speckled Wood (4), Small Heath (1), Small Tortoiseshell (1), and Small Copper (2) all along White Dyke. All this in spite of the warm sunny conditions which have prevailed for the last few weeks. The only other butterfly species noted were Red Admiral on the 14th (pictured top), Small White, and Large White.
Hares continue to be seen on a regular basis including one which lolloped along White Dyke to within a few feet of me on the morning of the 20th. I need to put in more effort to getting a decent photo as I am never ready for them when the opportunity arises and by the time I am they are invariably a field away and travelling!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The day Wiggo came to town and the perils of open-toed sandals for the amateur naturalist

The most exciting thing that has happened this week was today's Tour of Britain stage passing the end of the road as pictured above.
The second most exciting thing that happened this week was learning that open-toed sandals and looking in long grass don't mix when I was stung by a Buff-tailed Bumblebee spp on the big toe at Horseshoe plantation.
High pressure, cracking weather, and full moons in autumn do not tend to equate to excitement although they make for a very pleasant break from the tediousness of work. The best of a quiet week on the levels were 5 Hobby on the 11th and 2 Marsh Harrier on the 12th. Migrant Hawkers still very much in evidence although the garden moth trap has been dross. Highlight of the week was an overnighter at Stoneyford and subsequent mooch around Topsham which produced a couple of Curlew Sands, Little Stint, 2 Ruff, Knot, and an Osprey on the 8th.
Come on Wiggo!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The shape of things to come

The absolute indicator that Autumn is here is the appearance of Lunar Underwing in the garden moth trap as occurred for the first time this year on the night of the 3rd with the individual pictured on the left. Whilst many more can be expected this autumn, since they are usually one of the moths I record in 3 figures annually, they appear in such a variety from dark through to ginger or very pale that they are always pleasant to see as well as obvious - a bit like Robins. The only other newbie for the year came in the shape of 2 White-points on the night of the 1st. Numbers for the past week have been good with, as predicted in my last post, Large Yellow Underwing usurping Dark Arches as the commonest moth trapped in my garden this year with a total of 209 for the 4 nights trapped (30/8, 1/9, 3/9, 5/9) taking it to a total (so far) of 449 against Dark Arches 421. The only other moth of any note was a Hummingbird Hawkmoth at Beachy Head on the 6th. Totals for the year as follow 2483 macro's of 168 species and 922 micro's of 72 species.
The main focus at this time of year though has to be birds and things have picked up a bit over the last week. Waders have included Ruff on Down Level on the 5th and 6th, Green Sandpiper on Down Level from the 1st, and a Snipe count of 12 on Down Level on the 3rd. Other bird higlights included 2 Whinchat and 2 Wheatear on the 31/8, 30 Teal on 3/9, and the first Wigeon of the autumn on 4/9. Over 200 House Martin and Swallow were at Rickney on the 5/9 and Raven, Buzzard, Little Egret, Cetti's, and Hobby also put in regular appearrances. Elsewhere a major influx of Wryneck has occurred nationally and included 3 at Beachy Head. I saw one of these enigmatic birds late on the afternoon of the 6th at Chat Vale though, when alerting other birders present, the "frontiers of fieldcraft" demonstrated were beyond belief...
On the mammalian front the highlights of the week were 2 fold with a Weasel watched hunting on a roadside verge on New Bridge Road on the evening of 4th and 2 Brown Hares walked up on Down Level on the 7th while looking for Snipe during my WEBS count. The last named never fail to fascinate me and both burst from the cover of their forms when I was virtually on top of them. The form pictured on the left was taken from the point at which the Hare left it and has not been zoomed in on, just as well I was looking for Snipe and expecting things to burst out of cover at close hand or it could have got messy!