Sunday, 28 June 2015

Lazy hazy days and hedgerow brews

Out on the levels again this morning with a cycle round the patch in glorious weather. Perhaps because of the improved conditions a few fledglings were seen, in what has generally been a poor breeding year to date, including the Swallows pictured above which were part of a family of four, as was the Mute Swan cygnet pictured right at Rickney. Despite a post on the SOS website to the contrary, there are still Yellow Wagtails visible from the public rights of way across Down and Horse-eye levels, and the two pairs were still on their territories this morning (27th). Also this morning other residents on show included a pair of Hobby hawking dragons over Down, 2 pairs of Bullfinch in the lanes, singing Lesser Whitethroat at Chilley farm and White Dyke, Buzzard over Downash, and Redshank on Down Level.
The undoubted avian highlight of the week had to be the flock of 10 Bee-eater at Littleborne just off Glynde levels. Unfortunately I have no pics, as when the call came I was walking the dog in Abbots Wood and had made the cardinal error of not taking bins or camera (which I never do) as we had just got back from a long weekend in Norfolk! Consequently Bee-eater joins Red-throated Thrush on my list of birds seen through other peoples optics, so thanks to LP, JE, PJ, et al. Even without optics the sound and sight of a flock of Bee-eaters is quality so happy days all round.
Odonata were very much in evidence this morning with my first Black-tailed Skimmer (fem pictured above) and Brown Hawker for the year on Down Level. Small Tortoiseshell and Meadow Brown butterflies had also emerged with 30 and 28 respectively along White Dyke along with singles of Small heath and Painted Lady. Elsewhere my first Marbled White and Dark Green Fritillary for the year were seen at Birling Gap on the 26th.
So to the moths which remain very much sub par although picking up. My biggest problem at the moment is feline, with cat destruction of trap on the cards most nights - I am currently looking into solutions but don't hold out much hope. Highlight of the week was a new moth for the garden in the shape of the Scorched Wing pictured right - this takes the garden macro list to 295 so I am now firmly counting down to the big 300, hopefully later this year. Other new macros for the year as follow:
Heart and Club (16th), Clay Triple-lines , Common Footman, Cypress Carpet , Figure of Eighty, Privet Hawkmoth, Toadflax Brocade, & Uncertain (18th),  Buff Ermine, Common Swift, & Peppered Moth (unusually a dark variant) (22nd), Lime Hawkmoth (24th), Common Marbled Carpet, Small Elephant Hawkmoth, & Treble Brown-spot (25th)
The Toadflax Brocade captured on the 18th is pictured left and I caught a second individual on the night of the 24th. These are the 5th and 6th records for the garden of this striking shingle ridge specialist after a singleton in June 2010 and 3 individuals in May and June of 2012.
Micros' have also picked up with new species for the year as follow:
Crambus pascuella (16th), Agriphila straminella, Eudonea angustea, & Eudonea delunella (18th), Cydia pomonella (Codling moth), &Eudonia mercurella (24th).
Other bits and pieces of note include Flowering Rush in bloom on Down (27th), Badger at Arlington on the evening of the 24th, and during a nocturnal foray on the levels the same night a Reed Warbler still belting its song out on Horse-eye at midnight.
Finally those who know me well are aware that I am partial to a drop of refreshment every so often with hedgerow brews very high on my likes list. Mrs Leveller has kindly obliged with her first batch of Elderflower champagne for the year this weekend which is currently slipping down nicely. Cheers!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

H is for holiday, Hudsonian Whimbrel, and a special surprise

I have finally managed to take some time off over the last week and as well as doing the patch have had the opportunity to spread my wings a little. Fortunately news of the Hudsonian Whimbrel at Pagham reached me while I was in the Chichester area so I managed to park easily at Church Norton with three other cars, it was a little more crowded when I left! Unfortunately due to my lack of preparedness for this first for Sussex I was dressed in Shorts and t-shirt with only my bins and bridge camera to keep out the stiff north-easterly and with a Whimbrel providing early confusion on sight things were quite tense for a period before the bird performed well off the spit enabling the assembling crowd to get to grips with its exciting plumage features... Seriously though a proper rarity and a top find, with all credit to the finders for being so prompt in getting the news out as I am not sure I would have fancied driving back later in the day!
Sundays WEBS count was much more mundane with the highlight being the resident Gadwall and Yellow Wags with the latter carrying huge mouthfuls of insects too hungry offspring. A single Marsh Harrier was the only other bird of any note, with the resident Red Fox, a few Variable damsels, and a Painted Lady providing a little extra interest.
Mothing has also picked up a little though this is relative with numbers still way down on any previous year. By way of interest a couple of new micros' were trapped in the week including the Celypha cespitana pictured right on the night of the 14th. The other new micro was Sitochroa palealis on the night of the 7th though unfortunately it was off before I could get a pic. On the macro front the highlight was a second Bordered Straw on the night of the 11th with new moths for the year as follow: Rustic (7th), Freyers' Pug, Turnip Moth, Large Yellow Underwing, & White-spotted Pug (11th), Dark Arches (13th),Bright-line Brown-eye & Rufous Minor (14th). As at the 14th totals were 108 macros' of 32 species and 21 micros' of 9 species from 29 nights trapping. For the same period last year I had trapped 330 macros' of 72 species and 77 micros' of 20 species from 35 nights trapping, even allowing for the short period when I was trapless these numbers indicate a very poor spring for most of our moths.
As for the special surprise, well that was in Blean Woods near Canterbury which I paid a short visit to on Monday the 8th. Whilst walking around some of the coppiced area I heard a rustle which curiosity made be investigate to reveal the little cracker pictured below. I have never seen Hazel Dormouse before so it was an unexpected treat to be able to watch this sleepy individual have a mooch along a bramble before climbing back into the coppiced Hazel where it belonged!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Fire in the hole

Or rather the moth trap electrics which spectacularly (well relatively) caught fire last month causing me some alarm and also expense! Following delivery of the required replacements from ALS the weather had been so windy and grim that I didn't trap until the night of the 3rd June, and given the atrocious numbers trapped prior to the great fire expectations were very low. Nonetheless there were a few moths in the trap including Lime-speck and Wormwood Pugs, Garden Carpet, Small Square-spot, and Shears, together with a Light Brown Apple moth, a White shouldered House moth and another as yet unidentified micro. On the night of the 5th my first immigrant of the year in the shape of my first Bordered Straw (pictured left) since 2006 was sitting in the trap along with 6 Heart and Dart, Willow Beauty, Light Emerald, Treble Lines and a single LBAM. Lets hope this is a sign of better things to come. A couple of Silver-Y on Down Level were also seen on Down Level on the 6th.
On the bird front things remain static on the patch with all the usual suspects present including spectacular displays being put on by the Hobbys' as they hawk the now plentiful dragons and damsels. Little Egret, Raven, Stockies, Cuckoo, Shelduck, Yellow wags, Lapwing, Buzzard, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler are all still around the patch with the latters song still most welcome whenever I am  in the Rickney corner of Down. Highlight of the past week though has to be the female Red-footed Falcon at nearby Barcombe Mills, I nearly didn't bother but fortunately Geoff shamed me into driving the relatively short distance to take it in!
With the weather warming up generally things have been picking up on the insect front with Hairy Dragonflies and Broad-bodied chaser both on the wing and, on the damsel front, Small Red-eyed, Common Blue, Azure, Long-tailed Blue, and Variable also increasingly abundant. Butterflies are also increasing in number and variety with Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Wall Brown, Small Heath, and Speckled Wood all present on Down Level and White Dyke over the weekend. In addition a new fly for me in the shape of the hoverfly Helophilus pendulus pictured above right which was near Mappins today (7th). I also saw numerous Dolichopus flies near Rickney which I believe were Dolichopus atratus however my fly id is no great shakes as yet so I am staying non-commital!