Saturday, February 10, 2018

Palmate Newt has bitten off more than it can chew

I noticed this newt having a feast on my garden path during the evening of 27th January. When it is fairly mild you have to be careful where you walk at night in my garden, as there could be several newts out feeding. If it turns cold they disappear again and presumably have to go back into hibernation. I checked the pond with a torch on the same night and could see numerous newts in there appearing very active.
According to the books, they arrive at their breeding ponds from their terrestrial hibernation sites in February, although in some populations they make their way to the ponds in late autumn and spend the winter in the water. Maybe mine have arrived early or they turned up in the autumn. I will have to check the pond next year in the autumn months to get a clearer picture as to what is going on.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

RSPB Garden Birdwatch 2018

Here is the list of birds seen on Saturday 27th January between 08:00 - 09:00:
  • Blackbird = 1
  • Blue Tit = 2
  • Dunnock = 1
  • Goldfinch = 1
  • Great Tit = 1
  • Magpie = 2
  • Pied Wagtail = 1
  • Robin = `1
  • Starling = 11
  • Woodpigeon = 4
  • Wren = 1

Species = 11, Total = 26. Slightly better than last year (S=9, T=20). Since recording began in 2001, the Species average is 10.5 and the Total average is 36.
The comparison chart below does not paint a pretty picture for the last couple of years. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Looking at the chart for the humble House Sparrow below, it looks like my garden is following the national trend.

On a more positive note, the trend chart for the Starling is more encouraging over recent years.

Lastly, I seem to be lucky with the regular visit of a Pied Wagtail each year. I wonder if it's the same one. This does seem unlikely as I wouldn't think they live that long. The first year I remember seeing one was 2003.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Garden Moth Review 2016

The photo above shows a Micro Moth trapped in my garden on 18th July 2016. The species name is Oncocera semirubella and is a Nationally Scarce B moth. This means it has only been recorded in 31-100 10Km squares since 1980, which equates to 3.5% of the land area of Britain.

Overall, 237 individuals were captured of 72 different species, and of these 11 were new for the garden.
The Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana was easily the most common with 59 individuals (up from 3rd place last year). 2nd place went to Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba with 12 individuals (down from 1st place last year). Heart and Dart Agrotis exclamationis dropped out of the top 10 with just 1 individual (2nd place last year).

Since recording began in 2005, the top 3 recorded species are as follows:
1.Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana - 313 Individuals
2.Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba - 202 Individuals
3.Heart and Dart Agrotis exclamationis - 161 Individuals

I have been recording and trapping Moths since 2005 using a 125W Mercury Vapour Light. The first 5 years I used a home made trap which worked reasonably well. Then from 2010 onwards I used a purpose built 'Robinson' trap which increased my catches by quite a considerable amount. However, comparison of the number individuals caught and hence the number of different species is really dependant on the number of times the trap is operated. I usually aim for once a month, but in 2016 I only put it out on 6 occasions. I took a year off in 2017 largely due to health problems, but hope to have a better year in 2018.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Garden Butterfly Review 2017

Large White & Red Admiral butterflies led the way for the most number of months (5) seen in the garden for 2017. Above shows two Large Whites mating on my Hop Plant on 30th June when a total of 5 were seen at any one time that day.

A total of 14 species were recorded which is above the average of 12.8 since recording began in 2003.
Also, there were 42 first dates when a butterfly was recorded (31 average), making 2017 a good year for garden butterflies.

July was the most prolific month with 10 species seen.

The Red Admiral was the earliest and latest butterfly seen starting on the 17th February and finishing on the 17th November.

Two fairly uncommon species were recorded this year - a Small/Essex Skipper on 5th July and a Common Blue on 16th September.

Friday, January 05, 2018

RSPB Garden Birdwatch 2017

As we approach the RSPB BIG Garden Birdwatch for 2018 (27-29 January), I thought it was about time I reviewed what happened last year.

2017 proved to be the 2nd poorest year for the total number of birds counted within my chosen hour (08:00-09:00). 20 this year, one more than the record low of 19 in 2003.

The number of species seen was 9, which seems to be about average for me nowadays.

Only 1 House Sparrow in 2017 (6 in 2016).

No Finches seen at all. Chaffinches have not been recorded since 2013.

The only positive for 2017 was 10 Starlings (8 in 2016).

Maybe 2018 will be better, but don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

RSPB Garden Birdwatch 2016

This year the Birdwatch was carried out over the weekend of the 30th and 31st of January. I did mine on the Saturday between 08:00 and 09:00, which was the earliest start ever, since I first started back in 2001.

I particularly like to monitor the Finches and Sparrows as per the bar chart above. House Sparrows and Goldfinches seem to be holding up well, but there have been no Chaffinches since 2013. However, I saw my first Greenfinch this year since 2010. The general decline in Chaffinches and Greenfinches is thought to be due to a disease called Trichomonosis, which was once a common disease in Pigeons and Doves.

Starlings are another species I like to monitor closely, and the chart above shows that they seem to be recovering slightly in my garden. This is probably due to the regular feeding of mealworms housed in a adjustable cage to keep out larger birds such as Pigeon and Magpie.

8 Species of birds were recorded this year with a grand total of 31 seen. These were as follows:
Blackbird 1
Blue Tit 2
Goldfinch 3
Greenfinch 1
House Sparrow 6
Magpie 2
Starling 8
Wood Pigeon 8
The number of Wood Pigeons has obviously swelled the total somewhat and over the last 4 years there has been quite a decline in the total number of birds seen and also the number of species. I still think this is due to the obsession with removing trees and large shrubs from gardens. In my daughters garden on a similar type housing estate to mine, she has two fairly large trees along with others in nearby neighbours. The number of birds she observes is quite incredible. Along with the 'normal' she has regular visits of Nuthatch, Brambling, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Marsh Tit and Blackcap.

There are of course a few other birds regularly seen in my garden, but have not turned up during the birdwatch. These are Dunnock, Robin, Wren and Pied Wagtail.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Garden Butterfly Review 2015

There was a lot of talk this year of another possible mass invasion of Painted Lady butterflies similar to the year 2009. It did notch up its second best Big Butterfly Count performance across the country, but this wasn't really reflected in my own garden sightings. Only singletons were recorded in the garden during May, June and August.

The biggest change was the number of months (5) when the Holly Blue was recorded. This was a record for this butterfly, and the first dates when seen were as follows:
April 17th : May 4th : June 24th : July 31st : Aug 7th.
There are normally two broods for this species - Apr/May and July onwards.
Therefore the one seen on June 24th could have been a late first brood or an early second brood.
My sightings seem to reflect its joint highest Big Butterfly Count total (151% increase on 2014).

August was the most prolific month this year with 10 species seen, and this equals the record for that month set in 2009. Overall, 14 species were noted for the year (13 average) and 36 first dates when a butterfly was recorded (30 average) making this a good year for garden butterflies.