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.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Garden Moth Review 2015

This Moth was trapped in my garden during the night of 8th August, and is a Square-spotted Clay Xestia rhomboidea. It was one of 14 new species for me this year, this being the most unusual as it is in the nationally scarce category.

81 species were recorded, which is above the average of 74 per year since I started back in 2005.

The most common species in 2015 was Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba with 44 individuals followed by Heart and Dart Agrotis exclamationis with 27. Last year the Lunar Underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa was the top species, but this year it did not feature at all in the top 10. All these species have some way to go to catch the Light Brown Apple moth Epiphyas postvittana, which since 2005 is still the most common one overall seen in the garden.

My life list now stands at 351.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Urban Fox

Since the end of April, we have noticed an urban Fox visiting the front gardens in our neighbourhood. This is a lovely sight to behold and as he always triggers our security light, we get wonderful views.
We have of course started feeding it as it does look a little thin. Peanuts at first which it seems to devour with gusto, with the added bonus that it gives us plenty of time to observe it. We are now also giving it raisens and a couple of dog biscuits.

This comes at a time when David Cameron is soon expected to fulfil his manifesto pledge and offer MPs a free vote on repealing the Hunting Act. Bizarrely, 80% of people are opposed to the act according to opinion polls, but 85% of Conservative MPs want to repeal the act. This is democracy at its worst.
Is there anything we can do about it? Find out where your MP stands on the issue (warning very depressing) and

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

First Spider of the year

This female Mouse Spider Scotophaeus blackwalli came out to entertain me on the 21st Jan. A common and widespread spider with adult females found all year round, usually inside the house. The name mouse comes from the greyish hairs on the abdomen as seen in the above photograph. It doesn't create a web and relies on speed to catch its prey, usually at night.
This species can be confused with Drassodes sp, which is normally found outside.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Garden Butterfly Review 2014

This year was a first for me on two counts.

Firstly, a female Common Blue butterfly visited my garden on the 31st July, nectering on my Lavender plant as shown above. I have had Common Blues before, but never a female.

Secondly, an Essex Skipper visited the same plant when dark during the evening of the 3rd July. Surely butterflies do not fly at night, I hear you say? I once found a Purple Hairstreak sitting on a bulk head light in the early morning while hunting for moths!

A total of 15 species were recorded in my garden for 2014. This equals the record set in 2009.
12 species were seen in July, which is now the record for that month.
A butterfly was recorded in every month last year with the exception of December.

A Small Tortoiseshell was seen on the 2nd January, which again sets another record for the earliest ever in my garden. This species was recorded in 7 out of the 12 months, including 9 together on the 18th August.

I wonder what 2015 will bring. As I write this blog (25th Feb), I have still not seen a single butterfly in the garden or anywhere else as it happens!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Garden Moth Review 2014

A new moth species for the garden in 2014 was this White-point Mythimna albipuncta. I actually recorded two individuals, one on 30th Aug and the other on 19th Sept. It is usually listed as a Migrant moth, but it is now thought to be established along parts of the south and south-east coasts of England.

The Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana is still the most abundant moth found in my garden with 231 individuals seen since 2005. However, the most common moth seen in 2014 was the Lunar Underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa with a total of 65 individuals all seen on the same night - 19th Sept.

2014 broke the record for the number of moths seen in the garden with 486 individuals. 96 species were recorded which was slightly under the record of 99 seen in 2013.

Leaving the garden for a moment, my life list now stands at 337, up from 321.