Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Heatwave Butterflies

With the recent uncharacteristic bank holiday heatwave, a couple of Butterflies have ventured into the garden, and have been kind enough to settle on some spring flowers allowing some photographs.

The top two are of a female Orange tip showing the wings closed and then open, which was photographed on the 4th May. The bottom one is of a Green-veined White, which was photographed on the 8th May.

The female Orange Tip is often mistaken for the Small White, but the underside is the real clincher, showing a lovely mottled green pattern. The male would be no problem at all, with as it name suggests, Orange Tips to the forewing.

The Green-veined White is another butterfly which is easily mistaken for the Small White, but again if the underside is seen, then the veins can clearly be seen, bordered by dark grey-green scales.

Interestingly, both these two species lay their eggs on Garlic Mustard (Jack-by-the-Hedge) amongst other cruciferous plants, and I do have this growing wild in my garden.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

First Spider of the Year

During the evening of 4th March, this Spider crawled across my pillow whilst in bed reading. It is the Daddy Long-legs Spider or Pholcus phalangioides. This spider can often be seen upside down on the ceiling in the corner of a room where it makes its web. It has the ability to kill other spiders but is not venomous to us humans. The second photo above nicely shows the circular Carapace with the central dark marking. Also, the legs with their contrasting pale and dark bands. No home should be without one!

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Beast from the East

Thanks to the "Beast from the East" this lovely Fieldfare turned up in the garden on the 2nd of March. The BBC Earth twitter feed suggested that the very cold weather spell had brought thousands of Fieldfare and Redwings across from Northern Europe. However, it is more than likely that these birds were already wintering in Britain since the Autumn, and due to the lack of food supplies in the open countryside, they have been forced into gardens. When the ground is frozen soil invertebrates are not on the menu and only switch to windfall apples and berries when these become unavailable.
The last time I had a Fieldfare in the garden was January 2010, when we had an even larger dumping of snow.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

First Moth of the year

It is always nice to see the first Moth of the year nestled amongst the egg boxes in the garden moth trap. In this case it was a Hebrew Character Orthosia gothica captured during the night of the 18th February.

The flight season for this moth is listed as March-early May for southern Britain. Therefore this one was certainly quite early, although I once caught one on the 26th January in 2008!

Month by month totals for this moth are as follows:
Jan = 1.
Feb = 2.
Mar = 23.
Apr = 25.
May = 0.

I might have to wait sometime for the next species to show up as we are now in a spell of very cold weather, labelled the Beast From The East.

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.