Monday, January 25, 2010

Garden Butterfly Review 2009

2009 will probably go down as one of the most memorable years ever for garden butterflies. Not because of the weather, as the summer was generally unsettled, with low pressure dominating, but because of the record numbers seen in my garden of Painted Lady Vanessa cardui, Peacock Inachis io and Large White Pieris brassicae butterflies.

During May and June there was a massive invasion of Painted Ladies which then bred in this country. The result of which was large numbers of home grown 'Ladies' seen on my garden Buddleia bushes, Verbena Bonariensis and Knapweed flowers around the end of July and beginning of August. Peak counts as follows:
23rd & 25th July = 5 & 9 respectively.
2nd & 6th August = 7 & 14 respectively.

Also, during the end of July and beginning of August, there was another immigration, this time of Large Whites. These are notoriously difficult to count as they don't tend to nectar long on one flower, and almost always fly with Small Whites. Peak counts in the garden were as follows:
25th July = 3.
2nd August = 5.

Finally, there was an unusually high number of Peacocks seen on the garden Buddleia bushes at the end of July and beginning of August. This must have been due to a very successful overwintering/hibernation year for this butterfly, as the offspring emerge in July.
23rd and 25th July = 4 on both dates.
2nd & 6th August = 6 & 8 respectively.

Two other species that produced records for my garden this year were Comma Polygonia c-album and Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria, as both these species were recorded in 5 different months.

One of the highlights for me this year occurred on the 27th June, when a Large Skipper Ochlodes venata was seen for the very first time in the garden. This helped to swell the lifetime number of species seen to 19, of which, 15 of these were seen in 2009. Year by year breakdown as follows:
2003 = 9.
2004 = 12.
2005 = 12.
2006 = 12.
2007 = 12.
2008 = 13.
2009 = 15.

Finally, I must mention the Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae. For some, this ubiquitous butterfly would not warrant a second glance as it was once so widespread and common. It then went into serious decline and hadn't been seen in my garden since 2004. I am happy to announce that it was recorded in 2009 during 3 different months - 8th June, 31st July and 2nd August (I realise the latter two dates were probably the same individual). The picture at the top of the blog is the individual seen on the 8th June.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Bird added to the garden list

On Tuesday 5th Jan, it started snowing during the evening and by the next day the depth in the garden was measured at 35cm. On Sunday the 10th, the snow still hadn't shifted, and being housebound I was keeping a close eye on the garden birdlife. It was then that I noticed a strange bird in the garden eating the cut up apples that I had put out for the Blackbirds and Song Thrush. I couldn't believe my eyes, but I recognised it straight away to be a Fieldfare Turdus pilaris. This bird turned out to be a real bully as the Blackbirds and Song Thrush could not get a look in. Even when it was full up it would go and perch on the garden fence and guard the apples, and woe betide anyone else who had the cheek to take a bite. The snow had disappeared by the 17th and so has the Fieldfare. The Blackbirds are back and it is now their turn to chase away the Song Thrush.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Bumblebee in December!

I was very surprised to see the above Bumblebee gathering nectar from my Potato plant Solanum, which remarkably is in flower in December (picture taken on 20/12/09).

Due to its size, I think it must be a worker of either a white- or buff-tailed bumblebee Bombus lucorum or Bombus terrestris. If anyone has any ideas on the species ID then please let me know. The temperature on the 20th was barely above freezing and I cannot remember ever seeing a bumblebee when it has been that cold.

According to the BBC Wildlife magazine for January, there are some nests that are active throughout the winter, which must account for my observation. The magazine does point out that in warmer weather, the larger queens of the two mentioned species will also be prospecting for new nest sites. With the current ongoing freeze and 35cm depth of snow on the ground, it could be sometime before the first queen turns up in my garden.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Garden Moth Review 2009

The picture above shows the Omphaloscelis lunosa or Lunar Underwing Moth. This species appeared in my top 10 most abundant garden species this year (more about that below).

My garden moth list continues to grow with the help of 27 new species in 2009. I started recording seriously in 2005 and the grand total now stands at 152. Here is a year by year tally:

2005 = 51.
2006 = 81. New species = 30.
2007 = 104. New species = 23.
2008 = 125. New species = 21.
2009 = 152. New species = 27.

This has been my most successful year yet with 79 different species recorded and a total moth count of 229 individuals. Here is a yearly breakdown of number of species recorded and the number of individuals:

2005 Species = 51. Individuals = 99.
2006 Species = 50. Individuals = 142.
2007 Species = 53. Individuals = 161.
2008 Species = 68. Individuals = 178.
2009 Species = 79. Individuals = 229.

The list below shows my top 10 most abundant species. Surprisingly, the Light Brown Apple Moth has been replaced at the top by the Heart and Dart. Last years number 2 and 3 were Dark Arches and Brimstone Moth respectively, but this year they are no where to be seen! The surprises this year are the already mentioned Heart and Dart which increased by 20 and Setaceous Hebrew Character which increased by 11. The only migrant species recorded was the ubiquitous Silver Y with a total of 4, and disappointedly there were again no Humming-bird Hawk-moths seen.

1. Agrotis exclamationis Heart and Dart = 28
2. Epiphyas postvittana Light Brown Apple Moth = 23
3. Xestia c-nigrum Setaceous Hebrew Character = 14
4. Orthosia cruda Small Quaker = 8
5. Omphaloscelis lunosa Lunar Underwing = 8
6. Chloroclysta truncata Common Marbled Carpet = 7
7. Agrotis puta Shuttle-shaped Dart = 7
8. Noctua pronuba Large Yellow Underwing = 6
9. Agriphila geniculea = 5
10. Peribatodes rhomboidaria Willow Beauty = 5

Leaving the garden for a moment, my life list now stands at 202. Considering a total of 789 species have been seen in Berkshire this year (up to 13/12/09), then I have a long way to go.