Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Herald, Adder, 'pillars n plants

Ran the garden traps last night despite the entirely unsuitable conditions - total catch was 14 of 8sp. (125W MV 10 of 6, 80W actinic 4 of 3). I starting to think that the 2 x 40W actinic tubes need replacing - this trap usually fares as well or better than the MV in the garden but lately it's been pants. Whilst the catch was meagre, there were two garden firsts for the year.

0663 Diurnea fagella 1
1524 Emmelina monodactyla 3
1862 Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata) 1
2179 Pine Beauty (Panolis flammea) 1 [first for year]
2187 Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) 3
2190 Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) 3
2243 Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) 1
2469 Herald (Scoliopteryx libatrix) 1 [first for year]

Herald ..... nice.

After emptying the traps and stuff, I headed back out to Ketton Quarry for another go at the reptiles. Josh came along, but Alex decided not to bother after last weeks try. We arrived at 09:00 in glorious sunshine that was bathing the main search area.

As we got out of the car, I immediately picked up Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler in full song and Budgerigar calling. Eh? WTF is a Budgie doing calling from that Horse Chestnut I thought. I grabbed the bins and eventually picked up a pale blue-grey bird that looked decidedly pissed off at the general lack of mirrors and cuttlefish. To be honest, despite the insistent calling it was damned hard to pick up in the tree - nothing like the Ring-necked Parakeets down south.

After the diversion, we set about the main business of finding snakes and lizards. No one else was around, which was good in that there was less disturbance but it's also good to have a few pairs of eyes out. As it happened, I quickly found a superb Adder outstretched in the grass. It was one of the lovely sort of grey-green coloured males.

After this quick success, things were a bit like last week with an enormous female Grass Snake briefly seen and a few small Common Lizards not hanging about.

The best bit of snake habitat at Ketton Quarry

Over in the other main compound, I was really surprised to find good numbers of Common Heath on the wing - a good couple of weeks earlier than I've seen them before. They were too active and impossible to photograph in the sun today so I netted a male for a controlled attempt.

Common Heath - not at all common in VC55

Lots of bees and hoverflies on the wing, but surprisingly few butterflies.

We then headed home to face the gardening chores. I mentioned last week that our garden usually needs extra time before mowing, long after everyone else has had a couple of goes. Nichola disagrees and insisted on mowing and gardening today. My annual first-mow ritual is not quite conventional though. Our crappy mower, in conjunction with our even more crappy lawn, has a rear roller which after the last mow of the year sticks with a wad of muddy compacted grass stuck behind it. Every year for a while now, when I prise off the roller to clear it I find a few Common Swift caterpillars. I guess either the eggs or very early instar larvae are caught up to spend the winter in my mower in the shed - quite how they survive and grow in such circumstances I have no idea.

Common Swift

I've stuck a few in a box outside with a fresh wad of turf with roots to try and rear through - the rest were released back onto the lawn after mowing.

Whilst on the larval front, we found a few caterpillars in the garden yesterday. One is a tortrix munching away in a spinning on buddleia shoots (probably Light Brown Apple Moth - retained to rear). I also found loads of miniscule just-hatched geometrids on our Lilac - could well be a repeat of last year's Feathered Thorn. Also two noctuid larvae munching on weeds.

Lesser Yellow Underwing?


Both retained to rear through.

As for the weeds, temporarily growing alongside the Lesser Celandine were Common Dog Violet and Dandelion - Nichola pulled them all up ......

Common Dog Violet - I think


The onlt other highlight whilst in the garden was a surprise garden tick on the bird list when a Meadow Pipit flew over calling heading towards the lane.


Bennyboymothman said...

Some great pictures there Mark, particularly the Herald and the Common Swift caterpillars.
Common Heath...only seen one in France before.

Anonymous said...

Better snake photos than I got!

Anonymous said...

Yeh, crackinng set of photos, Mark.

Rid said...

Hi Skev, fantastic images of the adders. I have never had the pleasure of seeing one, could you please give me some more info on the location and advice to see them as I'd like to make a visit with my son.....thanks.

PS i know they are venomous, how close is safe????

Skev said...

Thanks all.

Paul - I'll send you the details on e-mail. As for how close you can get - I guess there is an element of how tetchy and active the snake is and how pushy you are! I reckon you are more than okay at a meter - Steve Houghton got bitten last year when trying to push a 50mm macro lens up ones nostrils. You have to find one first of course ....