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

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

From the garden trap - 27/05/2008

I hadn't seen the forecast, but when I got home from RW last night at 21:45 it was still not fully dark, mild and fairly still. After the week in Jordan, a weekend in Devon and foul pissy weather on Monday night, these were (relatively) excellent conditions to put out the garden traps again. Before I went to bed at just gone midnight, both traps were lively and the actinic in particular was buzzing with geometers. I decided to get up early to go through the traps at a leisurely pace. However, I was rudely awoken at 04:50 by torrential thundery rain - bugger! By the time I actually did the traps at 06:45 it had stopped raining but both traps had a good 2 - 3 inches of water sloshing about the egg boxes. Nevertheless, the catch was pretty good! As you would expect after a week of non-trapping in late May there were a few new species for the year.

Total catch 107 of 30sp.(125W MV 43 of 24sp., 80W actinic 64 of 23sp.)

First for the year:
Firethorn Leaf Miner (Phyllonorycter leucographella) 1
Epiblema cynosbatella 1
Common Marbled Carpet (Chloroclysta truncata) 5
Broken-barred Carpet (Electrophaes corylata) 1
Freyer's Pug (Eupithecia intricata arceuthata) 2
Lime Hawk-moth (Mimas tiliae) 1
Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura plecta) 2
Small Square-spot (Diarsia rubi) 1
Bright-line Brown-eye (Lacanobia oleracea) 1
Sycamore (Acronicta aceris) 1
Dark / Grey Dagger (Acronicta tridens/psi) 1
Rustic Shoulder-knot (Apamea sordens) 4
Highest counts:

Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) 15
Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria) 15
Garden Carpet (Xanthorhoe fluctuata) 12
Common Pug (Eupithecia vulgata) 9
Clouded Silver (Lomographa temerata) 7

Lime Hawk-moth

Scalloped Hazel

Rustic Shoulder-knot

The Sycamore

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Sand-tastic - Rutland Water 27/05/2008

Back to proper work today after driving home from a wet and windy Devon last night. We'd been there this weekend to drop off the kids with their grandparents for the week. I already knew that I'd missed Fulmar at Rutland Water and was not expecting a chance to try today even if it was still about. However, a text from John Hague mid-morning eclipsed any thoughts of Fulmar - a Stilt Sandpiper had been found on Lagoon 1. FUCK! I've seen Stilt Sand before but this would be a major county tick for everybody. Even so, I couldn't justify leaving work too early. I left at 15:30 to pick up Nichola from home (in the newly arrived Vectra Estate) and we set off for RW with the intention of me seeing the sandpiper and then we'd have a beer or two with a pub meal (the major benefit of no kids at home). Sadly we'd hardly got going before news came through the the sandpiper had fecked off. BOLLOCKS! I decided to go ahead anyway, seeing as the evening was brightening up (all relative compared to yesterday's wind and rain). We ambled down to Harrier Hide with purring Turtle Dove, gropper and a few Sedge Warblers for company. Still no sign of the Stilt Sandpiper, but some consolation for me was a superb breeding plumaged Knot. Yes - I am a tart. Can't explain why I'd never seen a Knot in the county but there you go. Now I have. I then had a very half-arsed and fruitless look for the Fulmar that had been reported as still present this morning, before we headed off to Uppingham for a couple of pints of Greene King IPA with a heart-attack inducing mixed grill. After this we headed home. In fact, I'd just passed Billesdon when my phone suddenly bleeped with a message - 'Marsh Sand on Lagoon 1 now'. WHAT? surely some mistake? A quick phone call confirmed that this was not gross dyslexia, and also that the message should have arrived an hour and a half earlier. FUCK BUGGER BOLLOCKS. Another major county first at the same site on the same day. Despite protestations from Nichola, I turned the car around and drove like a twat back to RW. I headed straight down the farm track (ensuring that my shiny new Vectra now looks like an off-roading veteran), abandoned it and Nichola and set off across the field back into Harrier Hide. Within seconds I was on the Marsh Sand - superb. What a mad day for RW. Any luck and the Stilt Sand will pop back up tomorrow and I can do it all again !!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Very Dead Sea - 22/05/2008

Unsurprisingly I awoke with a headache and missed breakfast on the last day of our brief business trip. After the meetings were closed at c16:15, we freshened up and were whisked off to the Dead Sea for a couple of hours relaxation before a meal. I was really looking forward to this, and was hoping to get in some birding after an obligatory float. On the way we saw some really stunning scenery - very arid desert mountain slopes interspersed with goat herders and the odd small township. At various points we passed through armed checkpoints (and I mean properly armed - not a poncy lightweight M4 carbide machine gun but real big fuck-off heavy duty guns mounted on the back of pick-ups). We arrived at a string of sea-side hotel complexes and it was immediately clear that my hopes of natural beauty here were likely to be dashed. The hotels each had a section of crap beach partitioned off and there was very little chance of wandering too far.
I did the floating thing - I guess it's one of those things you have to do at the Dead Sea but you soon get over the wonder of effortless floating, even when you have a gut like mine! I then had a look around the hotel gardens and aside from yet more Laughing Doves (ubiquitous like Collared Doves over here) I found Crag Martins, Red-rumped Swallows and Little Swifts overhead and a few Yellow-vented Bulbuls around. I also noted a number of bee-hawk type moths - haven't sussed out what they were yet.

Yellow-vented Bulbul (or Spectacle Bulbul if you prefer).

As the sun set I felt obliged to close the day with sinking sun over Palestine shots (as in the West Bank in Israel).

Going ......

Going ...


We then had an open air and more BBQ type offering of similar food to the previous evening. A wedding party at the hotel poured out as we finished - apparently a Palestinian wedding with some excellent Arabic drums and chanting heralding the couple as they made their way down to their tables overlooking the Dead Sea.
By the time we got back to the hotel I was quite frankly knackered after the previous night, and only managed a single Amstel before heading back to my room to pack and get a few hours sleep before the 05:30 departure for the airport.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Amman 21/05/2008 - Champions League Final Edition

Today was strictly business until the evening. After the first couple of sessions of our inter-plant meetings in the hotel, we were taken to the Amman plant for a tour and and then on to a restaurant (Qaryat Al Nakheel). Other than many more Laughing Doves and a Hoopoe on the way, the only other birds I noted was a mixed group of Alpine and Pallid Swifts overhead as we entered the restaurant. After the delicious meal (meze with lots of mixed salads, humus and similar stuff with flat breads, falafel and then spiced lamb kebabs and grilled spiced chicken) we returned to the hotel. After a quick shower I was back in the bar for a swift Amstel (the only beers on offer seemed to be Amstel or Heineken, which I hate, or bottled Corona and similar). we then took a short taxi ride to the Champions Sports Bar attached to the Amman Marriott Hotel with the intention of watching the final. We arrived to a thriving and packed bar full of Jordanian youth bearing their Man United and Chelsea shirts, shouting and screaming at each other and singing football songs. Didn't expect that! We then embarked on a liver-threatening intake of Amstel (8 pints) whilst watching the game and enjoying a bit of banter with the youth. They were all very knowledgeable about the British game, even being aware of LCFC and their plight into relegation. I have to day that if I'd been at home this game would have gone unwatched, but in the surreal circumstances and with the beer flowing it was surprisingly exciting - I would have preferred Chelski to win though. We got back to our hotel very late and I eventually got to bed at 02:30 after a couple of large Glenlivets (no Macallan or Laphroaig on offer).

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Al-Hussein National Park - Amman 20/05/2008

On waking this morning with an Amstel hangover, I immediately noted that it was very sunny and fucking hot. It's the sort of intense dry heat that doesn't give you time to sweat - it all dries up immediately! Anyway, I had a little time to try and get out but not enough to really make the most of this business trip (no chance of getting to Petra or Wadi Rum). That's the trouble with business trips - never enough time to take in the sites and culture. A quick internet check revealed a place called the Al-Hussein National Park on the western side of Amman. A quick taxi ride and I was there. It was immediately clear that the park was not a green oasis with lots of birding potential, but an arid scrub plantation with straggly trees clinging on to life.

Lush green and pleasant land.

Mosque on the mound.

The desert equivalent of a conifer plantation.


The park is on a hillside giving excellent views of this side of Amman. Which is much the same as the other views of other sides of Amman!

Commonest birds here were, annoyingly, House Sparrow and Linnet. No warblers and very little else other than plenty of Turtle Doves. To be honest it was crap. Even a quick walk through Leicester would yield more species. The only bird interest really was good numbers of Crested Larks and Laughing Doves. Also loads of lizards - albeit fucking quick and jumpy lizards! Not too many butterflies and dayflying moths either.

Crested Lark

Laughing Dove - just about.

Laughing Dove

Turtle Dove

Some sort of lizard.

Our man in Amman

Having never been to anywhere in the middle east before, I really didn't know what to expect on arriving here last night. As it happens, it was dark so I still didn't know what to expect although I did notice though on the drive from the airport was that the western capitalist machine has certainly been embraced in Jordan. McTakeovertheworld, KillFuckingChicken and Pizza Shite were all noted. The views from the hotel pretty much sum up Amman - a huge sprawling building site in the desert!

I guess Jordan, and Amman in particular, is not fully representative of the middle east as a whole. The hotel itself is a very swanky and westernised Sheraton with plenty of facilities that I won't use apart from Wi-fi and a bar.

A slight lie, as this is the pool I was sitting around whilst blogging with a beer!

Monday, 19 May 2008

From the garden trap - 18/05/2008

Decided to give the garden traps an airing last night seeing as I'll be off to Jordan for the week. As the after-dark temps dropped rapidly I assumed the catch would be crap, and I was not far wrong!

Total catch 6 of 4sp.
(125W Mv 4 of 3sp., 80W actinic 2 of 2sp.)

The saving grace however was that the only first for the year species, and the highlight, was the third garden record of Chocolate-tip. Seems to be having a very good year - it's not that long ago (20/04/2002) that me, Andy Mackay and Adrian Russell took one at Pickworth Great Wood when it was still a major county rarity (only the fifth VC record and third VC site).

As is often the case, once disturbed this bugger wouldn't settle. I havent got time to fanny about so here's a blurry wing shot for the record!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Unexpected Post-script - Gisborne's Gorse 14/05/2008

I was most surprised to find myself being distracted whist driving home from work earlier this evening by an Orange Footman flying about in the back of the car. There is only one possibility for how it got there - and that is from the traps and stuff after picking up from Gisborne's Gorse yesterday morning. No idea how it evaded being recorded at the time, or how it evaded being removed from the car with the gear when I got home. Either way it bumps up the trapping totals for that session by 1 species and individual!

Orange Footman - now well established in VC55 woodland.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Gisborne's Gorse 14/05/2008

Although the forecast wasn't great, I knew that last night would probably be the last chance of getting out anywhere before working away next week. The forecast for tonight and the weekend looked no better and probably worse. So I set out to leave three traps running at Gisborne's Gorse in Charnwood Lodge. Even in unfavourable conditions, leaving traps in decent woodland habitat, sheltered from any strong breeze, should yield better results than a typical garden. Or not as the case turned out to be! After the poor garden catch I was not execting much, and this morning the traps took no longer to empty than it took to put them out in the first place.

Total Catch 20 of 11sp. (from 3 x 125W MV traps!!)

The only highlights really were two species that I probably won't ever see in my garden.

Grey Birch - great when fresh (unlike this worn individual)

Marbled Brown

From the garden trap - 14/05/2008

Absolutely dire! Total catch 11 of 8sp. (125W MV 4 of 4sp., 80W actinic 7 of 4sp.) Nothing new, no highlights.

From the garden trap - 13/05/2008

Total catch 33 of 17sp.
(125W MV 15 of 9sp., 80W actinic 18 of 12sp.)

First for year:
Carnation Tortrix (Cacoecimorpha pronubana) 1
Common Carpet (Epirrhoe alternata) 1
Scalloped Hazel (Odontopera bidentata) 1
Highest counts:
Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria) 9
Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) 5

Scalloped Hazel - they don't normally hold their wings up, this jumpy bugger wouldn't settle.

ATB style

Since getting it last year, I like to go out for a moderate 4 or 5 mile meander along local country lanes on my bike in the early evening in spring and summer. The bike is nothing fancy - just a basic Raleigh AT-20 with 21 Shimano Easy-fire gears. Nichola has got the same bike in a ladies frame. I've got a very poncy looking tool-bag thing under the cross-bar, and it's fitted with a trail-gator for when we go out biking with the kids.

Although it's an ATB style, I don't think it would hold up to any serious terrain. Even if it did, my legs wouldn't!

When I finally get the Vectra estate (now due end May) I'll have to see if the bike rack fits - I realy ought to take the bike out for a bit of birding around Rutland Water etc.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

From the garden trap - 12/05/2008

The cooler evening temp. and strong breeze certainly reduced the catch last night. Total catch 29 of 15sp. (125W MV 15 of 10sp., 80W actinic 14 of 8sp.) First for year: Elachista argentella 1 Highest counts: Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) 6 Other highlights: None!

Monday, 12 May 2008

From the garden trap - 11/05/2008

Total catch 57 of 27sp.
(125W MV 31 of 21sp., 80W actinic 26 of 14sp.)

First for year:
Bucculatrix nigricomella 1
Elachista rufocinerea 1
Red Twin-spot Carpet (Xanthorhoe spadicearia) 1
Waved Umber (Menophra abruptaria) 1
Common Wave (Cabera exanthemata) 1
Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) 1
Highest counts:
Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) 10
Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria) 9
Common Pug (Eupithecia vulgata) 5
Other highlights:
May Highflyer (Hydriomena impluviata) 1

An early Heart and Dart

Sunday, 11 May 2008

This week, I have mostly been listening to -

After the synth pop revival, I reloaded the i-Pod with a small but powerful selection of, well, stuff. Electronic based from across the last couple of decades, a bit off the wall and difficult to pigeon-hole into any particular genre. Contributors to this mix included Controlled Bleeding, Hula, Suicide, Alien Sex Fiend, Bjork, a bit of FSOL and also: Portishead - really like the current single Machine Gun, because of rather than in spite of the lack of music! Aphex Twin - the brasher slightly less ambient stuff. This video is fucking brilliant! This track in particular is probably what prompted a mid-week re-load with 100% D&B, courtesy of the Drum & Bass Arena podcasts. Why not download a couple of tasters - play them loud. Futurebound DJ Basher

From the garden trap - 10/05/2008

A whopping 70 of 30sp., including 14 micro sp.
(125W MV 40 of 22sp, 80W actinic 30 of 15sp.)

First for year:
Coleophora albicosta 1
Syndemis musculana 1
Mottled Pug (Eupithecia exiguata) 1
Clouded Silver (Lomographa temerata) 1
Highest counts:
Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) 18
Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria) 8
Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) 6
Other highlights:
Diamond-back Moth (Plutella xylostella) 1
May Highflyer (Hydriomena impluviata) 1

Should be some more good lists whilst this warm spell continues. I'll be working away in Jordan after next week so the chances of breaking 100 species in May will be limited.

Mottled Pug

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Narborough Bog - 09/05/2008

After a very early start and a long day working in Kent yesterday, I got home just before seven feeling in need of fresh air and recreation. I decided with only a couple of hours before dusk to drag the mothing gear out of the shed, service the gennie and get over to my nearest local reserve, Narborough Bog. However, as I was completely knackered I intended to just leave the gear overnight.

The gennie is a cheapo 2-stroke that I've had for 5 years or so now. For the money (c£70 at the time but they've gone for c£40 since) this gennie is second to none. It's loud, heavy and smelly when it starts but you can chain it up and leave it overnight without worrying about risk. It has been in the shed since National Moth Night 2007 (August) as I either couldn't be arsed to go out mothing or the weather was too crap in the intervening months. A quick spark plug clean (no oily shit I'm pleased to say) and an air filter check and time to fire up. Not quite first pull, but only 3 more and it was running - superb, another season in it yet.

I had already sorted the traps out with new bulbs and various vane repairs before storing for the winter, so I thought they would be okay. Everything piled into the boot and I was at Narborough bog in time to get the traps and gennie set-up.

The only target as such was Early Tooth-striped. This is a favourite of mine, but I knew it may be too late in the season as I normally trap here in mid April. Otherwise, I was just keen to prove the gear and see what turned up.

I chained the gennie up on the footbridge, with the traps positioned c100M into the damp woodland, c5M from the bridge and c50M along the track running past the allotments. No point in targeting the reedbed at this time of year. All of the traps had a white(ish) sheet underneath - helps to make finding moths around the trap easier in the morning.

Gennie security

Trap & sheet in the dark damp wood.

I fired up at 20:55, waited a few minutes and then left it to fate. At 06:00 this morning, I arrived back to find the gennie still running and all traps still on. Only annoyance was that some shambolic fuckwit had decided to trample on one of the sheets, move the trap and dispose of a cigarette into the box. What a cunt on casters. And also what a fucking lame attempt at vandalism - they could've hoyed the trap into the reedbed or at least unplugged everything. It was still running and still had moths in (although some were dead from passive smoking).

What the fuck?

Not the usual trap detritus.

I'd already let John know I would be trapping and he joined me just in time to start going through them. Not a bad catch in total, with 82 of 44sp. The absolute highlight was 2 Chocolate-tips - I think a site first record (which considering the amount of work done here is some feat). There was also a single Early Tooth-striped. Overall, the best moths were:

Phyllonorycter salictella viminiella 1
Elachista apicipunctella 1
Acleris hastiana 2
Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata) 1
May Highflyer (Hydriomena impluviata) 3
Early Tooth-striped (Trichopteryx carpinata) 1
White-pinion Spotted (Lomographa bimaculata) 2
Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi) 2
Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac) 1
Swallow Prominent (Pheosia tremula) 3
Pale Prominent (Pterostoma palpina) 2
Chocolate-tip (Clostera curtula) 2
Pale Tussock (Calliteara pudibunda) 1
Buff Ermine (Spilosoma luteum) 1
Poplar Grey (Acronicta megacephala) 1
Knot Grass (Acronicta rumicis) 4

A full list can be downloaded from here if you are registered on the VC55 Moths Yahoo Group.

As ever (except when blogger fucks up), all of the following photos are clickable for larger size viewing.

Chocolate-tip - these tend to flap themselves stupid once disturbed, and this on the egg-tray shot was the best I managed.

Early Tooth-striped

White-pinion Spotted

Small Phoenix

Pebble Prominent

Knot Grass

Red-green Carpet

From the garden trap - 09/05/2008

Similar numbers to yesterday, with the two traps performing almost identically.

Total catch 34 of 20sp.
(125W MV 17 of 13sp., 80W actinic 17 of 14sp.)

Tinea trinotella 1
Caloptilia syringella 1
Argyresthia trifasciata 3
Brown House Moth (Hofmannophila pseudospretella) 1
White-shouldered House Moth (Endrosis sarcitrella) 2
Semioscopis steinkellneriana 1
Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) 4
Twenty-plume Moth (Alucita hexadactyla) 2
Chinese Character (Cilix glaucata) 3
Garden Carpet (Xanthorhoe fluctuata) 1
Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria) 2
Sandy Carpet (Perizoma flavofasciata) 1
Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) 3
Brindled Beauty (Lycia hirtaria) 1
Pale Tussock (Calliteara pudibunda) 1
Least Black Arches (Nola confusalis) 1
Shuttle-shaped Dart (Agrotis puta) 1
Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta) 2
Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) 2
Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) 1

Caloptilia syringella - I've already mentioned that I like this group, and this is probably my favourite of the commoner species. Go on - click for a large view.

Sandy Carpet

From the garden trap - 08/05/2008

Getting nearer to the garden mothing annual landmarks of 25 species / 10 micro species in a night.

Total catch 35 of 20sp.
(125W MV 13 of 11sp., 80W actinic 22 of 14sp.)

Eriocrania subpurpurella 1
Phyllonorycter blancardella 1
Phyllonorycter corylifoliella 1
White-shouldered House Moth (Endrosis sarcitrella) 3
Agonopterix arenella 1
Scrobipalpa acuminatella 1
Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) 7
Small Magpie (Eurrhypara hortulata) 1
Emmelina monodactyla 1
Chinese Character (Cilix glaucata) 1
Garden Carpet (Xanthorhoe fluctuata) 2
Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria) 4
Common Pug (Eupithecia vulgata) 1
Brindled Pug (Eupithecia abbreviata) 1
Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata) 1
Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) 3
Muslin Moth (Diaphora mendica) 2
Least Black Arches (Nola confusalis) 1
Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) 1
Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) 1

Small Magpie - a smart pyralid

Sixty / Freedom

As Israel marks sixty years as a nation, there are clearly mixed feelings and thoughts about what has been achieved. To me, it appears that the main achievements are:
  • border expansion beyond those proposed/agreed in 1948 (agreed by everyone except the Arabian states affected that it!)
  • war with all neighbours (any claims of 60 years of peace is absolute fucking bollocks)
  • leading middle-eastern nation in the global arms race (yes, they are nuclear)
  • did I mention the border expansion and occupation
  • etc

I hope I'm wrong, but I am not betting money on a fully acceptable-to-all solution to the Israeli/Palestinian dispute in the next couple of decades. And seeing as the UK and the UN fucked the whole thing up in the first place I wouldn't look there for answers.

Meanwhile, over in Burma, we have a Military Junta prepared to let their own people suffer and die rather than accept help and aid from western nations/individuals. This is just so fucking unbelievable I don't know what to say. Our politicians may not be liked (because they are all cunts) but it's when you get a glimpse of life (and death) in places like Burma that you realise how lucky we are. Unless you live in Tewkesbury etc. - plenty of government help in flood-affected areas I'm sure.

The stench of death!

It's a strange thing, but aside from very obvious road-kill corpses I come across very few dead animals and birds when out and about (relative to their abundance in life). This is especially true of the larger mammals. On arriving at Ketton yesterday morning though, a disturbingly familiar smell hit my nostrils. Death. Just like the rotting Blackbird I cleared out of our guttering a couple of years ago, only bigger. You know the smell.
Right at the entrance to the reserve, completely exposed, was a recently dead Muntjac (or at least I think it's a Muntjac). When I say recently dead, I'm guessing 2 - 3 days. With the recent heat, the smell of decomposition and the maggot ridden nasal passages were the only lively things about this deer.
The left hidleg was snapped just above the hoof with exposed bone, so I'm guessing that it must have been severly hampered to the point where it probably just laid down and starved to death.
Any dipterists or coleopterists out there would have a field day with this one!

Not very well.

Knackered leg.

Maggot heaven.