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

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Conquered Tree

The invasive alien Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner was first recorded in VC55 in late 2005 at one site. During 2006, it started to appear at further widespread sites in the county but still at a fairly low level - you had to look but once you found an infested area the local trees were all affected. This year it seems more likely that you would have to search for somewhere that doesn't have infested trees. I've seen them everywhere. This particular tree on the edge of our estate is heavily infested - yet there are plenty of conkers so maybe the moths are not too destructive. Every leaf affected Multiple mines on each lobe - some merging into each other It's only 7 years since the species was first detected in the UK - it won't be too long before it reaches the far south-west and north. It's been suggested that on the continent some populations have stabilised c10 years after colonisation. However it has also started mining Sycamore and Norway Maple so maybe it will just keep jumping hosts!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Larval laugh

Came home from work and whilst pottering about I went to check various boxed larvae to see how they were doing. Found a small box with this in it:

Somehow I don't think Nichola takes my hobbies very seriously!

Here's another blokey joke that is no doubt too puerile for serious comedians: A couple's relationship is on the rocks, so they go to a marriage guidance councillor. He asks them to start off positively by thinking of things they have in common. There follows a long period of uncomfortable silence. Eventually, the husband offers 'well - neither of us gives blow jobs ........'

Monday, 28 September 2009

Garden Twitching ...

No - this is not about a new listing craze where you tear around the country ticking famous formal gardens. The weekend Rosefinch got me thinking about other times when I've been in - or looking into - other peoples gardens to see a rarity. So, I had a quick look through my British List - didn't take long seeing as it's currently a paltry 398 species since I stopped regularly twitching in 2002. I reckon the best five birds I've seen in someone else's garden are: 5) Dark-eyed Junco - the one at Vicar's Cross, Cheshire, on 21/01/1998 4) Spanish Sparrow - the chirpy male at Waterside, Cumbria on 21/07/1996 3) Collared Flycatcher - this year's superb bird at Southwell, Portland on 02/05/2009 2) White-crowned Sparrow - the well watched Cley bird on 13/01/2008 1) Northern Waterthrush - the superb bird at Portland Bill, milling about in the cottage gardens when I saw it ridiculously well on 17/10/1996 I'm sure that there are a fair few more exciting birds that others have seen in gardens, especially those that were birding when the Golden-winged Warbler was knocking about, plus a few Tanagers over the years. What's on your top five 'garden twitch' list?

Sunday, 27 September 2009

A near miss, and the end is nigh

Last one from the Dungeness trip, and one that nearly got away. Whilst going through the traps we found a handful of tortricids that were initially dismissed as Garden Rose Tortrix, a very variable species. To his credit, Adrian thought something was not quite right and potted one to check. When I got home and started trawling through Razowski to identify other tortricids, I noticed a species that looked right for our Dungeness moth. I alerted Adrian and Keith, and before long we confirmed another new species for the night (and for me) - Acleris permutana Acleris permutana - specimen borrowed from Adrian, still fresh after a week in the fridge and a trip to Ravenstone for Keith to photograph! Meanwhile, the garden traps are still a bit crap with the clear cool nights. On Friday night a few of these appeared signalling that the final fling of the mothing season is upon us - another month and I'll have pretty much packed up my gear until next year. Blair's Shoulder-knot

Saturday, 26 September 2009

County Tick .......

Somehow, I full expected to be out this weekend watching a first for the county Glossy Ibis. Turns out my thoughts of a county first were right - just the wrong species .... This morning, Andy Smith over in Thornton was no doubt delighted to find a juvenile Common Rosefinch in his garden ringing nets. He promptly got the news out, and before long a steady procession of county birders were invited into his garden to scan over some really superb looking gardens, scrub and woodland with Thornton Reservoir in the background. When I got there, there was c12 birders enjoying the view. After a few came and went, when I left there was still c20 and more were heading that way. I got good scope and bin views within seconds of arriving - OMCL! Let's be fair - a juve Rosefinch may not be the most inspiring bird, but this was a county first and everyone needed it. There must be a load of midlands listers who would need it as well - can't be many inland records. It was actually quite a smart bird with its massive beady eye, and it was in open view for prolonged periods inbetween actively feeding on elderberries. Many thanks to Andy and his family for their excellent hosting and for opening up their garden view to all. It was good to see all the faces there - probably the biggest county twitch of a VC55 garden since the Medbourne Rose-coloured Starling and my Black Redstart many years ago.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

I Love Acid

This week, I have mainly been listening to Luke Vibert. Great stuff if you like a bit of acid every now and then. Also some of his earlier stuff under the Plug guise - great stuff this, like jazz in a drum n bass style.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Hop-dog +

A few bits from the last few days, starting with this wacky caterpillar that Josh & Alex found on our front garden on Sunday: Pale Tussock I reckon it fell out of the cherry tree on the front, but I'm rearing it on lilac at the moment. Really smart caterpillar this one, in days gone by it used to be very common in hop fields and gained the common name of Hop-dog. Here's a couple of micros I've identified from Dungeness: Celypha cespitana - a new one for me. Feeds on thyme, sea-lavender and other similar herbaceous plants Agonopterix scopariella - another new one for me. Feeds on broom, loads of that at Dungeness Gelechiid pending ID confirmation - jury is out on this one. Possibly Teleiopsis diffinis but will be gen detted to confirm (there were c450 of them across the traps!) The garden traps have been rubbish over the last few days, the only interesting species both turned up last night: Pink-barred Sallow Dark Sword-grass Red sky at night, I'm not bothering with the traps ....

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Big bad bug

Amongst the moths on Saturday night at Dungeness, we also took c10 of these .. Western Conifer Seed Bug I was pleased to see it in one repsect (interesting looking species, still a bit rare, appears to be getting here through immigration) but it was also a bad sign (non-European adventive species, destructive pest, illegal to knowingly release). I've therefore considered it as both a mothing mate and a mothing villain (look back through the label links if you missed what this was all about). This is a native species in western USA that arrived in Italy with timber in 1999. It has taken hold and started to spread through Europe, reaching the UK for the first time in 2007 (Weymouth, Dorset) with several taken at coastal stations in 2008 (mainly in moth traps during periods of immigration I believe). Taking one on Saturday would have been interesting, taking c10 is worrying!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Dungeness - NMN 19/09/2009

Dungeness - if it's shingle, sallow scrub or radiation you want then this is the place to go! We ran our traps around the long pits area: The long pits are immediately north of the nuclear power station We ran traps roughly within the yellow boundary - all shingly sallow scrub When we arrived in the afternoon, it was warm and sunny with a light breeze and cloudless sky. Very nice, but not very good prospects for mothing. The trapping sites looked like this: Shingle with sallow scrub Shingle and nuclear power Shingle Sallow scrub and shingle It took a good two hours to deploy everything, but we were ready in good time to light up just before dusk. As soon as everything was running, me and Adrian headed over to The Pilot for a very welcome couple of pints and to get some really good fish n chips to take out. Considering the location, the pub was absolutely rammed with locals having a meal out. The food was on the high end of pub meal prices, but it was excellent. Shortly after the beer and fish, we set out on a lengthy tour around the traps. We were obviously hoping to pick up some decent migrants, but I think honest expectations were more realistic and especially so when we'd seen that Square-spot Rustic was likely to be the commonest moth of the night. Another tour seemed to confirm that it was slow-going, though we did start to see a couple of good species. The gennies were topped up and we called it a night early to leave the traps running and get dawn start to empty them and redo all the hard work in reverse. The list is still being compiled, but despite the lack of exciting migrants it is going to be a very respectable total both in terms of species and numbers for the time of year (over 1500 of 70sp). Main highlights for me were a macro and pyralid tick: Dark Spectacle - one I haven't seen as it's a very scarce moth in VC55 Cynaeda dentalis - a Dungeness speciality that should be over by now, really pleased to see this Next up on the highlight stakes were five species I've seen before but a good while ago: L-album Wainscot - superb smart moth Feathered Brindle - quite a few of these in all variations Feathered Ranunculus - sadly a worn individual Four-spotted Footman - a non-spotted male Yellow Belle Amongst the remainder were: A reddy-brown Pearly Underwing Lots of really smart fresh Autumnal Rustic An oddly coloured Knot Grass A few good micros being worked on at the moment, more images and detail on how the list is shaping up to come.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

National Moth Nights 2009

Well - we certainly made the effort both locally and afar. True to form the NMN jinx struck and we had two nights with less than ideal weather conditions (either clear, still and cold or clear and wind from wrong direction). On Friday night, we (me, Adrian Russell & Keith Tailby) ran a sheet and 3 traps at Warren Hills and 6 traps at Charnwood Lodge. We had very little to show for this effort, in fact the only highlight for me was a good showing of Flounced Chestnuts allowing me to get photos (have seen it before but a long while ago before I had a digital camera). Here's a montage - click for a bigger one. Flounced Chestnut - even the underside is nice Otherwise the usual fare, in small numbers. Even the super 250W metal halide trap was largely empty. 250W metal halide trap Bright white light at dusk Autumnal Rustic The only thing remotely interesting from my garden traps was this .. Brindled Green Full details to follow once lists have been collated, checked and confirmed as small. Yesterday we drove down to Dungeness to run lots of traps around the long pits area. We ran 20 in total (yes 20). The 20 traps, 9 generators, c20 cable reels and all other paraphernalia, including four blokes, got there in two Vectra estates - cavernous! We were obviously hopeful of some decent immigration but no joy. In fact the 20 traps were not exactly bulging although it was still a very enjoyable night. A few good species (as in ones we don't get here in VC55) which I'll expand on once I've got some photos and lists sorted.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Natural Gore

Can there be anything more horrifying in the natural world than being eaten alive from within? One of the Large White larvae I found earlier in the week had attached itself to the lid of the box I put them in/ I assumed it was going to pupate - nothing obviously wrong with it and it had been feeding well. Just had a look to see that it has 'given birth' to a mass of smaller parasitic larvae that have presumably finished their cycle and have burst out to pupate themselves. And on top of all that horribleness - the Large White is still alive and no doubt feeling a bit slimmer. Grim Death Only thing remotely interesting from the garden traps last night was a first for the year Beaded Chestnut: Beaded Chestnut Good luck to anyone NMN mothing tonight, whether at home or away. We'll be out on what is the only half-decent remnant of anything resembling moorland in VC55 - Charnwood Lodge and Warren Hills.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Spot the moth & bloke joke

Nothing doing over the last couple of days - too busy for one reason or another. Traps are back out tonight, tomorrow will be the home leg of NMN 2009, and Saturday sees us heading south-east for a mothing blitz on Kent. Hopefully that sea parrot will show up again whilst I'm down there. I lieu of anything new, here's a shot of a moth set against a suitable background to show its cryptic side. I usually try to photograph moths so you can see them for obvious reasons, but nice occasionally to show them against something that hides them a bit. Marbled Green- Guineaford, Devon July 2006 Bloke comes home late one night after a beery session with his mates. Badly hungover in the morning, he shambles downstairs to find his wife in the kitchen with one of his socks in a frying pan. Puzzled, he asks 'what on earth are you doing?' His wife replies 'I'm doing what you asked me to do last night when you came in!' In his confused state, he thinks to himself 'I can't remember asking her to cook my sock' .......

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Garden Trap & Patch Pit-stop

From The Garden Trap The traps have been a bit poor over the last four nights - nothing too exciting and only one first for the year species: Lunar Underwing, in the actinic last night Catches have been as follows: 11/09 - Total catch 49 of 15sp. (125W MV 24 of 11sp., 80W actinic 25 of 8sp.) 12/09 - Total catch 70 of 21sp. (125W MV 37 of 17sp., 80W actinic 33 of 14sp.) 13/09 - Total catch 82 of 20sp. (125W MV 48 of 16sp., 80W actinic 34 of 11sp.) 14/09 - Total catch 68 of 19sp. (125W MV 39 of 15sp., 80W actinic 29 of 10sp.) The only really notable thing is that the MV is outperforming the actinic on species every night since I changed the bulb. Full listing for the four nights is: Tinea semifulvella 1 Ypsolopha sequella 3 Diamond-back Moth 1 Brown House Moth 1 White-shouldered House Moth 2 Scrobipalpa costella 1 Blastobasis adustella 2 Blastobasis lacticolella 1 Agapeta hamana 1 Light Brown Apple Moth 44 Garden Rose Tortrix 11 Celypha lacunana 1 Emmelina monodactyla 1 Garden Carpet 5 Common Marbled Carpet 19 Green Carpet 2 Grey Pug 1 Double-striped Pug 1 Brimstone Moth 2 Dusky Thorn 2 Willow Beauty 1 Large Yellow Underwing 59 Lesser Yellow Underwing 51 Small Square-spot 2 Setaceous Hebrew Character 11 Square-spot Rustic 6 Common Wainscot 12 Black Rustic 2 Centre-barred Sallow 1 Lunar Underwing 1 Copper Underwing 3 Mouse Moth 1 Angle Shades 2 Flounced Rustic 2 Frosted Orange 1 Vine's Rustic 1 Pale Mottled Willow 1 Burnished Brass 1 Gold Spot 1 Silver Y 5 Red Underwing 1 Straw Dot 2 Patch Pit-stop After another hectic day in the heady world of metal food and beverage packaging, I nipped into Jubilee Park on the way home to have a scan across the pool - it was only going to be a very quick visit. These days I really don't like carrying a scope about. My own scope is a very lightweight (in both mass and optical power) Bushnell Spacemaster that I've had for years. It's done good service though (it is an ED version and the 22WA eyepiece is pretty good) and in later years I took to using it with a monopod - great for walking around Scillies etc, absolute shite for seawatching. At the moment I have on loan an Opticron HR80 from Drunkbirder John Hague. Compared to my scope it is much better optically but is bloody heavy and needs a tripod. Anyway, seeing as I wasn't going far I took the heavy option with full tripod - about 30 seconds after hitting the site I was never more pleased to have this equipment when a fecking big Alsation and it's Doberman friend came bounding towards me at great speed. I was about to twat the nearest dog with the tripod when their chavvy knob of an owner called them in - to be fair they heeded his call straight away. Once I'd relaxed a bit I started scanning the pool. Not a great deal to get excited about except 19 Lapwings - I like Lapwings. A flyover Great Spotted Woodpecker was nice, and again Jackdaws seemed to be coming in to the area to roost. I watched the Lapwings for a good few minutes, and started to head back when I noticed these larvae on what appeared to be a cabbage (WTF is a cabbage doing growing by a river bank?) Large White

Monday, 14 September 2009

National Moth Night 2009

What are you doing? NMN has been going for 10 years now, and it was almost a standing joke that once the date was announced you just knew the mothing conditions were going to be pants on that night. This year the theme is immigration, and there are the added novelties that it is a two-night event and moths at various coastal and pertinant locations are being colour marked to see if any are picked up elsewhere. Our loose plan, whether dependant, is to trap locally in VC55 on Friday 18th (hopefully up on a hill somewhere is conditions suitable) and to get down to the south coast for a mega multi-light blitz on the Saturday night and hopefully soak up a few immigrants. Dorset or Kent probably. Beautiful Marbled, Oleander Hawk and something new for Britain would be nice ....

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Classic Tracks & Listening To

Nothing remotely interesting to report today, as I've been busy on various things including (of all things) proper work. So, time to propose another Classic Track that I reckon every 40-something should have in their music collection, or at the very least remember fondly!

This time up, it's the superb debut single from Madness, and the track that got me into the 2-Tone / Ska revival in my very formative years - The Prince ....

Absolutely classic stuff, don't you think? Meanwhile, this week I have mostly been listening to .... .... Goldfrapp

The Black Cherry album to be precise. I quite like the recent synth-pop revival by the likes of La Roux and Little Boots, but let's not forget that Alison Goldfrapp has been putting this stuff out for a few years.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Life in the garden, 12/09/2009

Nichola was working today, leaving me with the kids who were happy to play out with their mates in the glorious hot sunshine. I also had a few bit to do, but as some of this included basic gardening chores I spent time pottering about the garden with one camera or other.

Birdwise the only interest was a singing Chiffchaff (making it seem even more summery), Bullfinch and Goldfinch amongst the commoner visitors. I kept looking to the wide open blue space above but saw precisely zero hirundines, swifts or buzzards of any variety.

Butterflies were back; I saw Comma, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Large White and Peacock all feeding on a large overhanging buddleia of some sort.

The same bush was also alive with bees of various sorts.



Quite a few hoverflies in the garden today aswell on various flowers.

Eupeodes corollae maybe

Rhingia campestris


Whilst out there I found a freshly dead shrew - pretty sure it is a Common Shrew. Couldn't see any obvious damage, though a cat still seems the mostly likely reason for it being on the other side of life.

c100mm nose to tail, c60mm body length alone

Just about showing red-tipped teeth, typical of the, er, red-tipped tooth shrews

The boys were excited to find some larvae, these turned out to be Rose Sawfly Arge ochropus

The garden is pretty much covered with spider webs at the moment, on every plant/shrub and in virtually every open space between sprigs. Mainly Garden Spiders, appropriately.

In between, the mightly LCFC scored another home win - it's now a year since we last lost a home game in the league. Warm clear sunny days are great, the inevitable clear cool nights are crap for moth trapping .......