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

Friday, 30 December 2011


Yes - I am still here. I've gone quiet as in between bouts of busyness at work, and aside from glutony, alcoholism and mediating between bickering offspring during the festive period, I've done feck all.

Apologies to anyone on my e-mail circ who received an inbox full of junk mail this morning. Some complete bastard fuckwit hacked into my hotmail account. Not sure how that happened as my home PC is fully protected (and always has been). Maybe my work PC antivirus/security stuff has not been updated over Christmas.

My password was not weak (though maybe not the strongest) with numbers and letters and not including an everyday word, but my biggest sin is using the same password for most on-line stuff (lazy, makes it easy to remember) and never changing it. Most worrying was any potential risk to on-line banking etc. Needless to say I spent time this morning changing passwords. Hopefully sorted now - we'll see.

There's every chance I may even get out some time in January ......

Hopefully going down to the smoke tomorrow for a family day out, so before I go I'll wish everyone a Happy New Bird/Moth/Stuff filled Year.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Ho ho ho ....

... my arse.

Been so busy lately I'm disappearing up my ample backside - workwise in the week and kidswise at the weekends. And then to top it all, I turn my back for a couple of weeks and it's nearly Christmas. The whisky stash has been taking a hit in the evenings recently to keen me calm or comatose inbetween.

Photos, getting out and seeing things - if only.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Listening to - Skrillex

This week I have mainly been getting in the right frame of mind for seeing Skrillex at Rock City tomorrow night. I imagine it's going to be ear-bleedingly brain-blisteringly heart-thumpingly loud and filthy .... or at least I'll be disappointed if I can hear myself think and have a clear head on Thursday morning.

BTW - this is what a crossover of otherwise disparate genres can sound like ....

Monday, 28 November 2011

More Mushrooms from the Bog

Managed to (I think) identify a few, though most I have either seen or similarly mis-identified before. Only new one so far is this:

Oyster Mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus

Blushing Bracket Daedaleopsis confragosa

Southern Bracket Ganoderma australe

Sulphur Tuft Hypholoma fasciculare

I've also revisted this recent posting with some IDs.

Still lots more to have a go at, and I think I'll start setting up a 'Fungi Wot I can't ID' page.

Sunday, 27 November 2011


All those who found this by mistake, were you looking for: info about tobacco based stuff to inhale; info about the new Terry Pratchett Discworld novel, or are you some sort of sicko looking for depraved movies?

The snuff I am actually posting about is this ...

Candlesnuff Fungus Xylaria hypoxylon

This is a new one for me, and I found loads of it this afternoon at Narborough Bog whilst I was mooching about with the camera with a bag on. I was hoping to get up for the Greater Yellowlegs this weekend, but with no news at all on Friday I wasn't about to spend the fuel and get up at stupid o'clock to be up in Northumberland for dawn yesterday. As it happened, there was no news at all yesterday either until late in the afternoon when the message came through that it was still around. So maybe a Sunday twitch .....

.... I would like to have gone up today but I was scuppered by the Family Calendar. Have you got one? The way it works is this: anything that the kids are doing gets written on and on pain of death it has to happen; anything I want to do has to go on or I have no chance of doing it, and even if it's on it may not happen; anything that Nichola wants to do happens irrespective of whether it's on the calendar or not, and why the hell don't I know about it anyway .... and so it was that Nichola was out on a 'uncalendared' works do last night that meant I had to be here this morning to ensure the kids were sorted (eg picking Josh up from an 'uncalendared' sleep-over) whilst she recovered. Arse. I'm digressing and moaning aren't I.

Back to the bog. I had thought about going back over to Cossington for another Short-eared viewing seeing as the afternoon sunshine prevailed, but opted instead for a closer-to-home effort at finding more fungi. I actually found quite a few and I will spend a bit of time trying to name a few before posting up. But the Candlesnuff was an easy one to ID (or at least it is until someone points out I've screwed up).

Other stuff that I think I've identified are these:

Black Spleenwort Asplenium adiantum-nigrum growing out of a railway bridge

Hammered Shield Lichen Parmelia sulcata

The latter was on a lichen and moss covered tree, and with the camera on flash I took a few arty-farty shots with the background completely unlit, like these:

Thursday, 24 November 2011


I felt the urge to twitch birds creeping back into my psyche with several lifers knocking about at different ends of the country. So I successfully managed to extract myself from work for some twitching time today though I was torn as to which way to go. One option was to head north in the hope that yesterday's glum face symbol next to the words Greater Yellowlegs on Birdguides was more down to no one looking anymore rather than it being gone. But the bitter taste of dipping that Isabelline Wheatear a couple of weeks ago was still a bit too fresh for my liking, and a long solo drive for nothing was not appealing. Another option was to head for Kent and hope for the best with the Blackpoll Warbler. Hmmm - maybe not. The safest bet seemed to be to head south for the juv Sharp-tailed Sandpiper - a bird that I've wanted to see for years (no rational reason why, other than they were much rarer when I first started twitching so maybe a relict sense of it being a proper mega).

So, with my mind made up I went for it. Bear in mind I am happily pagerless and don't have a smart phone - it was either going to be there or not but I wouldn't know until I pulled up. The trip down was largely uneventful apart from a snarl up on the M5 whilst some poor bugger was extracted from their car by the services. Once past that I shamefully made use of the in-built TwatNav in the car to negotiate the A and B roads between the M5 and Chew Valley Lake. As Herriot's Bridge came into sight, I could see cars and people - hurrah!

The twitching opposite of dipping is walking directly from car to bird with no effort. Today was almost that as the bird has been showing from the roadside, but at the moment I arrived it wasn't. No matter, whilst I waited for the small wader flock to come back into view I scanned to the other side and immediately picked up the two Long-billed Dowitchers that have been knocking about for a while - excellent. A small Dunlin flock appeared into view, and back out again before I could check through properly. A few more minutes and there it was, superb scopeful TVs of the Sharp-tailed Sand as it preened and milled about. It was initially in amongst the Dunlin and Lapwings and only partially on view but was soon out in the open. I had a big inane grin on my face. It disappeared again with the Dunlin, but again came back and this time the whole flock had a really good fly around. It was amazingly easy to pick it up in flight amongst the Dunlins, looking slightly larger and darker as they wheeled about. It was at this moment that an unsavoury aspect of my twitching psyche surfaced as I found myself churlishly urging it to 'go on, feck off my son before anyone else who needs it gets here ....' The flock landed and I came to my senses. Walking back across the road I turned my attention to another bird. I looked along the edge of Herriot's Pool and picked up the Spotted Sandpiper as it pottered along. Brilliant, I'd been there no more than 20 minutes and I'd picked up all three great birds. I stayed for a while longer to watch the Sharpie, and after an hour or so I decided to head straight back to Leics with the intention of heading to Cossington Meadows.

Almost as soon as I got back to Leics. I got a local grapevine message that there was a small stint at Cossington with yellow legs, and alternatives to Temminck's had not been ruled out. I rang Dave Teaboy Gray to see what he knew and it transpired that he was both the finder and still on site. I headed straight there bumping into Andy Llama Mackay on the way in. We frogmarched down to Tern Pool but no sign of anything small and stintish. We later tied up with Dave and Allen Pocock but the bird was gone after being flushed by a Sprawk. Sounds like it was almost certainly a Temminck's (unusual in itself at an inland site in late November) but perhaps we'll never know for sure. After a bit of a natter and catching up we spend the rest of the light watching at least two Short-eared Owls putting in a great performance.

All in all a day of high returns for minimal effort - I could really get back into this birding and twitching malarky. Just a shame there were no decent photographic opportunities!

ps - the Greater Yellowlegs has had 3!!! all day and no glum faces, wonder if it will stay until Saturday .....

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Dance Craze

Anyone else remember the excellent docu-film Dance Craze about the late 70s early 80s Ska revival, featuring live footage of The Specials, The Selecter, Madness, The Beat, Bad Manners and The Bodysnatchers? Great stuff it was, went to see it at the flicks as soon as it was on (cFeb 81 I think).

I'd love to see it again, but in the meantime there's some grainy LD footage on You Tube.....

Saturday, 19 November 2011


Actively looking for birds = birding
Actively looking for moths = mothing
Actively looking for anything fungal = fungaling?

Of course, looking for and identifying are not one and the same thing as far as me and fungi are concerned, so here's a collection of attempted IDs and pleas for help, starting off with two leaf rust type fungi.

I think this is Violet Bramble Rust (Phragmidium violaceum) - front and back of the same leaf.

All of the local Elm in the hedgerow has these raised black spots on the leaves. Web searches haven't helped so far (although there is something called Elm Black Spot, though it does not appear to be a UK species). Any idea what it is?

Found this down the lane - I think it's a developing Shaggy Parasol (Chlorophyllum rhacodes).

This one is from Enderby - Peziza repanda I think.

The following are all as yet unidentified - any ideas? Thanks to Steve Gale for identification suggestions for the following two which match other images and descriptions:

These are all varying stages of Glistening Inkcap Coprinus micaceus

Pleated Inkcap Coprinellus plicatilis

I've checked further on these and think I've now got them sussed.

I'm convinced this is an aged Verdigris Toadstool Stropharia aeruginosa.
In particular see here for a very similar specimen.

Pretty sure this is Velvet Shank Flammulina velutipes.

The following are still unidentified:

Big - c4inches across

Very big - c8inches across

Originally thought this was a developing Wood Blewit but really not convinced.

Finally, something non-fungal ..

Red Pustule Gall Mite (Aceria aceriscampestris) on maple

Post edited 28/11/2011

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Seems everything is against me seeing new birds these days. Local Snow Bunts would have been an overdue county tick, and that bloody Greater Legs up in Northumbs is grating a little now. I would really like to see this superb bird but I have had zero chance of taking time out of work this week and face another heavily constrained weekend. Next week is not looking any more likely for a day off either. Arse.

In lieu of doing or seeing anything exciting, and with no new photos to share, I had a quick trawl through the hopelessy archived archives looking for old photos to give a new airing. I found a few, and inadvertently found a new sawfly in the process (one that is very obvious some nine years later with improved online resources).

Blue-tailed Damselfly, Crow Mill Way 26/06/2002

Willow Sawfly (Nematus salicis), Narborough Bog 23/07/2002

Migrant Hawker, Whetstone 01/09/2002

Dingy Skipper, Clipsham Quarry 12/07/2003

Orange-tip, Whetstone 23/05/2004

Monday, 14 November 2011

From the garden trap 13/11/2011

The Synergetic combo trap has been on a few times in the last week or so, but nothing exciting or new for the year. With news of yet another Palpita vitrealis in Leicester (both in Adrian's trap - lucky bugger), I decided it was time to go all out and run the MV aswell. Didn't make a blind bit of difference, although I did pick up a garden yeartick in the Synergetic.

Total catch 13 of 6sp.
(125W MV 4 of 3, 22W/18W Synergetic/CFL combo 9 of 5)
0874 Blastobasis lacticolella 4
0998 Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) 1
1395 Rusty-dot Pearl (Udea ferrugalis) 2
1799 Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata) 1
1923 Feathered Thorn (Colotois pennaria) 4
1933 Scarce Umber (Agriopis aurantiaria) 1 (NFY)

Scarce Umber

Still no sniff of Sprawler or December Moth - neither recorded here since 2001.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Brilliant ...

.. is my one-word review of the excellent new book by Colin Hart.

Just got my copy this evening thanks to the combined efforts of Keith Tailby who picked it up at the BENHS Exhibition at the weekend, and Adrian Russell who delivered to me whilst out on and about. Many thanks both.

The plates in this book are superb, showing specimens at both life-size and in excellent blown up detail. This is just what we need for such groups, and what the Pugs book by Riley & Prior should have been! The text and keys will be invaluable, and a lot more plumes will be confidently identified now (and Colin can have a rest from endless queries and specimens being sent to him).

This book should be on the book shelf of every lepidopterist (and pan-lister).

Thursday, 10 November 2011


I see a few people have pointed camera at the moon and other night-sky stuff. So I copied them as the full moon tonight is casting some lovely corona type effect on passing clouds ....

Remind you of anything?

Just lately the boys have been finding inane stuff on You Tube that they find hilarious and I find annoying. Like Annoying Orange. I think it only fair to inflict this on you as well ....

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Golden Age of Pretentious Album Titles

This week I have mostly been listening to a couple of cultured classics from the early 80s ....

Monday, 7 November 2011


On Friday night at the LROS meeting, John Hague asked me what my plans were for Sunday. 'Nothing much, why?' was my response, but it should have been 'A bit of gardening, sorting out a TV aerial and definitely not going on an out-of-county twitch'. And so it was that I counted myself in to a twitch to Spurn if the Isabelline Wheatear was still around on Saturday. I was not available on Saturday and neither was John - but the bird remained on view all day. So with positive news up until dusk, we left John's at 6am yesterday and arrived at Spurn after it was properly light and just in time to find out 'no sign so far this morning'. Arse, feck, bastard, bugger.

Back in the day when I used to twitch much more regularly than the current once a year or so, dipping was part and parcel of the 'game' although I was remarkably lucky and suffered very few momentous dips. Often I either came away happy, or was dipping with the whole twitching community (eg October 2000 Siberian Blue Robin at Minsmere). The only dip that really grated was driving up to Scotland overnight in June 1997 and spending c6 hours in the pissing rain looking at nothing, only to receive a pager message a few hours later on the way home that 'Roller still at Lochaber Loch'. The last bitter out-of-county dipping experience for me was back in October 2002 when I was already in the throws of giving up twitching. That was in bloody Yorks as well (White-throated Sparrow at Flamborough).

Anyway, back to Spurn. We duly ignored the negative info. and set about looking for the wheatear. In the process, we saw very little (lots of very distant waders, a few close in Knot, a Grey plover, some Redwings and a Wren .......). we certainly didn't see any rare exciting passerines. This was made all the more galling by the continued presence of another Izzy Whitearse in Wales. Bastard!

After walking and searching for a good while, we gave it up and headed off to grab a bite. With everything closed locally, we decided to head back the other side of Hull to eat and then go to Blacktoft Sands. At least we'd see something on the day out, and be within distance in the unlikely event that the Wheatear popped up again.

Click for big - typical view from a Blacktoft hide

Click for big - Shelduck Shoveler Island

I do like Blacktoft, and it provided some pleasing birding spectacles though nothing unexpected. 1000s of Golden Pover were constantly filling the skies, and we got superb views as a decent number of them fed in a field adjacent to the reserve along with masses of Lapwings . Sadly no sign of the recently present Common Crane though. We also had a few various-sized skeins of Pink-feet heading over in all directions (including some going back and forth for some reason), c200 being the biggest group.

Click for big - all those dots are Goldies and Lapwings

Click for big - aimlessly wandering Pink-feet

We stayed for the raptor roost, picking up anywhere between a conservative 10 and 13 Marsh Harriers including one or two superb full adult males. Also one, possibly two, ringtail Hen Harriers including a very close fly-by. But sadly no owls, no Merlin and no Bittern.

Click for big and spot the Marsh Harrier

Perhaps the least expected things we saw all day were a couple of Red Admirals and at least 6 Common Darters soaking up the late afternoon sun .....

Dipping was a pain, and Blacktoft was maybe not as great as it could have been, but the day out was still a whole lot better than gardening and sorting out a TV aerial!

Feeding Tree Sparrows

Feeding Shelduck

Incidentally, 'Isabelline' is a colour and though the etymology is inconclusive the theories about it's origin appear to relate to piss-stained underwear .......