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

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Some moths

I've been a bit lax when it comes to phtographing moths just lately. A few good nights in the traps at the end of last week and over the weekend, but I couldn't be bothered really to pot a few up for later photography. The only one I did pot up to have a go at was a NFG micro from 17th - Phyllonorycter harrisella. This is an oak feeder, so not exactly high on my expected list, but nevertheless it is the 649th species, 343rd micro and 12th Phyllonorycter on the garden list. Having potted it up, I then made a right hash of getting a good photo so here's a pants one .......

Phyllonorycter harrisella

Otherwise, a hawk-moth shot in low early morning light and three photographed with flash around the garden moth trap last night (I ran one until around midnight then packed up before the forecast deluge hit).

Eyed Hawk-moth

Diamond-back Moth

Argyresthia trifasciata


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Floral Ticks, Invertebrates and bits

Having posted all those pics of Croft Pastures I then didn't get around to highlighting what I'd gone there for. I had a few plant targets after seeing that Graham Calow has posted photos to NatureSpot. Mainly small and not very photogenic plants at that. A couple of the key species at this site were good to see locally, but I have seen them before on the first PSL get-together in West Sussex.


Subterranean Clover

In the small area where this clover was growing, I also saw Annual Knawal, a small and not very inspiring looking thing, but was too late in the season to find any remaining Upright Chickweed (but good to know where to look). Also in this small area were a couple of interesting lichens including this:

Cladonia rangiformis

There is a steep-sided 'cliff' along one side of the reserve. One of the plants that has established and spread around the cliffs is Reflexed Stonecrop, not yet in flower but identifiable.

One that hasn't been identified yet is undoubtedly a garden escape, though it was growing freely and in profusion! Appears to be a spurge of some sort.

One I walked past on my first short visit, was this Common Cornsalad - easily overlooked as again it's a straggly ugly plant with tiny flowers.

A much nicer looking and more obvious flower was the Meadow Saxifrage carpeting parts of the reserve ..

I also saw, but failed to get photos of, Wild Clary and River Water-crowfoot. Away from Croft Pastures, I also picked up another plant tick by shamelessly twitching some Dusky Crane's-bill in nearby Leire.

Plants aside, I've also picked up a few other bits around the weekend in the good weather.

One the Saturday, I spent a bit of time watching the River Soar from the roadside footbridge in Croft village. Turned out to be very productive as with a bit of patience, wearing sunglasses and switching to bins I managed to see enough detail to pick up four fish ticks. The most obvious, and pleasing, was Brown Trout - amazing really given how narrow and relatively shallow the Soar is at this point. Managed to get a very pants photo of the largest of the three seen ..

I also saw Perch, Roach and a good few bottom-feeding Gudgeon. Good to add a few more vertebrates to the PSL list. As it happens, I managed to add a couple more vertebrate ticks last night. I nipped over to Saddington Reservoir with the bat detector on a mission that turned out to be highly successful. Before it was too dusky I was already watching what I thought were Noctule Bats hunting, though at that point they were out of range of the detector across the other side of the reservoir. As it grew more dusky, I started seeing and detecting bats hunting low and directly over the water - Daubenton's Bat. Calls peaking at c47khz (all a bit subjective within a couple of khz I reckon). I'm sure the following gives the full sense of the occasion!

Whilst walking back to where I'd parked near the dam, I picked up a very distinctive signature peaking at c24khz - a very synthetic slow paced 'chip-chopping' - Noctule Bat. Well pleased with that. The sound is reminiscent of late 70s Human League - there is a sound-clip here.

So having added seven new plants, two lichen and and no less than six vertebrates to my list, it would be surprising if there were no new inverts included. There were, though only four.

Best were these two beetles ....

Anaglyptus mysticus - this one swept from hawthorn near to home on Friday evening ..

.. and then like buses I found this one openly sitting on bramble at Croft Pastures on Saturday

Thistle Tortoise Beetle (Cassida rubiginosa) - swept from low vegetation at Croft Pastures

Otherwise another beetle (Elodes minuta) which won't sit for a photo at all, and a bee that threw a seven in the pot before I could photograph it (Nomada ruficornis).

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Croft Pastures

Over in Croft, not too far away from home, there is a LRWT reserve that I have only ever briefly visited once. To be honest, when I went there I didn't know anything about the reserve and the initial view from the entrance gateway wasn't too spectacular. The same view today is not too different, other than being more sunny and having a carpet of buttercups.

The only other difference in the view is also the reason that my first visit ended at that gate - I didn't even go through to see whether the reserve was any good. On my first visit, the meadow was full of these .....

I have an irrational loathing / rational fear of cattle, not looking at them in a field or eating them for dinner of course, just walking through fields full of them. I hate the way that they seem incapable of living their lives without getting caked up in their own shite, and I dislike the way that they invade your personal space and follow you around with an evil glare and an intent to trample you to death.

Back when I first visited, I was only thinking about moths and potential trapping sites - no thoughts of other stuff. So for a good few years I have never even considered going back to Croft Pastures as I had no inkling as to how interesting the place was, what good species could be there and I knew it was grazed throughout the spring - autumn period when I might consider moth trapping. That changed when a few photos were posted up to the NatureSpot website last weekend and I realised there were some good flowering plants to be seen there. So I resolved to go and have a look and put my life on the line for the sake of some PSL ticks. As it happened, the cattle completely ignored me and kept themsleves well away from where I wanted to look.

I'm now wishing I'd been and looked around this place before - the habitat is brilliant and I'm sure that over a few visits there will be a few interesting inverts to be had. I nipped over briefly on Thursday evening and again this morning. On both visits my focus was mainly on finding some particular plants and having a bit if a look around the place. I'll post about what I saw there separately, but I'll use this post to just show what the place is looking like at the moment. I will certainly be going back - though I'm still suspicious that the cattle are just lulling me into a false sense of security and planning my demise.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Springnotsowell Lane

Regular readers of this blog over the years will recognise the odd reference to me nipping down the lane. This refers to Springwell Lane, which is the remaining rural back-lane into the estate. There is nothing remarkable, spectacular or exciting about this lane, other than within a couple of minutes of leaving home I am in the middle of farmland and free to swish me net, raise my bins or generally dawdle along in a world of my own with just the odd cow and the constant drone of the M1 for company ......

But everything changes - just as well I'm not doing my 1000 in 1kmsq challenge this year.

There has been a long-standing planning application to build more housing round here - it was rejected, appealed, rejected, appealed and then imposed by the government. We don't need more housing and it will create pressure on the school and roadways. But the housing element was always inevitable I suppose, and it would be churlish to moan about increased housing destroying green-belt land when actually the farmland is pretty sterile and in any case I live on what would have been the same habitat before our estate was built 22 years ago. In some ways, the plan may bring some benefits for me as it will create access near to Whetstone Brook and there will be an open area with a balancing pond and native planting.

See here for an illustration of the plan, and here for more detail about the whole thing with some maps etc.

The bit that has always bothered me though was any potential impact on Springwell Lane. Part of the planning application was to utilise Springwell Lane and some of the adjacent farmland to create access for construction traffic, but I was concerned that the lane would actually be opened up to make it another more useable traffic access into the estate. It's all going ahead now, and I wonder if my fears are being realised.

The plan was supposed to be to build a new temporary road for the construction traffic, but looks to me like the opportunity is being taken to 'improve' Springwell Lane. Instead of a crappy single carriageway pot-holed lane with wide kerbless verge, I wonder if we'll end up with a normal two-lane kerbed roadway. The southern end of the lane is completely closed off, but I can still walk down from the estate to see what's going on. I think.

The grabbed satellite view below shows Springwell Lane heading south out of the existing estate and across Countesthorpe Road before joining the A426.

I've badly sketched an existing building area where houses are already being built (within the orange boundary), the new area that I guess will start being built on this year (within the red boundary) and what I think will be the construction traffic temporary roadway in blue. The new estate will be accessed from Wright Close with no vehicular access directly onto the built up part of Springwell Lane - or at least that was the original plan.

Work to prepare the way actually started a few weeks ago in early March when netting was placed over sections of parts of the hedgerows to stop birds nesting - no doubt these netted sections will be cut down to make-way for the temporary road.

Either way a bit of disruption down the lane. Hopefully temporary and recovered after a couple of years, but potentially it won't be a lane anymore - just another busy road .....

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Ketton Quarry 04/05/2014

Took the opportunity to nip over to Ketton Quarry yesterday morning. With some decent sunshine and warmth I was fully expecting to find an Adder or two, but yet again not a sniff despite being there reasonably early. I did manage to find a few of these during the morning though ...

Common Lizard

The lack of Adders was only a minor disappointment though, as otherwise my efforts with the net, hand-searching around rocks and rabbit dung and peering around dead-wood brought a load of interesting things.

Here's a couple of views of part of the southern side of the reserve. The 'donkey paddock' is a basin with steep grassy banks on two sides. This compartment was grazed by donkeys at one point, hence the reference.

Looking down into the donkey paddock ....

.... and in the donkey paddock.

This area brought the most interesting new species for me, in the most unusual circumstance. I'd just put my net down and was trying to get photos of a Grizzled Skipper when I noticed a small shining dot on one of the many rocks. I thought it was a small beetle, but once potted it was clear that it was actually a very small shieldbug ....

Scarab Shieldbug (Thyreocoris scarabaeoides)

This is a generally local species in southern UK, mainly associated with violets growing on dry sandy or chalky spoils. There are no dots for VC55 on the NBN maps, and this is therefore quite probably a VC55 first.

I did manage to grab a Grizzled Skipper shot, and I did find a small shiny beetle on the rocks too ...

Grizzled Skipper

Chrysolina varians

On the other side of the reserve I found another interesting PSL tick, and again no dots currently on the NBN maps. This one was found under bark on rotting logs.

Aneurus avenius

This is one of the flatbugs. This is not dead or squashed, it really is very flat indeed and makes itself flatter by holding its legs sort of splayed out as well.

Around the wood piles I found another two male and one female Platystomos albinus, pretty much confirming that it is established here (I added this to the VC55 list a few weeks ago).

I also found a PSL tick beetle around rabbit dung that appears to also be a second VC55 record, again just from Ketton Quarry. Couldn't get this one to sit still on anything though so photo not great.

Onthophagus joannae

Other PSL ticks during the morning included a spider ......

Xysticus erraticus

a bee ....

Two-coloured Mason Bee (Osmia bicolor)

and another beetle ....

Anchomenus dorsalis

Other stuff seen during the morning were Red Kite, Green Hairstreak and Dingy Skipper, Slender Groundhopper, loads of other inverts and I was very pleased to find this one - the first I've seen since 2003 (one found whilst out moth trapping when I wasn't really bothered about beetles).

Rhagium mordax