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

Sunday, 30 May 2021

Something Good

It's been a great weekend weather-wise, with a good few insects finding their way onto my square list.

I stuck out a pheromone lure in the garden yesterday afternoon (MOL lure for Grapholita molesta). I was hoping that one of the Pammene sp. that are coming to this lure would turn up, more in vain hope than expectation, but literally within a minute of putting it out a small moth was flittering about the trap before going in. I secured it in a pot and was pretty sure it was Pammene suspectana, with rapid confirmation from a FB posting. There are no previous VC55 records, although I've since picked up that Keith Tailby had a few to a lure on Friday. I'll get it gen detted to support the record, but I have no doubts personally. The weird thing about this though is that it turned up very quickly, but I left the lure out and in the subsequent 24hrs it attracted one aphid.

The garden trap has also livened up a bit, although overall numbers are still low. There have been a few NFY species over the last three nights including these:


Sandy Carpet

Shuttle-shaped Dart

Pale Tussock

Flame Shoulder

Today I grabbed a couple of hours in the square sweeping and swiping my nets. I've ended up with a fair few pots to work through, and I grabbed some very quick photos of a couple of beetles, with the first being a tick ....

Plateumaris sericea

Anthonomus pedicularius

Hylesinus varius

And always good to see a few of these whilst out and about ....

Swollen-thighed Beetle

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Beat / Box

Wow. Almost two weeks to the day since I last did anything remotely like enjoying natural history. Going back to work has been good for me, but tiring. But that's not the main reason I've done nothing - it's just been such shite weather that there has been no inspiration or desire to get out. The moth trap has been dormant, and after a long spell of cold dry nights in April we've had a long spell of damp windy nights in May.

Yesterday was the first glimmer of hope though. By the time I got home and we'd eaten etc, it was looking like a really nice calm evening with low sun, few clouds and no rain. I headed down the lane with nothing but my phone and bins - I just wanted some fresh air and to take in the changes from my last walk. Whilst the rains have been crap for doing anything, they've clearly been good for vegetation. The strips that were mowed a couple of weeks ago are already recovering, and the uncut strips are now absolutely bulging with flowering cow parsley. Further into the square, alongside the main road, the biggest accessible hawthorns are blooming. It all looks very promising for a bit of effort over the bank holiday weekend when the forecast is much improved. I fully intend to spend some hours beating, bashing, and sweeping some inverts onto the square list. I will need to wash out the accumulated pile of glass tubes and pots ready.

Although I wasn't equipped for it, a few additions were noted on the walk including a couple of moths - Pammene rhediella and Nematopogon swammerdammella, both caught by hand flying around hawthorn. I also added a few more flowering plants, including Changing Forget-me-not, Dove's-foot Crane's-bill and Red Campion.

I ran the trap last night as it was forecast to stay dry (it almost did), but the catch was still woeful for late May - singles of Muslin Moth, Waved Umber, Green Carpet and Garden Carpet. I can see up and down the country that catches are low; the crazy spring weather patterns over the last few years are really starting to show an effect.

This morning, after a pre-work GP appointment, as I nipped out to the bins in the garden I noticed something on the fence. Wasn't expecting one of these to turn up here so casually ....

Box Bug - a garden tick

I suppose it could have been attracted by the light trap, but it was a good few hours after dawn and it was nowhere near the trap - more likely to have flown in from the embankment. Incredible that the first VC55 record was in 2014, and it was local to one site for a couple of years before it started popping up elsewhere. It is now pretty widespread and increasingly common in the county.

Sunday, 16 May 2021


A jumbled post to round up a few bits ....

A few weeks ago I collected a tenanted Taleporia tubulosa case from Kinchley Lane alongside Swithland Res. I've never had much success with these before, either no emergence or just a grubby female. At last I had a bit of luck when this emerged on 12th May ....

I've run the garden trap a couple of times, but it's really not happening! Feels like one of the worst spring periods I can remember, certainly for a few years. I checked out a caddisfly from 9th May, and snapped a couple of NFY moths.

Limnephilus sparsus

Brindled Beauty

Silver Y

I recently got around to sorting out a vascular plant list for the garden, which is almost certainly not complete but includes everything I can attribute to a date/photo. I've added the paltry list to my Garden Lists tab, and almost as soon as I'd done that I've found a couple of new plants for the garden. We've completely let the garden go so far this spring, still thinking it would be dug up soon only to find that the landscaper who let us down last year has done it again - looking for a new one but there seems to be a real issue with materials etc which is hampering efforts. I know we should do it ourselves but I really haven't got the skills, energy or time to do it justice. In the meantime, the lawn especially is popping up wildflowers that have probably been there for years but never getting the chance to get their heads above the mower. The two new species are a Teasel growing next to the fence - likely from seed in bird-droppings, and a few spikes of Common Mouse-ear in the lawn (away from the Sticky Mouse-ear I found a couple of weeks ago that is more prolific).


Common Mouse-ear

Sticky Mouse-ear

Despite my inability to get my head around the Vegetative Key that I bought early last year, I've gone and bought a similar key to grasses.

I gave it a whirl with some garden stems and got to Perennial Rye-grass, which is probably right but I was far from confident. I think I need to try and work through a couple of grasses that I know (or at least think I know) and take it from there. Crucially, this key requires non-flowering stems (tillers).

I need to go back and have another look at the hawthorn galls in the week I found as I may have cocked that up; there is a very similar fungal gall and the aphids I saw may have been incidental (on the leaf, not inside the gall).

Remember me saying good things happen for LCFC when Selby wins the World Championships? What a fantastic day out yesterday, almost like getting back to normality and a massive personal boost on coping with life post-surgery. Sealing the win and seeing the cup lifted by the Chairman Top Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha was emotional. A properly run Club with the fans and community at the heart. Hopefully we can seal a Champions League place and enjoy another European Tour next season ....

Thursday, 13 May 2021

The Cutter

I headed out down the late yesterday afternoon, with butterfly net in hand, a bag full of pots and camera, and a happy disposition. Occasional sun, light breeze, Skylarks a-singing etc. I'd barely got more than a few meters onto the actual lane when I could hear something mechanical approaching - and my fears turned into reality minutes later as a tractor came past and then a couple of minutes afterwards had turned around and headed back down the lane ....

What is it with the owners/custodians of rural lanes and highways, why do they have to cut and mow at all let alone just as flowering plants are starting to provide for increasing insect life and in turn the nesting birds. And aside from that, why mow it just as I was heading down with my net ....

In the end, to be fair, the destruction was not quite as bad as it could have been. Whoever it was driving that tractor-mower (and I don't think it was the farmer as he carried on around other lanes in the square, so likely arranged by the County Council as some unnecessary road-safety bollocks) they did not cut the full width of the verge and they stepped the mowing from one side to the other.

Despite this activity, I managed a decent haul of c30 additions for the square yearlist including a handful of plants, 22 insects and a couple of mines/galls. I also said hello to some recently introduced tenants in one of the fields - potentially bringing in a few more insects later in the year.

Immediately in front of the gates holding back this raging hoard of shite-covered menaces was a couple of plants close together that I was pleased to see ....

One significantly bigger and better established than the other ....

Greater Celandine

Green Alkanet

Nearby, I found galls on hawthorn ....

Taphrina cataegi

Further down the lane I was more intent on netting stuff from umbelifers and suchlike and ended up with a decent range of species. Later in the evening I set about pinning the some of the Diptera and a few other bits. I clearly need to take more care and time over this as I made a bit of a hash of one or two of them with pins coming out under the scutellum. I should have got the microscope out to see properly what I was doing but I was rushing. Anyway, it was sufficient to get them identified ....

This shows the diptera I (badly) pinned, clockwise from top right: Empis opaca, Melangyna lasiopthalma, Melanostoma mellinum, Platycheirus albimanus, Eumerus funestralis and - best of all - Phania funesta, a new fly for me.

That small Tachinid was only netted by chance, when I saw it saw on a Garlic Mustard leaf it was sat with wings held out a bit like a Sepsis sp. It was only when I peered into the glass tube with my eyeglass that I could see the distinctive back-end bristles sticking out like a porcupine.

Otherwise I didn't point the camera at much whilst out, though this Cardinal Beetle was still enough to invite an effort.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Speeding Well

Not had much chance to do anything during the week for one reason or another, and today it's turned properly wet (which is not a bad thing really). I have mooched about in the garden on occasion though and found a couple of tiny speedwells growing in the unkempt lawn.

First up this which is new for the garden (at least in the sense of me noticing it!).

Numerous flowering spikes of Thyme-leaved Speedwell barely poking above the level of the grass and clover leaves.

The other is not new, and is growing in the same area that I've seen it before but it is very easy to completely overlook and I've not noticed it for a long while. Most of the flowers were a bit faded and past their best, but there are others to come.

Wall Speedwell

Finding both of these reminded me that I'd photographed a larger Field-speedwell in the garden in April that I'd forgotten to check out.

The flowers seemed a bit paler and less blue than I usually see, but checking the plant again this week the seed pods seem to confirm that it is just Common Field-speedwell (which is also new for the garden).

Seeing as I was pointing the camera at small plants in the garden, I thought I'd see if one of the smallest on the front driveway was flowering. It was.

Procumbent Pearlwort with pathetic tiny flowers

Also new to the garden this week; I was on the phone and staring out of the windows when a Little Egret flew over heading south. A quick check with Neil Hagley confirmed what I expected - he has seen them several times heading over here! I think his home office view is pretty much looking west so he has a better view of anything moving north-south or vice-versa. My office window faces north-east with a big flowering cherry in the middle of the view, so unless I'm actually stood at the window and looking out it is very easy to miss something heading above the line of the embankment. Still, another garden tick that had I been at work would never have been seen (like last years Hobby and the Lesser Redpoll in April this year; Red Kite and Raven would also be included had I not seen them several times since including over weekends).

There have been a few more hoverflies and bees in the garden, but it feels nothing like last year when I was hand-catching inconspicuous ladybirds etc. The heavy rains today and slight warming up over the next few days might make a difference. What won't help is that the verges around parts of the square were mowed yesterday, just when a load of grasses were starting to flower!

My IV chemo treatment has been stopped early to avoid permanent issues with hand and feet neuropathy, so the PICC line is coming out on Monday. The oral chemo will carry on for another three cycles but that's fine, no real side-effects from that. I expect that next week will be my last working from home so I will be trying to make the most of it. I've also got my first big 'test' of being away from home for a longer period next Saturday, as I've successfully acquired a ticket for the FA Cup final at Wembley. Will be very strange going back to a live football match - can't think of a better occasion for it. Hopefully the team will have woken up again by then ....

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Check It Out

Selby won - excellent. I shouldn't get excited, but historically good things have happened to LCFC in the same month that Selby has won the World Championships ....

We've had some rain at last. More than enough last night to dampen the ground and a few more heavy showers today. Not great for getting out and doing anything but we certainly needed it and I think it will kick-start some activity once we get a warmer spell.

Time for to check out the various 2021 lists I'm keeping.

I've done a quick end of April comparison of the 2021 SP5595ish list vs the 2013list. The basic comparison is 368sp. vs 320sp., but going a little deeper: of the 368 species listed so far, 100 were not recorded at all in 2013 and of those 23 are complete ticks for me. That's pretty good going given that I'm doing it in a very ad-hoc way around how I'm feeling physically and the weather, although on the flip-side I was working full time without hinderence in 2013 and had perhaps less time in the field. It also means that in 2013 I'd listed 52 species that I've not as yet seen in 2021, but spring has been faltering here lately.

The 100 not recorded in 2013 breakdown as: Vascular Plants x21, Coleoptera x18, Hemiptera x10, Fungi x9, Lepidoptera x8, Lichens x7, Birds x6, Diptera x6, Arachnids x4, Hymenoptera x3, Mammals x2, Collembola x2, Bryophytes x2, Psocoptera x1 and Algae x1. Given that the actual target for this year was to better my 2013 totals for plants (Vascular + Bryophytes), Coleoptera, Diptera, Hemiptera and Hymenoptera I take this as showing potential though the next three months will be key.

The 23 ticks within that breakdown as: Coleoptera x6, Vascular Plants x4, Hemiptera x4, Fungi x3, Diptera x2, Lichens x2, Collembola x1 and Arachnids x1.

Here's the overall breakdown:

I expect numbers to rocket in May and June - assuming I can get out and make the effort and the moth trap picks up. Flowering grasses will need some effort, as will bashing hawthorn blossom and sweeping flowering umbelifers.

As for the various bird lists, a little more progress in April but not so much in the square/garden. Of the ten species added to the overall 5MR list, only two were in the garden (Blackcap and Lesser Redpoll), and two more in the square but not the garden (Whitethroat, Swallow). Ring Ouzel, Wheatear, Cetti's and Sedge Warblers and Linnet were added to the 5MR, but the patch list has not increased much. It shouldn't take too much to add a handful in May, as migrants have been a bit slow coming in. Only 28 species seen in all areas within the overall 5MR seems very low; the garden is always going to be the lowest list but there are only four more species seen in all areas except the garden (Grey Heron, Cormorant, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Stock Dove) which almost certainly says more about me not putting in much birding effort than anything else.

A reminder that the 49 species in the square list includes all species seen within the square and garden, rather than square or garden as below.

Sunday, 2 May 2021


Another belated missive; I should've posted this on Friday evening or yesterday but I've been distracted by televised snooker. How and why I've been distracted by televised snooker is a mystery to me as much as anyone else. I suppose a little bit of Leicester pride comes into it with willing Mark Selby into the final. Anyway this TV post is not really about television ....

On Friday afternoon I finally managed to drag myself back out. I had no plan other than to have a lengthy wander around the square looking at emergent vegetation and anything that has come into flower. Crucially, I had no nets or bins. Unlike many accomplished recorders and professional ecological consultants, I can't be doing with carrying around a range of nets, trays, sieves, beating sticks and possibly even vac blower. I can manage one net, or tray/sieve, or vac blower. I also find that once I'm armed with something, even bins, that becomes the primary focus of my attention and I quite probably miss stuff flying overhead or flowering down below. So wandering around 'naked' every now and then is actually quite productive in some ways, and certainly more relaxing. The only exception is that I do try and carry a camera of some sorts - always something to point it at whatever I'm doing.

As I walked around I did indeed find a number of plants that I'd either previously missed or could now identify, including Lilac, Elder, Winter-cress, Hedge Mustard, Silverweed, Meadowsweet and hybrid Bluebells. There are plenty of grasses not far off flowering, and I will certainly have to give them a go in May.

I could post photos of flowers or plants, but instead I'll post photos of a bonus tick leaf rust, Uromyces muscari (Bluebell Rust) - one I'd been alerted to earlier in the year by Graham Calow.

Of course there were a few inverts too, including another new one for me - the TV referenced in the post title. And for a fly it is one hell of a size, albeit a bit leggy and incorrectly structured for a proper fly ....

Tipula vittata - I found a number of these loafing on Red Currant leaves and a bridge wall immediately next to Whetstone Brook. I've quite probably seen this before and either ignored it or forgotten to list.

I managed to snap another weirdly structured fly in flight with the TG-6 - luck!

Baccha elongata

I also snapped a very compliant Orange-tip settled on a daffodil, a 10-Spot Ladybird nestled in oak buds and a Red-green Carpet roosting on a sycamore ....

I need to enter some records from the walk and update my square list for another post.

Yesterday was a bit cooler, and by later afternoon it was cloudy with the odd spot of rain. Not that we've had much - barely enough to make anything damp let alone the soaking we need. I found a very lethargic queen Common Wasp in the shed ....

When I said this post wasn't really about television, I lied as blatantly as a serving Prime Minister. My walks around the square inevitably reveal litter and fly tipped waste, because in a modern society being a selfish wanker is normal. I don't usually find tipped and trashed electrical goods though ....

I've probably posted this track before, but you know it fits and I like it so I'll be a selfish wanker. Sue me.