Yesterday's warm still conditions convinced me I should put the moth trap out again, I had tried on Thursday evening with no success but the conditions looked a lot better and when I got up this morning I could see I had been proved correct, and the first moths of 2014 were in the trap.
In fact there were five different species which as usual gave me a few problems identifying them, but I think these are right. I am beginning to understand the basic families which does help.
First up was the Grey Shouldered-knot, there were three of these
The most numerous though was the Lesser Yellow Underwing, each one having a different shade of brown, but all with the characteristic circles on the forewing.
This one gave me a few headaches trying to identify it. There are several variations of colour, but what is diagnostic are the black jagged lines that run just before the edge of the fore-wing, this is an Oak Beauty, apparently common in gardens and parks about now but very rarely seen as it is very much a night creature.
Note the beautiful feathered antenna
This one is a Deep Brown Dart
And finally a Hebrew Character.
Despite the blue sky amd sunshine through the morning it was a little cooler today with a brisk cool breeze. I went out at lunch time to the pond. Had the Toads arrived? As I got out of the car there were two Mallards on the pond, although they seem to have had a domestic row, as they were avoiding eye contact.
Whilst I was putting my boots on I thought I heard something familiar, but I wasn't sure, it was only a snatch and may have been a Blue Tit calling. I set off around the pond in the hope of something on the flower bank, and then I heard it again, this time unmistakeable, the sound that for me marks the true arrival of spring, yes the Chiffchaff.
Only yesterday I said it was early for migrants to arrive on the patch, and then here is one. It was very busy in the tree catching flies between which it would reel off a quick Chiff-chaff-chiff-chaff. It was this frantic feeding behaviour that made me consider this a true migrant, and not an over wintering bird that had just decided to sing. This feeding behaviour made it difficult to pin down, but I did manage a few pictures.
Chiffchaffs spend the winter in Spain, Portugal and Northern Africa which means they do not have as far to come as their nearest relative the Willow Warbler which winters in South Africa. Many now do over winter or we get birds from Scandinavia turning up here.
They are small olive green birds with no real distinguishing features, which makes identification between them and the Willow Warbler a challenge. The Chiffchaff has shorter wings (you can see the tips just reach the base of the tail) and black legs, but these can vary so it is always useful in spring that hey have such contrasting songs, the song of the Willow Warbler being on of THE songs of spring.
Just after I took this shot it was away.
I walked around the pond, but there was no Toad activity, I saw a couple in the water again, but the mad rush has yet to start. The frogs were still calling and I approached to quickly scaring them all under water. A Wren burst from the reeds and then sat in the tree to watch me.
Incredibly the Wren is the most numerous British bird, but you very rarely see them in numbers because they typically skulk about in the undergrowth, one of the reasons for their Latin name Troglodytes which means one who creeps into holes or a cave dweller.
As I walked away from the pond a Great Spotted Woodpecker called, and on the other side of the road a Buzzard drifted into view being mobbed by a pair of Crows.
Movement in the tree by the big house revealled a Treecreeper workin busily on the lichen covered branch.
Just as I reached Old Down Cottage I noticed a small red butterfly, and watched as it settled in the grass. As I go closer another appeared and settled and I could see it was a Small Tortoiseshell, as I raised the camera though the first one flew up, and then they were both off duelling and over the hedge and across the field.
As I walked into the wood I was greeted by more bird song. mostly Robins there was also a Blackbird a couple of Great Tits, a Chaffinch and a very distant Song Thrush. I walked along the ride and a bright yellow Brimstone flew at me, but turned around and finally settled on a pile of wood chippings. The dead wood retains the warmth of the sun, and it was clearly taking advantage.
I walked to the Crossroads, and then down to the west cutting back along the perimeter. This path is blocked in several places by fallen trees, but you can manage to walk around them without wandering too far from the original path.
I came back out to the main path and was immediately faced with an Orange butterfly. This one did stop, settling on the ground in the sunshine, my first Comma of the year.
There was abit more cloud by now, and the forecast was fo it to cloud over in the afternoon. I made my way back to the car, checking as I went for the tortoiseshells, but they were not about.
I decided to see if the frogs were back to the surface and I approached very carefully. They were back, and calling quite loudly now. See how many you can count in just this little patch.
I turned back to the car, the Chiffchaff calling now from the trees at the back of the pond. When I got home, as I was just getting out of the car a Peacock butterfly flew past me, making it four species for the day. This time last year and through March and April butterflies were extremely difficult to find, and you worried about their numbers. The warm summer seems to have benefited them, and it is lovely to see them so early in the spring, as well as my earliest ever Chiffchaff too.
Evening update: The cloud did arrive and it turned quite cool, along Alton Lane it would appear that the Rooks have now merged the two rookeries as the numbers at the Nursery site have increased twofold. New nests are being built and they extend well back to the north of the original rookery. When I get the chance I will take some photographs before the leaves come.
As we were coming up Lymington Rise after our run a Red Kite was hanging in the sky above the house. Jackdaws flew past and made no effort to mob it it, so it seems the mobsters are the crows.
Post Note: There are 17 frogs in the photo!