Sunday, 29 June 2014

29th June - Everyone Loves The Sunshine

Saturday saw some very heavy rain storms, but by the early evening the rain clouds had given way to clear skies, so I took the decision to put the moth trap out, and despite a few showers during the night it managed to pick up some more new moths, and a couple of previously caught moths but not necessarily under the best circumstances.

First up was a lovely White Ermine, well I thought it was, but later after posting this and checking through my photographs and the Hants web site I realised it was different, the wings, if you look carefully are almost transparent, and there are more spots, this is a Leopard Moth, and a new one for the garden

Another new moths for the garden was this Great Oak Beauty

And this Polar Grey.

But pride of place today goes to the Polar Hawkmoth.  I caught one earlier in the spring, but this was the chance to get one on the white background.  It played up a bit, not wanting to stay, and it did fly off, only for Helen to catch it out of a bedroom window.  

We let it go, and it stayed on a Hydrangea leaf for the rest of the day.

There were plenty of Heart and Dart and Grey Arches again, and a Elephant Hawkmoth, and once these had been set free, we decided to set off for Old Down, and beyond.  

Juvenile Starlings seem to be everywhere, they fly around in groups practicing the skills that will see them join the murmurations in the winter, then they settle on the tv aerials, still begging for food from the adult birds.

Once past the houses on Brislands we came across a new butterfly for the year, a Ringlet.  At first it stayed on the bracken with its wings open.

Then it flew on, and settled with the wings up and the underwing clearly showing the rings that give it it's name.

Whitethroats were calling from deep in the hedges, and a Yellowhammer was seen with food for young somewhere in the hedges too.

We made our way into the wood, and the bramble flowers were attracting the Meadow Browns within the wood.

I wanted to show Helen the Buzzard nest, so we made our way to the the nest site, but as I looked up the nest seemed to have gone, I could make out one chick, but there was no sign of the nest or the other chick.

We checked under the tree for any fallen nest thinking that maybe yesterday's storms may have blown the trees about, but there was nothing under the tree.  We walked to the other side of the tree, and I finally was able to make out one of the chicks.

And above it was the older chick, you can just see its yellow legs.

One of the adults flew in, causing the chicks to call out, and this was our signal to leave.  As we made our way along the main path we could hear an adult bird calling and I managed a view of one carrying what looked like a rat again for the nest.  As we left the area we could hear the chicks calling in the expectation of the feed to be delivered.

The sun was now lighting up the bracken, and a Speckled Wood provided an unusual view.

We turned into the main north - south path, and there were plenty of Meadow Browns on the brambles, but then I saw what I had hoped to find, a Silver-washed Fritillary amongst the  bramble flowers.

I had been concerned that the forestry work in the winter may have disturbed them and I would not find them this year, so this was a very welcome sight, and one of my earliest sighting.

Lets hope that the White Admirals are about too.

Another orange butterfly caught my eye in the sunshine, but this time it was a Comma, still a lovely butterfly.

We left the wood and walked to the pond.  An Emperor Dragonfly was quartering the lily pads, and the carp were feeding at the surface.

More of a surprise though was the family of Moorhens feeding amongst the lilypads, they were not concerned with our presence.

We left the pond, and on the lawns by the nissen huts the "Beast of Four Marks" was stalking the hedgerow.

We walked to Kitwood and took the footpath down through Homestead Farm.  The path had been cut, and there was plenty of butterflies, mostly Meadow Browns and Ringlets with a few Tortoiseshells.

A Buzzard flew low over the field mewing, probably with another nest nearby.

A small butterfly sat on a dead leaf, and on close inspection it turned out to be a Large Skipper enjoying the warm sunshine.

We walked up the footpath past the Shetland Pony paddocks, and stopped for a drink at the garden centre.

Leaving there we walked down through the meadow, and as well as the Meadow Browns saw two Marbled Whites, the first of the year, making it three new butterflies for the day, eve if the Marbled Whites did not stop for a photo opportunity.

So it was back home, the summer doldrums have begun, the Meadow Browns become the new Woodpigeons, but who knows something is always there to surprise you, you just have to look!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

25th June - The Yellow of the Moon

Clear warm and still night again, perfect for the moth trap?  Well if you go by the numbers, yes.  It was by far the most individuals I have caught, and it took a while to release them.  The majority were Dark Arches and Heart and Darts, species we have seen on quite a few occasions, but there were some new ones, and one or two that were just to beautiful to pass up.

The first one of those is the Buff Tip.  I find them amazing and when placed in a tree they just melt away on to the branch.

Next up was a new species, and equally as impressive.  As I picked it out of the trap the gold colour on the wings glistened like metal, which is probably why it has the name Burnished Brass.  The photographs I have in my field guide do not do the moth justice.

Another moth we have seen in the garden before is the Grey Dagger, this though is the first this year, you can see the "daggers" either side of the head.

The next I haven't caught before, but it is a common species around garden at this time of year.  The two white dots give it a rather uninspiring name of Dot Moth.

We have had the Spectacle before, named after the two round discs at the top of the head, but take a look at the patterns on the wings, exquisite.

I catch lots of small wave moths, but as I try to get them out they fly away.  This is a Riband Wave, and I took no chances at trying to move it.

Another new moth was the shark, I assume named after the area behind the head that sticks up like a shark fin, again though beautiful markings on the body, just like feathers.

Finally the last moth, and yet another new species, this is a female Ghost Swift.  While the females are this butter colour, the males have an upperside of white which contrast with the brown underside and this creates an eerie ghost-like effect when the moth flies.  The white flashes are thought to attract the females, and males "lek" to compete for the female, a sight that I would imagine is well worth seeing.

Again a good haul, top moth today though goes to the Burnished Brass, a real beauty.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

24th June - When They Said "Sit Down" I Stood Up

Quiet just recently and we have been away again.

I was amazed to work out the other day that this was the 13th World Cup tournament I can remember, the first England won and its been all down hill since then.  But today marked a first for all those years of hurt, I wasn't bothered to watch England in the World Cup.  In the past I have raced from Heathrow to get home in time, avoided any form of media to watch a game that has been recorded, even getting a hotel to record the game so I could see it, but today, no.  It was a dead rubber, and there were far better things to see in my mind.

So as England were kicking off in Brazil, I was walking along Gradwell to enter the woods.  The prime objective today being to see if the Buzzard chicks were OK, and how much they had grown, it was a week since I last saw them, so I was of the opinion that they must have grown quite a bit.

As I walked the footpath into the wood from Gradwell there were at least a dozen Small Tortoiseshell butterflies around the the nettles and brambles.  They were obviously engaged in "love" as they were chasing each other in groups of threes, and then settling on the leaves.  I didn't  manage to catch them on the leaves, they were either out of sight or too quick, but I finally caught up with this one as it settled on the dry ground.

There were more Tortoiseshells as I walked along yjr main path, definitely the dominant butterfly at the moment.  A single Red Admiral took off from the bramble leaves but aside from that it was quiet.  A Chiffchaff sang out, and there was the usual Wren song duels going on.

I came across a male Emperor Dragonfly quartering a patch of grass between tow beech trees.  I waited to see if it would settle, but it continued to fly back and forth, with several chases to catch small insects.  The darts to catch prey were amazingly fast, and with such agility.  Incredible machines.

The fields along side the wood have been cut, and I could hear the begging calls of young Crows.  The young birds pestering their parents for food, when they looked old enough and big enough to do it themselves.

I could hear the mew calls of a young buzzard as I approached the nest, and I went to the position I had found best for viewing last time.  However today there was no wind, and the branches were covering the nest.  All I could see to start with was a body, and I wasn't sure if it was the adult.  Finally I managed to get a good view, and immediately could see it was the chick, but my, how it had grown.

There were now plenty of real brown feathers, and it was looking a lot like a buzzard.

It started to look around, and as a result it became a lot more visible.

Every so often there would be the mewing call, but it wasn't coming from the chick I could see.  Then I saw more movement below, and to the left of the visible chick.  If you look at this picture you can see a darker horizontal feathered patch.  This I believe is the wing of the second chick as it moved when I could hear the mewing.

The second chick was laying down in the nest, and is clearly a lot younger than the first, and who knows may be calling for food.  I waited to see if it would show, but it stayed down, so I left them and made my way back home.  As I walked up the main path I saw a butterfly different from the Tortoiseshells, a Meadow Brown.  They are still new enough to be photographed, I'll get fed up with them soon though, and they will become the woodpigeon of the butterfly world.

Coming out of the wood at Brislands I noticed a single Poppy by the side of the cereal crops.  The sun was just catching the petals.

There doesn't appear to be any in great numbers around the patch, but I have seen large fields around Winchester.

The area from the wood to the houses on Brislands has become the best place to find Whitethroat.  As I came out I heard one singing, in the oak tree, and there were several more along the hedge.

The numbers have been swollen by young birds bred this year, but it also looks like there are at least two pairs of adults, and that they may be nesting again.

As I walked along the lane I could hear Skylarks, and for once one came quite low, singing just inside the field.

The Red Admirals were still about, and they would fly past me not stopping, then as I passed the recreation ground, this one was sitting in the middle of the road in the evening sun.

Back at home I sat in the garden, and watched the antics of a Woodpigeon pair.  Clearly one of them had very clear intentions, but the other was not that interested.  A stand off ensued, the female not happy with his advances

but the male was not to be put off, and started to adopt a different tactic, his bowing approach.

Encouraged by the factthat she was still there, he moved to what we know as the "skip, hoppity, hoppity" tactic.  This is where he tries to sneak up on her without her really noticing, but the problem here is that she did, and he panicked and set off at pace, and she turned and ran off too.

A little later they were together again sitting on a TV aerial, and this time she was a little more attentive as he adopted the chest pumping, and cooing.

Mean while as all this was going on a pair of Collared Doves showed them how it should be done as they sat close to each other in a nearby tree.  They seem inseparable, going everywhere together.

I am pleased to report that all turned out well for the Woodpigeons.  As we sat in the lounge during the evening we watched them consummate their relationship on another house roof nearby.  So rest assured in the near future they will be a few more Woodpigeons to add to the vast number we already have around here.

For the record I caught the last 15 minutes of the England game, and was glad of the choice I took.

Friday, 20 June 2014

20th June - Being Beside You When We Grow Old

As promised the Moth Trap went out last night, and unlike England it delivered!  Seven new moths for the garden, including some pretty spectacular ones, and of the rest there were a few that just could not keep away.

The majority were Heart and Dart, and Large Yellow Underwing, but as I carefully picked my way through the egg boxes some interesting species turned up.  There were two Cinnabars, but this was the only one to stay.

Next up was a Clouded Border, now these moths never transfer to another surface very well so I took the picture on the egg box before I even tried, which was a good thing because as soon as I tried to move it, it was gone.

The next moth was one of four in the trap, I have caught this species before, but have not been able to photograph it to identify it.  This is a Clouded Brindle I believe.

Another moth from yesterday that I didn't identify, but this one is a little lighter and I think this is a Heart and Club.

While this one is either an Uncertain, or a Rustic, I am going for Rustic because the spots are more rounded tan the oval shape I have seen on the Uncertain plates, but as always if you have a different view please let me know..

Another new moth, this is a Grey Arches, a little tatty though on the wing.

I didn't immediately see this one, and I think it must be yesterdays returning to the enticing night club lighting.  I just couldn't resist more photographs of a spectacular moth, the Elephant Hawk Moth

Something smaller, but in its own way quite beautiful is the Footman.

Another surprise because I only found as I was clearing away is this new moth, The Miller.

Now to the stars of this morning's show.  At first thought this was a Poplar Hawkmoth, a species I had caught earlier in the year, as I moved it I noticed the eye markings on the hindwing.  This another new moth for me, the Eyed Hawkmoth.

At rest the moth blends well with the bark on which it normally rests, but when disturbed it raises its forewings and displays the large eye spots on the hindwings.  It may lift its body up and down too and this is enough to scare off birds and other predators.  While flying it does not feed.

It was a little upset with me, and would vibrate the wings, hence the slight blur in the lower wing in this photograph, but you can see the eye that gives it the name.

The Hawkmoth for once did not make today's top moth, that honour goes to a smaller moth, that had me guessing for an identification.  This was mainly because I had photographed it in a position in which it is not shown in all the books.

Here it is the Lesser Swallow Prominent

A gorgeous combination of deep browns and silver.  A striking looking moth that is usually depicted as sitting like this.

With the butterfly gap, and the birds busy with their young in amongst the leaves and foliage, the moths are continuing to deliver, and keep me and I hope you entertained.  The moth trap has become a real insight into a previously unknown world, a world that I now know is one of extreme beauty.