Wednesday, 1 October 2014

30th September - I See Trouble On The Way

We still have the fine weather with us, but the available light in the evening is declining now, and by seven it is dark, and last night the moon was looking quite spectacular.  There was a slight orange tinge as it caught the light of the sun away to the west, and I saw it as a sign to put the moth trap out.

By morning the clear skies were replaced once again by low misty cloud, and there was even the odd shower of rain.  When I finally got to the trap I was pleasantly surprised.  There was not the quantity of the late summer, or the variation of mid summer, but there were some interesting visitors.

Of course there were the Large Yellow Underwings, the Square-spot Rustics, and the Setaceous Hebrew Characters, and of course yet another colour variant of the Lunar Underwing, this time more orangey yellow.

But there were some new moths for the year, and even two new moths for the garden.  First out was this Black Rustic, the black being really a very dark green, which when caught by the sun gives off a greenish sheen.

Apparently the males have white hindwings, the females more dusky, but I wasn’t able to see this to enable me to sex this individual.  The adults will fly in September and October, usually over heathland and downland, and the larvae feed on low plants such as heather and dock, as well as various grasses.

Another small but quite attractive moth is the Angle Shades.  At rest it looks very much like a withered autumn leaf, but is seen to fly between May and October, in at least two generations, but can be found in any month, it is also a common migrant, turning up in large numbers along the south coast.  

So this could be a resident moth that has been with us all summer, or a migrant from the continent.  What ever and where ever it is from, it has been in the wars, the antenna damaged and the fur on the thorax a little ragged.

Now for the two new moths, first up I think is the Chestnut.  Again this moth has several colour variants, but there is a distinctive pattern on the wing, which I think indentifies it as a Chestnut, but as always I am open to help and advice

The Chestnut is common species which occurs in the winter, with moths appearing any time from September to May, especially in mild conditions, distributed widely over the British Isles, there are a number of variations, which help to confuse.  The larvae feed on the foliage of a range of trees, including birch and oak of which there are plenty of around here.

The second new moth was the best catch of the day, a Large Ranunculus.

Again a variable species, with the brightest individuals occurring in the south-east, this one looking quite distinctive.  They are distributed mainly in southern England, but are occurring in scattered locations northwards, but with an eastern bias.

They are found mainly in suburban habitats, waste ground and coastal cliffs, and flies in September and October, when it will quite happily visit light as was clearly the case last night.

Throughout the late morning and early afternoon I have been hearing Chiffchaffs calling from the trees and hedges in the gardens.  This has been a common sound recently and I wonder if these are birds moving through, or birds that have got stuck here in the doldrums weather we have been experiencing.  It would be nice if one or two remained to over winter.

I decided the late evening walk would once again be around the farms, I am coinvinced that there will be something good there soon, although last week's Hobby wasn't bad.

By mid afternoon the temperature had reached 22 degrees, phenomenal for the time of year, a little later when I set off for the farms it had dropped but it was till warm.  When i parked the car I could see quite a few Jackdaws and Rooks flying across the fields, and as I took this picture of the Mountains plantation in the evening sun, a lone Sparrowhawk ran the gauntlet of mobbing Jackdaws.

I could hear distant Buzzards calling, the mewing call of juvenile birds, and i picked them up gliding above the distant tree tops, one flew and settled in a tree and was quickly joined by what was probably a sibling.  A little bit distant but if you look hard you will see both birds.

The flocks of corvids continued to fly across the road, and it so became apparent what the attraction was.  There were large numbers in the recently harvested maize field, while others hung around in the trees that surrounded the field.

As I walked towards Charlwood I could once again hear the mews of a young Buzzard, and scanning across the field towards Dogford Wood I could see two Buzzards just above the trees.  

The mewing was probably a result of the constant mobbing from the corvids.  The young birds probably unaware of why they were such an attraction.  The mobbing took place in the air, and even when they finally perched in the trees, they clearly were not getting the message that they were very unwelcome visitors.

I turned down Charlwood, and the walk to the bottom of the lane was very unrewarding.  At the footpath I climbed the style and entered the fields.  The view as wonderful even if it was totally devoid of any wildlife.

I walked on and could hear the harsh calls of Jays and Magpies away in the woods, both birds then appeared and seemed to be competing with each other.  Here you can see the different flight profiles of these more cosmopolitan corvids.

I walked the lane towards the cottages, Bullfinches piped from within the hedge, and away across the field I could make out a distant Buzzard on the ground, probably a young bird searching for worms and insects.

A kestrel was perched on one of the poles, looking out across the field.  The sun was now getting lower in the sky, and giving a golden glow to everything.

As is always the case as I got closer the Kestrel dropped from the pole and flew away towards the distant barns.  I decided to check the fields and as I came through the gap I found a large covey of at least 17 Red-legged Partridges feeding at the edge of the field.

I checked the other side of the lane, but there was little there other than a singing Skylark, the first I have heard or seen for quite some time.

At the cattle sheds there was a group of Collared Doves, I counted nine in total, with these three prominently perched on the wires.  This is the largest count I have had here, clearly it has been a good breeding season for these doves.

Below the doves is a hedge of Hawthorn and Rose, and in amongst the hedge were House Sparrows.  I watched this male catch something or take a berry, I couldn't be sure, then sat eating it in the sunshine.

Several more Sparrows joined the male in the sunshine, then as usually is the case when you sit tight, watch and wait, something else appears, in this case it was a Chiffchaff chasing insects around the branches.

Back on the wires a young first year Rook appeared.  Rooks do not have the characteristic white base to the bill when they first fledge, and this one's bill was just starting to change.  It was only on this side though, once I had taken this picture it turned around and the bill was still dark on the other side.

I walked down the hill to the main road.  There was a steady trickle of Swallows moving above me, there calls punctuating the quiet of the evening.

I crossed the road to the path up past the quarry and immediately was confronted with the contact calls of Long-tailed Tits.  I stood still to watch and listen, and was quickly surrounded by a large mixed flock of Tits.  I could see Blue and Great Tits as they flitted amongst the trees, but the first bird to show long enough to photograph was silent, and a surprise.  A Marsh Tit.

It was very interested in the Old Man's Beard that was in amongst the hedge, and would pull apart the white fronds.

i could only see one marsh Tit, but there was at least six Blue Tits, but they would stay well out of view, preferring to move behind the cover of the leaves.

There were four Great Tits, and they were quite happy to have their photograph taken, looking very smart in their plumage.

Then what I first thought was the Marsh Tit again, turned out to be a Coal Tit, I could only find one.

And then the bird that started it all off, the Long-tailed Tit finally appeared in the open, there was quite a large flock of these, easily in double figures.

A true mixed Tit flock with five species.  The calls also attracted a few Chiffchaffs and I could hear them in the background but didn't wait to see them.  I walked up the hill, and out into the open.  The swallows continued to move through, and in places they would gather above the trees.

I scanned around the fields in the hope that they may once again be followed by a Hobby.  While I didn't see the Hobby I did find another Kestrel, that was being mobbed again by Rooks, they followed it relentlessly, and after making several attempts to hover and subsequently dived on, it gave up, and flew at speed to the top of the surrounding oak trees.

I walked to the main path, and wondered if the usual Hare would be sitting in the middle of the main path.  I wasn't to be disappointed it was once again in the open, taking in the last rays of the day.

! walked down the main path enjoying the view, and the sounds of the evening.  The sky was a pattern of blue sky and high clouds, and away in the distance were the mews of yet more Buzzards.

I turned to walk back, and noticed that the kestrel had returned to try and hunt once again.  A short hover was followed by a rest in the nearby oak tree, but the kestrel had not bargained that this tree was owned by a pair of jays, and pretty soon they found the kestrel, and like everyone else took an instant dislike to it being there, and became very brave as they started to mob a bird smaller than they were.

At first I thought the Kestrel would put up with it, but as the attacks got closer it flew off again.  It settled in a nearby tree, and when the fuss had died down it took off, and the started to fly around me, looking for a suitable hunting spot.  Normally the kestrels fly away from me, but today I can only assume it considered me a safer option than the jays and Rooks.

It passed quite low over me.

Then eventually turned and headed away towards the main road, the sun catching it with a golden glow

I decided to walk back to the car, but as I passed the side path to one of the fields i noticed another group of Red-legged Partridges.  It wasn't so much as the bird that caught my eye in this shot, but the deep rich colours in the vegetation, the partridge adding perspective to the scene.

Walking down the hill, I noticed some different shapes in the field ahead.  Checking them out they turned into distant Roe deer.

When I reached the car they were still there.

There were in fact three, the others revealing themselves as they scampered across the field away from me.  

the sun was now almost set, and even though this had been a short walk it had been rich in interest.  As I drove home I reflected on what has been a remarkable September from a weather perspective, the driest since records began.  The forecast was for this to change over the next few days which will be a shock, no doubt, to all as we finally have to get those wet weather clothes out.  However with different weather maybe there will be more interesting stories.

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