Wednesday, 20 November 2013

autumnal birding

Its been a fantastic few weeks for me birding, with a trip out to Spurn for 3 days, lots of birding at my now regular 'patch' at holme pierrepont, and some quality notts 'ticks'.

I was lucky enough to be asked by my friend and fellow ringer, Ian, to go ringing/birding at Spurn for a few days at the beginning of October. Obviously I said I'd go, with the opportunity to pick up on some new birds, due to my lack of previous coastal birding trips, as well as the chance of seeing some vagrants too. I've not done any ringing outside of the group too, so it was an exciting chance to potentially ring some new species, as well as hopefully getting more experience by catching large numbers of commoner migrants.

Spurn sunrise

Unfortunately, lady luck wasn't on our side and we were greeted with a few days of windy weather, with the winds blowing from the west, the opposite direction that we needed if we were to get a fall of migrants. The conditions were good for visible migration, and there were decent flocks of Goldfinches and Tree Sparrows passing over the whole time, but the birds just weren't dropping in, instead using the weather to their advantage and flying over. Other finch species were seen passing overhead, including a handful of Siskin and a singleton Brambling, and a Lapland Bunting was a nice bonus. Meadow Pipits and the odd Rock Pipit were also present, but in small numbers.

The winds were too strong for much ringing at the Warren, allowing only for a couple of sheltered nets to be opened at best. The day we got there a Sparrowhawk was caught, the first I've seen in the hand, which kicked the trip off nicely. Our first days ringing gave me my first Meadow Pipit in the hand, and good flocks of Tree Sparrows, but only a few found the nets. The 2nd and third days were much quieter, with only a few Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Tree Sparrow being handled. I still learnt a fair bit, mostly on ageing and sexing Goldies, but it certainly wasn't the 'observatory ringing' experience I had dreamt of.

Female Spawk

We did have a nice bit of birding otherwise, with Yellow-browed Warbler, and several Firecrests putting in an appearance, and it was nice for a couple of Midlands birders to have some wader flocks to look at. In fact for me it was great as I was treated to my first ever Knots, Grey Plovers and briefly, Bar-tailed Godwits. Just to sit and watch flocks of waders pass the Warren in the morning as well as watching huge flocks massing on the sands futher up the point was great and gave us some experience in identification. I also had my first Merlin, seen chasing a few late swallows about, albeit unsuccessfully. Seeing some Brent geese was nice, and I also saw my first UK Gannets, with several seen over the sea throughout the 3 days.

Back at home, there has been some birds to add to my Notts list, inlcuding at the beginning of September, a Juvvy White-winged Black Tern at attenborough. It was present for several days, at the same time as a Black Tern juv, providing the chance to get some identification comparisons between these two similar species.

Next up on the local rarities list was a Hoopoe, which was seen by some dog-walkers at annesely pit top on the 20th October. I headed over there the next day and spent several hours wandering about in the wind and pouring rain, with nothing to show apart from a Life Tick in the form of 3 Black-necked Grebes... No Hoopoe though, but I was still satisfied, if a little wet. The bird played ball though and stuck around for a couple more days, allowing me to return on the Wednesday, with the sun shining. The bird was seen almost straight away, feeding around 15 metres away from me and the half dozen or so other birders. It was seen well for about ten minutes, before some people walking up the path flushed it. We searched a little longer to relocate the bird but it wasn't to be. It disappeared the next day, presumably using the much better weather conditions to its advantage and hopefully finding the right direction home.

Finally was this weeks bird, the Glossy Ibis. This bird was present for about 2 weeks, not sure if its still about, and showed ridiculously well (for some), in a cow field next to a Peugeot Garage on the a614 out of Lowdham towards Southwell. I did a 27 mile round trip on my bike to see the bird on a gloriously sunny but cold monday morning and was reward with decent views, though the bird was favouring the mid to far side of the field. I believe it has been showing very close for some people, judging by some of the excellent photos i've seen, but unfortunately this wasn't the case for me and I only managed some 'record' shots. Still, a fantastic Notts record, (only the 3rd) and an excellent looking bird to boot. Incidentally, I saw it exactly 2 years on, to the day, from when I saw the attenborough Squacco in 2011. Which is cool.

Otherwise I've been hitting the patch at Holme Pierrepont pretty hard, with building wildfowl numbers being the main highlight. Counts of up to around 150 Gadwall and Wigeon have been made so far, with smaller numbers of other ducks seen, and the first few Goldeneyes in residence, up to 7 so far. Other than that its been reasonably quiet. Numbers of redshank usually build up throughout the winter with a singleton seen on Blotts in October and one on the rowing course a couple of weeks ago, more should be about when the weather turns nastier.

Rowing course redshank

Reed Bunting

 Other recent highlights include a skein of Pinkies seen near lady bay, and flocks of Redwing here and there and the first arrivals of Fieldfare, as well as some flocks of Redpoll and Siskin. I'm hoping to find something interesting on Blotts or the rowing course before the year is out, maybe a Great Northern Diver? Who knows, but i'm happy just birding anyway, no matter what I see.

1st winter male Goldeneye

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Late summer & Early autumn mothing

Catches in my usual trapping garden at my friends house continued on being pretty good, with quality and quantity, which made going to empty the trap each morning quite a drawn out affair, which was nice on the warm late summer mornings that came during the end of august and beginning of september.

Large yellow underwings continued to dominate the numbers up until the beginning of september, by which time over 250 had been caught in the garden, in the space of a few weeks. Lesser yellow underwings, square-spot rustics and copper underwing agg. were all common visitors over these weeks too, but some new and interesting moths also appeared to test my ID skills. More Old Ladies were caught on 2 more sessions but then suddenly stopped appearing.

Typical late august underwing filled egg-box
5 new macros graced my trap on the 28th august, including a colourfull Yellow Shell, an incredibly patterned Lychnis, as well as a Flounced Rustic, Mouse and Vine's Rustic. Only the latter two have returned in later sessions, the others not being seen again. One single Burnished Brass appeared that night too, a stunning moth and only the 2nd i've caught. The last session in august 2 nights later on the 30th produced a little less inspiring trap, with only 2 Common Pug being new.

Burnished Brass
September started very well with some wonderful weather in the first few days of the month, still providing some excellent trapping conditions. I ran my trap twice in the first week of the month and caught well on both occasions, although the evening of the 4th was the best of the two. 22 species were caught which is fantastic for me, and included 3 colourful new macros, Flame Shoulder, Gold Spot and Orange Sallow. I'd been hoping for some of the colourful sallow moths, and the Gold Spot was truly stunning too. I also got 5 new Micros which caused an ID nightmare, but still interesting to find new micros and add to the tally.

Flame Shoulder

Orange Sallow

I had a little break of 10 days before running the trap again, when I had moved into my Girlfriend's parents house for a month to house-sit and look after the dogs. Not great being away from home for that long but the plus point was that we had a garden that I could trap in. I took full advantage and ran the trap 12 times during our time there. The weather at the start of our stay was pretty rubbish so I was getting poor catches, but they increased slightly whenever nights were slightly milder, but it was never a busy trap in the mornings.
The species tally never got very high and there were only ever one or two of each species, but I did catch some new moths for me, including some nice autumn specialities.

Not surprisingly, Large Yellow Underwing was a common inhabitant of the trap, along with Garden Carpet and Lesser Yellow Underwing. Lunar Underwing was new for me on the 16th, but soon became a familiar sight with several in the trap most days. Other new ones for me included Brimstone (new in the garden at least, seen them before) and Common Marbled Carpet.


One of many Lunar underwings

Fresh looking Lesser Yellow Underwing

On the 25th, 3 excellent autumnal moths were in the trap, 2 Blair's Shoulder Knot, a Barred Sallow and a Pink-barred Sallow, following another stunning moth which was found 3 nights earlier, the awesome Dusky Thorn.

Dusky Thorn

Barred Sallow

Pink-barred Sallow

Pair of Blairs

Towards the end of the trapping period, things dropped off a fair bit, but a couple of Silver-Y's kept things interesting. My penultimate evening trapping before leaving for home once again, on the 2nd of October, was successful however, with 11 species found, and moths both inside, outside underneath and around the trap, even under the chair the trap was sat on. In fact most were found outside the trap which was weird. Only two new ones. a Light Emerald and a Gold Triangle, but another Blair's Shoulder Knot, and my first Willow Beauty in a while were nice.

Light Emerald

Gold Triangle

Common Marbled Carpet

Having moved back home, without a garden, I've decided to put an end to my Mothing activities for the year. The possibility of some more nice autumnal species and some winter moths is attractive, but having to trap in my friends garden makes it logistically difficult. Worthwhile in the spring and summer, but if the trap is only likely to have a handful of moths at best, then I don't think its worth it. Its been a good first year as a moth-trapper, I've caught 111 species in my garden trap and have learned loads. I'm looking forward to the spring already.

Dusky Thorn. Nice.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Underwing invasion

Since the poor catches I was getting from the moth trap at the beginning of august, I've been pleasantly surprised to open the lid to a trap full of moths the last couple of times I've run it. Over a week passed between the last time I'd run it and the first decent august catch I got, mainly due to me not being able to access my trap in my friends garden.

On wednesday 21st, I ran the trap on a pleasantly warm evening and was greeted by a good haul of moths in the morning. First things first... Yellow Underwings. I'd begun to trap some of these regularly and had read that they can dominate your trap in the summer months. In this instance I had 43 Large Yellow Underwings in my trap, which constituted 52% of the total catch. I won't grumble though as they are a fascinating species, with much variation in their patterning which means they must be checked anyway, due to possible confusion with similar species. Obviously size rules out all but the Broad-bordered yellow underwing but this has much more distinctive patterning from my experience. These two photos show some of the more contrasting forms which may be found.

Classic patterning, with clear stigmas

More brick-red appearance, another common form

Other than this I had small numbers of other common species, including Lesser Yellow Underwing and Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing. I also caught several Copper Underwings which I had a crack at with seperating to species leve, mainly by looking at the palps and the brightness and contrast of their forewing markings. I made no conclusive decisions but it was interesting to look at these moths in more detail. I'll still record them as aggregates though, to be on the safe side.

Uniformly light palps.... could be Copper rather than svenssons...

I got some new ones for the year, including two macros, Garden Carpet, the first carpet i've trapped in the Garden, which is fitting. I also had my first Square-spot Rustic of the year. More confusing noctuinae. I have also finally invested in the 'micro bible' so can now try to identify some micro-moths without bothering people on twitter and birdforum, or trawling through photos on UKmoths. Borkhausenia fuscescens, Phycitodes binaevella and Pandemis heparana are all micros which were new to me which were ID'd from this source, so it has come in handy already.

Square-spot Rustic

Garden Carpet... in the Garden

The weather was once again perfect on Sunday night, warm, overcast and still, so I put the moth trap on again. I went over at 5.30 am to turn it off and cover it up and put it away somewhere sheltered as I was off bird-ringing. Once I'd finished ringing, I returned and took a look at what I had.

It was another successful night, with some more new ones for me, as well as good numbers of the other regulars. There were only 21 yellow underwing species, 18 of them of the 'Large' variety. The best of the 'Newies' were all residing at the bottom of the trap, saving themselves til last. The species, 'Old Lady' is, I think, a bit of a sought after moth due to it being one of our larger species. I had four tonight which I was impressed with, and they were reasonably docile, allowing me to get a good look at their chunky bodies and large wings.

In addition, I had 4 Shuttle-shaped Dart, which I struggled with, originally mistaking them for The Flame (axylia putris), due to their similar colouration. 

Setaceous hebrew character was also new for me, and was the first moth I pulled out the trap, and instantly recognised it from looking at my books. 

Small Ranunculus was new for me too, and one I was hoping to encounter, as this moth has been trapped locally over the last few years and was once regarded as extinct in the UK. I'm unsure of its current status in Notts, but i'm particularly pleased about it, especially as it nearly escaped the trap too. 

I'm on 87 moth species this year which I'm happy with. The traps on tonight... hoping to crack 100 soon.

Here's another Large Yellow Underwing to wrap up

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Moth trapping in august

I've been pretty busy of late, with my birthday bringing many celebrations, my girlfriend preparing for buggering off to mexico for four weeks and me working at Boardmasters festival in Cornwall, so blogging has been neglected a bit.

I've done 3 moth traps since the beginning of august and it is strange how quickly the catch has declined. On the 30th July I caught a reasonable catch of 37 moths of 22 species, not bad for my garden and in fitting with the good catches i'd been getting over the month. However, august hit and with it some slightly cooler nights, and my catches dwindled too. I was catching billions of uncertains and marbled beauties, when all of a sudden, they disappeared, replaced by various yellow underwings and common rustics.

On my birthday I woke up to a quiet trap which included a trio of 'newies':

Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing

Large Fruit Tree Tortrix, note the little grebe in the top right corner

Udea lutealis

all of which are damn fine looking moths, especially the yellow underwing.

Next up was 13 moths of six species on the 6th, very quiet.

Common rustic agg. variant #1

Common rustic agg. variant #2

Lesser Yellow Underwing NFY

and then after being away in cornwall I returned eager to get some more moths in, and was overrun with them, catching a whopping 5 (with about as many escapees).

This did include two more newies though:

Lesser broad bordered yellow underwing (longest name ever, and worn to boot)

agriphila genicula

and a couple of stunning large yellow underwings, well fit, common as they are

.... and another common rustic agg......

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Bumper butterflies... again

Previous to doing last weeks survey, I had predicted that there would be an increase in Peacock sightings, due to lots of big healthy looking caterpillars being seen in numerous locations. More have been noted round and about as well as lots more Commas. In fact i went to attenborough briefly last monday afternoon and despite poor weather conditions, butterfly numbers were good, and i saw lots of individuals of both species and managed a few nice shots.



On the Tuesday I went up to the grove for my eighth survey of the year, it was pretty hot but there was a bit of a strong wind and some dark clouds were rolling in towards the end of the survey which turned into a pretty substantial shower which soaked Michelle and I on the cycle home. Despite this the butterflies were still very active and I still got a very respectable 128 individuals of 12 species.

Green-veined white

Whites were still very abundant and again, it was very difficult to clinch ID on a lot of them as they flew past, so I recorded many as just 'White spp.' instead, while still recording down to species level where i could. I ended with approximately 20 each of Large, Small and Green-veined, while a futher 17 were unidentified. Some interesting GV white behaviour was noted which I have read about previously, in which a female which has already copulated was being pestered by an 'interested' male. He was hovering above here scattering his pheromones (or 'lemon-scented love-dust'), but she was sat stock still holding her abdoment erect, which apparently stops any attempts at copulation. Interesting to read about and good to see in the field. I tried to get photographs but they were in a shady location where my attempts all came out blurry and overexposed.


Peacocks had indeed emerged in numbers, and a flowering Buddleia early on in the transect held 11 individuals, which boosted the numbers which ended on 18. One Red admiral was seen on the transect too, and a couple of commas. The second generation of Holly Blues must be emerging too as I saw one of these tiny delicate little things on the walk too. Numbers of all these butterflies should increase throughout august.

Gatekeeper on Ragwort

Ringlets, which dominated last week were down significantly which really goes to show that the peak time really is mid july, as I only noted 14, compared with 5 times that last week. Meadow browns too were uncommon but numbers of Gatekeeper were up, and the Speckled Woods which were absent last week seemed to be back in small numbers.