Thursday, 30 June 2011

Footmen & Drinkers

Overnight temperatures back to normal, minimum last night 10.8C. A lot of moths in the trap but certainly it was more quantity than quality.  There were 137 moths of 25 species present, 6 new for the year after eventually identifying a micro moth as Gypsonoma dealbana. The others were a Flax Tortrix and four larger species, a bit larger with Willow Beauty, several The Clay, Common Footman and The Drinker.

The Drinker - named after it's caterpillar's likeness for dew but
to me,  they always seem a bit of a biffer who likes a pint or two.
Considering 99 moths were one of three species  Heart & Dart (41), Garden Grass Veneer (31) and Dark Arches (27).  I've only had a few Drinkers and there were 5 Common Footman present which was a good count for the garden so quite a fair night overall.

The Clay - one of the Wainscots - the male
has a triangular area of black hair on the underside of it's abdomen

Common Footman - five were caught last night,. They get their
name apparently, because they fold their wings straight
back like a liveried servant standing to attention or two.

Late this afternoon, a Ringlet was in the garden, though briefly. Nearby a Speckled Wood and a Grey Squirrel were seen.

Grey Squirrel - Still a timid creature around here

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Root vegetables

Tried with the net again last night, the result was only 3 moths, single Large Yellow Underwing, Double Square-spot and a Shaded Broadbar. Never mind, practice makes perfect (who am I kidding?).

A Common Tern was again on the Wear this afternoon, by the roadbridge.

A short walk in the sunshine this afternoon produced quite a few butterflies, with Small Skipper, 

Small Skipper, the commonest butterfly today

Ringlet and Meadow Brown being the commonest, but also single this year brood Small Tortoiseshell and Comma as well as good numbers of Shaded Broad-bars. Dozens of Large Red-tailed Bumblebees were around too.
One of many Large Red-tailed Bumblebee on the wing today.

Single Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff  and 2 Blackcaps were heard and my first Willow Tit for a while

I added another 5 (well 4 actually, I had forgotten to count the Sandwort) to the flora list. These were Autumn Hawkbit, Three-nerved Sandwort, Wild Parsnip, Lesser Stitchwort and Hairy Tare. I had also found some more Common Corn-salad, in the carpark opposite Wilkinsons in the town centre earlier.

Lesser Stitchwort - new for the year
Wild Carrot - spreading in the Chester-le-Street area
Wild Parsnip - another root vegetable

The flowering plant list for the year here moves on to 280

Monday, 27 June 2011

Another beauty

I knew I would have not time this morning to check the trap and with it being so warm I did not want to leave any moths caught inside so I didn't put the trap out. Instead I had another go with the net and torch, and again I managed another one new for the year, despite my technique not being any better.
A nice Marbled Beauty managed to find it's way into the net

Marbled Beauty
 as did a Mottled Beauty and a Bordered White.

Bordered White

Today I checked the riverside after work, well actually the little bridge over the Cong Burn by the miniature railway compound and found what I was looking for, in the form of 3 Banded Demoiselle dragonflies (damselflies). This is a very good spot for them, though others occur at several spots along the Wear here too. The best sighting I had of this species was in June 2006 when in the main Front street one morning I found one fluttering against the window of the Red Lion public house.

When I got home I added another new species for the year in the form of a Red Admiral in the garden.

OFFH List this year

Flowering plants - 275
Birds - 104
Moths - 149
Butterflies - 18
Dragonflies - 5
Hoverflies - 9
Mammals - 10

Sunday, 26 June 2011

A peppering of moths

Temperature minimum last night was 14.7C so I put the trap out. 118 moths of 32 species, the commonest being Heart & Dart (37), Garden Grass Veneer (26) and much more surprisingly, Peppered moth, with 10 being present. Five new ones for the year, a Skin Moth, the grass moth Agriphila straminella, Grey Dagger, an early Six-striped Rustic and two Pale Mottled Willow.

Six-striped Rustic - another early this year

I say Grey Dagger, but cannot rule out Dark Dagger. This moth cannot be readily distinguished as an adult from Grey Dagger except by examination of the genitalia, although in the caterpillar stage this is not a problem as the species are quite different.  Considering how rare Dark Dagger is in the county  (about half a dozen county records - all confirmed?), compared with Grey Dagger which is common, and certainly all that have been checked in the garden have been Grey. I have also found several larvae on the fell, again all Grey as opposed to zero Dark.

Probable Grey Dagger
As well as the moths caught overnight,  there a Common Green Lacewing and a Heather Fly (Bibio pomonae) in the trap this morning.

Heather Fly, the moorland cousin of the St. Mark's Fly
The warmest day of the year, with my little weather station showing a record maximum temperature (I got it at Christmas) of 28.7C at 13:50 hrs today Scorchio!

Common Whitethroat and Garden Warbler were both singing today and an Oyster-catcher flew over Chester Moor. More unusual was a small party of Goldfinch that contained an adult Siskin. Not sure where the Siskin came from as I haven't seen one since early March.

Common Whitethroat - still singing
Bulbous Buttercup, Meadow Cranesbill and Wild Carrot were added to the Flora List.

Meadow Cranesbill - some nice plants along the
Chester Moor end of Waldridge Lane
Butterflies were out in force with good numbers particularly of Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Small Heath and Small Skipper plus a few very fresh looking Small Tortoiseshell.

My first Strawberry of the year, though these wild ones aren't exactly filling

OFFH List this year

Flowering plants - 275
Birds - 104
Moths - 148
Butterflies - 17
Dragonflies - 4
Hoverflies - 9
Mammals - 10

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Rain, bees and pollen

I was going to put the moth trap out but after more particularly heavy downpour and more to follow I decided against it and leave it until tonight. In between the showers I kept popping out with a light and net and caught a few things, though nothing new. Considering I'm not that good with a net I was fairly pleased with my catch of
1 Snout
3 Large Yellow Underwing
1 Double Square-spot
5 Heart & Dart
3 Dark Arches
1 Setaceous Hebrew Character
1 Garden Grass Veneer
and best of all 1 Ghost Moth.

But the ones that got away, that's another story

I added 4 more flowering plants to the list Large Bindweed, Common Knapweed, Rosebay Willowherb and Timothy, all in or around the garden.

Lots of Bumblebees in the garden with the foxgloves being very popular with the Garden Bumblebee Bombus hortorum. 

Bombus hortorum, the garden bumblebee
Hoverflies, have all been a bit scarce so far this year. I did have a Syrphus species, probably vitripennis and a couple of Eristalis tenax in the garden this morning but we need a couple days of some sun to get them out properly.  What has appeared in the garden in vast numbers is the Common Pollen Beetle (Meligethes aeneus).  This is that small black beetle with a metallic  blue-green sheen that gets everywhere.

Common Pollen Beetles in the garden - Huge numbers at the moment

Both Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were heard singing while I  was in the garden though much of the bird song has now stopped

OFFH List this year

Flowering plants - 272
Birds - 104
Moths - 143
Butterflies - 17
Dragonflies - 4
Hoverflies - 9
Mammals - 10 

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Summer solstice arches

As last night was the longest day, despite the heavy rain showers, I put the moth trap out and was rewarded with 84 moths of 31 species, eight of them being new for the year.
These were a Poplar Hawkmoth,

Poplar Hawkmoth - My first of the year here but he's not too happy
a Burnished Brass,

Burnished Brass

 a Wormwood Pug, a Light Arches and four species of micro moth - Scoparia ambigualis, Dipleurina lacustrata,  Eucosma cana and a Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix.  Amongst the rest there were three Green Arches and 9 Dark Arches, the numbers of the latter, together with Large Yellow Underwings  are starting to rise. Heart & Darts (29 last night) should start to drop now.

The Three Arches - (front left to right - Dark Arches, Green Arches and Light Arches)
A Great spotted Woodpecker again flew over the garden as checked the the trap this morning and Wood Burdock is now in flower under the big hedge.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Ringlets & Damsels

As I suspected there were a few moths hiding in the Greenhouse when I checked late yesterday, the only additional species to the days catch was a Dusky Brocade.
It rained most of yesterday and overnight but this morning was not too bad until the rain at lunchtime. A short walk in between the afternoon's showers allow a few butterflies on the area behind the village to flex their wings. Quite a few Small Heath, Common Blue

Common Blue - Ragged after the heavy rain

and Meadow Brown were flying about and 3 Ringlets, the first of the year, bringing the butterfly year list up to 17. 

Ringlets - This species only arrived on the Fell a few years ago
As I walked through the grass I was putting up the grass moth Crambus lathoniellus and 20 or so Shaded Broad-bar.

Shaded Broad-bar - a common moth both at the trap and in long grass
Two Common Blue and a single Blue-tailed Damselfly were also flushed out of the grass. A single plants of Upright Hedge-parsley was found in flower adding to the the year's flora list as did Crested Dog's-tail, Wild Privet and  Hedge Woundwort.
There was still a fair bird of bird song about, with most of summer visitors  still singing, even if only in snatches. Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common & Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Cuckoo all being heard.

OFFH List this year

Flowering plants - 268
Birds - 104
Moths - 135
Butterflies - 17
Dragonflies - 4
Hoverflies - 8
Mammals - 10 

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Geometrids in the rain

Busy the last couple of days and the only things of interest were a Common Tern again on the river by the Cricket Club on Thursday 16th and 2 Speckled Woods in the hedge and ivy near the house late yesterday afternoon. Flora wise added another couple of species, Pignut near the house and Common Orache in the town centre.
Woke up this morning and looked out of the window at the pouring rain. The Mercury Vapour bulb in the trap survived and the temperature overnight stayed 11.2C. I always find it amazing that the broad-winged Geometrid moths do not seem to be hindered by the rain, with some of the best nights for these moths have been when it raining, whereas some other nights that seem very suitable, have lots of moths present but few or even any Geometrids. Still so much to learn.
In the trap last night there were 95 moths of 31 species, with no less than 11 being new for the year - the tiny bronze & white micro moth, Argyresthia brockeella, Common Footman, Green Arches, 

Green Arches - not that common but annual in the garden

Setaceous Hebrew Character, Bright-line Brown-eye, 

Bright-line Brown Eye - as it says on the tin

Mottled Rustic, Fan-foot and 4 GeometridsRiband Wave, 

Riband Wave - the first of presumably many this year.
 The majority will be like this, the unbanded form

Barred Yellow, Small Rivulet 

Small Rivulet - the double indentation on the upper part of the white
band distinguishes it from the slightly larger Rivulet. This latter
species is much scarcer in the garden.
and Tawny-barred Angle.

Tawny-barred Angle - in the greenhouse, keeping dry
Also present was another Sallow Kitten, an Elephant Hawkmoth, 4 Mottled Beauties and the start of the build up of Large Yellow Underwing numbers. It was raining quite heavy so I opened the trap in the Greenhouse and moving it anywhere always disturbs them. I lost a few which I may relocate later hiding in the greenhouse, but a good night particularly considering the weather.

OFFH List this year

Flowering plants - 264
Birds - 104
Moths - 134
Butterflies - 15
Dragonflies - 2
Hoverflies - 8
Mammals - 10 

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Blood-veins, Minors and a Flycatcher.

Put the moth trap out overnight and was rewarded with 85 moths of 35 species, a nice haul, probably because the temperature stayed above 10C all night. Having said that, most of the moths were either Hearts & Darts (52) or Marbled Minors (10). This later species is really a group of three notoriously difficult to identify species aggregated together, Marbled, Rufous & Tawny Marbled. The only sure way to identity them is under the microscope. Over the years I have had a number of them checked and all three species do occur in the garden, though it would seem that Marbled Minor is the common one, and all the dark, melanistic minors seem to be this species. Of the few Rufous Minors I have had confirmed, they have all been similar, bright warm brown moths with a grey band and a little tuft of rufous on the thorax.  Without dissecting it and  looking at it under the microscope, I am quite confident that one I caught last night was this species.

Probably a Rufous Minor
Easier to identify, but also new for the year last night was my first Common Wainscot of the year,

Common Wainscot
together with only my second and third Blood-vein for the garden,


plus a few new micro-moths - a Bee Moth, 2 Garden Grass-veneer, 2  Pseudargyrotoza conwagana and a Blastobasis lacticolella.

Pseudargyrotoza conwagana 

Later, a Grey Heron flew over, heading toward the village.

I had to take the cat to the vet today and on walking back home along Pelton Fell Road I heard a Spotted Flycatcher. I dashed across the road and was fortunate to pick it up straight away and watched it for a while catching flies, of all things. That little stretch was rather productive as the little meadow by the river there had a couple of Small Skipper butterflies flitting about.

Small Skipper
and the rough ground adjacent to it held a good sized patch of Field Pennycress and the first of the Indian Balsam (aka Policeman's Helmet) in flower along the river bank.

OFFH List this year

Flowering plants - 261
Birds - 104
Butterflies - 15
Moths - 123
Dragonflies - 2
Hoverflies - 8
Mammals - 10 

Monday, 13 June 2011

Flyers out

After a couple of days of rain, there was drier, brighter weather today with some good sunny spells,  even though still a little cold.  This did bring out some flying insects, adding another butterfly to the list this year, Meadow Brown

Meadow Brown - first of the year
and another moth, the day-flying moth with a name longer than the insect, the Narrow-bordered five-spotted Burnet Moth. There were masses of others ready to emerge all around.

Narrow-bordered five-spotted Burnet Moth

Quite a few bumblebees about at the moment, the majority being either Buff-tailed or Common Carder Bumblebees.

Buff-tailed Bumblebee

The Reedmace covered pond at Brass Castle had a few Damselflies flitting around, though they all seemed to be the same species, the Azure Damselfly.

Pair of Azure Damselfly at Brass Castle
 Managed to add a couple more flowering plants, Black Bindweed and Wall-rue, both earlier today by the railway station.

OFFH List this year

Flowering plants - 259
Birds - 103
Butterflies - 14
Moths - 116
Dragonflies - 2
Hoverflies - 8
Mammals - 10 

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Heart and Dart domination

6.9C overnight, cool and a bit quiet in the moth trap this morning. That is except for Heart & Darts, 16 of the 21 moths present this morning were this species. A lone White Ermine was new for the year. Also present were single Cinnabar, Brimstone Moth, Dark Arches and the micro Lozotaenia forsterana.  After I had tidied up I found another moth, a Dusky Brocade, lurking at the side of the lawn

Lozotaenia forsterana  - This is one of the largest of the
micro Tortrix moths. It is fairly common around Waldridge
mainly on Ivy but has no English name
White Ermine 
Dusky Brocade

 No time for a wander this morning but 3 Oyster-catcher flew over the house calling noisily, and the pair of Blackbirds that unsuccessfully tried to breed in the garden earlier this year, have managed on a second attempt, though in the garden next door. Two youngsters were hopping about being fed by both Mam & Dad this morning.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The early emergences continue

Put the trap out last night, the minimum temperature being 6.1C. The 35 moths of 14 species present this morning being a little better than expected.

Two Dark Arches were my earliest ever here as was a Double Square-spot. Also new for the year were was  a Buff Ermine and a Pebble Prominent. The majority of the moths present were Heart and Darts, with 19 in total. Noticable by their absence, not one geometrid last night, not a sniff of a pug, carpet or wave.

Pebble Prominent

Buff Ermine

Double Square-spot

Dark Arches

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Early morning guilt trip

To cure that little guilty feeling I was up early this morning a did a little walk before work. It had been forecast down to 6C which was putting me off putting the moth trap out and I nearly changed my mind but a thunderstorm confirmed I should not bother tonight. In fact the temperature dropped to 5.4 and with the clear night I think it was the best decision.

The little walk produced a couple of Lesser Whitethroat singing, the bird again behind the village and a second on the fell.  Otherwise, most of the resident & summer visitors had stopped, but I did hear a Cuckoo again. The best thing seen this morning was a Roe Deer but a Small Tortoiseshell was flying around surprisingly early this morning.

Early morning Roe Deer

I added another seven species of flora in flower
Great Willowherb
Greater Plantain
Sticky Groundsel

plus two garden escapes, but established in the wild on the fell Laburnum and Viola x wittrockiana (Garden Pansy). 

In the town centre tonight a rather prostrate grass growing on waste ground behind Argos, I brought it home where I identified it as Vulpia bromoides (Squirrel Tail Fescue). 

Squirrel-tail Fescue

OFFH List this year

Flowering plants - 258

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A 1st, a 2nd, a 3rd but feeling a bit guilty

When I started this Blog last August I said it was to record the natural history of Waldridge, which I have tried to do. I include down the riverside and other bits of Chester-le-Street as long as I have walked down, thus qualifying for my 'on foot from house' lists, but rarely mention the occasional wandering further afield.
Now the past few days, I have had a couple of excellent bits of natural history recording, firstly the Bio-Blitz on Saturday in the Derwent valley and then  down to Hartlepool to see (yes twitch) a very rare bird, a White-throated Robin. This bird made all the papers and television news and hundreds of birders managed to see it yesterday and today including yours truly. No chance of a photograph while I was there but below is a picture of it from my mate Paul Davidson who was far quicker off the mark.

The White-throated Robin [Photo: Paul Davidson]

A 2nd for the county on Saturday with the Saxon moth, then a 1st for the county and only 3rd for Britain with  the White-throated Robin, so why do I feel a bit guilty? Because I have neglected Waldridge,  that's why, funny what writing a blog does to you.