Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Cold autumn mothing

A rather cold night and the day wasn't much warmer. Put the moth trap out overnight and 31 moths of 15 species present this morning, including two new for the year, Heath Rustic and The Sallow, both very much autumnal moths.

Dusky Thorn
Flame Shoulder
Heath Rustic
The Sallow

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Bat Station

A very battered Speckled Wood butterfly flying around today showed how much this weather has been giving a battering to some of the wildlife. It landed or flopped onto the road until the draft of a passing car was enough to blow it out of sight and safety onto the bank of the grass verge.
A party of 10 or 11 Long-tailed Tit moved through, many of them being juveniles but 3-4 adults probably meant it was a family party with Mum, Dad, the bairns and an aunty or uncle or two.
The Durham Bat Group got a call from the local vet that a bat had been found by the train station a few days ago. The tiny little thing was a young one and had been brought down by the rain and unable to feed. It was the commonest of the bats a Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)After a few days of T.L.C. it was fit enough to be released. So tonight, I was at the station with one of the members of the group, and at about 8:30pm there were two Pipistrelle Bats flying around. The youngster, after a bit of hesitation, joined them feeding over the trees along the railway line. A good job done.

Pipistrelle Bat ready to leave its perch

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Weather station delivering bad news.

I set up my little weather station in the garden just after last Christmas and it just keeps giving me bad news. Since the 11th of this month it been telling me every time it rains (which it has every day this week), that its a new record for the total amount of rain in a month this year. It told me on Thursday it was the heavy hourly downpour of the year and on Wednesday the heaviest amount of rain in a day.  It's now stopped raining so what does it tell me, the strongest winds of the year.
I put the moth trap out last night as it correctly predicted this was only a small chance of rain and it did stay dry. I suppose 48 moths of 19 species was acceptable and did include 4 species new for the year, but that's probably more to the fact I've been trapping far so little due to the weather, than anything else else. The four were -

Udea lutealis

Flame Carpet 

Dusky Thorn

Grey Chi

together with Square spot Rustic I forgot to add in, the yearly total for Waldridge is 238.

Unfortunately the rain, and now the wind, has put the chance of seeing anything interesting in the invertebrate or bird front as virtually zero. A few Siskins flying over was the best of the birds but numbers of some species are increasing. There were over 250 Starling on the telegraph wires by Smith's Field the other day and a similar number of Black-headed Gulls on the roof of Morrisons. The latter group also had a few Common and Lesser Black-backed Gull as I always check them in case the Mediterranean Gull of a couple of winters ago may again make it's return. I have subsequently seen it at the Riverside Park and Great Lumley so fingers crossed it may end up back on the roof.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Autumn colours

Always an excuse with moth trapping. No rain and the minimum temperature was 13.1C but there was little to no cloud and therefore quite bright  moon. The result, a rather low count of only 36 moths of 16 species. Only one species new for the year but it was a favourite of many people, including myself, a Canary-shouldered Thorn .

Canary-shouldered Thorn
The best of the rest was another Centre-barred Sallow, 2 Setaceous Hebrew Character  and a Lesser Swallow Prominent. The moth list for the year is now 223

A couple more flower photographs

Autmnal Hawkbit  showing the characteristic outer rays striped with red 

Hemp Agrimony at the entrance to Fell edge Wood from Waldridge Lane

A few butterflies in the garden today, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Peacock. The numbers of Marmalade Fly seem to be diminishing a bit, though there still good numbers about but they seem to be getting replaced with Seven-spot Ladybirds, the numbers are building up nicely. Also in the garden was another young Chiffchaff and the Nuthatch was heard in the paddock again, having been quiet (or gone) since late spring.

 A few of the fungi seen yesterday included
Macrolepiota procera  - Parasol Mushroom

Birch Polypore

Amanita crocea – Orange Grisette
plus a few more.
Autumn has arrived with it's Yellows - Centre-barred Sallows and Canary shouldered Thorns, Oranges - Grisettes and Reds - Red Admirals, Fly Agaric and red stripes on the Autumnal Hawkbit.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Fungi season

 Another downpour last night so the moth trap stayed where it was, I'll leave it until tonight.
On Friday, a very quick look for butterflies around the Fell in the late afternoon sun produced Speckled Wood, the first of the new brood Common Blue and Wall
Yesterday another quick look whilst passing did produce a Grey Heron flying over and about 40 House Martin and half a dozen Swallow feeding low over the ground. The fell is at it's peak at the moment with the purple Heather putting on a beautiful display. It was rather breezy for butterflies but a Wall and a Speckled Wood were flying around. Later, a Red Fox was calling on and off at home, for what seemed like most of the night.


There was no sign of the House Martins today during my walk around, but there was a small but steady movement of Swallows heading south. A Green Woodpecker called, the first for a while and 4 Willow Tit at three different spots was quite good. Quite a few juvenile Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were scattered throughout and a few butterflies were on the wing, namely Red Admiral, Wall, Small White and Meadow Brown. A couple of Shaded Broad-bar moths were flushed from the tall grass by Brass Castle Pond. Also here were a large flock, at least for this time of year, of 20+ Siskin, with a few more flying over the fell. Presumably these are local birds. Fell Edge Wood had nothing unusual but did have a flock of 15 Long-tailed Tit and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.
A leaf-mine on oak in keys out as that of the tiny micro moth  Stigmella ruficapitella.

Leaf mine of Stigmella ruficapitella.

There are still 100s if not thousands of Marmalade Flies around but surprisingly I could not find anything else apart from a few of another half dozen species of hoverfly I have already seen on several occasions already this year.

A few flowers were added today Berberis vulgaris (Barberry), Dryopteris affinis (Scaly Male-fern), Stachys palustris (Marsh Woundwort), Hydrocotyle vulgaris (Marsh Pennywort), Hieracium agg. (Common Hawkweed )  and Succisa pratensis (Devil's-bit Scabious).

Devil's-bit Scabious

Marsh Pennywort
We seem to to be in fungi season and the Fly Agaric in particular is putting on a fine show. Every bit of wet birch wood seems to have some at the moment as well as a number of other species which I'll post tomorrow.
Fly Agaric

Thursday, 18 August 2011

What is the first sign of autumn?

So what is the first sign of autumn?
The Common Swifts have all gone or the Swallows gathering on the telegraph wires or the first of the Sallow moths of the year appearing. This morning it was yes to all of them. Autumn is approaching, and at a rapid pace.

Centre-barred Sallow - A sign of autumn

Put the moth tap out last night and it was quite good, at least for species and especially as the temperature dropped to single figures.84 moths of 29 species were present this morning including 7 new ones.
These were:
Aspilapteryx tringipennella 
Blastobasis adustella
Agriphila straminella
Scoparia pyralella 
Acleris laterana
Purple Bar
Centre-barred Sallow

The Aspilapteryx tringipennella  took some working out as admittedly its not the most exciting of species, and four more were also rather drab micros. I am saying Acleris laterana as opposed to Acleris comariana which can be virtually identical mainly because of the time of year. Though both species have occurred in the garden in the past, this one was the first this year.

Aspilapteryx tringipennella
The Purple Bar was the best of the bunch but it was on the outside of the trap and as soon as I got the camera near an eruption of Large Yellow Underwings flushed it and it was gone. As I said, the first of the Sallows was also present, a Centre-barred Sallow, my earliest ever (by 6 days). I always regard getting my first of the Sallows as a sure sign that autumn is just around the corner. The moth list for the year moves to 219. A few other nice moths were in the trap too including

Sallow Kitten

Gold Spot

Also in the trap this morning, as well as a half dozen Common Wasp were 2 of the Big Black Dung beetles  Nicrophorus humator, a Heather Fly and another of the smaller dung beetles, this one being Aphodius rufipes, which occurs not uncommonly in moth traps.

Aphodius rufipes
Though it was dull and overcast when I got home I did see a Speckled Wood near the house and a small party of Mistle Thrush flew over.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Rivulets in the rain

Great, it's raining again. Yesterday had a bit of sun so I thought I would be ok to put the moth trap out overnight. But of course it rained. Still managed 121 moths of 30 species including 5 new for the year including 2 new Rivulets to add to the Small and Grass Rivulets seen already this year. So it was worth standing in the rain getting soaked checking them early this morning, but only just.

The five  were -
Square-spot Rustic
The Rivulet
Barred Rivulet
Nut Bud Moth
and Light Brown Apple Moth

Nut Bud Moth
Again, the majority were Large, Lesser and Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwings, but also  more Cherry Fruit Moth, Trachycera advenella and Mouse Moth, all that were new for the year just a couple of days ago.

The Rivulet was on the outside of the trap and  got away before I had time to pot it up, though I had enough time to confirm it only had the single indentation confirming it was this species. It looked bigger right from the start too.

The Barred Rivulet took some working out and really I have identified it by elimination of everything else though I'm perhaps not 100% certain, so if anyone tells me I'm wrong I'll not be too surprised.

Barred Rivulet
The Light Brown Apple moth was a surprise, but only in that it's so late to see my first. I was one of the first in the north-east to catch this species which comes from Australia and only reached the UK 80 years ago. Its been spreading quickly north and up to a couple of years ago I was frequently catching double figures in a night. Last year the numbers dropped by half and I hadn't caught any this year. I assume they have not been able to cope with the last two winters.

Another two Crossbills flew over the house in the rain this morning but very little else to report except for a Common Buzzard  in the valley below Great Lumley soaring around in yesterday's sunshine.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Cherry Fruit & Peas

The moth trap went out last night and there was only a little bit of rain. 117 moths of 23 species was alright but there wasn't anything particularly exciting. Not surprisingly, more than half were Yellow Underwings but there were three new for the year present, the micro moths Cherry Fruit Moth and Trachycera advenella and Mouse Moth.

Cherry Fruit Moth

Trachycera advenella

Mouse Moth

As usual there were a few other invertebrate present, including 6 Common Wasp, a Black Carrion Beetle (Nicrophorus humator) and three what were new for me, another carrion beetle, a much smaller one with the name of  Aphodius granarius  (I think) though not 100% certain on the identification as from the quick bit of research I did it seems to be more of a spring beetle.

One of the small Carrion Beetles possibly  Aphodius granarius  

A very vocal Tawny Owl last night which I suspect was a current year bird, appeared in the garden briefly in the early hours but flew off as soon as I looked through the window.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker was the only other bird of note today, though one of the nearby field had 80 Common Starling and 120 Black-headed Gulls present.

A few butterflies were about in the sun when it did appear, mainly Small White but also Small Heath and Meadow Brown were on the wing. Also a few more hoverflies are beginning to appear, dozens of  Episyrphus balteatus (Marmalade Flies) and quite few Syrphus ribesii, plus a lone Eupeodes luniger. 

I added one more flower for the year when I came across a patch of Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea  (Lathyrus sylvestris)

Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea 

Saturday, 13 August 2011

What a wet week that was

My little weather station reported on the 10th that it was the wettest month of the year with 21 more days to go! Yesterday was the first anniversary of me starting this blog and the  first thing I said then was 'So,  spent the morning (after it stopped raining....' so not much change there. So I haven't seen much all week

A few Common Swifts were seen moving through in the rain, heading south. Mine have gone, so these were presumably from further north. A young Chiffchaff was on the fence briefly before jumping back in the bush but continued to call frequently and I managed one butterfly. One brave Speckled Wood flitted around the shelter of some Ivy in the big hedgerow on Tuesday. Hoverflies found shelter in teh greenhouse with more than a dozen Marmalade Flies buzzing around in there during the week.

In the town centre, like last year the Greater Burnet-Saxifrage is in flower now, but with all the rain is looking a bit battered. I noticed last night its spreading westwards presumably its seed is being blown down Station Road, and now has a small colony in Wesley Terrace.

I didn't risk putting the trap out last night due to the weather as I haven't got a spare bulb at the moment should it go pop. It should be a bit better tonight so I'll leave it until then. So my moths this week consisted of 2 Shuttle-shaped Darts and a Brown House Moth that had found a way into the house, a Common Rustic hiding in one of teh plant pots and a couple of Large Yellow Underwings banging of the patio doors despite the rain.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

and then the rains came ......

The moth trap was out overnight and surprisingly it did not rain.  116 moths of 29 species were caught, 6 being new for the year

I catch this insect quite frequently in the trap but have never been able to identify it
The six new ones were  -

True-lover's Knot
Small Fan-footed Wave
Small Dotted Buff
Rosy Rustic
Flounced Rustic
and Dun-bar.

True Lover's-Knot 
Flounced Rustic
Rosy Rustic

Not surprisingly most of the moths in the trap were three species of Yellow Underwing, Large, Lesser and Lesser Broad-bordered, Dark Arches and Common Rustic agg. More surprisingly were 13 Shuttle-shaped Dart, a large count for me. Single Marmalade Fly, Common Green Lacewing and several species of Caddisfly including the striped chocolate brown species shown at the top that I catch on a regular basis but have still been be unable to identify.

Then the rain came, and the thunder and the lightning and I saw nothing else the rest of the day.
So I added a few pictures of some Blue butterflies I saw in Switzerland  A Waldridge Naturalist in Switzerland.

Friday, 5 August 2011

A single Hummer in a week of gloom

After a week at work and the weather (and work) gloomy when it was either raining or foggy so it was great to see a bit of sun at last today
The butterflies seemed especially pleased as this afternoon there were good numbers of Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood around as well as Large, Small and Green-veined White plus a couple of Red Admiral. During the week the only things apart from 1-2 of those mentioned were single Peacock and Painted Lady.  A couple of moths were flushed in the mornings as I watered the plants, but nothing exciting, Large and Lesser Yellow Underwing and  a single Scalloped Oak except on Tuesday evening when a Hummingbird Hawk-moth was feeding on the Honeysuckle in the garden. I dashed back indoors for the camera, but it was gone when I returned.

No Hummingbird Hawkmoth photo so  this Scalloped Oak on the window will have to do

I had seen the odd Marmalade Fly Episyrphus balteatus during the week, especially on the lilies but there were at least 50 there in the sun this afternoon.  On the bird front, one word sums it up - quiet. The best bird I have seen this week were probably a Sparrowhawk. I have however noticed how many Lesser Black-backed Gulls are around now, and may even be getting commoner that Herring Gull. In the Front Street on Wednesday, for the first time I can remember, it was this species feeding on the previous night's Donner Kebabs, Fish & Chips and other human regurgitation., not Herring Gulls.