Friday, 30 March 2012

2 to 7 in 60 seconds

Another sunny March day but as I start to write this this evening there are white clouds moving in, could this be the end?
I managed a brief walk earlier hoping for a few butterflies as there were a few at work today, but I know it's only March so wasn't expecting many. But a 60 second spell, well it might have been 2-3 minutes  to be honest, increased this year's butterfly tally tremendously. My walk along by the big hedge near the house can be quite productive but todays jaunt, not only produced the Small Tortoiseshell & Peacock already seen this year but also a Comma, 2 Large and 5 Small White, a pair of Orange-tip and a Speckled Wood. The 30th March and I've seen seven species already this year, unheard of.  With an exceptionally early Holly Blue in Sunderland earlier today I have seen an amazing eight! A couple of Orange Underwing moths flittering around the tops of the birches nearby completed the lepidoptera list.

A lurking but first this year Speckled Wood

Good numbers of Bumblebees, including many Common Carders and 3 species of Hoverfly were also noted.

Queen Common Carder

The Nuthatch was calling frequently as usual and I managed to track him down for some decent views. Actually there were 2, so perhaps they are not nesting yet.


Plant-life is also waking up and the Wood Forget-me-nots and Slender Speedwell in particular are currently putting on a fine show.
Slender Speedwell

Lesser Celandine

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Waiting to be moved along

It looks like another fine day of sunshine and I'm stuck in work.
Tried a bit more of wandering around last night armed with a torch and a white sheet in a tin, hitting willow bushes ... aka moth-lamping. I'll get arrested one day, or at least talked to by the police, I'm sure. I remember a couple of years back all I was doing was photographing hoverflies... honest your Honour. These were feeding on Impatiens in the town centre near the market one day, on rough ground with a public footpath between me and the road. Some traffic was slowing down seeing what I was up to together with the odd silly comment. Before long I was asked 'to move along' by a policeman because 'I was distracting traffic'.  An appeal that it wasn't my fault, as I was 3 metres from the road on public land fell on deaf ears, and I was 'moved along'. So I'm sure it won't be long before I am reported as some dodgy character and moved along again. Anyway back to last night. The usual culprits ie various Orthosia species were present, though in smaller number of late, together with an Oak Nyctoeline and a small Double-striped Pug that flew around seeing what the fuss was all about before I potted it up.

Double-striped Pug
The only other things of note have been daily visits to the garden by a Grey Squirrel despite me now removing the bird feeder for the summer, though the Wood Mouse hasn't been seen since I did that. I can now hear 2, possibly 3 Chiffchaff from the garden as well as the non-stop drumming of the Great spotted Woodpecker and the various calls of the local Nuthatch. A Small Tortoiseshell joined the Peacocks in there on Monday.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Chiffchaff invasion and mystery Ladybird

When I looked out first thing the mist was so thick I couldn't see across the road, so I went back to bed. A bit later I tried a second time, by which time the sun had burned most of the fog off.

 Kidney-spot Ladybird? - see below 

After only the single Chiffchaff the last few days it was a bit of a surprise to have 14 singing birds here today. The sun was warm and it brought out a few Peacock butterflies and good numbers of Bumblebees plus a couple of Hoverflies but I failed to get a positive id on the latter.

Peacock butterfly
A wander over and  through the Cong Burn Woods to the farm pools had more Chiffchaffs and a perched up Tawny Owl which hooted briefly before silently flying off through the trees.  The 'feral' Flowering Currant here was in full flower.

Flowering Currant

I know there has been a lot of talk about the shortage of rain but my legs were soaked walking through the grass to the pools. It wasn't worth it however and one pool was completely dry and the other had only a fraction of the usual amount of water and was hidden by the surrounding vegetation.

A dry farm pond
On the way back, a couple of Siskins were seen, including a singing bird.
Back in the garden there were 30+ Seven-spotted Ladybirds and another which was much smaller, all-black with two red-spots.  I think this is a Kidney-spot ladybird but I not altogether certain it is not one of the other similar looking species as the spots seem to be the wrong shape/postion for me to be sure.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

A Tree Bumble for Waldridge

Tried a bit more lamping for moths last night. Nothing new but again quite a few moths feeding on the salix. Mainly Orthosia moths, Common, Small & Twin-spotted Quaker, Hebrew Character and Clouded Drab. A Pine Beauty was also feeding here. I also tried checking a few willow by the entrance to the woods as there is a group of Grey Willow (the hybrid between White Willow and Aspen). These mature trees I am sure are the source of many of the moths that appear in the garden and feed on the poplar family. Though these trees are hybrids, these seen are more Aspen-like than White Willow. One species I have not had is the Lead-coloured Drab which feeds on Aspen and though scarce up here I thought they may be present. No luck last night but I reckon it's worth a shot a few more times in the next couple of weeks.

Micro moth Diurnea fagella

Pine Beauty
The paddock's Great spotted Woodpecker has started excavating a new nest hole in a Silver Birch in the adjacent wood but still only the single Chiffchaff so far. Last night's Tawny Owls continued to hoot and a Woodcock flew over,
The highlight of the day was in the greenhouse. There were a number of bumble-bees in the garden, White-tailed, Buff-tailed and Large Red-tailed but one that got briefly trapped in the greenhouse was not one of these. A ginger bumblebee with a black abdomen and dirty-white tail, this was one I hoped for soon... a Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum. This species has been rapidly moving north since it was first reported in the UK in 2001 and it has now arrived in Waldridge

Friday, 23 March 2012

First Chiffchaff

First Chiffchaff of the year yesterday. Last night's moth trap held both Pine Beauty & the micro moth Diurnea fagella both new for year as well as the usual Quaker family. 8 Goldfinch and a Grey Squirrel on the bird table early this morning. But it's the weekend tomorrow

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bit of lamping

The moth trap on Saturday morning produced virtually the same as Thursday with the exception of a Chestnut, my first of the year. Five species of Orthosia and a few Early Grey completed the trap.

Early Grey

 I then went into the woods and onto the fell for a very quick look for an early Chiffchaff.  No joy unfortunately but I released the moths so I could have another go last night.  Several queen Large Red-tailed Bumblebees were looking for suitable nest-sites.
Much of the Blackthorn and Goat Willow is in flower now and the entrance to Hermitage Woods held some super patches of flowering Colts-foot.


The first Common Forget-me-not were just coming into flower on the road as I headed back.

Common Forget-me-not

With so much willow in flower I had a go at lamping for moths last night. Everything was on the willow. The Blackthorn was devoid of moths but they were gorging themselves on the catkins of the willow.

This one willow bush had 6 species of moth on it last night

Nothing new but the final count was probably the same as if I put my trap out. Six Twin-spotted Quaker and 8 Small Quaker were good counts for me.

Twin-spotted Quaker

Clouded Drab 

Still no Chiffchaffs today as I checked at dawn this morning but the dawn chorus was very good with our resident birds, the three species of thrushes in particular putting on an excellent chorus backed by 3, possibly 4 Tawny Owls. A female Early Mining Bee (Andreana haemorrhoa) by the side of the path was my first here for several years. This is the earliest of the mining bees (hence the name of course), with a foxy-brown thorax, near black abdomen and a ginger rear. She didn't hang about so I failed to get a photograph because she was off as I adjusted the camera in the half-light.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Same as last year

I put the moth trap out last night but the temperature dropped to 4C as the cloud cover dispersed, so it was stopped it at 23:00. However there were a few moths caught, including single  Mottled Grey and Small Quaker which were duly added to this year's moth list at Waldridge. A few Common Quaker, Clouded Drab and Hebrew Character made up the rest. The list stands at 12 species, exactly the same as this time last year.

Otherwise its rather quiet, only a few calling Great-spotted Woodpecker and Tawny Owl.  The first singing Chiffchaffs have arrived in the county so I suspect I may get my first here at the weekend.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Greys only in the garden

A few bits today, all noted in the garden this morning. 10 moths of 5 species in the trap at first light

Clouded Drab 1
Early Tooth-striped 1
Hebrew Character 4
Common Quaker 2
Early Grey 2

The first two being my first this year and the Early Tooth-Striped, was indeed early, my earliest ever.

A Grey Heron flew over, just over the roof and 5 Goosander did the same, though rather higher.

Grey Squirrel in the garden this morning

The third 'Grey' in the garden this morning was seen in the form of a Grey Squirrel, that was seen feeding on the spilt bird food on the lawn before I left.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

A quick Badger about

A beautiful sunny March morning and rising to 14C by mid morning and 16.3C by mid-day.
I checked last night's trap which had three new moths for the year first thing - several Common Quaker and Early Grey and a single Twin-spotted Quaker, as well as 3 Oak Beauties and a few Hebrew Character. 

Early Greys

Twin-spot Quaker

A walk through South Burn Woods took much longer than usual trying to identify the mosses on the tree trunks and ground.There was a good amount of bird song and Nuthatch were displaying and a Carrion Crow was nest building,  thanks to that little bit extra warmth.

From here I wandered onto the fell proper, a bit relucantly really as it seemed that every dog in the area had dragged it's master out this morning for an early walk and MOST of them I am sorry to say were leaving their dog business behind for me to stand in.
It's been several years since I have seen a live Badger here, though I know they are still present as I often see the evidence around a few setts I am aware of. This morning I found a new (at least to me, I had never noticed it before) Badger sett. I was already sitting down nearby having a coffee when I noticed it and was totally unprepared to see a Badger poke it's head out and then disappear again. I quietly got my camera out but it never reappeared.
Two Great-spotted Woodpeckers were drumming in South Burn Wood, as well as the ever present one by the house, and yet another on the Fell. It seemed ideal for a Green Woodpecker to 'yaffle' but one never did and I am now thinking they may be gone from here completely. 2 Curlew were displaying nearby and a Willow Tit was heard calling,  then all went silent as a Sparrowhawk rushed through. Several Bumblebee sp.  were seen or heard during the morning but none to get a positive id.
Common Ramping-fumitory
In Felledge Wood, at least 40 of the day-flying micro moth Tortricodes alternella were about in a small area and probably 100s were on the wing throughout the wood. A few 7-spotted Ladybirds were around, following on  from one in the garden yesterday. Other invertebrates here included a Pill Millipede (Glomeris marginata) that walked over the path and my first Honey Bee of the year.
A few flowers are starting to appear, including Common Ramping-fumitory (Fumaria muralis ssp boraei)

Crack Willow coming into leaf against a lovely blue sky ... spring?
and the Crack Willows in the woods are now coming into leaf. Spring is marching on ... hopefully.

After a good while, identified another 3 species of moss, it's hard work, but I'll persevere. They were Common Pincushion Moss, Marsh Bryum and Elegant Bristle-moss.

Marsh Bryum

Saturday, 3 March 2012

A couple of moths and a Bumblebee

A misty, damp night but a Pale Brindled Beauty and 3 Hebrew Character moths were in the trap this morning. Several local Tawny Owl were calling when I was going through the contents, as they had been all night. and a Great spotted Woodpecker in the paddock drummed most of this time.

Hebrew Character

Pale Brindled Beauty
Busy most of the day so the only other things of note were a queen Red-tailed Bumblebee in the garden, a flyover Lapwing and a singing Skylark along Beany Lane.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Moths at last

A nice sunny morning and though it was nearly cloudless last night and the temperature dropped to 2.1C,  I still put the trap out. At long last I saw some moths in 2012. Five to be exact, of 4 species - the micro Tortricodes alternella, plus 2 Oak Beauty and single March Moth and Yellow-horned Moth.

Yellow-horned Moth

March Moth

Oak Beauty

The local Tawny Owls have started to call as if they mean it at long last too. They have been relatively quiet so far this year, unlike both Great-spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch that have been particularly conspicuous of late. I am concerned on the lack of Green Woodpeckers, I mentioned it last year and it's getting worse. Their numbers here have crashed of late. Only a few years ago there were 5-7 pairs within a short walk of the house. I have yet to even hear one this year so far. Last night I added another mammal to the year list with a Brown Rat in the town centre.

Goldfinch in garden