Monday, 30 April 2012

That final flurry

 The weather was still pretty bad this weekend and if it wasn't raining, it was cold and or blowing a force 6 North-easterly. Too wet & cold for most things, me included. A zero count in the moth trap and on Sunday the only thing of note was a small hoverfly I managed to scoop up on a willow in the garden and examine in the dry. It was a Syritta pipiens also known as the thick-legged Hoverfly.

Syritta pipiens
Today, the last day in April and ‎l had not seen a hirundine. I made an effort and managed to find a pair of Swallow at Chester Moor in the mist and drizzle this morning. Desperate to see more I was down the riverside after tea where the water level, not surprisingly was high, in fact it looked a lot higher than reported by the Enviromental Agency earlier today. 7 Goosander and a few Mallard was all that braved the waves on the river

Goosanders ride the waves

and even  most of the remaining Mute Swans took off in V formation later. A Grey Wagtail flew over looking for some calmer bit of water.

Squadron of Mute Swans take off

Sand Martins (or dots) over the river
 By the sewage works, the rain started again and brought down over 100 hirundines, mostly Sand Martin but also 20+ Swallow, 2 House Martin and a Common Swift. A singing Common Whitethroat on the far bank made my very feeble list of summer migrants slightly less embarrassing. Despite the weather that final flurry made things seem much brighter, just as the fog began to settle again.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Still raining

It's still raining and has been nearly all month, as my little garden weather station can confirm.

Yesterday there was a bit of a respite, and I managed a half hour in relative sunshine. Butterflies also took advantage of the sun with good numbers of Orange-tip around, together with a few Small Tortoiseshell, 

Small Tortoiseshell

Peacock, a single Speckled Wood and a several Small White and Green-veined White.

Small White
Green-veined White
  These latter two butterflies can be   difficult to tell apart, especially if only the uppersides can be seen.  Green-veined White are actually very common and often mistaken for the better known Small White, despite the Green-veined being  the most widespread butterfly in the British Isles. The upperwing markings on both species are very variable. which does not help but the grey-black markings at the corner of the upperwing forewing of a Small White  do not extend down along the edge of the forewing  like in Green-veined and are continuous. 

The Green-veined White's markings are broken and go past half way down the wing. Also the veins of the Green-veined White are usually much more pronounced.

There has been a noticable increase in Blackap numbers the last few days with probably, like Chiffchaff, most of them now in territory, unlike the Willow Warblers where there would appear to be a lot still to arrive.

The flora continues to burst into flowers with Bird's-foot Trefoil and Hawthorn noted today.

Bird's-foot trefoil


Sunday, 22 April 2012

Come rain & hail

Yes it rained again, most of the day on & off  in fact, with a bit of hail for good measure.
A walk over the fell was never going to get me much apart from a good soaking. At long last most of the Blackcaps have arrived together with a few Willow Warblers.

Many of the spring flowers are now beginning to show, through very reluctant to fully flower in the rain. Wood-sorrel and Greater Stitchwort were both showing very well, the Bluebells are a few days behind, unlike the hybrid Spanish Bluebell cousins,  which are fully out in many spots in the woods, hedgerows and ditches, in the full range of white. pink and blue flower colours.
Greater Stitchwort

Still practising with the mosses and I managed to identify Wood Bristle-moss with it's old light brown capsules, strongly furrowed and with eight recurved teeth.

Wood Bristle-moss

Saturday, 21 April 2012

I've got brand new pooter

It's still raining every day and I'm sure it's not a coincidence   that there has been Mallards and the occasional Goosander flying over at some point virtually every day!  The weather hasn't stopped the birds getting down to breeding eight one of the local Carrion Crows now sitting on it's nest

Carrion Crow's nest

and the pair of Song Thrush managing to get one youngster to fledgling stage.

Mummy and baby Song Thrush

It has stopped the moths, with nothing again overnight, though this is often a very quiet time of year in the garden
A few snatches of sun before today's rain brought a few hoverflies to the garden which I managed  to identify as Eristalis arbustorum, Eristalis pertinax  and Syrphus vitripennis 

Eristalis arbustorum

armed with my Hoverfly guide, net and newly acquired pooter. This later item you place the end of the long tube over the overfly and suck gently on the end of the short tube. The fly ends up in the middle tube and then you can transfer it for a better look.

My Pooter
More rain forecast tomorrow of course

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Microscoping flies

Been off-site this weekend tending a Hoverfly identification course with 11 other potential Hoverfly recorders. It might not sound much (to say the least), a weekend looking at dead flies through a microscope but everyone enjoyed it. Now all I need is the time to find some!
With me being away there was nothing much to report but I did hear a Willow Tit and saw it without binoculars this morning in the Millenium Park. It's the first time I have had one here. Apart from that the only things of note were a Common Buzzard over the Riverside Park on the way home today and yesterday a singing Blackcap in the South Burn Woods and the first Crab Apple blossom of the year. I  still haven't heard a Willow Warbler or seen a Swallow this year yet, and the last two moth trapping sessions both produced zero. Then again, it was snowing when I left for my course yesterday and today was sleet showers so maybe it's not really surprising.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Another yucky day

Another yucky day, typical holiday weather, damp, cold and windy. The best things today were my first Bee-fly of the year and my first Garden Bumble Bee (B. hortorum) this year. Despite the weather, the local flora continues to progress with a few more in flower today including some nice Cowslips.  Last night's moth trap only held a couple of Hebrew Character and a Small Quaker and considering the weather I think that was quite good.


Saturday, 7 April 2012

Heavy metal drumming

Many months ago when I asked my sister what she wanted for her birthday she said nothing, followed by, you could tidy my garden up at Easter. Why did I say OK?  So yesterday was spent away from Waldridge tidying up a front garden the size of a postage stamp but full of hidden paving slabs and a very well established patch of mint that was intent on taking over the world. It took us all day.
This morning should have seen me out and about early, before my duties of shopping and talking a wild cat to the vets for the first time. But instead, first thing this morning I couldn't move, every muscle in my body ached, my early morning jaunt didn't happen

It was not until late afternoon that I managed to get out for a walk. It was, and had been dull and grey with the threat of rain all day so any butterflies were out of the question. A few birds were about. I did find a Tawny Owl found roosting in South Burn Wood, shown to me by several local Blackbird and Mistle Thrush that were very unhappy he was there.No singing Blackcaps or Willow Warblers despite them being about elsewhere but 8 singing Chiffchaffs were 'zilp-zalping' away.

Chiffchaff on the fell

Primroses on the fell
Still no Green Woodpeckers either but Great Spotted Woodpeckers were around, for as well as the usual one in the paddock, there were 2 drumming in of the Woods and and another two on the fell.  As I headed back through the woods I flushed a Woodcock that was right by the main path and must have just moved because I approached it from the other side. Dozens of people will have passed by it today, as I assume it had been there since dawn. One of the woodpeckers was drumming very loudly, and the closer I got the more metallic it sounded. As I approached a pair of telegraph poles,  I found him. Right at the very top, drumming, not on the wooden pole but on the metal cap on top of one of them. This hard-head was crashing his bill against a piece of steel, the things males do to impress the girls. 
Only a few hoverflies were buzzing about together with a few Bumblebees today

Large Red-tailed Bumblebee

but the only ones of the former I managed to id were Eristalis tenax in the Garden,

 together with a Tawny Mining Bee.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Not about much

Offsite most of the weekend so very little was seen in the last of the sun by the looks of it.

The moth trap held just the usual suspects, together with, as to be expected at this time of the year, my first Brindled Pug. A Common Buzzard flew over the garden on Sunday, giving it's presence away with some loud 'mewing' calls.
Of the three species of hoverfly I had the other day, two were the very common Marmalade Fly (Episyrphus balteatus) and Drone Fly (Eristalis pertinax)  whilst the third I caught and took home. I only had time last night to check it properly and it turns out to be Neoascia podagrica.  This is a very small species that lives in damp vegetation and has wings with a blackish tinge.