Sunday, 21 April 2013

The idiot on the fell

The moth trap has been out on a couple of occasions and last night was the best so far this year with 20 moths of 7 species including 3 Early Grey (with a 4th being found in the garden later), and 2 new species for the year, Clouded Drab (at last) and Early Thorn.  The session a couple of nights earlier  produced Early Tooth-striped and the micro-moth Diurnea fagella.

Early Tooth-striped

Early Grey

Saturday was the better day and I got my first butterfly of the year, a Small Tortoiseshell. There must have been a huge arrival of migrants Friday night as there were 7 singing Willow Warbler and a Blackcap on the Fell on Saturday morning where there were none the day before. 2 pair of Lesser Redpoll  and several pair of Linnet are back on territory and  singing and it looks like many of the Siskins are hanging on to breed too. A couple of birds flying over 'the square' were also new - Sparrowhawk (another 'at last')  and Oystercatcher

Lesser Redpoll feeding on Willow catkins

Still plodding on with my 'square-bashing' and my 1km square NZ2549  species list for the year is now on 287.
Additions over the last few day as well as many already mentioned above include -
 Two more mosses - Plagiomnium undulatum (Hart's-tongue Thyme-moss) and Dicranoweisia cirrata (Common Pincushion Moss), Smooth Sowthistle, Broad-leaved Pondweed, Wood Burdock  and  European Larch. I also found another species of worm Lumbricus rubellus (Red-head Earthworm) in the garden as well as the blind centipede Cryptops hortensis  and Water-slater (a sort of aquatic woodlouse) in the garden pond. I spent a couple of hours looking for bees on fell on Saturday and it resulted in me finding Early Bumblebee and 2 mining bees - Andrena cineraria (Grey Mining Bee) and Andrena clarkella together with the cuckoo-bee Nomada leucophthalma and quite a few Bombylius major (Common Bee-fly). Another mining bee Andrena haemorrhoa (Early Mining Bee) was in the garden later in the day. The final species was Amaurobius fenestralis (a Lace-webbed Spider) on the windowsill.

Nomada leucophthalma

Andrena clarkella 

Bee-fly in the garden on cultivated Oxlip

 So if anyone saw some idiot on his hands and knees with his nose 2 inches from the ground on sandy bits of the paths on the fell on Saturday and had to walk around him, guess what, that idiot was me.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

And a Swallow makes 258

A few things are beginning to appear now the sun has decided to shine occasionally. On Monday, despite the strong winds, the temperature got to 15.4C and for the very first time it felt like Spring. I thought it was never going to get here as it snowed only 7 days previous.Things have started to wake up so there has been a rush of new species in the limited time I have had in the field, not surprisingly the majority being invertebrates. The 250 mark for my 1km square was hit on Saturday with that Hoverfly and my latest additions, all from the garden were -

250. Eristalis tenax (Drone Fly)
251. Steatoda bipunctata (Common False-widow Spider)
252. Lithobius forficatus (Garden Centipede)
253. Vicia sativa (Common Vetch)
254. Bombus terrestris (Buff-tailed Bumble Bee)
255. Limax flavus (Yellow Slug)
256. Cepaea hortensis (White-lipped Snail)
257. Orthosia munda (Twin-spotted Quaker)

I am still awaiting my first butterfly anywhere and still no Clouded Drab appearing in the trap.

I put the trap out again last night but it was getting blown around too much and I abandoned it with the contents being a big fat zero. This evening my first Swallow zoomed past in a strong tailwind, number 258 and as I write this not only has the wind not died down but it's stotting down with rain too so no moth trap again.

A summary of the species I have seen within  NZ2549 (the 1km square around my house) is -

Birds     60
Vascular Plants   104
Mosses & Liverworts    38
Lichens     12
Fungi & Slime Moulds       8
Terrestrial Mammals       6
Butterflies                                                     0
Moths     10
Dragonflies      0
Hoverflies      1
Other invertebrates   18
Amphibians & Reptiles      1
Aggregates & hybrids (not included) 9

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Spring at last?

Possibly spring at last,  though slowly. I didn't think it was this morning when I checked last night's moth trap and found it was completely empty.  As I had to go to Hexham today, I was somewhat cursing as the weather decided to warm up. My first hoverfly of the year was in the garden and thought it was the common Drone Fly (E. tenax) it did feel that spring had started.

On the way back from Northumberland it started to rain (and forecast tonight) but I was thinking it may bring a few hirundines down and sure enough I saw a Sand Martin flying over the A69. Better still on the A697, by the sewage works at the Riverside Park a Swallow was flying around. 

So possibly spring, I'll put the trap out again, despite the rain, maybe winter has turned the corner.

Monday, 8 April 2013

A good bird but it by-passed Waldridge

On the way home this evening, I had a very good bird in Chester-le-Street, which chuffed me significantly. An Osprey slowly flying over the Durham County Cricket ground and the A167, heading NE towards and over the Lambton Estate made my day, especially as it was my first day back at work since the Easter break. In fact it was my joint earliest ever, having seen one over  Deadwater Fell in Northumberland on the same day in 2007. Though outside my Waldridge 'square', I don't reckon it ever  entered it, unlike my one and only, in July 2009.

Apart from that excitement, an improvement in the weather on Saturday, abiet for one day only, I haven't seen much else. Still  no butterflies or bees for example. My list for the 1000for1ksq moved on by 3 to 244 with the additions of a moss,  Ulota crispa (Crisped Pincushion), a vascular plant,  Water Horsetail and two Common Quaker moths. The latter,  because it was still warm enough to have a go with the moth trap on Saturday night. Though the temperature plummeted, I managed to get 2 Oak Beauties, a Hebrew Character and the aforementioned Common Quakers before I called it a night. Much better than I thought.

Crisped Pincushion Moss

Common Quaker

Two Oak Beauties

Apart from from these few new species, and of course the Osprey, it's still been too cold for much in the way of new stuff. Actually the bird table at the moment, since I threatened to take it down for the Spring has never been busier. Siskins are on it continuously and despite the weather, a recently fledged Wood Pigeon appeared with a gang of adults on Sunday afternoon. The Siskins are particularly entertaining. I temporarily moved the table to another part of the garden so we could have a spot of lunch in the garden on Saturday. Very civilised. They weren't happy,  and were flying around our heads, calling and buzzing, the male singing from a few feet away in the plum tree, twittering and squeaking away and generally showing displeasure that their new food source had been moved (not removed I may add). Even at dusk when I was setting the moth trap up, they ascended and were feeding on the lawn right next to the trap.

Siskin on the lawn

Friday, 5 April 2013

Sphagnum mosses are not easy

Still off, so I've been continuing checking for my 1kq square the last few days. The Chiffchaff is still present but has moved about 40 metres east, but today there were 2 other singing birds, 1 on each side of Waldridge Lane. Still flushing the odd Woodcock in the woods and a few Meadow Pipit have now joined the Skylarks, singing on the fell. There were 2 pair of Grey Wagtail on the South Burn and the singing Siskins are still present with a singing Bullfinch nearby today. Together with Wrens, Robins, Chaffinches, Greenfinch, Tits and Thrushes there was a lot of song today.

Wren in South Burn

I was nearly knocked over by a running Roe Deer yesterday which saw me at the very last moment as it hurtled over Waldridge Lane right into my path, veering off at the very last moment. At one point I thought it was going to leap over me.

Siskins are also now visiting my bird table which they have ignored all winter, just as I'm using up the last of the food to put out.

Siskin at my bird-feeder

I've spend some time looking at the sphagnum mosses in Felledge wood and Wanister and after much deliberation, checking through the field guide and other books and gazing through my microscope I am happy that I've identified three species - Sphagnum fallax, squarrosum and palustre.  It's not easy that's for sure.

The year list for my square has moved on to 241 with a few mosses and some commoner plants such as Common Mallow, Weld and Field Forget-me-not.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A summer visitor (at last)

It's been hard work, flogging my 1km square for new species and though I've been checking every day  over Easter, it's only today that I can say it's been worth it. My first summer visitor of the year, a Chiffchaff, singing by Brass Castle pond and soon followed by a small flock of Lesser Redpoll . The Redpolls were also new for the year as they have been very difficult generally in the area this winter. Unlike their cousins, Siskin, that seen to be everywhere and today at least 2 were singing and song-flighting in the woods. Also everywhere are Woodcock, for every time I've been in the woods recently, crashing around after mosses and the like I have flushed one, or two or three.  Another sign that spring is sort of starting is that the Grey Wagtails have returned to their nesting spots on the burn.


My first Common Frog spawn for the year was late, having just seen it on the pool by the fell car-park on Saturday. But besides that, it's been mainly a few more mosses and lichens and the vegetive states of some of the more common flowers.

Moths continue to be absent due to the cold, it's never been above 2C  overnight since I last had the trap out and tonight fares no better with it forecast -2C. I should have seen up to 16 or so species so far this year but have only seen 6.

So my list is 224 so far this year.