Sunday, 16 July 2017

Standing in a Woodland Glade

Good news, I’ve found me a bit of ancient woodland to explore! It’s just up the road and is quiet and cool and teeming with life. One of my favourite things to do is to find a stretch of mixed habit, preferably with a good stand of nettles or brambles, and just watch and listen. A vigil for the tinniest movement or the slightest sound.

In this sunny glade last Tuesday, I was treated to 18 species of bird in just 15 minutes:
  1. Bullfinch
  2. Treecreeper
  3. Nuthatch
  4. Coal Tit
  5. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  6. Great Tit
  7. Blue Tit
  8. Blackcap
  9. Song Thrush
  10. Blackbird
  11. Goldcrest
  12. Chiffchaff
  13. Robin
  14. Wren
  15. Long-tailed Tit
  16. Woodpigeon
  17. Pheasant
  18. Swift
Not too far away, in a more open area, near the River Avon, there was a singing Lesser Whitethroat and Reed Warbler.

Butterflies were plentiful too, of 13 species, including half a dozen Silver-washed Fritillary:
  1. Silver-washed Fritillary
  2. Ringlet
  3. Meadow Brown
  4. Gatekeeper
  5. Small Skipper
  6. Large Skipper
  7. Large White
  8. Small White
  9. Peacock
  10. Small Tortoiseshell
  11. Red Admiral
  12. Comma
  13. Holly Blue
Behind me at this spot is a lovely big Honey Suckle, so I’m hoping White Admiral might be a possibility on another visit.

Below are just a few of the species that crossed my path during a wander on Wednesday

Silver-washed Fritillary Mrs Blackcap collecting food for young Resting Red Admiral
Female Southern Hawker Hornets visiting an old woodpecker nest site A super striking parasitic Wasp species
Chiffchaff hide & seek Song Thrush’s anvil, complete with snail shells Foraging Treecreeper

The parasitic wasp species was a new one to me and is perhaps Ichneumon extensorius, although narrowing down to species from a photograph isn’t really possible. I think this group of insects requires microscopic examination to positively identify.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

All the better for butterflies!

Hello! *as the tumbleweed rolls across my toes*….I know, it's nearly a year since I last wrote. The thing is, I had a cunning plan. You know the kind, where you decide to up sticks after 20 years living in the same area and almost 18 years in the same house. It really did seem like a good idea at the time. I was blissfully ignorant of the crippling stress, chronic sleep deprivation and sense of total bewilderment that accompanies a process like that. Still, I am alive, just, and I’ve survived more than 6 weeks in my new pad in leafy Warwickshire.

Moving 75 miles away from cherished wild spaces and a landscape which has woven itself into my very soul is a big adjustment. Nestled within me are all those hundreds of hours of quiet wandering, wondering; the joys, frustrations; the patience and the pleasure of discovering new species; of accompanying them through the seasons and finding that their lives have become intimately connected to my own. As the years went by, the rhythm of relationship forged deeper and more lasting grooves, and the visceral familiarity of old friends blossomed. Each visit brought profound comfort and relief.

Thankfully, Warwickshire does have wildlife! In the face of hot tears, and anxiety as persistent and rampant as Japanese knotweed, the medicine of birds and butterflies and their living landscape has begun to trickle into my life here.

Common Spotted Orchid back there & Dark Green Fritillary on Hawkbit sp (I think!?!), Harbury Spoilbank

Reed Warbler on the River Avon

The Bramble Wars of Silver-washed Fritillary near Stratford-Upon-Avon

Last Sunday, I added two new species to my butterfly life-list. I cannot tell you how chuffed I was. I’ve spent many hours standing under Oaks on Box Moor Trust land, cricked neck, staring up in hope. I never did find a Purple Hairstreak. An hour spent at Goldicote Cutting, and I’d seen my first Purple Hairstreak alongside the other new species, White-letter Hairstreaks which included an egg laying female! The photos are atrocious but who cares.

Purple Hairstreak
White-letter Hairstreak

Hopefully, it won't be another 11 months before I write again....!

P.S. Garden delights so far include nesting Blackbirds, bouncy Frogs and a big bumbling Hedgehog

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Yellow Wagtails breed locally & economy of effort

Well, hello again! I hope no-one was holding their breath for the next blog post. Gone blue you say? Yikes! Inhale and here I am with a short update and to let you know that for the time being I can be found on Twitter rather than Blogger (link over there, in the left sidebar).

For much of the summer, health issues have been severely limiting. However, nearly 3 weeks ago now, on a short little wander not far from home, I came upon what turned out to be 2 nesting pairs of Yellow Wagtails. After weeks of barely being able to walk 15 minutes around the block, I was greeted by life and chirps and flits and beaks full of insects. It was utterly delightful and completely transforming! I have been keeping an eye on them ever since and last weekend the first nestlings fledged.

On days when the clouds were low, the Swallows and House Martins would buzz past the perched Wagtails, skimming the tops of the crop. A pair of Dunnocks had also chosen to breed amongst the legumes and the speckly youngsters joined the Wagtails forming a kind of bird crèche. In an adjacent pasture, there are freshly fledged Yellowhammer, Linnets and Goldfinches, all full of bluster and squabbles and swoops for food.

My health remains pretty restrictive but I’m hoping that the economy of effort required with Twitter will keep you and me connected.




Monday, 20 June 2016

Bee Orchids & a medley of moths

I may well have been a monosyllabic zombie with all the get up and go of a desiccated slug for the past month, but in my more lucid moments, I have temporarily vacated the sofa. My sorties have been short and sweet but there’s always something interesting to find at this time of year, even if all you do is walk a few metres along an unkept verge. So, without further ado and minimal accompanying words because that would require thought, here are a few bits and pieces from around Hemel & Bovingdon in the last few weeks.

Firstly, a new-to-me moth, found back at the wildflower verge along the A41 Boxmoor/Bourne End exit.

Unfortunately (for all involved) it’s one of those that requires dissection of its nether regions in order to determine exact species. However, I found it on Ox-eye Daisy and didn’t notice any Tansy in the vicinity, so I’m opting for an ID of Broad-blotch Drill (Dichrorampha alpinana) (foodplant: Ox-eye Daisy) rather the alternative Narrow-blotch Drill (Dichrorampha flavidorsana) (foodplant: Tansy). Either way, I liked it.

Next up, 37 Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera), in 3 discrete groups (5 + 21 +11), also at the A41 site. I’d be hard pressed to name another plant that brings me as much pleasure as this little orchid. Aesthetically, it’s perfect. Temperamentally, it’s irresistibly capricious. One year, it’ll arrive in dozens, sometimes hundreds; another year, not a single spike will erupt from the earth at that same location. It’s unpredictable and it's beautiful and that makes the triumph of finding one all the sweeter.

Yesterday, whilst counting the Bee Orchids, my first Marbled White of the year fluttered in to say hello.

Back at the beginning of June, on a sunny afternoon at Dellfield Meadow, Westbrook Hay, I counted 11 Grass Rivulet moths (Perizoma albulata) in the lower quadrant above the carpark. I don’t know its current status in Herts but a couple of years ago, it was considered rare and I was chuffed to find even one in this meadow. I’m so pleased the colony is doing well.

    Marbled White
    Grass Rivulet

Finally, I have a soft spot for the Yellow-barred Longhorn moth (Nemophora degeerella). The larvae feed on leaf litter, and little (or large!) swarms of them seem to be pretty common along woodland paths and, well, in my garden (currently). At the end of last week, there were a couple of clouds at the Brickworks, probably totalling more than 50 moths (only the one female). Of all the Adelidae species, I find these the most fairy-like and enchanting to watch.

Yellow-barred Longhorn moth. Left: male (loooong antennae); Right: female (short antennae)