Snow place like home

The recent change in the weather from rather cool and wet to sunny and slightly warm had not prepared us for what looked initially like a light dusting of snow along the paths around the reserve.

‘snow’ on the path

In truth the ‘snow’ was downy seeds which have been blowing around and  settled along the path.

I was hoping that the warmer weather may have encouraged more moths to be active, but only six individuals from four species were present when we opened up the moth trap. Here they all are,

All the moths from the moth trap

The names of moths intrigue me, mostly, I guess, having been named by Victorians, so many names refer to things which are no longer familiar to us.  The shuttle of the Shuttle-shaped Dart refers not to the sporting ‘shuttlecock’,  but to the resemblance of the mark on the wing to the flying shuttles used in the cotton-weaving industry.

Shuttle-shaped Dart

By comparison a name Chocolate-tip, which initially sounds like advice to a confectioner,  seems quite obvious when you see the rich brown colouration at the tips of the forewings.


Possible confusion species are Swallow Prominent and Lesser Swallow Prominent, which on quick inspection look exactly the same. There are a few subtle differences by which they can be distinguished, the one that I tend to favour is the solid white triangle on the top edge of the wing of the Lesser.

Lesser Swallow Prominent and Swallow Prominent

Their obvious close similarity indicates a probable common ancestor from which they have evolved, probably as a result of their different preference for food plant of the lava – Swallow Prominent favouring willows, aspens and poplars, but Lesser Swallow Prominent  birches.

One of the benefits of opening up the reserve is the opportunity to see and hear many of the birds before they become aware of too many people being around. Today there were three greylag geese on the settlement pond on the way to the Ivy South Hide , but they soon realised we were nearby and quickly flew off,

Greylag geese on settlement pond

In the reedbed nearby, and true to its name, a reed warbler was giving us a fine song as, what looked like its mate, flew into the reeds, and by way of comparison a sedge warbler from the scrubby reeds close  to the left of the Ivy South Hide.  For years I always struggled to tell these two birds apart from just their song, but I’ve found a tip from a very knowledgeable birdwatching friend, helps. Reed warblers song is very rhythmic and almost boringly repetitive , but sedge warbler has more scratchy quality and is staccato  – I pass this on, it may help someone else.  As well as those just mentioned  garden warbler, blackcap, chiffchaff and Cetti’s warbler made it a six warbler day.

Otherwise quite busy with a party in the afternoon and tramper bookings as well as cleaning some niger seed feeders we didn’t get much chance to tour the reserve. There were reports of close sightings of the little ringed plover from the Tern Hide and good numbers of sand martin , but the large number of swift seen yesterday eluded us, although a rather bold water-rail was in evidence from the Ivy North Hide.

I’ll just leave now with an image as we were closing of a grey heron hunting on ‘ice’ – no not really,  just more downy seeds floating on the water.

Heron – ‘on ice’!!!




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