30 Days Wild – Day 30!

Another 30 Days over. I was at home doing various domestic tasks, but decided to do a home “Bioblitz” and managed to record just over 200 species, with one or two more yet to be identified. In many ways it was a disappointing day, despite sunshine and warmth, hoverflies were very few indeed, both in number and species, in fact insects generally were few.

I only included plants that are native or established in the wild and that are either in the garden without my assistance or if I have seeded them here they must be established and seeding themselves. This allows me to include the plants in the mini-meadow, such as knapweed, field scabious and ox-eye daisy, which we added by me.

I started with the moth trap, so twenty species to start with, not a great catch, but not bad for an actinic trap in a suburban garden.

Dioryctria abietella

Dioryctria abietella

Dioryctria abietella is a fairy common Pyralid moth, the larvae feeding on various conifers in gardens and plantations.

I did not stay at home all day though, I wen to the tip, now the traditional Sunday activity in suburbia, since the decline in home car washing. I also ventured out to Lepe Country Park., where there were a good range of butterflies including my first white admiral of the year. I did not manage a picture of that, but I did get a male green-eyed flower bee which had stopped for a brief spot of sun bathing.

green-eyed flower bee

green-eyed flower bee

So the end of another 30 Days Wild, hopefully lots of people have got involved this year, it seems to be a growing thing year on year. There is no doubt that concern for environmental issues had grown and it is even starting to pop up on the political agenda from time to time. I have worked in nature conservation for forty years and throughout this time the objective of the movement has been to try to save and enhance habitats whilst changing hearts and minds. The hope being that some of the best has been saved for the time when there is general agreement that we need to do thing differently and we learn to live with nature not compete with it.

So how far have we got in forty years? Honestly not far, awareness of the problems might have increased, but the problems have worsened dramatically. If we are to have much at all worth saving the next forty years are going to have to be very different, the pace needs to pick up dramatically. Even then the twin juggernauts of money and power are not going to give up their grip over the direction of travel easily, whilst there is profit to be made from “Dewilding” I suspect hopes significant of “Rewilding” are going to be unfulfilled.

We do know more now, we are better informed, but much of what is coming to the fore now has been around for the entirety of my working life without making much impact. The “Bigger and more Joined-up” ideal for conservation sites results from work done and published in the 1960’s – it just took forty years to catch on. Rewilding projects date back even longer, but are only now receiving much attention. Climate change and global warming warnings have likewise been around for longer than I have been working, the term “Global warming” in this context was coined in 1975.

So pretty much all that we have manged to get over into the wider public domain is what was already available when I started working. I like to remain positive, in fact there is nothing else to be, but we need the hearts and minds to be stirred to action if things are actually going to change meaningfully.

It is still possible to spend 30 Days Wild, but we need to looking to spend 30 Days not just Wild but Wilder, each and every year. So enjoy your local wildlife, try to make space for more of it in your life at every level, every tiny action that is positive for wildlife is  Rewilding, don’t leave it to the big landowners and conservation charities. It is only mass participation in action that will bring results, leaving to the well-meaning just is not  going to be enough.

sunset crows

the sun going down on 30 Days Wild

 

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30 Days Wild – Day 29

A day off in the heat, I spent much of it in the garden, although staying largely to the shadier areas. I was going to have a look for insects, in the hope of adding new species to my garden list, but my willingness to stay out in the full sun for very long thwarted this. I did manage to record one new species though. I used the pheromone lures for clearwing moths again and this time attracted several male red-tipped clearwing moths, these are quite frequent at Blashford, but I had not recorded them at home previously. I did try to get some pictures but in the heat they were so active that this proved impossible.

The mini-meadow is looking great now, the ox-eye daisy and corky-fruited water-dropwort are just starting to go to seed but the field scabious, knapweed, wild carrot and bird’s-foot trefoil are just coming to their best.

field scabious

field scabious

knapweed

knapweed

Both the scabious and knapweed are particularly good nectar sources, being very well visited by bees and butterflies.

corky-fruited water-dropwort

corky-fruited water-dropwort

The smaller individual flowers that make up flowerheads of wild carrot and corky-fruited water-dropwort are less attractive to larger insects but will still have lots of insects, in this case pollen beetles.

30 Days Wild – Day 28

An atypical day for me as I was out and about away from Blashford. That said I was on  the reserve early on, doing a breeding bird survey, this is getting easier now as the number of birds singing are many fewer than earlier in the season. After the survey there was just time to check out the moth traps before heading off.

Possibly because it was quiet windy, the traps did not have as many moths in as I had expected, the highlight was a couple of small elephant hawk-moth, a species we catch almost every year, although I don’t think I have caught two on the same night previously.

small elephant hawk-moth

small elephant hawk-moth

I was then at a meeting looking at wetland restoration in the New Forest, when I first heard about it I had feared it was going to be an indoor meeting, but I am pleased to say there were site visits. Specifically one to a site that was still more or less “As nature intended”, that is a stream that had not been subjected to digging out or straightening, perhaps surprisingly very few of the Forest’s streams have escaped such attention over the years.

New Forest stream more or less natural

The upper ends of many New Forest streams have no visible water , the water seeks below the surface in dry weather.

I was then off to Fishlake Meadows to meet a wildlife camera specialist who was doing some underwater filming for us, looking at the fish and anything else that might come along. With luck there might be some pictures to share sometime soon.

One very striking thing on the reserve was the browning of lots of the smaller willows, the recently coppiced ones seemed unaffected as did the largest ones. At first I suspected disease but closer inspection revealed that the cuticle on the underside of the leaves had been eaten away, leaving the remaining upper surface dry and dead.

brown willow

brown willow leaves

I eventually found some small black larvae, I suspected of a leaf beetle, looking into it later they would appear to be those of the willow leaf beetle Gonioctena viminalis. 

willow leaf-beetle larva

willow leaf-beetle larva

30 Days Wild – Day 27

That unusual combination of hot and windy today, the breeze providing some, but not  a lot, of relief from the strong sunshine, although increasing the risk of getting unknowingly burnt. The volunteers were tidying up around the Centre and trimming and pulling nettles from the path edges.

The extra warmth is good for dragonflies, snakes and butterflies, although it makes them very active and so difficult to get close to. There are, at last, dragonflies to be seen in fair numbers, most though seem to be emperor or black-tailed skimmer. One species that I thought I might have missed was downy emerald, typically a late April dragonfly at Blashford, that you see through May and tails off in June. So I was pleasantly surprised to find a female beside Ivy North Hide as I locked up. It was also pleasing to get a picture as this is a species that does not often land within reach, often perching high up.

downy emerald female

downy emerald (female)

30 Days Wild – Day 26

As I was away I missed the Mass Lobby of parliament under “The Time is Now” banner to lobby about The Environment Act and The Nature Recovery Network. The turn-out was good and a fair number of MPs did come out to talk with the lobbyists, if they understood the need for action sufficiently that if will to lead to real action, only time will tell.

Meanwhile I got to spend the morning out in the dunes at Braunton Burrows NNR, fewer people but more military training.

One feature that could not be missed was the number of painted lady butterflies, they were everywhere! However it was not one of those that caught my attention nectaring on a stray buddleja bush, but a dark-green fritillary.

dark-green fritillary

dark-green fritillary

The Burrows are an amazing place to visit, huge dunes with wet dunes slacks between, stabilised so that there is a rich and varied vegetation. The outer edges run onto a large sandy beach, with lost of species of more mobile habitats. I came across one plant I did not recognise, which turned out to be hound’s tongue.

hound's tongue

hound’s tongue (thanks to Ian Ralphs for the ID)

The dune slacks are very good for orchids, we saw pyramidal orchid, marsh orchid, early marsh orchid and, my favourite, marsh heleborine.

IMG_3987

marsh heleborine

My stay in Devon was all too brief though and in the afternoon we headed home, a brief stop in a lay-by did yield a very smart large skipper, only my third this year!

large skipper

large skipper

30 Days Wild – Day 25

My least Wild Day of the month so far, mostly spent travelling to and then attending a family wedding. However the venue did boast a pair of spotted flycatcher in the garden, breeding swallow in the porch and singing yellowhammer in the hedges. The flycatcher were my first of the year! Which shows just how badly they are fairing, I used to have then as a regular garden nesting species and frequent spring and autumn migrant.

30 Days Wild – Day 24

A warm clam night, ideal for moths and so it proved, with the best catches of the year so  far. There was not a lot of great note, just all the usual suspects plus a lot of small species, which tend to be caught much more on calm nights. In fact it was the micro moths that provided the best moth of the night, assuming I have managed to identify it accurately, it was a Tortrix moth, Pammene trauniana.

Pammene trauniana

Pammene trauniana

The grass snakes were putting on a show again yesterday at Ivy South Hide, with four individuals on the tree stump in front of the hide.

Signs of the year moving on are starting to appear, a common sandpiper on Ibsley Water will be one on the return journey south and the moulting goose flocks are building in size.

There was clearly an arrival of painted lady butterflies with several around in the afternoon, perhaps more to follow and maybe other species too.

Following yesterday’s clearwing success, I tried the lures again at lunchtime and again attracted a single orange-tailed clearwing. This time I did manage some rather better pictures.

orange-tailed bee

orange-tailed clearwing

 

30 Days Wild – Day 23 – Unexpectedly Clear

They say “You should always expect the unexpected” and it seems I should. Today, at lunchtime I decided to deploy the pheromone lures for clearwing moths, these are artificial chemicals that mimic those released by female moths to attract the males. They have been synthesised for most of the clearwing moths, a strange group of day-flying moths that look like wasps and are usually very rarely seen. The use of pheromone lures has made finding them somewhat easier, but they are still not that readily seen.

At Blashford we could have several species of these moths, but I have only ever seen and attracted to a lure, the red-tipped clearwing. Today I tried four lures for a range of species including yellow-legged clearwing, whose larvae feed on oak, of which we have lots. I sat back an ate lunch whilst keeping an eye on the lures. I expected to see something at the red-tipped lure, but there was no luck. Then at the yellow-legged lure there was a moth, hovering continuously around the lure, I grabbed the camera and got the best flight shots I could at 1/1000th of a second.

orange-tailed clearwing 4x3 A

clearwing

However this was not the expected yellow-legged clearwing, but the other species that can come to the same lure, the orange-tipped clearwing, in Hampshire a moth of the chalk downs where the larvae feed on wayfaring-tree. Blashford is not on the downs and does not have wayfaring-tree, however we do have a few guelder-rose a less frequently used food-plant and I assume this must be what they are feeding on.

orange-tailed clearwing 4x3 B

orange-tailed clearwing

orange-tailed clearwing 4x3 C

orange-tailed clearwing coming to the lure

30 Days Wild – Day 22

Away on a trip up to Salisbury Plain, specifically Fyfield Down, near Avebury. Fyfield is a National Nature Reserve and it is where the people at Avebury got the stones from, remarkable dry valleys filled with a dense scatter of large rocks.

Fyfield NNR

Fyfield Down NNR

The main wildlife interest is in the lichens on the rocks, but on the reserve and the walk up from Avebury there were lots of insects. Butterflies were unremarkable but I did see two painted lady, possibly a sign of a mass migrant arrival underway.

Mother Shipton 2

Mother Shipton

The picture shows a moth rather than a butterfly, it is a Mother Shipton, the pattern on    the upper-wing supposedly looking like the silhouette of a witch of that name, with eye, long nose, mouth and long pointed chin.

Most of the insects I saw were flies, nectaring, especially on hogweed. One was a species that was new to me, a fly with densely patterned wings called Platystoma seminationis.

Platystoma seminationis 4x3

Platystoma seminationis

Quite a few flies have patterned wings and use them to display by waving them around to attract a mate. Picture-winged flies are well known for doing this and I came across two males having a vigorous struggle for the right to a display point at the top of a musk thistle, possibly a mistake as the species breeds in the seedheads of knapweed.

Urophora jaceana 4x3

Urophora jaceana, two males fighting

There weer also lots of dung-flies.

dung fly

dung fly

It was not all flies though, there were also lots of garden chafer beetles, a species I don’t see very often.

garden chafer

garden chafer

 

30 Days Wild – Day 21

I contrived to have the longest day off this year, the first day of my weekend, so I suppose it will also be the longest weekend, at least for daylight. Remarkably it was not raining so I took the opportunity to visit Broughton Down again, a gem of a site and for most of the time we had it to ourselves. It is proper downland as you imaging it should be, or at least some sections are, some still suffer from scrub encroachment, but a long term program of control is taking effect.

The top of the Down is especially good for fragrant orchid, of which there are literally thousands.

fragrant orchid 2

fragrant orchid

They come in varying shades.

fragrant orchid white

very pale fragrant orchid

Usually as single flowering spikes, but sometimes in groups.

fragrant orchids

fragrant orchids

And to cap it all they are really fragrant too.

There were some other orchids, in the hollows especially, there were common spotted orchid.

spotted orchid

common spotted orchid

And thinly scattered through the fragrant orchid were pyramidal orchid.

pyramidal orchid with hoverfly

pyramidal orchid with hoverfly

There were good numbers of butterflies, perhaps commonest were small heath, impressive as they are seriously reduced in numbers at most sites. Perhaps next most frequent was dark green fritillary, then brimstone, meadow brown, marbled white and common blue. None of which I got pictures of, although as I staked out a group of large scabious flowers I did get a Conopid fly, probably Sicus ferrugineus.

Sicus ferrugineus

Sicus ferrugineus (probably)

My other insect highlight remains unidentified, but is very smart, if anyone recognises it I would love to know.

beetle

Unidentified beetle

Back home in the garden I did manage to get a picture of a meadow brown, one of at least three in our mini-meadow.

meadow brown

meadow brown

I also got a shot of a leafcutter bee on a geranium.

Willughby's Leafcutter Bee

Willughby’s Leafcutter Bee