Autumn?

volunteers opening up a glade

volunteers opening up a glade in willow scrub.

Although the weather does not seem to know it we are firmly into autumn now, in fact our winter work program has now got underway. On Thursday the volunteers were clearing willow to create a glade between two existing areas of open ground to allow adders and other reptiles to move easily between the two. We have a good population of adders on the reserve but they favour open areas and the population can get subdivided as trees grow up.

The autumn is often a good time for moths, especially if the nights are warm, so it is no surprise that recent catches have been quiet good, here are a few recent highlights.

beaded chestnut

beaded chestnut

vapourer moth male

Male vapourer moth

Vapourer moth females are flightless and the males track them down using their feathery antennae to “smell” the air for the pheromone trail released by a female. They fly at night and in the day, accounting for some of the sightings of “small, orange butterflies” that get reported in the autumn.

green brindled crescent

green-brindled crescent

Lastly two of my favourite moths of the whole year, the four-spotted footman, this one a male and so without the four-spots, which only the females have.

four-spotted footman male 2

male four-spotted footman

And finally one that we have yet to catch at Blashford this season, although I have had a few in my trap at home, the very splendid merveille du jour.

merveille du jour 1

merveille du jour

 

One for all the Mothers

To avoid confusion perhaps I should say “Moth-ers” as I mean those interested in moths rather than the producers of off-spring. Although actually I would hope mothers and everyone else would be interested too as this is about not just moths but what kind of world we want to live in.

On Friday we ran a moth event at Blashford, sadly only one person turned up, which was a shame as we had our largest catch of moths this year. Two moth traps had been run overnight and we had caught almost ninety species, an illustration of the huge diversity of moth species flying at this time of the year. In addition I also run a trap in my own garden and altogether I have seen well over one hundred species in the last two days!

I will not list all the species, but we had some large and impressive species such as elephant hawk moth, poplar hawk moth and buff-tip, as well as lots of smaller but nonetheless beautiful ones. The many clouded border were interesting as none are exactly alike. We caught one new species for Blashford, another micro and again one of the Pyralids, Rhodophaea formosa, just like the previous new record featured in my last post. It is described in the book as “local, but perhaps spreading” and lives in hedgerows, so should not be short of habitat.

Rhodophaea formosa

Rhodophaea Formosa

Personally it was my garden trap that caught the stand-out species though, a fine female four-spotted footman.

four-spotted footman, female

four-spotted footman, female

In the picture you can only see two of the spots, there are two on each fore-wing, making four in all, however it is usually males that are seen and they have no spots at all. The other notable species and one I rarely see, was the small chocolate-tip.

small chocolate-tip

small chocolate-tip

I am delighted to say that my one attendee at the moth “event” did seem to really enjoy it and went away inspired to make and run her own trap at home.

The huge diversity of moth species to be found, even in a suburban back garden shows us just how much wildlife is out there and which we hardly see, there is no part of even our built up cities that is not habitat for some species. Although nature reserves may hold the greatest range of species we need to consider everywhere as wildlife habitat. There is no need for industrial estates and corporate head quarters to be surrounded by closely mown carpets of rye grass, be bold, let some wild flowers grow, contribute something to supporting wildlife and save money on grounds maintenance into the bargain! There has been much in the press recently about providing for bees and other pollinators, but actually we could do this quite easily by just modifying mowing regimes and benefit lots of other wildlife at the same time. The local highways authorities could lead the way by setting an example with roadside verges and round abouts, many of which are still ruthlessly over mown. A truly Living Landscape needs these opportunities to be made the most of, if we give a little thought we can all make small space for wildlife and together make  a big space and wildlife can be inspiring, as the moths in our traps demonstrated.

In more general Blashford news, the great white egret is occasionally being seen, usually outside Ivy North hide, on Ibsley Water there were at least 3 common sandpiper and in front of Tern hide a brood of three little ringed plover chicks.

Do something for wildlife today!

Wildlife stars in abundance!

Blashford is at least as lovely place a place to work as it is to visit… although unfortunately time spent necessarily, although very reluctantly, in the office, does mean that we staff often miss out on sightings that some lucky visitors enjoy. Yesterday this included an otter (watched for 10 minutes swimming around Ibsley Silt Pond, the small lake just north of/behind Lapwing Hide) and a bittern (first reported sighting of this season, observed in the usual hot spot in the reed bed by Ivy North Hide).

Of course being here every day there are other “stars” whom we are privileged to see very regularly and even, dare I say it, take a little bit for granted at times; birds like kingfisher (had a lovely view of one perched/fishing in front of Ivy South Hide this morning) and, of course, the great white egret. Christened Walter White by Ed (for reasons known only unto himself!), this lovely picture of it in flight by Tern Hide earlier in the week, was sent in by David:

 

Great white egret by David Stanley Ward

Great white egret by David Stanley Ward

Perhaps of less interest to some, but even more interest to others, is this moth which I recorded in the light trap this morning. Obviously a footman, it was larger than I am used to and I have identified it as a (male) four-spotted footman. Don’t worry about the lack of spots, it is the female that bears those! It is possible that I have misidentified it, but if not this is, according to the book, a nationally scarce moth with a small population in the New Forest (and other small populations else where in southern England and west Wales). The caterpillars of this species feed on tree lichens, of which we certainly have plenty on the reserve.

Four-spotted footman?

Four-spotted footman?

Speaking of lichens, I did take a picture of some on the lichen heath this morning, for no other reason than they looked quite stunning in the wet, grey and overcast weather:

Lichen on the lichen heath

Lichen on the lichen heath

As is often the case, the photo does not really do it justice! They do seem to be doing well this year; possibly as a result of the particular weather conditions, or possibly associated with the small reduction in visitors which the weather has bought about, and an associated decrease in trampling by the same, as we know that they do not fare well with regular trampling and this is why the footpaths across the reserve all skirt around the lichen heath.

Also flourishing in the warm wet conditions this month are fungi:

I mentioned the earth stars that have come up in a previous blog, but was unable to take a picture at the time. I have now recovered the camera and couldn’t resist photographing this very lovely specimen this morning:

Earth star

Earth star

This nearby shaggy ink cap was also particularly impressive:

Shaggy ink cap

Shaggy ink cap

Unfortunately the picture is not great, but, with my binoculars in-situ for scale, I hope you can appreciate the awesome majesty of this fungus, which has to be the largest example of this particular species that I have ever come across!