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.

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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

Unexpected Events

It has been a mixed few days, on Monday we briefly had only four of our six hides accessible, a fallen tree had blocked the route to Ivy North hide and Tern hide had been damaged. We are relatively lucky in that we have not had much vandalism at Blashford, but it does happen. In this case someone had been round onto the lakeshore in the evening and smashed three of the hide windows, luckily the breeding season has more or less finished so the damage was only to property. I know some of our visitors do walk the reserve in the evening and should anyone ever see anything suspicious please do let us know.

Surprises can be welcome as well though and there have been a couple of nice ones in the moth trap. It is not always moths that get caught, we get lots of caddisflies, but not many damselflies and when we do they are usually freshly emerged like this one.

common blue

freshly emerged common blue damselfly

The moth number shave been quiet good this year and have included a couple of new species for the reserve, yesterday there was a gothic, not a rare species, but one I have not seen before at Blashford.

gothic

Gothic

The generally warm weather has been good for insects as a while this summer and butterfly numbers at every good at the moment, with peacock and red admiral around in good numbers alongside the many browns.

red admiral

red admiral

The next generation of small copper and common blue are also out now.

common blue female

common blue, female

Earlier in the season I tried using some pheromone lures for clearwing moths, with some success. As a rule these moths don’t get seen without using these lures, but sometimes you can get lucky and after the Tuesday volunteer task we spotted a red-tipped clearwing nectaring at marjoram flower near the Education Centre.

red-tipped clearwing on marjoram

red-tipped clearwing

There have not been many birds of note recently, although there has been a great white egret seen a few times. As yet we do not know for sure if it is ringed, so it may, or may not be Walter, if it is he would now be over 14 years old!

30 Days Wild – Day 7: Top Tips

Up and out early, relatively early anyway, to do a bird survey at our Linwood reserve this morning. Many species now have fledged young so the trees were full of birds, the highlight was probably a redstart at a probable nest site on the reserve edge.

Then on to Blashford where I was pleased to see the three small lapwing chicks and at least one of the larger ones still surviving along with both oystercatcher youngsters, all from Tern hide. I had to remove a fallen branch from the roof of Ivy North hide, luckily it had not damaged the roof itself, I hope the winds have now abated and we won’t have any more down for a while.

I then went to do some nettle control on the shore of Ibsley Water, we are making great progress removing the large nettle beds and establishing a grassland sward with a good scatter of ox-eye daisy and other flowers. I did have to check first so as to avoid the patches with peacock and small tortoiseshell larvae. The western shore is usually well sheltered from the prevailing winds and so it was today. I saw a fair few meadow brown butterflies and a lot of damselflies and dragonflies including banded demoiselle and three species of chasers, four-spotted, broad-bodied and scarce, all making the most of the windbreak provided by the roadside trees. Scarce chaser used to be very rare but seems to have benefited from climate change and is now more widely seen, it has also   moved from breeding only in rivers and now uses lakes and gravel pits as well.

scarce chaser

scarce chaser

Both the females and recently emerged males look like the one above, but the males develop blue abdomens with age.

At lunchtime I tried out a lure for clearwing moths outside the Centre whilst I ate my lunch. These moths are rarely seen as they do not come to light and are very fast flying. The lures are artificial chemicals that mimic the pheromones produced by female moths. Each species has a unique chemical signal and I tried the one for red-tipped clearwing today and had immediate success!

red-tipped clearwing coming to lure

red-tipped clearwing attracted to a pheromone lure

In a short time I saw perhaps six individuals, with up to three at one time. The lure only attracted them for a few tens of seconds before they seemed to become aware they had been duped. They are very fast and even at a high shutter speed I could still not stop the wing beats. As you can see they do not really look like moths and it would be easy to pass it off as a wasp. Eventually one did land on a nearby bramble allowing me to get a somewhat better picture.

red-tipped clearwing

red-tipped clearwing

Red-tipped clearwing caterpillars feed on willows feeding on stems rather than leaves, most clearwings caterpillars feed by tunnelling into wood and roots, making them even harder to find that the adults. A great bit of “Wild” to go with my lunch!

 

Lots of Insects, Thankfully

A very hectic day started with the usual opening up and set up for the invertebrate course, all of which had to be done quickly as I was then off to the southern end of Ivy lake to meet a group from Ringwood School to do some birdwatching after their early morning Himalayan balsam pull. Being at the southern end of the lake gives a slightly better view of the common tern rafts and I am pretty sure there are twenty-one pairs there now, with at least nine pairs on the eastern raft.

common terns on raft

The reeds we planted along the southern shore of the lake a few years ago have done well and are now providing habitat for several pairs of reed warbler and reed bunting.

reed bunting male

I could not stay long with the school group though as the course started at 10 o’clock. I had intended to do an indoor introduction, but the weather was so good and a warm sunny day has been such a rarity this year that we just went out and looked for invertebrates. We were rewarded with what, for this year, was a really good day, lots of things seem to have been waiting for the sun to come out as much as we were. I saw more species of dragonflies than I have managed all year, five species in all: four-spotted chaser, scarce chaser, emperor, southern hawker and downy emerald. I also saw my first meadow brown butterflies of the year, I sometimes see them in May! We found adult mottled grasshoppers, although the field and meadow grasshoppers were all just large nymphs. Near the Centre someone spotted a four-banded longhorn beetle, then another one and another, they are not rare but I don’t remember seeing several in a small area before.

four-banded longhorn beetle

We were using several different techniques for finding invertebrates, we looked at moth trapping, sweep-netting, and just simply looking, but one of the more unusual was using pheromone lures. We put out several designed to attract clearwing moths, the lure is an artificial chemical synthesised to be similar to the natural attractant produced by the female moth. At first we did not have great success but then, moving to a new area attracted a magnificent male red-tipped clearing. All in all a good day and I was so pleased that the weather was with us as looking for insects int herain is both difficult and not my idea of fun at all.