Moths Again

A combination of the need to do some repair work on the trap and a lot of very unfavourable weather has meant that it has been a good time since I have run a moth trap. Finally I have made some repairs and the conditions have picked up so the trap has gone out.

So far catches have been unremarkable and involve the typical early spring species such as the aptly named early thorn.

early thorn

early thorn

Although the early thorn does fly from March, early in the year, at least for moths, it also has a second brood which flies between July and September, when the name is not so appropriate.

A number of closely related species, mostly in the genus Orthosia and commonly known as “Quakers” fly at this time of the year, often the most frequent is the common Quaker, although it is often outnumbered by the small Quaker. One of the most distinctive of these is the twin-spotted Quaker, with its prominent “twin-spots”, although a few do not have them so prominent, just to keep me on my toes.

twin-spot quaker

twin-spotted Quaker

Although not called a Quaker the Hebrew character is in the same genus and easily identified by the prominent black markings on the fore-wings.

Hebrew character

Hebrew character

Other species are also now flying, the oak beauty is a close relative of the peppered moth, famous for having industrial melanism. The March moth, unsurprisingly flies now as does the yellow horned, which is widespread wherever there is birch growing.

yellow-horned

yellow horned

I might reasonably be asked “Why fly so early int he year?” it is rather cold and there are few flowers around to feed from. Equally there are not so many moth eating birds and bats about to hunt them when they are flying at night. Starting early in the year also means the caterpillars can get started eating the fresh, new growth. For species with more than one brood per year, such as the early thorn, it also allows time for the second brood to be reared, lay eggs and have the caterpillars pupate in time to over-winter ready to hatch in the next spring.

 

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Spring Dipping for Lamprey

It was lovely to be back at Blashford on Sunday after a two week break, with the sun shining and chiffchaffs calling from what seemed like every other tree. It was time again for our monthly Young Naturalists meeting, and with the weather warming up we began with a rummage through the light trap. It revealed a number of Common and Small Quakers and Hebrew Characters along with this rather pale Brindled Beauty.

Brindled Beauty by Talia Felstead

Brindled Beauty by Talia Felstead

The light trap also contained a number of Clouded Drabs, with this one in particular making us take a closer look:

Clouded drab by Talia Felstead

Clouded Drab by Talia Falstead

We wondered if it could perhaps have been a Lead-coloured Drab instead, but couldn’t be sure. Having only a photo to show Bob today, we’ve decided it probably was a Clouded Drab, as their colours can be quite variable, but you never know, we might be wrong!

After carefully putting the moths back in the light trap to be released later in the day, we headed down to the Dockens Water in search of Brook Lamprey. Brook Lamprey can grow up to 15cm and can easily be confused with small eels, but they lack jaws, instead having a sucker disc with a mouth in the centre. They also lack scales, any paired fins and a gill cover, instead having a line of seven respiratory holes behind the eye. They are easily overlooked, burrowing down into sand, silt or mud before emerging in the Spring to spawn. They die soon after spawning, but their corpses are quickly devoured by fish and birds so often are not found.

Now was the time to go looking for them, and we knew a couple had been caught on a school visit the week before. We were in luck, catching nine in our usual river dipping spot and another two when we searched further downstream.

We also caught bullhead fish, mayfly nymphs, caddisfly larvae and pond skaters. On moving further downstream, we caught a large number of dragonfly nymphs, fourteen in total. We decided they were likely to be nymphs of the Golden-ringed dragonfly, a species that usually patrols upland and heathland streams. The nymphs often burrow down into the stream’s muddy or sandy bottom, leaving only their head and the tip of their abdomen exposed. They may remain in the same position for several weeks, waiting to ambush any prey that passes by.

With the Dockens starting its journey to the sea in the New Forest, it is not surprising the nymphs have found their way downstream to us, and whilst we don’t get many sightings of the adults on the reserve they are sometimes seen hawking low over the water.

It was great to see so many nymphs of all different sizes, we should have Golden-ringed dragonflies emerging from the Dockens for a good few years!

Whilst down by the river, we took some Elder cuttings from nearby trees for Bob. A small deciduous tree native to the UK, elder grows well on wasteland, as well as in woodland, scrub and hedgerows. As they do so well on disturbed ground, they will be planted by the volunteers on the Hanson site where hopefully if they root well their flowers will be an important nectar source for a variety of insects whilst their berries will be a great food source for mammals and Autumn migrants.

After lunch we were joined by Corinne from the Cameron Bespolka Trust, who came with us for a spot of nettle pulling alongside a stretch of path in the woodland. Whilst nettles are fantastic for wildlife, we have plenty on the reserve and clearing some areas gives other flora the chance to thrive. We’re hoping to see increased amounts of ground ivy and hopefully twayblades, a medium sized orchid that can be easily overlooked, so keep your eyes peeled!

Our Young Naturalists group is kindly funded by the Cameron Bespolka Trust.

A Day by the Water

By which I mean Ibsley Water, where we spent the day working with a party of staff from one of our Partners, Bournemouth Water. It was particularly fortuitous that it was a Leap Year as this allowed us to do a task willow cutting on the shore of the lake, in a normal year it would have been the 1st of March and so into the “no scrub cutting” season. This is a bit of an arbitrary date, but a fair one to choose as many birds will start to nest soon now. These low willows are not really suitable for nesting, although they might be used for feeding by some, but as they grow on the lakeshore where open grass suitable for grazing wildfowl is more of a priority, we have been removing them throughout the winter. This shows the site at the start of the task.

before

We disposed of the cut material mostly by building a dead-hedge, which will be a useful habitat and is especially popular with nesting song thrush. The rest we burnt on the lakeshore. After about four and a half hours work the site looked like this.

after

Hopefully everybody enjoyed their day out from the office , they certainly got  a lot of work done and without their help it would definitely not have been done this season. I got this team picture just before they were ready, but it does have a flock of greylag geese in shot.

not quite ready but with geese

In wildlife news, I understand the bittern was seen again today from Ivy North hide and I saw the Slavonian grebe on Ibsley Water. At the end of the day the, now huge, roost of black-headed gull included at least 52 Mediterranean gull, all but two of them adults and amongst the modest number of larger gulls I found a first winter Caspian gull.

The moth trap did not contain much, perhaps not a surprise after rather a cold night, there were just a few common Quaker, small Quaker and clouded drab.

Some Moths and No Bins!

I ran the moth trap last night for the first time in a while and caught a dozen moths of five species, all typical early spring ones, but good to see for all that. The most frequent was common Quaker.common quaker

Next commonest was Hebrew character.hebrew character

Then small Quaker.small quaker

One thing that has not changed was the need to keep a close eye on the catch and keep it away from our resident robin.robin

There were also single clouded drab and early grey, but neither posed well for pictures.

Out on the reserve today the Woodland hide was busy with the usual good numbers of siskin, lesser redpoll, chaffinch and commoner woodland birds. When I was there I also saw 4 brambling and 7 reed bunting. It is always good to see the buntings as these are probably our nesting birds and feeding up well at this time of year has been shown to increase nesting success, important for a species that has been declining in recent years.

Out on the reserve reports received suggest that both of the black-necked grebe are still on Ibsley Water as was the Slavonian grebe. I saw a single adult Mediterranean gull, but I do not know if the ring-billed gull was seen today.

Near the Woodland hide there are quite  a lot of scarlet elf cup now, perhaps a little later than usual, but as bright as ever.scarlet elf cup

Although not as prominent as the many wild daffodil in the same area.wild daffodil

I spent the afternoon dealing with various odd jobs around the reserve. Although it was dry and quite pleasant the reserve was relatively quiet so I took the opportunity of the low traffic to fill in a few more of the pot holes in the entrance track, there are still quite a few but it is getting better.

Unfortunately towards the end of the day I realised that, at some point in the afternoon, I had put down my binoculars and as hard as I looked I could not find them anywhere. Although now rather battered I will be very sad if they do not turn up, they have been my constant companions for pretty much every day of the last twenty plus years, lots of birds seen through good times and bad. If you happen to see a lost looking pair of binoculars, please let me know!

Moss, Moths and a Herald (of Spring?)

There are times when I think that I must have been walking around with my eyes shut for the first half of my life.  I was quite oblivious of most of the bird life around  me, let alone the smaller stuff like butterflies and dragonflies.   The problem for the most part, and something that I suspect many of us ‘suffer’ from, is that we just don’t know how to look for these things. Once some things are pointed out to you you can start to ‘get your eye in’ and you then wonder how you missed these things before.

I had one such experience last Thursday when one of the volunteers pointed out a mossy bundle in a hedge. Closer inspection revealed what is probably an old (last year’s) long-tailed tit nest which with the lack of leafy covering was now visible. In truth it has probably been visible for many months.

Long-tailed tit nest

Long-tailed tit nest

Having had this pointed out to me I mentioned it to one of our regular bird ringers, who wanted then to see it, so we set out to re-find it.    Now being in the company of someone who knew what to look for, we found a number of other nests nearby, as well as a couple of nest boxes that had long been forgotten.

I’ve sometimes remarked in these ramblings of the strange names that have been given to moth species.  Today’s collection of inmates in the light trap this morning included Common Quaker and Small Quaker , presumably named for their peace loving  nature(?).   Although not one of the most inspiring of moths when first seen, the Clouded Drab does have a subtle richness to its markings – its also a moth that has a name reminiscent of a British weather forecast!

Clouded Drab

Clouded Drab

Also appropriately named from its re-appearance, after the winter months, is this moth – the Herald

A Herald -------of Spring?

A Herald ——-of Spring?   Unfortunately not a pristine specimen-  probably because it has overwintered in its adult state

More Warblers than in an Opera

The day started well with a fanfare of song from a chiffchaff as we unlocked the gates to the Reserve. On the way round to open up the hides there were quite a few more chiffchaff and several blackcap, busy carving out territories with their song. Near the Ivy North Hide and again near the settlement pond Cetti’s warbler were chanting their piercing call. Also by the settlement pond a few trills coming from the direction of the reeded area at first sounded like a reed warbler, but after a break in song the next twitterings were almost certainly those of a sedge warbler. As is usually the case,  getting sight of these birds is not so easy, even though the leaf cover is only just starting to appear, but I did manage to get a half-way reasonable image of a blackcap.

Male blackcap

Male blackcap

With the spell of warmer weather it’s about time for some of the invertebrate fauna to be putting in an appearance. With that in mind, Jim set up the light trap last night which  managed to attract 27  moths of seven different species.    Mostly Common Quaker (11) and Small Quaker (7) plus two Twin-spot Quaker there were also some nicely marked Hebrew Character (4) and   single Oak Beauty, Engrailed and a pug species which after some argument we eventually decided must have been a Brindled Pug. 

Hebrew Character

Hebrew Character

Engrailed

Engrailed

Oak Beauty

Oak Beauty – a well marked moth, but notice how well it blends into the background

Such a relative abundance of insect life, compared with the last few attempts at moth trapping this year, herald the start of a proper spring period.      Looking around elsewhere on the reserve it was appropriate to see, from the Tern Hide, a common tern hunting  over Ibsley water (sorry no picture – much too distant and mobile). Another first  for the year, and for me a real herald of Spring – this wheatear posing on the shingle out to the side of the Tern Hide.

Wheatear seen from Tern  Hide

Wheatear seen from Tern Hide

It Helps to Bring the Camera

Bird News: Ibsley Watersand martin 9+, goosander 16+, green sandpiper 1. Ivy lakeCetti’s warbler 1. Woodlandbrambling 1+, mealy redpoll 1 (reported).

Not much to report today as I was away from Blashford for almost the entire day, apart from the opening and closing of the hides at the start and end of the day. I did see a few sand martin over Ibsley Water and a green sandpiper flying away northwards, but I could not find yesterday’s little ringed plover nor the black-necked grebes.

Over on Ivy Lake a Cetti’s warbler was singing loudly by the North hide and flying around, it headed off westward and when I was at the Woodland hide one was singing from beside the silt pond, I suspect it was the same bird, but cannot prove it. I have known them  to hold very large territories and have two mates. I know there was a female bird around a week or so ago, but I am not sure if it is still on the reserve. The mute swans near the north hide are making good progress with their nest which is getting quite large now, they are having to collect material from further and further afield  and have made a large hole in the reedmace bed.

The moth trap held the usual masses of small Quakers (54) with smaller numbers of other species including single pine beauty, lead-coloured drab and yellow horned.

I gather that the mealy redpoll was reported again today, I have yet to see it, but it is reported as being ringed so it will be fascinating if it gets caught when the ringers are in again as we could find out where it has come from.

Sorry for the lack of pictures today, I could blame the fact that I was not ont he reserve for long, but the real reason was that I left the camera at home!