30 Days Wild – Day 8 – An Early Start

I was out early doing a farmland bird survey up on the Hampshire chalk, it was calm, which is good for surveying. The low cloud got lower and lower as I was surveying and just as I was finishing it started to rain. I like surveying in a very different area from my usual haunts as it means I see species I don’t normally encounter. Visiting chalk farmland meant that yellowhammer was frequent, a bird I very rarely see these days. My previous visit had also produced corn bunting and grey partridge, missing today, although I did add red kite this time.

At this time of year an early survey means that I can get home in time for breakfast, which I did today. I was having a day off, so most of the rest of my wildlife for the day was seen in the garden.

I started with the moth trap, the pick of the day was a very fresh beautiful yellow underwing. These tiny moths regularly fly by day as well as at night and so often fly from the trap as it is opened, luckily for me this one stayed put for a picture.

beautiful yellow underwing 2

beautiful yellow underwing

It does have yellow underwings, but they are covered by the upper-wings, however the upper-wings are beautifully marked.

The spring solitary bees have mostly finished now but the summer ones are just starting, one of these is, if I have identified it correctly, Willughby’s leafcutter bee. These bees collect pollen on brushes of hairs underneath their abdomen rather than on their legs as many species do. It is on the orange hawkweed often known as fox-and-cubs here.

Willughby's leafcutter bee

Willughby’s leafcutter bee

During the day I saw single green-veined white, red admiral and painted lady butterflies the latter two indicating migrant arrivals.

I came across a couple of new species for the garden today, a mullein moth caterpillar that I spotted from indoors when I was washing my hands after being in the garden and, rather less welcome, a forest fly which chased my around.

mullein moth caterpillar

mullein moth caterpillar

As the name suggests mullein moth caterpillars usually feed on mullein, however they sometimes eat other related plants such as figwort, which is what it is eating in my garden. It is another species with bad tasting larvae, which is why they can afford to perch in the open and be brightly coloured. Despite running a moth trap I have never caught the adult moth in the garden, but this is one moth species that very rarely comes to light.

The forest fly is a biting species that mostly feeds on ponies and deer, it is one of the flat-flies, which scuttle over their hosts and are very resistant to being swatted.

forest fly

forest fly

What’s in My Meadow Today?

For the first time thus year I have bird’s-foot-trefoil flowering in the meadow this year, for some reason it has taken some time to get established, but hopefully is now in place to stay.

bird's-foot-trefoil

bird’s-foot-trefoil

A feature of the meadow from the first year has been a large population of lesser stitchwort, focus down through the grass stems and there are masses of tiny white star-like flowers.

lesser stitchwort

lesser stitchwort

Finally I also found a further new species for the garden in the meadow, it was a small species of chafer beetle, if I am correct it is Welsh chafer Hoplia philanthus , despite the name it is not confined to Wales having a rather scattered distribution across the southern half of the UK.

Welsh chafer maybe

Welsh chafer beetle (I think)

  

Notable Mochas

A wet day on Tuesday limited activity on the reserve, but the moth traps run overnight had made some interesting, indeed “Notable” captures, specifically two species of mocha moths. The first is the mocha Cyclophora annularia, an attractive species that is classified as “Notable – nationally scarce”.

mocha

mocha

The larvae feed on field maple, a tree that grows on the reserve both as young planted trees as in many areas but we also have a few mature trees that predate the gravel extraction.

The second species of mocha was even more notable, in fact it is listed in the Red Data Book of rare species. It was a dingy mocha Cyclophora pendularia, whore larvae feed on smaller leaved willow species, usually growing on heathland. Although nationally rare it is known to be present in the Ringwood area, so perhaps finding one at Blashford is not so remarkable.

dingy mocha

dingy mocha

Neither picture is great thanks to the poor light, but two good species of moths recorded for the reserve.

A New Species!

One of the things we do at Blashford is to record species that occur on the reserve, this builds up a picture of what species we have and what management we might need to do to encourage the ones that are either rare or particularly reliant upon the reserve. To this end one of the groups we record regularly are moths, having done so for many year snow new species are a rare occurrence nowadays, but yesterday we found one. Admittedly in this case I tis probably a migrant sop not on that will change our management in any way, but interesting all the same. It was a micro-moth and actually quite a rare one in Hampshire with never more than five recorded in any year and those usually on the coast. This distribution is a clue to the fact that they are probably all migrants arriving from the continent. This year has seen quite  arrange of migrants from the south, although we are still awaiting the really huge numbers of silver Ys that can occur in a migrant super-year. Although small the new species is rather smart.

Oncocera semirubella

Oncocera semirubella

We have been rather busy in the last couple of days so picture opportunities have been few, but I did get a close-up picture of the business end of a horsefly on one of the picnic tables as I had lunch yesterday.

Horsefly, business end

Horsefly, business end

Only the females bite, this one is a female and the apparatus below the head is the biting bit! They do have splendid eyes though.