Sunday, 15 July 2018

Garden Moths and a Plymouth Mini-Pelagic Trip

I finally managed to get the moth box out in the back yard on Friday 13th July but overnight the temperatures and humidity had dropped and it was quite breezy, good for sleeping but not so good for mothing, and in the morning there was only a modest haul of moths again. The highlights were a male Ringed China Mark, 3 Crassa unitella, 3 Knot Grass, 1 Lychnis and 1 Dark Fruit Tree Tortrix. I also had my first Light Brown Apple Moth of the year, presumably badly hit by the Beast from the East earlier in the year, and a scarce silver lines unfortunately caught in a spiders web in the window frame and very dessicated so presumably caught a few days ago.

 Ringed China Mark

 Ringed China Mark

 Crassa Unitella

 Knot Grass


Birdy and Burdy watched me intently as usual and were joined by one of the adult herring gulls which made me a little nervous but suddenly all hell let loose and an adult herring gull came bombing in and chased it away while another adult bird flew around overhead making a hell of a noise - as I had suspected we have had a pair of interlopers present, maybe adults that have lost their own chicks nearby as we have quite a few nesting on the roofs around the area, and maybe explaining why this year the birds are so much more vocal and noisy.

Saturday 14th July was bright, sunny and still but cool as I walked down to Sutton Harbour for a mini-pelagic trip organised by the Plymouth branch of Devon Birds. I met my mate Mavis there and we were soon heading off out to sea off Rame Head to see what we could see. I wasn't expecting much as the weather has been so settled for such a long time now and there was hardly any breeze but we did get to see a few gannets and Manx shearwaters including a feeding raft of 38 birds which we managed to get quite close to. 2 adult guillemots with a juvenile gave some close views too and we also later saw a more distant adult bird

 Manx Shearwaters

 Manx Shearwater


Rame Head

Heading back to Plymouth and we motored close to shore from Rame Head to Cawsands and then to Sutton Harbour and along the way while enjoying the glorious scenery we found 5 adult, a second summer and 3 juvenile Mediterranean gulls along the rocks amongst herring gulls and black headed gulls.

We had signed up for both trips and so after a brief stop in Sutton Harbour to change passengers we headed out again, seeing a nice adult Mediterranean gull on a post in Sutton Harbour as we waited to pass through the lock gates.

Mediterranean Gull

Heading out to sea again and it was noticeably breezy and the sea was quite lumpy after a flat calm morning and this time we headed out to The Mewstone at Wembury first, seeing fulmars on the cliff face and a few fledgling great black backed gulls with adults on the grassy slopes. Heading out to sea and we picked up a few gannets and Manx shearwaters but viewing was difficult in the swell and harsh light. Rubby-Dubby (chum) was chucked overboard off Rame Head and did attract a few Manx shearwaters close to the boat and we had distant views of a very dark looking shearwater which may have been a sooty but was too far away to call.

Heading back to Plymouth and the scenery was again stunning and to cap off a great couple of trips as we moored up in Sutton Harbour a grey seal came close to the boat and enjoyed the last of our mackerel, an old individual which looked to be blind in its left eye but a regular animal often fed by the fisher men using the harbour.

 Grey Seal

Grey Seal

Grey Seal 

 Grey Seal

Grey Seal

Friday, 13 July 2018

Heatwave Wildlife

The heatwave continues, the grass is brown and shrivelled and Birdy and Burdy the herring gull chicks continue to squawk and mewl and grow, Mum and Dad continue to be arsey and noisy and menacing and the flat roof next door is fast becoming a white poop fest due to the lack of rain. The birds are especially noisy at dawn which isn't helpful for sleeping especially in these hot and sticky nights but I am enjoying watching their antics.

Birdy or Burdy with poop

I had another look for the white-letter hairstreaks in Central Park on Friday 6th July but this time with no luck. A bonus sighting though on a quick look around Ford Park Cemetery on the walk home was my first hummingbird hawkmoth of the year, skimming over the shrivelled grass looking for flowers to feed on. 

Monday 9th July and I decided to head out to Wembury for a walk on a blisteringly hot day. It was baking hot at 09:30hrs when I stepped off the bus and I ended up cutting the walk short and returning home on the 12:00hrs bus as it was just too much for me.

A few moths were found in the toilet block which I caught and released outside - double striped pug, dingy footman and a meal moth - and along the walk I found another hummingbird hawkmoth, six-spot burnets and silver y's. Butterflies were very noticeable too with peacock, red admiral, common blue, ringlet, gatekeeper, meadow brown, comma, small skipper, large white and small white all seen and a golden ringed dragonfly along the stream in the valley to the beach was a good find too.

 Dingy Footman

 Meal Moth

 Small Skipper



Large White

Very quiet bird wise but chiffchaff, whitethroat, blackcap and cirl bunting were all still in song with a pair of cirl buntings also seen and there were a few swallows flitting about over the stables, hopefully adults with a successful brood of young.

On the way home I foolishly decided to stop off at Laira Bridge for a quick look around Blagdons Meadow which was brown and bone dry too. Small skipper, small tortoiseshell, marbled white, meadow brown and red admiral were all seen along with a few silver y and six-spot burnet and the underpass held a single dotted wave but the heat was brutal and I soon returned home to get into the shade and cool down.

Single Dotted Moth

I haven't had the opportunity to get the moth box out in the yard despite the good weather due to work but I did find a four spotted footman caterpillar on the rubbish bin outside Tesco's across the road which was a nice surprise.

Four Spotted Footman Larva

Wednesday 11th July was cooler and cloudier and quite pleasant so we headed out to Stoke Point for a walk along the coast path. Again it was dry and shrivelled and there was no sign of any autumn squill in flower but we managed to see 2 hummingbird hawkmoths and more six-spot burnet and silver y's along with peacock, common blue, red admiral, gatekeeper, ringlet, meadow brown, speckled wood, comma, small copper, large white, marbled white, 2 wall and small white.





Small White 

Small White

Stonechat, whitethroat, linnet, kestrel, buzzard, swallow, house martin, chiffchaff and a green woodpecker provided the bird highlights but there was no sign of any Dartford warblers.

Green Woodpecker

A strange sighting in the dry conditions was a frog crossing the road in the woods leading down to The Ship Inn in Noss Mayo where we had a lovely lunch before walking back to the car at Stoke Point.


The heatwave looks set to continue for a while yet but my sister is visiting Cornwall next week for a holiday and so I imagine the weather will take a turn for the worse as it always does when she heads down this way!