Monday 29 July 2013

Moth Box Woes

My new moth trap actinic bulbs finally arrived in the post but on setting up the moth trap with the new bulbs insitu nothing happened! I decided to have a look inside the electrics box and noticed a couple of wires appeared to have come loose so I had a bit of a fiddle with them and then switched on the box - there was a flash, a bang and a puff of smoke and my moth box went off to the great moth box heaven in the sky.

I duly ordered a new electrics set which arrived within 24 hours of ordering (well done NHBS and Royal Mail!) and I had the trap up and running overnight on the 27th/28th July. By this time the heatwave had come to an end and so I had missed most of the best moth trapping weather I have ever known but it was at least still warm and humid overnight. On checking the trap I had the usual suspects for the time of year with 3 coronets (one of my favourite moths) and 16 male and 9 female (!)  four spotted footman being the highlights.

 Female Four Spotted Footman
Male Four Spotted Footman

Monday 29th July and with the day off I decided to head off to Dawlish Warren for the day. It was warm and humid but breezy and with some heavy showers but I managed to dodge most of them. I set myself the target of seeing 3 species, the same as my birthday trip to Dunsdon - a butterfly, an orchid and a bird.

On arrival at Dawlish Warren I headed off straight away to the hide to catch the high tide roost, noting quite a few butterflies along the way - gatekeeper, meadow brown, speckled wood, small skipper, small white, large white, small copper and common blue. A quick detour and I found my target orchid species, a marsh helleborine, which was beginning to go over.

Large White

Marsh Helleborine

Arriving at the hide, there was a large flock of oystercatcher and dunlin congregating to roost as the tide came in and amongst them were a turnstone in summer plumage, a sanderling, 3 ringed plover and 4 whimbrels. 2 little egrets and a juvenile Mediterranean gull added an exotic air. A large group of very noisy Sandwich terns were also roosting in front of the hide including quite a few juveniles, some sporting leg rings from a ringing program in The Netherlands. Interestingly the adults would fly in with sand eels, calling their fledgling to fly to the water where the fish would be passed over as they sat on the water, no doubt to minimise the risk of the fish being stolen by the marauding herring gulls.

While watching the terns my second target species appeared, an adult roseate tern, flying in to roost amongst the Sandwich terns and later joined by a second bird complete with a silver ring on each leg. They gave some fantastic views as they preened themselves, occasionally showing aggression towards the roosting dunlins and chasing them off. Very smart birds with lovely bright orangey legs, one with an all black bill and one with a red based black bill. The bird with the silver rings was seen pecking at the samphire growing in the mud and tried to steal sand eels from a Sandwich tern as it came in to feed its young, obviously quite hungry. To add to the scene an Arctic tern came in to roost too but didn't stay very long before flying off back to sea.

 Roseate Tern with Sandwich Terns and Oystercatchers
 2 Roseate Terns with Sandwich Terns
 Arctic Tern with Sandwich Terns
Heading back towards the main pond I found lots more marsh helleborines in flower and added red admiral and a peacock to the butterfly list. I had a search for my third target species, brown argus, but failed to find one although a very brown looking female common blue had my pulse racing for a short time.

 Female Common Blue with small amount of blue colouring on upper wings
Six spot burnet were on the wing including quite a few mating pairs, one of which were mating on a pupal cocoon - maybe the female had just emerged and had been pounced upon by the male before even getting a chance to fly! Silver y were also seen having been disturbed from the grass and quite a few cinnabar moth caterpillars were found feeding on ragwort.

 Mating Six Spot Burnet Moths on empty cocoon
 Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar feeding on Ragwort
A large dragonfly was seen patrolling along the edge of the woodland and eventually settled on some vegetation where I managed to ID it as an emperor dragonfly, a very impressive insect.

 Emperor Dragonfly
And so it had been a great day out, some excellent views of roseate terns, only the second time I have seen them, and some nice orchids flowering too - and to quote Meatloaf this time, 2 out of 3 ain't bad!

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Yet More Butterflies!

With a few days left of our week off work we headed off for some local walks, starting with Stoke Point on the 22nd July. Usually we walk from Stoke Point to Noss Mayo but this time we went in the opposite direction towards Mothecombe. It was warm and humid with thick mist at times but the walk was pleasant if a little hard going in places as it was very hilly and circuitous, unlike the nice walk along the flat, level Lord Revelstokes Drive to Noss Mayo. The scenery was quite stunning when we could see it and again there were lots of butterflies around - gatekeeper, meadow brown, a peacock, ringlet, small white, small tortoiseshell, red admiral and small copper, the latter having been noticeable by its absence this year so far. A few six spot burnets were on the wing including a mating pair.


3 ravens flew over croaking and a singing male cirl bunting showed very well. Offshore a few gannets were seen along with 3 adult summer plumaged Mediterranean gulls flying East. Stonechats and whitethroats were flitting about amongst the gorse clad cliffs and David found a small slow worm by the footpath, a little bit worse for wear but my first of the year.

Slow Worm

Tuesday 23rd July and we headed off to Badgers Holt for a cream tea and a walk down the River Dart. A large, orange butterfly whizzed past in the hot sunshine before disappearing out of sight, presumably a fritillary species (high brown, dark green or silver washed?). I did later see a comma but I am sure the other butterfly was not of this species and was a fritillary of some sort. Ringlet, meadow brown, small white, a peacock and large skipper were also seen along with golden ringed dragonfly and beautiful demoiselle. Birdwise the best sighting were 2 male yellowhammers feeding on same grain on the path near Badgers Holt tea rooms. A healthy antidote to the cream tea we ate was provided by lots of bilberries we snaffled on our walk along the riverside.

 Beautiful Demoiselle
Wednesday 24th and I headed off to Wembury for a walk. It was cooler than of late and misty but still warm and humid as the heatwave continues.With a sense of deja vu I found a (faded) meal moth in the toilet block and 2 six spot burnets were on the wing. Butterflies were again much in evidence with 3 male common blue, 2 small copper, a red admiral, 2 peacock, gatekeeper, meadow brown, large white, small white, a wall brown, a painted lady, a large skipper and ringlets on the wing.
 Large Skipper
 Wall Brown
 Painted Lady
 Male Common Blue
Small Copper - form caeruleopunctata with a row of blue spots on the hindwings

Birdwise a redshank and a dunlin were heard but not seen on the rocks at Wembury Point as the tide went out with 2 dunlins later seen flying West offshore. 2 little egret and a whimbrel were seen amongst the rocks along with oystercatcher, curlew and a female mallard with 8 quite well grown ducklings. In the mist offshore I picked up a group of 10 Manx shearwater flying West low over the water which was a nice surprise. Another highlight were 3 noisy fledgling kestrels perched in the pine trees at The Point, presumably from the nearby cliff nest I found a few weeks ago. Not so keen on the kestrels was a noisy juvenile green woodpecker which was chased by one of them before reaching the safety of a tree. Plenty of whitethroats were seen in small family groups and a male cirl bunting was heard but not seen. After a pasty and coffee at The Old Mill Cafe it was time to go home, back to work tomorrow unfortunately, but it has been an excellent week of wildlife watching.
Fledgling Kestrel

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Butterfly Birthday In Bude - 15th to 19th July 2013

The heatwave continues and a Birthday trip to Bude for a few days stay at the caravan was very, very hot and sunny.

The weather was perfect for mothing and the toilet blocks came up trumps with 21 species found including rosy footman, Brussels lace, bee moth and a female ghost moth.

I had the moth trap out overnight on the 16th/17th July and had a nice haul of moths in the morning including elephant and poplar hawkmoth, Northern rustic, small angle shades, mullein wave, garden tiger moth, Devonshire wainscot and buff tip. A new moth for me was a small rivulet but unfortunately I didn't find any crescent dart.

 Devonshire Wainscot
 Small Rivulet
Small Rivulet

Disaster struck on the 18th July when I went to use the moth trap again only to find it wouldn't work! I have had the trap for 4 years now so I guess the actinic bulbs have had it, I have ordered some new bulbs so hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly. It has been very annoying though as the conditions overnight have been pretty ideal - very warm (18c!), humid and generally still - typical! At least the toilet block moths provided some compensation.

On my birthday on the 17th July I set myself the challenge to see 3 target species and so we headed off to Dunsdon, a Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve not far from Bude, where all 3 species can be found. It is a small pocket of Culm grassland, a greatly diminished habitat and unique to the area, and somewhere I have never visited before. The most obvious sight on arrival were butterflies, they were everywhere, I have not seen so many butterflies in the UK for a long time, if ever. Marbled whites and meadow browns were the most abundant but I also saw large- and small skipper, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, gatekeeper, green veined white, large white, ringlet, speckled wood and small white. Unfortunately one of my 3 target species was marsh fritillary which are present on the reserve but I failed to find any, not totally unexpected as it is a little late in the season for them.

 Small Skipper

However my second target species was lesser butterfly orchid which is also found on the reserve, again it was a little late in the season but after a bit of searching amongst the many heath spotted orchids present I managed to find one, a new orchid species for me. Also seen was bog asphodel, another new species for me, and while searching amongst the orchids I saw silver y and six spot burnet moths on the wing.

 Lesser Butterfly Orchid
 Lesser Butterfly Orchid
 Heath Spotted Orchid
Bog Asphodel

My third target species was barn owl, also present on the reserve but unlikely to be seen in the daytime, especially considering the sunshine and heat, but that evening we headed off to nearby Sandymouth, not far along the coast from the caravan, to stake out a barn where barn owls are reported to nest. Unfortunately I drew a blank again, barn owls are turning into a bogey bird for me this year. However the sunset from the beach was beautiful and watching harbour porpoises on the calm, glassy sea was a bonus.

 Rock Formation at Sandymouth Beach
Sunset at Sandymouth Beach

Bird wise it was quiet with no green sandpipers on the mud at Maer Lake again but I did see a summer plumaged black tailed godwit and 6 summer plumaged dunlin. Offshore gannets, fulmars and Manx shearwaters were seen and a sparrowhawk was regularly seen over the campsite being noisily mobbed by swallows. 2 whimbrel flew over whistling as we left the site to head back to Plymouth on the 19th.

Fledgling Swallow

2 hares were seen in the fields behind the caravan and a fox was seen out on the mud at Maer Lake. It was looking for a meal in the shape of the young mallards feeding on the very small area of water left amongst the mud but it was unsuccessful. Harbour porpoise were seen every evening offshore, up to 4 individuals were seen together with one group very close to shore. A few pipistrelle bats were seen most evenings too.

Other highlights were a large red damselfly and golden ringed dragonflies on the wing including an ovipositing female golden ringed dragonfly at the Thurlibeer canal incline.

 Large Red Damselfly
Golden Ringed Dragonfly

And so it had been a very productive couple of days with a new moth, loads of butterflies and harbour porpoises and a new orchid species - and to misquote Meatloaf, one out of three ain't bad!

Sunday 14 July 2013

Wembury Walks

The heatwave continues and my walks at Wembury on the 10th and 14th July were hot and sunny and I was glad to get home and in the shade. However with the hot weather insects were very obvious, especially butterflies, with lots of meadow browns and ringlets on the wing and at least 4 marbled whites amongst others.

Small White

 Speckled Bush Cricket
Dark Bush Cricket

The toilet block held a new moth for me, a galium carpet, along with riband waves of both forms and a Brussels lace, and a six spot burnet was on the wing.

 Galium Carpet
 Riband Wave - form remutata
Riband Wave - form aversata

Bird wise it was quiet and despite the heat signs of Autumn were in the air with a common sandpiper, 2 whimbrel and 7 curlew roosting on the rocks at Wembury Point with the oystercatchers. 3 little egrets were seen on the rocks with 8 mallards (an eclipse male and 5 females with 2 young birds) feeding along the shoreline. A green woodpecker was heard yaffling and 2 cirl buntings were heard singing along with chiffchaff, whitethroat and blackcap. A mistle thrush was feeding in the horse field and a juvenile willow warbler was flitting around in the bushes by the footpath at Heybrook Bay.

With the good weather I have finally managed to get the moth trap out in the back yard on the 13th and I had a bumper haul of moths the next morning including a new for the yard green pug and a sandy carpet. Other highlights were a Brussels lace, a clay, a true lovers knot, a small emerald and 3 coronet.

 Sandy Carpet
 True Lovers Knot
 Small Emerald
Heart and Club

Sexton Beetle - found in the moth trap complete with lice- and very smelly!