Friday 30 August 2013

Moths and Migrant Birds

The weather overnight has been pretty good for mothing over the past week but due to work commitments I couldn't get the moth box out until the night of the 26th August. The following morning I had quite a haul of moths after a warm, humid and still night - at least 70 moths of 31 species (I gave up counting the light brown apple moths as they were very numerous and flighty in the trap). A garden rose tortrix was a new moth for me with 2 diamond-back moths, a purple bar, 4 Jersey tigers, an old lady and 3 male and a female four spotted footman being the highlights. I also had 4 pug species (double striped, cypress, currant and golden rod) and 4 yellow underwing species (large, lesser, broad bordered and lesser broad bordered).

 Garden Rose Tortrix
 Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing
 Cypress Pug
Pyrausta aurata

I headed off to Wembury on the 27th August for a quick walk along the coast path and it was warm, humid and hazy. The toilet block held a few moths for a change with a flounced rustic and a dingy footman being the highlights.

Dingy Footman

As I walked away from the main beach towards The Point I heard the distinctive call of yellow wagtail and looked up to see a brief view of 2 birds before they disappeared from view. They appeared to land in the fields behind the horse stables so I headed up there and managed to get some nice views of the 2 of them feeding amongst the horse turds before they flew off inland. 6 curlews were also feeding in the fields as the tide was high so I quickly headed off to The Point where a flock of oystercatchers were roosting on the beach. I was hoping to get to The Point before anyone disturbed the roosting birds but I failed as a man with 2 dogs walked right along the beach just as I got there! I did manage to see a whimbrel as it flew away with the oystercatchers but some smaller waders were pushed along the beach towards me and I did manage to get some nice views of a redshank, a common sandpiper, 8 ringed plover, a dunlin and 2 turnstones. Later I saw three common sandpipers together flying low over the waves along the shore.

I had a good chat about birds and moths with a fellow birder I met along the path before heading off to search the brambles at The Point where I had a brief view of a whinchat before it flew off and seemed to just disappear amongst the bushes. A pair of stonechat were feeding with at least 2 fledglings, whitethroats were flitting about in the bushes with chiffchaffs while a chiffchaff sang from the pine trees, and swallows and house martins flew overhead. 2 wheatears were feeding along the beach amongst the rocks and a (brown headed) blackcap was seen feeding amongst the bushes in the valley to the beach.

Offshore a few single gannets and fulmars were seen along. A single Manx/Balearic shearwater flew East with 2 birds later seen flying West. I could not make out any white underside plumage but they were distant, it was hazy and misty and I only had my binoculars with me, The single bird flying East had the more languid looking flight of a Balearic especially when compared to the 2 birds seen flying West but it may have been down to differing wind conditions at sea.

While sitting at the bus stop waiting for the bus home I heard a great spotted woodpecker calling before eventually finding it feeding in some dead trees in a nearby garden. 2 painted ladys were feeding on a buddlea bush and as I got on the bus I heard a yellow wagtail again as it flew over heading inland. A Jersey tiger was also seen flying by as the bus passed The Odd Wheel pub.

Having failed to find any Autumn lady's-tresses at Blagdons Meadow on the 19th August on my trip back from Wembury I had a quick look again on the 29th August after finishing work and I found 5 in flower, 4 fully open and the fifth just beginning to open.

 Autumn Lady's-tresses
Autumn Lady's-tresses

Wednesday 21 August 2013

A Trio of Sandpipers, Moths, Rock Pooling and Butterflies.

Saturday August 10th and I headed off on the early bus to Aveton Gifford to visit South Efford Marsh, a Devon Wildlife Trust nature reserve consisting of a marshy/salt marsh field by the River Avon. It was high tide and curlews were roosting on the marsh with a ringed plover, a dunlin and at least 2 whimbrels amongst them. A green sandpiper flew over before landing close by and in full view, the best views I have had of one for many years, I mostly see them flying away! It eventually flew off but a short time later I found a wood sandpiper, a very smart looking bird, busily feeding with a green sandpiper, a redshank and 2 greenshanks. A common sandpiper heard and then later seen by the River Avon completed the trio of sandpipers, all 3 having given some excellent views. A kingfisher perched in a tree along a drainage ditch completed a short but very pleasant visit.

That evening I headed off to Mount Edgcumbe just across the River Tamar from Plymouth in Cornwall for a moth trapping night , being run as part of National Moth Night by the Cornwall Moth Group. It was a warm, humid night but the moths were not very forthcoming with about 30 odd species being seen. I did see 2 new species though - a pretty chalk carpet and a false mocha, the latter apparently being rare in Cornwall.

 False Mocha
Black Arches - Mount Edgcumbe Moth Night

With family visiting, including my 9 year old nephew, it was time to go rock pooling again. At Bude on the 12th August there were plenty of Celtic sea slugs amongst the honeycomb worm casts on the rocks with shanny, green shore crab and gem anemone found in the rock pools.

 Celtic Sea slugs
 Honeycomb Worms

The next day at Wembury we added cushion starfish, a pipe fish, chitons, snakelocks anemone and hermit crabs to the list along with a smart adult Mediterranean gull in winter plumage feeding along the main beach.

 Snakelocks Anenome
 Chiton species, Wembury
Corkwing Wrasse? caught at Wembury
Green Shore Crab

A nice sighting at Bude was my first humming bird hawkmoth of the year, found by David at rest on the caravan awning, while the toilet block had a first for the year hedgehog-like drinker moth sat on a window sill.

 Hummingbird Hawkmoth
Drinker Moth doing a non prickly Hedgehog impression

A solo trip to Wembury on the 19th August after the family visit had come to an end was very pleasant in the warm sunshine and brightened up by plenty of butterflies including my first clouded yellow for 3 years. Another non avian flying highlight was a golden ringed dragonfly ovipositing in the stream in the valley to the beach, my first sighting at Wembury.

 Clouded Yellow
 Ovipositing Golden Ringed Dragonfly
Mating Bloody Nosed Beetles at Wembury

Thursday 8 August 2013

The wrong coloured legs

Back yard mothing continues with the appearance of first for the year lesser yellow-, large yellow- and lesser broad bordered yellow underwings, along with Jersey tiger moths including a yellow form (lutescens).

 Jersey Tiger - form lutescens with yellow underwings
 Jersey Tiger - more usual red underwing form
 Lesser Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing
Marbled Green - a lovely moth

Reports of juvenile yellow legged gulls at Wembury had me heading out there for a walk on the 7th August in hot and sunny weather. A rosy footman was a nice find in the toilet block but it was the only moth present, pretty poor compared to the past 2 years sightings. Along the walk I also found 3 six spot burnets, 3 silver y's and a first for the year rush veneer.

Rush Veneer

I checked out the gulls at Wembury Point but could only find pink legged herring gulls, black headed gulls and great black backed gulls - but unfortunately no yellow legged gulls. I did find 2 common sandpipers, 8 dunlin (5 in SP), at least 2 whimbrel, at least 4 curlew, a grey heron, 2 little egret, 18 mallard (eclipse males and females) and oystercatchers amongst the rocks, while offshore gannets were passing by.

Butterflies were much in evidence again, so far it has been an excellent year for butterfly numbers despite the doom and gloom prophecising after the poor summer last year and cold and late spring this year - nature always bounces back - although I don't doubt that environmental and climatic pressures remain a concern. Common blue and large white were very noticeable with good numbers of red admiral, meadow brown, gatekeeper, small copper and peacock also seen. 2 painted lady, a green veined white, small white, a small skipper, 3 wall, 2 small tortoiseshell and 3 speckled wood were also noted.

Wall - beautiful patterned underwings

Basking Painted Lady

After enjoying a coffee and pasty I had a look for clouded yellows in the valley leading to the beach on the walk back to the bus stop but I drew a blank. However I had a brief sighting of a dark green fritillary flying amongst the grasses before disappearing from sight, probably a female looking for violets to lay eggs on and a very unexpected sight. An even more unexpected sight was a dingy skipper which landed briefly on a bindweed flower before dashing off, another new butterfly for Wembury and bringing the days total to 16 species of butterfly.