Saturday 31 July 2021

Mixed Weather Wildlife Watching

The heat wave has finally ended and it is now cooler, cloudier and wetter - and it is quite a relief! At least it is easier to sleep at night now and a shift at work isn't quite the sticky and uncomfortable experience it has been. 

I had the moth box out in the back yard on Wednesday 28th July and on checking it out the next morning there were fewer moths as expected following the drop in the temperature. A total of 12 moths of 8 species were in the trap with a Flame Shoulder new for the year and 3 smart looking Knot Grass the pick of the bunch.

Knot Grass

Thursday 29th July was a rare day off together and so we headed up onto Dartmoor for a cream tea at Badgers Holt and a walk along the River Dart. The cream tea was OK but with new owners now running the cafe the scones were light and bready and not the usual cakey wedges and the jam wasn't the usual home made jam but came in a jar from a company based in Lifton. 

It was a mostly overcast day but warm with brief sunny spells and our walk along the river was very enjoyable with Beautiful Demoiselle, Golden Ringed Dragonfly, Silver-washed Fritillary, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Nuthatch, Grey Wagtail and Marsh Tit all seen. We also found a few bilberries which were very tasty but stained our fingers purple with their juice. 

Silver-washed Fritillary

Silver-washed Fritillary

Storm Evert lashed Cornwall and Devon overnight and so I decided to visit Rame Head for a seawatch on Friday 30th July. It was windy and showery when I arrived at Whitsand Bay off the bus and I wasn't hopeful of seeing much and so it proved to be with just 10 Manx Shearwater, a Fulmar, Gannets, a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull and 3 Harbour Porpoise seen along with the usual Shag, Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gulls. 

Pont Aven from Rame Head

A Peregrine, 2 Kestrel, Stonechat, Swallow and Whitethroat  were also noted along with Dodder growing on the Gorse and despite the weather I managed to see a Red Admiral, 2 Gatekeeper, a Meadow Brown and 2 Whites. 



Saturday 31st July and with the calm after the previous days storm I decided to head out to Wembury for a walk. It was warm but mostly overcast and was overly busy due to it being a Saturday in school holiday hell time and with the ongoing COVID foreign travel restrictions but I enjoyed my wander along the coast path anyway. 

The tide was coming in and feeding along the beach were mostly Black-headed Gulls including quite a few juveniles along with 14 Mediterranean Gulls (5 juveniles) and Herring Gulls. A juvenile Yellow-legged Gull was a nice surprise as it flew along the beach before heading out to The Mewstone, showing the whitest and least marked rump I've seen before.

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull

Out on The Mewstone a Fulmar was flying around the cliffs where a pair were resting on a nest with a well developed looking chick. A few Gannets were picked up offshore but there was no sign of any Shearwaters.

Also along the beach were 3 Whimbrel, a Little Egret and 58 Oystercatcher and along the footpath the usual land birds were also seen - Chiffchaff, Cirl Bunting, Stonechat, Whitethroat and Linnet - with a Willow Warbler and a Greenfinch also noted.

A total of 7 Common Lizard were basking in the occasional sunny spells including 2 small and dark youngsters and a very confiding individual at the bus stop. 

Common Lizard

Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, a Ringlet, a Small Skipper, a Red Admiral and a Green-veined White were flitting about and 3 male Beautiful Demoiselle were jostling together over the water by the bridge. 

Saturday 24 July 2021

Back Yard Moths

Birds really are taking a back seat at the moment with the current hot weather but back yard mothing is keeping me occupied.

It was back to work on Tuesday 20th July after my annual leave and with the hot weather it was not a joy.  I must have drunk my body weight in water from the cooler but my pee was still like toothpaste and after 12 and a half hours of hot and sweaty work I arrived home tired and cranky. I wasn't going to get the moth box out but it was a very hot and airless night and so I decided to make the most of it. 

I was up early the next morning, around 5am, and it was delightfully cool as I sorted out the moth trap. It was nice to see Birdy 2021 on the flat roof enjoying a drink from the water bowl put out for him and he was joined by one of the adults which kept very quiet for a change. 

The moth box was full, the best night of the year so far, and the most obvious moths were 5 Jersey Tiger Moths flitting about in the trap, my first of the year. 

Jersey Tiger Moth

Also present were 5 Peppered Moth, again my first of the year and much more docile and accommodating than the Jersey Tigers.

Peppered Moth

There were a total of 34 species in the trap with the highlights being 2 Marbled Green, 4 Coronet, Swallow-tailed Moth, Brussels Lace, Knot Grass, Clouded Border, Cabbage Moth, Nut Tree Tussock, Common Carpet, Bird Cherry Ermine, Acrobasis advenella, Dioryctria abietella and Cydia splendana. 

Swallow-tailed Moth

Brussels Lace

Knot Grass

Nut Tree Tussock

Common Carpet

Bird Cherry Ermine

Acrobasis advenella

Dioryctria abietella

Cydia splendana

The biggest surprise was a Black Rustic, a moth that is usually on the wing in September/ October.

Black Rustic

Despite the pleasent and cool conditions at such an early hour it quickly became another baking hot and sunny day and so I had a quiet time trying to keep cool before heading off to work for a night shift. I had hoped it would be a bit cooler at night than the previous days shift had been but it didn't prove to be so and it was another hot and sweaty and uncomfortable shift and I was glad to get home the next morning. Yet another hot day ensued but with cooler and breezier weather forecast for the following day I had the moth box out in the back yard again that night and on waking at 5am on Friday 23rd July the moth box was full yet again. 

It was indeed noticeably cooler and with quite a strong breeze as I sorted out the trap and it was all very refreshing. The trap held just 2 Jersey Tiger Moths and a Peppered Moth this time but there were a total of 28 species all together.

The highlights were 2 Marbled Green, a Coronet, a Dot Moth, a Dunbar, a Single-dotted Wave, a Dingy Footman, a Common Footman, a Buff Ermine and a Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing.

Single-dotted Wave

Dingy Footman

Common Footman

Buff Ermine

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing

Spindle/Apple Ermine

After sorting out the moths I headed out to Wembury for a walk, enjoying the fresh breeze and cloudy skies although it still felt quite warm. Gatekeeper, Ringlet and Meadow Brown were flitting about but in much lower numbers than seen in the heat and sunshine of last Monday and a single Speckled Wood was also noted. A single Common Lizard was also seen basking on a wooden fence post, probably enjoying the cooler weather conditions as much as I was.

I wasn't expecting much in the way of bird life but was very pleasently surprised with a definite feel of autumn in the air despite the heat wave weather. The tide was dropping and along the beach were the usual Oystercatcher with a Whimbrel, 2 Common Sandpiper, a Redshank, 2 Sanderling, 2 Turnstone and 12 Dunlin along with 3 Little Egret and 4 female Mallard.

Gulls were roosting on the rocks and amongst the mostly Herring Gulls of various ages were Great Black-backed Gulls including a few juveniles, a few dark looking juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls, quite a few juvenile Black-headed Gulls mixed in with the adult birds and at least 5 Mediterranean Gulls including a nice looking juvenile.

Mediterranean Gulls with Herring Gull

Black-headed Gull

Despite scanning through all the Gulls with my tired eyes I couldn't find any Yellow-legged Gulls this time but I did find something yellow, a very smart juvenile Yellow Wagtail feeding along the beach and being constantly harassed by the Pied Wagtails also feeding nearby. It was very flighty due to all the attentions from the Pied Wagtails and I eventually lost sight of it when it was flushed off by a walker.

Yellow Wagtail

Another interesting sighting was a family group of 5 Mistle Thrush feeding in the horse field, 2 adults with 3 well grown fledglings and presumably locally bred.

Mistle Thrush

Stonechat, Whitethroat, Cirl Bunting and Linnet were all noted along the footpath too and despite having a very interesting and enjoyable walk I was glad to return home for a quiet afternoon of just mooching about after all the recent heat.

Cirl Bunting

Wednesday 21 July 2021

Heat Wave Wildlife

It has become very hot and sunny since our return to Plymouth from our trip to Suffolk with the heat increasing daily. It is also very still with very little breeze and it is becoming quite unbearable but it has meant that conditions are perfect for back yard moth boxing. 

I had the moth box out in the back yard on our return to Plymouth from Suffolk and on checking it out the next morning on Friday 16th July after a warm and muggy night I was pleased to finally get a decent haul of moths.

The highlight was a Chocolate Tip, the first one I have ever seen, and other highlights in the trap were a V Pug, 3 Coronet, a Marbled Green, an Old Lady and a Grey/Dark Dagger. 


Marbled Green

Old Lady

Grey/Dark Dagger

Saturday 17th July and I headed down to Falmouth in Cornwall for a 7 hour boat trip offshore to look for cetaceans and sea birds. It was a hot and sunny day as the heatwave continued to build and with very little breeze the sea was flat calm and crystal clear.

Manx Shearwaters were constantly seen along with Gannets and Fulmars. A single Storm Petrel was seen resting on the sea before flying off, a Whimbrel flew over the boat heading towards the coast, an adult Mediterranean Gull was feeding amongst a group of Black-headed Gulls and a Raven and a juvenile Peregrine were seen flying along the cliffs.

Manx Shearwater


The conditions were ideal for looking out for any movement at the waters surface and we were very lucky to find 4 pods of Common Dolphins, all amazing encounters as they came to bow ride at the front of the boat and giving fantastic views in the clear water. They were close enough to hear their vocalisations and blows at the surface, a wonderful experience.

Common Dolphins

Common Dolphins 

Common Dolphins 

Common Dolphins 

Common Dolphins 

Common Dolphins 

Common Dolphins

An Ocean Sunfish was another good find as it flapped its fin at the surface and we also had good views of a Harbour Seal and 3 Grey Seals close to the shore. The floating and very smelly corpse of a Minke Whale was a sad sight and not the one we had hoped to see. 

Minke Whale corpse

Sunday 18th July was hotter, sunnier and even less breezey and so we headed out to Bolt Head for a coast walk, figuring it may have been cooler along the cliff path than elsewhere and indeed it probably was but only just slightly so. The hot weather meant there were butterflies everywhere and I found my first Gatekeepers and Graylings of the year along with a Dark Green Fritillary, Small Copper, a Common Blue, Meadow Brown, a Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Skipper, a Speckled Wood, a Small Tortoiseshell and Whites.


Monday 19th July and on checking out the back yard moth box in the morning there were fewer moths than previously but the highlights were a male Four-spotted Footman, a Clay, a Brussels Lace, 3 Coronet, a Small Fan-Footed Wave and a Poplar Grey. 

Four-spotted Footman (male) 

Small Fan-Footed Wave

Poplar Grey

After checking through the moths I headed out to Wembury for a walk, my first for a few weeks now, and it was even hotter as the heatwave continues. 

Butterflies were again very noticeable and I was pleased to see a Wall, a Dark Green Fritillary,  2 male Common Blue, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown, Whites, Ringlet, Gatekeeper and quite a few Comma. 



On the incoming tide there were 27 Oystercatcher, 2 Curlew, a Little Egret and 15 juvenile Black-headed Gulls amongst the adult Gulls out on the rocks. 

Whitethroat and Stonechat fledglings were seen along the footpath, both seeming to have had a good breeding season this year and Whitethroats were heard singing too. 2 Cirl Buntings were heard singing  and another male was briefly seen while overhead a Buzzard, Kestrel and juvenile Peregrine were noted.