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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Got there in the end...

Several hours at Pilmoor wood, and the first of the years biting midges reminded me why I don't enjoy Pilmoor in early summer.....  A modest catch with a few new for the year, but the main point of interest was a dark poorly marked carpet that had me wondering all day.  I then stumbled across it on UK Moths in a moment of idle browsing, and it turned out to be of the dark form of Water Carpet Lampropteryx suffumata f. piceata.
Dark form of Water Carpet

A quick summary of catch at Pilmoor wood 29 apr 2011

Taxa
0006  Eriocrania subpurpurella  1
0670  Depressaria daucella  1
0986  Syndemis musculana  1
1645  Scalloped Hook-tip (Falcaria lacertinaria)  1
1646  Oak Hook-tip (Watsonalla binaria)  2
1725  Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet (Xanthorhoe ferrugata)  1
1750  Water Carpet (Lampropteryx suffumata)  1
1759  Small Phoenix (Ecliptopera silaceata)  3
1852  Brindled Pug (Eupithecia abbreviata)  4
1881  Early Tooth-striped (Trichopteryx carpinata)  4
1887  Clouded Border (Lomaspilis marginata)  1
1919  Purple Thorn (Selenia tetralunaria)  2
1920  Scalloped Hazel (Odontopera bidentata)  1
1936  Waved Umber (Menophra abruptaria)  1
1947  Engrailed (Ectropis bistortata)  5
1951  Grey Birch (Aethalura punctulata)  2
2000  Iron Prominent (Notodonta dromedarius)  1
2003  Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac)  5
2006  Lesser Swallow Prominent (Pheosia gnoma)  17
2078  Least Black Arches (Nola confusalis)  1
2158  Pale-shouldered Brocade (Lacanobia thalassina)  1
2187  Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi)  1
2188  Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta)  6
Pale Shouldered Brocade
Scalloped Hook-tip
Syndemis musculana

Monday, 25 April 2011

Just to show I can do birds in Yorkshire....

Driving out through Kirby Hill from Boroughbridge, heading towards the A1 junction at 14:20 today, I spotted a Marsh Harrier quartering the rape-seed fields to the east of the road.  The harrier was presumably a young bird, due to the mass of pale tips to the primary and secondary coverts, and some pale mottling on the underwing coverts.
Marsh Harrier
The bird attracted the attention of a local crow, and it gradually gained height before flying off strongly to the north-west.
Marsh Harrier being harried by a rather moth-eaten Carrion Crow

Yet more square-bashing

I never thought I would be thankful for a bit of thundery rain, but it did mean I could take a rest on Saturday night.  So, fully refreshed, I ventured up north to a square NZ40 which was obviously under-recorded, and having identified a likely spot in a predominantly beech wood on the northern fringes of the NY Moors, I set up just the one trap, the 125MV Robinson.  I gave it 4 hours, and came up with 78 moths of 14 species...all but one of which appear to be new for the 10km square.

A quick summary of catch at Scarth Nick Wood on 24 Apr 2011

Taxa
0150  Adela reaumurella  1
0341  Phyllonorycter maestingella  1
1852  Brindled Pug (Eupithecia abbreviata)  9
1902  Brown Silver-line (Petrophora chlorosata)  7
1947  Engrailed (Ectropis bistortata)  1
1951  Grey Birch (Aethalura punctulata)  1
2015  Lunar Marbled Brown (Drymonia ruficornis)  4
2139  Red Chestnut (Cerastis rubricosa)  3
2162 Glaucous Shears (Papestra biren) 2
2179  Pine Beauty (Panolis flammea)  2
2182  Small Quaker (Orthosia cruda)  2
2187  Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi)  32
2188  Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta)  9
2190  Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica)  4
Phyllonorycter maestingella
I really should point out that the micro above is only about 4mm in length.......photos can be very misleading!

Engrailed
Glaucous Shears

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Trapping a new site near Helmsley

Third night on the trot, and why not while the weather is so good; the temperature actually held up a bit longer and was still +8 at 0100.  I tried a new site that I had identified during last year, and it proved to be a good spot, and I set up the 160MVB over a sheet, and a 125MV Robinson trap.  The obvious highlight of the night were six Brindled Beauties, that all turned up after midnight, and interestingly were only attracted to the 160MVB, with three on the sheet, and a further three found among the grass.  Charlie Fletcher advises that this is probably a record count for Yorkshire.
Brindled Beauty
A quick summary of catch at Tup Hag Wood 22 Apr 2011

Taxa
0006  Eriocrania subpurpurella  2
0663  Diurnea fagella  1
0667  Semioscopis steinkellneriana  1
1750  Water Carpet (Lampropteryx suffumata)  2
1852  Brindled Pug (Eupithecia abbreviata)  14
1853  Oak-tree Pug (Eupithecia dodoneata)  5
1881  Early Tooth-striped (Trichopteryx carpinata)  8
1917  Early Thorn (Selenia dentaria)  2
1919  Purple Thorn (Selenia tetralunaria)  2
1920  Scalloped Hazel (Odontopera bidentata)  4
1927  Brindled Beauty (Lycia hirtaria)  6
1947  Engrailed (Ectropis bistortata)  14
1951  Grey Birch (Aethalura punctulata)  1
2008  Coxcomb Prominent (Ptilodon capucina)  1
2010  Scarce Prominent (Odontosia carmelita)  4
2015  Lunar Marbled Brown (Drymonia ruficornis)  3
2060  White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda)  1
2078  Least Black Arches (Nola confusalis)  4
2182  Small Quaker (Orthosia cruda)  1
2187  Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi)  12
2188  Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta)  28
2189  Twin-spotted Quaker (Orthosia munda)  1
2190  Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica)  6
Least Black Arches
Oak-tree Pug

Friday, 22 April 2011

A bit of square bashing.....

With this unseasonably warm daytime weather and blue cloudless skies, a novelty alone in Yorkshire, I have spent the last two evenings out trapping.  The downside of the clear daytime skies is that as soon as the sun dips below the horizon, the temperature soon drops off, and reached about +6 soon after midnight on both days.
The first night produced 79 moths of 13 species at Pilmoor, pretty standard stuff, and then last night at Silton, 116 of 15 species.  New for the 10km square at Silton was a Scarce Prominent, while a more expected and splendid Glaucous Shears was a little early and only my 3rd record in VC62.
Scarce Prominent distribution in Yorkshire, post 2000 records in red (thanks to C Fletcher).

Scarce Prominent
While the Scarce Prominent looks uncannily like a worn-out boot, the Glaucous Shears is a rather attractive mix of shades of grey, brown and cream.  Brindled Pugs and Clouded Drabs also featured in some numbers.
Glaucous Shears
Brindled Pug
Clouded Drab

Sunday, 17 April 2011

A great face for radio......

It has been a busy 24 hours, with a brief excursion up north to the fabulous Northumberland coast, and settled myself down among the dunes and managed to find the drake Black Scoter among the Common Scoter.  It was surprisingly easy to pick out with what look like a ludicrous orangey-yellow plastic bill stuck on the front.  It was a pleasure to find it and watch it on my own without the nearby hordes.  The fabulous drake Eider and a couple of amorous Puffins were a delight to see too.
Bamburgh Castle
Back to last night, which was the culmination of several months of emails between me and Iain Chambers, a BBC Radio 4 producer.  As long ago as November, Iain had made contact through the Dorset Moths website, wanting to get in touch with local moth’ers for a programme on moths.  I explained although I ran the Dorset website, I actually lived in Yorkshire, but still arranged several contacts for him to follow up down south.  Thinking that was the end of it, subsequently, he mentioned that the presenter was Martin Wainwright who lives in Leeds, and was interested in recording a mothing session here in Yorkshire.  They were due to do a recording at Shandy Hall in Coxwold, and so I suggested a trapping session nearby in Kilburn woods.  The date set to do this was 16th April, which is still early in the season, and in plumping for one date was fraught with the dangers of poor weather on the night.  I enlisted the very welcome help of Charlie Fletcher, Jill Warwick and Diane Bowes to make it a joint effort, and to give more recording opportunities for the producer and presenter.

So, with fingers crossed, last night came around, and at least it was going to be dry and calm, if rather chilly and cloudless with a big moon.  We all met at the rendezvous point as planned, although Diane was not able to join us till the morning with her partner Ian, and was ably substituted by Charlie’s wife Joy.  Following brief introductions, three groups of traps set in different 1km squares in the woodland, was accompanied by a number of recorded conversations, prompted with ease by Martin.  Time was running a bit tight to get to the Forresters Arms by 2100, and having agreed to regroup at 0700, the four moth’ers made it to get something to eat with 30 seconds to spare!  Some excellent beef and ale pie and a welcome pint followed, and then I bid goodnight to the others, as I agreed to do the night-watchmen shift.
Byland Abbey
The temperature did indeed drop overnight, with down to +6 around 2300, +4 at 0200 and just +3 at dawn.  However, the lightening sky revealed a beautiful morning, and we re-assembled again at 0700 as arranged.  The number of moths reflected the cool conditions, but was sufficient in number and variety to be interesting and not overwhelming.  On top of that, Scarce Prominent was new for the other three moth'ers present, and a Brindled Beauty was so for Diane and Jill.  I managed several new 10k square records for me, and I think we were all very pleased with the results.  
Brindled Beauty
There were a number of more recorded conversations, and as if the successful mission accomplished was not enough, we were then treated to a freshly cooked bacon buttie and a cup of coffee from Diane, Ian and Jill, to round off a perfect night.
Breakfast!
The programme is due to be broadcast on Radio 4 on Friday 6th May, at 1100.

The combined list from the three 1km sites were as follows:
0006 Eriocrania subpurpurella  2
0663 Diurnea fagella  1
1747 Streamer 1
1750 Water Carpet 5
1852 Brindled Pug  11
1881 Early Tooth-striped  13
1902 Brown Silver-line  6
1919 Purple Thorn  3
1927 Brindled Beauty  1
1947 Engrailed  9
1951 Grey Birch  1
2006 Lesser Swallow Prominent  1
2010 Scarce Prominent  5
2015 Lunar Marbled Brown  2
2078 Least Black Arches  1
2139 Red Chestnut  2
2140 White-marked  10
2179 Pine Beauty  1
2187 Common Quaker  31
2188 Clouded Drab  23
2189 Twin-spotted Quaker  19
2190 Hebrew Character  25
2236 Pale Pinion  1
2258 Chestnut  3

Friday, 15 April 2011

Wot..no birds?

I had the opportunity to visit the island of Malta for the first time this week, on a work related assignment, flying out from Leeds to Rome, on to Reggio de Calabrio, then to Luqa on Malta.  The first full day was spent initially at the tiny G─žadira Nature Reserve in the north of the island.  Pretty much the only decent wetland site on the whole of the island, which can be viewed from elevated sites either side of the reserve.  On finding the site entrance, which was heavily padlocked, I met the warden who kindly invited me in and allowed access to both hides.  He explained the reserve was only open to the public at the weekend, but during the week was used to share the islands nature with the local schoolchildren.
Ghadira Nature Reserve
The shallow pools held several Little Egrets and a Grey Heron, and a reasonable selection of waders including 25 Ruff, several Wood Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilts, Little Ringed Plovers, Little Stints, Snipe and a Curlew Sandpiper.
Wood Sandpier and Ruff
The reserve held the first larger birds that I had seen, as it was incredibly noticeable the total lack of any birds such as corvids, thrushes, gulls or anything other than Sardinian Warblers, Fan-tailed Warblers and Spanish Sparrows.  A Hoopoe was flushed from one of the paths, and was seen minutes later hanging in a mist-net, being one of the few birds ringed there that day.  It was mentioned that numbers were generally low, and that they would be expecting good numbers of Wood Warblers in the tamarisk at this time of the year.
Spanish Sparrow

Fan-tailed Warbler
Just before leaving the reserve, a distant flock of c.30 Night Herons were seen flying toward a distant headland.  The warden advised that he hoped that the herons moved on, as the official start of the Spring shooting season was due to start on the Wednesday 13th.  A drive on the nearby hillside provided distant views of several Blue Rock Thrushes, but little else.
Coastline just west of the reserve
In the afternoon, booked in to the Raddison Blu Golden Sands hotel for meetings, and on the room window had my first moth, a Double-striped Pug.  The only other moths seen were a Vestal and a micro which has yet to be identified.
Double-striped Pug 
Little opportunity to do much on the Wednesday, but had a Yellow-legged Herring Gull from the hotel, heard several Blackcaps and Corn Buntings.  Thursday was spent visiting Air Malta, before being free in the afternoon, when I revisited the reserve in the north of the island.  Just looking from the raised areas, the numbers of birds seemed fairly similar, although the Little Egrets now numbered c.20 in total.  Walking around on the headland in the north-east of the island, confirmed that there was rather little about, except I did add a fabulous male Pied Flycatcher, an Egyptian Goose (?!), several Tree Pipits and a couple of Chaffinches.  This was probably the best time of the year to visit Malta, due the profusion of flowering plants and greenery swathing the rocky terrain; I can imagine a summer visit would be rather dried out and brown.  A few butterflies, mainly Clouded Yellows, smaller and larger White spp.. and a good number of the Maltese race of the Swallowtail.
Star of Bethlehem
 A gentle drive back down the west coast of the island along the high cliffs, produced the first Wheatears, which were all Northern Wheatears.
Northern Wheatear
The whole island is dotted by small stone-walled bothys, most with canvas or timber canopies, which were where the shooters would secrete themselves before blasting unsuspecting migrants from the sky. 
Birds beware.....
I should consider myself very fortunate that I only heard several gunshots, and did not see any hunters.  But the total lack of larger birds was very evident, and I was fortunate to bump into a carload of workers from Birdlife International who were there monitoring the carnage that is still perbretated on an anuual basis with the full blessing of the Maltese governement.  Absolutely scandalous that this slaughter is allowed in these supposedly enlightened times, and full credit to those few enlightened people running the reserves and trying to re-educate the locals.

Monday, 4 April 2011

500 miles, two lifer's, the best fish and chips in the world....oh, and visit Mum on Mothering Sunday

This flying visit to Ireland had been booked for some weeks, so was relieved to hear that the Stejneger's Scoter was still hanging around at Rossbeigh.  Arrived Cork Friday evening, and spent an hour or so at Cobh, missing the Indian House Crow for the second time.  I then drove to Killarney for something to eat, and then on to Rossbeigh for the night.  Heavy rain and strong winds overnight, but awoke to some blue sky with odd showery clouds scuding by.  A sweep of the bay saw at least 500 Common Scoter in scattered groups, seven Great Northern Divers and an Eider.  Three other birders walked down the lane, so I walked up the lane, and sure enough soon picked out the target bird at several hundred metres range among 200 or so Common Scoter.  It was suprisingly easy to pick out, with the white flash behind the eye and the white secondary panel, but if any further out would have been a real challenge.  I called the other birders over, casually asking where they had come from....and yes it was bloody Yorkshire.  What a fabulous vista of the choppy sea, especially as the sun came up casting shadows, loads of Gannets wheeling about, and several Chough calling from the hillside.

Rossbeigh
It then took 4.5 hours to drive across country to Wexford to stay the night at Mums, where we paid a brief visit to Kilmore Quay.  I had my first Sandwich Terns of the year fishing off the quay, summer plumaged Razorbill, and close views of a Guillemot, which unfortunately was oiled on its breast.
Guillemot, Kilmore Quay
 On Sunday, had a brief visit to Ladys Island, where there were small numbers of wildfowl, but of interest were at least 40 Mediterranean Gulls, mainly summer-plumaged adults, a single 2nd summer, and at least two first-winters.  The rather effeminate 'oooeer' call from some of the Meds was very distinctive, if not rather amusing.  Not much to report from nearby Tacumshin due disturbance from several birdwatchers walking about, but was more than compensated for by some battered cod goujons and home-made tartare sauce from the best chippy in the world at Kilmore Quay.
Heading back to Cork in the late afternoon, heard the flight running at least 2 hours late, so swung down to Cobh for a very brief visit, and within a couple of minutes saw the Indian House Crow perched on its favorite drain attached to the Papa John's fast-food outlet.
Indian House Crow
   So, third time lucky for the House Crow......if you can call it lucky, pass the bucket... but then again it is an interesting bird.  It rounded off a very successful and enjoyable weekend, and even the delayed flight and not getting to bed until 0200 this morning did not spoil the memories.