Sunday 29 May 2022

Steady week at the Old Vic

Disappointing that no decent migrant moths in the moth trap considering Striped Hawkmoths and Bordered Straws have invaded the country, just a few Diamond-backs and one Rush Veneer in last couple of weeks. I noticed Dave Grundy based in Tarifa had over 200 Striped Hawkmoths last night alone plus loads of other moth migrants so obviously the UK is at the edge of a big event (one also involving bird migrants like an Eleanora's Falcon). Meanwhile in Bucks.. things are less exciting, in fact quite the opposite with the only thing that got my frontal lobe slightly engaged recently was the variation in Large Nutmegs and Nutmegs (luckily we are off on family holiday later today to stave off the impending brain starvation).  

Little Egret over the garden at dusk yesterday
The chances of me finding a migrant moth were reduced even further when I found this Great Tit in the moth trap surrounded in moth body parts
The bloody dog (Izzy) spooked the Robins out of their nest in the greenhouse and later went on to kill one - I doubt they have much chance now but still putting out meal worms to assist the adults and trying to keep Izzy under control. Not sure about other people's dogs but cats seem to get the hard time with killing birds but in our garden the dog kills quite a few every year too, especially fledglings.  So far we've had Song Thrush, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Great Tit and Blue Tit fledglings in the garden (luckily most of them avoiding the dog). 
The first Privet Hawkmoth of the year 

Had two Alder moths one day in week 

I went for two Large Nutmegs on these (and also for the two photos below) despite the differences in size 

I went for Nutmeg on this one

Friday 27 May 2022

Working week

More of an interesting time of year at 'work' (the paid repetitive kind of work) now with longer evenings to do stuff after work and more interest in gardens and green spaces. This week was quite busy, I had to look at 17 different locations for a variety of tree work, planting and small meadow creation jobs with visits to the accountant and Little Woodcote base too with an evening trip with Gillian on Wednesday evening to Happy Valley looking for orchids and a meet up with Zach and Dodge over the farmlands on Thursday following the report of a Little Swift in the region. 

Here's a few wildlife highlights. 

Fly Orchid at Happy Valley
Man Orchid, quite a few of these. Also had Common Spotted Orchids and literally hundreds of Common Twayblades in the Orchid Field. Will return in a few weeks for some of the later species. 
Common Milkwort
Another Fly Orchid- we had about seven of these including a couple right out in the open grassland 
Sanicle- no idea how I'm not familiar with this plant- it was everywhere and very distinctive
A micromoth to id from the Happy Valley Orchid field (below). Presumably just a Common Marble. 

The water levels at Beddington Farmlands are a bit better now. Good to see sacrificial crops doing well and some other signs of restoration progress. No Little Swift unfortunately (one had been claimed not too far away in Catford). 
One of my favourite gardens in the week at work- young foxes running around outside the chicken coop and I liked the rather woodland garden theme for a typical three bed suburban semi. 
Autumn Olive Eleagnus umbellata- not one I see often in the gardens we work in 

Sunday 22 May 2022

The week that was at the Old Vicarage

On the bird front it's all a bit quiet, lucky if I get 25 species on a morning survey at the moment, during the late winter I could get 35 species. The bird year list sits at 73 species HERE. As usual after a vocal start when they first arrive the Spotted Flycatchers are being even more elusive (this must surely be a somewhat under-recorded species as they often get high in the canopy and the short buzz and high pitched calls would be easily missed if you weren't on point- see sound recording I made a few years ago here).  Mistle Thrush was singing again yesterday, three Barn Swallow were investigating the Sheep Field Barns and there's about six or so House Martins and a couple of Swifts in the village. 

The moth year list is climbing with 110 now (the CMR is on 200 already in his garden! Dave runs one or two traps more or less every night so would be interested to know what we would get if we matched that effort- we are doing three or four nights a week outside frequent trips ) and according to Irecord we are now on an all time 500 species for the site (although need to wait for verification).  There's been a major Striped Hawkmoth influx this week across the south of UK (mainly southwest) but unfortunately the only migrants here have been Diamond-back moth, Rush Veneer and possibly White-point and Turnip. There's been at least three Striped Hawkmoths recorded in the Upper Thames region in the last few days so will keep trying here. I've also been trying in vain this week for Clearwings with the VES and MYO pheromone lures out on a couple of days. 

The mini-farm is going well, we must have about 30% more area in production this year with nearly all beds planted up now. The eggs in the incubator at at day 8 (another 10 days to go before the chicks arrive- fingers crossed).

All good in the mini-zoo with the Palludarium ready to get it's first tropical inhabitants by next weekend.

I went for Ingrailed Clay on this one (above) compared to a Small Square Spot (below) ? Update 270522, CMR says it's another Small Square Spot. 

Mottled Pug (above) and Foxglove Pug (below). I've gone for Foxglove rather than Toadflax based on broken black central band with beige internal bars. Toadflax should be more solid black ?

There are three confusing species (for me) at the moment, Large Nutmeg, Nutmeg and Rustic Shoulder-knot (and also Clouded-bordered Brindle and Dusky Brocade). Some specimens seem relatively straight forward but some worn ones get me head scratching. My best shots at these three are Nutmeg (above), Rustic Shoulder-knot (below) and Large Nutmeg (below that) ?

I went for Spotted Shoot Moth on this, Rhyacionia pinivorana
Little Dwarf Elachista canapenella 
Diamond-back Moth- always nice to get some migrant action here despite being in one of the worst places in the country for it!
The mini-farm May 2022 (above and below)

The four varieties of potatoes are coming along well at different rates. 
Jacob enjoying building his bedroom rainforest (above and below). The Common Frogs living here seem to be enjoying their tropical holiday and growing fast. 

The Robin chicks in the greenhouse have still not been eaten by the dog (yet!)  

It was Moth Night 2022 over the weekend so I put a trap up at  Henry's ,Waterstock Mill in the Poplar wood (the 2022 theme was woodland) by the River Thame. 16 Poplar Hawkmoths and five new species for the site list there. 

Thursday 19 May 2022

Early days at Howell Hill

Gillian and I tried our luck at Howell Hill yesterday evening after work to look for some early orchids. Not too many out yet but we did find the Early Spider Orchid and a handful of others. 

Early Spider Orchid  (lifer)
Green-winged Orchid
Common Spotted Orchid
Common Twayblade
Small Heath 

Monday 16 May 2022

Back at the Old Vicarage

It's been three weeks since the last post about the Old Vicarage, three weeks which mark one of the most rapid changing times of year. The ground vegetation has shot up by about 3ft, the moth catch species diversity (and overall entomology) has increased multiple fold, the vegetables in the mini-farm have been through a rapid growth spurt (as has Isaac who is now six months old), all the leaves are on all the trees now (the Walnut is still not quite fully out), the Spotted Flycatchers have arrived back in the garden, the Swifts are screaming overhead and there are more young fledglings about and plenty of young calling from nests. What with hawkmoths, Swifts and flycatchers now on the stage I guess it's officially Early Summer/ Late Spring. 

Eyed Hawkmoth- one of the less regular hawkmoths in the garden. Plenty of Poplar Hawks about now too.
Great Prominent- an overdue new species for the Old Vic (and lifer). Now on 494 moth species for site. 
Alder Moth- quite a rare one for us
Blotched Piercer, Pammene Albuginana- another first for site (and lifer)  if I remember correctly. 
A first generation Setaceous Hebrew Character. This typically abundant autumn moth has a small appearance in Spring- I think the first time we've had a spring one. 
Scalloped Hazel
I find these Twin-spot Carpets confusing. The default locally is Red Twin-spot but this seemed larger and subtly different markings so maybe a Large Twin-spot Carpet? Some Dark-barred Twin-spots are also very similar to Red Twin-spot. Update 270522- CMR says just another Red Twin-spot Carpet. 
If I'm not mistaken this is Dark-barred Twist, Sydemis musculana. Another good one for the garden. 
This looks like Birch Conch, Cochylis nana? Can't remember coming across this one before either.
Sparrowhawks have been displaying and calling overhead
A Robin is nesting on the sprinkler head in the green house which means we are having to water the mini-farm by hand until we can get our sprinkler back. The eggs hatched last night and there are four chicks (and one unhatched egg). 

The mini-farm coming along. Need to plant out the pot-ons from the Greenhouse. So far we've got five varieties of potatoes, various lettuces, rhurbarb, leeks, spring onions, sweet corn, beets, sweetcorn, strawberries, gooseberries, currants, onions, parsley, basil, other herbs, tomatoes, runner beans and sugar snap peas on the go plus the fruit trees (apples, pear, plum) and nuts (hazel and walnut). 
Head gardener (Bryan) and Jacob
Jacob helping out with the new raised beds
Meanwhile back in the house- the chickens are on their way. We've borrowed an incubator and some fertilised eggs (Isa Browns and Light Sussexs) and now have to wait and get the chicken house ready. 

Meanwhile back at the mini-zoo- the Palludarium is coming along with the plants and environment beginning to stabilise and grow. We've got about four months before my next longer trip so will hopefully make good progress with this over the next few months. Need to do a species inventory soon of what is actually going on in the mini-zoo now as the species list is growing fast- will try and achieve maximum bio-diversity in this palludarium.