Tuesday 28 June 2022

This week at the Old Vic

The weather has been pretty cool over the last week with plenty of wind and some rain which is keeping the garden lush. Birding highlight was a Magpie, the last one here was in the 4th week of March HERE and the other main change has been the appearance of the first juvenile Greenfinches and Goldfinches. 

The best moth night of the last few days was Thursday night with 256 moths of 87 species. Since then been lucky to get 100 moths of 50 species a night. Plenty of new for years and also Clay Triple Lines and Meadow Case-bearer are potential firsts for the garden. Garden moth list now on 531 and year list is 275. 

We've put the chicks out now in coop and run. It's a bit early but they were getting very smelly in doors so I've wired up the coop with a heat lamp so still providing them with a 26 C area to brood up in. Started feeding them more garden weeds (chick weed etc) and introduced a few meal worms. 

Had the first full meal from the garden so setting a new record with the first  fully self-sufficient day of the year. From now on we should in theory be largely self sufficient (or heavily supplemented) for several months (and will try and preserve as much excess as possible). So hopefully well prepared for the escalating cost of living crisis. Once the chickens are laying eggs will be even better. 

This week's addition to the mini-zoo include a Striped Raphael Catfish, African Aquatic Frogs, Mixed Danios and Nerite Snails. 
Clay Triple Lines - a new for garden (and lifer)
Barred Yellow- a garden NFY
White Satin- the first one for this year 
Buff Arches
Scarlet Tiger- seems to be a good year for these. In the heat wave I had six one night and they've been regularly turning up in one and twos since 
I've had the VES lure out but only been attracting Orange-tailed Clearwings- at least three around 
Kent Black Arches- the first for the year 
I think this is Meadow Case-bearer- the striped antennae are a feature which can make this species one of the few Coleophora species identifiable by sight. If I'm not wrong this is a new for garden and lifer. 311222 update- would need to rule out C.deauratella although I think we can as the antennae are striped and not white tipped. 
Small Emerald- the first for the year of this lovely species 
Short-cloaked Moth- a nice fresh specimen of this new for year 
Presumably Gordon Ramsey would spontaneously combust with this being paraded as a meal but boiled potatoes and broad beans supplemented by duck eggs (from Steve's) was the first fully self grown meal of the year. A bit of further cheating with some mayo and butter and it was delicious. I'd have to lock horns with Ramsey on this as there is something about eating the food that you grow yourself, you can taste the effort, the patience and the care, the love. It's a bit like your ugly baby or partner  that only you find beautiful. It's intimate and personal. It's a unique dining experience and the government can't tax it, and growing food is like printing money so basically it's the best taste in the entire universe. It’s the taste of freedom.   
The chickens at three and half weeks old outside 


Thursday 23 June 2022

The London Arches

As usual every week I do two or three days in London working on the tree and garden game and try to weave in a bit of birding/mothing stuff.  This week I stayed in the straw bale barn at our business yard (as it is currently not rented out) and ran three moth traps at our HQ which is on the North Downs in an area of small holdings, chalk grazing meadows with areas of chalk grassland nearby. Wednesday evening I met up with Gillian and we had a look at Carshalton Pastures (an area of Chalk Grassland) and the Carshalton Lavender field.

Pretty standard fare in the work I had to look at, mainly hedge trimming this time of year but a lot of the gardens are looking great this time of year.  

120 moth species over the two nights so not bad. A few highlights below. 

Grey Arches, a lifer (two images above) and Dark, Light and Reddish Light Arches below (consecutive images)

Tawny-barred Angle I presume 
White-line Sober type- Synopacma larseniella/taenolella - a gen dent job
A stunning well defined Mottled Beauty
Still working on these pugs (above and below) . Perhaps Shaded Pug (below). 

Marbled White Spot- only the second one or so that I've seen
Cypress Carpet was well represented with five or six a night 
This juvenile Starling woke me at at 500am after chatting to Matt to the small hours (about 1am) about stuff like how the ULEZ extending to our borough will affect our business and how we are being pushed along the net zero route even further for better or worse. Dieter Helm describes the current energy and cost of living crisis as the first Net Zero crisis so what with soaring inflation, the Brexit related labour shortages and trade obstacles plus the new net zero regulations coming in we (and all businesses) have an interesting journey ahead (I suspect a very challenging one but one potentially leading to a business environment with is more favourable to our business model). What with all the trees and gardens we maintain for wildlife, all the planting we do plus the recent land acquisitions and the circular waste economy we operate (the green waste we produce powers our business offices etc) I presume we must be both carbon positive and achieving net biodiversity gain already (or well on the way to it)  but it would be good to get some comparable metrics on it all. We have our show/experimental/control gardens where we measure and monitor biodiversity but we don't have any similar ways of measuring our carbon.  The Starling had somehow got into the wood burning stove by flying/falling down the flue. 
Pyramidal Orchid at Carshalton Pastures- a couple of these in what is rather rough Chalk Grassland, dominated by tall grasses.

Tuesday 21 June 2022

The Old Vic, first harvests and fish farts

A quick update on the Old Vic fronts.

Birds: 74 species for the year now Ebird year list here , with up to 30 species a day at the moment. Not much happening as expected for this time of year, more young birds appearing including the first young Greenfinches, a couple of Skylarks have moved into fields within sight of the garden now, Spotted Flycatcher prominently 'singing' again and been hearing the Tawny Owls calling again at night.

Moths: Now on 248 species for the year (528 for site) the recent highlights including Dark Sword Grass today, a Clouded Brindle and just a great selection of summer moths (approx at least 60 species of 100 moths on an average night).   

Mini-farm: Harvested the first Strawberries, potatoes and broad beans this week and also a load more Rhubarb. The garlic is also ready and now drying out.  The Light Sussex/Isa Brown chicks have outgrown the first brooder so we've moved them into a bigger brooder (Jacob's old travel cot). 

Wildlife Garden: A few more plants have gone into the butterfly border including Flox, Buddleia and Red and White Valerian. 

Mini-zoo: The Yellow-bellied Toad escaped from the Paludarium but luckily we re-found it and seems okay. Added Yellow Labs (another African cichlid) and a Convict Cichlid to the Mbunas, Mollies and Weather Loach in the Paludarium. Need to update the species list now as also added several new tropical and aquatic plants. 

Newly fledged Dunnock (above) and hopefully one of our greenhouse Robins (below) maturing up 

This female Blackbird worked out that I've been releasing the moths in thick undergrowth after processing so I've had to resort to what I understand a lot of moth recorders do which is keep the moths during the day in shelter and then release them somewhere safe at dusk before turning the trap on to make sure they disperse widely first. 
A constant sight and sound at the moment (after being elusive for a while). Lucky to have garden Spotted Flycatchers. At least one this morning but possibly two. Ebird checklist from this morning here
Closest I can get to this is Bugloss Spear-wing, Tinagma ocnerostomella. Update 040123- not accepted by the CMR Team. The palps indicate a gelechiid.   
I love getting migrants here. Seems like a lot of migrant activity this year across the country with loads of Striped Hawkmoths, Scarce, Eastern and Bordered Straws, Vestals etc, mainly on the coast but unfortunately we're stuck in little league here where Dark Sword Grass (above) is a welcomed visitor. Also had a Silver Y this morning and a Delicate last week plus quite a few Diamond-backs and possibly migrants in the form of Angle Shades and White-points.  Despite not getting many quality migrants seems like being 'stuck' inland is not so bad for things like abundance, diversity and also dispersal in entomology (the Small Black Arches was brilliant last week- quick tangent, a reminder of the limitations of social media validation as the best thing I've seen all year got one like on twitter where if I put a picture of hawkmoths on social media it can get 10% validation from my friends/followers proving in this instance that there is sometimes little correlation between scientific value and populist value/validation). I would love to move to the coast one day (that's the long term plan) but in the meantime trying to focus on any advantages of being landlocked which seems to have more going for it entomologically with many localised species found in non-coastal habitats. Really need to make the most of the fate of being landlocked as looks like no chance of moving to the coast yet for several years yet (so not much chance of any quality migrant moths) so like Jo the Cabbie said to me a when our campervan broke down in Wales and her friend lost his leg in a work accident 'Embrace the disaster' . 
Lappet- never get tired of these beauties 
Orange Pine Twist 
Clouded Brindle- looks like I was stringing these last week for Pale Shouldered Brocades 
Brown Scallop- don't get many of these 
Three weeks old, interesting to watch the feather development with the wing coverts first, then the primaries and now the down is being replaced on the scapulars. Can't confidently sex them yet and also still need to wait to see whether they are pedigree or hybrids (the fertilised eggs were from a cock Light Sussex and a mix of Isa Brown and Light Sussex females). It's still a week or so away before we can introduce them to the outside but they outgrew the first brooder so moved them into Jacob's old travel cot (below) and also started to introduce some chick weed into their diet, eventually we want to feed them on mini-farm produce/ excess/weeds etc. 

Jacob helping out harvesting the Strawberries and Potatoes (above and below) 

The Garlic has been pulled and looking pretty good
Strangest task of the week was trying to get this Weather Loach to fart. The back of it's body kept drifting up so I googled it and the internet said I needed to take it out of water so it could expel excess gases in it's secondary swim bladder (I've been enjoying using Google and You Tube to learn how to do the mini-zoo and chicken rearing- a bit late to the party I know but this is the first phase of self teaching I've done without any reference to books at all). Seems to have worked , see video below (Weather Loaches can stay out of water for hours and during droughts burrow themselves in the mud). 

Monday 20 June 2022

Big Night Hangover

A big moth night always leaves a trail of carnage in it's wake. So I've spent the last two days trying to identify worn and non-descript micros and battered macros from the heat wave.

Here's a few guesses, tentative ids and some awaiting confirmation. 

The only thing I can think of is one of last year's Black Arches which has somehow survived to now (above and below) ?? 

I've put it down as Acleris hastiana
I've gone for Ox-tongue Conch 
A couple of Coleophoras which I presume are nad inspection jobs (above and below) 

Syndemis musculana
It looked too big and distinctly marked for a Marbled Minor agg so maybe Minor Shoulder Knot? 040123 update from CMR team- too worn to tell what this is. 
Maybe a small Cnephasia?
Something like Cydia ulicetana or Cydia microgrammana?
Maybe a Little Ermine ?
I give up
Common Drill I presume  (these need gen dent) 
I tried 
If they (these scops) are dark like this I lean towards E.mercurella
Holly Tortix I think- that fold in the forewing is distinctive

Loads of beetles in the traps too including a couple of Lesser Stag Beetles 

This was very small so I suspected it might be a Small Plume but Irecord came back as outside known range so presumably more likely to be a worn diminutive Beautiful Plume 
Good idea to do what Jacob does and just stick to the Hawkmoths