Saturday 29 October 2022

Portland Mini-trip

After work on Wednesday I simply had to get down to the South Coast to try and connect with some of this epic moth migration that's been going on in this spell of southerlies (also brought in loads of Pallid Swifts across the UK). I overnighted at Kojak's on Wednesday night and then we headed down to Portland from Thursday to Saturday. On Thursday night I ran an MV in a coastal quarry east of Southwell and on Friday night a Heath trap from the Pulpit Inn. I got a few migrants but nothing that great but it was a different story back at the Observatory were Martin, Jodie and Co had up to 10 traps on the go. Highlights in photos below.

The birding was pretty good too (Ebird trip report HERE). Did a bit of noc-mig from the campervan (just a few Redwings and Song Thrush). 

In short we didn't find much ourselves (either birds or moths) apart from a Short-eared Owl and a wing-barred Phyllosc that was too distant and disappeared over the cliff with Long-tailed Tits before we could nail it so basically just did a load of fantastic island twitching.

Thanks again to Martin for all his help on this great little trip. Now back home in the migrant desert of Bucks praying for something to be blown all the way in land here. We've still got a few more days of these southerlies.    

Pallas's Warbler in the obs car park- there were three on the island 
Short Eared Owl over East Cliffs 
Wryneck in the Obs quarry. In addition to the scarcer migrants we also had some nice vis-mig (mainly finches, pipits, Skylarks and Woodpigeons) and good numbers of Stonechat (we counted nearly 40), a single Wheatear, Barn Swallow, a few Bramblings, a Snipe, surprisingly few Redwing by day and only one Fieldfare, a couple of Firecrests, Merlin, still quite a few Chiffs around and a couple of Blackcap
Moth highlight was this Egyptian Bollworm (above and below)- the 11th for Britain and the 4th recorded at Portland. A resident of Africa, Asia and Australia and recorded in the Mediterranean. Some British records have been imports but other records in the south associated with influxes of migrant moths are suspected to be genuine migrants. Considering the location, the weather conditions and the association with a major moth migration event, this indeed is a prime suspect for a genuine migrant. 

Crimson Speckled- Martin caught this while doing the net run in the fields (in his sock apparently lol). This species has never been caught in the light traps at Portland with all records there relating to individuals found in the field. There were 12 of these at Dungeness today and similarly none of them came to light so certainly one to look for by day. This species has been the 'cover-girl' of this period of migration (if I understand correctly this is a record influx) so it was great to catch up with one but a bit disappointing to not find one despite a lot of searching. (We also spent hours and hours looking for a Pallid Swift in vain. Thank goodness other people were having more luck than we had.) I did a search on this blog to see where I've seen Crimson Speckled before abroad and there was a reference to having seen them on Corvo in 2011 (we had two in the Lower Fields and I had only started looking at moths then so didn't have any context for them and I didn't record them anywhere officially as didn't know their local status) - I did a quick literature search this evening and it appears they might have been the first records for Corvo (I definitely haven't seen any there since, see postscript for photos) so with a bit of time travelling I did in a way find my own Crimson Speckleds today  :-) Also while searching for the photos of the Corvo Crimson Speckleds I also found photos of a Spotted Flycatcher on Corvo and a first-winter Arctic Tern from Sao Miguel, two species I had totally forgotten I'd seen on the Azores and need to add them to my Azores list- so two new Azores ticks today too!- I found more rarities lurking in my computer in the last hour than I did in three days on Portland in super charged weather conditions. 
Vagrant Metal-mark, Teberna micalis- another good one 
Radford's Flame Shoulder- only one or two of these. This time last year I was here when Martin had 65 in the trap (Portland had over 600 last year in total). Radford's have been notably very scarce this year on Portland (maybe the establishing population got wiped out in this year's drought?). 
Cosmopolitan- two or three of these. A lifer. In total I had 7 moth lifers so a mighty fine little trip. 
Oak Rustic- a few of these too. Another lifer. Not a migrant I don't think as established in this area. 
Scarce Bordered Straw- good numbers (probably 15 to 20 over the trip) of this rather variable moth, a dark/patterned one (above) and a paler/plainer one (below).

Small Mottled Willow- two or three of these too. 
Palpita vitrealis- always nice to see and quite a few of them too
Diamond-back moth. Conspicuous by it's low keyness in not only this major influx but this whole year of moth migration. I only saw this one throughout the whole trip.
Vestal (above) and Crocidosema plebejana (below). In addition to these migrants and the migrants above we also had Delicates, Dark Sword Grass, Silver-Y, lots of Angle Shades, White-Points, Turnips, Rusty-dot Pearls and stacks of Rush Veneers (coming up at our feet while walking too).  

A couple of Portland specialities- Flame Brocade (above) and Beautiful Gothic (below). Also lots of Feathered Ranunculus, a single Feathered Brindle and lots of White-specks. 

A unseasonal presumed Shaded Pug (a lifer)
A Bloxworth Snout (another lifer on the bogey moth list). Another species that does not come to light at Portland but found during the day. 
A presumed Tomato Leafminer, Tuta absoluta . An adventive moth, originally from South America has become a pest in Southern Europe. It flies later than other similar species, well into December. 
A couple more shots of the Shortie

Another shot of the Pallas's showing it's best bit 
Northern Wheatear
Up to 500 Gannets off the bill were impressive to watch feeding in the keen southerly wind

Crimson Speckleds from Corvo October 2011- resurrected from the archive from when I had just started taking an interest in moths, as far as I know the first records for Corvo and only records away from Santa Maria (see Azores moth list HERE  ). By the sounds of it Crimson Speckleds are quite variable with the red markings sometimes forming cross bands and the black spots sometimes reduced to tiny specks (the two specimens above and below are clearly different,). The only other place I've come across Crimson Speckled is from their 'home' in North Africa (and the Med), so a species more at home with sand vipers etc, see HERE . Particularly on Corvo there is also the similar American species, Beautiful Utetheisa, Utethesia bella to look out for (recorded once in UK on Skokholm, 1948), which is like Crimson Speckled but has pink bands and blotches and also the hind wing has a pink tinge.  If all goes to plan will hopefully be expanding the mothing effort on the Azores next year. 

First-winter Arctic Tern on Sao Miguel in 2011. A retrospective Azores tick as I forgot we saw this- had just been watching a White-tailed Tropicbird. Also a Spotted Flycatcher photo lurking in the archive- another species I'd forgotten I'd seen on the Azores. 

Tuesday 25 October 2022

The Old Vic- Torture at the Sanctuary

It's half term, I've used up all my brownie points this autumn (with West Papua) so I've been stuck in family and domestic life for the last few days while meanwhile an epic moth migration (check out my twitter feed, on side menu, for some of the carnage going on)  is occurring across the south coast. I've got work booked in tomorrow in London but planning an escape (will take the rap when I get back) from there to the south coast for the rest of the week to try and eat some dust. Despite running three traps here I've had very little in the way of migrants in the garden traps and even kicked the bucket trap (my home made one) this morning in frustration with how shit it is being stuck in land. It's literally torture being stuck in land in autumn. 

Anyway idyllic homestead life continued nonetheless- gardening, the morning garden bird walk (still cant find a f@@ing Yellow-browed!) checking the traps (f@@king empty of vagrants!), Holly's been re-decorating and refurbishing the house,  going to the tip, garden centre visit, farm shops, pub/ cafe lunches, farmers market- it's been hell :-)    

Anyway something did happen to cheer me up a bit- one of our chickens laid an egg. £505 (the cost of setting up the coop and feed etc) and 5 months later and we have made 33p (the price of an organic free range egg- our chickens have got 13 square ft each so I think that's classed as free range during bird flu).We 'only' need 1530 more eggs now to break even (assuming no further large costs). So I spent a bit of time recently getting the coop ready for laying (three hens) so needed to move the cockerel to a new coop. The cockerel (Lazlo) escaped in the process but we used Bryan's pheasant hunting dog to corner him and re-catch him. Will try and completely free range him once bird flu is over and in the meantime try and train the dog to not eat him.  

First-winter male Blackbird. The garden birding has actually been pretty good with Brambling, Golden Plover, good numbers of Redwings and Fieldfare, Mipits, Siskin and Redpolls etc. An example of one of the best mornings recently HERE
If I had no knowledge of the outside world (and everything I was not catching) I would have been quite happy with these two- a nice Delicate (above) and only our second Clifden Nonpariel this year (below) 

On the migrant front, the Delicate was the highlight and supporting cast was up to 5 Rush Veneer (below), Rusty-dot Pearl (above) and a few Turnips. 

A few of the Turnips (above) and the Rush Veneers (above that) were pretty dark. Not sure if melanism a feature of late autumn or maybe if migrants got something to do with the environment they have come from?
Dark Chestnut
I went for Pine Carpet on this
Went for Rhomboid Tortrix on this- the Old Vic moth year list is now on a nail biting 487- will we reach the 500 in a year target (not if I keep leaving for greener grass!) 
Brick- another new for year
Merveille du Jour- a few of these recently. I was over the moon when I got my first one of these a couple of years ago See here. Amazing how quick ungratefulness can infect :-)
Three Large Wainscot this morning- a garden record
The £505 egg
Had to dig out some horse radish while extending the chicken coop- will try and rustle up some horse radish sauce today
Our cockerel, Lazlo. In his new coop after his attempted escape (I know how he feels, got all he needs but still wants freedom!) 
We picked the Pumpkins
Autumn at the Old Vic. If this place was on the coast it would literally be perfect (which the universe does not allow!) 

Friday 21 October 2022

Beddington Farmlands

Did the farmlands yesterday in between work. The good vis mig continues with good numbers of migrants Ebird list here. The highlights included a Hawfinch (calling over Mile Road bridge that somehow managed to elude me seeing it), a good passage of Redwing (I had over 300 but Zach and Roger watching from the mound had nearly 1000), a Water Pipit, Redpoll and Siskin, 2 Brambling, Peregrine, 3 Green Sandpiper, 5 Snipe, 5 Skylark, 6 Reed Bunting, 12 Wigeon and 3 Pintail. I put the noc-mig on at my mum's (on the edge of the farmlands recording area) and the migration had been going on all night with over 500 Redwing calls and also Blackbirds, Song Thrush and Robin migrating all night long into dawn and beyond. Also one Lapwing flying over my mum's garden. Sounds and Ebird list Here

Male Pintail (above), first-winter males moult into an adult like plumage and are later than adult males to moult from eclipse so this bird could be a first-winter male as its still very much moulting. A female/juvenile Pintail (below)

Redwings on the move

Also a few Fieldfares
and double figures of Chiffs (above and below) 

View over the Wet Grassland hide- still showing the effects of the drought. Not sure how this has affected the site's Lapwing population which must be in a critical state following the extreme (but widely predicted) changes in wetland environmental factors
Blackbird and Song Thrush moving over
Redwings migrating- this was basically going on all night long. A really impressive bit of Redwing migration across the whole country over last three days all triggered by the sudden change in wind direction and speed. The bulk of the birds arrived in Yorkshire and crossed the country across to Lancashire. Seems like some groups headed south accounting for the counts in a few thousands at various vantage points in places like the Farmlands compared to the tens of thousands across the main flyway, with over 120,000 recorded over one site in Lancashire. Birds pushed through west that resulted in an arrival on the Isles of Scilly (although mainly Fieldfares there which were also on the move in smaller numbers) and also there was a single Redwing on Corvo yesterday (a bird I still need for my Azores list). 
A bit of variation on the usual Blackbird calls