Friday 26 April 2024

Disconnection from nature and connection to the hospital

It is a dangerous thing when a connection to nature is broken. Without a garden or a decent local patch and a long slow uninspiring Spring over the last few months, while waiting to move into our new house, I've let myself go a bit as a result of less exercise and activity. One portion of saveloy and chips for lunch followed by a doner kebab in the evening was all it took to get to the tipping point and I ended up with a stomach infection and in hospital for three days.   

Ending up in hospital is like going to hell before you actually get to hell, like a taster, especially in some NHS run hospitals. No better incentive than hospital food and people screaming, vomiting and shitting themselves all around you, to never ever ever get ill. 

So after my Scrooge Xmas Carol like experience I have committed to reform, a more healthy life style, especially diet and will throw myself into our new project, when we move ,with even more vigour and drive (provided by some fresh hell fear!).

Anyway that's why not much to report on this blog but off to Azerbaijan tomorrow (in knee high compression socks prescribed by my doctor) for vagrant hunting and spring birding on the Caspian sea , so stay tuned. 

Thursday 18 April 2024

Steppe Gull write up in Dutch Birding

Nice to see our short note in Dutch Birding this month about the Steppe Gull flock we discovered in Azerbaijan last year; the first fully documented record of this species for the country and a little piece in the puzzle of this species migration distribution. Also a stunning piece this month about a Swallow-tailed Kite on the Azores by friends - quite frankly much more exciting than gulls! Dutch Birding remains the premier birding journal for the Western Palearctic packed full of other excellent articles too.  

We've got another exploration trip to Az planned, leaving within the next two weeks which is pretty exciting- Spring migration and vagrant hunting on the Caspian Sea. 

I've added this month's dutch birding publication to this blog's publication page, our latest contribution to the great cosmic birding effort HERE

Monday 15 April 2024

Cuttlebrook Corridor

A break in the wet and windy conditions resulted in a flurry of migrant birds along Cuttlebrook and a few more moths in the light trap.  Ebird list HERE. Highlights included Yellow Wagtail, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps, all new arrivals to the local patch.

Garden moth year list now on 51 species. 

Blossom Underwing- a bit of a worn one
Red Twin-spot Carpet- the first of the year and quite early too
Great Prominent- a couple of these recently 
Unidentified gelechid? 
Greylags over Cuttlebrook 
Found a patch by the brook with lots of animal tracks including these possible Otter tracks (in the area where I saw one in December). Will put up a camera trap when I get a chance
The rental new build not looking so bad with the adjacent farmland- they want to build on this field 

Saturday 13 April 2024

Easter Week Two- Trip to Devon

Just back from a cracking few days in Devon visiting Jaffa and one of Jacob's friends. We stayed in a really cool log cabin at Clifford Park Bridge and did some moth trapping every night there (three nights) which yielded a few moth lifers. On Thursday we visited Pennywell Farm with the kids and on Friday met up with Jaffa and explored the Lower Otter Restoration Project (LORP) and twitched the local Beavers in the evening. 

Meanwhile over at Beddington, Mark Bravery found the first Woodchat Shrike for the site, which was a bit gripping! 

Male Goosander on the River behind the cabin- also had Mandarin and Dipper on the river 
Little Ringed Plover- on the newly created LORP habitat. Also had a few other summer migrants including Willow Warbler, Barn Swallows, Blackcaps, Sandwich Tern and Whimbrel.  
Eurasian Beaver on the Otter (an old male locally known as Gordon) 
Grey Birch-lifer
Early Tooth-stripe- lifer
I presume an Oak Nycteoline although I thought it might be a Semioscopis sp when I first saw it 
Marbled Pug- lifer
Water Carpet- lifer 
Great Prominent- several of these. Also had a few other nice moths including Scalloped Hook-tip, Lunar Marbled Browns, Lesser Swallow Prominents and Engrailed. 
Frosted Green
Birch Tortrix, Epinotia immundana (I think) 
Our log cabin at Clifford Bridge Park 
The River Teign behind our cabin
The Lower Otter Restoration Project has developed a lot since we visited last year with the breach now creating estuary mud flats 

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Northern Drab- Moth lifer

Had a good moth night over the weekend at the rental with 21 species (the best night of the year).

Highlight was a Northern Drab- a moth lifer for me (my 981st moth species) which was identified by Martin Townend (Oxon CMR) after I posted an uncertain Orthosia sp to irecord. The same night I had Pinion-spotted Pug and Chamomile Shark with other supporting cast of Pine Beauty and Streamer so a really nice little catch. 

Garden moth year list now on 45 species. 

Northern Drab.  Comment from Martin: The big thorax, gun-barrel straight costa on very angulated FW make it opima. Seems to be having quite a good year
Pinion-spotted Pug
Chamomile Shark - only the second one I've had of these (close up of diagnostic wing-tip below, showing intrusion of black lines into the outer wing edge) 

Frosted Green - a nice fresh one 

Thursday 4 April 2024

Easter week one

The flood waters are high again on the Cuttlebrook corridor and a couple of sessions there over the last week with Jacob have been very quiet- just singing Chiffchaffs. However we can't get very far along the brook due to the high flood waters so can't check the best spots. 

We spent a couple of days recently down at Selsey getting quotes for the reburb before we move in next month. We had a quick visit to Arundel WWT.  Highlights included my first summer migrants for the year, a couple of Sedge Warbler and a Sand Martin, also Green Sandpiper and a calling Tawny Owl. Ebird checklist HERE. Gave me an opportunity to try out the new lens- results below.

The moth trapping picked up this weekend after a lull due to relentless rain and cold night temperatures. It was warm today with a pulse of saharan dust laden air bringing in bird and moth migrants to the south. No such luck here but a few NFYs. Garden year moth list now on 36 species. 

Male Mandarin- a free flying bird
Male Chaffinch 
First-winter Mediterranean Gull with first-winter Common Gulls 
More rain at the rental 
Siskin on the garden bird feeders
Powdered Quaker
Frosted Green
Lunar Marbled Brown
MV at the rental garden 

Tuesday 2 April 2024


As I have neither a decent garden or a decent local patch at the moment (our move date is set for late May) I've resorted to living in the past and updating my world lists and been revising what I've seen and where. 

I'm mainly using Ebird and i-Naturalist and been transferring data from spreadsheets into the central hub of iGoTerra which seems to be the best global pan species listing platform. Natural history is infinitely complex and we all reluctantly have to draw some lines around small parts of it in order to focus so I've more or less limited myself to just recording Birds, Mammals, Reptiles and Amphibians, Moths and Butterflies and Dragonflies which is basically the highly visible groups which can be seen while Birding is the primary objective.  

It's still a work in progress, still got lots of butterfly and moth records to take across but so far my stats show that I've recorded 4535 species across 45 countries of the world. I reckon I've still got another 500 to add so should be around the 5000 mark. I've done loads of plant recording and other taxa too but I'll keep them out of it- might add orchids at some point maybe. 

So going forward, I'm very conscious that most of my life is behind me and I've spent a lot of it doing local patching, project work, campaigning and research and not so much Eco-toursim (aka window licking) so basically I've only seen a very small part of the natural world (there are at least 2 million species on Earth). So it's definitely time to start getting through the bucket list before it's too late. 

So looking at my map there are some clear gaps in South America, Central Africa, Middle and Central Asia and particularly the Far East and China. We are going to Australia this summer so that will be a good start. It will be great when Jacob and Isaac are old enough to travel properly too.

In terms of targets I'm hoping to get to 5000 bird species (half of the world's birds), 500 mammals (its a round figure- there's 6500 global species) and I'm going to set myself a tidy 10,000 moths and butterfly species target (there are 160,000 moths and 17,000 butterflies on the planet) (120524 update- on reflection this is probably too much of a headache - probably best to make lep targets up as I go). For herps and dragonflies I'll make it up as I go along. The main framework going forward will be to target iconic species across the taxa I look at it i.e. looking for Narwals, Fossas, Polar Bears, Birdwings, Tropical moths, Albatrosses, Ground Rollers and Pittas rather than number crunching micromoths, cisticolas, babblers and furnariids.

Will see how I get on! Assuming I don't get conscripted to fight the Russians and can keep running from the rising Global Authoritarianists and have a bit of health luck on my side- I have a life expectancy of another 25 years or so- not very long at all and of course I could have much less time than that. Better get moving.