Thursday, 18 July 2019

Insects Galore

It's been a good week, which started in great form finding my first ever patch Purple Hairstreak!  I noticed there seems to be good numbers of the species about this year, and had my eyes on a few Oak trees on the edge of some woodland in Colyton at the end of Jobble's Lane...

For some reason these caught my eye


And on my first time of checking earlier this week, ten minutes into scanning I picked one up!  I saw it several times over the course of the next five minutes before it flew deeper into the woods - love it when a plan works out!  No pics I'm afraid as no settled views, but such a thrill to see.

I have had three mothing nights this week, starting with a trap at Mum and Dad's on Sunday night.  Early on Monday morning there were 142 macro moths of 42 species for me to look at, with the highlights being...

Scarce Footman - haven't caught many of these at all

Scarce and Common Footman

The Herald - a stunning moth

Black Arches - common but was my first this year so needed a photo!


The next night my moth trap was at Fran's house where 121 macro moths of 32 species were caught, with one clear highlight for me...

Male Drinker - such a beast!


On Tuesday night it was back up to Mum and Dad's again, 104 macro moths of 28 species were waiting for me the following morning and included one of my favourite moths...

Male Four-spotted Footman

And again with a Common Footman


Also among the catch were...

Maybe common but always beautiful - Burnished Brass

Pine Carpet - don't catch loads of these

Small Blood-vein


Phew. And that's the insects done!  No notable birds to mention so will go straight to the lunar activity of the last few days.  The moon has been pretty impressive all week as it is, and here's it rising on Monday night...

Taken during another unsuccessful Quail hunt!


But of course the highlight was the amazing partial lunar eclipse on Tuesday evening...

21:30

22:30. Look at the colour of it!!


Hopefully there will be some more feathered content in my next post...


Saturday, 13 July 2019

A Red, Red Knot

Clive found this lovely summer plumaged Knot on the Estuary today. It remained distant whilst I was there but still such a pleasure to watch...

There was a Common Sandpiper just to the right of shot as well


Not been out birding much lately although I have done a bit more mothing, the highlight from this being a new species for me. Yes it's one I should have seen long ago, but I have just never caught one of these at Mum and Dad's. A cracking Bordered Beauty from Fran's garden...

Such a stunning moth and so vibrantly coloured


Staying on the insect theme - after what for me was the worst spring and early summer for butterfly numbers that I can recall, it's been great to see excellent numbers about this month.  All the usual species seem to be out in good numbers making the absolute most of this warm weather, including this Comma from Lower Bruckland Ponds...

So smart


Monday, 8 July 2019

A Good Moth Night

On Friday evening it was great to have a moth trap out at Mum and Dad's. I haven't trapped here for a few years now, after a couple of years of fairly intense trapping - so I do feel like I know the site quite well. 

The weather was perfect, and although there was no evidence of any long-distant migration it was a super catch with 427 macro moths of 44 species.  Absolutely no surprise that the most numerous three species were Heart and Dart (129), Dark Arches (102) and Large Yellow Underwing (42).  Pleasingly Hawkmoths were well represented with 18 of four species...

L to R; Poplar Hawk, Elephant Hawk, Small Elephant Hawk and Privet Hawk.

Two Privet Hawks were a bit of a surprise because I've only ever caught five here before!

Privet Hawks are so HUGE!

Poplar Hawks have the fluffiest of heads!

Elephant and Small Elephant Hawks

Same as above but a different view


Out of the rest of the catch a White Satin was the pick of the bunch. On the first night I ever moth trapped in the garden (29th June 2009) I caught five of these, so at the time thought I may have stumbled upon a local population - but no - not a sniff of another until this one on Friday night...

Silky white wings and those zebra striped legs make this moth a bit of a cracker in my books!


Hoping to get my Robinson trap repaired soon, so you have been warned - moth content is set to rise on the blog if that does happen...

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Making the most of my lunch hour

I never forget how lucky I am to live and work in this part of the world. So much natural beauty so close to home, enough to completely immerse yourself in.  

Just take today for example, when I actually managed to get a full lunch hour at work. I spent it alongside the River Axe just below the A3052 road bridge...

Not somewhere I visit often


The whole time I was there, despite the fact it was 1pm, there was a constant chorus of singing Reed and Sedge Warblers, Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat - the latter presumably the apparent unpaired male that is popping up all over the river valley. Part way through my wander a Hobby zipped through low north west, causing mad panic among the lingering 30+ Sand Martins.

I spent most of the time looking down though, thanks to the several hundred White-legged Damselflies on view.  This species distribution is fascinating, they seem to be so site faithful - hundreds in one spot, a rarity just a few hundred meters downstream. For example, Lower Bruckland Ponds is less than 1km away from where I was today, with a small stream linking the two sites, and is by far our best Dragonfly site - yet I've never seen one here.  Among the hundreds of White-legs I saw today there were just five Common Blue Damselflies present.

White-legged Damselfly male

Same as above!

White-legged Damselfly female


Great to see four male Scarce Chasers on territory here too, my highest count away from Lower Bruckland Ponds. This species really is on the up, with numbers increasing here every year - just amazing to think they weren't here at all in the early 00's!

Scarce Chaser male

Scarce Chaser - a different view!


As to be expected, there were plenty of Banded Demoiselle about...

Male Banded Demoiselle


Then I went back to work...  And that's how you do a lunch hour! 

Friday, 28 June 2019

Wood Sandpiper and Lesser Emperor

It's been good to spend a bit more time out today, and I'll start with the birds.  A mid morning visit to Black Hole Marsh was timed exceedingly well, as Ian Mc had just found a Wood Sand...

Wood Sand and two Dunlin

Not just any old Wood Sand - a breeding plumaged adult!

Remained distant so was a good test for the P900


I've had a look back through my blog and notes, and am pretty sure this is my first every June Wood Sand on the Axe.  We don't usually see the first returning autumn ones until mid July at the earliest, and all spring birds have been in April and May.  Not only is it the earliest, but it's the least worn adult I've seen too - still in pretty much full breeding plumage. So so different to the pale brown juvs we see in August, nice.

Also on Black Hole Marsh were numerous Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank (one juvenile), two Dunlin, three Teal and a Green Sandpiper. A little later Sue Smith also had a Little Ringed Plover and a Greenshank - autumn seems to be starting early this year.  Although saying that, many of the Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank never actually left us!

A Black-tailed Godwit looking like this can surely only be an adult, so why not even bother going north?


A little later an enjoyable tram ride showed additions in the form of a Greylag Goose on the Estuary and a Lesser Whitethroat singing at the north end of Colyford Common.

I also found time for some dragonflying this afternoon, which was nice because during the last month weather and work has not allowed for much of this.  I spent an hour and a half at Lower Bruckland Ponds dreaming of finding a Vagrant Emperor (been an influx of these to the east coast), so when I spotted a mostly brown Emperor with blue restricted to segment two I thought I'd only gone and done it....but not quite!  I soon realised it was a male Lesser Emperor, still a cracking insect and a really exciting find, but I can't help by feeling just a little short-changed!

Male Lesser Emperor Lower Bruckland Ponds


This is the fourth male Lesser Emperor I've found here (16th July 2006, 10th Aug 2012 and 19th June 2017) but easily the most enjoyable, because it was actually showing well. Hence why for the first time I actually managed to get photographs!  The other three were all brief flybys with Emperors in hot pursuit, but this one seemed to have found its own territory and spent the half-hour I was there patrolling - I even watched it fly up and pluck a Common Blue out of the air before feasting on it.  Amazing!  

Male Lesser Emperor again - showing blue on side of seg 2 (unlike Vagrant Emperor)

Out of focus but still so recognisable!


Other Odonta on show included my first couple of Small Red-eyed Damselflies of the year, at least 16 Scarce Chaser (one female), eight Four-spotted Chasers and excellent numbers of the other usual species.  This is such a great dragonfly site.

Now I know I have posted plenty of Scarce Chaser photos on this blog before, but as they are one of my favourites I just can't help but post a few more...

Scarce Chaser male

Scarce Chaser male from underneath

Scarce Chaser mating pair


What a top late summer day! 

Thursday, 27 June 2019

A rare tern to the left of me, another to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with Moths...

...but not really stuck at all, because it was an absolute joy to dust off one my moth traps a couple of nights ago.  I have Fran to thank for that, whose interest in learning what moths were/are using her garden was all the encouragement I needed!

One Skinner trap was run all night on the evening of 25th/26th,  and although I was distinctly rusty it was great going through the egg boxes again.  I didn't have time to give the micros, pugs and minors a proper look, but the rest of the macros were made up of 184 moths of 32 species.  A very respectable catch and a credit to Frans back garden!  

My highlight was the Lime Hawkmoth, I've only caught a couple of these in Seaton in the past...

Lime Hawkmoth


And an L-album Wainscot was nice to see, a south coast special... 

L-album Wainscot


Was great just seeing some of the common ones again too...

Elephant Hawkmoth and Scalloped Hook-tip


Moths aren't the only insects causing me recent glee... the huge invasion of Painted Ladies is just incredible!  Not seen numbers like this for years...

Painted Lady upper view

Painted Lady underside


I have been birding quite a bit lately, with the main aim of finding a patch Quail.  Not had any luck yet but I did stumble upon a churring Nightjar at a new site a couple of night's ago which is great news, and the fields between Axmouth and Rousdon seem to be home to more Yellowhammers than ever!

Male Yellowhammer


I will not give up with the Quail hunt though, this year has to be our year!


Saturday, 8 June 2019

Glossy Ibis

Whilst with the family in Lyme Regis this afternoon I was surprised to get a message from (no longer) 'Midland's Mike' telling me of a Glossy Ibis on the Estuary from Tower Hide.  It was first found by visiting birders mid afternoon.  A surprise turn up in June, most new Glossy's tend to appear in mid-late autumn on the Axe.

I didn't see it until late this evening, and wasn't able to get round to the Tower Hide so my views looked a lot like this...



Would have been point-blank from the hide!

Although this is my 29th Glossy Ibis on patch - frustratingly I am yet to find one!  I was nowhere near finding this one as my birding levels have been woefully low this spring, but hopefully one day I'll pick one up dropping in somewhere. I presume enough years down the line they won't be rare at all, so am sure it's just a matter of time...