Sunday, April 29, 2012

Afton Marsh Rodents

Last night I had the Trailcam out at Afton Marsh again, with another one of Carole's favourite apples to entice the local rodent population!

I'd also thrown down a few peanuts and seeds etc. This footage shows a Bank Vole making off with as much as the small stuff as possible to put into storage before starting on the apple. At the end of the clip you can see the Bank Vole feeding during this morning's heavy rain....concluding with a brief clip of the area when I arrived to find it flooded and the Trailcam sitting in the water. Fortunately, it proved that it is watertight!

This clip features two Wood Mice. The first one appears just before 8.30pm as the local All Saints' bellringers engage in a bit of campanology!

Mute Swan update - Sunday

This is the sad sight that greeted me when I visited the Swans' nest this morning. The two eggs were nowhere to be seen. The Freshwater Causeway is a very busy pedestrian thoroughfare with a number of dog-walkers, ramblers and other local folk passing by each day and all I can think is that the eggs have been taken by someone for some reason. The nest is very visible and easily accessible. In Birkhead & Perrins' Helm Guide, The Mute Swan, they state, 'We have never known any predator other than humans take a swan's egg. Human predation, however, is very common, either from 'mantelpiece' collectors or from 'I dare you' types.'

It's brought home how this blog is a potential source of information and so I've decided not to comment further until it's appropriate to do so.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mute Swan update - Saturday

I'm pleased to be able to announce the arrival of the second egg in the new nest earlier today. Strong winds and persistent rains are forecast overnight, but I'm hopeful that this new nest....which continues to increase in height and girth daily....will come through!

This bit of video gives you some context for the photos that I have been posting. It begins with the male, standing on the Freshwater Causeway and then the footage shows the female as I walk past the site of the old nest that failed earlier in the week, and through the reeds to the new growing nest with its 2 eggs. When I walked past later in the afternoon, the female was sitting on the eggs while the male stood next to her pulling further beakfuls of reeds onto the nesting platform!

The fungi below was on an old branch of wood on the other side of the river. It looks like it can be identified? I'll have a look through the book tomorrow....unless someone looking at this beats me to it! :-)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Mute Swan update - Friday

The single egg was still in the nest at lunchtime, covered over by reeds to give a bit of protection while the female was some way upriver. I'm amazed by just how built up this nest is after such a short time from the beginning of its construction.

I picked the trailcam up at 2.30pm this afternoon from where I had left it (see previous post). I learned this morning that the Wood Mouse and Bank Vole had been feeding on the apple until just before I took the SD card away, a little before 7.15am. The latest information reveals that the Bank Vole was feeding again within 3 minutes of me leaving and was still feeding a couple of minutes before I arrived! Of course, it may be more than one Bank Vole, but the only period of inactivity apart from a couple of 15 minute breaks was between 7.45-9.19am and 11.06am-13.07pm, just before I arrived! The Wood Mouse also arrived from time to time for the first hour or two after I had gone. This backs up what I was saying about observing mammals during the day in the previous post....a challenge to obtain some half-decent video footage in the not-too-distant future!

Wood Mouse & Bank Vole sharing a table!

Yesterday, I placed the Trailcam at Afton Marsh and nailed an apple to the floor to entice any local rodents for lunch.

A Wood Mouse and Bank Vole shared this fruity feast through most of the early hours of the morning. Here's the Wood Mouse. I love the way it folds that long tail over its back in the last clip.

And here's the Bank Vole tucking in. The fact that both the Wood Mouse and the Bank Vole are feeding in daylight demonstrates how a well-placed 'mammal table' could bring a lot of viewing pleasure during the day, especially at dawn and dusk.

And this is a bit of nighttime footage of the two diners having a bit of argy-bargy, though neither seems to be dominant. The trailcam seems to flicker a bit for some reason. Maybe the batteries need changing!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mute Swan update

'A day or two before any house-martins had been observed, Thomas Hoar distinctly heard pretty late one evening the twittering notes of those birds from under the eaves of my brewhouse, between the ceiling and the thatch. Now the quere is, whether those birds had harboured there the winter thro', and were just awakening from their slumbers, or whether they had only just taken possession of that place unnoticed, & were lately arrived from some distant district. If the former was the case, they went not far to seek for an Hybernaculum, since they nestle every year along the eaves of that building. Mr Derham wrote word to the R. Society "that some time before any Swifts had been seen, (I think before the month of March was out), he heard them squeaking behind the weather-tiles on the front of his parsonage-house." It is a pity that so curious a Naturalist did not proceed to the taking-down some of the tiles, that he might have satisfied his eyes as well as his hearing. As a notion had prevailed that Hirundines at first coming were lean & emaciated, I procured an H. martin to be shot as soon as it appeared: but the bird, when it come to be opened, was fat & fleshy. Its stomach was full of the legs & wings of small coleoptera...'
                                                                                   [Gilbert White's Diaries, April 26th 1778]

I love that account from Gilbert White, this day 234 years ago...and I'm eagerly awaiting my first House Martin of the year!

Good news from The Causeway where I arrived this morning to find the Swans busily engaged in constructing a new nest! 10 out of 10 for determination! The video begins with the remnants of the old swamped nest and pans left for several metres until the pair can be seen, deeper into the reeds, hard at work gathering reed stems.

And, a short while later, while the birds were off the nest, I went to have a look and found this!! Bingo!!
This is egg number 2, and there may be another 4 or 5 yet to arrive! Following these Swans is becoming a real epic!

The remains of this Mallard egg were close-by, too.

And here's one for the moth boys 'n girls. This micro-moth landed on me. I'm off out to a meeting soon so I haven't got time to i.d. it. Any help gratefully appreciated (and with the caterpillars from a few days ago! :-) ).

Thanks to Dean for his help. This is Incurvaria masculella. It's a common moth, the male being unusual with its comb-like, pectinate antennae which you can see here.

Badger cubs!

First thing this morning I collected the SD card from the Trailcam and watched the footage with growing fascination. The pipe is a piece of drainpipe that I have put down to attract Stoats & Weasels. There is an egg at the bottom of it. It's interesting to see what happens with the various visitors.

I was quite excited to find three Badgers spending time in front of the camera at 12.30am. The one seems particularly interested in the pipe. They are really lively and I thought that they must be cubs, but they seem very well-grown for this time of year to me, though a little 'dumpy'! I'd be interested to know what other people think. [David Barnes has since suggested that it is a mother with 2 cubs - this seems to make sense to me]

There were two Wood Mice. This one actually explores the pipe. This is followed by a great clip of a Wood Mouse flying down the sapling on the left. It demonstrates just what agile climbers they are and how happy they are to spend time exploring the upper part of the hedgerow as well as the hedgerow bottom.

This fox turned up just before 8.30am. I'm surprised that it doesn't seem to be able to pick up the egg in the pipe with its excellent sense of smell. It certainly doesn't seem that interested.

I'm building up quite a bird list, too. Between putting the new SD card in yesterday morning and bringing it home it had filmed Pheasant, Jay, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Blackbird, Dunnock & Song Thrush!

Mute Swan washout!

Sadly, things yesterday turned out as feared and the Mute Swan nest with its first egg that I have been following has been washed away by the rapidly rising water levels. Myself and others had thought that they would be OK nesting, as they were, on the seemingly stable, protected side of the Freshwater Causeway, away from the open estuary. The video below shows the male in front of the nest.

And below is the Trailcam footage from the previous night for those who are getting as hooked as me! Two Red Foxes feed together, followed by two Wood Mice. There are then two clips of a Badger who came and went over a period of time. On both occasions it is not sure what to make of the camera!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lesser Whitethroat

This Lesser Whitethroat was enjoying a period of sunny intervals at Golden Hill Country Park yesterday morning, rattling away as he explored the scrub. They're renowned for keeping to deep cover so I was pleased to get some video of this individual out in the open. This neat little ball of feathers has made its way here from Africa, even crossing the Sahara during its journey.

I think these birds look really neat, a stylish version of the Common Whitethroat which is also starting to appear locally. It's not so easy to see in the video footage, but the darker colour of the plumage through the eyes and cheeks resembles a 'bandit's mask' which is absent on the Common Whitethroat.

My first Isle of Wight Whimbrel was on the Western Yar Estuary late afternoon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mute Swan update

'The cock green-finch begins to toy, & hang about on the wing in a very peculiar manner. These gestures proceed from amorous propensities.' [Gilbert White Diaries, April 24 1777]

There were several small green birds singing on Golden Hill this morning, but my main interest today has been big white ones! I arrived at the Freshwater Causeway this evening to find this:
That's the good news. But there are two bits of potentially bad news which are obvious from the top photo. Firstly, the torrential rain yesterday has resulted in the nest almost being washed away - it was very soggy underfoot! Secondly, there was no sign of the swans. I climbed up onto the fence next to the nest and looked down the river, spotting them together a long way off in the distance.

Eventually, the male returned. The female returned later and showed no interest whatsoever in the egg, so I feared that this nesting attempt may have failed. But, a few hours later, I was reassured to find the female back on the nest as this bit of video shows:

Sadly, the relief for this inexperienced pair may be short-lived with the deluge of rain and bad weather that's forecast over the next few days.

Spring Butterflies

A few days ago, I discovered the Quarry Carpark at Afton Down. It's only a small carpark just off the Military Road by Compton Bay, but the south-facing rear bank is a real hotspot (literally) for butterflies. Even though it was relatively cool, I managed to catch up with Wall, Green Hairstreak, Small Blue, Small Copper, Dingy & Grizzled Skipper. Here's a few of them:

The Small Blues here were first recorded by Peter Hunt on 30th March, a ridiculously early date!

I've got a few caterpillars that I haven't had time to id for the lepidopterists who look in on this site.

This beauty was on a plant halfway up the quarry face.

In fact, it's so beautiful that I couldn't resist sharing a bit of video, too! :-)

Thanks to Elaine who has suggested that this is a Garden Tiger caterpillar. That looks good to me having looked it up on the internet. These are a species of the furry caterpillars beloved to Cuckoos, the decline of which has been posited as one possible reason for the drastic decline in our Cuckoo population.

And these caterpillars were just down the road. Any identifications gratefully appreciated.

Thanks to Ben for identifying these as Brown Tail moth larvae. These are the dreaded species that leave irritant hairs on the skin of those unfortunate enough to brush against them or pick them up, causing painful rashes for many. They also pretty much defoliate the shrubs where they are found so they're not popular with gardeners who will dress up in wellies, rubber gloves and anything else to hand and blast them with potent chemical sprays!

I also came across a Common Lizard, and this Adder which looks pretty scarey, trying to warm up in the cool breeze!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Common Shrew

The last few nights I have had the Trailcam situated at a Water Vole feeding site under a big clump of grass. I've encouraged the Water Vole to visit the site again by nailing an apple into the soil but, unfortunately, I haven't picked up anything apart from this brief visit from a Common Shrew (you have to look closely at the bottom right-hand corner):

It definitely prefers worms and other small invertebrates to apples! I will have to do a bit of small mammal trapping as soon as this weather starts to improve!

Update: Following comments from Dave & Toffeeapple, I've looked through the video slowly, using the pause button, and I now reckon that, although the first clip is a Common Shrew, the second clip features a Bank Vole. Any further comments gratefully appreciated! :-)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mute Swan update

There's some exciting stuff to share about the pair of Mute Swans nesting at the Freshwater Causeway.

I submitted the details of the leg rings and, on Saturday evening, received an e-mail from David Stone who writes:

"The birds were ringed as part of a long-term study I am carrying out on the Hampshire Avon. As IOW is outside of my core study area it is always helpful to receive details of birds on the Island.

B9C was first ringed as an adult female in 2004 at Christchurch and N3V as a first year bird, also at Christchurch but in 2009. B9C was originally paired to TSS but since 2010 has been with N3V. Generally the males tend to be the older bird of a pair, so this pairing is a little unusual. I have
attached an excel spreadsheet, which gives the sighting histories of this pair. This is the first year that I have had a report of them nesting, so it would be useful if you could let me know the outcome."

The excel sheet reveals that the female was first reported from The Causeway in February 2005, when it was paired with TSS. 2 years later, in February 2007 it was located at The Causeway again with TSS, though it had spent some of the intervening time at Yarmouth and, over the water at Christchurch and Milford-on-Sea. It seems to have spent most of the next few years on the other side of the Solent apart from the time that it was reported paired up with N3V at Yarmouth in April 2010. It's been really fascinating to learn their history!

On Friday evening, I found these birds engaging in some feeding activity that I've never seen before:

I'd never realised that 'Duck Soup' might form part of the menu of these birds. Mute Swans are very territorial and I wonder if they might even have been responsible for the demise of this unfortunate bird in the first place? Is it my imagination, or does the drake Mallard at the end of the clip appear to be distressed? :-(

To end on a brighter note, here's a clip of a Mallard family present at Yarmouth on Saturday morning with some accompanying music! How many ducklings can you count?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Nightcam - Friday: Woodmice & Red Fox

I'm really pleased with the results of last night's Trailcam footage. I set up the Trailcam in Squirrel Copse alongside the Western Yar Estuary. Before leaving I constructed a little clearing amongst the trees with a small deadwood 'fence' in the background (as much as anything else to screen the leaves of the Stinking Iris which were blowing in the strong wind with the risk of setting off the Trailcam!). On the left-hand-side I built a small woodpile, filling the gaps with soil and leaflitter. The idea of this was to form a bit of extra habitat with a view to encouraging Mice & Voles and, ultimately, Stoats and Weasels. Well, the copse didn't look to me to have too much wildlife interest apart from the Red Squirrels, so I was amazed to find I had 180 separate clips of 30 seconds each, nearly all of them featuring these:

Woodmice! They began arriving just after 9.30pm, and were around almost constantly between then and 4.45pm, the last clip that the Trailcam picked up, apart from a foraging Song Thrush at 7.46am! I was really pleased to see that the Woodmice obviously took to the woodpile and, on a number of clips, were going into it and out of it! They spent most of the night bouncing around - it's no wonder they're asleep during the day! How many can you count in the brief bit of footage above from 3.46am? I reckon there's at least 6!!

The only time the Woodmice were absent - understandably - was when this character turned up - the local Red Fox! He arrived just before 11.30pm and stayed for three quarters of an hour or so, hoovering up the peanuts I had sprinkled around. If you listen carefully you can hear him sneeze in the first clip. He then makes his way onto the top of my woodpile and, a little while later, begins pulling it apart! I'm sure he's looking at the camera really sheepishly as the clip ends! He did reappear briefly at 2.30am.

So, my second night with the Trailcam and another result! It's out in another totally different place this evening....if my plan works, I should have some interesting footage tomorrow. But, even if not, I'm really hooked! :-)

Brown Rats

 I'd noticed from the Isle of Wight County Press that Brown Rats had been spotted in the Freshwater Brook in the middle of town, and that action is going to be taken to deal with them. I made a little detour yesterday and found a spot that looked like it may have active Rat holes. Throwing down a couple of peanuts I only had to wait about 2 minutes before two Brown Rats suddenly appeared!

There's about 3 minutes of footage here. They are obviously quite confident, brazen even! I think children play in this brook as the weather improves, so they do need to be controlled, though I think they're fascinating animals and I always enjoy watching their antics. Thankfully, I've seen no sign of regular Brown Rat activity in the Water Vole areas yet. That would be bad news as Brown Rats will take Water Vole young.

This is the Water Vole footage I captured from the end of March - you can see the differences in the facial features between the Water Vole and the Brown Rat.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Trailcam success!!

After several months saving up, my new basic Bushnell Trophy Cam arrived and, yesterday morning, I carefully placed it out in a local Badger run, leaving it overnight. I thought that it would take me a while before I got any decent footage, but I was excited when I collected it this morning and the mud on the casing revealed that at least some animal had been brushing against it!

And here is my very first footage - a local cat followed by 2 Jays! I had put some peanuts and seed down which resulted in some 15 different video clips as the Jays flew to and fro to this unexpected but welcome feast!

Then, just after 8.30pm, this Red Fox turned up and, a little later, there were two! Notice how alert the Fox is as soon as the Carrion Crow calls in the distance! In the early hours there is a further bit of footage, the Fox scenting the area and revealing that that particular individual was a vixen! I wonder whether the Foxes had a den either next to, or even as part of the Badger sett?

Between midnight and about 4am there were several pieces of Badger footage. In the first one here the Badger checks the trailcam out - "What's all this about then?"! [I didn't edit this clip well - there's a gap before a good clip of a Badger which comes into view at about 30 secs]

And here's something that I wasn't expecting - a Brown Rat feeding on the seed at 3am.

So, for my first session with the Trailcam, I would call this a riproaring success! I'm already thinking of various ways that I can get views of the local Stoat and Weasel population!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Western Yar Estuary

I count myself really fortunate to live within walking distance of the dramatic Western Yar Estuary, allowing me the opportunity to regularly pop along and catch up with what's happening.

I was really pleased to come across this pair of Mute Swans nesting just below the Freshwater Causeway bridge. I'll be able to follow the fortunes of the family over the coming weeks and months and share it with you. Here the male seems to be tidying up the outer edge of the nest, removing various bits of reed that had been placed there earlier. I found an interesting comparison fact on the UK Safari website: 'Try to imagine birds nests relative to human habitation.  If say a Dunnock nest was on a par with a one bedroom semi-detached cottage, then the mute swan nest would be comparable to St. Paul's Cathedral!' It won't be long now before the eggs are laid.

The sequence ends with a shot of the female now comfortably ensconced in her new home! The male or cob's leg ring reads N3V and the female or pen's code is B9C - it will be interesting to find out where they hail from.

This male Blackcap was one of two that were moving amongst the Blackthorn blossom in Squirrel Copse - I assume he is enjoying the sweet nectar at the bottom of the flower tubes, though I haven't read of this behaviour anywhere else and I'm willing to be corrected. I've also watched Blue Tits and a number of Willow Warblers apparently engaging in this feeding activity in recent days.

Many migrants are arriving now. I caught up with my first Common Whitethroat of the year soon after this in the midst of some Bramble close to Mill Copse Pool.

This Red Squirrel was also one of two that were active in Squirrel Copse during the short time that I was there. If you watch the footage you'll hear the plaintive call of a bird in the background. Is it a Buzzard? I'm really not sure - any suggestions gratefully accepted!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Having missed getting some footage of the Adder in Bedfordshire at the weekend, I decided to catch up with the Adders above Freshwater Bay.

 The Adders here are located in the midst of some beautiful countryside!

This Adder suddenly cottoned on to the fact that it was being watched. Normally the eye is a coppery colour. The fact that the eyes of this individual are pale eye suggests that the old skin is starting to come away and that it will this slough (shed its skin) in the next couple of days.

This Adder, on the other side of the road close to the National Trust car park has the normal eye colour which you can just make out.

This Racing Pigeon was having a breather on the side of the golf course. It allowed me to sit next to it, but when I reached down to pick it up, wondering if it might be injured, it took off and shot into the distance on the next leg of its journey north!

Monday, April 16, 2012


Carole and I spent the last weekend at our annual family reunion in Bedfordshire and, staying with Carole's parents in Wootten, I was determined to catch up with my all-time favourite animal on the River Ouse just down the road: the Otter!

I was out late on Friday evening and early on Saturday morning, but finally caught up with what I think was a young Otter on Sunday morning. I first came across it just after 6.15am and managed to follow it as it slowly made its way downstream for the next hour - Wow!

At one point I was standing against a large willow when it came to within 2 metres! It was difficult to get good video but I've put together a few clips, including a very wary Mute Swan. I was videoing the Swan as the Otter approached wondering what would happen. In the end the Otter wisely swam to the other side of the river, and so the two don't appear together, but you can see the Swan looking upriver ready for action!

In the final section you get a brief glimpse of David Barnes who also turned up on his regular Sunday morning search for the Otters on this Kempston-Bromham section of the Ouse. You can see some of his great photos of the Otters on his Wild About... Blog.

Later I also met up with John O'Sullivan. We wandered through Maulden Wood looking for hoverflies which, unfortunately, were scarce in the cold wind. But I really enjoyed catching up and we did end the morning with a nice Adder!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

West High Down

 A grey morning with just 2 Clouded Drabs in the moth trap....sounds depressing, so things could only brighten up...

 And so it proved to be with a walk over West High Down first thing which came up trumps when I came across 3 male Redstarts. This is one of my favourite birds with all of its dramatic finery as it passes through on its way north. The one on the video was a bit flighty, so I couldn't get too close....but such beauty is worth a sequence.

6 cracking male Wheatears were feeding by the cliff edge, and 2 females were later seen in the short grass amongst the gorse bushes at the eastern end. 2 Peregrine Falcons were flying about, including this one which flew right past my eyeline at about 20 metres (before I had chance to get the camera trained on it!)!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Shank Race!!!

A strange blog title, but it's easily explained! At Mill Copse Pool this morning I came across a Redshank, Spotted Redshank & Greenshank all feeding together on the far shore. I managed to capture a bit of admittedly poor video which shows the race, the Spotted Redshank hitting the tape three lengths clear of the Greenshank with the Redshank bringing up the rear!

Highlight of the day was 2 Swallows - my first of the year - that flew over my head at Afton Marsh just after 5pm this evening, being joined by a further 4 as they followed the line of the estuary. Magic!!

The Weekend Browse

 The Times will soon be publishing its traditional first Cuckoo of the Spring report. Many people have been following the adventures of several tagged Cuckoos since leaving these shores last year. And they're now getting excited because Martin is on his way home. Having crossed the Sahara Desert he is having a deserved rest in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria! Follow his progress on his devoted blog on the BTO website, and catch up on the journeys of Clement, Lyster, Kasper & Chris, too!

On the subject of returning migrants, there's more excitement at the safe arrival home of Lady, our oldest breeding Osprey who last week arrived back home at the Loch of Lowes from a winter holiday in West Africa! She obviously likes the Loch because she's set up nest there for the past 22 years on the trot, raising a phenomenol 48 chicks from 56 eggs - Wow! You can see live webcam footage of the nest at this Scottish Wildlife Trust website.

Bats are out and about now, and as soon as the weather warms up after Easter I will be out and about with the bat detector! The Bat Conservation Trust is a good place to start in order to learn a bit more about these fascinating creatures.

On a local level, there are a number of bat groups flourishing around the country, including the Bedfordshire Bat Group that I'm going to really miss this season (including the flapjacks!). The Articles section, particularly, has some great material.

BBC Wildlife has an article on identifying British Bats on sight here.

I'm not biased, of course, but Bob Cornes' article on the Bedfordshire Bat Group website is a lot better! :-)

When I was in Bedfordshire I was in involved in the introduction of several batches of young Adders into the County from the New Forest Reptiliary. Our big concern was the few females from which they were taken adding to the potential in-breeding problems in an isolated population. It will be very interesting to see what comes of the new genetic survey looking at this issue being undertaken by several organisations in Durham.

Bugman Jones reminisces on a trip to Wicken Fen in the early 80s with a great story about Tony Drane's dedication to the cause when spotting a rare beetle in the middle of one of the dykes!

I really enjoy the excellent posts of Africa Gomez in BugBlog. Recently she wrote a fascinating piece about mimicry in Hoverflies entitled, 'Why are some hoverflies poor mimics?'

Finally, Steven Falk continues his project of uploading his superb library of images to his Flickr website. I'm finding his social wasp collection really helpful in identifying the wasps that are starting to appear in my own local area.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Needles & West High Down

On a crisp morning filled with early sunshine there can be no better place to walk than along the approach to The Needles and alongside the cliffs on West High Down. At the Needles Viewpoint the sea was a vivid blue and at least 13 Gannets flew west-to-east past the lighthouse.

Further along the cliff I found what I was hoping to see: Wheatears!

This was one of 3 that were seen - all males, feeding up ready for the next stage of their amazing migration from Central Africa and probably on to the western and northern parts of the UK. The Meadow Pipit that flies in to shot seems to be welcoming him to the Isle of Wight!

Recently, exciting research on the Wheatears breeding on the other side of the pond has proved just what amazing travellers they are. Fitted with data logger trackers, Wheatears in Alaska were shown to travel some 18,000 miles both ways between their summer and winter homes, the longest recorded migration for a songbird!

Probably the greatest surprise of the morning was the sight of two Lesser Whitethroats looking just like Spotted Flycatchers as they hunted for flies in the scrub next to the Alum Bay carpark!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bloody-nosed Beetle

During our holiday at Kynance Cove in Cornwall a few weeks ago, I came across this impressive Bloody-nosed Beetle (Timarcha tenebricosa), a large leaf beetle, alongside the brook that runs down to the shore. One source describes it as a great clunking clockwork model of a beetle:

It should properly be called the Bloody-mouthed Beetle because, when threatened, it will exude a bright red substance from its mouth (not its nose). Personally, I've never tasted it but I'm assured that birds and other predators find it absolutely disgusting, putting this wee beastie off the lunch menu forever afterwards!

The Featured Creature Website has collated some impressive photos of this species in the act of exuding its foul fluid, including a bit of video!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Afton Marsh Hoverflies

There were a number of hoverflies enjoying the sunshine at Afton Marsh, Freshwater, yesterday.

I was quite excited when this male Criorhina ranunculi suddenly appeared. I spent some time watching it as it buzzed around the various Silver Birch trunks, never stopping for long. It confused me for a while, too - I can see why this species, together with red-tailed Volucella bombylans and the rare Eriozona syrphoides can be confused at first glance. This is ideal habitat, decaying Silver Birch roots being one of the substrates in which the larvae develop. The adults love the blossom of Goat evidenced by the yellow powdering present on this individual!

Afton Marsh is great habitat for the 'rat-tailed maggot' of Eristalis intricarius. I think that this furry hoverfly is very attractive...though probably not to birds because it's a great bee mimic!

And a female Eristalis tenax: another 'rat-tailed maggot' species, and another great mimic, but of the hive bee this time. This one was strikingly dark. If you look closely, you can just make out the two lines of hairs that run down each of the compound eyes.

Other hoverfly species seen were:
Eristalinus aeneus; Eristalis pertinax; Epistrophe eligans; Platycheirus albimanus; Melanostoma scalare; Eupeodes luniger; Syrphus vitripennis & Episyrphus balteatus.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Red Squirrel update

Just four very cold Hebrew Character moths in the moth trap this morning.

A few days ago I visited Squirrel Copse to see how 'Scratch' is getting on. He was out and about foraging in the sunshine. He came over to see what I was up to:

He seems to be fine, though the scabby area on his head doesn't seem to have healed at all.

And I'm hoping that the dark object just to the right of the right leg here is a bit of bramble or something similar picked up from the ground!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Water Vole

I visited Afton Marsh as the sun was setting hoping to catch sight of a Water Vole. I was really pleased to see two: one which swam across the river from somewhere below where I was crouching before foraging in the reeds, and this individual as it disappeared from view:

Last Night's Moths

Only a few moths in the trap when I looked this morning, but it did include another new one for the year:

It's a male Muslin Moth (Diaphora mendica). That grey colour makes it look very delicate and refined. The female is white with the same dark markings.

The fingernail isn't impressive...but the antennae certainly are. Are males like this with very feathery antennae able to lock onto females from much further afield compared to those species with threadlike antennae?

Other moths:
Hebrew Character - 1.
Early Grey - 1.