Thursday, June 11, 2015

Moths from near and far!

Everyone agrees that moth trapping so far this year has been pretty dire, but we're all hoping that the numbers and species start to pick up over the next few weeks. On the other hand, it's actually been a pretty exciting few weeks for some of the migrants making their way across the Channel in suitable winds.
Bordered Straws have been turning up in good numbers. One person in the Ventnor area has had 40 or so separate individuals in his trap over the past month or so. I finally caught up with 3 on the West Wight whilst trapping at Tennyson Down a week or so ago. Since then a number have been spotted on the cliff edge around Compton Bay.

A species we're still hoping to come across on the West Wight is the impressive and aptly-named Striped Hawkmoth.

They have turned up in several places in the UK over the past few weeks but this one - caught on Luccombe Down a few days ago - is the first one to be found on the Isle of Wight so far this year. Let's hope it's the first of many!

The Clearwings are really special little moths. Having seen a photo of one on a friend's page, I grabbed my Currant Clearwing pheromone out of the freezer and set off down the road to Freshwater allotments. Having gained permission from one of the allotmenteers (?) I stood upwind and attached the net bag containing the pheromone (an impregnated little rubber bung) to a handy cane. Several minutes later the first of 3 males arrived - that's pretty impressive. I've got a whole set of pheromones so I'm hoping to record more species over the next few weeks during their flying season.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Just as the sun is starting to shine and the cold wind of the last few weeks is diminishing I've been frustrated by 2 things:
a) A badly infected knee which has meant that I have spent too much time sitting on the settee at home with my foot up, and....
b) My video camera having given up the ghost. John Lewis have discontinued the model so I've got to search the internet and try to find something that will do what I want without breaking the bank!

But one thing I have been able to do is to take the camera down to Sett C to look in on what the Badgers are up to. It won't be too long before the cubs start appearing above ground!

I was really pleased with the footage - 5 Badgers at one point is a good number for this sett, and there are various bits of family life on show including scent-marking and establishing dominance. As always, self-grooming give the 'ah' factor! When it goes quiet a Red Fox turns up. It looks in good shape until it turns sideways and we can see the mangled remains of the tail. Basil Brush was proud of the subject of his surname, but this one looks a bit sorry for itself! The footage finishes with a Brown Rat that turns up when everything else has moved on.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

...and Spring continues to march on!

I've had so little time to blog in recent days  but Spring continues to march on. Today Swallows were seen at Carisbrooke Pond & Bembridge - maybe we will get our first ones for the West Wight this weekend, though the weather forecast is not good. I remember my first Swallow of 2014, suddenly sweeping over my head close to the Freshwater Causeway!

Paul Swain photographed this flock of Shelduck this week - there has been a constant presence on the Western Yar over the last few months but they'll soon be gone. Over the next few weeks anything can turn up on the Estuary. An Osprey was spotted flying over just a few days ago, and there have been Sand Martins feeding on the flies over the Yarmouth Pools. Over the next few weeks I shall be looking out for the first Sandwich Terns and listening out for the first Cuckoo! I was also thrilled to come across two resplendent male Yellowhammers belting out their '...little bit of bread and no cheese' song in the early morning sunshine at Headon Warren a few days ago.

Badger & Fox cubs may very well start appearing this this space for the first Trailcam footage!

And, of course, I shall be out looking for insects, especially hoverflies. This is the impressive-looking Criorhina ranunculi, which I caught at Afton Marsh a week or so ago. There are more spectacular creatures on the way! Butterflies are increasing with Brimstones, Red Admirals, Commas & Small Tortoiseshells all flying around whenever the sun comes out! This year I will also be focusing on getting my head around the various species of solitary bee that make their home on the West Wight.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring in the air!

Spring is in the air, and the first Bee-fly of the year always puts a spring in my step! This individual was spotted yesterday at Afton Marsh. It may very well be the freshly-emerged individual that I found in exactly the same place in Afton Marsh back on the 12th March. It looks like it could be used as a dart, but any precision-guidance actually relates to the rear end rather than the head because the female flicks her eggs at the nesting holes of solitary bees and other insects, which is pretty nifty!

A few days ago I did a lesson for a Reception Class at Yarmouth School looking at Bugs & Flowers. I took in some Hazel catkins to show the children.

They were fascinated by the catkins - the male part of the plant, and also enjoyed searching for the delicate 'female' flowers which are seldom noticed!

Further afield, there are some beautiful Wild Daffodils flowering at Firestone Copse at the moment.

Narrow-leaved Lungwort tends to be confined to Dorset/Hampshire and the Isle of Wight - this flowering clump was the first time that I have come across this species.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

West Wight Birds

First thing yesterday morning I opened the back door and a stunning male Black Redstart hopped up onto the fence from where it had been feeding below. I had been wondering what my 100th West Wight bird species of the year would turn out to be and it turned out to be a real beauty. Here is the list:

1)      Black-headed Gull (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
2)      Blackbird (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
3)      Shoveler (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
4)      Mallard (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
5)      Pintail (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
6)      Carrion Crow (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
7)      Blue Tit (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
8)      House Sparrow (1st January – Yarmouth Station Pools and area).
9)      Wigeon (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
10)  Gadwall (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
11)  Oystercatcher (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
12)  Mediterranean Gull (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
13)  Black-tailed Godwit (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
14)  Teal (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
15)  Redshank (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
16)  Rook (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
17)  Great Black-backed Gull (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
18)  Cormorant (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
19)  Brent Goose (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
20)  Shelduck (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
21)  Little Grebe (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
22)  Lapwing (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
23)  Golden Plover (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
24)  Dunlin (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
25)  Little Egret (1st January – Western Yar Estuary).
26)  Coot (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
27)  Greenshank (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
28)  Grey Heron (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
29)  Kingfisher (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
30)  Wren (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
31)  Curlew (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
32)  Pheasant (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
33)  Magpie (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
34)  Moorhen (1st January – Mill Copse Pool).
35)  Grey Plover (1st January – Western Yar Estuary)
36)  Wood Pigeon (1st January – Mill Copse)
37)  Robin (1st January – Mill Copse parallel hedgerow)
38)  Stock Dove (1st January – Mill Copse).
39)  Mute Swan (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
40)  Kestrel (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Meadow).
41)  Jackdaw (1st January – Yarmouth Green).
42)  Herring Gull (1st January – Yarmouth Green).
43)  Pied Wagtail (1st January – Fort Vic).
44)  Goldfinch (1st January – Fort Vic).
45)  Feral Pigeon (1st January – Fort Vic).
46)  Great Tit (1st January – Bungalow feeder/Fort Vic).
47)  Starling (1st January – Golden Ridge, Freshwater).
48)  Barn Owl (1st January – Heathfield Road box).
49)  Ringed Plover (1st January – Norton Spit).
50)  Turnstone (1st January – Norton Spit).
51)  Rock Pipit (1st January – Norton Spit).
52)  Common Gull (1st January – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
53)  Buzzard (1st January – Mill Copse).
54)  Red-breasted Merganser (1st January – Bouldner Forest).
55)  Canada Goose (1st January - ?? Field).
56)  Knot (1st January – Freshwater Causeway).
57)  Jay (1st January – All Saints Churchyard).
58)  Sparrowhawk (1st January – All Saints Churchyard).
59)  Goldcrest (1st January – All Saints Churchyard).
60)  Firecrest (1st January – All Saints Churchyard).
61)  Dunnock (1st January – All Saints Churchyard).
62)  Redwing (1st January – All Saints Churchyard).
63)  Stonechat (2nd January – Freshwater Bay cliffs).
64)  Meadow Pipit (2nd January – Freshwater Bay cliffs).
65)  Fulmar (2nd January – Freshwater Bay).
66)  Chiffchaff (2nd January – Causeway field hedgerow).
67)  Green Woodpecker (2nd January – calling by Afton Marsh).
68)  Chaffinch (2nd January – Yarmouth Mill Stream garden).
69)  Song Thrush (2nd January – Yarmouth Mill Stream garden).
70)  Greenfinch (2nd January – Mill Copse).
71)  Common Snipe (3rd January – Rofford Marsh).
72)  Linnet (4th January – Tennyson Down).
73)  Gannet (5th January – Freshwater Bay).
74)  Guillemot (5th January – Fort Vic)
75)  Great Crested Grebe (5th January – Fort Vic).
76)  Greylag Goose (8th January – Mill Copse Pool)
77)  Reed Bunting (8th January – Western Yar Estuary).
78)  Goldeneye (8th January – Western Yar Estuary).
79)  Peregrine Falcon (8th January – Western Yar Estuary).
80)  Long-tailed Tit (10th January – Freshwater Causeway).
81)  Grey Partridge (10th January – Western Yar East fields).
82)  Shag (6th January – Freshwater Bay).
83)  Tufted Duck (11th January – Yarmouth Station Pools).
84)  Water Rail (13th January – Freshwater Causeway).
85)  Great-spotted Woodpecker (16th January – Western Yar).
86)  Collared Dove (16th January – Western Yar).
87)  Bullfinch (16th January – Western Yar).
88)  Skylark (17th January – King’s Manor Farm)
89)  Green Sandpiper (29th January – Freshwater Causeway).
90)  Red-legged Partridge (3rd February – Causeway Field).
91)  Yellowhammer (3rd February – Lee Farm, Thorley).
92)  Long-eared Owl (6th February – Western Yar).
93)  Raven (7th February – Golden Hill CP).
94)  Eider (8th February – Fort Vic).
95)  Lesser Black-backed Gull (25th February – Yarmouth Mill Pool).
96)  Cetti’s Warbler (4th March – Rofford Marsh).
97)  Woodcock (5th March – Afton Marsh).
98)  Mistle Thrush (7th March – Fields off Wilmingham Lane).
99)  Coal Tit (12th March – Afton Marsh).
100)                      Black Redstart (14th March – 7 Golden Ridge).

I've done very little sea-watching this year, so the list is lacking any of the Divers, plus Razorbill and Common Scoter, which I would have expected to come across without too much trouble. It's also meant that I've not seen any Kittiwakes yet after seeing so many last winter. Other big surprises are the lack of Treecreeper, Fieldfare and Little Owl. The big disappointment is missing the 4 Spoonbills that spent a bit of time circling over Yarmouth a few days ago - it's still a bird that I'm yet to encounter in the UK. Although much of my time over the coming months will be taken up pursuing 6-legged fare, I'll still be on the lookout for new bird species, particularly as the migrants begin to arrive!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Afton Marsh at Night

A few nights ago I left the Trailcam out next to a pool surrounded by trees at Afton Marsh. I was quite pleased with the footage:

It looks like a dog Fox and vixen spent much of the night, on and off, enjoying the morsels I had put out. I'm pretty sure that the stockier-looking, broad-faced individual is a male, and the other one is certainly a vixen, as evidenced by the way in which she leaves her calling card towards the end of the clip. There's a bit of dominant behaviour witnessed right at the beginning of the sequence and the male is also seen drinking from the pool. At one point a Badger trundles by, but doesn't show too much interest in the food that is left. It certainly needs a tail trim!

The first Sweet Violets are now flowering in various places, including the roadside at Afton Marsh, the only one of our Violet species that is scented, hence the Latin name, Viola odorata. The Reader's Digest field guide to wild flowers points out what I think is the most fascinating piece of information about this flower:
'In less sanitary days the flowers were strewn on the floors of cottages and churches to sweeten the air and conceal the musty smell of damp - even though the scent of Sweet Violet is lost almost as soon as it is detected. It was, indeed, this very property that made it so effective: the flower produces with the scent a substance called ionine, which quickly dulls the sense of smell, so that not only does the scent of Violets vanish, but other odours too. This can be proved by sniffing the flower until the scent is lost, then holding it away for a moment before sniffing again: the scent will return until the ionine does its job once more.'

This afternoon I disturbed a Woodcock on the reserve, the first one I've seen here.