Friday, 31 July 2015

July Unwritten

Friday July 31

Odds and Ends

JH brought round, for identification,  a large caterpillar she'd found in their garden feeding on Rosebay Willowherb. It was an Elephant Hawkmoth larvae.

Watching it feed, one could see how it got its name. The 'mouth' protrudes like a small trunk. 
We still have it, hoping it will pupate. J is looking after it for the weekend as we are off to Wareham until Tuesday. 

We've had some interesting and productive moth sessions, including another at Hickling NWT reserve where I saw my first, and much wanted, Lempke's Goldspot. Fenn's Wainscot was also a real goodie.

Fenn's Wainscot

Lempke's Goldspot
 Everyone apart from John G had at least one new moth. He'd seen a Fenn's 20 years ago when he first started mothing and was invited, by a member of the Cadbury family, to a trap opening at Whiteslea Lodge.
In our own trap and new for this year.

Pebble Hooktip

Ruby Tiger - which Greg calls as 'The Stripper'

After dealing with an almost empty moth trap, the result of a cold and moonlit night, we drove to Cley. After a coffee and a scone at the Centre we walked to Daukes, seeing Meadow Brown, Peacock and Tortoiseshell Butterflies. Red,  Soldier beetles occupied the Umbellicer flowers and an, as yet unidentified, Dragonfly landed on the boardwalk. It had a red tail and a limy body.
I carried my scope to-day as I was determined to practice using my IPhone and adaptor to digiscope. We sat for well over an hour in Daukes enjoying the often sunlit view.
 Many Lapwings, Avocets, handsome Black-tailed Godwits and a scattering of Ruff. The lone Spoonbill was headless the whole time. The first calendar year Little Gull in front of Pat's was too distant even for this set-up. I tried hard to locate a Garganey amongst the eclipse ducks, no luck.
Three Wood Sandpipers were also distant on Pat's Pool.
A few of my efforts, quite pleasing for the distances involved but, the depth of field is not great. 

Moulting Ruff

Headless Spoonbill plus bird selection

First - ever- photo of a Wood Pigeon

The phone managed some sort of flight pic........

Great 3rd Ashes Test win for England with a day and a bit to spare, the Aussie tail was hard to shift, the win was by eight wickets.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

It Stopped Raining

Saturday July 25

A real downpour, plus very strong wind, kept us indoors the whole of yesterday and this morning.
After lunch, the sun made an appearance - and so did we. Maybe Strumpshaw would be sheltered in the still rampaging wind. The approach road was under deepish water for the first 25 metres, there's a dip in the road and the surface water from a field collects there. Not a problem for us, we drove through behind a bow wave.
After reading that the feeders had been taken down for the summer,  'as there was plenty of natural food on the reserve' - not what the RSPB have previously recommended - we had a look at the wildflower garden hoping for some butterflies. Plenty of Mason, Leafcutter and Solitary Bees and Pam saw a dayflying micro moth. No butterflies.
From the hide, a load of brown, eclipse ducks slept in the shelter of the far bank, a Grey Heron huddled amongst the thrashing reeds, two Marsh Harriers made short flights and a Kestrel tried its best to hover - before giving up to sway madly in the top branches of a tree. 
Overhearing a man thank the duty receptionist for directions to the larvae, Pam asked which ones. Swallowtail butterfly. Only 50 metres away too, on milk parsley, its food plant, near the first dipping pond.
Still small, the two larvae present took some finding but we succeeded. More than we did at photographing them. I kept one shot.

''The young caterpillars are black and white at first and look similar to small bird-droppings. In later instars, the caterpillars become a pale green with black and orange rings. The caterpillars of butterflies from the Swallowtail family (Papilionidae) posess a unique forked structure just behind the head which is normally hidden. Known as the osmeterium, this can be everted when the caterpillar is threatened, emitting a smelly secretion which contains terpenes. The larvae pupate within a few weeks and generally remain in this state throughout the winter, emerging as adult butterflies the following spring although, occasionally a second brood occurs in mid-summer when some pupae emerge as adults rather than emerging the following spring.'' 

 Even a splendid Buddleia nearby held only bees. I saw a Blue-tailed Damselfly briefly near the dipping pond before we walked on to the further one. Nothing at all there.......

Buckenham Marshes were an extensive , empty apart from Greylags, green marsh. Why do dog owners and families with children think that nature reserves are playgrounds? Dogs off the lead at Buckenham and children likewise at Strumpshaw. The RSPB have encouraged families by building play areas, picnic tables, nature trails etc. All very commendable unless you want to watch wildlife in peace and quiet without rampaging children, who have to run and shout, unchecked by regardless adults. Rant over.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

More Moth-ing

Thursday July 16

A rather chaotic moth-ing session at Cley to-day. G wasn't there to take charge, there are always 'extra' people and we have to try and find some shade for the traps on an open terrace. 
We still managed two new ones in the Cley traps, Crescent Stripe and Least Carpet. Both photos taken by Pam. A dirty pot is not good.

Crescent Stripe

Least Carpet
and, two in the pots Tony brought in, Bordered Pug and Small Scallop. He comes via Morston public loos! The overnight lights make loos good moth-ing places.
We'd arranged to meet P at the Centre  for coffee at 11ish - if she was back from Yorkshire. We were still chatting to M and K at 11.15 when a hot and bothered P rushed up to say that Pete had phoned her to say that he was watching a  Six-barred Clearwing on Salthouse Little Eye.
Off we all went, hoping that a potted moth would be waiting in the car parking area. It wasn't, DO had taken it away. JG and  Pete were still on the Eye, no way could Pam make that shingle walk on her hip. I would have found it difficult too. 
K and M set off promising to bring one back if possible. John did. He'd got some pheromones from DH and they'd worked. Pheromones mimic a female moth's sex aroma and attract the males in. They soon discover that it's false when no females are present so one has to be quick to both see and pot one. Clearwings are very small too. 
Pam took this splendid photo of one through a plastic pot. 

Thanks to all concerned, Clearwings are seriously 'good' moths.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Another Early Start

Wednesday July 15

This time a Butterfly Conservation/ Moths combined day outing. We were early for the appointed 9.30 start, meeting at a roadside parking place at the entrance to rides. Traps set out last night by Sharon (warden/ranger?) were brought to the car park where our group had set up tables to hold them. Fourteen of those assembled were from 'our' group with a scattering of unknowns, some novices, three more knowledgeable.
Judy D who is the secretary of the Butterfly lot in Norfolk and a member of our group, introduced the day - with a warning about ticks and Lyme's disease.
It took two hours to empty the traps of some very desirable moths, in addition to the usual July species. Everyone had some new moths, we had ten. Satin Beauty  and V moth are Fenland specialities.
I took very few photographs, preferring to concentrate on the moths rather than joining in the polite jostling for photos at the end table.
 These two were well camouflaged on tree trunks, where they had settled after release. Try finding them under normal circumstances. 

Satin Beauty
V Moth
The Oak Eggar is beautiful

The afternoon was a walk looking for day flying moths and butterflies. After a pretty dismal morning weather-wise, I was not expecting much. We walked about a quarter of a mile along a ride to an open area. The group, clutching butterfly nets, scattered this large area....

 We saw more butterflies in the first section where it was sheltered and warmer. Essex Skipper and  Ringlet butterflies and, Cinnabar Moth were our only sightings.
Both these photographs are of Essex Skippers, small and active.

We were home by 2.55, after a coffee stop at the St George English Whisky distillery tea-room.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Dunwich and Minsmere

Friday July 10

Up early to deal with the overnight moth trap before leaving for Suffolk - our first visit this year. An occasion in itself, we tried to visit the area monthly in the past. 
What a lovely morning to be walking on Dunwich Heath. Sunny and warm but not hot - yet - with a pleasant breeze. It was 300 metres before we heard our first Dartford Warbler. We then saw one on the path in front of a couple of birders, who were gazing into a tree. That's birding! The birders turned out to be a very talkative UK Australian from Tasmania, on a visit with his wife.
After he'd moved on, we saw regular glimpses of juvenile Dartfords flying into isolated trees (that's not right) and adults rising vertically into the air, singing,  before plummeting back into the heather. I tried some photography from a distance, as I'd carried my 300 lens, with very limited success. Pretty poor in fact. My first pics of this warbler though........
Frazzled female Dartford Warbler

On to Minsmere, where we parked roadside in order to walk through the rhododendron tunnel to Island Mere. A few past their best orchids in the verge, Chiffchaff and Blackcap singing from the woods. 
Plenty of room in Island Mere Hide despite the photographers occupying one end. That is, standing with their long lenses on tripods, obscuring five seats. We sat in the centre and were soon rewarded by a Bittern fly-past. We were looking into the sun and my camera was set on aperture priority = fuzzy dark outlines.
During the hour and a quarter we sat there, gazing at Cormorants, Great Crested Grebes and Mute Swans, two Bitterns made occasional flights along and across the water, once coming closer to the hide.

One distant Hobby far to the right, a family of six Marsh Harriers and three fishing Common Terns, completed the list. Very pleasant but the constant buffeting of a strong wind straight into the hide sent us out to get warm again. More like hot out of the breeze.
Blue Damselflies zipped around.... I took this photo at home - on Pam's hand.

Leaning on the rail edging the entry ramp, this year's Moorhen chick fed far below.
Here's an aerial view......

There was also a sign marking the site of this year's Springwatch joke - we were bored from the start - Spineless Si the Stickleback, had been filmed. Every programme ad nauseum. We saw some blue-eyed Sticklebacks in the very shallow brackish water below and I took some pics.

Head first in his nest
 Pleased to get back to the car, we drove to the Centre and I decided not to walk any more. I had intended photographing Dragonflies on the pond. Not to-day thanks.
Home in time to enjoy the before and after tea overs in the first Ashes Test Match. Aus were out quickly this morning for 308 and we whacked over 400 by close of play. I love seeing us play with this freedom. There was even a 20/20 switch hit 4. We need to get them out to-morrow as rain is forecast for Sunday.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Tempered Joy

Saturday July 4

Written on the 7th....
It is not unusual to find 'new' moths in the trap at virtually every opening. Saturday morning, after a muggy night with overcast, the trap was heaving - literally. Every time I carefully lifted the cardboard covering the opening, moths escaped. Very frustrating. 
About half way through, one of the egg boxes had a very pale moth with dark streaks. I thought it might be a Leopard Moth but it wasn't.  As the moths were still very lively, Pam and I took a couple of photos before the beast departed - in a hurry. Couldn't re locate it either.
Later on, whilst identifying my photographs, I couldn't find anything on the Norfolk website nor the books which matched exactly.
I posted a photograph on the Norfolk Moths Facebook page and waited. Chris Knott and Jim Hypperson both thought that it was a Speckled Footman, a Red Data Book species and an immigrant - A 1st FOR NORFOLK. Waw. Novice moth-ers trapping in their back garden! Almost unfair.

I am still not happy about not being able to share such a good moth with our moth-ing friends.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Birding at last

Friday July 3

Up before 5.30 and driving away at 6.00 a.m. on a glorious summer morning. The oppressive humidity and heat of the previous three days have gone - temporarily  from forecasts. We haven't had a full day's birding since early June and have really missed it.
We had a great morning. Sculthorpe Mill looked deserted, of both people and birds, until we crossed the race in front of the inn, walking around the corner to view the lane, hedgerow and fields. A Blackcap sang, that was all. For the first time, I climbed the grassy bank at the back of the house to view the gardens. Below me was the mill race flanked by a wall, over the top I had a good view of the beautiful, well kept and treed, garden complete with tables and benches. Seeing a movement in a near tree, two Spotted Flycatchers appeared, obviously feeding young somewhere. Pam had joined me, saying, look at the wall. A pair of Grey Wagtails with full beaks were waiting for us to depart before going to the nest, which must have been in the mill race tunnel.
Another tree was now swaying under the very active family of Long-tailed Tits speeding through the canopy. Lovely.
I couldn't resist trying to photograph the Goldfinches feeding on thistles at the edge of the car park.

We left the birds in peace and drove to Valley Farm Lane. Red-legged Partridge and Tree Sparrows quickly added we drove to the end to turn round. The car following us was our gamekeeper friend who had been up since 5 irrigating potato fields. He'd squared us up with Linda who had been a bit snooty last month . 'Those two little old ladies have been coming up here for years' he said !! Apparently the road is private after the last cottage. He asked after King Harrys, asking if they bred late. I thought he'd said Harriers as did Pam. We must have looked bemused as he said that that was what he called Goldfinches. New one on me.
Later than usual, a sunlit Abbey farm was meant to be a quickie. Scanning the high grass meadow, the small brown lump at the foot of the telegraph pole was a Little Owl. Attention distracted by a raptor, we watched a Red Kite land in a tree the other side of the pond. The Owl had disappeared.
Sidling out from our bench seat, a Sparrowhawk flew across the near water.
Flitcham Village has a roadside plant selling home. The man was putting them out for the day as we passed. One tall blue flowered plant caught my eye. Pam parked, walked back and returned some time later with the Tradescantia I'd spotted - and a few other plants. £2 each and perfect.
Snettisham still had lots of water at 9ish, high tide was 7.58 but it was a very high one. The pit verges through the chalets looked lovely, summer maritime plants at their best. The reserve looked colourful too. A froth of Cow Parsley on one bank,  much more variety on the east facing side.
An Oystercatcher left her  nest containing three eggs as we drove up. So near the drive, stupid bird. We quickly photographed the eggs from the car window and drove on.

Scoping the far pit, I saw, a sandbank of Avocets, another of Cormorants and hundreds of Black-headed Gulls.A nearby group of Black-tailed Godwits, a few Knot and a couple of Redshank added more variety. Oh... and dozens of Oystercatchers.
A group of four Oystercatchers were performing some sort of synchronised hoedown on the beach, video would have done it justice.

Very little water by now, we both spent a little time photographing the Hoary Mullein, maritime Thistle, sedum sp and Yellow Horned Poppies flanking the wash. Beautiful. 

Yellow Horned Poppies and Sedum
Hoary Mullein
Some lovely vari-coloured Convolvulus added to the scene. Very few insects here, rather more on the bank at the top of the entrance path. Pam parked and walked off, I sat in the car watching the shore. Not all young birds are attractive and fluffy... where do young Black-headed Gulls fit in ? Not bad really, except when they are pictured against a dead Seal carcass. My choice.

Pam was quite a while, she'd been photographing Cinnabar caterpillars on Ragwort. I contented myself with a Bee on Briar flowers when I got out to open the gate. 

I was checking to see how the crop for my Autumn gate-opening treats was coming along really.

The whole of Hunstanton Cliffs seafront was lined with cars. We found a single space to tick off Fulmar and. eat the meal of Bacon Bap bought in Tesco, before driving to Holme. Marsh Harrier and Whitethroat were our last new birds for the day.
Driving back, we were able to stop to photograph the Orchids in the inland meadows. I believe that most of them are Southern Marsh Orchids. Haven't fully studied them yet. Pam has one with spotted leaves but this variety can have that variant too.

A brief stop at Wiveton Farms so that Pam could get a better pic of the Currant Clearwing, returning with a Ronaldo's icecream each, before our last stop at Cley Beach.
We had made all our usual stops, added nothing, not even Terns at Cley. Loved our day though. I know I always write that, 'cos it's true, to-day was especially so. The weather, flowers, insects and scenery at its best.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Thanks to B and S J

Thursday July 2

Phew. A very hot moth-ing session at Cley NWT Centre. All of us trying to huddle in the small amount of shade provided by the wall of the main building.Upper 20s C again but, with much more cloud.
Long-time friend Betty told me about a day flying moth session she and Steve had had at a local fruit farm. Clearwings are a family of moths I've long wished to see. Steve later showed us photos on his camera, warning that they were only hoverfly size and it had to be sunny.
After a cuppa, off we went, parking at the cafe before walking to the currant bush area. Not yet ripe, the currants were swathed in green netting.
Walking slowly along the row, Pam out-stripping me by yards as I kept seeing small flying things. Ladybirds, shield bugs, hoverflies and, on several occasions, possible Clearwings which kept darting past me and not landing.
Seeing me use my camera, Pam re-joined me - lucky chance - when I saw something very small land and said 'What's that'? Our first Currant Clearwing Moth. Scarce nationally. It wasn't still for long, I only managed two photographs before it was off again. 

Three yellow stripes on the abdomen means that this is a female, the male has four.

Too hot to linger, that was it for the day. We'll try again.

Returned Favour

Wednesday July 1

In many ways, a walk too far - but worth it. 
Having spent Monday in Norwich, Tuesday cooking and to-day up at 7 to complete the cooking for our coffee morning here, B texting to say that to-night was Broom Rape night was daunting. Add the high temperatures and humidity = shattered me with aching knees and back. Pam had been unwell since Monday, we missed Tuesday's moth-ing session, much better to-day but still not up to her eating best !
It was still 24C at 6.30, when we met at the rendezvous point. Only six of us, as the plants are on private land. Uphill, across a rough grass slope and steeply uphill to a patch of gorse and bramble. We had been warned that the scarce Greater Broomrape plants were eaten by deer, many of them damaged. We managed to find a good selection at several growth stages.

In flower