"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Easily Side-tracked! - Moths, Garden Birds and EarthScience

Garden Moths - GMS Week 7

I'm still not catching many moths! I ran the trap on Friday night and with a minimum temperature of 1.8 degrees centigrade, the only moth was an Early Grey.

I think these moths are rather cute and teddy bearish and its a new species for the year.

Garden Moth Species for 2012 = 11

Hopefully, the nights will get warmer soon and bring out a few more moths!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my photos weren't bringing out the colours and features in the lbj's of the moth world and Stewart from "The Orthosia Enthusiast" and "From the Notebook" (see links on the right under my blog list) kindly suggested trying a slate background. Initially I couldn't find any slate in the house and then I found lurking in the back of a cupboard a souvenir I once brought back from the Lake District. You know the type of thing - it seems a nice purchase at the time but when you get home you can't find the right place for it so it ends up being shoved away.

The reverse of the above has provided me with a nice slaty surface for moth photos - although I haven't had chance to try it with brown moths I think it works well with the Early Grey!

It says on the packaging that the piece of slate is 500 million years old and this is where I got very easily sidetracked into slate formation and moth evolution!

Slate is a fine-grained metamorphic rock formed when an original shale type sedimentary rock or volcanic ash underwent low grade regional metamorphism leading to recrystallisation of the original rock type. Regional metamorphism occurs as a result of an increase in pressure (and/or temperature). These conditions occur due to deep burial and mountain building and can affect large area of rocks. This is a gross over-simplification of the process but luckily for all concerned most of my geology books are buried at the bottom of a pile of storage boxes and are not easily accessible!

There would, of course,have been no moths around when this particular piece of slate was formed. Around 545 to 505 million years ago the "Cambrian Explosion" took place when the diversity of animal forms increased dramatically including the evolution of marine shelly fossils. My favourite organisms of all time - the Trilobites first evolved around this time.

So when did moths first evolve? Apparently there is a lot of variation in estimates of when the Lepidoptera first appeared and the fossil record of moths and butterflies is poor. Insects first evolved around 400 million years ago but the earliest reference I can find to a Lepidopteran fossil (although I stand to be corrected!)is that of a few wings of a moth species named Archaeolepsis mane found in a rock from Dorset and dated to around 190 million years ago. Lepidoptera only began to increase and diversify when flowering plants appeared and began their rapid evolution about 80 million years ago during the mid Cretaceous. Moths evolved well before butterflies.

Garden Update

To return to the present there has been a lot of nesting and breeding activity seen in the garden recently.

House Sparrows are still to be seen taking nesting material into the eaves.

Robins are still indulging in courtship feeding.

Blackbirds are taking nest material into a conifer.

The Blue Tit is still taking nesting material into the nestbox and then removing it. Although today there seems to be a lot more moss being collected and left in the box.

The pair of chaffinches is still around and have been seen mating so there must be a nest somewhere close by.

The wren has been seen entering the hanging basket with yet more nesting material.

Long tailed tits have been indulging in recycling - collecting feathers from the lawn from yet another sparrowhawk kill (another house sparrow we think).

And I saw my first orange tip of the year on Thursday - a male flitting across the garden.


Dean said...

Surprised to see any moths on the wing considering how cold it`s been, Caroline.

ShySongbird said...

I think the slate background is very effective. Interesting to read about it also. I know just about nothing about geology but do remember always being fascinated by the small fossils in the stonework of the church I passed each day on my walk to primary school.

Good to read the nesting activity is ongoing in your garden, let's hope this colder weather doesn't cause problems.

It was nice to see the fairy door again on the previous post, I remember it from older posts. I too prefer the less adorned version although I did like the addition of the miniature welly boots :-)

By the way did you hear that massive bang which turned out to be a sonic boom the other day? Frightened the life out of me!

Ragged Robin said...

Dean - I was a bit surprised too Dean!

Shy Songbird - Its amazing how many places you can see fossils. Touchwood Shopping Centre in Solihull has them scattered throughout the flooring! and there are also some there in the wall of the post office.

No I didn't hear the sonic boom the other day but some of the people who work with my daughter heard it. It sounds as though it was heard over a really large area. It would have made me jump too especially if I didn't know what caused it!

Central Birder said...

Enjoyed reading your blog today and have put a link on mine for yours too, hope this is okay?

Ragged Robin said...

Central Birder - I'm so glad you enjoyed the post and thank you for putting a link on your blog - thats very kind. Hope you don't mind that I had already put your link on mine! I am really enjoying reading your posts.

Rohrerbot said...

The bird action around here has been crazy as well. Lots of nesting going on. I feel like my garden looks like a dump. Trilobites are cool:) I remember them growing up. I'm not sure why but they stuck inside my head as one of my favorites.

Ragged Robin said...

Chris - I just love Spring! With Trilobites I just love the thought of them inhabiting an ancient ocean all those millions of years and its fascinating handling fossils that are that old.

Toffeeapple said...

Oh, a geology lesson too, how wonderful.

I wonder when the Blue Tits will actually start to use the nest?

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Over the last 2 years since we had the nestbox camera the taking the nest material in and out seems to last a week or so! At least now the nest material seems to be staying in the box! Although with the cold weather at the moment I hope she doesn't lay the eggs yet!