"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

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Big Butterfly Count

Butterfly Conservation, in association with Marks and Spencer, has launched a nationwide butterfly survey where members of the public are invited to count the number of butterflies they see in a 15 minute period in a suitable location, such as a garden, park, woodland or field, between 24th July and 1st August and submit their findings online. (See link to Big Butterfly Count website at end of blog posting). The survey has been launched in 2010 to mark the International Year of Biodiversity. Butterflies are very good biodiversity indicators because they are affected quickly by environmental changes. Signs of declines in butterfly species can, therefore, give early warning of possible future losses in other wildlife species. The count will also show how different butterfly species are doing so that action can be taken if necessary to avoid further losses or extinctions and will additionally help scientists to understand how climate change is affecting wildlife.

Desperate to get a break from domestic chores this afternoon and as it was warm and sunny I decided to count the number of butterflies in the garden for the specified 15 minutes, seeing the following butterflies:

1 Holly Blue
1 Large White
1 Small White
1 Speckled Wood
2 Gatekeepers

I may count again tomorrow as you can submit as many 15 minute counts as you like.

Here are a few photos of the two gatekeepers I saw.

The Big Butterfly Count website can be found at www.bigbutterflycount.org. Sorry I have tried to insert a link but for some reason it doesn't seem to work.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

"Beauties", Antlers and Sherbert Fruits

I ran the moth trap again on Sunday evening and managed a good selection of moths including lots of worn lbj's again! The Antler moth was a first for the garden and beautifully marked - please see photo below. Willow and Marbled Beauty were new moth species for this year.

Willow Beauty - quite worn so I hope I have the identification correct - as always please feel free to correct any misidentifications.

Here is this week's mystery moth - I really haven't a clue.

Marbled Beauty - a great example of a moth with protective camouflage as it hides by day on stone walls and rocks - if these were lichen encrusted I don't think many predators would spot it!

Poplar Grey and Knot Grass look very similar (to me anyway) but I think this is Knot Grass

Two photos of the Antler Moth next which show the white "Antler" markings which I assume give the moth its common name.

Summary of Moths trapped Sunday, 25th July
in Actinic skinner 15w trap
Minimum temperature 16.1 degrees centigrade

1 x Willow Beauty New for Year
2 x Large Yellow Underwing
5 x Shuttle-shaped Dart
3 x Riband Wave
4 x Dark Arches
1 x Heart and Dart
2 x Dun-bar
2 x Mottled Rustic
2 x Marbled Beauty New for Year
2 x Antler New for Garden
1 x Flame Shoulder
2 x Rustic
1 x Knot Grass?

Total number of species seen in garden = 85
Total number of species seen in 2010 63
Total number of moths trapped in 2010 315

Garden Update

We are still getting plenty of juvenile blue and great tits plus goldfinches and green finches on the feeders. The robin must have started moulting its feathers as it has gone into its annual skulk mode hiding in the shrubs and bushes and only venturing forth occasionally to grab some food from the feeders. Butterflies visiting in the last week include large, small and green veined whites plus speckled wood, comma, holly blue and gatekeeper. Have only seen one red admiral this year and no peacocks at all.

And a few photos of garden flowers to finish off with.

I love mesbyranthemums - they always remind me of those brightly coloured sherbert fruit sweets.

A photo of some of the patio pots - starting to bloom well now and attracting hoverflies, bumbles and butterflies.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Timed Tetrad Visit - Mission Finally Accomplished

I was determined today to complete my BTO Atlas late breeding season timed tetrad visit. So I left camera and daughter (actually she refused to come this time!) at home, refused to get distracted by butterflies and ignored all public footpaths keeping to the lanes this time.

I managed to see 17 species and get some evidence of breeding activity. I didn't see anything particularly unusual but was glad to see a pair of skylarks again as I hadn't recorded them on previous visits to the tetrad. Buzzard, wren, house martin and swallow were also new species for this tetrad. I was also pleased to see a yellowhammer again - there seem to be a lot around this particular area.

I've now finished the four timed visits to this tetrad but it is such a lovely area to walk in (when not getting lost, of course) that I will probably visit again and any new species can be entered as roving records.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

How Not To Do A Bird Survey!

A few days ago my daughter said she would treat me to a pub lunch as she wanted to visit a pub that a friend had recommended. I then hit on the idea that as the pub was near my BTO tetrad we could do the late summer visit and then have lunch. To be honest my planned birding trip of the week was to Brandon Marsh NR but the deadline for the BTO Atlas visit is fast approaching. The advantage of going with my daughter is that it is company as I am not overkeen on wandering along public footpaths and country lanes on my own but the disadvantage is that she gets bored very quickly and I would only be able to do the minimum of an hour's surveying rather than the two hours I would have preferred.

When we arrived at the tetrad she said she didn't want to do the walk we did last time as it was "boring"! so I looked at the OS map and said we could go in the opposite direction along the "Heart of England" way and then cut across on another public footpath to get back onto a lane that led through woods to a village, farm buildings, more agricultural land and hedgerows which would take in the major habitat types of the tetrad.

Photo taken at the start of the walk - hope you enjoy the pictures of the Warwickshire countryside - its a beautiful county.

Daughter marching off (why do my children always treat leisurely walks as a route march?!) dressed more for the pub lunch than a walk in the country although thank goodness she had her wellies on as will be seen later. Here we are about to enter the "Heart of England" way.

Nice to see "Beetle Banks" surrounding fields of crops and full of wild flowers and butterflies.

At this stage I was thinking what a perfect way it was to spend a morning strolling through a wheat field watching skylarks and seeing grey partridges scurrying along the side of the path.

In the distance by the wood at the edge of the field you can just make out about a dozen beehives.

Leaving the field of wheat we entered a meadow with adjoining woodland.

Horses in a paddock.

It was at this stage that things started to go wrong as the footpath just disappeared. We entered another horse paddock through a kissing gate but there was no way out! i.e. no further kissing gate or stile in the direction suggested by the footpath sign. We retraced our steps and ended up going down a farm track and clambering over a gate to reach a country lane.

At this stage I realised we were now a mile or more away from where I wanted to be and about to leave the tetrad. I was also regretting bringing the camera as I was taking far too much time taking photos and also chasing after the many butterflies to be seen rather than counting birds!! In retrospect we should probably have retraced our steps. I tried to work out the quickest way back to the tetrad which involved yet another public footpath and we set off again.

Ringlet butterfly

It was at this stage that yet again the public footpath disappeared. We were strolling along quite happily looking at the flowers and butterflies when the path led into a large area of thistles and nettles. Negotiating our way through this we realised there was no sign of the path and there was no sign of the kissing gate or stile exiting from the field to the lane. I said to my daughter never mind we can just climb over the gate again. However, reaching the gate we found it was covered in barbed wire and attempts to climb over were unsurprisingly quickly abandoned!!! I then suggested we enter the wood at the side of the field and make our way onto the road from there. A few yards into the wood we encountered yet more barbed wire making further progess impossible. The only way to reach the lane involved descending into a three foot deep vertical ditch with muddy water at the foot. I couldn't face retracing our steps along the public footpath so finding an overhanging tree to give support we somehow managed to negotiate the ditch and reach the road covered in mud! I was rather regretting by this time not bringing a drink or sun protection cream as it was really hot! What had initially meant to be an hour's walk ended up taking three hours!

Nearly back at the car! Daughter was not happy as we had missed out on the pub lunch and I still have my tetrad survey to do!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Appearance of the dreaded worn moth LBJ's

I ran the moth trap last Saturday night and the hot, humid weather brought in quite a lot of moths. Unfortunately many of them were the dreaded LBJ's and to make matters even harder for a novice moth-er like myself many were very worn.

Here's a summary of the catch.

Saturday 17th July
9.30 p.m. until dawn.
Actinic 15w Skinner Trap
Temperature range 15.5 - 10.9 degrees centigrade

3 x Bright-line Brown-eye
5 x Rustic
10 x Mottled Rustic
2 x Common Wainscot
4 x Dark Arches
1 x Heart and Dart
3 x Scalloped Oak
1 x Buff Arches
2 x Riband Wave
2 x Dunbar
1 x Shuttle-shaped Dart
1 x Purple Thorn ??
+ 3 mystery moths

Here are a few photos - apologies again for the poor quality - they are heavily cropped. Again, if anyone can help or correct identifications it would be greatly appreciated.

Not all sure about these 2 moths although I have a feeling they may be species of Rustic.

Once I had photographed and cropped I managed to identify this as a Shuttle-shaped Dart.

This one has me mystified. My best quess is a Dot moth but other ideas were Black Rustic but probably too early or Crescent but a garden seems to be the wrong habitat.

Edit - Have been checking through my id books again and I think this is probably a common rustic.

The following two photos show a species of Thorn. This is a very pretty and lively species of moth that tends to hold their wings above their body like a butterfly. The main colours on the moth were pinky/purple and orange and I think it is possibly a Purple Thorn which would be a new garden tick.

Edit - Having trawled through more id books and websites, I think this is actually an Early Thorn - still a new species for the garden though.

Saw a green-veined white butterfly in the garden on Sunday - the first in the garden this year. The second generation of holly blues are putting in an appearance now. The buddleias are just starting to flower so I am hoping this will attract a few more species. In the past we have had visits from small and large skippers, wall, small copper, and ringlets but I haven't seen any of these species in the garden for years.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Stroll round Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

On Friday lunchtime I revisited Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens. I just love these beautiful Baroque gardens which have recently been restored. They are so quiet and peaceful and, apart from seeing a few gardeners by the entrance when I arrived, I didn't see a single person as I strolled around - perfect solitude and sheer bliss!I could almost have been transported back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when these gardens were at their peak.

Some photos of the courtyard at the entrance to the gardens.

This is Lady Bridgeman's Garden which, according to the guide book, is planted in the "Carps Back" style. The layout of the garden was copied from a 1726 engraving by Henry Beighton.

Here are some photos of My Lady's Borders where all plants were grown in the period when the gardens were first created.

This little courtyard is called the Melon Grounds

The Green House built around 1729.

Flower borders adjoin the North Orchard.

Doorway leading to the "Extra Gardens" which are outside the main Walled Garden and contain ponds, orchards, a wildflower meadow and a small wooded area.

The North Pond, home to Great Crested Newt, is now surrounded by lush vegetation and you can hardly see the pond itself.

A view from West Pond along the West Claire-vole towards Castle Bromwich Hall. Last year we attended a moth and bat evening at the Gardens and we saw loads and heard loads of bats at this particular area.

The New Orchard contains several old mulberry trees.

The orchard trees were full of ripening apples and pears.

Bridge leading to a walk through a small copse to the South Pond.

Door leading to the South Kitchen Garden where many old varieties of vegetables are grown. I sat for a while on a bench overlooking the kitchen garden and soaked in the atmosphere. I really must remember to bring a book next time and spend longer here.

Ripening berries on a rowan tree. The rowan trees in our garden have developed berries but they are still very green.

The Maze - exact age not known but it is believed to have been added to the garden in the nineteenth century. It is a straightened mirror image of the Hampton Court Maze trapezium shape according to the Guide Book and has camomile lawns at the centre.

The Summer House

Herb Borders and the area of the Garden known as the Lower Wilderness

There are lots of paths in the wilderness area - all calling out to be explored.

The Archery Ground - CBHG Trust arrange concerts and plays here in the summer.

A Parterre located just past the Summer House

This photo shows some new trellis and remains of what was once a Gazebo.

This is an area of the Gardens known as the Upper Wilderness.

Saw quite a few butterflies whilst walking around - large and small whites, speckled wood, comma, small tortoiseshell and painted lady.

The bumble bees were enjoying the lavender flowers.

A very worn and tattered painted lady.

I really loved this unusual plant.

I hardly saw any birds today whilst I was wandering around just a few wood pigeons, blackbirds and a magpie. I really must go on a birdwatching trip next week.

Here is a view of the side of Castle Bromwich Hall. The Hall is not owned by the Trust and so you cannot visit the interior. It was recently on the housing market and I am not sure if it has been sold but no photos of the front of this impressive Hall as it was covered in scaffolding.

Close to the Hall and Gardens is the Church of St Mary and St Margaret which contains a "church within a church". More on this in a future blog posting but I have to admit the church door looked well and truly locked!!!!

Sorry for such a long post and I am afraid I have got rather carried away with the amount of photos!!