"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, 30 July 2011

Petition to Save the Badgers

38 Degrees who ran such a successful "Save Our Forests" campaign have now organised a petition to try and prevent the recently proposed badger cull.

If you feel opposed to the cull please visit their website at:


and sign the petition. The more signatures they receive the more powerful their voice will be.

Many thanks

Friday, 29 July 2011

Third Time Lucky!

Following two recent unsuccessful visits to local churchyards looking for spotted flycatchers, I visited another location yesterday afternoon. A beautiful rural churchyard where I thought I had more chance of seeing the species as they have been seen there in the past.

There were lots of blue tits flitting about and I spotted a green woodpecker anting on the grass (unbelievably the first I have seen this year!). Within a few minutes I was lucky enough to see my first spotted flycatchers of the year - a pair of adults were taking forays from the treetops to catch insects.

They were far too far away really to take photographs but I did take a few very poor record shots - exceedingly heavily cropped.

There were at least 3 juveniles dotted around the same area of the churchyard

I'll be keeping an eye out in the garden come autumn as we've been lucky enough to have had 3 visits (2003, 2006 and 2007) from this species as they pass through on migration.

I also saw a gatekeeper on the beech hedge in the front garden yesterday - the first I've seen in the garden this year.

For one reason and another I've not been able to get out much this month so have tended to concentrate on wildlife in the garden and to finish off here's a slightly better photo than those above of a blackbird who had just been bathing in the pond and perched on the old brick barbecue to have a preen.

Garden butterflies 2011 - 12 species

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Some New Garden Ticks (Moth-wise)

Saturday night's moth trapping session produced one new species for the year and one, not only new for the year, but also new for the garden.

The macros were a lively bunch fluttering around as soon as I got them out of the fridge so it was hard to get any photos at all. Most of the micros escaped whilst I was potting the macros (saving hours of id problems!)

As usual the ids are a trifle tentative so please feel free to correct me!

Dark Spinach (new for garden) and what a beautifully marked moth

Knot Grass - I've posted photos of this species before but it has lovely markings

My first Common Footman of the year - very lively this one managed to just get a photo as it crawled across the worktop. Hopefully, its the Common species as like so many other moths there are several Footmen that look very similar!

Edit - Many thanks to Dean for coming to my rescue and correcting my id. This is a Scarce Footman - great news (another new species for the garden)

And here's a better photo of a more docile individual that I took last year which was quite happy to pose for its picture.

Edit - Common Footman id confirmed by Dean

And here's a mystery micro - haven't got a clue what this species is. Very poor photo (the micros are really just too small for the 14-42mm lens to cope with)

On Sunday I caught this moth in the bathroom (it won't count towards the Garden Moth Scheme) but as presumably it flew in through the window from the garden and its a new species I shall count it for my garden list!

Clay - hopefully. I know its a male as it has a black mark on its abdomen but there is a very similar species (White-point) where the male also has a black mark visible on the underside of its body

Summary of Moths Trapped Saturday 23rd July

9.30 p.m. until dawn Minimum temperature 9.7 degrees centigrade

15w Actinic Skinner Trap

Riband Wave x 1
Heart and Dart x 2
Uncertain x 17
Shuttle-shaped Dart x 1
Dark Arches x 6
Heart and Club x 1
Common Footman x 1 New for Year Edit This should be Scarce Footman (new for garden) Thanks again Dean
Knot Grass x 1
Dark Spinach x 1 New for Garden (and year)


Garden Grass-veneer x 1


24th July

Clay x 1 New for Garden

Total number of species in the Garden (since mid 2009) 122 Edit 123

Total number of species in the Garden 2011 64

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Big Butterfly Count

Butterfly Conservation, in association with Marks and Spencer, has organised a nationwide survey of butterflies again this year between 16th and 31st July. Last year when the survey was first launched 10,000 people participated and recorded 210,000 butterflies and day flying moths.

The idea of the survey is to help assess the health of the environment as butterflies react rapidly to changes and are, therefore, excellent biodiversity indicators. The survey may reveal decreases in particular species which can act as a warning of other potential wildlife losses. The count will also help show trends in species so that action can be taken for declining species and also show how climate change is affecting butterflies.

All you have to do is pick a location, such as your garden or a park or wood, and look for butterflies and moths over a 15 minute period and then enter your records on the website. There is an interactive map so you can check what other species have been seen in your area.

If you are interested in taking part the website can be found at:


I watched our garden for 15 minutes at lunchtime today seeing 1 red admiral, 2 speckled wood and 2 large white. The holly blues and small whites decided to put in an appearance after the 15 minutes had ended! - Very reminiscent of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch when all the interesting species descend just after the hour is up!

Speckled Wood

and a very poor record shot of a Large White which only alighted and kept still for about a nano second!

Edit - Many thanks to Dean for pointing out that this is a Green-veined White!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Bumbles in the Garden

Lavender flowers in the garden in the afternoon sun were humming with bumblebees today.

I still haven't managed to justify robbing the piggy bank for a macro lens so I decided to have a go at some photos using the 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens (handheld and no IS) on the Olympus E-420 DSLR. The photos aren't very sharp but I will persevere and have a few more attempts next week perhaps using a tripod.

My bee id skills are at about the same level as my moth id skills (!) and I particularly find it hard to differentiate between Garden, Buff-tailed and White-tailed but I think the first few photos are of a Buff-tailed bumblebee.

I love the wings in this first photo - looking like colourless stained glass

There were several Common Carder Bees

I checked the St Johns Wort flowers so beloved by the Red-tailed bumblebee but most of the flowers are now past their best and there were only a few common carder bees around.

Bumble bees have a lot of great country names - according to "Bugs Britannica" by Peter Marren and Richard Mabey alternative names include: bumbard, bummie-bee, dumbledore, dusty miller, gairy bee, hummobee, sunny sodger and red arsie. What super names!

A tame (juvenile?) dunnock was busy collecting food from under the feeding station as I was trying to take bee photos.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Totally against Badger Culling

Earlier this week Ms Caroline Spelman, Environment Secretary, announced that, although there would be no badger culling in England this year as a measure to control cattle tuberculosis (bTB), there would be consultations on methodology. Culling by controlled shooting could take place in pilot trials next Spring with wider implementation the following year.

Although this decision was not exactly unexpected, I was really appalled by it for the following reasons.

The European Badger (Meles meles) is a protected species and, although under certain circumstances, for example to tackle disease, the Government can approve culling, I feel the killing of badgers is morally unjustifiable and inhumane. Prevention of the spread of bTB to cattle can be tackled in so many other ways - improved farm biosecurity measures especially around food storage containers and drinking troughs, improved husbandry management, more controls on cattle movement and more trialling and eventual introduction of vaccines for badgers and cattle. There is also far too much risk of badgers not being killed outright and suffering horribly from gunshot wounds.

In addition, culling could lead to local badger extinctions.

All relevant scientific evidence suggests that culling is ineffective and will not solve the cattle bTB problem as can be seen from the culling trial by the Independent Scientific Group (ISG) (costing £50 million pounds to administer). In their summary and recommendations they said "Given its high costs and low benefits we therefore conclude that badger culling is unlikely to contribute usefully to the control of cattle TB in Britain and recommend that TB control efforts focus on measures other than badger culling".

So why is this advice now being ignored?

A cull would be non-selective; targeting healthy as well as diseased badgers. Most badgers are free from bTB. The Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), overseen by the ISG, demonstrated that even in bTB hotspots less than 1 in 7 badgers were infected.

The Government has suggested that in the pilot trials badgers should be culled by controlled shooting by marksmen, operating under licences from Natural England, targeting the badgers at night. This method and its effectiveness has never been tested previously.

The RBCT discovered in its trials that killing some badgers can lead to "pertubation" (i.e. the remaining badgers from the sett will scatter to other areas) thus increasing disease in cattle on the edge of test regions. Under current Government proposals pertubation will not be monitored even though controlled shooting could possibly lead to high scattering of surviving animals.

In 2009 and 2010 no badgers were culled but there were improvements in the testing of cattle, movement controls and cattle husbandry, resulting in a 15% reduction in the incidences of bTB.

The location of pilot trials will become public knowledge as local people will need to be consulted before culling can commence which may well lead to protests and consequent problems with public order and safety in the trial areas.

It appears to me that in recent decades the badger has often been made a scapegoat in the spread of bTB and its alleged role seems to have taken attention away from important research into other solutions and cattle management issues.

Culling would be costly and time consuming and could even exacerbate the problems of transmission. It is not a well proven solution to the problem as past trials have shown.

Ms Spelman's Chief Scientific Adviser claims the policy is science-led but DEFRA says on its website that "cattle to cattle transmission is a serious cause of disease spread". As previously mentioned the ISG in its summary did not recommend badger culling as a solution. The ISG has made the scientific view that culling of badgers provides "no meaningful contribution" and is "not cost effective" as a tool for reducing incidence of bTB. The RBCT from 1998 to 2006 researched how bTB spread between cattle, badgers and other species and reached the important conclusions that

1. Although badgers were a source of bTB, badger culling could make no meaningful contribution to cattle TB control in Britain and some ideas under consideration could make the situation worse not better.

2. Failures in cattle testing means that cattle themselves contribute to the persistence and spread of bTB where it is found and in some areas are likely to be the primary reasons for infection.

Scientific evidence also suggest that rising levels of the disease can be reversed and spreading of the disease can be stopped by the rigorous use of cattle based control measures alone.

So what is the best way of tackling the transmission of bTB in cattle?

Cattle mainly catch bTB from other cattle and the risk of the disease spreading is highest when cattle are kept in close proximity to each other in enclosed areas, such as overwintering in sheds, or when they make contact with other cattle at markets or shows. Therefore, surely improved husbandry and efficient movement controls are part of the answer.

Increased biosecurity by farmers to reduce the risk of wildlife, such as badgers and deer, contaminating food and water is also essential.

But most importantly widespread vaccination of badgers following more field trials would seem the most humane, cost effective and efficient way forward. In the long term a vaccination for cattle would control the spread of the disease even more effectively especially as a test is being developed which can differentiate between cows infected with bTB and those that have been vaccinated.

A BBC poll last month revealed that most people (both city and rural dwellers) opposed a badger cull. 63% were against culling, 31% in favour and the remainder undecided.

If you are against the proposed cull of badgers The League Against Cruel Sports have an online petition at


They have 18,000 signatures and are hoping to get a million but even 100,000 would be enough to start a debate in parliament.



The Mammal Society (http://www.mammal.org.uk/(
The Badgers Trust (http://www.badger.org.uk/Content/Home.asp)
Save Me Badgers in Peril (http://www.brianmay.com/save-me/badgers/)
The Wildlife Trusts (http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/)
Bovine TB: Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT) Report

Monday, 18 July 2011

Where have all the moths gone?

A really disappointing moth trapping session last Thursday night with just four species of macro moth and a few micros.

I had another attempt at identifying the micros - gosh they are lively and even harder to take photos of than the macros.

I've caught this moth before - again think it may be Spilonota ocellana (bud moth). Sorry the photos are really poor.

Another poor photo but I think this is possibly Crambus pascuella

There were a couple of tiny moths that looked that Agriphila straminella but the photos of these are even worse so I haven't bothered posting one!

Summary of Moths Trapped Thursday, 14th July

10.00 until dawn

Minimum temperature 9.6 degrees centigrade

15w Actinic Skinner Trap

Uncertain x 11
Heart and Dart x 2
Shuttle-shaped Dart x 1
Scalloped Oak x 2



Crambus pascuella x 2
Agriphila straminella x 2
Spilonota ocellana x 1

Garden Update

There are lots of recently fledged house sparrows around at the moment and we had a visit from a pair of Stock Doves. There are lots of young common/smooth newts in the pond at various stages of development.

Feeling fed up on Saturday with the rain, poor moth catch and events at Aston Villa (can't believe we have sold not just one but 2 of our best players! Ashley Young's departure was expected but surely we could have kept hold of Downing?!), I had a baking session to cheer myself up and provide some comfort food!

Raspberry and Cream Swiss Roll for tea! Yum!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Summer at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

I managed to visit Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens for an hour on Tuesday afternoon and they are full of summer colour.

Courtyard by the Main Entrance

Borders near the main entrance by Lady Bridgeman's Garden

Its nice to see "old fashioned" fruits in the Gardens such as these greengages

Lady Bridgeman's Garden

I love pot marigolds (calendula) which are very attractive to insects and there are several borders full of these colourful flowers

My Lady's Border

Looking towards the Melon Ground

I seem to be seeing yucca's in flower everywhere (except my own garden!)

The Green House

Looking towards South-west Pier

North Orchard

Leaving the walled area of the Gardens I walked though Nut Ground towards the North Pond, home to Great Crested Newt. I had noticed from the Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens blog (please see link on the right under "My Blog List" ) that a moorhen had been seen recently on this pond. Sure enough there were a pair of adults (a new species to add to the list I have started of birds seen in the Gardens) and as I approached the pond I am sure I saw several youngsters diving for cover amongst the reeds.

Walking towards West Pond - quite a few butterflies around here (small and large whites, speckled wood and a ringlet - a new butterfly species for the Gardens).

West Pond looking along the West Claire-vole towards Castle Bromwich Hall

New Orchard

I spotted a willow warbler foraging for flies in the hedgerow adjacent to the orchard (another new species for the bird list). Sorry no bird pics I didn't have the right lens with me.

Several species of wildflower in the orchard - I am not sure if they have been planted or have occurred naturally but it was lovely to see a cornflower and harebells.

Re-entering the Walled Garden

The South Kitchen Garden now planted up with many varieties of vegetable and I love the way the Gardens mix flowers in with the vegetables


Castle Bromwich Hall is in the process of being restored and turned into a boutique type hotel. I understand its due to open in September so I am hoping we can visit the restaurant for a meal and see how much it has changed from the visit I made last December when the Gardens organised Tours of the Hall before the renovation began, with kind permission of the new owner of the Hall.

I would certainly recommend a visit to these quiet and peaceful gardens. I try and visit most months of the year and there is always something to see whatever the season. Please see the Gardens website at www.cbhgt.org.uk for more information on opening hours and special events.

The Gardens have been restored in recent decades to the period 1680 - 1760 and there are over 600 species of historically correct plant.