"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

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A Quiet Brandon Marsh

"Brock" in the Sensory Garden

I popped to Brandon Marsh NR for a couple of hours this afternoon.

The Reserve was very quiet both people and birdwise. I only saw about 6 other people as I rambled round and every hide I visited was empty. Solitude at last :D!

There were a few magpies near the visitor centre and feral pigeons and blue and great tits on the feeders.

I walked through Horsetail Glade to Steetley Hide overlooking West Marsh Pool. It was a waste of time taking the camera but I did take a few very poor record shots. There were several coots and moorhen with juveniles on the pool and a grey heron lurking in the reeds.

The only bit of action was when a second heron flew over and decided to land invoking the wrath of the lurking heron who soon took flight to chase the interloper away.

Sometimes you can be really lucky and see a kingfisher on a perch near the hide but not today. I carried on walking through West and Central Marsh - the only bird in sight was a blackbird but there were loads of ladybirds on the flower heads.

Teal Pool was quiet with more mallard, coot and moorhen - water levels were much higher than last visit and there were no muddy margins - this pool is usually good at this time of year for common and green sandpipers.

I ate my lunch in Carlton Hide which overlooks the Newlands Reedbed - again there was little about just a wood pigeon and moorhen. I was hoping for a hobby to add to my year list as they often hunt in front of this hide and perch in one of the nearby dead trees.

The Newlands area is currently undergoing Phase III development with the aim to create a bigger network of open water and reedbeds to benefit marshland species. I also gather that there are plans afoot to possibly reintroduce water voles to the reserve which would be brilliant.

View from Carlton Hide

Stopped of at East Marsh Hide and John Baldwin Hide briefly to view East Marsh Pool and there were a few more birds about - black-headed gulls, flock of starlings, swallows, tufted duck, greylag geese, canada geese, shoveler, cormorant,lapwing plus more mallard, coots, moorhen and grey heron.

I walked between Swallow and Grebe Pool returning to the visitor centre via the path that goes round the back of Grebe Pool and past the windpump. I added robin, wren and sand martin to the list of birds I had seen and there were a few grey squirrels and rabbits about.

"Now you see me"

"Now you don't"

There were lots of signs of autumn - acorns and good berry crops of elderberry, hawthorn, rosehips, blackberries, rowan etc. Highlight of the visit was a flock containing blue tits with willow warblers, chiffchaffs and a male and female blackcap. Blackcap is a new addition to the year list.

Female blackcap

There were just a few butterflies around - red admiral, speckled wood and several "whites" - too far away to identify plus a few dragonflies at too great a distance for me to be sure of species.

I may not have seen a lot but as always it was a chance to recharge the batteries and spend a couple of hours just living in the present and enjoying the wildlife around at one particular moment in time.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Confusing Noctuids

Its that time of year again when the moth trap seems to contain mainly lbj's of the moth world - many worn - making identification difficult for someone like me who struggles at the best of times!

Just to break the monotony there were a couple of Willow Beauties. My Large Yellow Underwing catch is really down so far this year with just five last Saturday.

Here's a couple of moths I am still struggling with

Firstly, is this a strange looking Straw Underwing or something entirely different?

I really haven't a clue on this one!

There were four of these in the trap - I think they are Square-spot Rustic

There were 2 Copper Underwings - see photos below. Of course, there are two very similar Copper Underwings - one the usual one and then Svensson's Copper Underwing! According to various blogs and forums I gather that the palp theory and the underside of hindwing colouration are no longer considered a reliable way of separating the species. The best way is to study the projections. In Copper Underwing they are usually all of the same length whereas in Svensson's Copper the 2 nearest the abdomen are obviously longer and more pointed. Using this I am pretty sure I have trapped just the normal Copper Underwing. The last photo shows the underside of the moth where you can get a glimpse of the beautiful copper colour of the underwing.

Summary of Moths Trapped Saturday, 27th August

8.30 until dawn. Minimum temperature 10.2 degrees centigrade
15w Actinic Skinner Trap

Willow Beauty x 2
Large Yellow Underwing x 5
Flounced Rustic x 5
Straw Underwing x 1
Copper Underwing x 2

Square-spot Rustic x 4?
plus the 2 uindentified moths above and half a dozen very worn noctuids that I didn't even attempt to id.

There was a young willow warbler passing through the garden yesterday and today a pair spent 10 or so minutes foraging for insects around the garden and pond. I love this time of year when anything can show up in the garden - we have had several visits from spotted flycatchers on migration in the past and one off visits from Redstart and Pied Flycatcher. So its worth keeping an eye out as something unusual could well turn up.

To finish off (and to brighten up the post) a couple of photos of garden sweetpeas - one of my favourite flowers.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

A Trip to Leicestershire

I had a day out with a friend yesterday and we visited the Staunton Harold Estate in Leicestershire. A lovely place with lots to do and see and plenty of walking nearby.

I also got my first view of The National Forest in the making - a concept to create woodland covering 200 square miles across Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire linking Charnwood Forest in the East with Needwood Forest in the West. To date 7.8 million trees have been planted increasing woodland cover from 6 to 18%.

We had a look round the Ferrers Arts and Craft Centre first. I was particularly taken with one shop selling a variety of carvings of the Green Man. Unfortunately, there were well outside my budget!

These stone owls were cute too

After lunch of brocolli and stilton soup we walked to the parkland

Serpentine Lake

Church Pool

Staunton Harold Hall - home to the Shirley Family for over 500 years but the estate (and hall) was sold in 1954

The Chapel of the Holy Trinity (National Trust) was luckily open.

It was founded in 1653 by Sir Robert Shirley, the 4th baronet who was a royalist and determined to build a church in the old tradition.

The epitaph above the West Door which reads

"In the year 1653
when all thinges Sacred were throughout ye nation
Either demolisht or profaned
Sir Robert Shirley Barronet,
Founded this church;
Whose singular praise it is,
to have done the best things in ye worst times,
hoped them in the most callamitous,
The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance."

Oliver Cromwell was not impressed and said that if Robert Shirley could afford to build such a church he could afford to build and equip a naval ship. When Shirley refused he was imprisoned in the Tower of London where he died aged 27.

I couldn't take many pictures inside the church as flash photography was not allowed and my camera is not good in poor light.

But here is a very poor picture (taken at 1/2.5 second!!!) of the very impressive ceiling representing the biblical story of creation from chaos.

And a few stained glass window pictures

A lovely day out in great company.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

More New Moth Species

There were some nice new moths in the trap on Saturday morning.

I was really pleased to find a Single Dotted Wave which is a new species for the garden. It was only when I cropped the photo that I realised it was a female moth and she was in the process of laying eggs. At times like this I must admit to feeling guilty about moth trapping - she should have been flying free laying her eggs on cow parsley not languishing in a moth pot in my fridge for a few hours. I'll keep an eye on the eggs and if they hatch release the larvae on cow parsley which is one of the food plants and now I've let her go hopefully she'll have some eggs left to lay in the wild.

Single Dotted Wave

The next photo is of an Old Lady - a very large moth so named because the markings are believed to resemble an old lady's shawl. Another new species for the year.

My first Antler of the year

Straw Dot - again new for year

And yet another new species for the year - Flounced Rustic

Garden Carpet I think this is new for year and possibly garden too. I need to stop blogging and find the time to update my moth records which are weeks behind!

And a mystery moth - still working on this one but haven't been able to identify so far.

There were a couple of non-moth species in the trap.

This is an ichneumon wasp (I think it may be yellow ophion - a species where the female lays her eggs inside moth caterpillars)

And a Hawthorn Shield Bug

As always if I have got any of the id's wrong please feel free to correct me and any help with id of mystery moth would be more than welcome!

Summary of Moths trapped Friday, 19th August

9.00 until dawn
Minimum temperature - 13 degrees centigrade
15w Actinic Skinner Trap

Large Yellow Underwing x 3
Flounced Rustic x 4 (New for Year)
Orange Swift x 3
Old Lady x 1 (New for Year)
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing x 4
Straw Underwing x 6
Common Rustic x 1
Straw Dot x 1 (New for Year)
Rustic x 1
Setaceous Hebrew Character x 1
Antler x 1 (New for Year)
Garden Carpet x 1 (New for year)
Single Dotted Wave x 1 (New for Year and Garden)

Unidentified macro in photo above


Brown House Moth x 1 (New for Garden though sadly not new for house :D)
Garden Grass-veneer x 1

There were several other micros I am not at all confident about identifying - mainly Agriphila spp, and a possible Crambus pascuella.

I am thinking of going on a moth course this autumn to try and improve my id skills! Emily has offered to treat me as an early birthday/Christmas present.

Getting away from moths I went a ride round the lanes last week - there were lots of red-legged partridges and juvenile pheasants in the hedgerows and running across the road. I found a good stretch of hedgerow full of berries (hawthorn, sloes, blackthorn, elderberry, rowan) which was full of blackbirds and tits feasting on the berry harvest. I may try and revisit to see if I can see any warblers feeding up for their migration. Stopped off at Shustoke Reservoir briefly and saw my first dabchick of the year!!! Can't believe I haven't seen this species before this year. There were dozens of pied wagtails at the water edges flying over the water chasing insects. Several times I saw swallows gathering on telephone wires - a sign that they will soon be leaving us and a reminder that autumn is not far away.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Owls, Eagles, Hawks and Falcons at The Gardens

I spent several hours this morning at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens where they were holding a falconry event.

The photos aren't that sharp but I had a lot of fun experimenting and practising with the 70 - 300 mm lens!

This is "Woody" - a male Asian Brown Wood Owl (SE Asia) hatched in 2010. All the birds on display and taking part in the flights are captive bred.

"Scratchy" - a male Gyr x Saker Falcon Hybrid (hatched in 2008)

"Tock" - a female Harris Hawk - hatched 2004 (native to Central and Southern America)

"Bazil" a male Bengal Eagle Owl hatched in 1996 (native to India, Nepal, Pakistan)

"Tosca" - a female Steppe Eagle (Native to Central Asia) Hatched 2001

"Slate" - a Gyr x Peregrine Falcon Hybrid - hatched 2004

Here's a few photos from the hour long flying display. Didn't have much luck taking birds in flight - the speed of the birds was playing havoc with the autofocus so most of the photos were only fit for the delete button! Need to re-read the manual!


"Bazil" who preferred walking to flying!

"Buzz" - Common Kestrel



Hopefully, I've got the birds' names and species correct - I lost half my notes!

It was a shame I couldn't be there for the second flying display with the remaining four birds at 3.30 but I had other arrangements (oh yes, top of the Premiership :D)!

Hopefully, Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens will hold a similar event next year - I will certainly return as it really was a super experience and brilliant for children as the flying display was very interactive.