"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 December 2011

Happy New Year!

A big Thank You to everyone who has visited my blog over the last year with extra special thanks to those who have become followers, left comments and helped with identification.

Wishing everyone a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year with plenty of wildlife highlights.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Highlights of the Year - Part 4: October to December

Hopefully, a shorter post :D!

Garden Butterflies

The last two butterflies seen in the garden this year were during the hot sunny spell we had at the beginning of October - a Red Admiral on 1st October and a Speckled Wood on the 5th. Buff-tailed bumbles and a common carder bee were also seen during this unseasonally hot weather. Overall a poor year for butterflies in the garden with many species usually seen not putting in an appearance this year.

Garden Moths

Moth numbers were low in the trap during October and beginning of November although there were two new species for the garden - Green Brindled Crescent on 14th October and November Moth aggregate on 22nd October. Thanks again to Dean and Stewart for all the help with moth id over the year. My last trapping session of the year on 6th November resulted in just one species being caught - a Light Brown Apple Moth

November Moth agg

Green Brindled Crescent - have cheated a bit here as I can't find my original photo of the moth caught in the trap (I have thousands of moth photos in the folder really must delete some!) so this is a photo of a much better marked individual caught in the utility room when we were on holiday in Wales!

I did catch a Winter Moth on 23rd December attracted to light and caught on the garage door window.

I've ended the year on 94 species trapped (or seen) in the garden in 2011. Not a brilliant total and I'm sure I could have reached the century if I had been better at identification! or trapped more frequently! Total number of species trapped in the garden since I started is 135.

Garden Birds

A wren began roosting in a hanging basket on the patio at the beginning of October - do wonder if its the same individual who roosted in the same spot last winter and nested there the previous summer.

Was thrilled to see a female blackcap feeding on pyracantha berries on 31st October although she was only seen on the one occasion. We have had blackcaps feeding for several months in the winter in the past so I live in hope one will appear again.

For several weeks now I have been carefully checking small birds feeding on or around silver birch seeds in the garden - up to now the birds have been blue tits or goldfinches but today was thrilled to see around 16 LESSER REDPOLLS feeding on birch seeds in trees behind the pond and in the wooded area at the top of the garden.

This brings the total number of bird species actually seen within the garden to 28 this year. Quite a low total compared to previous years. Usually get between 30 to 35. Edit - Just got round to typing up my year lists and the garden total should read 30 - I forgot about Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff passing through on migration!

A trip to Middleton Lakes (the new RSPB Reserve) on 23rd October produced my first fieldfare flock of the autumn and a long-tailed tit flock although there was no sign of the short-eared owls seen there recently. I'm looking forward to visiting this reserve more next year

Middleton Lakes

After several visits to a local nature reserve - Millennium Wood when I saw very few birds mainly carrion crows, wood pigeons and magpgies with the occasional robin, blackbird or great spotted woodpecker sighting, I was thrilled to see more species on 5th December. A male chaffinch was seen from the entrance road and blue tits and blackbirds on the reserve but the real highlights were a male and female bullfinch and, even better, redpolls (probably lesser) feeding on silver birch seeds. It just shows that perseverance in visiting a site that initially doesn't look very promising can pay off.

Millennium Wood

Returning to the garden - I noticed today that we have red campion in flower in the wildflower meadow!

We spent a few days in North Wales in October - we didn't do much walking or birding as the weather wasn't too good but I loved returning to Portmeirion - one of my favourite places


And I'm really pleased I found the time to visit Baddesley Clinton, a National Trust property, in December to see the Christmas decorations around the manor house

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Highlights of the Year Part 3 - July - September

Garden Butterflies

A Ringlet visited the garden on 3rd July - the first garden sighting since 2005.

The first garden Red Admiral was seen on 9th July

followed by first Holly Blue 11th July, first Green-Veined White on 24th July

and first Gatekeeper on 28th July


July, August and September produced many more new garden moth ticks - both macro and micro moths

2nd July Heart and Club
Phlyctaenia coronata (photo below)

Also on 2nd July

Bird Cherry Ermine
Crambus pascuella
Agriphila straminella
Spilonota ocellana (Bud Moth)

23rd July Scarce Footman
Dark Spinach (photo below)

24th July - Clay (found in bathroom)

30th July - more micro ticks:
Acleris laterana
Tachystola acroxanthella
Agriphila inquinatella

19th August

Garden Carpet
Brown House Moth
Single Dotted Wave (photo below)

9th September produced an Autumnal Rustic (photo below)

plus Vine's Rustic and on 30th September a Rusty Dot Pearl


One of the highlights of August was a visit to a Falconry Display at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens - a great opportunity to get up close to various species of falcon and owl and a chance to marvel at their flying skills in a flying display

Spotted Flycatchers

Throughout July I had checked out a few local churchyards hoping to see Spotted Flycatchers and on 28th July (tipped off by a local birding blog) I struck lucky at Berkswell and was able to watch a family of these lovely birds. They were too far away for photos so just a poor record shot of one of the juveniles below


I spent a happy few hours in the garden at the beginning of August watching and taking photos of various species of hoverfly - below a Marmalade Hoverfly

Brandon Marsh - a Lifer and some "Flutters"

We went to Brandon Marsh on 5th August where we watched a Wood Sandpiper (3 ticks in one here - Year, Warwickshire and a Lifer!)

There were lots of juveniles around - long-tailed tits, chiffchaffs, common tern and lapwing.

I used the telephoto zoom lens to take some butterfly pictures

Speckled Wood


This Oak Eggar moth was a life moth tick although it was very sad to see one of its wings had been torn off and it was unable to fly


We had sightings of up to 6 young newts, at various stages of development, in the garden pond in the middle of July

Dahlias at Baddesley

I always try to visit Baddesley Clinton at the beginning of September to see the dahlia display

and on 18th September we spent a fun few hours at Lapworth Scarecrow Festival

Hope everyone had a good Christmas - I have a new toy for my camera! A macro lens (a joint Christmas and Birthday pressie off Brian and my mom). Looking forward to trying it out although I suspect I am going to have to get used to utilising the tripod more and practising manual focusing!!!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Highlights of the Year Part 2 - April to June


April to June produced several new moths for the garden (it was only my second full year of moth trapping so am still gathering lots of new "ticks").

1st April Double-striped Pug
15th April Brindled Beauty
15th April Seraphim
20th May Pale Tussock
27th May Freyer's Pug
3rd June Elephant Hawkmoth
3rd June Shoulder-striped Wainscot
3rd June Green Pug
13th June Ingrailed Clay
26th June Light Emerald
26th June Dusky Brocade
26th June Bee Moth
26th June Garden Grass Veneer
26th June Lozotaeniodes formosanus
26th June Brown China Mark
26th June Dipleurina lacustrata

Many thanks to Dean and Stewart and anyone else who helped me identify many new moth species for the garden this year.

Elephant Hawkmoth - my favourite moth of the year

Shoulder-striped Wainscot

Light Emerald

Swallow-tailed Moth

I think the Elephant Hawkmoth, Swallow-tailed Moth and Light Emerald photos show how colourful some moths can be

I made more effort this year to start identifying micro moths especially those that have distinctive markings or are on the Garden Moth Scheme List.

This Lozotaeniodes formosanus was my favourite

Oops - please see photo further below!


Nesting in the Garden

Forgot to mention in the last post that a female blackbird was sitting on eggs in a nest in bamboo on 27th March and young were being fed by 7th April. By 18th April the nest was empty and we believe two young fledged. Sadly, one was predated by a magpie but the other was fed by the male blackbird for some weeks and was often seen on its own afterwards feeding. Mrs Blackbird started a new nest as soon as the first young had fledged.

On 28th March a male wren was first seen taking nest material into ivy which covers a wall on the patio. The female must have chosen this nest because from 12th May onwards she was seen taking food into the nest.

Blue tits started investigating the nest-box in the whitebeam tree (with camera) from the middle of Janaury. On 12th April nest material began to be taken into the box. The female started roosting in the nestbox from 19th April and feathers were added to the nest on 23rd. The first egg was laid on 25th April and a new egg was added each day up until the 30th April making a total of 6. On 1st May the female started incubating the eggs. On the 12th May the great spotted woodpecker began taking an interest in the nestbox and, although the entrance hole is protected by a metal plate, we added some wire to try and stop the woodpecker accessing the box. Four of the eggs hatched on 13th May but the remaining 2 eggs failed to do so. From the beginning the male blue tit did not seem to be bringing much food and by 20th May two of the young were much larger than the other two. Sadly on 25th May two of the youngsters died and the third the following day. Three days later the remaining chick also died. It was all very distressing - we were not sure if there was a real lack of food available or whether the adults (the male in particular) were just poor parents.

A few more first dates

2nd April - House sparrows taking nest material under eaves in the roof - the first fledglings seen on 4th May.
28th May - Robin fledglings being fed
31st May - First fledgling starlings and great tits

On 14th April a stock dove was seen feeding in the garden - a new garden tick and on 16th May I visited Shustoke Reservoir and saw a 1st summer Black-throated Diver (although it was a very very long way away! and many thanks to the kind gentleman who let me view the bird through his telescope) - not only a year tick but a Warwickshire tick and a lifer!


6h April produced the first garden Peacock of the year and 8th April brought the first Orange Tip to the garaden followed by the first garden Speckled Wood on the 10th. A Red Admiral was seen on 28th May. On 26th June I saw the first Large and Small White flutters in the garden. Overall, 2011 was a poor year for garden butterflies with several species normally seen, such as Painted Lady, Comma and Meadow Brown not seen at all. Small and Large Skippers and Wall Brown haven't visited for years. A visit to Brandon Marsh NR on 2nd June gave me my first Common Blue sightings of the year.

(Apologies my photos seem to have gone out of order!!! This is the micro Lozotaeniodes formosanus)

and Pale Tussock

and now back to butterflies!

Photos taken at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens on 12th April

Orange Tip

Female Orange Tip

Speckled Wood


A superb year for Common/Smooth newts in the garden pond - we saw up to 15.

A record shot of one in the murky pond water


I had lots of sightings of Tawny Mining Bees at the beginning of April and counted more than 30 nest mounds in just one area of the lawn on the 7th

and here's my favourite buff-tailed bumble bee photo

One of the highlights of my year is the opening for a few weekends in June of the Monkspath (Notcutts) Wildflower Meadow.

Heath Spotted Orchid

Devil's Bit Scabious

Great Burnet

Another highlight for me of the Spring is the fruit blossom - here seen in April at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

and other picture of the beautiful Snakeshead Fritillary

April 2011 was the warmest April on record. Although the first UK records began around 1900, the Central England Temperature Record goes back to 1659, and so this April was the warmest for over 350 years.

I had several target species for our Isle of Wight Holiday in June sadly, the weather was poor (very unusual for the IofW) and I failed to see barn owl, badger, Glanville Fritillary or an Adder. However, I did spot a red squirrel at Quarr Abbey - I won't repost the dreadful pic I took but here's a photo of a wooden red squirrel sculpture in Parkhurst Forest where I did spot White Admirals (my first sighting of this species for years)

and there were also Meadow Browns

Apologies for the long post! - Will try and keep the last two highlight posts to a more manageable length!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Highlights of the Year - Part 1

As this is the first full year of blogging I thought I'd do a series of posts on highlights (and perhaps a few "lows"!) of the year - mainly covering natural history.

The first post on the topic covers January to March.


The undoubted highlight of the year (in fact it probably ranks amongst my top 6 birding highlights ever!) was the discovery of my own flock of waxwings in January. Waxwings are probably my very favourite bird and they started to arrive very early in the country in Autumn 2010. By January, despite visiting many local areas with good supplies of berries where I knew they had been spotted before, I still hadn't managed to catch up with this species and was beginning to feel I was the only birder in the country who hadn't seen them! In the end on 24th January I gave in to the temptation to twitch them in Nuneaton where I had a fleeting glimpse of 20 of these gorgeous birds. A few days later on the 28th I turned into an avenue where there were around 14 trees full of berries which I had been checking on and off for months and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw 6 starling sized birds eating berries and realised at long last I had found my own waxwing flock. I was so lucky especially as I happened to have my camera and telephoto lens with me.


A trip to Ladywalk on 3rd January had got the year bird list off to a good start and several trips to Brandon Marsh between January and March added more species. I saw great crested grebes in a courtship display on 8th March and a ringed plover the same day.

In the garden a wren was roosting in a hanging basket on the patio and blue tits started investigating one of the nest boxes from the 16th January. On the 18th March I saw a goldcrest in the garden and a female mallard visited the garden pond at the end of the month.


Frogspawn first started appearing in the garden pond on 24th February - one of the earliest dates ever. Since 1993 when I first started to keep records spawn has always been laid in March except for 1998 when an even earlier date in February was recorded. Two common/smooth newts were spotted in the pond on 13th March.



First moth of the year was a winter moth on the outside kitchen window on 12th January. I started running the moth trap on 4th March to coincide with the start of the Garden Moth Scheme. The first two trapping sessions failed to produce any moths but on 18th March I trapped a Dotted Border (a new species for the garden) a Common Quaker and a Chestnut. 23rd March produced 2 Clouded Drabs and Diurnea fagella (a new micro for the garden) and on 25th March Emmelina Monodactyla, Common Quaker and Hebrew Character were caught.


On 21st March I saw my first butterfly of the year a comma at Brandon Marsh

and the first butterflies seen in the garden were a Small Tortoiseshell nectaring on pansies/violas on 23rd March and a Brimstone the following day.

Mining Bees

A trip to Brandon Marsh on 8th March proved fascinating as I watched many mining bees excavating tunnels

and managed to get a photo (well, a record shot!) of a Treecreeper

On 9th March I spotted a Hairy Footed Flower Bee at home and the first Buff-tailed Bumble Bee was seen on 17th March.

Super Moon

On the 18th March we were lucky to have clear skies as a Perigee "Super Moon" the biggest in 20 years appeared

To finish off the first quarter's highlights

Male and Female Hazel Catkins at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

Its always a delight to see the first snowdrops and winter aconites

Snakeshead Fritillaries in March at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

I went to Packwood House at the end of March because they always have a superb display of daffodils.