"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

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Garden Moths in April

I've not had chance to go anywhere much this week except for chauffeuring E around (she's on holiday and its been her birthday so lots of meals with various friends and us!). I've been trying to plan various Surveys but running into problems over access from landowner and squares already being allocated :( I think sometimes I spend more time trying to organise these things than actually doing them!

The moth trap has been out on average around twice a week in April but am not trapping a great deal especially since the weather has gone so much colder. So just a few photos of this month's moths.

Shuttle-shaped Dart (Agrotis puta) - New for Year

I was still trapping Common Quakers (Orthosia cerasi) until mid month

Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) and Brindled Beauty (Lycia hirtaria) - Brindled Beauty was New for Year

This pug had me puzzled - I find most pug species hard to identify as they are small and never keep still as you can see from this photo. I had to email the County Recorder about my Emperor Moth cocoons (I've only had one emerge so far - a male with crumpled wings which was very sad) so I asked for confirmation of id of this particular one. Its a Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata) - New for Year.

I was really pleased to trap a Twin-spotted Quaker (Anorthoa munda) as these are rare visitors to my trap. Again New for Year.

Brindled Beauty

and the lovely Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa) - New for Year

Garden Moth list now stands at 17 species for 2015.

Butterfly-wise we have had visits from Peacock and Comma and, until it went so much cooler, there were Orange Tips and Holly Blues galore plus Speckled Wood.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

A Trip to Oxford and a Talk on Bees and Pesticides

I'd been invited to a talk on bees and pesticides last Friday evening in Oxford and D and I decided to drive down in the afternoon so we could have a walk and look at some of the colleges and buildings beforehand.

I managed to park the car in Parks Road outside Wadham College. Impossible to get a photo of anything in Oxford without including people and/or bikes!

Museum of History and Science

The Sheldonian Theatre - built from 1664 to 1668 after a design by Sir Christopher Wren and the official Ceremony Hall of the University of Oxford. A Grade 1 listed building.

I rather liked this owl mask in one of the Shops.

While David was looking round a newsagents I spotted this churchyard opposite full of wildflowers - a wonderful sight in a city centre. The church is Saint Mary Magdalen. Would have liked to go in and explore but I was supposed to be waiting outside the shop and had he come out and wandered off I would never have found him (he's one of the few twenty somethings in this country who does not possess a mobile phone!)

Dandelions in flower behind the railings.

I think this might be corydalis finding a foothold in a wall.

Magnolia flowers

No chance of exploring the churchyard when D re-appeared as I'd promised him we'd go and have a look at Radcliffe Square

Hertford Bridge, also known as the Bridge of Sighs, connecting two parts of Hertford College over New College Lane.

Radcliffe Square is the historic heart of University of Oxford. Created by the University authorities, after they had demolished medieval houses in the 1730's, to make a University forum. The Square is dominated by the central Radcliffe Camera (constructed 1737-1748). Its a classical building - "camera" means "room" in Italian. The square was the idea of Architect Nicholas Hawksmoor but the project only took off after the death of a Dr John Radcliffe in 1714. He had studied at University College and became a doctor to the wealthy including King William III, Queen Mary and Queen Anne. He donated £40,000 towards the building of a library in the centre of the square and another £100 per year towards the purchase of books. Hawksmoor provided designs but died before completion and the project was taken over by the Italian trained James Gibbs who is most famous for St Martins-in-the-Field, London.

St Mary the Virgin - I so wish we had had time to look round this church.

Academic meetings and ceremonies were held in the church from around 1200 onwards. All Souls College once bought a cherry orchard which had belonged to the Parish of St Mary the Virgin and once a year the congregation mark the boundaries of their parish by "beating the bounds" i.e. they draw chalk marks on the boundary and then hit them with sticks. After partaking of this activity for a whole morning they are rewarded with cherry cake in remembrance of the orchard! Fascinating place Oxford!

This is Brasenose College built 1509 to 1518. It gets its name from a "brazen-nosed" bronze door knocker which once hung on its gate. Former students include Michael Palin, David Cameron and highwayman John Clavell! I shall refrain from further comment!!!!

The Bodleian Library was built 1509-18 - a few photos of the Quadrangle - Sorry some of the photos in this post are not good. For some reason the automatic focusing on the camera was really playing up. Am just hoping it rights itself and I don't have to send it off for repair!

This would be a good way to see Oxford.

Time to move the car - I was lucky enough to get a space just opposite the bookshop where the talk was being held. We had a meal in the White Horse just visible in the photo to the left of Blackwells. Great pub and atmosphere, excellent service and food - highly recommended :) - good value too :)

Then off to attend the talk arranged by Pale Blue Dot. The talk was being given by Professor Dave Goulson on his research into the impacts of pesticides (Neonicotinoids in particular) on the UK Countryside and our systems of food production. I am sure many of you know of Dave Goulson who is a Professor of Biology specialising in the ecology and conservation of bumble bees. He founded the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust and has also written several rather good books.

The talk and presentation were excellent and exceedingly interesting.

I won't go into too much detail as I am likely to go into rant mode over the use of neonics but research has shown that these pesticides are linked to a decline in honey bees and affect the foraging behaviour and efficiency of bumble bees. It really does make me wonder if we have learnt anything at all since Rachel Carson wrote "Silent Spring".

Neonicotinoids can accummulate in the soil where they last for years and spread via ground and surface water (and in dust spread during seed drilling) to rivers, streams and ponds and even into wild plants growing in agricultural field margins and hedgerows. Evidence is gathering that although there are many reasons for the decline in birds, butterflies, moths, fish and small mammals, neonics could also be a contributory factor. Just one maize seed is coated with enough neonic to kill a small bird and seeds are obviously spilled during the sowing operation.

Scientific research in the US and Canada has revealed that plants in some garden centres contain neonics. It is absolutely horrifying to think that the insect-friendly plant you have bought from a nursery to try and help pollinators may actually have the opposite effect. I really must do some research into the latter point and how we stand in the UK on labelling plants and seeds.

We are currently just over half way through an EU-wide 2 year moratorium on the use of 3 neonics on crops considered to be attractive to bees such as oil seed rape, maize and sunflowers. The UK Government is abiding by the ban even though it rejected the science behind it!!It makes you wonder if the Government and DEFRA have even heard of the Precautionary Principle. It all sounds rather familiar, in my view, to their attitude to and interpretation of scientific research when they went ahead with their inhumane, unscientific and unnecessary badger culls.

On a lighter note and before I start to ramble on all night I bought Dave Goulson's latest book which

I was able to get signed!! So looking forward to reading this. "A Sting in the Tale", his last book was just superb and highly recommended.

Finally, sorry another long post!! a few photos D took with the Canon Bridge Camera - partly because his composition is better than mine and also because the Canon deals with grey skies in a much better way than my Olympus. The zoom came in handy again too :)