Sunday, 28 May 2017

New house moth trapping

We decided to put the moth trap out for the first time since we moved, so we could see what was lurking out there in our new garden. I was slightly worried about upsetting our new neighbours (as it lights the garden up like an airport runway!), so we put it at the end of the garden, behind the shed, in a corner surrounded by fence. It would probably be better in the middle of the lawn, but I'm not sure how the neighbours would react to that. Anyway, there's a big field behind the fence, so it could be quite a good place for it.

Friday was roasting hot and the night time temperature was 'steamy', so we set the trap up and went to bed. In the morning, we checked the trap and immediately noticed some great moths sat on the fence around it. Perhaps its location was a good choice after all. Lots of moths are attracted to the light, but won't actually go into the trap, so they were hanging around on the fence.

Swallow prominent

peppered moth

Puss moth

Pale tussock
There were some lovely hairy legs amongst the moths we caught!

The hairy face and legs of a puss moth
Our totals for Friday night were 1 puss moth, 4 pale tussocks, 1 swallow prominent, 1 peppered moth, 1 clouded-bordered brindle, 1 common marbled carpet, 8 heart and darts, 14 common swifts plus one dark form common swift, 1 flame shoulder, 14 treble lines, 1 shuttle-shaped dart and 1 setaceous Hebrew character.

Saturday was cooler and very breezy, but we put the trap out again. It turned out to be a better night for the moths and the highlight was a poplar hawkmoth.  It's always great to catch a hawkmoth ... they're the moth trapping stars. The poplar hawkmoth holds it's wings at a very unusual angle, has a big, fuzzy face and turns its body up. They're very cool moths!

The fence was a good place to look again, as we found 3 pale tussocks (plus another 4 in the trap), 2 buff tips (that look just like a broken twig) and 2 sycamores. All beautifully camouflaged, in their own ways.
Pale tussock, with very hairy legs

Buff tip, pretending to be a twig

The trap had even more moths than the night before, including a pretty white ermine.

White ermine
Our totals for Saturday night were 1 poplar hawkmoth, 2 buff tips, 2 sycamores, 7 pale tussocks, 2 buff ermines, 1 peppered moth, 1 green carpet, 15 heart and darts, 21 common swifts plus one dark form common swift, 1 flame shoulder, 9 treble lines, 1 shuttle-shaped dart, 1 common wainscot, 1 marbled minor, 1 white ermine and 1 magpie moth.

It's going to rain tonight, so we won't put the trap out, but we will definitely put it out again soon for 30 Days Wild.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Beautiful Yoesden

I made the most of the glorious weather and paid my first visit of the year to wonderful Yoesden this morning. It really is such a magical place. Before I even reached the reserve, my spirits were lifted by the sight of this little cowshed in the middle of a beautiful meadow full of daisies and buttercups. The red kites were soaring overhead and the swallows were chasing insects around the meadow (and hopefully nesting again in the cowshed).

I walked down to the reserve and it didn't take long before I saw a flash of electric blue and there was my first Adonis blue of the year. They're beautiful little butterflies and very rare, having very specific habitat requirements. Yoesden is one of the local special places to see them.

They can look similar to a common blue, but they are a brighter blue and the
white edges of the wings are cut through with black lines
There were lots flying, but it was very hot and quite breezy, so they were whizzing around, not settling for long. I accidentally disturbed a pair that were mating, so they took off into the air, still joined together and landed on my top. I let them walk onto my finger, before carefully placing them onto a stalk of grass.

With their wings closed they can be quite hard to tell apart from common blues,
but I think the black lines through the white wing edges (on the left butterfly) make
these Adonis blues. The one on the right was a bit battered and had lost its white edges.

Safely returned to a stalk of grass
While I was there, I saw three types of blue, as there were common blues and small blues flying. Won't be long until the chalkhill blues emerge, then you can see all four there. 
Small blue - they really are tiny 
There were also brimstones, small heaths and dingy skippers flying and there were cardinal beetles in the grass.
Dingy skipper
Cardinal beetle
I sat on an ant hill and admired the view for a while. The common spotted orchids were starting to flower and the blues were fluttering all around me. It was lovely!

Common spotted orchids starting to flower. This one had a little crab spider on it.
The view from my ant hill

Monday, 22 May 2017

Bird's-nests and common blues

After a few days of much needed rain, it was very green and lush as I walked around Pulpit Hill this morning. I decided to scrabble down the hillside to check on the bird's-nest orchids, to see how many there were this year and if any were flowering yet. They grow well off the beaten track, on the side of a steep slope, so it's always a bit of an adventure to visit them. I was pleased I did it though, as there were at least 30 plants flowering in one small area.

They're very unusual plants. With very small, stunted leaves and no green chlorophyll, they look almost like the dead stems of flowers that you're more likely to see in the autumn. They're very much alive though and form a relationship with fungus to get their nutrients, which in turn get their nutrients from the roots of the beech trees.

They're quite tricky to photograph, as their cream colour is hard to pick out and they grow in the deep shade of the beech trees, so it's usually quite gloomy. Occasionally the sunlight breaks through the trees in just the right place and puts one in the spotlight though.

There were plenty of white helleborines flowering at the same site. It seems like a good year for both the bird's nest-orchids and the helleborines. I was quite surprised the slugs hadn't eaten more of them, especially after all the rain we've had recently.

White helleborine - you can see how steep the slope is that they were growing on
I got back onto the path and made my way down the hill and into Grangelands and the Rifle Range. The first buds of the chalk scented and common spotted orchids are showing, with just the slightest hint of colour to them. It won't be very long now until the reserve is covered in glorious orchids again!
Chalk fragrant orchid
Common spotted orchid
I had a look for the musk orchids, but there's no sign of them yet. They are so tiny though that you can only really see them when they have sent up their buds. I'll keep an eye out for them over the next few weeks.

I spotted my first common blue butterflies as I walked around, 2 males and a female. The males are such a brilliant bright blue and a sure sign that summer is almost here.

I also saw a green-veined white and there seemed to be female brimstone butterflies flying everywhere, looking for places to lay their eggs.

Green-veined white

Brimstone laying an egg

The precious egg

Friday, 12 May 2017

#30DaysWild excitement

30 Days Wild is a campaign run by the Wildlife Trust each year to get everybody doing something wild for every day in June. This is the third year it's run and our third year taking part and is something we all look forward to. The excitement ramped up a gear this week though, as an article that BBOWT asked me to write about our experiences last year was published in the Bucks Examiner.

Then this morning, this year's 30 Days Wild pack was delivered by the postman. It includes a wall chart, that we'll complete each day, as well as some wildflower seeds and some stickers. The kids have already started planning what they want to do, but I think we'll do a lot of stuff at home this year. We moved house recently, so we have a whole new garden to 'wild'. Should be a lot of fun!