Saturday, 22 February 2020

Sheep - Pink Floyd (from the album Animals)

A modicum of change yesterday with nothing overly
exciting but for once there were a few Birds about, but firstly a
Moment of Mirth
 outside of the Fencing Centre another delivery from Lichfield.
There are always between 10 and 15 such loads, mostly from Eastern Europe, each week.
Wouldn't want to be driving that down the M25 with Dennis on the Starboard Beam!
The days wander started prety much as usual with Coot, Moorhens, Little Grebes and Tufted Ducks still in attendance, but at the Sewerage works fence this female
 BLACKCAP
 showed herself a couple of times but only briefly.
It was then noticed that there were LOTS of 'migrants' about as last years
Ewes returned from mid-Dorset where the Lambs were born overwinter in special barns.
It can also be seen that the 
Little Gentlemen in the Black Velvet Coat
(Mr Mole)
have been hard at it as well.

Usually about 600, will have to confirm that with Lauran the Sheepherdess,
which will also come under my watchful eye!
With nothing else showing itself inbetween  it was onward to the
Heath
where first to show were a dozen so
also likely returning
MEADOW PIPITS
Not thought ever to be completely absent, as we do hear their calls from time to time,
both
 DARTFORD WARBLER and STONECHAT
were on view
 STONECHAT 
(female)
 STONECHAT
(male)
 DARTFORD WARBLER
(male)
On the way back one of the 
Street Sweeping Vehicles
had managed to drive into the roadside ditch and as stepping into 
Slight Return a
LITTLE EGRET 
flew along the course of the still swollen
River Stour
at quite close quarters.

Friday, 21 February 2020

The Tale of an Unmarried Moth'er

Over 2,500 species of Moths have been recorded from across the British Isles with more being added often on an annual basis. These are split into 2 distinct divisions of Macro-moths, of which there are around 800 species and Micro’s which form the other 1,700 or so species. While all of the former have a vernacular name, as well as Latin, there are but a few micros do so with the vast majority only having a Latin monika. No surprises then to hear, around this neck of the woods, those immortal words - “we don’t do Micro’s”!! One has to have some command of the ancient language or be able to memorise the name of each Insect, which is well beyond a silly ol’ duffer like me, but do admire and wonder at those who do so. Another pointer, that should be guarded, is that in general terms the macros are larger in size but that does not apply across the board. For instance the
Box-tree Moth Cydalima perspectalis 
is probably 2 or 3 times larger than the diminutive macro
Cream-bordered Green Pea Earias clorana  

As far as the headline is concerned it wasn’t always like that as during the mid-70’s we, as a family, lived at the top of the hill overlooking most of Wyke Regis village and Portland Harbour. It was during this time period that one of my frequent visits to the Portland Bird Observatory coincided with a then much younger Martin Cade (now Warden of that fine establishment) monitoring the moth traps and brought up onto the patio, to show those assembled, a 
Convolvulous Hawk-moth
It was this that set me about converting an old dustbin into a trap and running it on every night possible. In addition, luminary Norman Hall also came into my life with his vast knowledge and bespoke (for Mothing) Datsun van. On each of his visit after that he would call in and stay for dinner, help with outstanding identifications before topping up his huge water bottles prior to the next hunt.

Also at that time access was afforded to the area of East Weares occupied by the Royal Navy and where 2 old ammunition boxes were also converted and run as traps. Some success was found at both stations when catching in my garden only the 16th 
Dewick’s Plusia 
ever to have been recorded on our shores, while at the other site c2
Portland Ribbon Wave’s 
were also secured. It was only after ‘her indoors’ uttered those all too long awaited words, “you can leave now Bagsy”, was it realised that she meant, leave the house, leave all the furniture, leave the money and the car and sling your hook! Freedom at last but for my new home, in the heart of the concrete jungle, conditions were nowhere near suitable, so it was many years later, after retirement, that I found myself in East Dorset.
With an extraordinary amount of help from long standing friends Paul Harris and Dave Foot we were “on the road again” as Canned Heat once said, since when never looking back - life really is a dream!!
With c5 traps blazing away every night it is now safe to claim the title of
Unmarried Moth’er
However it doesn’t end there as what more joy could a Septuagenarian find than to pass on the word to other much younger interested parties. Among those who occassionaly attend the traps are the adult Chloe who has sailed the Atlantic Ocean with just a single crew mate, and children Oliver, who you will meet shortly, plus Josh and Sophie who are already on your radar. They are all interested in the other aspects of Wildlifing as well and are refered to as my Apprentices.
 The Mk 1 Dave Built Moth Trap
 Even at the tender age of 4 years little
Sophie (and Josh)
 have no fear of handling these delicate creatures.
White Points in both cases
 and even the
 LEVIATHANS
Privet Hawk-moth
 One of the most Eminent Gentlement of Lepidoptery and author of
British Pyralid Moths
BARRY GOATER
 DAVE
 EQUIPMENT
 and
ME
in our little corner of Paradise
Apologies to Paul and Phil for none appearance as images have been misplaced.
Maybe this will save a little embarrasment for one!

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Bird of Prey - Uriah Heep

from the album 'Salisbury'
Another gloomy and showery day brought no more to a morning in the field
than what has of late been the norm! All of minor note was the pre-dawn screeching
of one, or maybe both, 
KESTREL(s)
 which are garden birds here. The bonus came when opening 
the door to welcome the new day and watch one of them plunge to earth catching
(most likely) a
SHORT-TAILED FIELD VOLE
An abundant Mammal here with no fewer than 28 burrows under my 
home alone and where they are occassionally fed.
                                       A few more images from the archive s’il vous plaĆ®t.
For the last 4 years they have successfully bred in the stable,
no mor than a stone's throw from here, and what a delight to watch the progression!

 Last Years Juveniles
 and
 their
MISFORTUNES
 
 a waterlogged juvenile male
 SHORT-TAILED FIELD VOLE
 Back to 'the' day and all else was mechanical including the continuation of the hedge trimming,
 Roadside Verge Motocross
 and the
 change-out of some
 Solar Panel Transformers

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Here Comes the Flood - Peter Gabriel

I was sold on Genesis the moment I heard the first chord of
'Revelation" back in 1969
and having met the man wondered how Gabriel was going to get on in the fickle world
of solo artists. A single play of this most poignant track dispeled all fears!



 Lyrically, it don't get much better than that!

As Dennis left his mark right across the country, many far worse effected
than us rather lucky ones down here, we were only left with a few images of his
rampage and not much besides.
 Looking south across the Horse Paddocks to the
 RIVER STOUR
the bank is at the far end of the fenceline
 In the opposite direction and the same few yards from our front doorstep
The Main Pond
now well overfull
The hedge trimmers on behalf of the RES Solar Panel Company arrived first thing,
having had prior warning from head office to ask me if the time was right - good on them!
 The cutting also looked very much in sympethy with the lines of plants,
as though they had been clipped rather than slashed.

After construction of the Solar Farm, then the largest in Europe, both parent companies 
combined to plant 30,000 saplings sewn by the very talented and capable Chris Sugden. During the first year of growth I didn't find a single one to have failed - Magic!
Strange then in the following February the other company Brighter Green (footnote - neither Bright nor Green) summoned Chris to a site meeting to explain why so many of the plant had died. The company Wildlife representative pointed out that he could not see one singe leaf with Chris retorting, "they are all deciduous (Blackthorn, Field Maple, Guelder Rose et al) and it is mid-winter. Where do they get them from????
Other than that very few Birds and very poor Snaps and Vids!

With just a single Coot representing both ponds it was into the afore mentioned Panel Compoud where a couple of 
STOCK DOVES
were feeding, about 100 
REDWING
proving very flighty and uncooperative along with the first returning
 MISTLE THRUSH
and 
STARLING
flock
It was the Moors River that was to field the most interest
with the most birds which included at least 100
TEAL
a single
GREEN SANDPIPER
and what looked to be just c3

 COMMON SNIPE
 gathered at the base of a fence post
but on closer examination of the images were in fact c6.
With a fine finale, say it myself I shouldn't, as going back to the early morning of
6th of June 2015
in company with Dave Foot we stopped to take the mandatory look across the
Irrigation Pond on our way to the Heath.
With Dave quickly out of the car he turned to tell he had spotted what was possibly a 
Kite of sorts as reaching for his telescope. The superlatives are not printable but on his first look
he quickly changed his mind announcing
"no it's not, it's that
 SHORT-TOED EAGLE
That had been knocking about the County for some while.
It must be pointed out that the images are 'borrowed' just to emphasis the point,
but for it to grace our patch was quite miraculous.
It was immediately put 'on the line' and we did make a distant excussion to
relocate it but without success so back to the Moth Traps.

Not my words but:-

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
Due to a dependence on snakes as a primary food source the Short-toed Eagle is restricted to the southern and eastern regions of Europe with the largest populations to be found in Spain and France. They also occur in other countries along the Mediterranean such as Italy, Greece and Turkey. In Eastern Europe they can be found further north as far as Belarus and occasionally, but very rarely, in the Baltic States while outside of Europe they are found eastwards to Kazakhstan and south to Iran.

All of these are migratory summer visitors although there is a sedentary population on the Indian Subcontinent. There are no subspecies and the closest relatives are the Beaudouin's Snake Eagle Circaetus beaudouini and the Black-breasted Snake Eagle Circaetus pectoralis, both are African species that were once considered to be subspecies of the Short-toed Eagle, but are now considered to be completely different species.