Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Another Moth

Yesterday morning I checked a Barn Owl and Kestrel box at my good friends Robert and Diana's farm. In the Barn Owl box were two chicks about two days old, so there could be a couple more eggs to hatch. The female Kestrel was in residence at the box and she was sat, presumably incubating eggs or brooding small young, so we didn't disturb her. I'll be back in ten days or so to hopefully ring the Barn Owl and Kestrel chicks.

 Highly zoomed picture of the Kestrel in her box

This morning as I was putting my ringing box away in my storage box in the garage I caught out of the corner of my eye what I thought was a Hornet resting on my tool bag! My first thought was "that's going to be interesting getting that beastie out of the garage"! Still thinking I was dealing with a Hornet I thought I would carefully lift my tool bag up, carry it outside, and release the Hornet from the confines of my garage. As I was slowly walking out of my garage with my tool bag at arms length as best as I could, I was pleased at how calm the Hornet was, and then I noticed its moth-like antenna and furry abdomen!

At that point I knew I had one of the Hornet Moths and could hardly contain my excitement as I have always wanted to see one! I ran into the house and grabbed my camera and 'Townsend and Waring'. I took a quick snap of it on my tool bag and then checked to see which Hornet Moth it was (there's only two) and it was Lunar Hornet Moth!

 Lunar Hornet Moth on my tool bag (above) and vegetation

I then moved the stunning beast to some vegetation and took a few more pictures! It's not particularly rare, but they are seldom seen, so to have one in my garden was fantastic! The food plant of the caterpillars are sallows and willows, and I have a lot of willow in the garden. So this Lunar Hornet Moth certainly made my day! 

Sunday, 10 June 2018


After a full week of 4:00 a.m. alarm calls I was determined not to get up too early over weekend in order to recharge my batteries before the early alarm calls kick in again Monday morning!

The potential Barn Owls that I mentioned in a previous post turned out to be Jackdaws! I checked the box that one of my farmer friends has in one of his buildings that he thought was occupied by Barn Owls, but when I peered into the box the beady eyes of large Jackdaw chicks peered back at me! Anyway, at least we know he doesn't have Barn Owls, well not in that box!

I ran my garden moth trap on Friday and Saturday night and although I didn't get huge numbers I did catch a few interesting species. New for the garden were Setaceous Hebrew Character, Clouded-bordered Brindle and Figure of Eighty. My totals over the two nights of what I could identify, in addition to the aforementioned, included six Brimstone Moths, a Poplar Hawkmoth, a Miller, a Scalloped Hazel, twelve Heart and Darts, two Bright-line Brown-eyes, a Buff Ermine, two Garden Carpets and a Green Pug.

Below are pictures of a selection of the moths trapped.

    Poplar Hawkmoth (above & below), with Gail's arm for scale!

 Brimstone Moth

 Figure of Eighty

Thursday, 7 June 2018


I love trees, and trees are featuring strongly in my work at the moment, because as you know I am carrying out a number of bird surveys across Cumbria in recently planted woodland. On my travels this week I noticed the shape and form of a few trees and you will see a few snaps below.

On Wednesday I was at one of my larger sites northeast of Penrith where I have to survey ten woodland compartments. It sounds like a lot, but some of them are quite small. There was lots of trees, but I did have a few birds too. My list of noteworthy birds included eight Tree Sparrows (including one recently fledged juv.), seven Willow Warblers, two Stock Doves, a Curlew, two Blackcaps, two Buzzards and two Redstarts

Two trees stood out on my wanderings; an Oak tree and a Sycamore. I can't begin to guess how old the Sycamore is, but it's old, have a look at it's girth in the picture below.


 Sycamore; look at that girth!

This morning I was in the North Pennines east of Kirkby Stephen. I'll start with the birds and I had two Stock Doves, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a male Bullfinch, two Song Thrushes, a Mistle Thrush, three Willow Warblers, a Redstart, two House Sparrows, a Cuckoo, five Oystercatchers, four Curlews, two Blackcaps, two Lesser Redpolls and a Linnet.


 Song Thrush

It was an Ash and Sycamore that stood out at this site. The Ash was amongst a few Ash and Scots Pines that formed a nice mature hedgerow/line of trees. A bit of habitat amongst a Rye Grass desert!


It's more trees for me tomorrow and possibly some Barn Owls at weekend!

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The Quiet Peak Of The Breeding Season

For the past two days I have been in north Cumbria continuing with the second of three bird surveys that I do at several sites recently planted with woodland. Following standard Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) methodology I do a first visit in early April - mid-May and a second visit mid-May to June. In addition to this I do a third survey from July to August. The third survey is to look at the value of these sites as foraging areas after post-breeding dispersal. The second visit, particularly for those sites surveyed in June tends to be the quietest as birds are generally busy feeding young. However, there is always something to record.

On Monday I was near Penrith and this site is isolated from other habitats in as much as it is set within fields of intensively managed grassland with no connecting corridors to other habitat; it's a walled landscape. But still it is providing some valuable habitat withing the wider landscape.

One of the first birds I noticed was one of this year's juvenile Blue Tits. So what I hear you say, but it just shows that the site is used by woodland species once they have fledged. I could hear Redstart singing from the usual spot away from the site, but then I picked up a movement up out of the corner of my eye in the plantation and it was a stunning male Redstart. Sadly I was looking into the sun, and getting a photograph was impossible.

Two Willow Warblers were singing from the young woodland and a couple of Stock Doves flew back and forth over the trees. Swallows are ever present flying low over the trees foraging for aerial insects.


Today I was near Troutbeck close to the foot of Blencathra, and it was a glorious morning with wall to wall sunshine. Interestingly it was cool at first, with almost an autumnal nip in the air! And the Midges were out, every time I stopped for a listen walking my transect they feasted on me!

 Looking towards Blencthra

This site has four woodland compartments. In compartment one I had a singing Willow Warbler and an over-flying Siskin, with again the ever-present Swallows. Talking of all things hirundine, before I set off I watched 3 or 4 House Martins collecting mud from a pool on the track, and then carrying it off to a white-washed cottage close by. We're in June and they are just nest building! These are probably some of the birds that got held up this Spring.

 Pied Wagtail

Another Willow Warbler was singing from compartment two, but it was the two singing Cuckoos that was the most exciting. Sadly they weren't on site; one was singing fairly close towards Blencathra and the other was some distance away and I could only just hear it.

 Several young trees were covered in the silk of what I think is the Spindle
Ermine moth caterpillar

Spindle Ermine Moth caterpillars?

In compartments three and four there was some  more Willow Warbler action, two to be precise, and also Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, two Stock Doves and two Reed Buntings. I also flushed two Roe Deer.

I've got more early starts for the remainder of the week. I'm not sure at what time it gets light, but I am getting up at 4:00 am at the moment and it's fully light then!

Saturday, 2 June 2018

More On Boxes

This morning Gail and I met Huw at our nest box scheme in the Hodder Valley in Bowland, to make our final visit of the year and ring the Pied Flycatcher chicks.

 Pied Flycatchers

The first Pied Flycatcher box I checked was empty. "Strange" I thought, because six days earlier my note book entry read "7 young; naked and blind". Which basically means that they were too young to ring. I estimated that they were about two days old last Sunday (27th May), and on average Pied Flycatchers are 16 days in the nest. This would give an estimated fledging date, giving a day or two, of 10th June. This would mean that if they had fledged it would have been at least eight days early. The weather has been good this week, but even so could they have fledged so quickly?

The next box I checked should have had between eight and ten Blue Tit chicks, but it was empty. Again last Sunday my notebook read "8 eggs and 2 young naked and blind! So these Blue Tits were in the process of hatching and there is no way they could have fledged so soon.

What solved the mystery of these two broods was the fact that in each of the two boxes the nest itself was intact. Normally as the chicks grow and they become large and boisterous the nest gets flattened completely, and there is so sign of the nest cup left. In fact you can use this to check boxes later in the season to see if the young successfully fledged. So it was obvious that both these broods had been predated, but by what? My best guess would be that they were predated by a Weasel. Weasels are small enough to get through the hole in the box and can climb trees. I have observed this before at another site where we had several boxes predated by a rogue Weasel, and at this site we caught the culprit in the act!

Thankfully the rest of the boxes were okay and we ringed six Blue Tits, 27 Pied Flycatchers and 14 Great Tits. All the chicks that we ringed last week had either fledged or were still in the box as big as the adults and about to fledge; the warm weather has certainly helped!

 Great Tits

It's more small boxes tomorrow and next week it's on to Barn Owls and Kestrels.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Quick Box Update

At weekend Gail and I checked our Pied Flycatcher boxes in Bowland. We were down to just 17 boxes to check taking account of empty boxes and those occupied by bees! Out of those seventeen we have:

Blue Tit - 5 boxes occupied
Nuthatch - 1 box occupied
Great Tit - 6 boxes occupied
Pied Flycatcher - 5 boxes occupied

We managed to ring 39 chicks and these were 19 Blue Tits, 8 Nuthatches and 12 Great Tits. The Pied Flycatchers had mostly hatched or were in the process of hatching. The hatched broods had only hatched that day or the day before, and were therefore too small to ring, so hopefully they will all get ringed next week.


Postings this coming week are going to be infrequent as I've got a busy week ahead with surveys and a family wedding, but I'll try my best to post something!

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Back To Brown

It was a return to the brownfield site in the south of my region for me this morning, and what a glorious morning it was as I headed south down the M6 at 5:00 a.m. The weather was equally glorious at my survey site with clear skies and a light northeasterly breeze.

I was keen to find out what was happening with the Little Ringed Plovers (LRP). I got out of my car and stood in front of a mound to give some background to my outline, and scanned with my scope. It seemed quiet at first and I thought "had they gone", but then I picked up one, then a second and then a third, and a breathed a sigh of relief.

 Little Ringed Plover

I decided to change position to get the sun behind me and have a proper systematic look across the site. As I headed round to the other side to stand in front of a hedge, again to give some background to my outline, I could see a large Lapwing chick and the adult alarm called when it thought I was too close.

In position I started scanning left to right and I immediately picked up a LRP chick, probably about 4-5 days old. It was running around feeding, gleaning invertebrates from the ground and the surface of vegetation. An adult approached it and it dived underneath the adult to be brooded, meaning to get a warm! This chick started feeding again and it joined two of it's siblings, looking quite comical on their out of proportion long legs. Even though it was nice, it was still early and still cool, so the adults were periodically brooding the youngsters.

Scanning further right I picked up another chick and an adult, and again it was being brooded every so often. I couldn't see any other chicks with this adult, but there was another adult further back so there could have been chicks with this bird.

Continuing my scan right I picked up an adult LRP 'sitting' on eggs. As I watched the other adult came in with short runs, stop, listen, short run, stop etc. The sitting bird then got up and the other adult settled down on the nest scrape.

Scanning right some more, I picked up another adult on eggs, so that was at least four pairs. I didn't check the extreme east of the site as I didn't want to disturb the four pairs that I had found! So, there could easily have been a fifth pair as there was enough habitat. Little Ringed Plovers are given special protection under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, and I had to be licensed to visit the site. 

With all my attention on the LRPs I sort of kept my eye off the other birds using the site. Having said that the reason for the survey in the first place was that it looked suitable for Little Ringed Plover. The other bits and pieces of interest that I had were a singing Yellowhammer, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap.

There was also good numbers of Common Blue butterflies, and I must have had at least 30 in area of grassland when I walked back to my car.

 Common Blue

I'm northward bound tomorrow, to that National Park in Cumbria with the mountains in it. I'll be glad to heading north again because on my way back this morning the M6 northbound was shut because of an accident and the hour and twenty minute journey took me three hours!