Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Spotted Fly in the garden

Juvvy Spotted Flycatcher - garden bird no.112

Like Lesser Whitethorat last month, not one, but two Spot Flys winged there way through my garden this evening and on to my garden list. They were accompanied by a single Willow Warbler. They didn't spend long around the gardens before moving down the line of Elms by the houses. In the hour or so I was watching them they were briefly joined by the Willow Warbler, a Chiffchaff and two Reed Warblers. The two Phylloscs are certainly not local, but the Reedies could be simply from the surrounding dykes.

Click here for full up-to-date garden list.

Leica APO Televid 77 with 20xWA | Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley

Monday, August 15, 2005

Moths at night

Red Underwing at syrup. Still a firm favourite!

Most of us mothers leave our traps overnight, empty them the following morning and photo the tastier (hic) moths in broad daylight. But its always struck me just how different moths look at night, in the light of the trap or in torch light as I search the garden around for moths settled away from the traps. Using a headlamp torch with soft blue-white LED bulbs, I aim this at the moth which allows the camera to fix o nthe subject. I half cover the flash bulb in an attempt to get something near to what each moth looks like in the half-light.

White Satin settled near MV trap.
You can really see where it gets its name from in this shot.

Spectacle settled near MV trap.
You just don't see the shiny scales like this in natural day light.

Fen Wainscot settled near MV trap.
You can see the sheen of its scales well in this shot.

The traps too have their own form in the dark. Its difficult to get a photo of a trap as you see it glowing away in the dark, so you have to use some fill-in flash to get something decent.

15W Actinic trap

15W Actinic trap
You can make out lots of flies and the odd moth on the top cover. The moths are guided downards by the 'vanes' and down through the funnel into the eggbox-lined box.

160W MV trap
Again, you can see the vanes which guide the moths down in to the eggbox-lined chamber.

For a full list of Toadsnatcher's garden moths click here

All images | Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley

Monday, August 08, 2005

Sugar and spice attracts all things nice

Red Underwing - what a cracking addition to the garden list!

With the temperature up a wee bit today I decided to stick out the sugar/wine rags and splash some of the syrup around the garden. So last weeks mix was brought out, warmed up, a splosh more 'er hum' and bring 'em on!

And boy did it work tonight. moths were at the sticky spots in seconds - Large Yellow Underwings. Common rustic aggs, minors, Angle Shades (new species to the syrup) etc. But then on my 10pm round I came across one of my longed-for species - Red Underwing. Yippee!

Approaching the Red Underwing wasn't easy. It didn't seem to mind my slow movement, but it did take offence to any noise I made. My foot steps, standing on dead leaves, etc - each crunch it stopped feeding momentarily, stopped shivering before resuming. I made one noise too many though, standing on a small twig the 'smap' was enough to see it take flight. But boy it looked just as spectacular in flight as it did on the deck, flashing red and white as it spiralled up in to the fenland night sky. Absolutely corkin!

My check at 11pm found it back but at a different syrup spot but it didn't take too kindly to me again and was soon sat up in the overhang willow. At 11.30 it was back on one of the fence posts on which I hava pool of syrup. It seemed content on me approaching slowly and getting a few more snaps as it supped away. My main problem now was that it was at chest height and I needed to get the camera above it! Luckily with the swivel screen of the Nikon CP995 I was able to slowly hold the camera above the feeding moth and get a couple of snaps as well as a couple of snaps of its underside before it again took umbridge and headed off high in to the willow.

Moths sooned tailed off after 11.30 but this Angle Shades seemed very happy with his rag!

Angle Shades at sticky rag

For a full list of Toadsnatcher's garden moths click here

All images | Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley

More garden moths

Poplar Hawk-moth a favourite

Its been pretty cool in the evenings with reduced moth catches as a consequence. Saturday's night Actinici trap had only a single moth in it! Still, a good catch overnight included three firsts for the garden.

Twin-spotted Wainscot new for the garden (and 5km sqaure)

Knot Grass new for the garden (and 5km sqaure)

Straw Underwing new for the garden

Flame Shoulder

Dog's Tooth becoming a regular

Dagger sp

Pale Prominent

Setaceous Hebrew Character a smart moth with a smart name!

Swallow Prominent

Pale Mottled Willow

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing

Willow Beauty

For a full list of Toadsnatcher's garden moths click here

Common Darter in garden. One of 11 species seen in the garden this year

All images | Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Jack Snipe - a new county record!

Well, I hadn't been down my old haunt of Prior's Fen for ages, so Liz and I took a wander to see if there was any decent wader habo and whether it would be worth me putting in some time here.

Whilst boring Liz with stories of all the goodies I had found at the site over the years, I was also bemoaning its recent demise as a top wader site (although still pulling in goodies as last autumn Red-backed Shrike proves), when I spotted a handful of sandpipers in a muddy corner. Scope up and bingo! Wood Sand with four Green Sands.

We repositioned ourselves and got a better view of the whole pit and waders kept leaping out in front of us. Next up a couple of Greenshank. Then a Dunlin and then Liz picked out a gorgeous summer-plumage Spotted Redshank! Fantastic.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a wader drop down on the edge of the next pit. We moved round to can the edge but nothing. Hmmm. I suspected it was a snipe so decided to take a stroll along the edge to see if it was hiding in the reed-fringe. Nope. Well where did it go. I walked the edge just to make sure when up from my feet popped a Jack Snipe! It flew around for a while before dropping down in to some nearby reeds. Crikey, that's early I thought. And sure enough, Mark Hawkes was able to confirm that its the earliest ever Cambs record beating the previous early date of 19 Aug 1961 (The Birds of Cambridgeshire: Checklist 2000).

On the way out we added Redshank and Common Sand to our wader tally. So, all in all, I think I might just pop in again the near future!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Off the fen insects

Farcet Fen it ain't, but Liz's South Bucks garden is proving to be another Toadsnatcher insect trap. Armed with my 15w Acticnic Heath Trap and sticky treats, I've been at it in south Bucks with some great results.

Liz's garden


Pyrausta purpuralis a day-flying pyralid

Least Carpet not too exciting but a tick for me!

Copper Underwing and Old Lady at sugar/wine
Since I can't seem to attract an Old Lady to my garden, I was more than chuffed to get this lovely in Liz's garden. A long overdue first for me.

Gothic attracted to sugar syrup mixture

Great Black Slug of the orange variety

Black Arches a very smart moth found on the kitchen floor!

Black Arches

Small Phoenix attracted to light

All images | Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley