Monday, July 31, 2006

More Small Mottled Willows

Small Mottled Willow | Farcet Fen | 31 July 2006

Amazingly, I caught another three Small Mottled Willows overnight, including this cracking fresh individual.

Locally, Brian Stone added this to his garden and 5km square list in the last few days.

Before this year, only six previous Hunts records, I've now caught four, and there must have been double figure numbers caught elsewhere by now.

Image | Panasonic Lumix FZ-30

Friday, July 28, 2006

Red Underwings

Red Underwings | Farcet Fen | 28 July 2006

I hang any over-ripe bananas in a small hebe in the back garden. By day they are a major attraction to Red Admirals (up to seven in recent days), flies and other insects.

By night, snails and slugs climb the hebe and gorge themselves and a few moths come for a feed. Tonight, two Red Underwings joined the feast. I had up to three RUs coming to sugar syrup last year and I found one roosting on the cottage by day.

Click on pic for larger image

Images | Panasonic Lumix FZ-30

Migrant moths

Small Mottled Willow| Farcet Fen | 28 July 2006

On Wednesday evening, Barry Dickerson (Hunts Moth Recorder) sent the following out to Hunts mothers -

" This is to let you know that there have been several Small Mottled Willows seen in Hunts during the past three days, so please look carefully at the small macros. The picture in Waring et. al. shows the small pinkish/orange patch on the forewing the clearest. "

And this morning I pulled this Small Mottled Willow out of my MV trap! I compared it to the illustration in Waring & Lewington but it looked a wee bit pale, although the pinky spotting was very obvious, so I sent a photo to Barry and he confirmed a worn individual. Yippee!

This is an annual immigrant in to Britain and as Barry already pointed out, several records in Hunts in recent daysand not recorded in VC31 since 1996.

Small Mottled Willow wasn't the only goodie in the trap either. This was my second Dark Sword-grass of teh year, and third ever.

Dark Sword-Grass | Farcet Fen | 28 July 2006

Click on the pics for a larger images

Images | Panasonic Lumix FZ-30

Small Red-eyed Damselfly - at last!

Small Red-eyed Damselfly | Peterborough | 28 July 06.

It's been coming, and I've been searching my local fens for them, but today Brian Stone found the first Red-eyed Damselflies for the Peterborough area in the feeder dyke of the rowing lake near Thorpe Meadows, Peterborough.

The species was only discivered in Britain in 1999, and can now be found across much of south-east England. The Little Egret of the damselfly world!

Small Red-eyed Damselfly | Peterborough | 28 July 06.
One of c.16+ ovipositing pairs | Image Leica APO Televid 77 & Nikon Coolpix 995

Small Red-eyed Damselfly habitat | Peterborough | 28 July 06.
The stretch of dyke feeding the rowing lake the insects were found on. The small stretch of dyke either side of the footbridge held c.80 Small Red-eyed Damsels and 30+ Large Red-eyed Damsels. They do seem to prefer areas with floating weed and debris rather than lilly pads etc that Large Red-eyed are often associated with.

Small Red-eyed Damselfly | Peterborough | 28 July 06.
Compare with Large Red-eyed Damselfly below.

Large Red-eyed Damselfly | Peterborough | 28 July 06.
Compare with Small Red-eyed Damselfly above.

The ony real obvoius feature that stands out in these images is the blue near teh abdomen tip - it extends up the underside of the abdomen on Small Red-eyed. IN the field, look also for smaller size (when occuring with Large Red-eyed) and the more jaffa orange eyes. Male Small Red-eyed also has full or incomplete antehumral stripes (non in male Large) and female has complete antehumral stripes (ony partial in Large). Also, not very obvious I feel but can be seen on some individuals, is that Small Red-eyes abdomen are more shiny black than Large's duller and greyer looking abdomen.

Images | Panasonic Lumix FZ-30

Ruddy Darter in the garden

Ruddy Darter | Farcet Fen | 27 July 06.

Farcet Fen is excellent for drags (18 species breed) and many of them wander in to the garden. This cracking male Ruddy Darter wandered in to the back garden and posed briefly for photos!

Image | Panasonic Lumix FZ-30

Roesel's Buch Cricket

Roesel's Buch Cricket | Farcet Fen | 28 July 06.

Found in the moth trap this morning along with my second Dark Sword-grass of the year (and only third record for here).

Roesel's Buch Cricket seems to be expanding its range very fast. When I first moved to the Peterborough area in 1999 in came across only a couple of sites with them. they appear to everywhere now - including my garden!

Image | Panasonic Lumix FZ-30

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Red-veined Darters

Red-veined Darter | near Maxey| 25 July 06.

Kev Du Rose found both Red-veined Darter and Lesser Emperor (his second of the summer!) near Maxey.

I managed to see the Lesser Emp last night and bad views of the RVDs. I went back today and bumped in to KDR and we both managed a few digiscope snaps of one of at least three male RVDs we saw. We think these are the first RVDs for the Peterborough area.

Red-veined Darter | near Maxey| 25 July 06.

Images | Leica APO Televid 77 | 20xWA | Nikon Coolpix 995

Weekend insects

A few moths and butterflies from the weekend

Poplar Hawkmoth | Farcet Fen | 23 July 06.
Female buff form.

Poplar Hawkmoth | Farcet Fen | 23 July 06.
Clock the 'breathing' holes (spiracles) down the side of the abdomen

Bordered Pug | f. disperata | Farcet Fen | 23 July 06.

Lozotaeniodes formosanus | Farcet Fen | 23 July 06.
A pine tree species - on the fen!

Brown-line Bright-eye | Farcet Fen | 23 July 06.

Crescent | Farcet Fen | 23 July 06.

Double Lobed | Farcet Fen | 23 July 06.
New for the garden

Nut-tree Tussock | Farcet Fen | 23 July 06.

Pebble Prominent | Farcet Fen | 23 July 06.
Just look at those legs! The werewolf of the moth world?

Riband Waves | Farcet Fen | 23 July 06.
Normal form on left and two f. remutata

Twin-spot Carpet | Farcet Fen | 23 July 06.
New for the garden.

White Satin Moth | Farcet Fen | 23 July 06.
Complete with a 'thunderbug' - just one of bloody billions on the fen this summer!

Essex Skipper | Farcet Fen | 23 July 06.

Small Skipper | Farcet Fen | 23 July 06.

These two skippers were among aboyt 11 I found roosting in tall grass on the bank of the irrigation reservoir. In the evening they walk down the grass stem and roost head down. In the morning, they turn round and about 2/3 the way up the stems waiting for the sun to warm them up.

Images | Panasonic Lumix FZ-30

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Nene Washes revisited

Black-tailed Godwit on look out | 7 June 06.

Back in early June I spent some time down the Nene Washes RSPB reserve to recce for an evening walk I did for the Cambridgeshire Bird Club.

I just stumbled on a few of the images I took on those evenings. All these images have been filtered using Imagenomic noise reduction software. I'm very impressed with the results! You can download a free version form their website.

Barn Owl at near dusk | 7 June 06.

Redshank | 7 June 06.

Snipe | 7 June 06.

Marsh Harrier | 7 June 06.

All images | Leica APO Televid 77 | 20x WA | Nikon Coolpix 995

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Grozzer's an escape - now there's a surprise!

Pine Grosbeak Herts| July 06 | (c) Mike Weedon

Birdguides today issued the following message -

"The Essex/Herts Pine Grosbeak is now known to have escaped from an aviary.
The finder wrote (with a photograph) to Cage and Aviary Birds magazine and has now spoken to the owner. The bird (actually a "red female") escaped on June 23rd"

But was it simply desperation that saw so many head to Herts so tick-hungry? Or is it simply the silly season in the real season of the phrase, summer months usually tick free and most getting withdrawels? And what of the dribble people preach in support of birds like this being wild when, IMHO, they are clearly an escape (and proved to be in this instance, which makes me feel very smug!).

Is there anything to be learnt from this? Well I think so. There is clearly a difference between a bird being approachable and a bird approaching humans. Pine Grosbeaks are well-known for their tameness in the wild, with records of ringers picking them up. But flying towards people carry bowls of water? Being sniffed/licked by a Labrador? If these events are true then this in my mind is something more than being unafraid of humans - this is clearly being used to humans.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Phew - what a hotty!

35c in the shade Farcet Fen | 19 July 06

Well, I'm sure you're fed up with all the moaning about the heat! Well I love it! It might be too hot outside, but with windows closed, blinds drawn, I've managed to keep my office to a much cooler 27c. To feel the benefits further I nip outside for a few mins in the scorching heat then return in ot he cool of the house - great!

Listening to the radio about the heatwave you leanr all sorts of useless facts. Like, you damage strawberries if you pick them in temps over 28c.

Right, I'm off to raid the fridge for something long, juicy and lickable!

Images | Panasonic Lumix FZ-30

Strawberries and cream - or not for some

Strawberry and fruit growing facts courtesy of the BBC

And talking of strawberries, and on a much more more serious note, it appears that this lovely warm weather has meant fruits like strawberries have ripened quicker than they have grown, so many strawberry farmers now have lovely juicy strawberries which are too small for the supermarkets! Oh dear - supermarkets at it again and the loser can only be the farmers. Oh, don't worry. You won't lose out, cos while they reject locally grown produce for being too small, they'll buy the fruit in from Israel, Egypt or wherever, so you lot will still get your strawberries and cream. If you want to support the farmers on this, buy your strawbs form the farm and not the supermarket!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The hare and the . . . hedgehog

Brown Hare Farcet Fen | 11 July 06

The fen is still an excellent place to enjoy my favourite British mammal.

The garden is excellent for snufflers. This animal, like the one the other day, was happy chomping on nuts and stuff under the bird feeders in broad daylight. It seemed very unconcerned at my presence.

Hedgehog foraging nuts and raisens in the front garden | 12 July 06

To demonstrate the zoom on this Lumix FZ-30 of mine, above is the lens set at 35mm, and below from the same position, set to 420mm. Wow!

Images | Panasonic Lumix FZ-30

A tale of two fires

The Hinchbeck blaze as seen from Farcet Fen, c. 20 miles from the fire | 11 July 06

I was enjoying an evening wander when I spotted plum of smoke in the sky. I'll go and have a look I thought. It cant be far away. Little did I know! I thought it might be over Kinds Dyke way, but back at the house I realised it was further. Porably Eye I thought.

The Hinchbeck blaze as seen from Eye, c. 14 miles from the fire | 11 July 06

I reached Eye and could see the plume still in the distance. Must be at Crowland then.

The Hinchbeck blaze as seen from Crowland, c. 10 miles from the fire | 11 July 06

At Crowland the plume was still some way off!

The Hinchbeck blaze as seen from Cowbit, c. 4 miles from the fire | 11 July 06

I got to Cowbit (Cubbit) and realised it was even further than I prediected again! The radio then told me it was at Hinchbeck, Spalding. Farcet Fen to Hinchbeck = c.20 miles! Wow! Thats some fire!

Arriving back on the fen later that evening I found I missed all the fun. Whilst the Hinchbeck blaze had occupying ten fire crews, another five were tackling a blaze at Crowtree! Thankfully not me, but Crowtree Farm House a couple of hundred yards along the drove.

Crowtree Farmhouse - err - there's a hole in my roof! | 12 July 06

Well it looks like I missed the Farcet Fen social of the year here. Word is that someone decided to burn the ivy off the outside of the house. Oops!

Images | Panasonic Lumix FZ-30

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A birthday wish? You bet!

Holme Engine Drain by Carry Akroyd July 06

Well, well, well. What has happened to the Essex Pine Grozzer? Not only did the piccy on Surfbirds do a runner, but having been claimed to be still there yesterday morning at 5.30am (and singing!), arrangements made for parking (at a nice fiver per car), it did a bunk! Not a peep out of it since. I just wonder how many paid their fiver and went home very unhappy.

For the short period the photo was available (short, but still longer than the bird was supposedly available!), am I the only one thinking the photo looked a little odd? I find any bird photo with flash or other artificial light as slightly odd, nay, even suspicious. I’m sure the conspiracy theorists will be working overtime, as I’m sure this ain’t the last we have heard of the Chingford Onger 1.

So Pine Grozzer wasn’t to be. What about the Red-necked Grebe at nearby Deeping Lakes? Overnight suggestion from Martin ‘ID Guru’ Garner was that it ‘may’ be a the Nearctic/East Siberias race holboellii. Wow! With only one previous British record (Wester Ross, 1925) that’s nearly as good as a first for Britain less than 20 minutes drive away! We’ll it would have been if 1) it definitely is one, as without catching the little bugger I suspect there is no way of knowing, and 2) after 20 minutes of driving and a couple of hours of searching, the bird was definitely not on view. Probably sheltered from the strong winds behind the island I stared at for two hours!

Ah well - birthday weekends are made memorable not just by birds, but by those nearest to you, and Liz's surprise of a painting from one of my fave artists, Carry Akroyd, titled 'Holme Engine Drain' featuring the recently ereceted Glassmoorbank wind turbines made my day!

Friday, July 07, 2006

A birthday wish . . .

Birthday weekends used to be all about new birds. Yes, even in mid-summer, twas the time when new birds a plenty would be had. Admittedly, this was back in those 1980 and early 1990 times when I was nothing but a lowly lister and much, much more travelled weekend twitcher than am in these 2000s (although I'm still a pretty lowly lister on 470 something).

Yes, birthday weekends in the past have yielded such stonkers as Bridled Tern, River Warbler and Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, not to mention back up cast of Night Herons, Red-footed Falcons, etc.

Oh for a Pine Grosbeack. Wait a minute. There's one in Essex. Close my eyes, cross my fingers and wish . . . (PS - whoever is in charge of 'listening' to our birthday wishes these days - US, Russia, China, N Korea, whoever - thats Pine Grosbeak, Essex, England, viewing Sunday 9 July please. Ta very much).

Damn looks like I'm wishing on deaf listening devices - it's now even not showing on Surfbirds!

The snuffler

Hedgehog | 6 July 06

The garden snuffler is a very familiar beasty to the Toadsnatcher's garden, visiting most nights under the cover of darkness and leaving his wee black poos laying about the place. Bless. They rarely venture out in daylight so I was surprised to find this one snuffling about the back garden in broad daylight. It was actively feeding, routing out a few things as it combed the garden perimeter. What a noise they make when they are chomping! Even the smallest of little bugs gets a sloppy, tongue-slurping, 'tchlupp, tchlupp, tchlupp'. Wicked noise.

It gingerly made its way down this single step. Watching it test the distance down with its outstretched paw, I wondered what it would have done if it hade been too far? Would it have backtracked and found another way round? Or would it have jumped off in a lemmingesque fashion? I've never thought of snufflers as lemming-types, so I like to think that, as ponderous as they appear, it would have had the intelligence to work out the puzzle without risking life.

Image | Panasonic Lumix FZ-30

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Shark second garden record (first was on 13/7/05 - only one week out) | 6 July 06

Tawny-barred Angle new for the garden | 6 July 06

Chinese Character the classic bird poo moth! | 6 July 06

Buff-tip new for the garden | 2 July 06 (2)

My full garden moth list - click here

Images | Nikon Coolpix 995