Sunday 29 June 2014

A Few Bits and Bobs, Otherwise Quiet

Really quiet bird-wise at the moment. The minor highlight first thing this morning was a common sandpiper on the beach near the lifeboat station. Also the smart adult mediterranean gull with several sandwich tern and a single common tern offshore, along with 4 common scoter.
I left an outside light on in the back garden last night. It attracted a handful of common moths but they're all species I haven't seen for a while.

Cabbage Moth

Scoparia Pyralella - a smart little micro 

Bee Moth - another common micro - the larvae feed on the comb inside bee and wasp nests

Phlyctaenia Coronata - a micro - the larvae feed on the young leaves of elder

Smoky Wainscot - so named because, unlike many of its close relatives, it has a dusky grey hindwing

Dark Arches - I used to trap tonnes of these - a very common species

With Lu and the kids visiting friends in Teignmouth this afternoon I decided to have a look for a very unobtrusive little moth called Marsh Oblique-barred. I photographed the individual below at a site up on the Commons back in July 2007 but failed to find any today. It's a tiny, localised species that is frequently mistaken for a micro but it's actually a macro.

Whilst searching for the moth I came across plenty of butterflies. Good numbers of small tortoiseshell, ringlet, meadow brown and small heath. I also saw a few red admiral and several large skipper but couldn't locate any silver-studded blues. The grayling was the first one I've seen this summer.


Small Tortoiseshell


Large Skipper

Round-leaved (I think) Sundew - a carnivorous plant

Bog Asphodel (thanks Terry) and beetle sp - I'd be grateful for any help with the identification of the beetle . My plant and beetle knowledge is non-existent.

Friday 27 June 2014

Devon Flashback 8 - Marsh Sandpiper

It's exactly nine years today that many birders added marsh sandpiper to their Devon list. The first Devon record concerned a bird seen by just one car load of birders on the river Avon at Bantham, way back on May 5th 1990. The next one was bound to cause some excitement!
On the morning of June 28th 2005 I had just dropped my daughter off with my in-laws and was on my way to work. I often had a quick look at Bowling Green Marsh en route as it was usually quiet (I really don't enjoy birding in busy hides). I parked up outside the hide shortly after 7am and knew Colin Bennett would be inside as his car was already there. 
As I pushed open the door Colin turned round excitedly, asking if I'd got my scope. He had an odd wader that he thought might be marsh sandpiper! I'm ashamed to say I half expected to clap eyes on a greenshank, after all Colin only had his bins and marsh sandpiper had almost mythical status in Devon. I was therefore almost speechless when I set eyes on a gorgeous, silver-spangled adult marsh sandpiper! I couldn't quite summon up the courage to reach for my phone at first. I kept thinking am I missing something? Is this really a marsh sandpiper? Have I ruled out lesser yellowlegs? But then it flew and a white greenshank-like 'v' on the back dispelled any remaining uncertainty.
I got lots of cursing down the phone when I put the news out. It was that awkward time in the morning as people were preparing for work. Dave Stone was the first to arrive, followed shortly by Brian, Martin, Kev and Hoppers. As we watched the sandpiper, two adult spoonbills drifted in to complement an already special morning. Reluctantly, after Colin had  left, I had to tear myself away to go to work. I was late for the morning briefing but nobody noticed me sneak in. I went back in the evening with my brand new Nikon Coolpix and managed to take what are arguably the worst photos ever captured of this beautiful species. Apologies.

As you can probably imagine I was slightly annoyed that I'd arrived too late to actually find this bird. I went through the whole 'if only' scenario time and time again. If only I'd got up five minutes earlier? If only I'd dropped Maisie off a bit sooner? If only Colin hadn't been out birding!! As it transpired, somebody else had seen what they thought was a lesser yellowlegs the previous evening. It was almost certainly the marsh sandpiper although it was accepted by the BBRC as being present from June 28th to July 3rd. 
Fast forward three and a bit years and I was able to lay those annoying 'if only' ghosts to rest when I found Devon's third marsh sandpiper on Bowling Green, early on the morning of August 31st 2008. This time it was a juvenile bird but equally as exquisite in my eyes. It was present for just one day but was seen by a lot of birders, albeit under far more relaxed 'I don't need this for Devon' circumstances. Below are some poor field sketches and a couple photos taken by Phil Stidwell that I hope he won't mind me using.

juvenile marsh sandpiper - photo Phil Stidwell

I got home for breakfast feeling pretty elated. I'd gone out too early to go through the moth trap so I set about emptying it a little later in the morning. It was one of those magical days as I recorded my first ever Dewick's Plusia moth - a scarce immigrant, perhaps delivered on the same south-easterlies as the marsh sandpiper.


third-summer great black-backed gull - Exmouth Beach - 26/6

second-summer mediterranean gull - Exmouth Leisure Centre - 25/6

Monday 23 June 2014

No Birds More Moths

Cymbalophora Pudica - France 2006

All quiet on the bird front so a few more interesting (to me at least) moths from southern Europe. Apologies to those who really couldn't care less about moths. Most were discovered around campsite lights but a few were found flying around in the day-time. Some are rare immigrants to Britain. Please let me know if I've misidentified any - moths can be much trickier than birds and I've still got quite a few photos of moths without names - perhaps I'll stick them in another post.

Tree-lichen Beauty - France 2006

Pine-tree Lappet - France 2008

Netted Pug - France 2009

Eutelia Adulatrix - France 2008 - a great little moth with peacock-blue wing spots - as usual the photo does it no justice

Pigmy Footman or eilema uniola?- France 2006 - really tiny

Convolvulus Hawkmoth - France 2006 - this was my first. I've only ever trapped one in Britain and that was in Topsham 

Mocha - France 2006 - on a shower block wall

Oxicesta Geographica - France 2008

Tawny Prominent - France 2008

Spotted Sulphur - France 2006

Paysandisia Archon - France 2009 - this moth really threw me at first. After a little research I discovered that it is a South American pest species whose larvae feed on palms. It's a large, spectacular, day-flying moth unlike anything you'd find in Europe and it was apparently accidentally introduced to France in the early 2000's.

Gypsy Moth - France 2009 - day time flyer

Tamarisk Peacock - Italy 2009

 Antirrhinum Brocade - France 2008

Oak or Poplar Nycteoline - either way I love the dopey expression!

Passenger - France 2006

Pale Shoulder - France 2008

Small Elephant Hawkmoth - France 2008

Sorcerer (I think) or Alchymist? - France 2009

Phylodesma Suberifolium - France 2009