Saturday, 20 July 2013

It's been a while, what have I been doing?

It has been quite a while since my last post, which has simply been a result of a lack of time to sit down and type. This shortage of time has been for a couple of reasons, firstly I have been spending a lot of time in the field and making the most of the fantastic weather we have been having of late. Secondly, I have been training for a charity cycle ride that I am doing on 11th August, which involves a 100 mile ride around the Hampshire countryside. A bit of a cheek I know, but if any readers of this blog fancy sponsoring me please click on the link, any support would be gratefully received

So what have I been doing....

Micheldever Chalkies
Micheldever Chalkies is a Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust reserve, located, as the name would suggest, near Micheldever, Hampshire. The reserve consists of heaps of chalk, that were dumped when the railway cutting was created. Since dumped they have become colonised by a variety of plant species, most notably cut-leaved germander Teucrium botrys. This species is protected under UK law and in included on Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, subsequently management activities at the site are aimed at maintaining it. On the day I visited the site, some small leaves were present and a few plants were starting to bud, but as with most plant species, the cold spring meant it was much less developed than usual for this time of year.

There were still plenty of other plant species to see though, so I spent a bit of time looking at those. Viper's bugloss was one of the most prominent species present; the flowers are pink when in bud, but as they bloom the bright blue colour becomes dominant.

Viper's Bugloss Echium vulgare

By contrast the flowers of the fly orchid were more difficult to locate, with the flower spikes hidden discretely among other vegetation. Despite its name the flower of the fly orchid has evolved to lure male digger wasps; they inadvertently pollinates the flower whilst trying to mate with it.

Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera

Another orchid species seen was the common twayblade. This is one one of the commonest and most widely distributed orchid species in Britain and can be readily identified by its small and inconspicuous green or greenish-yellow flowers.

Common Twayblade Neottia ovata

Whilst wandering around looking at the plants I did also come across a few other fine beasts. A burnet moth caterpillar was an interesting find, but unfortunately I could not identify it to species. There are two subspecies of five-spot burnet in the British Isles, with one occurring on chalk grassland.  I have to admit that I was not going to call it, but is looks pretty good for a five-spot burnet caterpillar.

Burnet Moth Caterpillar

The mullein moth caterpillar was a bit more straight forward. The pale bluish-grey body with black spots and yellow patches make this caterpillar immediately identifiable....and of course the fact that it was feeding on great mullein.

Mullein Moth Cucullia scrophulariae Caterpillar

A wood tiger moth was a species that I am not sure I have seen before. The species is single brooded, flying from late May to July, and inhabits downland and open woodland. In warm weather adults will readily fly by day.

Wood Tiger Parasemia plantaginis

After a slow start, the mothing season has finally got going. During the harsh spring there were some nights when not a single moth was trapped, but now the trap is crammed full. My best night to date has been 230 moths of 91 species. The only migrant species trapped have been diamond back and silver Y, but I have added10 new species to my garden list already this year.

Green Arches Anaplectoides prasina

One species which I have only caught once before is green arches, and when I pulled this one out of the trap I had to refer to Skinner to figure out what it was.

White Satin Moth Leucoma salicis

One species that was new for me was not trapped in my garden, but the garden at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trusts office in Curdridge. This species is locally common and widespread throughout Hampshire, and is a sporadic migrant, as may be the case with this individual.

Bird Ringing
Ringing activity has been limited to a couple of sessions at Botley Wood, a few sessions in the garden, some barn swallow pulli and one session at Titchfield Haven. A kestrel nest that I checked back in the beginning of June was revisited and from the four eggs, two healthy chicks had hatched.

Young Kestrel

The net rides have all been cut in at the Haven and we have had a couple of sessions. This week saw the first grasshopper warblers of the autumn, with 18 ringed, other migrants included a few sedge and one garden warbler.

Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia - 18 birds have been ringed so far this
autumn; they have all been juvenile birds

Most of the other birds ringed were local breeders such as chiffchaff, reed warbler and Cetti's warbler. Cetti's seem to have had a very good breeding season since we have already ringed 39 birds, with the majority of of those caught being juveniles.

Common kingfisher Alcedo atthis - This bird was aged as a juvenile and
sexed as a female, the first ringed this autumn at the Haven

Another first for the autumn was a juvenile kingfisher. This species does not breed at the Haven but dispersing juveniles appear on the reserve during July. Coincidentally it was caught on one of the public ringing events, so some very happy visitors were present to witness it.
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