Friday, 23 June 2017

Always changing

One of the fascinating aspects of running an MV at the same site over a number of years is to experience the changes of fortune across the species that are being recorded. This August will see the 30th anniversary of us moving to our house in Banstead, and I have run a trap in the garden throughout - plenty of bloggage material there! As a taster, here is a species that has seen a big increase in the incidence of it being recorded and the numbers of individuals trapped - Beautiful Hook-tip.

Over the past 10 days I have recorded it daily, with up to three in a single night. Back in 1987, this was but a dream moth, not appearing in the garden until the mid-1990s and could only be regarded as annual these past five years. The data is full of winners and losers. It makes fascinating reading. I will post more later in the summer.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Chalk scrapes

I visited Priest Hill SWT Reserve for the first time since early May this afternoon, which fortuitously coincided with a Surrey Botanical Society field trip. The society were there to survey the chalk scrapes, which are being steadily colonised by flowers - some plants by natural means, and other species by deliberate spreading of seed, such as the Broad-leaved Cudweed (above). This species is just clinging on at nearby Banstead Downs, but only just. Seed taken from here, by licence, and then spread at Priest Hill safeguards its future just in case the small colony nearby does succumb.

More Broad-leaved Cudweed, with the leaves overtopping the heads, plus yellow-tipped bracts.
The spread of Kidney Vetch (below) has been spectacular, which has resulted in the colonisation of the site by the Small Blue butterfly. None were seen today, although the dull and breezy conditions did not help in my search for them. It was good to catch up with the SBS team, and a pleasure to spend a bit of time chatting to both Peter Wakeham and Eileen Taylor, two fine local botanists.

Earlier in the day I had returned to the Box Hill zig-zag, for second helpings of Musk Orchid and Dark Green Fritillary (both pictured below). Stood at the bottom of the steep valley, with a grey menacing sky, rumbling thunder and dramatic lightening was quite unnerving, and also quite surreal to be watching the Fritillaries and Marbled Whites patrolling above the grass in spite of the gloom.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Zig-zag in the heatwave

The heatwave continues, with the Met Office suggesting that here in the south-east we might be hitting 34C today. This mornings check of the garden MV was disappointing. Before the weather conditions became too oppressive, I visited Juniper Bottom (to the NE of Box Hill) that offered a handful of Dark Green and Silver-washed Fritillaries, and then the Box Hill zig-zag, where up to 400 Marbled Whites (above) and 60+ Dark Green Fritillaries danced above the grassy slopes. I also came across 5 spikes of Musk Orchid (below) - without my DSLR, the bridge camera struggled to focus on the plant, as it blended in seamlessly with the grass stems in front, alongside and behind it!

A single Marsh Tit was heard calling. Also present at both sites were a number of Banded Demoiselle (below), some way from water, the nearest source being the River Mole, some half mile away. This female can be told from the similar Beautiful Demoiselle by exhibiting a white (and not buff) spot near the tip of the outer wing.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Scarlet Tiger

The MV was a bit livelier this morning, with higher numbers (and species composition) of moths. There was one clear highlight - a Scarlet Tiger - a garden first and county rarity to boot. This is the 554th species of moth recorded here, of which 397 are 'macros'. This exposes a few things - the fine cross section of larger moths that the garden has played host to; the length of recording (almost 30 years); and the low number of 'micros' on the list...

Monday, 19 June 2017

Too hot

Argyresthia brookeela - a smart little micro
When the temperature reaches 32C in the shade, it's not just us that start to melt and want a lie down, the birds, moths and butterflies do too. This afternoon saw me at Park Downs, unable to get much in the way of my hoped for pictures of Dark Green Fritillaries - they were skittish and fretful. In fact, there were few butterflies on the wing all round, and those that were didn't want to land.

Checking the garden MV on very warm mornings becomes difficult, as the moths are restless and will bolt as soon as you peer into the trap or lift an egg box. A pristine Blackneck would have made a lovely picture, but it left me for dead as I reached for a pot - maybe a lesson to take in what is before me, rather than automatically reach for a container with photography on my mind. The VES lure came up trumps again in the garden yesterday, with an Orange-tailed Clearwing, that danced before me allowing close views, but didn't settle and didn't return.

Friday, 16 June 2017

A scarce micro

The first peer into the garden MV this morning was rewarded with a single Bordered Straw sitting on top of an egg box - my first Banstead record since the 1996 invasion - but things got better...

This is Phtheochroa sodaliana, a scarce and very local resident of chalk downland. In the 'Smaller Moths of Surrey' (published in 2012) there are only four recent records, the latest being in 2005. A brief search on other county websites suggest that this species really is hard to come across. Luckily for me it is a distinctive moth, as my micro identification abilities are not the best.