Monday, 31 July 2017

July 31st Minsmere

The sun is out and there are no signs of thunderstorms unlike the last time I was at Minsmere a few weeks ago. The butterflies and other insects are out in force due to the warm weather today. The buddleia bushes and lavender bed adjacent to the entrance of the visitor centre was especially busy, acting like magnets with the sweet nectar drawing them in. Painted ladies, red admirals, peacocks, meadow browns, gatekeepers, graylings, green-eyed flower bees, the list goes on.

Small Copper

Pantaloon Bee
The section of path with the colony of bee-wolves (or 'Wasp Alley' as it has been known as lately) is still rather industrious  as it was during my last visit. However, the bee-wolf isn't the only species making nest chambers at Wasp Alley as I noticed jewel wasps, large digger wasps and, best of them all, pantaloon bees. This is a species of mining bees named for their large pollen sacs on their hind legs, which looks like its wearing a pair of pantaloons. I've never actually seen one before, so seeing one pop it's head out of it's hole really made my day. I also saw common blue butterflies in abundance along the beach, a butterfly that I haven't seen at all this year until now!

Roesel's Bush-cricket
Common Blue

Common Sandpiper
At first glance out on the scrapes from East Hide, it looked quite empty, at least it was according to my mum. Scanning carefully, however, revealed a good list of waders and other birds. The longer we stayed, the more birds we found. There were avocets, dunlin, common sandpiper, green sandpiper, black-tailed godwits, ruffs, a knot, lapwing, a spotted redshank, a little stint, sand martins, linnets, teal, mallards, common terns, barnacle geese, Canada geese, shovelers, an oystercatcher and black-headed gulls.

Green Sandpiper
Black-tailed Godwit
Spotted Redshank

Little Stint
Common Tern
Female Reed Bunting
Funnelweb Spider
After leaving the hide, we carried on towards the sluice gates before heading back to the visitor centre for lunch. Whilst we were walking to the sluice, we were scanning the long grass, gorse bushes and fences for wasp spider webs. I was told that this was the best area on the reserve to find these large, colourful spiders. Their webs themselves are like a really big orb web with a distinctive zigzag patterns radiating out from the middle. Sadly, I was unable to find either the web or the spider, but there were many other species of spider around, including countless funnelweb spiders, which hide in a silken funnel in a corner of their sheeted web.

An Orbweb Spider of some kind
Yellow Horned Poppy
Sea Kale
View of the scrapes from the dunes
After lunch, I did go for a walk to the Island Mire and Bittern Hides, but there wasn't much about. The only mentionable highlight from this walk were a couple of brown argus butterflies as I was making my way down the hill where the Springwatch HQ building was (its been taken down now). Annoyingly though, my camera just wouldn't focus on them properly for some reason and I ended up taking a couple of dud shots before the butterflies fluttered away.

Knopper Gall
Some kind of toadstool (a very pretty one)

Friday, 28 July 2017

July 27th Mousehold Heath

The Moon
Its moth night at Mousehold once again. There was a concern that it wasn't going ahead as less than an hour before the gear was set up, a thunderstorm appeared out of nowhere. The rain fell so heavily that I was sure the event was going to be cancelled. Thankfully, it passed over as quickly as it arrived, which meant the event was given the go ahead. It turned out to be a clear night after the storm and the moths were soon arriving as if the storm never happened. Here's a few we've caught before in previous moth evenings this year before I talk you through the new ones as part of my attempt in improving my moth ID skills.

Rosy Footman
Spectacled Moth

Canary-shouldered Thorn
Perhaps the most colourful moth of the night, without a doubt, was this canary-shouldered thorn. Only the thorax and 'shoulders' are bright yellow. The wings are more of an orange-brown with a wavy edging and are always held in the manner you can see here when at rest. This a common species that you can find in gardens, parks and woodlands from late July to October.

Black Arches

Another rather beautiful moth that we caught tonight is this black arches. Its easier enough to identify as it is white with black markings. Most of these markings form little arches.

Grey Daggers

  My next moth is also named after it's appearance and markings. This is either a grey dagger or a dark dagger. Both are virtually identical to one another as they are both grey with black markings that look like little daggers. If I have to say which one this individual is, then I would go with grey daggers as it is slightly pale in colour. But in truth, I am just guessing. I am sure an expert will correct me.

Scalloped Oak

This striking species is a scalloped oak. It is similar to the scalloped hazel moth, but it is smaller and it is much brighter in colour. It is orange-brown with a chestnut brown stripe across the middle that has a black spot within it on each wing. This moth also emerges later on in the year compared to the scalloped hazel, emerging from July to August.

Lesser Yellow Underwing

There are several species of yellow underwing moth in the UK. Each vary in size and markings in their underwings. This one is a lesser yellow underwing. It is brown with kidney-shaped markings and a wavy line on it's upper wings, which you can see when it is at rest. However, if this moth was to open it's wings, you would see those bright yellow lower wings which has a small black line and a black dot.

Scarce Footman

Now we are getting into the moths I am not 100% sure on. This is apparently a scarce footman, a slimmer version of it's relative the common footman. Many of the footman species are silvery grey with creamy-orange underwings and look very similar to one another. They look much bigger when they are flying, but when they land, they all look small and thin.

Coxcomb Prominent

This next one is also baffling me a bit. The shape and it's humpy appearance suggests it is a member of the prominent family. The lack of striking markings does make me think that it is a coxcomb prominent. But if it is, it would mean it is an early specimen of the second brood that emerges from August to September. That is why I am doubting myself. [Edit: I was correct, it was a coxcomb prominent.]

Pearl Grass Veneer
If these macro moths (biggish-sized moths) are causing me a few headaches as an amateur moth person, I can not begin to imagine tackling the micro moths (the really small ones). There's a few in the trap that some of the more enthusiastic members of our group were mulling over with and thumbing through the pages of the ID books and sheets. They've narrowed some of them down as veneers of some description. I can't really remember the exact names off the top of my head, but at least one stood out, the pearl grass veneer, and was rather beautiful with tiny white markings on it's wings like minute pearls. [Edit: I have now got all of them identified now.]

Dingy Dowd

Common Grass-veneer