Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Martins & Swallows

Over 100 Martins & Swallows over the front of the house today , some were perched on telephone wires giving excellent views.
(thanks to John Garrett for the info )

Sunday 26th May: Brownsea Island Trip

A big thank you to Alan Barrett for an extremely well organised trip

Tern Islands
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sanvicensis)

Sandwich Tern (Sterna sanvicensis)


Thanks to Mark Turnbull for the photos

Friday, 24 May 2013


 Elisabeth Allen

1981 Poplar Hawk-moth Laothoe populi
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Wingspan 65-90 mm.
Probably the commonest of our hawk-moths, it has a strange attitude when at rest, with the hindwings held forward of the forewings, and the abdomen curved upwards at the rear. If disturbed it can flash the hindwings, which have a contrasting rufous patch, normally hidden.
Distributed commonly throughout most of Britain, the adults are on the wing from May to July, when it is a frequent visitor to light.
The larvae feed on poplar (Populus), aspen (P. tremula) and sallow (Salix).

Thanks lis

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Poplar Hawkmoth

Tuesday 21 May, Claverton, Bath.  Poplar Hawkmoth from Phillip Delve's overnight moth trap.  

Thanks to Carole Catling

Monday, 20 May 2013

19 May at Ashcott Corner


How to pick out the highlights of a special day on the Somerset Levels?

0800 Sunday 19 May at Ashcott Corner. Eight of us in total assembled for Lucy Delve's Bird Song Skills Improvement Group. Without even leaving the car park, there was plenty to hear and focus on, and as we progressed firstly into Meare/Shapwick Heath and then Ham Wall, the warblers did all we'd hoped they'd do. They warbled, they flitted, they showed themselves and so very nicely illustrated their varying songs.

All our target birds were co-operative. We heard explosions of Cetti's warblers. We were able to compare songs of willow; garden; reed and sedge warblers. We got some great views.

Blackcaps put in fine performances, singing and showing well. We saw and heard whitethroat also.

We had clear views of marsh harriers and saw plenty of hobby activity as both they, and the swifts, circled and swooped to catch prey.

All this against a backdrop of cuckoos constantly calling. Oh, and intermingled with everything else, we were treated to what for me was probably the highlight of the trip - the deep booming of the bitterns throughout the day. They reminded me of distant foghorns. Someone commented that they sounded like didgeridoos. On one of the loop walks at Ham Wall, Lucy said that they'd seen bitterns there before. On cue, two bitterns flew over and did several circuits above us. That was to be the first of several excellent sightings we had of bitterns flying. How lucky were we? You could almost become blase about bitterns! (Only joking!)

Thanks for a great day, Carole. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Moth Skills Improvement Group on 11 May 2013

Lunar Marble Brown (Drymonia ruficornis)


Wingspan 35-40 mm.
Similar to the Marbled Brown (D. dodonea), this species has a black crescent in the white area of the forewing.

Flying slightly earlier in the year than the former species, it is on the wing in April and May.

Inhabiting deciduous woodland, it is relatively common in the southern half of Britain, uncommon elsewhere.

Oak (Quercus) is the foodplant of the caterpillars.

Muslin Moth (Diaphora mendica)


Wingspan 28-38 mm.
Showing distinct sexual dimorphism , the males of this moth are soft brown, the females white, both sparsely speckled with black.

It occurs in woodland, downland and suburban habitats, and is relatively common in most of Britain.

The larvae feed on a variety of low plants, including dock (Rumex) and chickweed (Stellaria).

Purple Thorn (Selenia tetralunaria)
Wingspan 30-38 mm.
Like the Early Thorn (S. dentaria), this species produces two generations except in the northern extreme of its range, producing smaller and paler individuals in late summer.
The two broods fly in April and May, then in July and August. Where there is only one generation, the moths are out in May.
Occupying woodland, heathland and other bushy areas, this species is fairly common in southern England and Wales, becoming scarcer northwards into southern Scotland. There are only a handful of records from Ireland.
The caterpillars feed on a range of deciduous trees.

Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa)
Wingspan 30-35 mm.
Fairly widespread throughout Britain, this species is common in places. Showing a gradual variation in colour, with the brightest individuals in the south, and much duller specimens in Scotland, attributable to the subspecies borealis.

It is double-brooded in the south, flying in April to June, and again in August and September. In the north there is just one generation, in June.

The larva are polyphagous, feeding on a number of herbaceous plants.

Thanks to Paul Wilkins

Bristol Wildlife Blog

A new Bristol Wildlife Blog site well worth a regular look.

All the best Steve

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Thank you

Thank you all for your support the Blog-News  site has now had over 10,000 views.

All the best Steve

Friday, 10 May 2013

Bird Song Skills Improvement Group Meeting at Heaven’s Gate, near Longleat: Tuesday 7 May 2013

Eight members and a guest gathered at Nockatt’s Carpark opposite the arboretum, where the rhododendrons were in full bloom. A Song Thrush was singing loudly somewhere close by but out of sight, it’s three or four note repetitive and quite strident phrases, somewhat dominating the more muted and mellow warbling notes of the Blackbird. Dunnocks, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Robin and Blackcap were all singing among the bushes and trees as we approached a wider grassy area where there were two tall conifers either side of the path. Flight calls of Siskin could be heard overhead. Sandra pointed out a small bird, hopping about around and under the
bushes which was identified as a Whitethroat and seemed too busy feeding to make any sound.

As we stood quietly listening and I was able to pick out a rapidly repeated series of very high-pitched single notes of the Firecrest, our target species.  We saw the bird fly between the two tress, singing deep in the leaves and sometimes feeding and singing on the ends of branches but the bird was very active and hard to follow. 

We moved on to the gate that takes you out of the more formal planted area to the ridge of open ground and tall beech trees, overlooking Longleat House. Walking through the tall conifers, we heard Chaffinch and a Coal Tit; the Coal Tit has a thin piping high-pitched song of two repeated notes, the rhythm like the “teacher teacher” of the Great Tit. We admired the view and looked down on the lake below where we could see Mute Swans, Grey Heron and a Great Crested Grebe. A Raven “cronked” behind us and we had a brief view of the bird. 

Back through the gate and on the edge of the woodland a Bullfinch called persistently; a rather mournful, soft single note, occasionally giving it’s squeaky short warbling song. The male kindly flew into view and we saw it clearly, his bright red underside almost glowing against the backdrop of the blue sky.

We encountered the Firecrest again where seen previously, before taking a short walk on the other side of the road behind the car park. In an area of short birch trees, we hear Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Garden Warbler. The latter two species can be tricky to distinguish, particularly when singing simultaneously very close to each other.

Sunday 5th May: COLERNE PARK

Click photos to enlarge

Barn Swallow
A sparkling sunny morning greeted the eighteen members who assembled in the lay-by at Thickwood Turn. The two leaders arrived a little breathless after having had to cut up a branch that had fallen over the path but their early start was eclipsed by three in the group who had previously been on the 5am dawn chorus with the National Trust at Prior Park. 
  As the party set off along two pleasant country lanes, Swallows and House Martins testified to the arrival of a long-awaited spring whilst Skylarks wheeled in celebration high in the sky above. Several particularly fine views of Yellowhammer were had and, as we approached the wood, a number of Wheatears were seen in a recently ploughed field. Blackthorn was still coming into flower in the hedgerows – a full four to six weeks late!After negotiating the stile into the wood, our first sight was
of a fine old specimen of Wych Elm, one of several in the wood, that was a reminder of the time when this was an Ash and Elm wood. Elm trees flower early in the year and this tree bore a very healthy crop of seeds. The loss of both Wych and English Elms due to Dutch Elm  Disease in the 1970s and 1980s allowed a dense thicket of Sycamore saplings and Bramble to take over parts of the wood, creating dense dark conditions that potentially threatened the rich flora of this ancient semi-natural woodland that is now an SSSI. After purchasing Colerne Park and Monks Wood, the Woodland Trust has gradually restored its mix of high forest (where minimal management is more appropriate) and coppice with standards (where volunteers have undertaken coppicing in selected areas). The latter have had to be temporarily fenced from deer to

allow the Hazel coppice stools to regenerate. Layering of Hazel has also been attempted to encourage new growth.We initially followed  the perimeter of the wood, where specimens of the aptly named Judas’s Ear Fungus (Auricularia auricular-judae) was spotted on a piece of dead Elder and the equally descriptive King Alfred’s Cakes Fungus (Daldinia concentrica) was seen on a fallen Ash branch. Many old stumps sported growths of  Turkey Tails Fungus (Trametes versicolor) and the handsome Dryad’s Saddle (Polyporus squamosus) bracket fungus occurred in several places. Members were amused by Alan Rayner's animated description of the life history of the large slime mould, Reticularia (Enteridium) lycoperdon, seen lurking on a fallen tree trunk. Later he brought further animation by dramatically resurrecting dried out shoots of the moss, Anomodon viticulosus, with a moisture spray. Bird life tended to be heard rather than seen with a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming not far away and the laughing call of the Green Woodpecker was heard in the distance. The kronk of a Raven was also heard overhead.

Click photos to enlarge

Common Twayblade
Green Hellebore

Door Snail

Nursery Web Spider basking in the sun

Garlic Snail

Garlic Snail found by Andrew D and although only about 5mm diameter the odour it gave off lived up to its name.

Herb Paris
Male Orange-Tip Butterfly

Weatear (record shot)
Polyporus spp (possibly P. tuberaster) 
Hypoxylon spp on dead Hazel

Moss species - Monks Wood

Alan R brought this moss species to life using a mist spray of water, the speed at which it transformed was amazing.

Thanks to Tom Cairns and Paul Wilkins for the 
trip report and photos

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Batheaston Hoverflies

A widespread and locally abundant hoverfly found in a wide variety of habitats (but perhaps especially woodlands and wetlands) from early spring until autumn.  Males are very active hoverers that can be especially noticeable in woodland rides in spring and defend small territories. The rat-tailed larvae have been found in farmyard drains and other organically-rich pools, though no doubt use a variety of water bodies including woodland pools and ditches.

Eristalis pertinax 2-5-2013 steway lane (male

 E. corollae is periodically one of our most abundant hoverflies but prone to great fluctuations in numbers with the British population seemingly boosted by mass immigration or mass emergences in most summers. During peaks, it can turn up in almost any habitat, even city-centre window gardens. The aphidophagous larvae appear to use a range of ground-layer aphids in a wide variety of habitats including crops.

Eupeodes corollae steway lane  2-5-2013 Female

Steve Curtis

Friday, 3 May 2013

Batheaston Moth Trap

click photos to enlarge
Puss Moth
These three moths were caught overnight 2 May at High Bannerdown, Batheaston.

1995 Puss Moth Cerura vinula(Linnaeus, 1758)

Wingspan 45-70 mm.

Named after the cat-like appearance of the adult moth, this species is fairly common throughout most of Britain.
The striking caterpillar feeds on aspen (Populus tremula) as well as poplar (Populus spp.) and willow (Salix spp.). When disturbed, it raises its head and waves the twin tails, which have pinkish extendable flagellae.
The adult flies from May to July, and frequently comes to light.


Swallow Prominent

2007 Swallow Prominent Pheosia tremula(Clerck, 1759)
Wingspan 45-55 mm.

Similar to Lesser Swallow Prominent, though not necessarily larger, this species has a noticeably longer and narrow whitetornal triangular streak than that species. It also differs in having a fine whitish line running through the dark blotch in thetornal region.

It is fairly common throughout Britain, and flies between May and July, with two broods in the south.

The larvae feed on poplar (Populus) and 
sallow (Salix).

Waved Umber

1936 Waved Umber Menophra abruptaria(Thunberg, 1792)
Wingspan 36-42 mm.

A distinctive species, occurring reasonably commonly in the south of England and Wales, becoming scarcer into the northernmost English counties.

It inhabits woodland, parks and gardens, and flies in a single generation from April into June.

The larvae feed on garden privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) and lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

Thanks to lis Allen