Tuesday, 31 August 2010

At last a bird photo!

Mothing over the last two weekends has been influenced by the ar temperature. The bank holiday weekend with its colder nights has certainly started to impact the number of moths being caught, whilst last night was one of my biggest catches of the year with 83 individuals. I’m still catching the odd new species for me though, such as square spot rustic.

Square Spot Rustic
Big and brown, the Old Lady, it looks dead but is quite alive.
Vines Rustic
Agriphila tristella , a dark brown individual which shows off the lateral stripe nicely.

A white point, only the second one I have ever caught, possible immigrant but more likely to be a local breeder.

Centre Barred Sallow

Agriphila geniculea, the trap is full of these common grass moths although this one seems to have lost a lot of scales.

They should look more like this one, although the right way up.

Common Wainscott
My favourite, what a cutie!

Back to my last Biscay trip and a couple of sperm whales, probably a juvenile and mother. We managed to record 20 sperm whales on our trip something that would have been unheard of a few years back.
A pilot whale with its characteristic reverse smurf hat dorsal fin.
2 tonnes of blubber being launches clear of the water in the shape of a Cuviers beaked whale. The animal managed this 5 times in a row.
Bottlenose dolphin, unfortunately fast disappearing from coastal UK waters.

3 adult Sabines gulls, probably the best looking gull in the North Atlantic.

Finally a bit of colour on it’s last legs in the strong breeze yesterday at Grain. Make the most of it as it will soon be xmas, groan!!
Common Blue

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The End Of An Era….. and a record?

Over the weekend of the 21st/22nd I was lucky enough to be guiding for the Company Of Whales across the Bay of Biscay. In fact it was my last trip on the P&O ship the Pride of Bilbao as a Company Of Whales guide as this particular crossing is being stopped at the end of September. What a great trip to end on though with the main highlight for me being the sighting of a single pod of 15+ Cuvier’s Beaked Whales just south of the northern shelf edge. To date this is the largest single group of Cuvier’s recorded in the Bay. The following thinking is purely supposition on my part based on the observation and that of others. The group was of animals of different sizes with large mature types and smaller probably immature types. One of the group saw 8 of the larger animals through a scope and was unable to observe any scarring on the bodies indicating that these were female. Males show scarred bodies as they spar and scratch each other with their teeth. This would suggest that the smaller animals (at least 4) were immature animals and possibly lead to one conclusion that we were looking at a large group of females and immature whales. The pod surfaced 4 times and appeared calm before disappearing. So were we looking at an extended family group possibly even led by a matriarch or some type of crèche, if so is this a seasonal activity? The frustrating thing is we’ll probably never know.

The two photos below were taken by Rik Addison.

Cuvier's Beaked WhaleCuviers Beaked Whale 1

Cuviers Beaked Whale 2

So why are they Cuvier's and not northern bottlenose whale? Well, you can make out a sloping beak, and shallow dip behind the small melon. Slightly more tenuous is the fact that you can see the head and dorsal fin in view at the same time when they surface, the chances are that in bottlenose whale, being a larger cetacean, you probably wouldn’t see that.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Tiger In The Garden

Suddenly there seems to be a lot of postings about moths on various blogs and it is good to see an upsurge of interest in this exciting group of insects. This blog is no exception and once again over Friday night I was running my mv light trap although I was slightly concerned about the slim prospect of rain but in some way wishing it would as the garden is parched. On checking the trap in the morning in between the heavy rain showers, I was pleasantly surprised to find a Jersey Tiger on one of the egg boxes. This moth species, I suspect, is an immigrant and recently has been cropping up in gardens within London.
Jersey Tiger

In the 20 odd years I have been mothing, albeit at a very erratic pace, I have only ever caught two tigers. This one and a garden tiger that i found sat on my old 8W Actinic trap that I used to run when I lived at Hoo St. Werburgh. Other species that I photographed were:
The Nutmeg
Pebble Prominent

Lime-speck Pug
During the day in the garden I noticed this day flying pyrallid moth feeding on some marjoram, Pyrausta aurata 10_08_07_longfield_076_Pyrausta_aurata

The best of the bunch I placed into pots as I was leading a butterfly walk for Dartford Borough Council later in the morning at Darenth Country Park and given the wet overcast conditions I wanted to ensure that anyone who turned up would at least see some good moths.
The walk actually went well with the sun peaking out from behind the clouds at just the right moments and a good few butterflies were on the wing.
Today (Sunday), i’ve now gone down with a cold but not really being able to stay in, Lisa and I went to Trosley C.P for a walk in the sunshine. There are some great looking violet helleborines in flower with around 12 plants all looking fresh and one or two being tall with many florets. Walking the chalk down land section we were rewarded with 10 species of butterfly, including some fresh chalk hill blues and a couple of small coppers. Notable by their absence though were any peacocks! What has happened to them all? I think I have only seen one all year. One insect that has clearly had a welcome revival though is the 7-spot ladybird, with loads of them there and oddly enough I haven’t seen many harlequins.
Back home and enjoying a cuppa, I suddenly ended up with two new dragonfly species for the garden, common darter and brown hawker, couldn’t believe it! The darter decided to use one of my raspberry canes as a perch and stayed for 15 minutes, superb.