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Sunday, 25 October 2015

Roesel's Bush Cricket

A nice find on 11th October was this basking Roesel's Bush Cricket. 1% are this long wing form diluta although with the species becoming more common in the county, perhaps this form is increasing to aid the spread ?

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Rhododendron Leafhopper.

Rhododendrons are not especially highly regarded in the natural world. Being highly invasive, it  can be a real pest outside of gardens and is quite a toxic plant ( the causer of ' Mad Honey Disease', and toxic to livestock)
Anyway, I have some in my front garden, and for a while now I've been checking it for the Rhododendron Leafhopper Graphocephala fennahi . Its a striking bug, but not that many records of it seem to have been made in the county to date, being most common in the south of England.
Anyway, Yesterday, there was a pair of the critters sitting on the Rhododendron, I know they can be bad for the plant, one of the few invertebrates that actually likes Rhods' but I couldn't but help be extremely pleased to record them anyway.

If that was not enough excitement for one day, sat a few leaves away was a Speckled Bush Cricket. Another species I had never actually recorded before ( probably because I always used to get confusedd with Orthopteroids and switch off ). Two in the bush, result !

Monday, 14 September 2015

Birding;Autumn Passage tries to make ammends

It was promising to be a cracking birding year on the patch, despite not a single Winter Siskin or Redpoll, and only one Brambling The year list was pretty much as good as it could be going into Spring and the anticipation of clocking up the usual selection of migrants lead to idea of a record breaking year list for 2015.
However, Spring passage basically didn't happen for me. Cuckoo, Yellow Wagtail, Spotted Flycatcher, Garden Warbler, Redstart, Whinchat and Sand Martin all failed to materialise. As for something rarer even dropping in, no chance. I all but gave up.
So it was hardly with  any great enthusiasm that I viewed the start of Autumn passage. However, over the last couple of weeks, there have been a few species dropping in that have at least  helped slightly in balancing the yearly birding accounts.
First up on August 30th was a Single Spotted Flycatcher flitting from tree to telegraph wires down one of the lanes. Usually I get a family party dropping in somewhere in Autumn, but this year, just one, and later than the previous two Autumns ( 10/8/2013 and 23/8/2014 ). Better late than not at all, although that seems to be the way it is headeing.
The following day, a red letter day,  a lovely male Redstart, a sadly rare county bird of late. Only my third ever on the patch, the only other Autumnal one 3 years ago, August 19th 2012.
A trio of good ticks was completed when a Whinchat was found by TMH on 3rd September. Thankfully it hung around for me to eventually relocate it a bit further along the hedgeline that evening. The last one I saw there was 2012.
The final patch rarity to report is a Stonechat near the waterworks on 11th September. A male. Although not a year tick due the long staying winter bird, its only the 3rd record I have for the patch, the other being October 2013.
Birding is all about context, and its fair to say that the last 2 weeks have been significant in terms of helping put some sort of quality back into this years patch passage records. Despite scanning Hirundines for a Sand Martin, I'm as yet to sort out that glaring miss, and whilst it feels like increasingly slim pickings on the patch, the irony is that I need 'just' 3 more species to beat my previous best year total.......


Monday, 3 August 2015

Hairy Legged Mining Bee, a trio of nice finds

Returning to a Sandy section of my patch on a sunny morning, I managed 3 very pleasing finds.

The Hairy Legged Mining Bee Dasypoda hirtipes is a nationally notable species, and even the males in flight are quite distinctive. To be sure, I netted one , returning it a couple of hours later .A lovely little Bee.

♂ Hairy Legged Mining Bee

Also making the journey back with him was this lovely Sand Tailed Digger Wasp , of which there were good numbers.

Cerceris arenaria

The trio of good looking species was completed by a Hoverfly, Xanthogramma pedissequum, a very smart fly.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Couple of nice Flies for the patch list

Here's a Conopid, or Thick Headed Fly from the patch. Once you discover their dastardly tricks, you cannot help but become intrigued by them.

Sicus Ferrugeneus

On Burdock there were plenty of the Picture Winged gall causing fly Terrellia tussilaginis.

Terellia tussilaginis

Monday, 29 June 2015

Volucella zonaria, the hoverfly heavyweight !

Settled on a leaf in the garden, I was delighted to see a Hornet Mimic Hoverfly Volucella zonaria had swung by. Initially I approached with trepidation not knowing what it was, fearing it was some huge stinging fly until I was close enough to realise it was Syrphidae in nature, the largest of Britain's Hoverflies. The picture does not really give the scale of this invert, over 20mm. A really nice close encounter with a spectacular, and not that frequent, Hoverfly.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Obscure Wainscot

The moth scene through May and the first half of June was dire. After a few days away I returned with renewed enthusiasm, as I couldn't help but notice fellow moth-ers were starting to cheer up on social media.
The last 3 nights have been a veritable moth-fest compared to the last couple of months, and numbers have risen night on night. More importantly, I've trapped a couple of corkers.
Firstly, Obscure Wainscot. This can wander into gardens but is largely restricted to a handful of  wetland locations in the county.
Obscure Wainscot

On the back if that, the following evening I landed my first Alder moth. Not rare, but not something I see other folks recording that often either. A smart moth, and as the Macro garden  list grows, each newbie is appreciated.


Finally last night, not a new moth, but only ever had a single individual previously ( 13/7/2013 ), a Ghost Moth.

Ghost ♀

The pain of all the early morning checking of an empty trap is beginning to fade.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Hornet Observations

My last encounter with Hornets was watching numerous workers gorging on Ivy in the Autumn of last year.
Shortly after arriving on the South Western edge of the patch on 30th May,  just a few yards from the Ivy,I noticed something large and yellowish dart into vegetation in my peripheral vision. I could only think initially it was a Broad Bodied chaser, but a few minutes later a loud low buzz emanated in nearby vegetation and a Queen Hornet appeared.
Their size really takes you back, a solid 5cm makes it looks a formidable beast. It mooched about for a few minutes, down in the grasses and Cow Parsley, allowing me to get reasonably close. Unlike their Waspy cousins however, they are fairly chilled creatures as long as you pay them respect. They are the sole survivors of the nest, and overwinter tucked away in a tree hole or such like.

A real Humdinger . 30th May

Yesterday I had a similar morning encounter at the southeastern border of my patch, and then watched as the beast, of similar dimensions to the first, flew towards its probable nesting location. At a height of about 12 feet, the flight is fast and straight like a mini yellow Cruise missile.

My third sighting was the same afternoon , at the northeastern edge. A Hornet of  possibly slightly less stature hummed into a modest Oak and spent a minute on an Oak Apple. Presumably it was hoovering out the Larvae within. An interesting bit of behavior to witness.

Feeding on an Oak Apple

I'm not sure what the range of a Hornets territory is. The three sightings make up a triangle whose sides are roughly 0.5 KM as the Vespa crabro flies.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Emperor Moth

I've been trying to see these amazing moths for a few years now, but timing and conditions coupled with their elusiveness have prevented an encounter.
Yesterday, although very breezy, I managed a couple of all to brief encounters, but as the record shot shows, it was worth the wait to see these stunning looking creatures.

Male Emperor Moth

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Dotted Chestnut. Garden.

I had a Dotted Chestnut in my garden moth trap on the 10th April. A lifer,and  my first new species of the year. This moth overwinters as an Adult.Not much is known about its foodplant preferences.

Dotted Chestnut

 Considered extinct in the County from 1834 to 1999. It's now listed on the Worcestershire Macro Moth list as " Common , Fairly Common,Widespread" , however, searching the National Biodiversity Network it has only been recorded previously in four 10km Squares within Worcestershire, not mine to date. I'm aware from searching the internet its been trapped in some local woods and the odd garden outside of my square in North Worcs. It is considered nationally scarce, category B, occurring mainly in the south/ southeast of England
I reckon this was blown in by the strong winds, and whatever its official status,  I was cocker hoop to land it in my garden trap !

Monday, 23 March 2015

Orange Underwing Moth.

I found Orange Underwing Moth on my patch last year. A day flying moth, easily missed or assumed to be a small butterfly, they can also be very difficult to pin down !
Sometimes they can be seen drinking at puddles in the afternoon, but last year that didn't work for me ( I actually created some on the bridal path and waited, to no avail ), so views were restricted to binoculars and photographs from long digital zoom shots last year.
They tend to fly from around Midday as long as the weather is half decent, from about mid March.
I managed to photograph some I found at Chaddesley in 2012 from a reasonable distance, but wanted to study them a little more closely if possible, as it is really the underside of the underwing which defines this species from the slightly later flying Light Orange Underwing.
After nearly giving up, I eventually managed to net one and took it home to study in my magnifying jar. After a record shot and returned it to the spot it was trapped, from where it flew quite happily to join the dozen or so chums that were flitting around the plantation.

Orange Underwing

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Frog Spawn and Badger Loo's

The progression into Spring is far from linear, and with northerly winds keeping temperatures well down into single figures, there was not much spring cheer obvious to the eye or ear.
A single Small Quaker was the only moth to trouble the trap and Chiffchaffs failed to match their earliest previous arrival dates.

Somewhat struggling out on the patch, I remembered a small area that regularly floods into a shallow 'pond' due to water seeping to the surface.
On reaching the area, I noticed a couple of plants to check back on, but my main target was pleasingly present, a clump of Frog Spawn with a few tadpoles flicking around.

I'm not sure how sustainable this area is to see the tadpoles through to maturity, but it was nice to find this early spring benchmark. There was a sudden 'plop' and a few ripples on the other side of the water, but despite scanning the area for a while I couldn't locate what could have been one of the parents in waiting.
Moving on I ventured slightly off track to check the damp wooded area away from the set aside. I quickly discovered a couple of well defined fresh scrapes. These were typical of Badger toilet activity. When they emerge in the evening they scrape out a hole. The scat is typically dark and muddy, so these two scrapes fitted the bill. Oh for a trail cam, it would be a good area to try and get some images.

One of the Badger 'deposits' 

On the walk back to the car I checked a small Gorse bush out, finding three 7 Spot Ladybirds close together, like me, waiting for things to warm up a bit more.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Bee-autiful inverts return

Despite a stiff southerly breeze taking the edge off the suns potential little, some of the inverts around the patch were not going to be held back any longer.
From the moth trap, two new species for the year, getting the year list up to 6 now.

Oak Beauty

Hebrew Character

At 12.15 on 7th March, the first Butterfly of the year slipped past me, a Small Tortoishell. At 12.16, the second Butterfly of the year, a bright yellow Brimstone was observed, and shortly after a second one. It was as if they had been released out of a nearby box.
Back home, the more sheltered environment was positively chuffing with buzzy things. The Hoverfly scene had kicked off, with a  Drone fly ( Eristalis tenax ) and a single Episyrphus balteatus.

There were also quite a few Honey Bees in the heather and around the Mahonia, but what excited me most were the 2 queen Buff -tailed  Bumble Bees  and a queen Tree bumble bee .... that were one the wing. Buff  tail queens are huge, real heavyweights, but cuddly with it.

Queen Tree Bumblebee
Buff -tailed Queen

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Patch firsts & early records

 Not a single sighting of Redpoll, Siskin or Brambling this year.However the year list is booming, with 2 lifers and a couple 'difficult to get' species added over the last few days. Mandarin Ducks certainly don't challenge ones ID skills, but this one was only the second record I have for the species.

This female Pintail, present on the same day, stayed for nearly a week, and was a lifer for the patch.

The good bird run continued with 13 flyover Lapwing, a long overdue patch lifer, and Red Legged Partridge made its usual March addition, on the first day of the month. With 63 species now recorded in 2015, I have a real chance of smashing last years total, and need 4 more lifers for the landmark century of species.

In non avian news, Lesser Celandine was in flower on 20th February, slightly ahead of the national average date I believe.

Something else ahead of their dates appear to be my moths. I finished February with a Common Quaker on the 28th, 6 days earlier than last years first record.

On the 25th I had a Small Quaker, and  Agonopterix heracliana, 16 and 12 days earlier than 2014 respectively.
So,also my best moth February to date, with a hearty 4 species recorded. Spring could be just around the corner.......

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Dark Chestnut kicks off the mothing year

Last night I ran the MV trap for the first full night this year. The only 2 moths I've ever trapped in February are a Dark Chestnut (14/2/ 2013 ) and a Pale Brindled Beauty (19/22014).
It was a pretty cool night but lurking by the bulb this morning was my second ever Dark Chestnut, on exactly the same date as 2013. Hardly eye candy, but welcome nontheless
March 2013 was a bitterly unmothable month, with only Dotted Border recorded. March 2014 was positively balmy and I bagged 18 species. Hopefully the trapping of Dark Chestnut is not an omen, rather a chance to better the 2014 tally, which was my highest to date.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Ramshorn Gall. A nice find.

My main aim today was to photograph some male Hazel catkins, also know as 'Lambs tails'. The sun came out as I did and it was positively balmy around midday. A bonus was that the female catkins were just coming out also, so when I discovered these, and the fact the sun was shining, all was well with the world.
♂ Hazel Catkin

♀ Hazel Catkin
 I decided to walk the woodland edge, just incase a Butterfly decided to waken and stretch its wings.
On reaching an Oak that I had previously discovered Purple Hairstreak eggs on in late 2013, I decided to give the lower branches a bit of a onceover.
I was delighted to find a couple of woodied Ramshorn galls. These are very distinctive, and created by the gall wasp Andricus aries.

Ramshorn Gall. VC37

This is only the second record for North Worcestershire, and the fourth ever for the whole of the county. A species that is spreading gradually from its initial area in SE England. The Galls are worth keeping an eye out for.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Dipper on the Doorstep !

January is all about walking off  the Christmas excesses and re- starting the only bird list I really keep, The Patch yearlist. Egged on by Brett Westwood's latest radio broadcasts, I have walked the patch with grim determination this month.
Surprisingly, the first month of the year often seems to  yield a really good new patch bird, more so in fact than many migration months of late. January 2014 saw Woodcock and Merlin.
Whats always interesting is seeing how years compare. A real lack of finch flocks and no Siskins or Redpolls so far this year has also mean't no Bullfinch or Brambling being recorded. The Great Crested Grebes have disappeared, but I've had record Goosander numbers, a peak count of 30 on the 12th.
I rediscovered the Stonechat on the 11th, first seen on new years eve, and gratefully snaffled it onto the year list.
Despite adding nothing new for the year on my final two walks, and despite the many missing usuals, I had still managed to steal a march on last years total of 54.
On the 17th, I finally added a Great Black Backed Gull to my patch life list, One from the local large flock harbouring the Iceland Gull no doubt. Unfortunately, the Icelandic fella has yet to be seen crossing the patch boundary.
On the 18th, a second lifer for the patch, and probably the best bird I have ever found on it, a Dipper on the stream that rises near Belbroughton and enters The Stour near Wilden. Watched with astonishment for five minutes hopping on and off a log in the water before calling and flying over my head and going downstream.
 Final January total 56. ( with a yearly average of c 80ish birds, I'm well into the business end of the list now ! )
Below, the dawn of another year on the patch.

Monday, 12 January 2015


Its been a battle of the elements so far this year, heavy rain, freezing fog and strong winds. Nothing has deterred me from getting out and about though .The biggest reward has been discovering the New Years eve Stonechat is still about, spotted on the 11th, pushing my patch year list past the half century mark.

Despite covering the area where I usually find good early Snowdrops, I somehow forgot to check until today, and lo and behold it looked like they they had been out waiting for me for a few days. Still, it beats last years first find by a whole week. Good to see !

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Stonechat reward rounds off a top patch year

Its always nice to see mammals on the patch, unfortunately often the only way to record them is when they have perished, and this, literally is what had happened to this Common Shrew that I found one frosty morning. I placed him on a post for a photo,

Although I had a couple of sightings of Fox on the patch at the start of the year, I had not had a sniff of one since. On the 28th I spotted a foxy fella in the paddocks, and on the 29th, I went a huntin' for my first patch record shot.
I got more than I bargained for in the end, as I actually flushed a Hare that Mr Fox had obviously been stalking for lunch, and appeared a few seconds after the Hare had bolted, giving me a dirty look as he skulked off.

The patch year couldn't have ended better.On New Years Eve, on the last few steps of my last circuit of the year, I spotted a Stonechat, a patch lifer ! (Distant record shot below).
A fitting end to the year, I felt like the patch was giving me a final reward for all the hours I've tramped around it over the last 12 months.

Looking forward to finding more natural history of interest out and about in 2015 . Thanks for reading.

Happy New Year !