Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Who Do You Think You Are?

I know the programme is focussed on the famous, tracking their histories back to common earnest people or back through harrowing family trails. But we all have family histories. I'm lucky enough to have been given a massive head-start should I ever have a proper go at tracing my family, that's because back in 1999 a Mr Phillips in Enderby made a brilliant attempt at tracing his wife's family tree and spreading it out as far as possible. His wife's great-great-grandfather and my dad's great-grandfather were brothers, and he took the time to contact my grandfather and one of his sisters to pass on the information he'd found. Because of the work that he did, I have a very good trace of my paternal family line going back to before the formal registering of births and deaths started in 1837.

Before all that though, there is the matter of my surname. Skevington is a bastardisation of Skeffington (as are Skivington, Skiffington, Skefington and Sheffington). Have a look on the map at Leicester, and follow the A47 east towards Uppingham. About half way between you'll find the Leicestershire village Skeffington which is where my family name derives from. Skeffington is itself derived from anglo-saxon; the village was Sceaftinton, meaning place of the sceaft tribe (and sceaft was likely drived from sceap meaning sheep). Essentially it was a farming village notable for sheep - nothing changes!

There is a Skeffington/Skevington (etc) family shield which features three black bulls on a white background. There is a crest element which is a mermaid holding a mirror and comb when the shield is used in a formal coat of arms. The family motto is 'per angusta ad augusta'.

There are some (in)famous Skeffington's in history - quite probably nothing to do with my direct family line but worth a mention. Sir William Skeffington was MP for Leicestershire appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland under Henry VIII. Essentially he was one of along line of Lords Deputy who were tasked with keeping the Irish under English rule and to quash any rebellion. Certainly not something I'd advocate.

One of his other sons was Sir Leonard Skeffington, who was a Lieutenant of the Tower of London who was credited (!) with inventing an implement of torture - known as the Scavenger's or Skevington's Daughter. Seems it folded you up and compressed the body until blood ran from the nose and ears. Nice.

Both his grandson William and great-grandson Thomas were MPs for Leicestershire. Wonder if that is the Thomas Skeffington who had this built?

There's also a whole load of toffy tory Skeffington's in this lot - seems a bit far removed from sheep farming to me.

Happily, there is someone in my direct line who was a bit more creditable. Here is a very simplified tree showing the paternal line only, from my son's and their cousin back through nine generations. Obviously there are lots of wives and daughters (sorry), uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers etc removed for clarity.

See that bloke back a few generations from me, my great-great-great-great-grandfather born in 1802, John Skevington. He was a notable figure in the Leicestershire Chartist movement, the working-class push for political reform. Seems that he tried to use his influence to keep splintering chartist factions together and to prevent violence, although he was arrested in 1842 and blamed for causing coal strikes. His arrest caused a clash between the police on the one hand and the miners and Chartists on the other. There a several on-line references suggesting that he lived 1801-1850, but the family tree search that I've been passed on gives 1802-1851. Either way he died aged 49, and he is apparently buried in Loughborough so maybe I should go and try to find his gravestone. It's quite likely that his son's middle name Feargus is a nod to a notable Chartist leader Feargus O'Connor.

There are at least 18 people in the same generation as my grandfather, of which 8 were male Skevington's - clearly a lot of scope for tracing the family in a bit more depth when I have spare couple of years!

Friday, 22 August 2014


Here's a few recent butterfly shots - mainly to brighten the mood whist the weather is un-August like and pants.


Small Tortoiseshell

Red Admiral

Painted Lady

Monday, 18 August 2014


Nipped out today over to Watermead CP South for a quick walk around - haven't been there for a fair while. Weather was not great, one of those days when nice warm sunshine gives way to showers very quickly and you don't know which way it will go when you're furthest from the car.

I paid some attention to the flora, mainly looking at the stuff growing in and at the edge of the River Soar. Managed to find some common plants that I've ignored previously .....

Marsh Woundwort

Unbranched Bur-reed, flowering albeit on the far bank.
I also found Branched Bur-reed that had gone over.


I didn't bother with the net as I was trying to concentrate on the plants, but a few inverts were obvious like the Myathropa florea that landed on me, loads of mating Harlequin Ladybirds, good numbers of patroling Brown and Southern Hawkers, a Broad-bodied Chaser and a few Banded Demoiselles and Common Darters.

Spot the Southern Hawker

I also lifted my bins to a few birds for a change, with House Martins and Swallow zooming about all over the place and several bright juv Chiffchaffs. Most of the wildfowl was actually tame but very foul, and there were few gulls to scrutinise. At least two noisy humbugs were poncing about on the water, and a Grey Heron stayed put for the camera for a change (in dense shade ...).

Great Crested Grebe

Grey Heron

Sunday, 10 August 2014

New inverts

Spent most of this morning identifying and photographing various inverts from the yesterday and the mothing trip on Wednesday night. Here's a selection of the highlights:

Enochrus melanocephalus
This one came to MV light at Fosse Meadows on 06/08/2014. Not sure of the VC55 status at the moment.

Curculio rubidus
This one is from Newfield Colliery yesterday, and having seen one at Woodwalton Fen last weekend it was fresh in the mind. Again not sure of VC55 status.

Mogulones geographicus
This is the one swept from Vipers Bugloss at Ketton Quarry, the only VC55 site for it.

Stictopleurus punctatonervosus
Appears this one has been spreading. The shape of that black line on the pronotum is diagnostic.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Lucky heather, but still got blues

Today I've been up to the far north-west of the county in the morning, and then over to the far east and into Cambs this afternoon. I had two key lepidopteran targets in mind, a spanking moth that has recently been confirmed as resident in the county and a relatively common butterfly that I've never made any previous attempts to see.

So, the first site was Newfield Colliery in Moira. As you can no doubt gather, this is a site of one of the collieries around the Moira area - all I've been able to establish is that the colliery was sunk in 1830, but no idea when it ceased production and closed. The site is being left to regenerate and there is a decent coverage of heather on the site with masses of birch scrub around the edges. The substrate is a bit weird, like a concrete/tarmac/compacted mud mixture. Have to say there is more heather here than at either Charnwood Lodge or Warren Hills.

Around this time in August 2012, Steve Woodward visited the site and happened to find a single Beautiful Yellow Underwing. It was new for VC55 and completely unexpected, mainly as none of us had heard of this site and had no idea about the amount of heather there which is the larval foodplant.

In the last week of July, Harry Ball visited the site found another five confirming that the 2012 record was not a one-off. Adrian Russell also visited the site and confirmed that the moth was present in numbers and breeding. Excellent, but unfortunately I was busy around that time and then away on the PSL weekend, so today was my first chance to visit and see if I could find the moth.

It was warm and sunny but there was a very strong breeze, nothing was flying and even if it were I'd struggle to net it. So I set about sweeping the heather. After about and hour of beating the crap out of the heather I'd not seen any adults, but I was finding lots of larvae in various instars from very early to full grown. This was a bit confusing, as I wasn't expecting to find any larvae at all with the adult moths on the wing within the last week or so.

I was also finding a few other larvae, including this which I'm certain is Ling Pug.

I made a quick call to Adrian as the presence of larvae was baffling and I wondered if I was missing something. Seems that the moth is probably double brooded here in VC55, so presumably the larger larvae are the offspring from the end of the first brood whilst the smaller larvae are the offspring from the start of the second brood. Not sure if the all the larvae around at this time will overwinter or if the flight period will go on for a while yet. Anyway, I wasn't missing anything - Adrian had also spent a lot of time sweeping before finding adults.

I set off on another round and almost immediately struck lucky ....

Beautiful Yellow Underwing

What a spanking moth! Only a small thing, but the colouration and markings are superb. A new macro for me, and with c30 larvae recorded whilst I was sweeping it is clearly doing very well at this site.

I potted a few bits up from sweeping, including a nice Agriphila latistria which I've not seen for a while and I have a few hoppers to check. The site looks brilliant, and I'd like to have spent more time there having a more general mooch about but I wanted to get home and grab some lunch before heading off to the east.

After fannying about at home for a while, I set off across to Barnack Hills and Holes in Cambs, near to Stamford and not too far from Ketton Quarry.

This site was again looking excellent, but by the time I got there the sunny spells were becoming more brief with building clouds and the wind was still strong. This site is reknowned for my next target, which happily I managed to see quite quickly without having to beat the crap out of anything .....

Chalkhill Blue

After managing to grab a few shots of a couple of individuals (I have lots of other blurry ones as they were being buffeted by the wind) I decided to head back towards Ketton Quarry before heading home. Just as I arrived at Ketton, a few spots of rain started to hit the windscreen but luckily I ignored it and it stopped when I did. I didn't spend too long there, just focussing on sweeping the herbs and grasses around the entry 'square' and the geology trail.

Just as I walked into the square I remembered that Graham Finch had mentioned a weevil on Vipers Bugloss at this site. A quick swish of the net on the first plant I saw and there it was - Mogulones geographicus! This is a really smart weevil which I'll try to photograph tomorrow along with a load more bugs and hoppers that I swept.

A good few hours in the field - it's just the four hours driving around inbetween I could have done without!

Friday, 8 August 2014

Mixed bag of inverts

Managed to get out for a very local and short-notice mothing session on Wednesday night with Adrian Russell and Graham Calow, over at Fosse Meadows. Graham had spoken to the warden who was very keen to get some records and simply handed over a key - excellent! Pretty good range of species too, with the most interesting species being these two scarce micros (for VC55)

Ypsolopha horridella

Nemapogon clematella

Hoping to get out for some local recording tomorrow, with a colony of Beautiful Yellow Underwings recently discovered in the county being the priority. I might even be arsed to try and add Glossy Ibis to my county list.

Here's a few more bits from Woodwalton last weekend in the meantime .....

Cimbex connatus - a massive sawfly larva with a massive dangleberry
Note the lasck of black edging to the blue dorsal stripe that would be present on Cimbex femoratus

Ruddy Darter

Common Darter

Four-spot Orb Weaver (Araneus quadratus)

Invisible Spider (Drapetisca socialis)