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

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Garden Moth Stats 2009

I've been ridiculously busy at work over the last couple of weeks, including both Saturdays, and otherwise it's been either dark or shitty weather. Consequently nothing ventured and nothing seen! Today I could have got out, but a very welcome late lie-in and generally doing nothing much seemed preferable. One thing I did do was mess about with my garden moth records on MapMate. Aside from a few Winter Moths, I'm unlikely to record anything else here this year so I did some provisional basic analysis. You'll need to click on the tables to be able to read them! 2009 Total as at 29/11/2009 is 9763 individuals/344 species, versus 9764 individuals/343 species in 2008. I kid you not - I couldn't have contrived a closer comparison. There were 68 species recorded in 2008 that I have not seen here in 2009. Of these, the 25 'commonest' with 10 or more records over the years are: In 2009, I have added 13 species (9 micros, 4 macros) to the garden list: Comparison of the top 20 macros and micros to last year shows a few gainers and losers. For the macros, the biggest positive change was for Gold Spot - 29 records/117 individuals versus 10 records/19 individuals in 2008. The biggest drop was for Green Carpet - 31 records/64 individuals versus 41 records/139 individuals in 2008. For the micros, the biggest positive change was for Crambus pascuella - 20 records/60 individuals versus 7 records/8 individuals in 2008. The biggest drop was for Epinotia nisella - 17 records/30 individuals versus 27 records/116 individuals in 2008. So - what does this all mean? Actually - nothing. Comparison of any year to the previous one always shows changes one way or another. I now have ten years of garden trapping data though so I will be doing some proper analysis of certain species at some point during the winter.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Out of Here!

As the reality show based in the jungle wilds of Parliament draws toward the final stages, one of the main contestants starts to crack and faces eviction. Gordon Brown (aka GB, Gordy, Browny, Browny Gordy, Twat) has riled fellow contestants with offensive hand gestures:

"You're a wanker Cameron"

It had all started so well, with GB seeing off one of his main rivals in an early episode:

The Bush-Fucker Trial

More recently though, things have been getting harder to swallow for Gordy:

Talking bollocks is easier than eating them.

Browny explains just how big, round and squidgy the bollocks were.

As the end nears, Browny Gordy has taken to seeking advice from more enlightened fellows:

Tell me how taxation works again Mr (Leicester) Lama?

Despite the setbacks, Twat looks set to stay in the jungle to the bitter end, seeing of fellow contestants on the way:

Cheerio Bone-on

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Tits, Nuts & Painted Lady

There - that post title should attract a few inadvertent hits. Mostly today I have moping about the house feeling sorry for myself with a massive banging headache. I wouldn't mind if alcohol had been involved, but it wasn't. So instead of driving off somewhere to enjoy the wildlife like I should have done, I had to make do with watching the locals on my various feeders. However I managed to miss the best bird of the day with the camera - a superb male Great Spotted Woodpecker (garden rarity) briefly landed in our tree and had a look at the nuts before heading off. Oriental Laughing Collared Dove Greenfinches Goldfinch Great Tit Tit on my seed Tit on my nuts Tit on the neighbour's plums Aside from the nice tit action, I was most surprised to see this nectaring on cultivated heather: Painted Lady Pretty sure I've never seen one this late in the year before.

Friday, 13 November 2009


Right at the end of October, I found a fairly unimpressive green caterpillar after dark feeding on what remained of our lavender. Other than it obviously being a noctuid, I had no idea what species it was and boxed it for a closer look the next day. Next day came and it had abandoned the food plant and spun-up in the kitchen roll, so I thought no more about it. Tonight I happened to notice that a moth had already emerged - that's just less than two weeks, and I can't be certain it didn't emerge earlier in the week. Anyway, it was a Silver Y - a completely unexpected addition to the garden breeding lepidoptera list that I haven't compiled. Reading Porter, it does indicate that the its normal 8-week egg to adult life-cycle can be dramatically compressed when confined indoors. The phone rang, and the lady of the house answered - "Hello, is that Mrs Smith?" "Yes, Mrs Smith speaking, who's calling?" "Mrs Smith, this is Dr Jones from the hospital. I'm afraid I'm calling with some terrible news from your husband's recent exploratory checks" "On no - what's wrong?" "Well, the trouble is Mrs Smith that we have two sets of results for a Mr Smith and we cannot be sure which results are your husband's - but it's not good either way" "Well - what is the news?" "Your husband either has chronic Alzheimer's or Syphilis" "Oh my God - what do we do now?" "We suggest you drive your husband into town this evening and leave him there. If he finds his way home, don't ever sleep with him again!"

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

This week, I have mostly been listening to ..

A rather obscure but brilliant 1990 collaboration between Anne Dudley (Art of Noise etc) and Jaz Coleman (Killing Joke etc). I bought this on impulse years ago whilst looking for something else back in the day when you still visited record shops regularly and 'downloading' was simply a euphemism for taking a shit. It is, I think, a superb piece of work - essentially an Arabic / Middle-Eastern instrumental with both classic orchestral and regional instruments along with synths and electronics. For a change, I thought I'd shamelessly abuse You Tube by uploading a slideshow of some of my photos set to a track from this great work. If the photos are crap, or the slide animation is jumpy/doesn't work, just close your eyes and turn the volume up - the main thing is the music. The track is called Habebe.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Stuffing Springboks

I am not a particularly big follower of Rugby, either code - football is my main sporting interest. However I do like to watch the RU Six Nations Championships and World Cup, and like to see the local Leicester Tigers doing well. Through work, I often go to home games at Welford Road with the mandatory hospitality including excessive free alcohol intake, a great meal and of course the game. Last night was one such occasion - with the difference being that it wasn't a league or cup game, this was Leicester Tigers v South Africa ..... and we won! It was an immense game with a sell-out 24K crowd. Amorosino's first half try was stunning, and Tigers put in a truly fantastic performance. The six pre and a few more post match pints of Guinness helped to mark the occasion, and this morning I have just about lost my voice whilst having a massive headache.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

On this day, 05/11/1993

Sixteen years ago today - how time flies! A very early start saw me and John Hackett heading down to the Swanage area in Dorset. It was only my third twitch, but I was fully aware of the significance of the enigmatic bird we were hoping to see. By 08:00 we were on site at Winspit with a sizeable crowd despite the bird having been found on 30th October. Before long, there it was ..... Red-flanked Bluetail. See here for photos. At the time this was a massive rarity with virtually all of the previous records being in the northern Isles (like one trapped on Fair Isle on 16/09/1993). It was certainly the first widely twitchable bird, and prior to 1993 there had only been 11 records and I believe this was the first year that two were recorded in the same year. Of course in time it turned out to be a forerunner of many more accessible birds in subsequent years, rather than being the superb blocker we thought it would be. In fact I saw another one in Norfolk in 1994. Nevertheless, I can still visualise the scene when my first Bluetail popped into view - absolutely fecking awesome!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

More SEO Action

I went back to Cossington late this afternoon for another Short-eared Owl fix. Along with Alan Rayfield and a couple of others, we had to wait until quite late before they appeared although it was clearer and brighter than on Friday with a full moon rising. The first to appear was the paler of the two, which very nicely perched up on a very close post and could be clearly heard calling. I was glad I took the scope to get excellent views of the perched bird. After a few minutes it flew across the track and perched up right at the top of a bare spindly tree where it was very briefly mobbed by a Kestrel. From nowhere a darker individual appeared and the two were then both flying around together for a few minutes, again calling. The darker bird gave us superb close views and flew directly over us at one point. Superb stuff. Otherwise a single Barn Owl put in a very brief appearance, being constantly mobbed by Magpies as it tried to hunt, and up to 8 Grey Herons were knocking about the meadow and in surrounding trees.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Lunchtime Chat

Nipped over to Cossington Meadows around lunch time, with the intention of trying to get a couple of snaps of the Stonechats. I only had about half an hour so it was always going to be a quick grab or complete failure. Immediately as I headed down the main track, a male Kestrel was hovering over the verge and suddenly dropped down before re-emerging a few seconds later complete with small mammal in talons (presumably a vole). Further down the track, after a cursory glance over Swan Meadow (cows, ponies, herons, no owls) I bumped into a very pleasing mixed selection in the hedgerow. In the same hawthorn was a male and two female Reed Buntings, male Bullfinch, five Goldfinches, four Greenfinches, two Redwings, Blackbird, Dunnock, Robin and - the pair of Stonechats. Every time I edged closer the Stonechats fecked off further up the hedgerow. I need a much bigger lens! Eventually got a couple of grab shots of the female perched on a twiggy stem on the edge of the verge. This perch is uncomfortable. Shit - look at the spassy angle my feet are at! Before I left, some amazing Kestrel action. One male was happily minding its own business hovering over Swan Meadow when it noticed another male zooming in from The Moor at low level. It stopped scanning for voles and made an immediate bee-line for the incoming rival. They both crashed down into the long grass with talons pretty much locked before they both decided it wasn't worth it headed off in different directions. With the owls still present, and more Kestrels in one area than I've seen for a while, it must have been a bloody good vole year. Even the herons seem to be targeting them.