Village Wildlife Diary for July 2018

31st July, I am always being teased by a Holly Blue dancing about the dark Holly hedge in my garden. It puts on enough of a performance to entice me get the camera and go out for a shot. The trouble is it’s never there when I get out there. I stand like an idiot for several valuable minutes during lunch break. I go in and it reappears, I run straight out, gone. The little B… I am distracted by the House Martins, they say ‘look out – trouble is here’ and there is a Hobby, a Martin killer, looking for trouble.

30th July, my Birthday morning is spent at work, but as a treat, we walk the canal to Whilton for lunch. The water, trees and hedges cool the air, the shade and light a pleasant distraction, and a Red Kite is drifting in and out of view.

Cinnabar Caterpillar

Small Copper

29th July, (yes! The wet stuff arrives. First since late May). A run of Hedgehog records on social media, makes me wonder how many individuals there are in the village? Lots of reports of the stripy, black and yellow caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth.

28th July, is that a cloud? Swifts come down from the heavens to plough the roof-tops. The House Sparrows are on their third brood in my Ivy, and the young get louder every day. Terry sees Holly Blue and Comma, and says there seem to be more Butterflies at the moment. The Meadow has been mowed and baled, and we stack in the evening sun. The Orchard at the park has been similarly mowed and the team are out with rakes.

Daisy

Pondlife

27th July, A weed is a plant designated as ‘the enemy’ by the ministries that try and control farming. There is an incredibly long list of native plants that come under this banner, because they spoil the perfection of crop growing, and the thus the efficiency of farming. Many millions of gallons of chemicals are used each year to keep these plants at bay, but I have noticed that during this current drought that it is these very ‘weeds’ that are keeping the insects going. Thistles, Nettles, Ragwort, Willow-herb, and Bramble are the plants dealing with the heat and flowering. Ideal for Butterflies etc, and Brown Argus, the first for several years, and Common Blue are seen.

25th July, Some flowering plants are doing well, My Lavender is going mad and covered in Bees and Butterflies. Holly Blue is about the garden anyway but Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Small Skipper, and Gatekeeper are coming in from the parched fields.

Purple Hairstreak

Tiger on Holly

24th July, I am entertaining my sisters children and stand up to see a black and grey butterfly overhead, I suddenly see a flash of purple and realize it a Purple Hairstreak. It lands on the water weed and has a drink. I left my camera in the truck to protect it from the kids. Tom sees a shiny metallic green Beetle and a mating pair of Southern Hawker.

21st July, the heat kills the grass, and some of our saplings at CEP are turning brown. I am watering daily, but know I will lose some. Holly Blue and Scarlet Tiger reported.

20th July, Terry Laney sees a Clouded Yellow Butterfly. These are migrants and start life around the Mediterranean basin. There is the merest sprinkle of rain.

6th July, The young of many Birds species are suffering. The ground is too hard for their food to appear as many invertebrates are unable to hatch, and worms are also similarly trapped. I have had several reports of dead Moles which may be linked to this.

Boatman

Ruddy Darter

5th July, Billy photographs a Water Boatman. The heat seems to suit the Dragonflies as Emperor, Brown and Southern Hawker, Four-spotted Chaser, Ruddy Darter, and Azure and Emerald Damselflies all on the wing at Cotton End Park. The Butterflies seem equally active with Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Large and Small Skippers, Large, Small, and Green-veined Whites, Speckled Wood, and Small Tortoiseshell. I am walking down Tebbitts Close and am passed by a Banded Demoiselle. Lesser Stag Beetle Reported.

4th July, the heatwave continues, a Gatekeeper, first of the season, is feeding on the last of the Bramble flowers in fields behind Lime Avenue. A large, pea-green Dragonfly reported from a garden on Ashmore suggests Southern Hawker.

Village Wildlife Diary for June 2018

Large Skipper

Meadow Browns

30th June, we lean on the gate and watch David mow for Hay. The old sheep-dog pants in the shade of the over-hanging Hawthorn. The Swallows switch back and forth in front of his rattling, red tractor and a Kite drifts silently overhead, staring intently downwards. Dragonflies and Butterflies have kept us looking as we’ve ambled along this parish boundary footpath, the Jack Russell as busy as ever. Ahead is Watford parish and to our right is West Haddon, but we are very much in Long Buckby. After decades of standing right here I know this scene. It rarely changes, we farm the land, and the seasons come and go. On the Ivy next to the gate-post, a newly emerged Southern Hawker hangs down, drying its glistening wings ready for a life of action, and a copper-coloured Comma glides by like a dried leaf on the breeze. Spring rolls out into summer, and we take a deep breath of its scented warmth.

29th June, I don’t believe it. We are packing up after a BBQ at Cotton End Park and I think I hear a brief burst of Grasshopper Warbler song from the deep undergrowth near the car-park. I ‘shush’ the chattering group and I get them all to listen and there.. again it ‘reels’ for several seconds. This is great but does it mean this is a breeding bird? A territorial male? Part of a nesting pair? I am never at the park this late and assume nobody else is, so it may have been here all spring and not been noticed. They ‘sing’ at late dusk and in the night, and are secretive, acting more like a mouse than a bird.

Dragon in waiting

Privet Hawkmoth

28th June, another Marbled White, and new dragonflies in the form of Brown Hawker and Ruddy Darter. The Hawker is as big as the Emperor and they size each other up over the open water arena. On the way to the quiz, Mike and I see a fresh Holly Blue on Ivy on Pytchley Drive. More Scarlet Tiger Moths reported, and Meadow Brown and Ringlet visit my Lavender. After my initial worries, it seems that there are similar numbers of Swifts as last year though they arrived much later. There is a strong colony at the bottom of Rockhill Road nesting in the relatively new houses there.

26th June, Cassie does it again, she spots a copulating pair of Privet Hawk-moths on the Brington Road. They are massive but perfectly camouflaged with the creosoted telegraph pole they’re sitting on. Red kite again and again, surely breeding in or near the parish? The Emperor count is up to 3 at CEP pond, and they clash violently in mid-air over the water. I see a Marbled White Butterfly. This is the species I am trying to manage the grassland for so I am happy…until one of the Emperors grabs it in mid-flight and consumes all but the wings which flutter down and land on the water…

24th June, in the pond (Yes I’m in the Pond) at CEP removing/moving some of the surface weed, and I get close up to emerging Damselflies including my first Emerald of the year. A small Hoverfly alights on me and turns out to be Two-banded Wasp Hoverfly. Whilst showing some guests our precious Common Spotted Orchid, Rhiannon finds two more plants in flower several yards apart. We have a colony! Small Skipper noted.

pondlife

Solstice

23rd June, my son’s birthday and we have a tradition which started when he was knee-high, which involves looking in the garden for the diminutive and beautiful Ruby-tailed Wasp. To be fair, most years we forget, some we don’t find it and some years I’m the only one who looks! But this year there it was on the Birch Tree, glistening like a jewel. I look up and a male Banded demoiselle flits past. Happy days.

20th June, Tom sees a Scarlet Tiger Moth, and Tree Bumblebees are doing the usual trick of not nesting in trees but people’s porches, lofts and bird-boxes instead. They can be numerous and noisy, but are harmless and do have a short season. The Blackbirds at Armley are on their 3rd brood, the Magpies took the 2nd.

11th June, Evans Pond has the usual plus a forlorn male Banded Demoiselle. These used to be the only Demoiselle species we had in the parish, and reasonably common, but the Beautiful Demoiselle has moved in from the south and taken over from the Banded. Peacock Butterfly caterpillars and a Meadow Brown reported for CEP. The strong sun cooks the quashed Hedgehogs and Badgers that abound on our roads, filling the van with wonderful aromas.

Chimney Sweeper

Longhorn Beetle

9th June, I return to Evans pond to try to work out if the White-legs are breeding (See 26th May diary) there are a dozen or so in a small area next to the water. They include a few adult males and females, the rest being immature. They even move amongst the rushes at the water’s edge but I don’t see any copulating. A singing Reed Warbler is a surprise as it only has a very small patch of (Norfolk) Reed to call its own. 2 Yellow Wagtails over. At Cotton End Park pond, a shiny blue and green male Emperor hovers above an egg-laying female, the two Chaser species are joined by Black-tailed Skimmer, and another Painted Lady flies by. Yellow Wagtail flies in, looks and moves on and a Lesser Whitethroat is in full song.

6th June, 2 Small Copper and a red Admiral are at CEP, and Variable Longhorn Beetle, Lesser Stag Beetle and Violet Ground Beetle are all found during a bit of a search of the undergrowth near Evans Ponds (actually I’d lost the dog lead in the long grass). Whilst looking down we also disturb a Chimney Sweeper Moth. Quite a good record, as its in the parish, though not far from Foxhill (West Haddon parish) where we saw them last year.

4th June, Richard sees 2 Yellow Wagtails on the Brington Road, and whilst collecting litter, I stumble across a twin spike of Common Spotted Orchid at CEP. Kevin reports Little Owl from Grove Farm, and Hobby is seen over the village. Hedgehogs (Live) noted on The Banks, South Close, Grasscroft, and Pytchley Drive. Sue sees a beautiful Emperor Moth, and a Painted Lady heads along The Leys.

Beautiful demoiselle

Cinnabar

3rd June, we build the second dam on the stream at the park and slippy, wet mud mixed with enthusiasm is as entertaining as ever. Large Skipper, Painted Lady, Common Blue and Speckled Wood are noted. Mike reports Lime Hawk-moth from Ashmore, and there are 10+ Swifts over Grasscroft.

2nd June, at Evans ponds a male Emperor (Dragonfly) is cruising over the water like he owns the place. There are hundreds of Damselflies including 30+ power blue White-legs. Large Reds, Common Blue and Azure, Blue-tailed and Red-eyed. To add to that 3 or four each of Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers, and Beautiful Demoiselle are active. A Dragonfly festival, but the Butterflies were nearly as good with Common Blue and Speckled Wood of note. And not to be out-done the day flying Moths included 20+ Silver-Y, 3 Cinnabar, Silver Ground Carpet, and a Burnet Companion. I also saw a huge patterned Daddy long-legs (Tipula maxima) and a nice Beetle (Strangalia melonura) Go on… I know you want to google them.

Village Wildlife Diary for May 2018

Sparrowhawk

Brimstone

31st May, Small Copper and Moorhen with two young noted. Swallows and Dragonflies are over the pond at Cotton End Park, and around the banks, Yellow Flag, Ragged Robin, Red Campion, and Ox-eye Daisy are all in bloom. In the meadow, the Dandelions, and Cuckoo Flower are passing, as the Buttercups take over. The damp smell of May blossom fades, and in the fields, the scent of Rape flower has come and gone, soon to be replaced with the fabulous smell of beans.

30th May, shearing time will soon be upon us and I need to catch my two wild, black Hebridean boys, Romulus and Remus for transport to the action. Previous years have seen a dozen of us running all over the park trying to corral them, just to see them skip and dance their way out of our grasps. So this year, I have a cunning plan. For months now, knowing this time will come, I have been quietly getting closer to them by offering a bit of food and have almost got them eating out of my hand. So the plan was to distract them with the food, get even closer and make a grab for their horns. I need to get both sheep at the same time, and if successful, my willing volunteers (hiding behind the shed) will run to my assistance and secure them both. So there I am kneeling just in front them, poised to launch. They stare into my eyes for a split second and instantly know something is afoot. I lunge, they leap sideways, I miss, they spring up and shoot off, and I lay face down in their… Needless to say my helpers cannot contain their need to see the humour in this.

Cardinal Beetle

Dent de Lion

29th May, What an odd spring we’ve had. There are relatively few summer migrants about. Numbers of Swallow, Swift, and House Martin are the lowest I’ve known. The general picture is no better as the countryside seems almost devoid of most species other than Woodpigeon, and Crows. A decade or so ago I would have walked out and seen dozens of a species like say Yellowhammer, without having to go far, and now there are just a handful, and I walk twice the distant. So many species are now rare or missing completely. No Cuckoos, no Corn Buntings, no Turtle Doves, and no Lapwings. If you would have said that to your Grandparents they would have laughed in disbelief. Sadly I could go on.

28th May, I am talking clay and bricks at Cotton End Park with Laura and Greta when a Hobby (first of the year) streaks through. I dig out a bucket full of yellow clay and then a bucket full of grey clay. Later I revisit Mr Evans Ponds and see a Hobby hawking emerging damselflies. Red Kite again, they are almost daily again and boldly hang low over the gardens and roads of the village. 2 Mute Swans seen over The Banks looking like they were going down to the lake at Lodge Farm.

White-legged Damsel

Dabchick

26th May, out with premier wildlife photographers Sue and Chris, but the weather is poor and only clears up as we head home. We see up to a dozen White-legged Damselflies near the brook near Mr Evans ponds which is good but puzzling. I thought they only occurred on the canal as the deep, slow water is their niche. It is possible that they emerged on the canal and dispersed to there to mature.

23rd May, a dog walk between Murcott and Oak Tree Farm is rewarded by a few birds and plenty of Butterflies. The highlight though was 2 male Hairy Hawkers at Mr Evans ponds (viewable from footpath). (I haven’t seen this species in the parish since I saw one there on 8th June 2008). The Damselflies today included Red-eyed, White-legged, Azure, Blue-tailed, and Large Red. On the water were 3 male Tufted Ducks, a pair of Dabchick, a pair of Canada’s with four young. Dean sees the Dabchicks with two young earlier in the day.

Orange Tip pair

Broad-bodied Chaser male

20th May, Red Admiral noted, and at least 10 maturing Broad-bodied Chasers at CEP. On the way back from the pub at half ten ish, and it is dark, quiet and still along Church Street. I then jumped out of my skin at the sudden sound of high pitched screaming. I didn’t know Swifts did this at night.

19th May, sunny spells bring out the Odonata with 2 Broad-bodied Chaser, 2 Large Red Damsel, and Azure Damsel. Not to be out-done the Butterfly list included, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Holly Blue, Green-veined White, and Orange-tip. Of real interest was a Barn Owl pellet in the info shelter, and a search of the sheep shed revealed a Little owl pellet. The pellets are made up of parts of their prey items they do not want to process, which they then regurgitate. Many species do this. The larger Barn Owl is mainly fur and bones with 2 complete mouse/vole skulls as well as a myriad of smaller bones. The Little Owl less fur, and few bones but is mainly insect carapaces and wings, with small rings from the bodies of worms.

18th May, a quick look around the village finds me 15-20 Swifts, and a few more House Martins.

15th May, at CEP a Red Kite is very casually perusing the meadow. A brief view of an immature Dragonfly suggests Four-spotted Chaser.

St Georges Mushroom

Dryads saddle

11th May, Brian finds Pied Shieldbug and Green Shieldbug, and Scarlet Tiger Moth caterpillars in South Close and Market Place. There are 4 House Martins over West Street along with a couple of Swallows. Grange Farm sheep duties done with, we walk the dogs and find St Georges Mushroom, St Marks Fly, and White-tailed Bumblebee.

6th May, 2 Swifts appear over the village. There are now 5 Grass Snake at Hanglands NR. Brian reports moving 223 Toads from the roads during spring efforts to lessen road kill. Good work. He has also been recording flora and in the village and has found Hoary Cinquefoil, Three-cornered Leek, Harts tongue Fern, Lemon Balm, Cardoon Thistle, Blue Fleabane, to name a few.

5th May, todays reports include, a pair of Grey Partridge off Foxhill Road, a Muntjac with the black sheep at CEP, singing Skylarks behind Ashmore, Swallows on East Street, a Speckled Wood at South Close, Holly Blue, and Orange-tip at Lakeside, Large Red Damselfly at the allotments, and Jane sees 2 roadkill Polecats near the A5.

just in case

Wheatear male

4th May, a pair of Grey Partridge and a singing Goldcrest greet me as I open the park. Angela reports Cockchafer. I wonder over to the field where I last saw the Wheatear to find 9 there and a male Whinchat. The Wheatears were so variable in plumage that no two birds look the same. I ring Sue and Chris who hot-foot it over and after a lot of crawling and hiding eventually get a few photo’s. As we sat there a Yellow Wagtail comes over and to finish off an excellent hour of birding, a large white bird comes into view over Cotton End. It’s a Great White Egret. First for the parish. What a day!

3rd May, Large White and Green-veined White butterflies are reported from Lime Avenue. Brian finds a rare plant in the form of Shepherds Needle.

1st May, after hours of wandering, a Wheatear out in the fields to the north is quite confiding. Its plumage perfectly coloured for the dry, tilled earth. Jo has a pair of Greenfinch and Red Kite is seen.