Wednesday 29 July 2009

Feeling Hot. Hot. Hot!

Obviously not the weather! As another deluge hits Seaton (and most other places too I suspect) I've been stuck in the house twiddling my thumbs, (what housework? I don't see any housework!) I did try a bit of seawatching earlier but the wind is too southerly, making finding a sheltered spot nigh on impossible, so instead I've been clearing out some of the old dross in my pictures folder on the computer. Whilst doing this I came across some pictures from this time last year, taken in Honiton during their 'Hot Pennies Ceremony'. I think this year's ceremony was last week, so still a topical subject, just! I'd never heard of it until we happened to be shopping in Honiton last year and got caught up in the gridlock.

This strange tradition allegedly originates from the 13th century, when bored noblemen staying in local hostelries threw scolding hot pennies down into the street to watch 'the poor' fight over them and suffer minor burns in the process! Hilarious! Those were the days! (unless you were one of 'the poor' obviously). Today, having not heard of inflation, they still use pennies, which fortunately aren't at all worth fighting over and I suspect are merely only warmish too. Quite frankly in these health and safety obsessed times I'm amazed it's still allowed at all! The main participants these days are local school children, who are allowed off school during the ceremony.

The excited (!?) crowds reach skyward as the pennies fall

Martha just couldn't hold back, but does have the excuse of youthful exuberance, not so the man lunging in on the right, ready to snatch that penny from right under her nose. He must be in his forties!!

Here's a little video showing the general hysteria (I could understand it it they were throwing chocolate buttons! ;-) ) Check out the frantic woman in the turquoise top, she looks 'old enough to know better' to me! At one point she actually snatches up money virtually from the hands of a small boy! Unbelievable!

Although it was very windy last night with rain forecast to arrive by midnight I still stuck my moth trap out on the back yard to see what it could catch in just an hour and a half. The answer was five moths, with three being new for my 'garden'. They were large and lesser Yellow Underwing, and the scintillating Shuttle-shaped Dart. I also caught a lovely Jersey Tiger, which I kept (along with the Shuttle-shaped Dart) until this morning in order to get a photo or two, and here they are.

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Small Things...

... Amuse small minds, so they say, well mine was amused by these two today, haven't seen a lot else though, unless you count a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull, which I only saw (yesterday) because I spotted Steve digiscoping something and stopped to have a gander. 'Twas nice in a juvenile gull type way I suppose ;-)

My first Small Coppers (on patch) this year.

I can't get enough of these little beauties.
Oh for a return of the days when every other buddleia bush was smothered in 'em.

Haven't done any mothing since Friday night,
when this Magpie Moth was the only 'new for garden' species.

Friday 24 July 2009

An Exciting Morning's Ringing

This morning the Axe Estuary Ringing Group were at Colyford Common again, the session had nearly been cancelled due to the poor weather forecast but it was decided to risk it anyway, in the hope that we would miss most of the showers. As it happens we did get caught by a couple of very hefty showers, but it wasn't enough to more than temporarily stop proceedings. We had a superb total, with around 50 birds when I had to leave at lunchtime. The final total was a massive 71 birds! We caught lots and lots of hirundines, mainly House Martins, but a few Swallows and a Sand Martin too, also Reed Warblers, Sedge Warblers, Cetti's Warblers, Reed Buntings, Blackcaps, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Pied Wagtails as well as some of the more usual suspects. The massive highlight was a first for the ringing group and also an overdue ringing first for the groups leader Mike, it was caught in our first attempt at mist netting on Black Hole Marsh.

It was that popular the ringing paparazzo soon homed in on it.
(The guy with his back to the camera is Steve from Kent (and finder of the recent patch Cattle Egret) who joined us for a while)

It was a Common Sandpiper, and Mike looks very pleased with it too!

In fact we caught TWO of them! (and a THIRD after I'd left) Here's a rubbish photo of the two together, there was an adult and a 'juvenile' ( or first winter). You can see the difference in plumage here.

The lovely and very obliging adult.

I wanted to get a shot of it flying off but things didn't quite work out how I'd expected.
Barry released the bird, like so, and it promptly...

...Stayed right where it was!!

A few of the other birds caught this morning.

Cetti's Warbler

Reed Bunting


Sedge Warbler

The moth trap was out again out again last night but we had a much smaller catch of 41, probably as a result of the cool, windy and rainy weather. Only one new moth for the garden too in the shape of a Pine Carpet, which wasn't very photogenic, so here's a photo of a Small Emerald instead :-)

Thursday 23 July 2009

Moth Trap Mark III

On Monday night when Steve caught a large number of moths, I had my trap set up on my back garden and caught FOUR moths and they were ALL Dark Arches. Rubbish or what? So I got to thinking...What if I could make some improvements to my trap. Whilst watching it in action I'd noticed a lot of moths approach, circle around the bulb a bit and then fly off, I thought 'what I need are some vanes on the top for the hapless creatures to crash into, yes, that'll get 'em in!' So on Wednesday I set to work, and with two plastic seed tray lids, some glue, a pair of scissors and some sticky back plastic, I conjured up this masterpiece of precision engineering.

Ta-dah!! The new improved trap?

To test it out properly I took it over to Bun's again, ( seems it's just too breezy at my house all the time) Did it work? Yep, like a dream! This morning it'd caught 111 moths! There were 50 species, 14 of which were new to the garden. The new ones were: Barred Straw, Purple Thorn, Common Carpet, Garden Carpet, Grey Pine Carpet, Yellow Tail, Mother of Pearl, Knot Grass, Purple Bar, Pebble Prominent, Ghost Moth, Small Waved Umber, Maiden's Blush and an unknown species. Also notable was a total count of eight Rosy Footmen and there were also 3 Orange 16 spot Ladybirds (for some reason).

I didn't manage to get good photographs of all the new ones, so I'll just put a few photos on of ones that just 'took my fancy' :-)

A Willow Beauty, showing it's fine camouflage.

This Small Waved Umber is well camouflaged too, but not on this wood!

I put a Small Phoenix on my last post, but this one landed on a yellow torch and the resulting photo looks smart. I think the background colours are ideal for a moth called a Phoenix.

Pebble Prominent, this one had a really furry face....

... and legs. Like so.

The Knot Grass

The very delicate, Mother of Pearl.

Purple Thorn

Ghost Moth

My favourite moth of this morning's catch
was this beautiful little one called The Maiden's Blush.

This Black Arches had the most spectacular set of antennae,
I just had to get a close up!

I couldn't ID this nice little mostly green one.
It was very small (wing length about10- 12 mm) so probably a Minor.?

Yesterday I got my first Small Tortoiseshell photo of the year, lovely!
Shame about the cowpat background!

Monday 20 July 2009

A Bit of Patch Birding

As promised yesterday, I have managed to get out on patch this afternoon and actually do a spot of birding. I visited Colyford Common and Black Hole Marsh, actually I visited the latter twice, once alone and then again with Ian who I met in the Colyford Box. On Colyford Marsh there were 7 Redshank, loads of Mallards, a few Shelduck, a couple of Grey Herons, a small gang of Little Egrets, a pair of Wigeon (!!??) and the juvenile Cattle Egret. On the drained lagoon on Colyford Common there were 4 Green Sandpipers, while on Black Hole Marsh there were 4 Common Sandpipers, another Green Sandpiper, 4 Dunlin, 2 Black-tailed Godwits and a Little Ringed Plover. Also a delightful feeding flock of 100+ mixed hirundines.

I did a spot of dire digiscoping too, as follows:

One of the Blackwits.
In this exquisite shot you can see that it is wearing a set of four colour rings, you may even be able to make out the colours!

I took a snap of the Cattle Egret even though it was about as far away as it could be, and still be on Colyford Marsh!

Here's a slightly better one.
It's the LRP and a Dunlin

The moth trap was up and running again at Bun's house last night, catching a total of 55 moths of 27 species. There were eight new to garden ones which were: Peppered Moth, Little Emerald,Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Double Square Spot, The Drinker, Shuttle Shaped Dart, Dark Marbled Carpet, and Small Phoenix.

Peppered Moth

Double Square Spot

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing,
a lovely coloured moth this one with a striking lime green head!

A very strange looking moth, The Drinker

This jazzy one is a Small Phoenix.

I was stumped by this one.
I think it's most likely one of the beauties, possibly Satin Beauty?
It had huge antennae.

A little Grass Snake on Bun's garden.
I've been trying to get a photo of it for the last three days. This morning it just wasn't quite quick enough :)

Sunday 19 July 2009

Best Intentions

I was determined to get out birding on patch this afternoon, but a trip to Exeter followed by a battle with the PC trying to install some new software, then an impromptu afternoon snooze put paid to all my good intentions. :(

I missed a Little Ringed Plover on Black Hole Marsh... I know because I had a text about it whilst I was asleep. I did take my bins out onto the beach and have a quick look at the sea, where I saw a couple of Gannets (that counts doesn't it?) I'll get out there tomorrow for sure. I will!

I have been mothing though, you'll be pleased to hear. Both last night and Friday night the trap's been set up round at Bun's again, (tonight too hopefully), and has caught around 100 moths! 40-50 moths a night is becoming a reliable total.
New species for the (Bun's) garden were: Buff Tip, Dingy Footman, Buff Footman, Early Thorn, Scalloped Oak Small Emerald, Lesser Yellow-underwing, Fern, Common Wainscot, Common Pug, Dunbar, July High Flyer, Codlin Moth, Leopard Moth, Uncertain, Brimstone, Cabbage Moth, Dark Spectacle, Silver Y, Common Emerald and Small Fan-footed Wave.

Here are pictures of a few of them, and a 'once rare' Ladybird too.

Common Emerald


Early Thorn

Scalloped Oak



Rosy Footman

Dark Spectacle

Buff Tip

'Moth of the Day' today was this here Leopard Moth

Apparently once rare, this is an Orange 16 spot Ladybird

Finally, my daughter Martha and her friend Kirsty went to London to the 'London Film and Comic Con' (yes my daughter is a self-confessed geek!) She was able to meet a few of her favourite actors, including one Keeley Hawes, (Alex Drake in Ashes to Ashes), which was the entire reason she made the trip in the first place.

Wish Granted.

Here's another photo she brought back... Hope she doesn't want to bring him home!! :-S

Martha and her new 'boyfriend'!?