After several years of trying to find someone to pollard the willows, they have finally been done and if the weather stays fine and the field dries up a bit more the logs should be chipped and removed before the end of the month.
Two Dotted Borders were among the 17 moths of 9 species this morning.
One of each of some typical early spring moths in the trap this morning.
A Pale Brindled Beauty on the trap this morning (and yesterday)
Two Mottled Umbers. Both males, both the same species. Came to the trap overnight and they are the earliest macro moths I've ever had - though that's down to the fact that I've never run the trap in the deep winter before.
Last week I treated myself to a couple of birdwatching trips out of the county. Frampton Marsh RSPB south of Boston was amazing and I promptly rejoined the RSPB when I got home. A couple of days later I had my first bird watch at Rutland Water in thirty years. What a change - both in the reserve and in its birds over those years; from one hide I saw multiple Little Egrets, a Great White Egret and a Cattle Egret.
Since I switched from an MV bulb to actinic, I've been a bit more inclined to run the moth trap on mild winter evenings and it has attracted a few interesting species that I don't often or ever get when I hibernate the trap from late October onwards. This morning I had a Mottled Umber which was presumably attracted by the light though it was resting on the kitchen window about four metres from the trap.
Yesterday there was a Dark Chestnut, I've had two December moths and on 15th November I had this Sprawler, though once again it was on a nearby wall rather than in the trap.
"Damp places, usually near the coast" says my 1974 wildflower guide. I suppose I could say I found Dittander in a new location but that would be stretching my achievement somewhat though it was on the opposite side of the road from where Dave had spotted it from the Keyworth Connection several years ago. Salt spreading on bus routes has implications.
Today's long day out in the sunshine was around Whatton, where we found a plant new to Nottinghamshire. Cut-leaved Teasel (Dipsacus laciniatus) was in the headland of a field of maize and noticeable by its height
Carrying a decent camera is far too demanding along with a rucksack full of the rest of the parerphanalia needed for 8 hours of botanical study, but a phone on my replacement mobile phone might prove to be a useful asset. Thst is where the photo of the teasel came from.
Faced with the prospect of an ASDA shop, a phone call from Tim to say that he was mowing hay in a field replete with Field Scabious and would I like to check it out, took immediate priority. I had surveyed these fields earlier in the year but I missed this and I'm grateful for the opportunity to see what is a nationally common plant in its natural situation and looking lovely. Tim leaves a patch to set seed but believes the field he inherited had Scabious from the outset.
Another long day out, this time around Upper Broughton where we were made welcome by a herd of heiffers and their farmer whilst we perused their pond which had Broad-leaved Pondweed, Celery-leaved Buttercup and both Lesser and Least Duckweed. We found a single plant of Southern Marsh Orchid and a few Common Figwort (much less common than Water Figwort and very different - not as the books would lead you to believe). 204 species of plant recorded and topped off by a brief sortie from a Hobby and 10 species of (common) butterfly - most of the "small" skippers were Small but a few were definitely Essex and there was a resting Buff Footman and the pick of the overnight moths was the first Magpie of the year.
About 10 people joined me for a walk into the wilds of Cotgrave Forest on a brighter and warmer morning than was forecast and things got off to an even brighter start with not one but two Purple Hairstreaks, the first at around head height and the second more typically tucked away among the foliage of an oak tree somewhat higher up - but still photographable for those with a spot of zoom equipment.
Butterfly-wise it was then rather downhill, at least in terms of the scarcer species but Comma, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Small and Large Skipper, Red Admiral and Brimstone were all seen well. Birds were typically out of the scene though a Hobby was a possible and a Song Thrush was singing strongly (and about 20 Linnets in the lane were sounding like wind chimes - but that was before the visitors arrived). So it was down to the good old dependent plants.
Woolly and Marsh Thistle complemented the two common ones, spikes of Agrimony, Tufted Vetch, Bush Vetch, Meadow Vetchling were all in flower, Tor Grass was prominent by its green-ness for many of the other grasses have passed their peak and are now well into their late summer middle age. Common Gromwell was picked out (eventually) and Ribbed (or Tall?) Melilot, Water Figwort, Brooklime and Hard Rush were seen nearby in what is clearly a wetter area than it at first appeared to be. The ins and outs of clovers was explained with Zig-zag being the harder one to confirm and later three species of fern saw the light of day; Soft-shield, Broad-buckler and Male Fern.
Altogether, not a bad three hours; I think everyone enjoyed it, I know I did and I thank all who came along for your enthusiasm and companionship - and also for the subsequent emails of appreciation and photos, which I have posted above.
Last Wednesday, as I and my five companions were being drenched on a grass course in Bulwell, I had an uplifting mobile phone call from Tim, to say that he had discovered an orchid in Keyworth. Assuming it to be another Common Spotted-orchid (Tim had found one of these in his fields a couple of years ago) it took me four days to check it out - and I'm so pleased that I did, for it turned out to be a Pyramidal Orchid, by no means common in Notts and very rare in Rushcliffe.
National Meadows Day and I was accompanied by three keen companions on a walk around the wildflower meadow and along Lings Lane and the fields to Keyworth Meadow, but because of the rich and varied flora at this time of year we had to abort our journey south in order to be home for lunch. The grasses are at their best now, though the Meadow Foxtail that was so dominant on the walk at the end of May, is now hard to find and Timothy has taken its place as the most obvious spike.
Two Ravens flew northwards over the Wildlflower Meadow as I delved into the flora once more. They appeared to land in a tree on Bunny Lane though I may have been mistaken.
A Hobby flew low and fast over fields near Kingston on Soar.
Several Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap but nothing more exciting despite a sweep of Fox Hill for Wheatears et. al. Pleased with this one of Field Woodrush.
25/03/2016 Good Friday
A beautifully sunny and warm day with Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock on the wing and a brief sighting of a Smooth Newt in Willow Pond.
Ravens are certainly getting established in Rushcliffe with another today around Sutton Bonington and Zouch. At the time I thought the Raven was mobbing the Buzzard but some of the other (even poorer) photos in the sequence suggest the coming together was not one-sided - though the Raven definitely kicked it off.
A Raven drifted westwards high over Keyworth at 3.40 today.
The much improved weather has been appreciated by the moths; a fresh Oak Beauty this morning:
The first moths this year were a Common Quaker and a March Moth. The latter was the first since 2012.
Yesterday, the bird feeder, which has attracted little more than the resident 15 House Sparrows, Robins and tits for the past months, excelled briefly with two Redpolls for much of the afternoon and a single Siskin that soon departed. The Redpolls found the niger seed to their liking though 2 Goldfinches which were also quite a novelty, ignored the feed intended for them and instead, spent several minutes rummaging through the vegetable plot.
A brief trip to fill up the hopper was rewarded by a flyover of 3 Ravens heading south-eastwards.
Whilst preoccupied with estimating a large assemblage of Fieldfares, my accompanying walker, Nellie, spotted a Stonechat at the side of the brook on Bunny Moor and shortly afterwards I increased on the number of Little Egrets; there were 5 together in a field further towards Gotham.
I walked from Bunny up through New Wood and back from East Leake and it was muddy and dull with the only consolation of two Little Egrets on Bunny Moor and another sunbathing Peacock
A brief excursion in Cotgrave Forest was entertaining with a Woodcock and a party of 10 Bullfinches whilst a calling Buzzard was briefly accompanied by a raptor, intermittently visible through the trees that must have been a Peregrine, as I could definitely see a moustachial stripe and it's far too early for it to have been a Hobby though it did seem small. I also checked out some ferns that I'm getting familiar with thanks to outings with the county botanical recorder, and found both Dryopteris borreri and D. affinis as well as the more common D. filix-mas (Male Fern) plus a single Soft Shield-fern (Polystichum setiferum.)
Ben from the NWT visited yesterday with 2-and-a-bit sacks of quality bird seed for the Tree Sparrow hopper. Whilst there we cleaned out the nest boxes and four of the six had been occupied by the target species and a tit had squatted in a fifth.
A spot of belated news - whilst botanising at Gunthorpe on the 10th I spotted 2 Peacocks on the wing (butterflies that is) so having seen one at Widmerpool on the 23rd December last year, I reckon that's my latest and my earliest in the space of a few months - though I might be wrong as my record keeping on butterflies is not the best.
If the relentless winds this winter are getting you down, imagine what it must be like for Barn Owls. A healthy weight is around 320 grams and they hunt by floating buoyantly over open country searching for voles. This must be impossible in strong winds and so it proved for an owl found dead in Tim's barn today
Judging by the fresh eyes and rigor mortis, it succumbed in the last 24 hours and weighed just 190 grams.
During the last few weeks, I've knuckled down to dissecting a backlog of Barn Owl pellets from 58 nest-boxes across Rushcliffe and identified the remains of 908 mammals of 10 species. This is what the owls were eating:
Not much news from me lately, as whenever I've been out I've had my eye on the ground looking for plants, and leafy herbs don't make great reading or photos but Sister Mary Julian (via Howard B) has helped me out with these two cracking images of a Short-eared Owl at Costock.
Sister Mary Julian has now seen all five species of owl in the grounds of the convent.
There was a time when I would never have dreamt of looking at plants at this time of year but under the tutelage of the county recorder I have learned that one can botanise anytime and anywhere (almost as liberally as one could at one time drink Martini, though anyplace and anywhere now seems unnecessarily repetitive!)
Today I found four new species for the reserve; all common enough but previously overlooked. Juncus articulatus Jointed Rush is very widespread. Tamus communis Black Bryony is developing its bright red berries now and the veins of the leaf all emanate from a single point which distinguish it from the superficially similar Calystegia sepium Hedge Bindweed. Chenopodium rubrum Red Goosefoot was in the bed of the now totally dry pond and now is a good time to check out the docks and a close inspection of one leafless brown specimen exhibited the tell-tale 1-3 unequal tubercles of Rumex crispus Crisped Dock (the commonest British dock!).
Yesterday, as I cycled round the back of Keyworth's mega health centre, I noticed a plant that I didn't recognise. I could hardly miss it really as there is a lot of it and it's a good three-feet tall. It turned out to be Conyza sumatrensis or Guernsey Fleabane, a native of South America which was first found in this country in 1985 and is now establishing itself as a rather pernicious urban weed of pavements and waste ground
Three new moths for the year this morning. I've never had a Humming-bird Hawk-moth in the trap before, but the other two are anticipated autumn fliers though I don't get the Black Rustic every year and the Sallow is a first for the garden (taking the tally of macros to 272).
I think this is a new moth for the garden and if NBN gateway maps are up to date and reliable, a new one for Notts. I think it is Amblyptilia punctidactyla
It's not a black & white photo by the way; it really is in shades of grey which seems to rule out the similar but more common, Beautiful Plume A. acanthadactyla
A bang on the kitchen window at 6.30am was followed by a presumably stunned Sparrowhawk resting awhile on the 'pergola'
before gliding down on to the lawn for a leisurely Sunday breakfast of Robin. This at a time when I hadn't seen a Robin for a while and I presumed they were all in the woods, moulting.
Two Brown Argus was a new species for the meadow today; they were nectaring at the sole plant of Ragwort in the field and which I would otherwise have yanked up, given that Norman is about to take it off for hay. I'll do that tomorrow. There were also several Common Blue which I don't remember being a common species in the reserve by any means. Botany-wise I found Hairy Brome Bromopsis ramosa, Hoary Willowherb Epilobium parviflorum, and this plant, a Ranunculus sp. which was in a dried-up pond and was unfamiliar.
I thought it was a water crowfoot and the keys to ranunculus require the fruits to be present - as ever, it seems the plant has to be just perfect for the keys to work and a photo and the kind assistance of the county recorder was needed to establish it as Celery-leaved Buttercup Ranunculus scleratus
Intended visits to the meadow are consistently thwarted but the attractions of Cotgrave Forest continue, not least for Chico the boisterous Staffy who likes a spot of nature-watching as much as I do. Today, I grabbed a few likely looking scraps of plant on the way round and after a few frustrating hours back home and with keys the aid of the old microscope, I managed to be quite sure of; Canary Grass, Phalaris canariensis, Equal-leaved Knotgrass, Poygonum arenastrum, Buckwheat, Fagopyrum esculentum and Common Hemp-nettle Galeopsis tetrahit.
I was trying to do some botany today at Skylarks but this agile female Kestrel drew attention and although the photos are very poor quality, she was having fun and are perhaps permissible on a website.
The only plant I found that was worth a mention is Purple-loosestrife Lythrum salicaria. It is a member of the very small family (Lythraceae) that I didn't recognise and which I found hard to key out.
Not to be confused with Yellow Loosestrife and other Lysimachia, (Primulaceae) - the apostrophe in the common name is important!
A very moist night reduced moth numbers despite decent temperatures and low winds, however it did bring in the 6th Magpie Moth of the year which is already 3 more than my previous maximum.
When the macro moths are less numerous I can pay a bit more attention to the micros: Agriphila tristella has just started to come in some numbers;
I've been devoting myself to botany lately, and find that I can practice this dark art without necessarily leaving my garden as there are sufficient weeds poking up through the paving cracks and neglected corners. It's practice, practice, practice that I've realised belatedly is the key to plant identification. But there are hazards along the way. Such as this one:
I've been trying to get used to the "Collins Flower Guide" as it has the advantage of covering grasses, sedges and rushes as well as herbs in one volume (so less to cart around). Sometimes keys don't work because I am too amateurish in my understanding of what is meant and sometimes, I'm realising, it is because the key is wrong; Key B to the Poaceae at option 5 requires the user to take the first of the dichotomous options "Rhizomatous perennials" rather than "Annuals without rhizomes or tillers (cereals)". Hairy Brome is neither of these (unlike others in the genus Elymus) as Streeter's description of Elymus caninus "Loosely tufted perennial, without rhizomes" states.
So it's not always me.
Following on from my (entirely fortuitous) finding of a new moth for the county, I was briefly entertained by the notion that I'd found a new plant:
I should have known that Dave Wood (the county recorder) would have beaten me to it; he found it at this location (on the new Skylarks Notts Trust reserve) in 2006 and says it's now known from a handful of locations in the county. If I'd known about BSBI maps sooner I wouldn't have needed to trouble Dave. It still counts as the scarcest plant I personally have ever found though!
A new moth For Nottinghamshire!
Quite what a Red Data Book species was doing in a Keyworth moth trap is something for others to determine but it's made my day. I do have a fair few clumps of Purple Toadflax around the front garden but I guess it's more likely to be a stray migrant. It is normally confined to shingle beaches along the south and east coasts and in the home counties.
There were also three Magpie Moths in the trap.
The Purple Hairstreak was dead this morning (so I'll be getting my setting board off the dusty shelf later). Some moths are less-easy to identify than others - here's one of the former:
The illustration in Waring et.al. is pretty much spot-on but I think the shape of the Buff Footman illustrated on the same page implies a closer similarity (in shape) than really exists - Dingy has a more rounded costa than Buff.
It's uncanny; my experiences in hunting for Purple Hairstreaks have always been unsuccessful (memorably so) or strange. All encounters have been in Cotgrave Forest; the first was a dead one spotted by Zoe on the track, the second confirmed from a very long telephoto shot of something lepidopteran in the canopy and today, Zoe did it again: only this time a live butterfly on another ride. We carefully collected the rather tired looking specimen, took it home, fed it diluted honey and slowly, it became more active so we're hoping that tomorrow, she will lay some eggs in the garden Oak and we'll have our own colony!!
With my websites now up and running again following a stuttering transfer to a new host, here is a bit of old news from 27th July: My wander into Cotgrave Forest was meant to concentrate on its botanical aspects but its lepidoptera proved too attractive and provided my first photo opportunities for both White-letter Hairstreak and Silver-washed Fritillary (though I did once rear a WLH and got some 'studio' shots.)
The morning (of the fourth) was spent at 'New Skylarks' (Holme Pierrepont) Notts Wildlife Trust's new extension to the wetland reserve, where I and several other naturalists assisted the Trust's education staff in giving several families a taster of our enthusiasm for all things natural and as ever, we succeeded in enthusing each other as well (I hope) as the intended visitors.
The children found all manner of ladybirds, grasshoppers, lacewings and moths (including a Buff Footman which is locally scarce) and Butterfly Bill found a Painted Lady and Brown Argus as well as several other species of butterfly on what was a sub-optimal day for invertebrates. I think I managed to pot up the star of the show with a Roesel's Bush-cricket whose reputation was accentuated by managing to fetch blood from the bite on its captor - the first time that's happened to me and I thought it was only Great Green Bush-crickets that could do this.
I'm trying to develop my botanical skills, so after rummaging through the moth trap I ignored all the lepidoptera in the meadow this morning (apart from the Essex Skippers, Commas, Meadow Browns and Ringlets) and the orthoptera (except the Lesser Marsh Grasshopper - a resolution made easier by my age-related high-frequency deafness) and stuck to the plants.
By this strategy I was able to add a few species to the site list though these were mainly plants that have colonised the 'butterfly bank' - Foxglove, Ox-eye Daisy, Wild Carrot, Small Scabious and Kidney Vetch.
For some years now, the plant list has not been maintained on an annual basis but following this special effort I've achieved 90 species this year with several old favourites probably just tucked away or too obscure for my notebook. If you were hoping for more impressive numbers, this compares dismally with my garden moth list that now stands at 427 species - the latest addition being Dingy Shears on 13th July.
Though it was a rather dingy specimen!:
A couple of moths from this morning. The Peach Blossom is the first since 2005 whilst in contrast, the Privet Hawkmoth is the seventh this year and the 54th since the first ever in 2007; its spread from the south east has been remarkable.
Since I've not been able to get to the Meadow as often as I would have liked recently, I'm especially grateful to David Banner for an update and some pics. David reports recent sightings of Buzzards, Yellowhammers, Red-legged Partridge, Linnets, Blackcap and Bullfinch with a flyover Raven and a Kingfisher being the highlights bird-wise though it's nice to know that there are still plenty of Hares around; when the crops are high they can be hard to spot.
Just when you thought it was safe to go in the moth trap!
My first Shark since 2008.
24/6/2015 Hot and Sunny.
With assistance from Howard Broughton and his "owl-mobile" the fallen willow has been removed from the pond and is now, mostly in a log pile at Howard's awaiting winter.
It was a hot day and I was 2 lbs lighter next morning!.
It's usually me who wanders around insect watching, while Howard does the work but today, Howard fielded the camera and caught this Large Red Damselfly
I've been out on the Barn Owl project several times recently (it's a poor start to the season) and we've been collecting a handful of pellets from the boxes when there are some present. So far I've dissected pellets from 13 boxes and here are the results:
|Species||Number||Percentage of Total|
The purpose of all this is to fill in gaps on the developing Notts Mammal Atlas but it's proving to be an interesting project in itself.
I've found a few more Water Shrew remains and I think I'm now pretty confident of correct identification. This photo should make it clear:
I've noticed that the little spur projecting from the rear of the jaw (when it's not broken off) is thicker at the base and much straighter in Water Shrew.
1/6/2015 Bright start but wind picking up.
Only two moths in the trap this morning, a cuddly Pale Tussock and a White Ermine. I've heard the forecast for tonight (rain and gales), and I've wrapped the trap up in its waterproofs but I'm fully expecting a bonanza in a few days given the forecast of temperatures in their mid-twenties by Thursday
31/05/2015 Rainy start and slow improvement.
Four steadfast attendees accompanied Mike and me for the Two Meadows Meander (aka open day walk) which was four more than we could have anticipated given the rain that lashed down as we all sat in the car patiently awaiting some alleviation of the conditions. This duly arrived at 10.00 and we risked an exploration of the wildflower meadow where we actually saw a Common Blue butterfly though it was hunkered down among the grass stems and not daintily fluttering in the summer sunshine. Twenty minutes later and we weren't even wet so we continued down to Keyworth Meadow not expecting to see much and we weren't disappointed. Thanks to the wildflowers which don't disappear when it rains, we did manage to stay occupied and we spotted a Silver-ground Carpet and a Drinker (moth) caterpillar which was presumably adequately sated.
All in all, I think it was a pleasant morning but these sessions are so weather dependent.
27/05/2015 Sunny morning.
A migrant moth was a great surprise this morning. My first Bordered Straw since 2006 arrived in fresh westerly conditions and at a time was mothing in general had been quite dire, accompanied as it was by just 5 other moths.
The wildflower meadow is coming into its own now and there was a Small Yellow Underwing in there yesterday. Unfortunately, there is also dog mess that has not been cleaned up and some moron has dumped concrete in there. We will have no option but to barrier it off and prevent dogs using it if this continues.
Gardening obligations have kept me from the Meadow this month, but I have snapped a few garden visitors (which yesterday included three Greenfinches, the first for some time).
27/05/2015 Sunny and warm.
A birdwatch at Skylarks (Holme Pierrepont) produced 25 species which included Ringed Plovers and an Oystercatcher - nice changes from my usual Lings Lane fare. And in the afternoon, I surveyed a section of the GCR and found 3 Grizzled Skippers, 12 Common Blues, 3 Brown Argus, 3 Burnet Companion and a Silver Y.
04/05/2015 Sunny May Day.
My first two Swifts of the year were over Ruddington Moor at 6.45 this morning and another was over Keyworth Square at 8.30. I've not been to the Meadow in the past few days but a cycle ride along the Grantham Canal on 1st May confirmed that other migrants had already arrived in numbers with Sedge and Reed Warblers, Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs all singing at intervals along the way. A notable exception was Cuckoo.
On 30th April I was with the Barn Owl project at Stanford Hall and a handful of pellets contained the skull and/or jaws of 13 Field Voles, 3 Bank Voles, 1 House Mouse, 5 Common Shrews, 2 Pygmy Shrews and an unidentified bird. All good additions to the developing Notts Mammal Atlas (with the exception of the bird!).
23/04/2015 Overcast morning.
Two Yellow Wagtails and two Pied Wagtails but still no Wheatears. However a first for the reserve greeted me later with a rather stray Sedge Warbler singing from a patch of willow and bramble. It was accompanied by a Blackcap which was rather more suited to the habitat and another first for the year was a Whitethroat. Despite some patience on my part in the hope of getting a photo, the Sedge Warbler remained invisible and I had to rely on my rusty birdsong skills.
20/04/2015 Foggy start.
Any hope that the fog might have grounded a few migrants was soon dispelled and it seemed it had actually dispersed the residents.
18/04/2015 Chilly early on but sunny and warm later.
Walking without my Tammy was very lonely even though I have done so for the past 8 or so years (once she was adequately trustworthy) without giving her a second thought. Linnet, Song Thrush, Mallards, calling frogs and now 4 Lings Lane Swallows made it into the notebook.
Several whirligig beetles in (what I call) Barn Pond were notable. They don't seem to be common in the local ponds though I seem to recall them as much more common on ponds on acidic soils in the south.
This and a Great Spotted Woodpecker (also unusual on this patch) began a routine day which Tammy and I have followed several times a week for the past fourteen years. Sometimes the horses ignore us, once in a while, one or other harasses us and sometimes one walks purposefully up to us, whereupon I say 'hello' and give it a pat. Today, following the pat, the large grey horse turned away, broke into a brief trot and intentionally stamped on Tammy.
Being 14 years old and rather deaf, but otherwise full of beans and enjoying life, she didn't hear the horse's approach or my shouted warning and sadly the resultant multiple fractures and crushing of her left hind metatarsuls and the consequent vet's advice resulted in our beloved, kind Tammy being no more.
14/04/2015 Sunny and v.warm.
Pine Beauty in the garden trap was the first since 2009 despite there being a big Scots Pine within a few yards of the trap's location. One or two Blackcaps have joined the two Chiffchaffs in the Meadow and the pair of Swallows have returned having disappeared for a couple of days while the weather took a turn for the worse.
A Meadow Pipit was unusual enough to be regarded as a migrant. The two Chiffchaffs, the Blackcap probably were but the Buzzard and the Cormorant weren't (even though the latter was flying past - westwards; it had just been fishing).
10/04/2015 Sunny and warm.
Another brief visit (out with RuBOP later) but the Swallows were still present and other passerines were prominent in the hedgerows.
The RuBOP outing took me to Stragglethorpe (to attend to a broken box) from where I removed several pellets which contained the skulls of 24 Field Voles, 4 Wood Mice, 5 Common Shrews and a Water Shrew!
09/04/2015 Sunny and warm.
A quick cycle ride down to place a few reptile refugia was rewarded by my first two Swallows of the year. This is quite an early date for them to be back in the breeding territory (and not just passing through)
07/04/2015 Sunshine and warmth.
I always think that days days like this, combined with sufficient effort, experience and skills, should be rewarded by the occasional sighting of a Grass Snake but in my experience it rarely does. And today was no exception! However, courtesy of Tim and some very noisy work with a hack saw, I now have 8 lovely pieces of corrugated steel to place as refugia and soon, I might have a better appreciation of the distribution of local reptiles.
Two Chiffchaffs, three Buzzards and butterflies in the form of Peacocks, Brimstones and Small Tortoiseshells plus my first Orange-tip, recompensed somewhat.
While I was in Budgens, my wife witnessed a commotion that involved an unwelcome insect as the chip shop cleaned up this lunchtime. She boldly took charge of what proved to be a just-emerged (but rather out of habitat and normal emergence date) Pale Tussock which failed to fully develop its wings - this being largely due to it having nearly ended up in the dustpan.
06/04/2015 Misty morning soon turned to a sunshiny day.
2 Diurnea fagella and 2 Early Greys were the first this year and accompanied the more regular Hebrew Characters.
Thick mist hid the birds until about 8.00am but only predictable species then appeared with the exception of a Kingfisher. The predictable ones were Chiffchaff, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer etc. But then again, Kestrels aren't an everyday species.
05/04/2015 Calm, pleasant evening.
Such a nice evening that I dropped in at a Badger sett, but I should have recce'd it first as there was no action by 8:30 though the sunset was nice and a Tawny Owl was calling.
Starlings, once such a frequent and numerous garden visitor are now few and far between, though some fat-balls has tempted a few in recently and their scarcity has made me appreciate them all the more.
30/03/2015 Cold wind.
Hard going to find much of interest but another Cormorant flew west, 2 Buzzards enjoyed the stiff breeze and there were 35 Fieldfares in the pastures. It doesn't feel much like spring yet, but the hawthorn is starting to bud, the birds are singing and there are lambs in the lane.
A Heron flew west, two of the three "alba" wagtails were of the continental race, a Song Thrush was singing and 2 Green Woodpeckers were calling. Also a female Sparrowhawk landed on a distant fence and I chanced a photo with no expectation of using it but it's here because of the peculiar white patches on its back.
23/03/2015 Increasing sunshine.
A rather late afternoon stroll in the sunshine, preceded by some gardening and a Coal Tit, was wildlife deficient.
But Lings Lane was as lovely as ever and the Meadow was very popular.
20/03/2015 8/10 Altocumulus clouds soon cleared to cloudless blue sky.
Here are my disappointing efforts at photographing the solar eclipse; they were hopelessly over-exposed.
I found projecting the image through my fieldscope to be a very satisfactory way of viewing it. Though given that this is not an astronomical telescope, why is the image upside-down?
At maximum darkness (which approximated to dusk) this Blackbird and Robin flew up into exposed positions and appeared to be wondering what was going on!
18/03/2015 Sunny but chilly NE breeze
Overnight fog ensured the aurora borealis remained unseen from Keyworth despite several overnight despairing northward gazes. This was followed by a frost (though a Common Quaker made it into the trap) and then hazy sunshine. A diversion onto Fox Hill was worth it as it revealed the first proper bit of spring passage in the form of 4 Meadow Pipits. A Sparrowhawk narrowly missed its intended prey in one of the tall hawthorns and a Green Woodpecker was calling but that was about it.
17/03/2015 Almost sunny - but not quite!
At least 6 Bullfinches around the Meadow with Green Woodpecker and Long-tailed Tit plus singing Skylarks.
13/03/2015 Dull and damp start - sunny and bright later.
My first moths of 2015 were rather predictable; 4 Common Quaker, 2 Clouded Drab and a Hebrew Character.
The Water Rail was there again, much to my surprise as the water levels have dropped somewhat, but as is expected of the species it remained secretive and reluctant to appear on the website. A single White Wagtail was picked out from a passage of around 10 Pied Wagtails and a couple of Buzzards were drifting around at several locations.
Mervyn Coleman has become our hands-on manager of the Meadow in recent years and was getting on well with the latest task of laying the very mature hedge along the entrance path until I interrupted him and we had a jolly long chinwag about hedge laying and medieval land management!.
During our conversation Mervyn drew attention to the nearby hedge that was laid several years ago and had not been topped since and said it was known as a "bullfinch hedge"; I was able to tell him that four days earlier there had been 6 Bullfinches in the very same hedge - it's just the kind of hedge they like.
Back up around the hopper there were two Green Woodpeckers, and a Wren allowed a photo as they seem prone to at this time of year.
12/03/2015 Mild and mostly sunny.
A dusk stroll in the hope of a Barn Owl but no luck despite a longish sit in the Meadow to the accompaniment of a Song Thrush, several Herons and one or two Tawny Owls in the distance. The first frogspawn was in one of Tim's ponds.
09/03/2015 Frosty start, then sunshine, cloud and rain.
An hour out during the cloudy spell saw a flyby Cormorant, 6 Bullfinches together in the Meadow and lots of Yelowhammers back in territory after an absence during the winter.
Despite the uninspiring weather , Chaffinches, Dunnocks, Wrens, Great Tits and Skylarks were in song. A mixed flock of about 250 Starlings, 100 Fieldfares and 50 Redwings suggested spring is a little way off yet, though a Blackbird was collecting nest material in my garden later.
08/03/2015 Cloudy and still a cold wind from the SW.
2 Ravens over (but my camera was still in the bag!) a Kestrel and Celandine in flower. Also a bundle of feathers that were once a Woodpigeon's plumage - Peregrine perhaps?
07/03/2015 Sunny and almost warm - out of the wind!
A garden tidy-up day and my first butterfly of 2015 - a Brimstone at 12:02
06/03/2015 Spring-like sunshine but a wintry wind.
3 Hares showed no sign of March activity, and were seemingly sitting out the wintry wind, despite its south-westerly origin. A Raven attracted attention but its photo-call was ill-timed as I was having a wee and only managed this:
Two Mallard took off from the meadow and during my wee I noticed an egg on the bank of the brook which had been too imperative to keep any longer.
A Buzzard, hanging in the wind looked for all the world like a Red Kite as I hurriedly took photos but was clearly buteo with a glance through the bins.
03/03/2015 Sunny and very windy (still).
A few pictures of today's garden birds (but not including the flighty Coal Tit).
01/03/2015 Sunny and very windy.
At Holme Pierrepont, strong south-westerlies blowing along the rowing course was chopping up the water and making flying hazardous but these grebes were barely affected.
25/02/2015 Mild (at least compared to most days recently) and windless.
Still little of interest except that the Water Rail put in another appearance, when Tammy disturbed it and it flew thirty metres into cover. I've never seen a Water Rail fly before and I was slow with the camera. A single Yellowhammer reminded me how few there are around this winter. Two Grey Partridge, a Green Woodpecker, 6 Moorhens and a charm of 18 Goldfinches made up the birds and there was a Hare and a Rabbit!
22/02/2015 Early frost and a cold wind.
Another rather unexciting session with just very predictable common birds on offer, apart perhaps from a passing Heron and a calling Green Woodpecker. No mammals either - at least not live ones; there was a squashed Hedgehog on Bunny Lane.
13/02/2015 A hint of sunshine and much milder than of late.
8 Magpies and a Kestrel was the sum total of interest today though the Meadow was bustling with people - I counted 7 visitors during my brief stay! I wonder if any of them noticed Norman's new gate
and cattle watering compound?
All courtesy of the Environment Agency which seemed to think that Norman's cattle were contributing to the brook's failure to comply with the Water Framework Directive - how the gate was justified I've no idea although the old one was on its last legs!
According to Wikipedia, Fairham Brook is classed as being in "poor" condition on the scale that runs High - Good - Moderate - Poor - Bad. The EA's website is also poor at making this information available to the public but I bet the reason (for the "poor" brook) is that it is heavily modified i.e. by the Trent Valley Internal Drainage Board downstream of Bunny. I bet the length upstream of Keyworth is at least good though the storm discharges from Keyworth sewage treatment works might take it down a peg and agricultural run-off probably prevents it achieving high quality status.
12/02/2015 Dull and dreary
Dull and dreary on the wildlife front too with just a Heron and 50 or so Redwings worth mentioning so I took grid references for a few molehills in order to fill some of the rather many gaps in the new Notts mammal atlas.
08/02/2015 Frosty, calm and clear -2°
Lovely cold morning but not much to see; 1 Buzzard, 4 Grey Partridges and 5 Moorhens. 6 Mallard flew over and 13 Herring Gulls headed west. Lots of Chaffinches were singing as were a few Great Tits (and of course the Robins - they never stop!)
I won't be seeing any more Kingfishers on my occasional walks along the bank of Fairham Brook through Bunny Moor as the Internal Drainage Board (with approval from Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust!) has yanked out or sawn down all the trees that they used to perch on whilst looking out for a loach lunch or stickleback supper. Neither will there be any Reed Warblers singing from the 200 metres of reed bed that had developed - that's been mostly ripped out as well.
Fairham Brook downstream of Bunny was as lovely as the babbling, meandering riffle and pool stream that we know and love along the edge of Keyworth Meadow but in the 1980s it was vandalised by the drainage board and made into what they call a drain. And it is still maintained, with a substantial injection of council tax money, as a drain. Not even Kingfisher perches or Harvest Mice are allowed to live on its banks. Did you know that Rushcliffe Borough Council paid the IDB £112,449.50 in 2014 (and a similar amount annually) to maintain the brook in this sorry state?
There were a few Skylarks and a Buzzard on a hedge though.
But as you can see, next to nothing else lives in the hedge because of the seemingly paranoid fear by hedge owners that they might get taller than 5 feet and produce berries! Berries! Good God; some birds and mice might move in!
75 Rooks allowed themselves to be counted and among them were about 20 Jackdaws - often they are too flighty to get an accurate number. I wonder if the proportion of Rooks to Jackdaws is always in similar proportions? There were 2 Snipe in the Meadow which is often the case when there is a decent spell of frost. I heard a Lapwing and I'm fairly sure the rather brief views of what would constitute the best bird was indeed a Peregrine.
The most interesting news though is rather old; on 1st May last year I photographed a shrew under a corrugated sheet that I revealed while looking for reptiles. Because it was clearly bigger than a Pygmy Shrew I took it to be a Common Shrew despite the photo clearly showing that it was black above and white below - the notion of considering Water Shrew just did not cross my mind. Until yesterday when it suddenly occurred to me and a look at the photo (bad though it is!) confirmed it.
So, was it the only one ever to occur in the area? I doubt it! It was near Tim's barn, so some 50 metres from the nearest pond and it was news to me to read that they are occasionally found away from water as my previous experience of the species is watching a diving individual for quite some time at a village-green pond in Essex about 1972.
A recent study on the River Erewash using bait tubes and analysis of scats (that's mammal poo) showed them to be widespread. I can't wait for summer to have a go at that myself and see if they are really quite a well established (but darned elusive) mammal locally.
I sent the record in to the mammal recorder along with a photo of the suspected Water Vole droppings (scats!) that I occasionally find on the banks of the brook and he was very happy to confirm them as such but suggested that they were at a low population level (just hanging on) and that was why it was so hard to get sightings as evidence (though Norman told me last year that he'd seen one there recently).
A sprinkling of snow overnight was followed by a largely bright morning but there were no bright moments of a natural history nature. One of my three companions (the other was Tammy the dog) drew my attention to the bark of a tree that I pass almost every time I walk to the Meadow and that I'd never appreciated before
The largely accidental picture of the buzzard with Keyworth in the background prompted me to look for a telephoto shot from other locations and this is the result:
Sorry for the proliferation of winter thrushes but there's not much else about!
Although none made it into the photo, there is certainly a good sprinkling of Redwings among them this winter while in recent years they have been nearly absent.
A marauding female Sparrowhawk was the first bit of interest and it was followed by two Mistle Thrushes which are probably around most days but get overlooked as they forage together in the middle of a field. At least that's what they were doing today. I tried to creep up on the Water Rail but I think it saw me first as once again I caught a glimpse of what may have been it as it disappeared.
Several Tree Sparrows along with a few tits had already discovered the replenished seed hopper, and then apart from a scattering of Fieldfares and Redwings it looked like being an average session until I found a new bird for the area. I had a glimpse on the 20th of what I thought might have been a Water Rail and today I saw it clearly - in one of the seasonal ponds in Penny Field next to the Meadow but it scampered off before I could get the camera out. Later about 25 Grey Partridges fled from the Meadow - the largest covey of Greys I've seen in many years. A Buzzard and a Green Woodpecker back up near the village rounded off a nice morning.
Met Ben and assistant from the Wildlife Trust on Lings Lane where filled up the hopper and cleaned out the nest boxes at the Farmland Birds B&B. Of the six boxes, three had been occupied by Tree Sparrows and one of them had one nest built on top of another. There were no unhatched eggs and no corpses so that's a good result.
I had the pleasure this morning of "leading" a bird walk around the "new" Skylarks reserve at Holme Pierrepont. Leading is in quotation marks because I was very much assisted by Mike Reid (and his telescope) and voluntary reserve warden Bill, who was able to answer all the questions about the reserve's habitat creation and spot many of the birds too. Bill also kept track of the tally of species which I think totalled 37 and although there was nothing exceptional among them, it is a healthy score and I think everyone was happy - until the rain set in.
When I say nothing exceptional I'm hiding the fact that the two Little Egrets were my first Nottinghamshire birds - in 1979 I travelled to the Camargue to see my first ones ever and now I only need to cycle up the road!
The work done so far in creating islands and shallows is already making the site worth a visit and I'll definitely be back in the spring for the summer visitors though I still think the money would have been better spent on woodland that could have been managed for butterflies and nightingales through reintroducing traditional coppice. The waders and ducks up and down the Trent valley have never had it so good!