Thursday, 21 September 2017

Sep 20th Mousehold Heath

Moth Night at Mousehold  
It was another moth night at Mousehold Heath last night. Unfortunately, there was a technical hitch with the generator that powers up the light bulb of the moth trap. We could not get it run, despite having plenty of fuel in it. So we had to come up with a plan B. Thankfully, the trap's bulb could be plugged in and be powered via the mains. We ended up moving from usual spot on the heath and took everything to the changing rooms at the field with the bandstand adjacent to Zak's restaurant. It was a much quieter moth session than normal thanks to the lack of a noisy generator and plenty of people arrived despite the sudden location change, but it wasn't the most productive moth-wise.

There wasn't a great verity of moth species entering the trap last night, however, there were a couple of new species for me to learn. The most numerous out of the moths that we managed to attract to the trap was this one. You may notice that this moth has something protruding from it's head. These are very long, upturned palps (sensory organs that helps the moth feel and taste), but they also give the moth it's name; the snout. It is rather distinctive as it looks like a brown triangle with small hooked tips to the wings and of course, that 'snout' poking out. Snouts are rather common and widespread moths that occur where common nettles grow, of which is this species foodplant.

 Hypsopygia glaucinalis?
Out of the other species we caught, there was one that is possibly new to the site. As this was a micro moth, it proved to be difficult to ID. Our group of amateur moth enthusiasts believed it was a twin-striped tabby, but I posted this photo to an online group today to confirm this and someone replied and said that this was  Hypsopygia glaucinalis, a moth that is more relatively common in the southern half of England. The only problem with this answer, after looking further into it, is that the flight season for that species is July and August, its now late September! This is the reason why I prefer to leave micro moths well enough alone and leave them to the experts.

Copper Underwing

There were no complications when it came to identifying this next moth. This is a copper underwing. It is another one of these brown moths with pale stripes and small eye spots on the wings, but it is the coppery underwings that give the moth it's name. However, there are two species of copper underwing and they look more or less identical to each other. Apparently, the best way to separate these species apart is to study the markings of the underside of the hindwings.

Light Emerald
The rest of the moths that we caught were ones that we've either seen before during other moth night sessions or were too worn to ID with complete confidence. In fact most of these moths were rather worn individuals, meaning that they are faded and worst for wear. It is a sure sign that the summer mothing season is nearing an end. As winter draws closer, there will be fewer newer species for me to learn. Only a few hardy species will be on the wing in the remaining months of the year. Though this is officially the last of the planned moth night sessions at Mousehold, there might be a couple of extra sessions to add to the calendar. Watch this space!

We think this is a rather worn Mother of Pearl

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Sep 20th Strumpshaw Fen

It was a bit of a bittern fest at Strumpshaw this morning. When I arrived to the reserve just before 8pm today, I had a quick peek from the blind next to Reception Hide before setting off to Fen Hide. A man with a camera was busy clicking away at something. It turned out to be a bittern sitting out in full view half way up a section of reed bed at the back of the broad behind the reedy islands. It was quite distant, but I still managed to take a few photos of it as proof. It sat there preening itself and it seemed several other people saw it too since I left for my walk.

Green Woodpecker
While watching the bittern from the Reception Hide blind, a loud yaffling laugh of a green woodpecker stole my attention away from it for a moment. I soon found the bird perched on the side of the sparrowhawk tree to the far left of the hide. A rare sight for me as I don't often see green woodpeckers from Reception Hide that much. Then, as I made my way along Sandy Wall towards Fen Hide, I saw my second woodpecker of the morning. This time it was a great spotted woodpecker, which was busy prising grubs from within a tall dead tree beside the path.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Shaggy Inkcap
My second Bittern of the day (a bit distant though)
At Fen Hide, my second bittern of the day flew by, flying left to right over the reserve. And that wasn't all. A water rail made a brief appearance within the new reed growth next to a woodpigeon before slinking back into denser cover, 3 snipe circled the hide, while little egrets, a cormorant and a heron were fishing in the pool in front of us. I also managed to get a quick glimpse of a flock of ten or so bearded tits, a stock dove marsh harriers and a jay. It was proving to be a very productive morning.

Water Rail
Grey Heron
Little Egret
Back at Reception Hide, a kingfisher made a couple of brief visits to the measuring post. The autumn light was highlighting it's electric blue back brilliantly. Then, shortly after the kingfisher's first visit, I saw a familiar large brown shape fly over the reedy islands. My third bittern sighting of the day! It plunged itself down into the reed bed to my right. I was able to spot it's head peeking out of the reeds, before it disappeared completely. There was no sign of it throughout the rest of the morning. I expect it was still skulking around this part of it's reedy underworld by the time I had to leave, perhaps making a quick secret peek to make sure I was gone.

Black-headed Gull
My third Bittern of the day!