It’s fair to say I’ve been a little busy of late! My last blog was almost exactly 5 months ago. Since then I’ve been in Cornwall finishing my second year at university, back home to Cambridgeshire, and have visited Suffolk, Pembrokeshire, Cumbria, The Wirral, The Sefton Coast, and various parts of Scotland! I’ve spent time with lots of great people, and seen some fantastic wildlife along the way. Here is my attempt to sum everything up in relatively few words, with lots of photos!
I saw these two in the same tree in Santon Downham! Mandarin Duck on the left, and my first ever Lesser Spotted Woodpecker on the right.
Later the same day, I stopped off for this Coues’s Arctic Redpoll at Hazelwood Common, another lifer. Not a bad journey down to a holiday in Suffolk!
31st March- 6th April
The rest of the Suffolk holiday was good! 118 birds in the week including another lifer: White-fronted Goose (6 Greenland race birds at Trimley Marsh SWT), and other highlights of Glossy Ibis and Caspian Gulls. On the way back I met up with Reuben Nebbett-Blades who showed me a few local speciality plants in the Brecks, including the beautiful and scarce Yellow Star-of-bethlehem (Gagea lutea). I found around ten new beetle species too!
I saw the American Bittern at Carlton Marshes SWT. One of the rarest birds I’ve ever seen!
I had a brilliant day out around Cambridgeshire with Brian Eversham, first looking at Goldilock’s Buttercups in churchyards, and then looking for anything we could find at Woodwalton Fen. Here are a few of the best things we saw.
From the churchyards first. Left: The slightly alien Bristly Millipede (Polyxenus lagurus). Right: Geopora sumneriana, the Cedar Cup fungus.
I got myself these two books, changing my beetling forever!
And I got myself a new camera: the Olympus TG-4. Easy to use and with amazing macro capabilities, it seemed the ideal camera for me. Here are a couple of my first photos with it.
Left: Early Thorn. Right: Common Green Shieldbug.
A visit to Cornwall Wildlife Trust reserve Kennall Vale (one of several reserves visited towards the end of April) gave me several new beetles and my favourite harvestman: Megabunus diadema.
Left: Scaphidium quadrimaculatum. Right: Stenus guttula.
Found my 600th UK beetle species, the weevil Archarius pyrrhoceras.
In the early hours of the morning, I was clambering around on the slopes of a Dartmoor river valley helping my friend Flavio with his fieldwork: surveying for the rare Blue Ground Beetle (Carabus intricatus). We were successful, finding 4 (I think) individuals, and several other interesting invertebrates.
Left: The snail-hunting Carabid Cychrus caraboides. Right: The slug Limax cinereoniger.
Saw the Green Heron (7th? for Britain) in Pembrokeshire with Luke Ozsanlav-Harris, and dropped in on Black-winged Stilt and Iberian Chiffchaff on the way back to Cornwall.
Left: Green Heron. Right: Black-winged Stilt.
Woodlouse Spider (Dysdera crocata) in the Falmouth garden.
Saw the mega-rare Pygmy Rush (Juncus capitatus) on the Lizard!
Pygmy Rush (Juncus capitatus).
I finally saw a Grasshopper Warbler, after years of heard-only birds…
I met up with the Reading University MSc Plant Diversity group on the Lizard, and saw loads of new plants! Three of the best were the Lizard endemic Clovers: Trifolium bocconei (Twin-headed Clover), Trifolium strictum (Upright Clover) and Trifolium incarnatum mollinerii (Long-headed Clover). I also saw my 1000th vascular plants species: Trifolium striatum (Knotted Clover).
Left: Twin-headed Clover (Trifolium bocconei). Top right: Upright Clover (Trifolium strictum). Bottom right: Long-headed Clover (Trifolium incarnatum mollinerii).
I saw my first ever Marsh Fritillaries on the Lizard!
Moth trap in the garden at home in Cambridgeshire turned up the Red Data Book species Toadflax Brocade. This species has been increasing its range in recent years, so probably needs its status re-evaluating to nationally scarce.
I was on a week long Scotland field course with my university, plus a few days extra birding with Toby Phelps tagged onto both ends of the course. There was some fantastic scenery, amazing weather, a bunch of bird lifers, and even more new plants and invertebrates! Here are a few photos from the week and a bit.
Some Scottish scenes, including a small bit of the top of Cairngorm with me on it.
Some record shots. Left: Mountain Hare. Middle: White-tailed Eagles. Right: Long-eared Owl (honest!), a recently fledged juvenile making a right racket flying around Durness with its siblings. It certainly made for an interesting excursion out from the hostel at midnight!
Ptarmigan from a second, much chillier walk up Cairngorm with fellow birders Matt Doyle and Toby Phelps. We couldn’t leave the highlands without seeing one!
A few plants new for me from Cairngorm. From left to right: Alpine Clubmoss (Diphasiastrum alpinum), Common Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris), Dwarf Willow (Salix herbacea) and Stiff Sedge (Carex bigelowii).
An assortment of invertebrates. Top left: The hoverfly Sericomyia lappona. Top right: Trypocopris vernalis. Middle right: The Marram weevil Otiorhynchus atroapterus. Bottom: Black Mountain Moth (Glacies coracina).
28th June- 3rd July
I spent a few days in Pembrokeshire with Toby Phelps. We had more incredible weather, and made the most of it by sea kayaking, snorkelling, birding and looking for rare damselflies. The birds were good, with plenty of Choughs, year-tick Whinchat, and the first Willow Tits I’d seen for about a decade!
The local beaches at/near Amroth, and a Silver-washed Fritillary.
On the open ocean (sort of), and the view out from inside an amazing sea cave!
Some cool things found whilst kayaking. Left: Harmless but huge (c.70cm across!) Barrel Jellyfish. Top right: Lion’s-mane jellyfish, a species with a really powerful sting. Bottom right: An unexpected male Fox Moth, found about a kilometre out! We returned him safely to dry land.
More blue skies! Left: Stackpole Quay, where we snorkelled. Right: The Preseli hills, where we found many scarce damselflies and plants.
A few of the best plants from the Preselis. Top left: Ivy-leaved Bellflower (Wahlenbergia hederacea). Top right: Oblong-leaved Sundew (Drosera intermedia). Bottom left: Marsh St.John’s-wort (Hypericum elodes). Bottom right: Whorled Caraway (Carum verticillatum).
The three very scarce damselfly species we found in the Preselis, plus the most abundant dragonfly in the area by a long way! We saw hundreds of them. Top left: Southern Damselfly. Top right: Small Red Damselfly. Middle right: Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly. Bottom: Keeled Skimmer.
The huge Spider Crab species Maja brachydactyla. The pic in the middle is the first time I tried out the Olympus TG-4 underwater! Thanks to Toby for the left-hand photo, I was having to focus on the snorkelling more than taking underwater photos as it was my first time!
Another big thanks to Toby who not only found my first ever Comb-jellies (Ctenophores), but managed to get good in-situ photos with my camera! Left: Bolinopsis infundibulum. Right: Pleurobranchia pileus.
I stayed with Liam Langley at his PhD fieldwork site on Walney Island in Cumbria. There was hardly a gull in sight (the drought had caused all breeding pairs to fail), but Little Terns on the beach were nice to see. We ran the moth trap on the island, saw lots of cool stuff and visited some awesome places! We then ended up in central Sheffield twitching (and dipping) the Audouin’s Gull that had turned up the previous evening.
Some scenery from the weekend. Left: The view across the back of the dunes from where I stayed on Walney island. Top right: Arnside knott. Bottom right: A bridge in Sheffield which a rare gull was near to the day before.
A couple of macro moths that were new for me. Left: Small Rufous (Coenobia rufa). Right: Archer’s Dart (Agrotis vestigialis).
A couple of nice yellow and black things. Left: The longhorn beetle Leptura quadrifasciata. Right: female Black Darter.
Butterflies from Arnside knott, where we also saw Northern Brown Argus, and dipped Scotch Argus and High Brown Fritillary. Left: White-letter Hairstreak. Right: Dark Green Fritillary.
I visited some more bits of the country I’d never been to before in the North-west. I stayed with Elliot Montieth and spent some time with him and Luke Thomas Anderson looking for all kinds of wildlife around the Wirral area, before heading a little further North to stay with Joshua Styles for some Sefton Coast botanising!
An assortment of interesting things seen with Elliot. Left: Emperor Moth caterpillar. Top right: Spiked Shieldbug (Picromerus bidens). Bottom right: the Water Forget-me-not feeding lacebug Dictyla convergens, found in a hide at Burton Mere. We also saw an escaped White-faced Whistling Duck fly over, giving us an entertaining whistle as it went!
Two of the scarcer plants new to me from a list of 22 new plants for the day with Josh and a local botanical group! Left: Smooth Rupturewort (Herniaria glabra). Right: Ray’s Knotgrass (Polygonum oxyspermum).
A couple more very nice species. Left: Green-flowered Helleborine (Epipactis phyllanthes). Right: Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia palustris).
It wasn’t all plants! Once word had spread through the group that I liked my insects too, I was being handed things left and right! Left: The Rhopalid bug Myrmus miriformis. Centre: the gall of the wasp species Tetramesa hyalipennis on Sand Couch (Elytrigia juncea). Right: Another Rhopalid bug, Chorosoma schillingi.
The leafhopper Ledra aurita turned up in my home garden moth trap! It’s big for a leafhopper (about 15mm!), and spends most of its time perfectly camouflaged on moss and lichen-covered trees. A crazy looking creature!
Ledra aurita in the garden moth trap.
Since then, I’ve had a fantastic moth-trapping session at Woodalton Fen (7 new moths and about 10 new beetles!), been on two fantastic BCN Wildlife Trust workshops (Leafhoppers and Solitary Wasps), and found several interesting new species in and around the house (pics below!). With a holiday in North Norfolk approaching, and a year long placement in the highlands of Scotland coming up not long after that, life doesn’t look like it’s slowing down any time soon!
Mum found both of these two! Left: The first Steatoda nobilis I’ve seen at home. Right: The soldierfly Stratiomys potamida.