31 October, 2011

I Don't Like Street Lights

As Autumn moves on, you'll be glad to know that the constant hijacking by moths of this blog should be coming to an end.

... but for now, you'll have to endure some recent autumnal additions to the garden this past October...

Barred Sallow; a classic yellow, orange and brown autumnal moth

Black Rustic, such an unflattering name for quite a smart moth

Blair's Shoulder-knot

Hoary Footman

Just 10 years ago, this species was confined to a few coastal locations in the South-west, but more recently has seen an expansion in its range into many south London gardens. It appears to be thriving here, with 6 moths caught in 2011. This tatty example on 3rd October must have been part of a smaller 2nd generation, that flies later in the Autumn, after the summer generation.

Red-line Quaker

Just as it looked like October moth trapping was going to end on a high, I came home the other night to find that the whole of our road had been installed with new extra bright white street light, replacing the standard orange light. This is very annoying, and every moth trappers worst nightmare (along with blowing ballasts, and a trap full of Hornets). Light pollution is bad enough around here, and the garden is now lit up like a bloody Christmas tree, so its doesn't take an expert to work out whats probably going to happen to my catches next year.*

Anyway, I'm off to catch me a Death's Head Hawk-moth to mark this seasonal occasion.

*if you happen to have a few days worth of free time on your hands with nothing better to do, and you don't know what artificial light; including moth traps, can do to insect populations, then this and this article make for a long, boring good read ).

28 October, 2011

Larkin' About

Larkin' About

I've just realised that I haven't mentioned the word 'bird' on this blog in 4 moths months, ironic considering the name of this blog is 'Bill's Birding'.

Anyway, I twitched bird today- a Shorelark. It's a very special Shorelark as a matter of fact, being the first Shorelark to be seen in Surrey since the late 1980s. Whilst they are usually to be expected along the East and coast in late autumn, one bird had decided to make Queen Elizabeth II reservoir its temporary hang out for the last couple of days, and yesterday morning I took a chance and decided to head down to try and break my birding drought.

It was an extremely early start at half 9 in the morning, but after two cups of tea and a tube of Smarties, the hardcore twitcher inside of me managed to drag my body out of the house, onto a bike, to a train station, onto a train, off a train, over a fence (gates are for lazy permit holders), past guard dogs and finally up a hill to a large pond...


They may need new guard dogs after what I did to them...


The bird was a bugger to find, prefering to feed low down in the reservoir gunk as far away from any human as possible, and the slightest sign of aggression from one of the millions of Pied Wagtails also present would send it shooting off to the other side of the reservoir. Eventually I pinned it down metres away from where I had first entered the reservoir, but not before I'd completed a 2 mile lap around the bloody place in search of the bird.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year material right there...




This seems to be a recurring problem when I'm with birds...


On the contrary, I was fighting off swarms of these...


and these...



One of the reservoir's regulars, Dave Harris, also found a bonus Short-eared Owl whilst we were waiting for the Lark. It showed brilliantly, for passengers on the planes taking off from Heathrow a few miles away...

26 October, 2011

Je ne parle pas fran├žais

... but I do know a Merveille du Jour when I see one.


Few others can match this species for looks. I've caught one before in the garden; around about this time last year, but that still hadn't prepared me for the shear sublime nature of its plumage when I caught this moth last night.

Possibly one of the best things to come from France since Stella Artois...


What with the moth trap not likely to go out on too many more occasions this year as we head further and further into the autumn, and with nothing to do this afternoon (except for 2 Biology dissertations and a Sociology write-up which can wait until the night before their due in), I decided to do what any bored teenager does and put the data from this year's moth trapping to good use, to find out how this year faired in terms of species diversity of the moths in my garden...


The small dip in numbers in March is due to the fact that I only trapped 4 times that month, and the complete failure of a month in June has probably got something to do with the completely s@!t start to summer we experienced in terms of weather. This is only my second year of trapping, so I can't exactly compare these records to previous years. However, the general consesus is that its been a pretty crap year for moths, with many commoner species simply not appearing.

Now, what to do tomorrow? There's a Shorelark just down the road, but that would mean getting out on my bike and experiencing what they call exercise, so I probably won't do that.

11 October, 2011

Childcare

Why the lack of blog posts, you ask?

Well, I've been dedicating my time to other things, namely child-rearing. To be honest its pretty simple really, despite what others would tell you. Just put them in a cage and feed them leaves every now and again.

Now before you reach for the nearest phone to call Childline, perhaps I should point out that I am of course talking about Early Thorn caterpillars, and just in case anyone is unsure as to how a caterpillar turns into a pwetty butterfly, then observe...

A few days after hatching (15th August)...


About 20 days old...

Look at me, I'm a spiky thorn...


45 days old...



Look at me, I'm a twig...


Look at me, I'm a chrysalis...


Look at me, I'm a chrysalis inside a leaf...



60 days old...

A pwetty butterfly finally emerges (2nd generation adult Selenia dentaria to be more precise)...



A more detailed explanation of the complete process of metamorphosis can be found below...