14 September, 2013

Worcester Bound

Packing sorted, various forms filled in and clown fancy dress outfit arranged- I'm pretty much ready to head off to uni in the morning. It's an exciting time, but I'm not going to pretend that I won't miss the freedoms of a gap year. It really has been great fun- hardcore birding on Scilly back in October; hiking and cycling across Shetland in May; helping manage the backstage collections at the Natural History Museum; a month's conservation work at the bird observatory on Fair Isle... not to mention a few weeks of R&R in California.

So what will this whole University thing mean then? Well, first off it means I won't be in Surrey anymore; I'll be up in the Midlands- Worcester to be precise. I'll come back ever now and then, but the local patches of Stokes Field and Bushy Park will take have to take back seats for a while. It also means I'll be studying an Ecology course, which in itself means I am probably going to have to do some work at some point during the the next three years. Despite a new commitment, I'll still try and keep the blog going whilst I'm away (you might have to bare with me for the first few weeks), and I still aim to get out and about as much as I always have, just with a shiny new park to play in.

Cheers all for reading. Who knows, maybe I'll actually come away from it all with a degree.

I'll leave you with a selection from recent warm, early autumn afternoons spent wandering the North & South Downs. Now those are some views I'm going to miss. Damn.

10 September, 2013

How (Not) to Prepare for University

With Fresher's week at Worcester Uni just a short and sweet five days away, I spent the vast majority of yesterday attempting to pull my act together in preparation for the real thing. High on the agenda of stuff that needed doing was to sort out a shiny new banking 'student account' to harbour thousands of quid worth of loans that our war-supporting, badger killing government has so kindly lent to me. Of course, I could just do all my banking in my existing account, but with a new Lloyd's student account I get the added benefit of £500 overdraft, which means I've now got the opportunity to borrow even more money. Blimey, I could get rich out of this.

With banking out the way, thoughts turned to a more important part of the University preparation process; purchasing a wristband. I can't admit that they are often high on my list of things to buy, but when that wristband entitles you to free entry into a week's worth of clubbing venues with thousands of other drunk & desperate freshers, action has to be taken. It won't be clean, I'll admit. Having left almost everyone and everything I know back at home, and with most other students in the same desperate boat, alcohol will probably never play a more important role in our lives. I will most likely end up getting completely hammered beyond my wildest dreams, utterly wrecked, sloshed, trollied, inebriated... you get the drift, but it will be a laugh, and I can't wait. Pretty much all that's left to do now is to stock up on pots, pans and other fancy homeware shite- I did spend quite a while yesterday afternoon prancing around WHSmiths like a little child, picking out lots of colourful gel pens and dinosaur shaped rubbers, but they probably won't be much help to me when I attempt to cook for myself.

Of course, it wouldn't be a truly successful day without seeing some birds, and whilst I was faffing around in town, a very thoughtful Wood Sandpiper decided to turn up at Berrylands- a small under-watched sewage works five minutes away. The little beauty showed in all its distant glory, feeding on a patch of mud with a Green Sandpiper and a load of Teal, as a few of us watched from the station platform. I can't even begin to imagine the number of times I've passed that reservoir whilst on the train to Waterloo, completely oblivious to any of the gems that might be lurking there. Hats off to the sharp-eyed commuter who scored the Sandpiper in the first place.

Whilst I'd like to say this is a painting I did when I was five, it's not. It's a photo of the actual bird... I know. I'm afraid this isn't one of those 'wildlife photography blogs' anymore. In fact it never was. 

05 September, 2013

Crambinae tribute

Caloptria falsella

Agriphila latistria

Agriphila tristella

Agriphila straminella

Chances are that no matter where you are in Britain you would have flushed one of the above 'grass moths' at some point during the summer. These members of the large sub-family Crambinae, relatively easily distinguished by their elongated posture and distinctive snout, reach a peak in early August and usually fly until earlish September. The above four species were all attracted to the moth trap after dark, and given that their abundance at this time of year makes them hard to overlook, I thought it only right to post a tribute to this entertaining group. Some of the commoner species in the family are happy to utilise any kind of grassy habitat, even lawns; walking aimlessly around over your garden turf will usually prove successful. Flush 'em whilst you can though... give it another week and most of them be gone, along with the summer weather by the looks of things.

01 September, 2013

Quick one from Dorset

Just thought I'd do a quick one with a few odds and ends from a glorious couple of days spent wandering the sandy beaches and chalky clifftops of the Purbeck area of Dorset. I'd initially planned to use the time as an excuse to do as much of nothing as possible, but the huge potential of the area for searching for wild beasts was too good an opportunity to miss, and I inevitably ended up wondered off the beaten track more times than I stayed on it.

Studland has always been high on my list of places to visit. Owned by the National Trust, the beach itself is extremely popular with tourists at this time of year, but walk a few metres back from the sea and you find yourself completely at one with rich coastal heathland...

Ruddy DartersBlack Darters and Migrant Hawkers were patrolling the marshy areas for smaller insects, no doubt taking advantage of swarms of late-season hoverflies that were nectaring on the flowering heather. Frustratingly fleeting glimpses of a few elusive Sand Lizards were had, but the highlight had to be watching a Clouded Yellow come in off the sea... full frontal butterfly migration before the eyes. Mind blown.

Note how the final segments widen to give the abdomen of this Ruddy Darter a distinctively clubbed appearance...

Black Darter; nice to catch up with this late-season specialist after missing it at Esher Common the other week...

Blue-tailed Damselfly, although it took a bit of ummin' and arrrin' to separate it from the very similar Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly which also inhabits heathland, confusingly...

Eupeodes luniger, a migrant hoverfly...

Sphaerophoria scripta...

Troublesome hoverfly of some kind...

Mottled Grasshopper, belated identified from photos only after I'd spent hours convincing myself that it was the much rarer Heath Grasshopper. Doh.

In other news, I can't believe it's September already. How time flies when your having fun, eh? Two weeks from now and I'll no doubt be doubled over a toilet somewhere in Worcester, flushing down the alcoholic memories from the first night of being a fresher. Of course, this also means that I've only got two weeks left in the magical land of Surrey- minus the Tories, the private roads and the families who feel the need for five separate cars in their drive, I'm going to miss this place.

Now to start eyeing up a sparkly new local patch along the Welsh border. Any suggestions?