27 December, 2016

A beetle at Christmas

Pogonocherus hispidus

Christmas Eve came with a bit of a surprise at the Bill's Birding household this year, when this rather stunning Pogonocherus hispidus decided to join the festivities. It's a member of the aptly named Longhorn family and shouldn't even be thinking about emerging as an adult beetle until next spring. What this one was doing inside the house in mid-winter is a bit of a mystery. There's no firewood here for it to have been transported in on.

I guess the only sensible explanation is that the magic of Christmas caused it to emerge early from its larval slumber and crawl into our bathroom.

24 December, 2016

Christmas fungi

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas from myself and this assortment of fungi found during a chilly foray on Fairmile Common with the British Mycological Society back at the beginning of December.

 Bitter Oyster

 Trumpet Chanterelle

Cristulariella depraedans

 Dead Moll's Fingers

Hoof Fungus

29 November, 2016

A walk in the park

I was in Bushy Park on Sunday evening as the light began to descent below the horizon. I was hoping - far too optimistically - for a vocal Lesser Spotted Woodpecker up in the oaks, or a Yellow-legged Gull amongst the gull roost, but had to make do with Green Woodpeckers and a lone adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.

The local Grey Herons were far more obliging than I've ever seen them before. They showed little interest in the stream of families that stopped to feed the ducks, let alone me sticking a wide-angle lens in their face.

21 November, 2016

Plumed Prominent

In preparation for a moth trapping event I've organised at Sheepleas next Saturday night, I had a recce at the site back on Thursday evening. I was searching for mature Field Maples, the larval foodplant of the enigmatic Plumed Prominent. This hardy late-season scarcity has a stronghold at Sheepleas, and I'd been told that trapping underneath large trees will significantly increase chances of catching the adult moth.

By the time I'd scoped out a couple of suitable trees the light had all but faded and a windy overcast night ensued. The air temperature was still in double figures and I felt optimistic enough to grab a net out of the car and hang around the woods for a while after dusk. My reward for doing so was a spectacular male Plumed Prominent, caught as it flew low amongst the shelter of the undergrowth.


Take a gander at those antennae! 

Plumed Prominent

A good omen for the event? If you like what you see, we'll be meeting on Saturday in St. Mary's C of E car park (just off the A246) at 15:30.

18 November, 2016

Tortrix at the end of the tunnel

It's been a pretty dire year, there's no getting around it. In the aftermath of last Wednesday's happenings, I found myself desperately searching amongst the doom and gloom for positive memories to take into 2017. It took me a while, but I eventually remembered one. This has been my best year for finding moths in the family Tortricidae with 73 species racked up since April. Impressed? Didn't think so.

Pammene splendidulana - Richmond Park, 11th May

Dichrorampha sequana - Worcester, 22nd May

Epinotia subsequana/pygmaeana - Worcester, 3rd June

Celypha woodiana - Pershore, 7th June

Epinotia fraternana - Worcester, 3rd June

Lobesia reliquana - Worcester, 9th June

Commophila aeanana - Stokes Field, 10th June

Orthotaenia undulana - Wyre Forest, 13th June

Epinotia nanana - Garden, 3rd July

Apotomis lineana - Bury St. Edmunds, 27th July

Cydia amplana - 27th August

07 November, 2016

Fungal foray

A chilly but sunny walk through Esher Common failed to turn up the presumably wintering Dartford Warbler I'd seen there a few weeks ago, but it did give me a chance to start getting to grips with some autumn fruiting fungi. I've come away with a memory card full of photographs to identify, but for now I'll leave you with two of the most impressive specimens I found on my wander: the Brown Birch Bolete and Spectacular Rustgill.

 Brown Birch Bolete Leccinum scabrum

Spectacular Rustgill Gymnopilus junonius

05 November, 2016

The week in moths

The three occasions I ran the moth trap in the garden this October all yielded no moths, but a last minute decision to run the trap on a freezing Saturday night last week rewarded me with two hardy souls - an Oak Rustic and Monopis crocicapitella.

The Oak Rustic is a new species for the garden, and is still a fairly rare moth around these parts with the first Surrey record coming from Redhill as recently as November 2014.

An indescribably stunning Merveille du Jour caught on Halloween night was the 3rd record for the garden.

28 October, 2016

Coleophora ibipennella

 Coleophora ibipennella

That 'thing' in the photo above is the protective case of a tiny moth called Coleophora ibipennella. The larva lives inside this peculiar looking construction and feeds (upside down) on an oak leaf before pupating within the case and emerging as a slightly less peculiar looking adult. Despite there being well over 100 species in this genus, feeding within cases on an equally large number of foodplants, I rarely have any luck finding them in their larval stage. Coleophora ibipennella seems to be an exception, with this being the third case of this species that I've found so far in 2016. I stumbled across it whilst taking a jaunt through West End Common in the sun yesterday evening.

26 October, 2016

Camera troubles

I made the run into town last Friday to book my Nikon D300s onto a well-needed spa break at one of the brand's repair centres just outside Kingston. I stopped off in Richmond Park on the way home for a dose of fungus spotting, mainly in an attempt to take my mind off the hefty price tag needed to bring the camera's auto-focus capabilities back to life in preparation for the slight possibility that I might take some photos of birds this winter.

Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota procera

 Yellow Fieldcap Bolbitius titubans

 Ochre Brittlegill Russula ochroleuca

Purple Brittlegill Russula atropurpuea

The Deceiver Laccaria laccata

I know what you might be wondering. I have two cameras. 

21 October, 2016

Blogger's decline

Doing my weekly 'rounds' of the blogs I regularly check-up on, I came across a forlorn post by Wanstead Birder in which he attempted to make sense of the terminal decline in the number of people who blog. It struck a cord with me, as only the other day I'd taken the regrettable decision to start purging my sidebar links list of any dormant blogs that hadn't posted within the past year. It's something I've been putting off for a while, not least because many of the now skeletal blogs that I linked to epitomised what was for me a 'golden age' of blogging between 2009 and 2011. At its peak, I could expect twice-weekly posts from every blog in my sidebar, with the likes of Counting Coots and Reservoir Cats, though only short lived, amassing impressive followings and cult status amongst bloggers for their unrivalled satirical observations on the birding world.

But as things move forward, the number of bloggers giving up the ghost is on the up, and it's evident that the rise in superior forms of social media is the reason behind it. In the short space of time since I started blogging back at the tail end of 2008, the likes of Twitter and Facebook have come to provide hassle-free platforms through which to share funny cat videos sightings, experiences and opinions in natural history. A blog post can take time to draw up, and the number of people that will ultimately view it is determined by the regularity and reliability of your posts. In contrast, tweets can be composed within a matter of seconds, and a 're-tweet' from the right person will slap your content onto the news feeds of hundreds of other nature enthusiasts.

I've had my fair share of disagreements with Bill's Birding over the years, most of which have culminated in variable lengths of time passing without any posts. Inevitably, the circumstances that encouraged 14-year old me to start the blog, mainly to communicate with other young birders at the time, have become less relevant, and I can now share everything I want to with my 480 odd Twitter followers in a few sentences without worrying about having to tailor to a blog audience.

That said, I feel like I've come too far to simply pull the plug. I've made a permanent connection with Bill's Birding, so much so that while out in the field I'm often subconsciously compiling a suitable blog post in my head. I've committed to the blog for so long that it's become a defining part of me; something that I care too much about to let go. Our relationship is hard to compare to anything you might be able to relate to. Think about the emotional connection you hold with a loved one (i.e. child/partner/parents). Then consider that winter coat you think you look good in. It's probably somewhere in between.

Shaggy Inkcap

12 October, 2016

Leafmining in the North Downs

There was a bit of a chill in the air as I arrived at Sheepleas yesterday morning for another dose of leafmining. The beech trees were throwing long shadows across the woodland floor and the sunlight had a distinct glare to it typical of the latter months of the year. It felt truly autumnal in the North Downs.

I recorded two species I've never seen before - the scarce (but no doubt under-recorded) Stigmella aeneofasciella which mines the leaves of Agrimony, and Parornix fagivora which makes a distinctive leaf fold on Beech.

Stigmella aeneofasciella leafmine on Agrimony 

 Euspilapteryx auroguttella on Perforate St. Johns Wort

 Parornix fagivora on Beech

 Parornix betulae on Silver Birch

 Phyllonorycter acerifoliella on Field Maple

Aspilapteryx tringipennella on Ribwort Plantain

 Pyrrhalta viburni

 Corizus hyoscyami

Tree Damsel Bug

On the way home I stopped off at Littleworth Common, just outside Esher, to check for leafmines on the large stands of Aspen and Rowan that grow on site.

 Stigmella assimilella on Aspen

 Stigmella magdalenae on Rowan

Phyllonorycter sorbi on Rowan

Caloptilia stigmatella on Aspen