Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Not so Top Secret

I returned to my lovely Lesserpecker nest on Monday to get some more footage. Imagine the scene: the camera and tripod is set up, and I've retreated to a very safe distance with my picnic and ginger beer in celebration of good birds, and a sunny bank holiday. I'd been there for perhaps half an hour when three photographers appeared. The peckers were showing well, and the photographers started taking photos, pleasantries were exchanged.

The problem was these guys crept closer, and closer to the nest-tree. I tutted and rolled my eyes a lot in a very cowardly manner. Then began to seethe as one of them turned his flash on. Yes - really! These are relatively scarce nesting birds. But no - there they were - about six feet from the tree indulging in flash photography. I left. Packed the gear, made my parting shot about them being altogether too close and ran away. Humph. I'm not sure what I should have done.
Anyway - on a happier note I have lots of Black Park moth photos courtesy of the lovely David Howdon. I attach the most way-out visually for the evening: a lurid Green Silver-lines.

Monday, 25 May 2009

The Mothing from the Black Lagoon

I'm ever so slightly traumatised. Saturday was Black Park mothing night. About once a month, David Howdon, Andy Culshaw and I leave the comparative comfort of Perivale's hut (equipped with electrics and a kettle) to hang around the legendary Black Park. Known as the most filmed location in the world - it abutts (and I use this word advisedly) Pinewood Studios. Yes - think James Bond, think the Last King of Scotland, and a myriad other feature films that star this little patch of paradise sandwiched between Slough and the M25.

So, our general plan is - go and set an actinic heath trap up out on the heathy bit (currently full of what we think might be "bomb craters") - then set up the Robinson and a Skinner on a generator, and indulge in a spot of dusking. Marvellous. So off we popped. Three middle-aged rather deranged individuals in search of an entomological high. Or three eccentric duffers that better belong in Victorian times - and shouldn't we really all be vicars? We were approaching the heathy bit near the studios when an apparition loomed out of the woods. Now - don't ask me what they were filming this week at Elstree - in fact words fail me. Here photo.
Yes - a gimp. I engaged him in conversation, and can confirm that he was an extremely polite gentleman, who was quite happy to have his photo taken for the blog, but wished to remain anonymous. I got the distinct feeling he thought that mothing was MUCH odder than his activities. He's probably right.
Dusking also produced this lovely toad. What great wee beasties. And the inspiration for the title. He reminded me a bit of the inexplicable gentleman above.
So - what about actual mothing? A great triumph. There were hundreds. Really. The definitive ID's will take a while, so I'll update later. The thing that we did catch LOADS of were Cockchafers. Unless the gimp had talc I bet it did too. Here terrible photo.

I've had a very interesting rest of weekend (although less risqué). I'll post another, rather sadder, post tomorrow. But it does include a piece about the unprecedented Painted Ladies influx. A demain.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Top secret

I'm REALLY privileged to have a network of fantastic birders who are willing to share their top-secret filming opportunities with me on the understanding that I don't grass them up - and that I look after their birds. Last night I received a classified email that sent me scampering out of the office as soon as the post had been and I could escape the confines of horrid Acton.
So here we are. We were desperately short of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker female for some reason. Max "shot" beautiful male a couple of years back thanks to another of our agents in the midlands. I know he'll read this - so thanks! it's much appreciated.
These are some cropped grabs. I could have got closer but didn't want to disturb the birds in any way so hung back on big lens, and scarpered back to London as soon as I could. Lesserspots are in terrible decline in the UK for reasons that are poorly understood. This particular pair look well on target to do their bit for the population.Here is agent 0013 in the field. I've been trying to teach him digibinning which is why he's clutching binoculars between his knees. He's either fallen asleep or is avoiding the camera. Perhaps I should have photoshopped his tattoos.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Patch babies!

It seems like a while since I last ranted about exactly how terrible my patch is. You'll all be delighted to hear that my total is now 42 for the year (Swift and Chiffy being the predictable additions). I did have a VERY exciting Hobby trying to catch Swifts the other day.

Anyway - reason for post is my new discovery. The Great Spotted Woodpeckers have exceedingly noisy babies. All spring I watched them excavate five or six holes and wondered which one they would use. Then yesterday I found the nest completely by accident somewhere I hadn't noted them excavating. How bizarre. The nest isn't very high up at all - so I'm off to point the camera at them shortly. Youtubery to follow if results are any good.

My other new addition to patch list was a Bombus hypnorum. This is a recent coloniser from the continent (yet another global warming addition). I've seen them as far north as Northants, but they're still fairly thin on the ground. It's a pretty bumble - ginger thorax, black stripe and a divine white bum. They are busier than some of the bumbles, and systematically do adjacent flower heads without pausing. Bumbles all behave differently, which I didn't realise til I started filming the tricky blighters. They all have their own jizz.
Other patch report of note - still no ducklings on fetid beer-can pond, but now seven grumpy male Mallards. What on earth is going on? No mothing this weekend - but I did find this in me porch. I was initially worried it was a pug (which I'm useless at identifying) - but I reckon it's a Small Dusty Wave.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Entomological weekend

First-up is last week's unidentified Tortrix from the Black Park session. The lovely photo is by David Howdon. He tells me that it may well be Syndemis musculana.
The half-way decent weather at the weekend set me off on an entomological adventure. Two butterfly outings and a mothing session at Perivale. I was on a mission to film Duke of Burgundies, Green Hairstreaks and some extra Orange-tip. I've found a wonderful local site for Orange-tip which is right underneath Heathrow. It's a hidden gem - but all of the footage is going to need dubbing to remove the 747s.

Dusking at Perivale produced Sandy and Green Carpets, Brimstones and Common White Waves (as well as dodgy grass-moth micro things). Traps contained more Green Carpets, a male Muslin Moth and this very attractive Maiden's Blush, as well as Shuttle-shaped Dart and Rustic Shoulder-knot.



A trip to the Sussex Downs was in order to catch up with the Dukes. These super-belligerent wee butterflies are magical: the males perch on obvious high points, and then chase anything that moves. If another Duke arrives they tussle in an ever-ascending spiral. Their half-life is short due to their warring ways, and finding a pretty specimen for filming can be tricky. We managed a few, but Max is still trying to think up a cunning plan for capturing their dog-fighting without resorting to Planet Earth type BBC technology.

No Green Hairstreaks were found (I'm blaming the weather), but I did see lots of orchids and this bug. I *think* they are Early Purple Orchid and Cercopsis vulnerata. I could well be wrong.

I found a moth larva too. I'm think it's Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet. Answers on a postcard.
This week I shall be mostly praying for good weather to do some Green Hairstreaks.