Catching Up pt 3

As this blog catches up with the present day, I can reveal even more exciting wildlife sightings. Over at my local park, I spotted my first Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) in months – whilst my dad recently saw a Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) there. Spring is started to appear, as buds begin to burst forth and the scent of blossom from unfurling flowers is carried on that still slightly chilly breeze.

I spotted my first non-bumblebee bee (as yet unidentified, I’m not much good [yet] if it isn’t a bumblebee!) of 2015 in the park, feeding on this yellow flower (as yet unidentified, it’s in the list of plants to ID) in the sunlight – wilfully ignoring both myself taking photos and a number of dogs running about and barking (a good game was going on at the time you see).

I have also checked back on the fungi that I saw growing previously – you can see how much it has dried out!

A quick trip down to Dorset saw me getting a number of new year ticks – Blackcap (see below), Brent Goose, Oystercatcher and more, as well as a few lifers!

A tip-off from Glen at the Portland Bird Observatory led to myself and Sean having a wander through the lovely Broadcroft Quarry (do you remember my fantastic visit last year?) in search of the Widow Iris aka the Snake’s Head Iris (Iris tuberosa). As well as being a lovely plant to look at, it was also rather fascinating to watch the bees as they landed on the flower and crawled deep into the funnel to feed. You can see in the second (slightly blurry) photo, that they get rather covered in pollen!

As mentioned, I saw my first Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) of the year at Portland Bird Observatory. What a stunning bird it is! It’s a male – you can tell because his cap is black whereas the female’s cap is red-brown in colour.

A very exciting lifer for me was seeing a Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus) – again from the terrace at PBO! It was not long before I needed to head off when Glen pointed it out. And not just one, but two! Fantastic! I’d heard Firecrest before, and seen their close relative the Goldcrest (Regulus regulus), but had never actually seen one so I was ecstatic!

On a short visit to Cambridgeshire, I kept an eye on the garden whilst baking (scones btw, they were delicious!). After having seen my first Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) in months only a few days previously, I was very pleasantly surprised to see another one so soon! More so because after a few attempts, I managed to get a decent photo of it despite (1) being at a distance, (2) taking the photo through a window, and (3) having obstacles in the way!

Not long after, I enjoyed viewing a female Blackbird (Turdus merula) atop the hedge. She was all fluffed up and evidently sunning herself – I don’t blame her! As the sun started to fade, there was an odd-looking bird in the garden. It was a Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus), but it seemed to have a deformity – a huge lump on the back of its neck – and possibly a bald head? It was hard to tell in the light, and the photo doesn’t help much. Has anyone else seen anything like this in Blue Tits? It didn’t seem to be too effected by its misfortune – it was feeding fine.

A number of new beasties

I gave myself the weekend off from blogging last weekend so there are two weeks to catch up on and it’s been a mixed lot! In the Lepidoptera world, I’ve caught some beautiful moths recently including a Powdered Quaker, Angle Shades and a Plume Moth.

Plume Moth, note the T-shaped wings

Plume Moth, note the T-shaped wings

I took the Angle Shades into work (moths are usually fairly happy to be in a bug pot for the day) to convert more people to the moth cause. Well, convert them into appreciating moths. It’s a fantastic example of how amazing moths can be – the way it holds its wings, the pattern, the colouring and the edges of its wing. And everyone was very impressed with it, although I shall continue improving peoples’ perceptions of moths of course (and other wildlife).

Angle Shades Moth - very distinctive!

Angle Shades Moth – very distinctive!

For the start of this week, my housemates and I did a lot of squealing as we found a slow worm in the garden!

Slow Worm

Slow Worm

Despite its name, it isn’t a worm. And despite its appearance, it isn’t a snake. It’s actually a lizard, albeit without the legs. Like other lizards, it is able to lose its tail and regrow it again. This is a neat little trick because if a predator catches its tail, it can just drop it and slither off into cover, and thus survive. The one that I saw in the garden did look like it might have had this occur and new growth was going back. However, I’ve not come across slow worms much so I’m not entirely sure about that.

Thursday saw the volunteers of the Chesil Centre heading up to the wonderful Portland Bird Observatory where the warden (Martin Cade) and assistant warden (Joe Stockwell) showed us how they do bird ringing up there.

Joe Stockwell (assistant warden) does some alfresco ringing

Joe Stockwell (assistant warden) does some alfresco ringing

Martin had also saved the moths from their moth traps (I believe they run four?!), which I was thrilled with – especially as two of them were new species to me, the Herald and the Red Sword-grass (the latter was caught over on the ‘mainland’ in Preston). I do believe that the volunteers are slowly being converted to appreciating moths, I’m sure my enthusiasm for them helps a lot.

Herald Moth - distinctive orange patches and edge of wings

Herald Moth – distinctive orange patches with white dots, and edges of wings

With the help of Sean Foote, I got two more Dorset species “ticked off” – a Little Ringed Plover and a Sanderling, both by the Chesil Centre with a larger group of Ringed Plover and Dunlin. The Little Ringed Plover does look a lot like a Ringed Plover (hence the name) but is quite a bit smaller (again, hence the name). It also has a distinctive yellow around its eye.

Little Ringed Plover, photo by Sean Foote.

Little Ringed Plover, photo by Sean Foote.

My Saturday afternoon was filled with a hunt for otters – unfortunately I didn’t find any (though there may be one nearby) but I did have a nice time outside in the (mostly) sunshine. I did come across an interesting bee as well, who as identified as an Ashy Mining Bee by @Bex_Cartwright. Fun fact: there are around 250 species of bee in the UK, 24 of the 250 are bumblebee species, 1 is a honeybee species and the remaining are solitary bees (like the Ashy Mining Bee). Pretty amazing stuff – 250!!!!

Unknown insect

Ashy Mining Bee

Apologies for the last couple of blog posts in terms of the quality of the photos – my camera is in for repair and I’m having to rely on my phone. Saying that though, they are pretty decent photos for a phone! Technology is pretty amazing!