Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A walk on the heath

I'm currently on leave for 3 weeks in between jobs and will be using that time to catch up on jobs around the house plus a huge amount of gardening. However, this morning I decided to pay a visit to somewhere that I'd never visited before.

Cavenham Heath is part of the Brecks. Much of that habitat has now been lost so Cavenham is a remnant of that particular habitat of heathland and acid grassland. It is an important site and is designated a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The heath is next to the River Lark where it becomes wet grassland and fen and is surrounded by Birch woodland. It is managed by Natural England.

Late September probably isn't the best time to visit although there are apparently post-breeding flocks of Stone Curlews. Needless to say I didn't see these. I did see Green Woodpecker, Tree Pipit and loads of corvids.

The walk was very pleasant in the sunshine with a few insects venturing out into the cooling breeze. Lots of Common Darters were about including this female.

A Small Copper plus the odd Large White were seen flitting about on the track edges.

This Devil's Coach horse beetle was seen examining an over ripe dog turd, off which there were many (turds not beetles). Dog walkers that leave their pet's produce on the ground (or in little bags hanging from trees) really piss me off. Not only is it a walking hazard but I guess it also adds nutrients to areas that may not traditionally have many.

Roesel's Bush-crickets were apparent from their low soft sung in patches of longer grass. I've been noticing this song at several places recently.

I saw a couple of these sand wasps in the sandy edges to the tracks. Given I was in the Brecks this is most likely to be Kirby's Sand Wasp Podalonia affinis although hirsuta is a remote possibility.

On my way back to the car I noticed a late Volucella zonaria flying around a young oak and managed a few shots before it flew off. Always nice to see and I'm always amazed at what a whopper these are.

Monday, September 28, 2015

I am a cider beetle.....

This weekend's Indian summer weather had me out in the garden collecting apples and then processing and pressing them for juice and cider. It's something we do each autumn and I've managed to produce some extremely drinkable cider that will be drunk around christmas time. Although I might need some help with this year's 50+ pints.

I was disposing of a whole load of pressed apples at the composting bin when an unfamiliar beetle flew in and landed nearby, apparently attracted by the strong scent of apple.

It's the sap beetle Glischrochilus hortensis, one of three species of Glischrochilus beetles found in the UK. These are small beetles (around 5mm in length) which feed on sap and ripe fruit.

I potted and papped it and then let it go on its way. An unexpected and welcome addition to my beetle list.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A new hover...

...for me.

And it's a really common one. But to be fair this year is the first that I've really paid attention to them.

This little beauty is Rhingia campestris and is a fairly distinctive beast. With its long snout it's really only confusable with R. rostrata. The more orange abdomen, dark central line and lateral margins mean this is campestris.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Undiscovered Owls – a Sound Approach Guide

If I’m honest I’ve never had much luck with owls. Wherever I go in the world you can bet that I usually miss out on seeing even the common ones. Despite this constant needle in my side, I am rather fond of them, as I suspect are many birders around the world and they always brighten up a day or enhance a night out birding.

As a big fan of the Sound Approach series of books and e-books I was naturally excited when a review copy of this book landed with a thud on my desk. Beautifully produced and accompanied by four CDs the book looks and feels as good as its predecessors.

Led by expert sound-recordist Magnus Robb, the Sound Approach team have travelled the length and breadth of the Western Palearctic listening and recording owls in their natural habitats and using both physical and morphological differences as well as vocalisation differences have proposed potential undiscovered owl forms within the region.

In just under 300 pages and nine chapters, the book adopts a rather liberal taxonomy, recognising 27 species. For example, Barn Owl is split into four species (Common, Slender-billed, Madeiran & Cape Verde).

There’s a great deal of information in each chapter and includes some superb photography, as well as lots of sonograms to illustrate the points being made. The text is extremely readable and the reader gets a real sense of the adventures (and frustrations) the team must have had in getting all these recordings.

I’ve already spent many evenings with this book and the accompanying CDs and there is still much more to learn and enjoy. I only wish all books gave me as much pleasure.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

It's just not cricket...

...well that's not quite true.

I still need to write a post on all the rockpooling we did in Dorset/Devon but for now I will have to satisfy myself with a quickie on orthopterans - grasshoppers and crickets. (Mainly inspired by the new iPhone app for iRecord. Check it out. They've done a great job with it.)

Saw a fair few over the fortnight and I think two were new for me. A bit difficult to tell as I only recently started keeping records of these.

First up a Meadow Grasshopper showing itself nicely on my son's t-shirt. These were everywhere. On the cliff tops and fields.

I went looking for Cepero's Ground-hopper but drew a blank and only managed to find Common Ground-hopper

Field Grasshopper were another commonly encountered species and this one was particularly easy to get close to.

And now for the two ticks. First one was Bog Bush-cricket. Not in a bog but in a field although to be fair it was next to some heath that probably had some damper areas. The second new one was Great Green Bush-cricket that managed to show itself by landing on my son before posing for photos.

The one dip of the trip was Scaly Cricket. I searched at Branscombe and Chesil Beach, to no avail although did bizarrely find a shed skin. I will return next year with pitfall traps......