Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hubble Bubble...

"Eye of newt, and toe of frog,

Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."

In the days before widely available electricity, those pioneering 19th century moth hunters had to resort to other means at their disposal. Many methods generally involved a lot of knowledge and field craft to find, eggs, larvae or pupae then rearing these through to the adult moth stage.

Catching the imago was quite tricky, by either 'dusking', not the nefarious activity of lurking in suburban car parks, but wandering, net in hand as the light fades to catch moths on the wing or by 'Sugaring'. Dusking was fine but in total darkness, a candle wasn't much use in attracting sought after specimens so bait was used. Things like red wine, beer slops and honey were all used. Moths of certain species naturally feed on nectar, tree sap and aphid honeydew, so this is a natural progression.

There are places in the New Forest where favoured sugaring sites left the patch on a tree for generations of moth collectors to return to, having been impregnated with many years worth of various sweety concoctions.

It is a much less used method nowadays, with the readily available MV light traps and portable generators on hand, but it cant be a bad thing to try some of the old ways. If for nothing else, it will hopefully increase the field knowledge of our familiar insects.

The way to do it is to make up a recipe along the lines of Macbeth's Witches, that will simulate fermenting fruit or sap and painting it in 2" strips on fence posts or trees along a line of about 50 mtrs and checking it regularly to pot up interesting customers. My brew is as follows -

1x Bottle of Brown Ale
1x Tin Golden Syrup or Treacle
1x Bag of Brown Sugar
4x Ripe Pears
1x Over ripe Banana.

All boiled and simmered together then cooled and stored in jars just like Ipin's marmalade until ready for use.

The other day I drained the beery solid mash from the pan and placed it in a plant pot tray in a south facing sunny spot below an old ash tree beside our garden. This pear and banana beer mash is like manna from heaven for the local wasp population, but it also attracted 4 Red Admirals and a Speckled Wood, then once it got dark, my first moth - a Svenssons Copper Underwing. A scarce moth in the garden... Not a lot but you have to start somewhere. My targets are Old Lady ( would be a first for me) and Red Underwing ( my only garden record was in 2009)...

The brew on the boil...

Three Red Admirals getting drunk...

One of the Copper Underwings, Svenssons is the most likely here...

Monday, August 28, 2017

Subbuteo II

On Thursday evening Jane, Bunty and me were walking along the coast road a few hundred metres out of our village when I looked back and saw a small falcon heading towards us. As this bit is often bird free and we were just out with Bunty, I had no binoculars ( school boy error there methinks). Luckily the raptor was flying steadily towards us, quite low, so I prepared myself to get as much on it as I could on a brief fly past. As it came along side, I was over the moon to see not the more likely Merlin, but a fresh juvenile Hobby!

It is early for juvvies but they are on the move soon after fledging sometimes so maybe this one hasn't come too far? They dont breed in Northumberland as far as I am aware? Some years back, on the day the Red necked Stint was at the Wansbeck Estuary, John and myself had a juvenile Hobby at Alnmouth, again flying south, so it can happen.

Our bird passed steadily and on south. It put up a flock of starlings that balled up, when it made a half hearted stoop at them, before continuing on its way. Only my second patch record in 8 years...

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


On Friday ADMc found a Spotted Crake on the Budge Fields at Druridge Pools. This is a big area of tall juncus with muddy patches in the middle, where birds as large as Spotted Redshank can go missing for hours on end, so I didnt bother going. The bird seemed to be typically elusive until Sunday where it began to get a bit more confident and fed out in the open so, as I had a couple of hours free time today, I popped along to try my luck. Lucky I was too, as I had only been in the hide for a couple of minutes when the bird swam out of a thick rush clump and back in. It then appeared on a muddy strip,walked into the water right in the open and began bathing and preening for a while.

Great little podgy creeping birds these, full of character as it sneaked past Snipe and Water Rail, making both look like large birds.

This is the first Spotted Crake Ive seen since the one found here by Steve Taylor in 2002 and is only my 5th ever.

After having my fill, then adding padders to the book such as 3 Ruff, 50 Dunlin, 2 Whimbrel S, Black Tailed Godwit and 1+ Water Rail, it was time to head back to the farm...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Digger Wasp

At the weekend I found this funny faced chap loitering around our sweet peas. It seemed to have a flight route around the border often returning to this leaf. Unusually for an insect of this type, it had a neck and even looked up at me when i took its photo! The massive eyes gave it a comical expression that I had not seen before.

A short sweep of the internet, found it to be a likely Ectemnius cephalotes, a Digger wasp that nests in dead logs or stumps. I have a pile of such nice habitat only a few feet from this fellows hunting path. It feeds on flies and hoverflies apparently.

A nice, medium sized wasp, a new one on me.

White Rumper

After work this evening I popped down to Druridge Budge Hide to look for the White-rumped Sandpiper that has been kicking around the bay over the last week.

It didnt take too long to relocate it feeding along the muddy edges of the field flashes. A nice cold grey little wader and quite easy to pick from the Dunlin once a clear view could be had. These used to be mega in the county but seem almost annual these days.

Also around the scrapes were 1 Little Stint, 40+ Dunlin, 2 Ruff, 1 Spotted Redshank, 50+ Black-tailed Godwit, 20+ Snipe, 2 Garganey and a male Marsh Harrier .

As the wind got up and the light dropped making the birds on the field into blackish silhouettes, it was time for tea. A good couple of hours out...

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Anti-social Media.

Once again I have found myself neglecting the blog. Usually I have some reason or another, been busy, other stuff to do etc but lately there is a more sinister reason for this lack of entries. Social Media. Or should I say, Anti-social Media. I spend probably hours gazing at digital imagery on the phone.

In 2006 when I began this blog, I did it as a diary rather than some form of written social statement. I was never going to push the boundaries of anything. Then, some years later,  came Twitter. I like Twitter, you can link with loads of like minded people who you don't know, but they become 'pen pals' if you like. News comes through as it happens, info is passed around and it is like reading a bespoke magazine just for you that never ends.

Remember that bit. It never ends.

When it came to Facebook, I always resisted the connection saying it was just frippery, boring stuff with endless pics of people's meals and cats, but my friend John was on it and not on Twitter so I joined to see what he was posting. So I could see his photos and stuff.

Then smart phones became ever more seductive. Info on the go, at anytime, at a press of a screen. No longer would you be out of touch with mates you'd not seen for ages or people who have moved abroad, no, its like they live next door, or even in the same house! You can join groups and get advice on things you know little about, you can troll those you disagree with too.

This is where all the time goes. I know it and most of you know it too. We hate it. We all think that this social media mullarkey is a right old pain in the arse so why is it so prevalent in our lives? I cant answer that one, but lately I have considered jacking them all in, but cant do it. What if I miss something? Not someones breakfast or cream tea but something important to me, like my nephew's school play or nice pics of the rare bird I have just been to see ( or dipped).

As I have mentioned earlier, this stuff never ends, that's what irritates. There is no escape or down time, because that too will drive you mad. Its like an addiction.

What is there to do about it?

I don't know. I'd like to trim it back and keep my blog updated more, at least that's more writing rather than throw away commenting. I think. I'd like to read books more rather than the inane sometimes aggravating comments on the small screen too.

If you read this, and are not too busy on your phone, leave me a comment, telling me what you do, or try to do with this bloody awful demon in our lives...

Normal service WILL be resumed!