Categories
Nature

Moths and meteorites

With National Moth Night and the Perseids, it should have been a good weekend for night-time stuff.

I didn’t have a lot of luck on either front. Really of course you need a moth trap to count moths effectively. I had a go at treacling—spreading a mix of treacle, brown sugar and rum on tree trunks to attract the moths—but nothing came. In the end my total count was three species; Jersey Tiger, seen earlier in the day, a Marbled Beauty attracted to the porch light, and a Double-striped Pug which came into my bedroom. Still, Jersey Tiger was one of the target species for NMN this year, so that’s good.

One thing becomes apparent walking around the garden at night; lots and lots of slugs.

leopard slugs

And here’s some hot slug-on-slug action.

slug sex

I didn’t try very hard with the meteorites, I must admit. And didn’t see any. But little white flashes of light appearing in the sky because the orbit of our planet is rolling through the dust trail of a long-gone comet seems like a good enough reason to post this:

Categories
Nature

Exciting moth news!

The moth in this picture isn’t particularly exciting, it’s just a rather scruffy Pyrausta aurata, sometimes called the mint moth. Mint is one of their foodplants, but so are its relatives like the oregano (or is that marjoram?) in the picture:

mint moth

I didn’t get a picture of my exciting moth, which was a Jersey Tiger. Exciting not just because it’s a spectacular species, but because as far as I knew, in the UK it’s only confined to Devon. Which would make mine a rare vagrant. Anyway, a quick bit of Google reveals that a couple of years ago, the big news among the UK moth community was the discovery of a colony of Jersey Tigers in south London. No-one’s sure if they got here under their own steam or if someone accidentally introduced them; either way it makes my sighting slightly less remarkable. Still neat though.

Categories
Nature

Some local insects

Earlier in the season, most of the damselflies were blue ones; now they’re all blue-tailed:

This bit of south London is, slightly unexpectedly, a stronghold for the increasingly rare stag beetle. At this time of year you tend to see them flying overhead in the evening; but the weather has been so miserable that I haven’t really been outside much in the evenings. I did see one crawling across the pavement a couple of days ago, though. This, however, is not that species; it’s the more common lesser stag beetle, which is not nearly as big, and even the males don’t have antlers.

This is a hoverfly. Like most hoverflies, it’s a wasp mimic; they nearly all have black and yellow stripes, but they don’t sting. This is more spectacular than most, though; the large size and brownish colour are its attempt to look like a hornet. I think it does quite a good job, although looking at it closely like this it’s obviously a species of fly. We don’t actually have any hornets around here—I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one in the UK, although they do live here—so I don’t know how effective the mimicry is.

And here’s a holly blue. You can see the abdomen curled around on the ivy; presumably it’s laying eggs. It’s lives on the holly and the ivy, which is very Christmassy of it.

Categories
Nature

Butterflies

There’s a peacock butterfly flying around outside the front of the house this morning in pretty much exactly the same place it was yesterday. Buterflies tend to be used as the epitome of aimless, carefree wandering, so it might come as a surprise to a lot of people to know that they are often highly territorial. If you ever play badminton near a Large White, you’ll see it aggressively chasing the shuttlecock.

I nearly wrote ‘if you ever play badminton near a Great White’, which really would be an extreme sport.

Categories
Nature

Wildlife round-up

I was pruning back a rosemary bush to get rid of what I vaguely thought were frost damaged leaves left over from winter, so I’d have some less manky rosemary to cook with, and found these:

rosemary leaf beetles shagging

Which I immediately recognised from a photo in the London Wildlife Trust newsletter, though I couldn’t remember what they were called. It turns out they’re Chrysolina americana, the Rosemary Leaf Beetle.

Pretty, aren’t they? Something I’d be much more enthusiastic about if the little bastards weren’t eating the rosemary that I want to eat. Apparently they’re native to southern Europe and can’t fly, but have become an established pest in England, especially London, over the past ten years. No doubt they got here on rosemary and lavender plants (which they also eat) and I guess they must crawl from plant to plant, guided perhaps by their sense of smell. The suggestion is that they’ve only become established over the past decade because global warming has brought milder winters, so they’re a harbinger of doom as well as a pest. Here’s one of the grubs, and a rare shot of part of my hand:

rosemary leaf beetle grub

You can also see some of the damage, though it was a lot worse than that on other parts of the plant.

More evidence of spring, apart from the randy beetles: I’m up to four butterfly species for the year (Small White, Brimstone, Peacock and Comma). On the bird front, I saw my first summer visitors of the year last week; Chiffchaffs singing in the woods. Although according to that page, a few hundred of them now overwinter each year in southern England—probably another sign of global warming—so perhaps the ones I saw haven’t come from Africa after all.

There are ducklings and cootlings in the park, and a pair of Little Grebes—a contender for the cutest bird in Europe— haphazardly dragging around bits of weed as though they were about to build a nest. Which is exciting because it’s the first time I’ve seen them there. My sense is that they are becoming more common in London; certainly in my copy of the Atlas of Breeding Birds of the London Area from 1977, the Little Grebe map doesn’t have many orange blobs on it. That, at least, probably isn’t anything to do with climate change. More likely the grebes are adapting to city life.

Categories
Nature Other

First Annual Blogger Bioblitz

blogger bioblitz buttonJust a heads-up for anyone who’s interested: the First Annual Blogger Bioblitz, ‘where bloggers from across the country will choose a wild or not-so-wild area and find how many of each different species – plant, animal, fungi and anything in between – live in a certain area within a certain time’ will be run from April 21-29.

You can read the annnouncement here, and they’ve set up a discussion group on Google Groups here.

I’m thinking of participating but some kind of weird bug in Google Groups means I haven’t registered yet. I’m going to be in Crete at the time, and I’ll be taking a bird guide (obviously!) as well as a guide to the wild flowers of Crete, but I won’t be able to do any insects or fungi or anything. I’m a little intimidated by the expertise of most of the people taking part, but on the basis that it’s an exercise in mass-participation rather than a rigorous scientific study, I thought I’d do what I could.