Sightings


Newt Larvae News

Newt larva, approx 3cm, in shallow water

The pond with the newt larvae mentioned in the post of 25 June has shrunk to a miserable puddle 2 foot across.

Shrunken pond

As the water level descended I have been watching the newt larvae becoming bigger, coming up vertically to gulp for air in the fashion of adult newts. These larger ones are no longer visible. However, there are still some very small ones with external gills and feeble little legs that I am certain would be incapable of terrestrial life.

Will they survive in the mud? I’ve seen no dead newts, but what about predators? A week ago there were many diving beetles in the pond. This morning I saw a mole pushing its way round the soft earth of the perimeter. It appeared briefly from the tunnel, its fur patched with wet black gloop, before scuttling back off along the new tunnels. Are these newt predators?

Diving beetles taking air


Hornet Moth time

Hornet Moths (Sesia apiformis) are emerging from poplars in Standish. They spend several years as larvae feeding on the wood and roots of the tree, emerging often by burrowing out at the base of the trunk, so you can see signs at any time of year by looking for the exit holes which are about the size of the thickness of a pencil.

Copulating pair with crayon for scale

Old exit holes in base of poplar trunk with crayon for scale

Habitat. Poplar trees in garden


Ashleworth Ham CES Visits 2, 3, 4, 2018

These three visits took place on 18th May, 28th May and 7th June. Visit 2 on the 18th was a quiet visit, with 31 birds caught which is exactly on the average for this visit. It is always a quiet visit, with the adult birds getting on with the business of breeding, territories have been sorted out, females are laying or sitting, so there is little movement. All the regular migrants were caught, and probably the most notable thing about the visit was the catching of six linnets, of which two were re-traps from previous years.

Visit three on 28th May was a day with ideal weather conditions, still and overcast, but despite this we recorded a well below average catch of 24 birds. It was notable in that no Redd Buntings or Willow Warblers were caught, and only one Whitethroat. All the Sedge Warblers caught were re-traps, so it looks as though there have been no new arrivals recently.

Visit four on the 7th June, was another good weather morning, with plenty of cloud and only a gentle breeze. The grass is now long, and it took only a few paces into the fields for us to be soaked.  The bird song by now is much reduced, but the bubbling calls of curlew, which are an ever-present feature of the early visits continued.  Male redstarts being an exception and singing well.

It is usually on visits three or four that the first juveniles are caught. With the Spring that we have had, it was no surprise not to catch any juveniles on visit three, but it was nice to find that there has been some successful breeding, as the first youngsters were caught on this visit. Four species of resident bird provided the newly fledged birds, in the form of Blue Tits, a Blackbird, Chaffinch and a Robin. Any time soon we should get some juvenile Song Thrushes, because we have had the best year ever for adult Song Thrushes with eight new birds ringed and a couple of re-traps. Unfortunately, the one Song Thrush nest found was predated before the young could be ringed and fledge. Two Carrion Crow nests along the reserve boundary have been successful with visible young in each of them.

As would be expected, all the female birds caught on the last two visits have had brood patches that indicate they are sitting on eggs.  A female Grasshopper Warbler was caught with an incubating brood patch, so they are here this year, trying to breed, despite the fact that we thought there weren’t any, as we have not heard a singing male on any visit.

Cuckoos have been very active around the site, with up to two males seen regularly, and a female heard on several occasions.

Botanically, the fields are in their prime, with lots of Yellow Iris providing splashes of colour, and the meadow sweet, the Oenanthe and the great Burnet all flowering now.


House Martins

House Martins have been here for many years and I’m pleased to say that there are even more this year, building nests in at least two of the eaves of neighbouring houses.  Stonehills, Tewkesbury, GL20 5FG.  Two terrible photos attached.  I’m afraid that I don’t have a proper camera and they move too fast!

 


Ashleworth Ham CES Visit – April 2018

After a delay caused by the spring flood, the first visits to set up the ringing site have been made. Access was only possible wearing waders, and on Friday afternoon, waders were necessary to get into some of the net lanes. Today however, the water had subsided sufficiently, to make waders only necessary to get across to the ringing site. Once there, wellingtons were sufficient.

The customary greeting from across the ham of a curlew calling was made, and throughout the morning bubbling calls were heard, and at one point three birds came into the reserve. With much flood water still around waterfowl were present in reasonable numbers, a flock of twelve mute swans were on the flooded fields, along with Canada geese, greylag geese, mallard, shelduck and a few teal. Three grey herons and two little egrets were patrolling the edges of the flood. A pair of lapwing, that were no doubt hoping to breed were displaying over the flooded front field.

The late spring, with cold weather, then a flood, has led to the summer migrants arriving late, and although a few were caught, numbers were low, and only a few birds were singing. Willow warblers were the most noticeable, and a chiff chaff was also singing. A couple of bursts of Sedge warbler song were heard, a single whitethroat and late in the morning after it had warmed up two lesser whitethroats became very vocal. All around the reserve Skylarks were singing strongly, and a blackbird sang briefly. A few reed buntings were caught, but none were in breeding condition, and none were heard singing. One of the willow warblers caught had a ring on, that was not from Ashleworth, so where it came from will be reported later.

On the way out, at the end of the session, the remains of an otter’s dinner were found on the sluice gate bridge, along with lots of footprints and a fresh spraint alongside some old spraints. The bream and a carp had been brought to the bridge to eat, presumably caught in the flood water as it dropped. A number of large carp had been observed Friday afternoon swimming in the flood water, and presumably become easy prey as the water drops. Elsewhere across the ham a large flock of gulls could be seen, also feeding from the spoils of the flood. Back at the car in “dirty lane” two roe deer were observed for a while grazing in one of the new fields.

Birds trapped: Blackbird 1, Blue tit 3, Reed Bunting 3, Sedge warbler 2, Willow Warbler 2, Blackcap 1, Bullfinch 1, Chaffinch 1.

Birds seen: Mute Swan 12, Canada Goose 9, Greylag Goose 2, Grey heron 3, Mallard 16, Teal 4, Coot 5, Moorhen 1, Little egret 2, Skylark, Blue tit, Great tit, Blackbird, Song thrush, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Sedge Warbler, Chiff Chaff 1, Willow Warbler 2, Whitethroat 1, Lesser Whitethroat 2, Reed Bunting, Linnet, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Carrion Crow, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Kestrel, Buzzard, Curlew 3, Lapwing 2 , Oystercatcher 2, Woodpigeon.


A possible flower association of Ferdinandea cuprea

This note was written for the national Hoverfly Newsletter and has been published in the autumn 2017 edition issued by the Dipterists’ Forum. It may interest some other naturalists too.

On 19 August 2017 I visited a large woodland site in the Cotswolds. The weather was cool and there had been rain during the night; the grass was still wet in the lower and more shaded rides. As there was very little insect activity I decided that I would spend some time photographing the Naked Ladies which were a conspicuous and colourful feature of the scenery. By Naked Ladies, of course, I mean the flowers of Colchicum autumnale, also known as Meadow Saffron.

My eye was soon caught by an unusually downward facing flower within which there seemed to be some activity going on. I found that there was a female Ferdinandea cuprea moving around inside the base of the inverted flower. The hoverfly may have been foraging for nectar or pollen but as the surroundings were devoid of flying insects, and because of the hesitant way it began to emerge from the flower on my approach, I formed the impression that it might have been sheltering under the tent of petals for some time.

The day warmed up later, but not very much, and the few flowering plants in the woodland continued to attract almost no hoverflies. I had walked some distance from my first sighting of F. cuprea when I spotted a particularly shapely group of Naked Ladies and decided to take their photograph. While I was getting into position I became aware that a fly of some kind was coming into view and was clearly moving towards the same flowers. I quickly took my shot, hoping that the fly might add some interest to the image. Fortunately, the fly came out almost as well-focused as the flowers, and is clearly again a female F. cuprea. On this occasion the hoverfly did not land on the flower; it apparently detected my presence, changed course and flew away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These two separate sightings of F. cuprea with C. autumnale may be a random coincidence. However, as I am not aware of any reported association between this flower and any species of hoverfly, the observation may be of some interest. In Hoverflies of Surrey (Surrey Wildlife Trust, 1998) Roger Morris does not include C. autumnale either in the extensive list of flowers visited by hoverflies (Appendix 2) or among those mentioned in his account of F. cuprea.


Coombe Hill and Cobney Meadows on 21 October

Little sign of any rise in water levels in the Severn Vale: at the GWT reserve at Coombe Hill, the north scrape was till dry, there was just a small puddle in the south scrape, but still shallow water on the Long Pool (the only place where water has lasted throughout the summer). Some hay late had recently been cut on neighbouring fields – a sign of just how dry the conditions are. Storm Brian didn’t succeed in blowing the Grundon Hide away, but made it hard to see songbirds, which stayed in thick vegetation. 

The colour-ringed pair of Mute Swans that had nested locally were still present, with their eight full grown cygnets; at least 260 Greylag Geese grazing, eight Canada Geese, one very striking Canada x white Farmyard Goose hybrid, four Wigeon (the first of the winter here), 160 Teal, eight Shovelers, 11 Grey Herons, a single Green Sandpiper left; 6 Redwings flew over to the southwest (also the first  of the winter).

 At Cobney Meadows, not much water left on the flight pond either: 1 Sparrowhawk hunting, 1 Buzzard; a single Snipe on the old Parish Drain.

 


Black nightshade in maize stubble

Fodder maize in a Standish field was harvested during the week. Gulls and woodpigeons are feasting on the dropped cobs. I’ve taken the opportunity to check the weed flora hoping to find some unusual alien plants, but the ground is overwhelmingly dominated by Black Nightshade, Solanum nigrum, which is also common in my garden. It is a member of the potato family, and has small starry white flowers and round fruit that turn from green to black without going through a red stage (unlike Woody Nightshade, Solanum dulcamara, that has purple flowers and fruit that go from green to yellow to red.)