Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Barn owl (Tyto alba L.) ..

Our first barn owl seen from the back garden, quartering the arable fields and hedgerows of White Dirt Farm. Four years, we have been watching these fields - and our first encounter with this beautiful creature.

No apologies for the quality of the digi-scoped image. I'm just happy to have got the record shot!

Friday, 12 June 2020

.. "Well, hurry on sundown .. "

"Well, hurry on sundown
See what tomorrow brings
Hurry on sundown
See what tomorrow brings .."

Brock, D. 1970

With the addition to the wildlife tool-kit of an ALS Mains 20w Compact Skinner Trap purchased from Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies we have been spending some time focusing on the garden's nightlife.

Perhaps unsurprisingly? .. the initial highlights from using a proper moth-trap (compared to the informal use of porch-light, and bathroom light), has been our introduction to the larger moth species in the family Sphingidae - the Hawk-moths.

Previous garden records of hawk-moth are scarce comprising only a handful of sightings of the day-flying Humming-bird hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum), nectaring on red valerian (Centranthus ruber), and a dead Privet hawk-moth (Sphinx ligustri) found lying in a state of advanced decay on the back lawn.

Privet hawk-moth (deceased) May 2018

Thrilling then to find two hawk-moth species alive and kicking on our first garden trap run. The two Small elephant hawk-moth (Deilephila porcellus) were the most obvious, being bright jewels roosting towards the top of the trap. One of them was sufficiently awake to make a hasty escape as the trap was opened - flying to cover beneath the large bindweed (Calystegia silvatica) growing in "Compost Corner".

Small elephant hawk-moth

The Privet hawk-moth also present was initially overlooked as we cleared the egg boxes on one side of the trap, but once spotted at the bottom of the trap - we temporarily abandoned the processing of the other moths to engage with it.

Privet hawk-moth and Agrotis exclamationis

Over this last couple of weeks we have added two more hawk-moth species to the garden list: Poplar hawk-moth (Laothoe populi) and Elephant hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor). The latter arrived on a particularly notable Hawk-night, when the trap contained four Small elephant hawk moth, and two Privet hawk-moth as well.

Poplar hawk-moth

Elephant hawk-moth (R) Small elephant hawk-moth (L)

i2i with a Privet hawk-moth

It would be a missed opportunity not to book-end this piece with an anecdote about Hawkwind when they played at G-Live Guildford on the 25th November 2019.

During the Blackheart Orchestra's opening set - R and I took advantage of a quiet bar to catch up over a couple of draught pints of Beavertown's Neck Oil. We got talking to a member of the venue's security team. The garrulous guard tipped us off about a "secret" Special Guest appearance from a "local celebrity guitarist", who would be playing the event with Hawkwind.

Later, when Dave Brock welcomed Eric Clapton onto the stage, R and I were both - unlike the rest of the audience - completely unsurprised - but like them, absolutely over the moon!