May Mothing

   A delightful haul of 116 moths of 40 species from the traps last night at the reserve. 13 degrees celsius, cloudy and still conditions resulted in some good numbers recorded. Highlights from the evening included Eyed Hawk Moth and a new and striking micro for me in the form of a Nemophora degeerella.

Species List;

Silver Ground Carpet, Brimstone, 4 Scorched Wing, Poplar Kitten, Common White Wave, 2 Common Wave, Latticed Heath, 3 Poplar Hawk Moth, Eyed Hawk Moth, Iron Prominent, Epinotia bilunana, 9 Straw Dot, 2 Coxcomb Prominent, 2 Pebble Hook-tip, 5 Mottled Rustic, 3 Engrailed, 7 Common Swift, 3 Small Angle Shades, 4 Flame Shoulder, 9 Brown Rustic, 5 Clouded Border, 2 Barred Fruit Tree Tortrix, 13 Buff Ermine, Heart and Dart, 5 White Ermine, 2 Middle Barred Minor, The Flame, Marbled Minor agg, Light Brown Apple Moth, 4 Green Carpet, Scalloped Hazel, 4 Peppered Moth, Treble Bar, 4 Swallow Prominent, May Highflyer, Common Pug, 5 Marbled White Spot, Nemophora degeerella, Dark Swordgrass, Obscure Wainscot.




Mothing On A Budget (Pt.2)

   So last month I promised to return with more details about manufacturing your own moth trap and here we are. It’s not difficult, just basic skills required. Any difficulties, just comment below. We also trapped at Ladywalk on Sunday night, results below.
   Firstly then, I use a large container with a flat lid (1), that’s important as an uneven lid won’t allow the funnel to work effectively. Use a 10 inch funnel and cut most of the long bit off (2). Then make a hole in the lid using a jig or keyhole saw so the funnel fits snugly. Shape the Perspex to fit the funnel inside and notch them top and bottom so they fit together (3&4). The bulb is a screw fit E27 (5&6) so you need a ceramic or plastic fitting for this, I prefer plastic (7). Fix a small Perspex disc to the ceramic or plastic fitting (8) which protects the electrics and rests securely on top of the Perspex vanes. Wire it up with a normal 13 amp plug and away you go. I am hoping that the photos illustrate what I am trying to say 😀 You don’t need chokes or ballast (whatever that is) but in a very short time you have a moth trap that will work.
   It’s a nice little project to work on for a couple of hours and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. It only uses 23 watts so its much cheaper than running a 125mv bulb and if you are a beginner or just wanting to sus out the level of your interest you won’t be disappointed.
   Finally a bonus point. Using an inverter like the one pictured (9) this light trap will run all night from a car battery. No need for a generator or the accompanying noise just a well charged car battery. All done (10).
   I take my moth trap everywhere (much to my wife’s delight) and all you need is your car battery charger. Hope this helps someone to get started. You never know what’s going to show!
Ladywalk Mothing
   Not much showed at Ladywalk this morning, a bit breezier and cooler than we thought it was going to be, resulting in only 14 moths of 7 species. Though the first hawk moth of the year was amongst them! What a stunner!
Iron Prominent 1, Clouded Border 4, May Highflyer 1, Poplar Hawk Moth 1, Pebble Prominent 1, Flame Shoulder 4, White Ermine 2.

May All Dayer

   A little bit late, but just thought we’d document the full list of Ladywalk species for the all dayer. Fun was had by all though it wasn’t much fun getting up at 4am as a few hardy souls did.  Though it was worth the effort as 3 owl species were our reward; Barn Owl floating over the meadows over Whitacre, Tawny’s calling from the woods and a surprise in the form of a Little Owl calling behind Riverwalk. I slept over in B Hide and was ready for the dawn chorus but to be honest I’m not sure some of them stopped at all from dusk to dawn, the Reed Warblers and Cuckoos singing incessantly. A Grasshopper Warbler reeled briefly from the scrub around the reedbed at dawn whilst Pete in Riverwalk Hide counted an amazing total of 18 roosting Goosanders, which I believe beat any count over the whole winter (I think). Rather annoyingly for me Pete also had an Otter swim from the main reedbed, all the way across the pool and rest briefly on an island, incredibly his 3rd sighting this year after a couple of blank decades!

   As light dawned it was clear this was going to a be a wader day in the valley, with Greenshank and 3 Dunlin early on, which is good for Ladywalk but we feared what Middleton were seeing! Team Ladywalk gathered for our breakfast, sausage and bacon butties in Riverwalk Hide and agonised over the enormous lists being posted on twitter. We were never going to gather as many wader species as other sites but we can hold our own in other areas. Slowly we crept to 90 but by 4pm we were worn out. Pete scraped together 3 species at the death including Ringed Plover (1 not 18) and Yellowhammer to reach a respectable 93 species and equal last springs total, so we were satisfied.

   As always some species pass you by, this year the Shoveler had deserted us as well as Common Tern and Red-legged Partridge but you can’t get them all. The Shoveler and Red-legged Partridge though made an appearance on Monday to taunt us. Thanks go to Team Ladywalk members; Pete S, Pete L, Ken, Steve, Kev, Mick, John and Ben and all others who chipped in during the day. Looking forward to September.

Species List;

Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine, Pheasant, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon), Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Swift, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Cetti’s Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Crow, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, 2 other species of conservation concern.

93 species in total

Maybe In May?

   When asked to do something for the new blog about “Birds to look out for in May”, I immediately cast my mind back to some of the highs and inevitable lows of connecting or not with the few scarcities which come our way here in the West Midlands. The following are just a few of the records that come to mind.

   May is certainly up there with the best and for that reason it is the chosen month for the full day bird count or “Bird Race” and, after taking part in so many, I can recollect some great birds and completely unexpected records. We once agreed to meet at 2am at the entrance to Brandon Marsh and as each of us arrived we were greeted by a very loud and close Nightingale; I guess it was all downhill from there but that few minutes sums up what May can be like.

   In terms of Ladywalk, I can’t recall too many such surprises. One, however, came in the form of one of the latest additions to many a County List, when on May 21st in 2012, John Alton, working as usual, disturbed a roosting Nightjar. Thankfully it perched up again and scores of happy people saw it later.

   Away from Ladywalk, but still involving species which could turn up there, there have been many great birds in May. Sadly we must go right back for the best of the bunch as in recent years, county species deemed “Rare or Scarce” have been few and far between, the last being a Spotted Sandpiper at Draycote Res on May 7th 2014.

   Waders have always been a draw for Midlands’s birders and some easterly airflows and drizzle is the best weather to connect with the better numbers. Some fine records have come from the Tame Valley, perhaps the best being a Least Sandpiper in 2002 at Middleton RSPB. Temminck’s Stints are generally May birds, with a few in June; my earliest date for them was the 11th at Coton Lakes. Not likely to be repeated in a hurry are the two Tame Valley Kentish Plovers; firstly across the canal from Broomey Croft, Kingsbury Water Park (KWP) on the 14th in 1977 and three years later at Coton Lake on the 3rd. Another of the best May arrivals, when they were pretty rare too, was the pair of Black-winged Stilts which arrived at Alvecote Pools on the 28th in 1987. I also have a note of two Collared Pratincoles in the West Mids area; one at Bredon’s Hardwick on 4th in 1994 and one at Draycote on 12th in 1996.


Black-winged Stilt (Pete Lichfield)

   Some of the other highlights and perhaps more likely to be repeated at Ladywalk have included Ring-necked Duck at KWP in 1979, Spoonbill at Dosthill Lake in 1996, a cracking early morning Golden Oriole at Middleton Hall in 1994, and the following at KWP; a Whiskered Tern in 1987, a Night Heron in 1995 and a Gull-billed Tern in 2006.

Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern (Pete Lichfield) 

   Away from the Tame Valley I will close on two particularly painful records, both unable to feature on my Warwickshire List. A Black-headed Bunting which came to a peanut feeder in a closely guarded Nuneaton garden on May 19th 2006 and a big time-waster at Brandon Marsh, a Great Reed Warbler which refused to sing during eight hours of my life between May 6th – 9th 2005.

   So, take your pick and set some targets. I recommend the last-mentioned and please make it nice and simple. You have my number; I’ll pay for the call.

Steve Haynes