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.

BlWingSilt

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

Mothing On A Budget

   It has always baffled me why folks spend three to four hundred pounds on a moth trap, when in reality it’s a plastic tub with a light on top! While the state of the art, all singing and dancing moth trap may look the part, in my experience I have found the moths to be less discerning. Just check your porch light or leave the bathroom window open one night with the light on. Light is the attraction and retaining the moths is the key to success.

   I have experimented with various methods, scouring the internet for ideas, adopting some and rejecting others but truthfully you can DIY a moth trap for £50. I live on a council estate surrounded by houses and blocks of flats but have still managed to record over 400 species in my back garden. Many dull and uninteresting but many stunning and fascinating. To think as we lie in our beds, the sky around us is alive with activity! If you have the slightest interest in the wonderful world around us, mothing opens up another incredible  avenue of observing life.

Moth trap shopping list;

  • Plastic storage tub with clip down lid – B&Q £20
  • Funnel – Bigger Jugs £10
  • Light fittings – Any electrical shop £5
  • Arcadia 23w 10% UV reptile bulb – Pet shops
  • Perspex vanes (to support bulb above box) – free offcuts from a sign shop

   Next month when I’m more organised I’ll write a method with photos on how to construct your moth trap. It’s not difficult and you’ll soon be trapping away in your garden. If anyone requires more detail, I’d be happy to answer your queries. Email me at eatondavid53@gmail.com.

   Back to Ladywalk then and another good night of trapping on Friday, looking through the catch early Saturday morning. Conditions overnight were a bit breezy, with cloud cover and 7 degrees celsius. We set up the two traps in the usual positions. Numbers were down from last month but a new suite of species were enjoyed, a nice variety. Highlight was probably the Chocolate-tip, so beautiful. A couple of moths went unidentified or at least unsure, so if anyone can help with id, just comment below.

Species List;

Clouded Border 2, Iron Prominent 4, Chocolate-tip 1, Flame Carpet 1, Hebrew Character 3, Ruddy Streak 1, Pale Pinion 1, Red-green Carpet 1, Coxcomb Prominent 1, Common Pug 2, Light Brown Apple Moth 2, Brindled Beauty 2, Common Quaker 2, Clouded Drab 5, Flame Shoulder 1, Pug sp. 2, Micro sp. 1.

David Eaton

April WeBS Day

   Ladywalk was a noisy place to be today (Sunday 9th). Through the newly leaved trees we could hear the endless squawking of a what sounded like an enormous flock of gulls and the unusual sounds of the Cormorants sitting on their nests. A few of the nests are now occupied with very ugly chicks, all panting away due to the summer-like heat. The enormous flock turned out to be just 253 Black-headed Gulls (there had 500 the previous day) but in amongst them on the recently cleared island, stood 2 handsome adult summer Med Gulls! Present when I arrived but they didn’t stay for long though, disappearing at about 10:15 with other gulls. Quite a rarity for Ladywalk really.

   As far as waders go, Lapwing numbers were up to 13 with 10 on the islands and marsh at Main Pool, 2 on B and unusually 1 on the river island. They seem a little undecided on where to make their homes at the moment, with nesting scrapes being made in front of Riverwalk Hide and then abandoned. 3 Little Ringed Plovers were moving around whilst 3 Redshanks were vocal on Main Pool with a bit of displaying going on. The pair of Oystercatchers look settled and at least 1 Snipe lurked between the islands.

   A single Swallow skimmed around B pools whilst 20+ Sand Martins were checking out the riverbank behind Bittern Hide. Lovely to hear so many Willow Warblers around plus a few Blackcaps but no sign of any Whitethroats yet and the reedbeds remain quiet.

WeBS List;

   Mute Swan 12, Greylag Goose 5, Canada Goose 62, Shelduck 3, Mallard 48, Gadwall 40, Shoveler 13, Teal 25, Tufted Duck 79, Goosander 5, Little Grebe 6, Great Crested Grebe 6, Cormorant 69, Little Egret 1, Grey Heron 2, Moorhen 13, Coot 32, Oystercatcher 2, Little Ringed Plover 3, Lapwing 13, Redshank 3, Snipe 1, Black-headed Gull 253, Mediterranean Gull 2, Lesser Black-backed Gull 3.

   Pete Lichfield remarked that there were more butterflies around yesterday than birds and there certainly was a good showing. Orange-tips and Brimstones were everywhere, both well into double figures. They were as usual reluctant to settle, racing round the reserve though a few Orange-tips were enjoying the large patch of Lady’s Smock in the woodland ride to the left of the wood yard. Several Commas and Small Tortoiseshells were about too with smaller numbers of Peacock, Speckled Wood and Large White.

IMG_0927

Male Orange-tip on Lady’s Smock or Cuckoo flower (so called as it usually appears with the arrival of the first Cuckoo).

   Finally, we’d just like to tell you about the upcoming spring all day birding event on Saturday 6th May. Groups at well known birding sites around the midlands will be making an effort to record as many species as possible at their sites during those 24 hours. Birding in early May brings the chance of exciting migrants passing through and with all sites covered it makes sure that nothing is missed as well as being a bit of friendly competition as to who can record the most species! Ladywalk came out on top last spring I think but got smashed by Middleton Lakes in the autumn. So we’ll see what happens and enjoy it whatever. Ladywalk has a small team but all are welcome to come and add a pair of watchful eyes at any point in the day to contribute as we can’t be everywhere at once. If the weather is warm overnight moth traps will be set up the previous evening so there will something else to look at as well. Hope you can make it.

Mothing & Muntjacs

   Moth recording at Ladywalk appears to have always been a bit hit and miss. A lot of the trapping has occurred in the summer months, meaning an area of Ladywalk’s fauna is perhaps incomplete. There are records for the years 05,07,10 on the records page of this blog, totalling 349 species. A few more years records I think are floating around but I’m sure we can add to this list and get a fuller picture of the moth life at Ladywalk.

   So from this month onward David Eaton will be trapping on one night a month. Our first attempt was last night but from April, anyone is free to come down and take part in looking through the nights catch and learning a bit more. Dates will be posted on twitter (@ladywalknature) and we will meet at Sainsbury’s Hide at 7am!

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   Last night, two traps were set up, one at Sainsbury’s and another around Angling Pools. Over night it was a bit breezy but it remained dry at least. Some interesting species were trapped.

Sainsbury’s – Diurnea fagella 2, Common Quaker 13, Hebrew Character 12, Clouded Drab 8, Small Quaker 3, Dotted Border 1, Engrailed 2, Herald 1, Oak Beauty 2, Chestnut 1. Total = 45

Angling Pools – Clouded Drab 9, Diurnea fagella 7, Common Quaker 20, Small Quaker 1, Oak Beauty 1, Hebrew Character 3, Yellow Horned Moth 1, Twin-spotted Quaker 1. Total = 43

Totals = 88 moths of 12 species.

   So a pretty good haul for March. Fantastic to see species like Herald again as well as Yellow Horned but you can’t beat an Oak Beauty. Superb markings and those massive antennae are incredible.

   As well as moth trapping, we’ve been spying on the wildlife with our new camera trap. Things were slow at first and it took a while to get used to the equipment but we have had some good footage lately. The muntjac love the cameras and the badgers have started to show as it’s warmed up. It would be nice to be able to build up a picture of badger life and try to gauge numbers and perhaps even identify individuals. Plenty more is evading the camera at the moment but we’ll get there. The real prize would be an otter on film. Click the links below to view through Youtube.

Muntjac No.1

Badger No.1

 

March WeBS Day

   A beautiful morning to be out at Ladywalk, signs of spring were everywhere. Despite the early drizzle, the birds were in full voice. A dozen Chiffchaff were around the reserve, mainly along the river singing away. A Small Tortoiseshell was out around Bittern Hide.

image1

Small Tortoiseshell – P.Lichfield

   High in the sky 4 Buzzards soared and grappled over B pools followed by 3 Ravens passing through. On the pools themselves, potentially 3 pairs of Great Crested Grebe were busy in courtship dancing and nest building whilst a pair of Little Grebes are setting up home right in front of Hide B.

Little Grebe

Little Grebe – P.Lichfield

   Waterbird numbers continue to dwindle but there are still good numbers of Shoveler and Teal, though no sign of a hoped for Garganey this morning. The pair of Pintail were split between the river and main pool and the Kingfishers were vocal on the river under the bridge by the car park. Sadly the Bittern seems to have departed, last sighted on the 1st March.

WeBS List;

Mute Swan 6, Canada Goose 52, Mallard 68, Gadwall 26, Pintail 2, Shoveler 111, Wigeon 34, Teal 95, Pochard 2, Tufted Duck 52, Goosander 6, Little Grebe 8, Great Crested Grebe 6, Cormorant 40, Grey Heron 1, Little Egret 1, Water Rail 4, Moorhen 27, Coot 34, Oystercatcher 2, Lapwing 5, Snipe 1, Black-headed Gull 11, Lesser Black-backed Gull 3, Kingfisher 2.

Work Party

Every second Monday of the month over the winter period, Ladywalk has a maintenance day to keep the place in good nick. Jobs vary from tidying up the hides to some serious chainsaw work!

The first thing on the agenda was to further increase the security of the reserve by removing the last of the footbridges at the north end which gave access to the general public. The only way in now is through the coded gate. The drainage ditches have slowly been improved over the winter and having no bridges in the way will only make ongoing drainage maintenance easier.

Task 2 was to tackle the trees around New Bay to the right of Riverwalk Hide. Trees with lesser value have been felled such as the small poplars, whilst the rest have been layered. Layering involves part felling the tree so that it lies down whilst still being attached to the stump. In the spring the layered trees then send up dense, vertical growth. So what we are trying to achieve is a living fence surrounding New Bay because it’s far too open at the moment, anything feeding in the bay is flushed by passing birders. Any remaining gaps in the trees will be filled with willow fencing.

 

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  Another ongoing project is to remove large trees from the marsh areas. You’ll have noticed it particularly at the north end of the reserve. All big willows have been layered to keep them low and the willows around North Pool (to the left of B Hide) have all been felled to open it up. There’s still plenty of clearance to do but hopefully by creating a more open corridor of marshland, it will encourage water birds that migrate along the route of the Tame to actually stop and feed at Ladywalk rather than just fly over. We’ve already noticed that more birds are using North Pool than before, so that’s good news!

img_0731

So there’s plenty to be done. The next work party will be on Monday 13th March and all are welcome. If you feel you would like to come and have a go and join the team at any point, just fill in the contact form on the blog and we’ll give you extra details. Some time soon as well, there will be a dedicated Volunteer page with all the relevant information.

February WeBS Day

   A truly miserable morning for the February WeBS count, the blustery conditions and drizzle meant a lot of stuff was keeping it’s head down. So no sign of any Bittern today plus the number of wildfowl today was quite low. The pools were very quiet with most of the duck confined to the river. With no ice on the pools, the Peregrines presence seems more likely, though there was no sign when I was there.

   The highlight of the morning was a very brief Black-tailed Godwit on the island in front of Riverwalk Hide (9:35am) with 23 Lapwing. Just as soon as I’d picked it up, off went the flock and it didn’t come back. Passerine wise, Siskins were vocal this morning and several Song Thrushes were quite showy despite the grotty weather.

WeBS List;

Little Grebe 11, Great Crested Grebe 2, Cormorant 29, Little Egret 1, Grey Heron 6, Mute Swan 8, Canada Goose 39, Shelduck 4, Mallard 97, Gadwall 57, Shoveler 40, Wigeon 35, Teal 78, Pochard 3, Tufted Duck 68, Goosander 2, Moorhen 21, Coot 46, Lapwing 23, Black-tailed Godwit 1, Black-headed Gull 23, Lesser Black-backed Gull 2.

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