Post Archives

Website design and maintenance by Andy Phillips.

Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.

Local winter talks about wildlife


From the Clifftop

Tthe moth trap continues to pull in lots of common brown moths, notably Large Yellow Underwings, with a record count for the garden yesterday of 130, when I caught the first Red-line Quaker of the autumn.

Fewer moths this morning, and, as yesterday, not much bird migration; 17 Reed Buntings west was the best.

Alerted by the raucous calls of Gannets, I scanned the sea close to the clifftop and saw at least 120 actively fishing, and some dark shapes breaking the surface. I sssumed these would be Porpoises, but it was quickly apparent from their much larger size and swept back dorsal fins that they were in fact Dolphins, at least 7 of them charging westwards-I imagine pursuing Mackerel. These are the first Dolphins I've seen in Sussex, I can't say what they were, but White-beaked is a possibility. The Gannets remained for some time, attracting a Great Skua, so a pretty good morning on the clifftop..


The holly (blue) and the ivy

Not the greatest of photos but a fascinating little tableau nontheless. Searching ivy today I came across what I thought were ants predating a caterpillar. However, on looking more closely I realised the ants were not attacking the caterpillar and that said larva was holly blue, a species which I have never seen in this stage before. Many blue butterflies are known to have an association with ants but I hadn't realised that holly blue fell into this category. It seems that the larvae often fall prey to a parasitic wasp which can seriously effect the population and so it produces a chemical which is attractive to ants, the idea being presumably that they keep the wasp at bay.

Click to read more ...


From the Clifftop

Despite some unfavouable nights of late, with some very cold early mornings, my Fairlight moth trap is pulling in three figure catches, notably lots of Lunar Underwings [pictured] .These come in a variety of colours, this is a fairly dark one; today's count of 70 is my highest ever, anywhere. Also today The Delicate and two Dark Sword-grass [migrants], and two year additions , Turnip and Flounced Chestnut, raise this year's garden list to 350.

With little bird migrant activity first thing, I looked at the sea for an hour, noting 55 Gannets and an Arctic Skua moving east, and the first Kittiwake for many weeks went west. 

At about 8.30 there was a flurry of  House Martins:400 went rapidly west.


Hop Dog

I was reading Patrick Roper's blog 'Ramblings of a Naturalist' recently when I came across the term 'hop dog', the name given to the caterpillars of the pale tussock moth by hop-pickers. I'd never heard this before but thought 'I like that, I'll store it away for future use'. This opportunity came sooner than I expected as I recently came across one of these fantastic beasts while walking my dog on the salts in Rye (I originally found it trundling round the edge of a dog poo bin, but moved it to a more photogenic fence post before taking the picture). As well as hops this species feeds on a wide range of deciduous trees and I suspect this one had been displaced from one of the overhanging oaks (where it was duly replaced). The adult moth (see here) is an attractive enough creature, but nowhere near as striking as the caterpillar!