Poor old Gilbert is getting restless. Despite the fact that there is more interest in wildlife than ever before, it seems that most of the so-called conservation organisations are losing interest in species. Instead they prefer to babble on about landscape scale conservation and ecosystem services (whatever they are). Could this be because most of their staff don't have any knowledge about species if they don't have four legs?
This is my attempt to encourage an interest in good old-fashioned natural history.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Signs of spring

I started the morning with a short bird survey on the edge of one of the Surrey heaths. Upon arrival, my first Tree Pipit of the year sang briefly before deciding that the weather was far too grim to bother. Both the pairs of Woodlarks on the site appear to have successfully fledged their first brood and the Stonechat showed that he has got a mate after all.

I was getting near the end of the survey when, much to my surprise, a Redstart was singing from a narrow strip of pines, then a second male appeared in front of me. Just to remind me that summer hasn't fully arrived, a flock of about 30 Redpolls were feeding together with a number of Goldfinches and Linnets and at least two Bramblings. Given how scarce Bramblings have been this winter, this was not a species I was expecting.

I then moved to a site in West Sussex which had better remain nameless (the reason should become obvious!). I was looking for the larval feeding signs of the micro-moth Argyresthia glabratella on Norway Spruce and found them eventually, together with some strange slug-like larvae which need further research. All the while, my search was accompanied by singing Firecrests; a species which really is booming these days.

On the way back to my car I noticed a mine in the bark of a sapling oak. Now a couple of years ago, identification would have been east; the micro-moth Ectoedemia atrifrontella. Then someone rather selfishly added E. longicaudella to the British list. This species also mines the bark of young oaks and the mines are inseparable. Most British records are of the mines so we have no idea how common either species is. The only solution is to breed the adult moth and that requires some judicious coppicing. I just happened to have a bow-saw in my car.....!

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