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.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The lifer that came to me

Yesterday I ended up going to Duncton Hill to see if the Drab Looper colony is surviving. I found one fresh individual in weather that wasn't great for seeing them so that's good news. Management that is proposed for the site by the estate that own it, together with the South Downs National Park, should ensure that the colony thrives in future. A few other things of note included both White Helleborine and Bird's-nest Orchid (again!) in areas that I've never seen them before. They must be having a good year. I also found the larval case of Coleophora follicularis on Common Fleabane and larvae spinning the terminal leaves of the fleabane and also St John's-wort. Neither larva fits the described species for these foodplants so they are presumably something horribly polyphagous. I'll have to breed them through to find out what they are.

Coleophora follicularis larval case
On the way home I stopped at Chichester Gravel Pits where I saw a moth that was almost certainly new for me; Endothenia nigricostana which feeds on Hedge Woundwort. Unfortunately, like an idiot, I wasn't carrying my net and I failed to get it in to a pot. A return visit is in order.

Back in the New Forest this evening. I found a new Wood Warbler nest within about 10 minutes - Whitemoor nest. She has 4 eggs. Nests at this site never seem to do very well and this one isn't in a great place so I wanted to get a camera on it straight away but the batteries for the monitor were flat. Aaagghhh. You'd think that such a high-tech bit of kit would have a battery low warning light.

The nest is dead centre, between the two bracken fronds. Things are never as obvious in a picture as they are to the naked eye so if you can see anything on a picture it tends to mean the nest is not well hidden.

Flushed with success, I tried various other pairs / males but without any further success apart from refinding a couple of males that had 'gone missing' in recent weeks. One in particular was pleasing; 'The Widower'. Regular readers will recall a pair where the female was colour ringed and I found the nest just after she'd started building. I went back a week later and the nest was finished but there was no sign of her and he was singing strongly, as he continued to do for the next few weeks. Well it looks like it's paid off for him as I heard alarm calls this evening. Of course, as he isn't colour ringed I cannot be sure that it is him but I will assume that it is as it pleases me to do so!

While I was in that area a flat fly landed on me. At first I just tried to swat it but they are tough little beggars and generally the only way to kill them is to crush them between your thumb nails! So when it returned I grabbed it and was just about to crush it when I noticed that it was too big for the Lipoptena cervi which is normally found on deer and is the one that commonly lands on humans, so it went in a tube instead. I have now keyed it out as Hippobosca equina which is a bit of a mega as it is only found in the New Forest these days. As it's name suggests, it is normally found on horses - nice to know the New Forest ponies have a use beyond getting in the way of traffic and stinking!

Finally I went to check on Wet Ditch nest which would hopefully have fledged today. Sure enough the camera seems to show that they fledged some time just before 11am today. I'm really pleased as the nest was so well positioned that they really deserved to succeed, it's just a shame that they only got three chicks away from the original six eggs. That isn't the end of the story though, at 5.26pm this was recorded by the camera:

As at least one of my readers struggled to identify the Badger image the other day, this is a Grey Squirrel! Now you could say this is just coincidence and it might be but last year we had more than one occasion when squirrels visited Wood Warbler nests after the young had fledged but we've never had this with any other predator. It starts to look like more than a coincidence but I cannot explain why this would happen.

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