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.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The mother of all spiders and a snake in the grass

Whenever you spend time in the field with another naturalist you inevitably learn things and see new species. When you spend time with an excellent entomologist who specialises in groups that are different from your own areas of expertise, you learn loads and see lots of new species, even in a poor summer at a not particularly exciting site. So a recent day out produced 22 new species for me and I even started to take an interest in spiders. It helps when they are as impressive as this one.

This is Thomisus onustus, a nationally scarce heathland species, with its bumble bee prey. There will no doubt be additional new species to come when all retained specimens have been identified.

Last night I had the pleasure of moth trapping on National Trust owned sand dunes on the west Sussex coast. The specialised habitat ensured that a number of interesting species were seen, including two that were new to me; Channel Islands Pug (a recent colonist that feeds on Tamarisk) and Shore Wainscot (a Marram specialist). Neither are particularly rare but the joy of not having chased round twitching moths (as seems to be the trend these days) is that I can still come across new species by chance.

Shore Wainscot
There was little evidence of immigration apart from a few Diamond-back Moths and a number of Red-necked Footman which seem to be turning up all over the place at the moment.

The real joy of the evening however was the effort made by the warden to facilitate our trapping and the interest that she and her volunteers showed in what we caught. This blog on occasion has criticised both wardens generally and the National Trust specifically and I have no doubt that such criticism will be made in future so it is a pleasure to give credit where it is due. Thank you Lisa and team, if only there were more like you.

The last remaining Wood Warblers are having a tough time. Nursie has lost four of her 5 eggs and the remaining egg was missing part of its shell on Monday evening. It looked more like damage than natural hatching and I feared the chick was dead until I saw it move slightly. I very gently removed the remainder of the egg shell but didn't really expect the chick to survive, not least because the predator that had the other eggs may return. It was pleasing therefore to see that the chick was ok and being fed normally on Tuesday. The camera did not reveal which predator was involved.

Whitemoor nest has been lost as predicted. Once again the predator is a Badger but what is interesting is the time on the pictures below.

There is a Badger with it's snout right in the nest. Nest predated? No, the actual predation takes place below.

So, more than three days later. Did it not realise the nest was there on 6th? Did it realise but leave the food for another night?

Porky nest has also bitten the dust, this time to a new predator for this year.

So it is clearly a snake and I think this photo shows dark chevrons on the back, making it an Adder. Other pictures show quite a small snake which would also fit with Adder. We had an Adder predation last year but that was a nest quite close to the edge of a wood and this was some distance from open habitat. Adders clearly operate far deeper into woodland than I had realised.

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