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, 22 October 2013

Miscellaneous observations

Nearly a month behind so here are a few things of note from the end of September.

It's not often that I get to see a new macro-moth so when I heard that there were decent numbers of Bloxworth Snout being seen at Portchester Castle, I just had to give it a go. Arriving about an hour before it got dark, I thought I'd have to wait until it got dark and then wander round with a lamp but five minutes of tapping vegetation on the castle walls produced five Bloxworth Snout.

A trip to the New Forest to do some recording for the Hampshire plant atlas with the county recorder unsurprisingly produced many new plants for me. My favourite of the day was Pale Butterwort

and the rarest was Small Water-pepper, found on a patch of disturbed ground along the roadside (although I forgot to take a photo so the one below is some that we saw elsewhere two weeks later!).

Two years ago we released the larvae of the very rare Barberry Carpet on an estate in Hampshire as part of the Species Recovery Programme for the moth. Last year we searched for the larvae without success but Ian, the person who does the captive breeding, was keen to release some more. So we were back this year to see if they had bred successfully but we weren't holding out a lot of hope. As soon as we got to the hedge, I saw a female Brown Hairstreak searching for a site to lay her eggs - the first adult Brown Hairstreak I've seen for over 25 years!

A great start but after having beaten all the planted Barberry bushes, the only larvae we had found were Barberry Sawfly - a recent colonist. One of these larvae hatched out today so hopefully I'll get a photo tomorrow. We went to beat the one remaining bush - a monster of a bush that was apparently planted by the estate owners great grandmother. Most of the foliage is out of reach but we beat what we could. Again, no joy but while Ian was distracted I continued to stare at his beating tray and amongst the debris I spotted a tiny Geometrid caterpillar about 2mm long. I asked what he thought but it was too small to tell what it was so he took it away to see what it turned into.

Time passes and Ian was able to confirm that it was indeed a Barberry Carpet so he returned to the site and was able to find larvae on several of the planted bushes. Clearly this colony is several weeks behind most of the others and we have to wonder if we had looked later last year, would we have found that the initial release was a success?

The Barberry Carpet larva after it had grown a bit! 

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