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, 18 July 2017

Tail end of the nesting season

It's getting towards the end of the nesting season, during which I spend most of my spare time finding and monitoring nests for the BTO's Nest Record Scheme. In terms of how we have done, it has been a successful year with over 120 nest record cards completed. The picture is somewhat more complicated in terms of how the birds have done, some species rearing good numbers of young but others such as Wood Warblers suffering very high levels of predation. Brood sizes in recent nests have also been rather poor which I cannot explain, given the generally good weather.

The weekend produced what may be the last Stonechat nest of the year, containing 4 healthy chicks about 8 days old.

I then checked on the last Wood Warbler nest of the year and its fate matched that of the species generally this year. Four eggs produced three chicks, one disappeared before ringing and the final check produced two dead chicks. The contents of the nest were too gruesome to show you as they were being consumed by a couple of Nicrophorus vespilloides beetles and the larvae of the Calliphorid fly Protocalliphora azurea.

Nicrophorus vespilloides
On Sunday evening we got a bonus nest, found by a friend who was searching for his lost mobile phone!

Nightjar chicks
Earlier on Sunday I had been at a site where a male Red-backed Shrike is hanging around. It's presence is being kept quiet, just in case, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence of a female there. Here is my entry for the worst bird photograph of the year competition.

Adult male Red-backed Shrike!
Don't believe there's a shrike there?


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Is there anybody still out there?

Gilbert has noticed that all the more interesting natural history blogs are rather moribund and felt pangs of guilt that none are more moribund than his own. So a quick blog to see if either of his readers is still out there.

Today I carried out the annual monitoring of the rare moth Coleophora vibicella. This species is now known from just two sites in Hampshire, one in West Sussex, one in Dorset and one on the Isle of Wight. One Hampshire colony became extinct a couple of years ago and the Dorset one is heading in the same direction. Only the West Sussex and Isle of Wight sites could be described as secure.

The larvae make a silken case about an inch long, from which they feed on the foliage of Dyer's Greenweed Genista tinctoria. The cases can be all black or can have pale sections like this one.

The number of larval cases has been in decline at the West Sussex site for a couple of years, for reasons that are not entirely clear so it was pleasing to record over 1300 cases during the timed counts today. This is the highest total since I switched to timed counts from a 'full' survey.

The early season was reflected in the fact that I also saw a couple of adults.