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.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Snippets from the gloom

Got out to do my first monitoring surveys of the year this week, with mixed success. First up was a trip to look for the larvae of the micro-moth Coleophora wockeella at its sole known UK site in Surrey. The larvae make cases which they live in and from which they make blotch mines in the leaves of Betony. The larvae feed for a period in the autumn before overwintering and then emerging to complete their development in the spring. I have recorded larvae more than a month earlier than this in previous years but a pretty thorough search of the main area produced no larvae or feeding signs. Hopefully this just reflects a late emergence due to the grim weather, rather than anything more serious. I'll be back in 10 days or so to find out. We found very little else, the shieldbug Eurygaster testudinaria being the highlight.

Eurygaster testudinaria
There was some litter on the site with a message on it.

The message read 'Please lift this up and look underneath', or something like that.

So I did as instructed and there were three Slow Worms underneath.

The following evening I went to a site near Shoreham to meet the new warden and look for Barred Tooth-striped moths. BTS larvae feed on Wild Privet which many conservationists view negatively as it can invade open chalk grassland. It is therefore frequently removed and the moth is lost. Just four known sites are left in Sussex, and none in Hampshire. So this was not just about finding the moth but also making sure that the warden was aware of the importance of privet and making sure that it was given due consideration when planning management.

In contrast to the previous day, we quickly found the target species and ended up with 11. Most were quite worn, as would be expected at this stage of the season, but a few were fairly fresh.

Barred Tooth-striped Trichopteryx polycommata
 A few hours in the New Forest on Thursday produced a surprisingly large number of singing Tree Pipits and Redstarts but generally it was very quiet; I didn't hear a single Phylloscopus warbler for example.

Finally, I ringed my first brood of chicks last night, three Robins in the ivy on my garden fence. Hopefully the fact that I was completely unaware of the nest until yesterday is a reflection of my lack of interest in my grotty little garden, rather than of my nesting skills.

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