Thursday, 23 July 2015

One Day in June contd...

In a previous post I mentioned the visit to the parish by the Yorkshire Naturalist’s Union in 1946 and the depressingly long list of birds recorded then that no longer breed.

On the plant side I anticipated a similar modern dearth but having the benefit of an expert, in this case Linda - the local recorder for the Botanical Society of the British Isles, we turned up quite a few of the species recorded then, albeit now restricted to the small patch of fen in the Magic Garden and the nearby ‘Rich Ditch’, an unspoiled area along the How Beck.


These two remnants are separated by a single field, just think of the possibilities if they could be joined….

Species found included good areas of Skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata)...

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)


and this lovely little Square-stemmed St. John's-wort (Hypericum tetrapterum)

Along with Thalictrum flavum (Common Meadow-rue), Carex riparia (Greater Pond-sedge), Carex rostrata (Bottle-sedge), Carex disticha (Brown-sedge), Carex acuta (Slender Tufted-sedge), Valeriana officinalis (Common Valerian), Phalaris arundinacea (Reed Canary-grass), Persicaria amphibia (Amphibious Bistort), Alisma plantago-aquatica (Water Plantain), Epilobium hirsutum (Great Willowherb), Scrophularia auriculata (Water Figwort), Sparganium erectum (Branched Bur-reed), Apium nodiflorum (Fool’s Water-cress) and Eupatorium cannabinum (Hemp Agrimony).

Monday, 20 July 2015

More moths

In the trapping session the other night there were a couple of moths that weren’t immediately identified, they turned out to be yet more new species’ for the parish

The first was this lovely Dot, this species has a more southerly distribution so a nice find for North Yorkshire

 The second was this micro moth Coleophora mayrella.


And the third this Gypsonoma oppressana. This was an excellent record as the species has only been recorded in Yorkshire a couple of dozen times before.

Sunday, 19 July 2015


This young Spotted Flycatcher with its parent are the only breeding birds I have located in Ainderby village this year. Spotted Flycatchers are, of course, one of the species’ which have seen very large falls in breeding numbers in recent years with six times as many nesting birds recorded in Britain just thirty years ago.

In this one the youngster has just been fed a Brimstone moth.

The adult is carrying a ring and I assume it is probably this individual we ringed in the Magic Garden in the spring.
Spot Flys often nest in close proximity to people, for example in vegetation on buildings or holes in walls. In fact one of the old local names for the species was the rather lovely Wallchat. One pair a few miles from here took this to an extreme by choosing to nest on the hinge of a gate to a tennis court. This gate was in constant use through the summer but the pair still managed to raise their brood.


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Middens & Molehills

In the top fields at Ainderby the rabbits have dug their warren through an old village midden, as they have excavated their tunnels they have thrown up lots of pieces of china and broken glass, a number of oyster shells…


but also more unusual things like a pony shoe, an ivory-handled knife, some complete bottles and this Vaseline jar....

Because it has a corked stopper and not a screw top it probably dates it to the late 1800s. I suspect, given the quality of much of the material, that this midden was associated with the Manor.

Talking of excavation, for many years I have been in the habit of kicking over molehills on the hunt for some unearthed treasure. Friends have found bits of Roman and medieval pottery and even a Roman coin but I have had precisely zilch until the other night turned up this 1943 halfpenny. Not exactly Time Team but I’m easily pleased!
There were Two Little Egrets yesterday evening on the river by the railway bridge. This summer influx to the Swale now seems to be a regular event. I would have got closer for a better picture but got vigorously chased by the cattle here!


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Mam-moth Catch

Monday night’s conditions were great for mothing, cloudy, mild and humid. The traps were enticingly busy….

In fact John filled two trays of boxes just with the moths in the vegetation around the first trap. I was only able to spend a couple of hours there before having to get to work but John put in a solid six hours emptying the three traps and processing the catch.

There were a total of 721 moths and the highest species mix to date. This included 108 definites, a further five moths that can’t be identified to species level in the field and three others taken away for identification or confirmation. There were no less than 27 new species for the parish including Lempke’s Gold Spot….

Large Emerald…

Common Plume…

And Swallowtail...
As well as Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix, Bramble Shoot, Figure of Eighty (not a typo!), Common Emerald, Flame Carpet, Yellow Shell, Freyer’s Pug, Scalloped Oak, Cinnabar, Short-cloaked, Purple Clay, Dot, Pale-shouldered Brocade, Broom, Poplar Grey, Dingy Shears and Small Dotted Buff. All of which sound vaguely like the contents of a rather esoteric hardware store…

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Dabchicks & Drinkers

We had planned a moth session on Saturday night but poor weather put us off. Last night was much more promising and we had an excellent session. I’ll detail the catch tomorrow but here are a couple of moths ‘in the field’


This is a Drinker, so called from its caterpillar’s apparent fondness for drinking droplets of dew. Look at those antennae…
And this is an exquisite Gothic.

This Little Grebe is nesting on the Magic Garden pond only a couple of feet off the end of the jetty. When disturbed it slips quietly off its nest but never without first covering its eggs with water weed.
Also of note a villager reported a possible sighting of Green Woodpecker this week. This species used to nest in the parish up to the 1960s but there have been no recent sightings.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Emperors & Admirals

I had a rare foray out of the parish to Fermyn Woods in Northants yesterday. We saw several superb Purple Emperors...

Together with White Admiral, White-letter Hairstreak, Silver-washed Fritillary plus another dozen species of butterfly. In high numbers too, as a reminder of what many parts of the British countryside must once have been like.
Today, by the rather more mundane standards of the parish, was also a good butterfly day with the Magic Garden holding 50+ Meadow Browns, a couple of dozen Ringlets, a handful of Speckled Woods...

 My first Comma of the year....

And best of all (having referred to its apparent disappearance from the village only a couple of posts ago!) a Small Skipper.

Other sightings here included two Emperor Dragonflies on the lake and a Southern Hawker hunting along the woodland rides.

Monday, 6 July 2015


I grew up in south Worcestershire and Banded Demoiselle were one of the signature species of the well-vegetated brooks which ran into the River Avon so I have always had a soft spot for this striking damselfly. In the parish their stronghold is along the stretch of the Swale where Bedale Beck joins the river. Yesterday afternoon I had a total of 40+ along a short stretch of the river, most concentrated around a single large patch of nettles, docks and thistle.

The males are unmistakeable with their broad blue-black band across the wing and their fluttering, almost butterfly-like, flight. The females are less distinctive but close up show a lovely iridescent green body and translucent green wings.

Also first good numbers of Small tortoiseshells there yesterday.

I noticed on these thistles that they all moved in a 90° clockwise direction until they had completed a full 360° . I assume this is to maximise their feeding efficiency rather than for display?

Sunday, 5 July 2015

4th July

Only saw my first odonata yesterday evening with good numbers of Blue-tailed Damselflies and smaller numbers of Emerald Damselflies around the lake and a brief glimpse of a probable Southern Hawker.

The Hedgehogs are very active down there now with this young one almost oblivious to my presence.

I later went on a search for badgers. No luck but did see this striking rising moon, not a good picture as hand held but must be similar to the view you’d get if you were standing on Io or Europa!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Butterflies do exist...

It’s been such a terrible year for butterflies that seeing a dozen Ringlets and Meadow Browns this evening seems like a bit of a high spot and is my only excuse for including these…

A relatively limited range of habitats etc. means the parish butterfly list is short (22 species) and getting shorter as some former regular species have disappeared with, for example, both Large and Small Skipper not seen for a number of years. I’m not clear why this should be as suitable habitat certainly still exists in the parish and the latter species is increasing in numbers nationally. I will make a concerted effort to try and locate some this month.
On the lake the female Tufted Duck has managed to hold on to all nine of her young so far and a Kingfisher has taken up temporary residence. A Sparrowhawk flashed through vigorously mobbed by at least 20 Swallows. With practice I think you can make a reasonable guess at the hawk species by the Swallows alarm call with both Hobby and Sparrowhawk eliciting the most vigorous response, slightly less for Kestrel and further subdued for other species. As if to prove the point a little later I heard a less intense version of their call and this time it was a Little Owl bounding across half-heartedly dive-bombed by a small group of Swallows..    

Year list to end of June remains on 99 bird species.