Sunday, 25 July 2010

A Quiet Day but So Much to See

I can't match Michelle's badger watching exploits, but that does not mean I have no wildlife to report. A couple of days ago a gem turned up in the moth trap, this is a migrant species that breeds all year round in the extreme south of Europe and travels north each year, usually a few reach Britain and in some years they will breed here. It is not a very robust species like a number of other migrant species and it always amazes me that they can cover such distances.
As I have mentioned before the moth trap does not only catch moths, one such bi-catch was a small picture-winged fly Anomoia purmunda, it is one with a very distinctive wing patterning, the larvae develop in the fruits of hawthorn and is a common species. However having a common food plant does not guarantee the species will be common, many related species feed in the seed-heads of ragwort, but some of these species are very rare.
Opening the Ivy South hide this morning I found the family of tufted duck pictured sitting on one of the small stick rafts outside the hide, proving they are not only useful as nest sites.
One of the species that will use these rafts as nest sites is great crested grebe, they did nest on Ivy Lake this year, although not on a raft, the single surviving chick is more or less independent now, but still sporting the "humbug" head-pattern.
It is perhaps a good thing that the chick is now going it alone as the parents now seem intent on having another nesting attempt. They have built another nest, this time on one of the rafts and this morning they were mating on the new nest platform.
Immediately after mating the male surged off splashing the water with his feet, looking very pleased with himself indeed.
The area around the Centre is particularly good for butterflies at present including silver-washed fritillary, peacock, red admiral, comma, gatekeeper, meadow brown, large and small white, brimstone and today a single painted lady. This last was very fresh and I would guess has emerged from a caterpillar raised in Britain following the small arrival that occurred in the spring. The best picture I got was of the under-side, which has a very particular beauty, in many ways quite a match for the upper-side.
I really have no birds of note to report today, the most interesting species I saw were two pochard, rather rare here at this time of year. If today proved anything it was that a quite day can still include a good bit of interest, one of the great things about being out is that you never know what you will see.
The most engaging sighting was a wren hunting moths along the edge of the Centre, these had been attracted over-night by the trap. At first the adult was catching small moths with ease, later the hunt seemed harder and the adult started to call loudly whilst searching. On the face of it this calling just drew attention to the bird, but I wondered if it helped in some way with the search, the call must be very loud up close and so might result in disturbance to resting insects. It is hard to explain why it would call so much if there was not some advantage to be gained, however I can find no evidence for the suggestion of using sound to disturb prey. The wrens did not stop entertaining us though, the chick being fed was occasionally sun bathing on the slabs by the compost bins, it would lie, wings out-stretched and feathers fluffed, soaking up some rays. All-in-all great lunchtime entertainment.

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