Archive for September, 2005

30th September 2005, Friday

White Caterpillar

Yesterday morning we found this 5cm long, white caterpillar on our car windscreen parked at home. It looks like an Eyed Hawkmoth, but I have not seen one this pale. Is it an albino, or did it just have a fright before landing on our car (there are no trees for it to have fallen from!)
White caterpillar

30th September 2005, Friday

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

Dispite the disturbance on Harbour Farm with the new sea deffence work,many birds still use the area for feeding. Yesterday 110 Meadow Pipit, 22 Skylark, 6 Corn Bunting, 300 Linnet and 150+ Goldfinch could be found. Two Merlin and 21 Grey Partridge were also present.
The new pits created by the sea defence work are already attracting birds. Over the past few days Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Lapwing, Mallard and Great Blacked Backed Gull have beeen seen using the new pools.

30th September 2005, Friday

Colletes hederae

The bee that has recently colonised Britian, Colletes hederae, was discovered for the first time in Sussex by Andrew Grace at Castle Hill, Hastings last year. Mike Edwards, Martin Jenner, Ted Benton and Peter Hodge visited the site on Wednesday to photograph the insect at the nest and collecting pollen on nearby flowering ivy.

The warm autumns we have been enjoying over the last few years has allowed this southern european bee to colonise northern Europe including southern Britian. It first reached the Channel Islands then the Isle of Wight, then Dorset and now Sussex.

We checked a number of possible sites for further colonies. We had no luck at Hastings Country Park and Glyne Gap Cliffs but just as we were heading back along Bexhill Road Mike caught site of the large sandstone exposure and large amounts of flowering ivy at the bottom of Harley Shute Road and was convinced that the species must be present there. We checked out the site and found literally thousands of the bees nesting in the exposed bank. We noticed lots of mating behaviour as up to a dozen males gathered outside each females nest hole waiting for her to emerge.

Look out for the species wherever there is bare sandy ground nearby lots of flowering ivy. The bee is quite a large solitary bee with very distinct yellow bands across the abdomen. If you think you have found the species in the Hastings or Rye Bay area please contact me and we can come and check to see if it is the species.

Colletes hederae - male
Colletes hederae Peter Hodge, Mike Edwards & Ted Benton at Castle Hill

28th September 2005, Wednesday

Wormwood pug larvae

The picture below shows a nearly full-grown caterpillar of a wormwood pug moth, Eupithecia absinthiata among ragwort flowers. The current purge of ragwort must be having a serious effect on this and many other invertebrates that use the plant. At least the wormwood pug has alternative foodplants (such as wormwood and mugwort).
It is interesting how the pattern on the caterpillar resembles the dark markings around the ragwort bud, providing a very efficient camouflage, though this won’t help much if its foodplant is pulled up and burnt.
Wormwood pug larva

28th September 2005, Wednesday

Pett Level

With the passing of the Equinox, the overhead rush of Meadow Pipits and Siskins has diminished, but they are now joined by Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Pied Wagtails. This morning, there were 3 Tree Sparrows moving along Wickham Cliff, but whether these were passing through or locally returning birds is hard to say. Of course, Woodpigeons are always going over.
There are still plenty of Chiffchaffs, and in our garden a wandering Nuthatch has been calling.
Along the canal, a couple each of Stonechat, Kingfisher & Cetti’s Warbler.
Raptors were Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Hobby & Merlin (speeding through a tight ball of Starlings over the Pools.
A true signifier of the turning season is the arrival of Brent Geese: my first was on the 24th.

27th September 2005, Tuesday

Lounging Lizards

As the days get cooler it gets easier to watch the Common Lizards as they sunbathe. A couple of days ago I put some logs in my grassy borders and today there were five juvenile lizards lounging on them…
Common Lizard

26th September 2005, Monday

Giant puffball

The other day I came across a giant puffball, Langermannia gigantea, (or Calvatia gigantea)in a garden off Magdalen Road in St Leonards (see picture below taken by Owen Saward).
I was surprised to find that the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre appears to have no previous records of this fungus from East or West Sussex, though I have certainly seen this species from time to time over the years.
The specimen here was still young, with no trace of brown spores inside and, as the picture shows, much appreciated by the local slugs.
Giant puffball, St Leonards

26th September 2005, Monday

Moorhen Murder

Yesterday, from the Castle Water hide, I saw something I had not seen before … a Great Black-backed Gull catch an adult Moorhen, beat it to death and eat it. It was too big to swallow whole, so it eventually ripped it apart, much to the delight of 2 Carrion Crows in close attendance.
Moorhen caught by Great Black-backed Gull

25th September 2005, Sunday

Dead-wood Darkling

While sorting through fence posts at Lime Kiln Cottage today, I came across an individual of Helops caeruleus (below). This is a so-called darkling beetle, and is related to the meal-worm, a pest of flour and cereals whose larvae are easy to rear and bred as food for various small animals. In contrast, Helops larvae occur in dead wood, and this individual probably emerged from old railway sleepers kept at Lime Kiln Cottage. A rather uncommon species in Britain, this was only the fourth record for the reserve.
Helops caeruleus

24th September 2005, Saturday

Ashes Wood, Netherfield: 39sp

All through the woods you can now spot the rusty leaves of saplings, mostly birch, dead from the drought. A few larger trees are suffering too and the clay floor of the woodland has shrunk into polygonal slabs.
Small groups of Siskins are in circulation around the wood while other flocks are heading north, about 35 altogether, with 5 Redpolls.
Small numbers of Meadow Pipits can also be heard passing overhead but are dissolved against the brightness of the sky. Inside the woods, by contrast, it’s so dark I have to screw up my eyes to write notes.
Songs and calls of numerous Robins, Goldcrests and Great Tits blend with the trundling of London-bound trains at Mountfield, while the few Blackbirds and Song Thrushes cluck cowering in the dark birch scrub.
Water remains in the mill pond, but marginal reedmace and alders now make birds difficult to see. There are just a few Moorhens and Little Grebes, a single Coot. The stream that issues has ceased to flow: a Grey Wagtail fed at the mirrors of black water which alternate with orange pools of iron-fed goo oozing from the sandstone.
There are still quite a few Chiffchaffs about. 14 here were mainly around the pond, along with 2 Blackcaps.