Nature Blog Network

Spring has sprung at last!

Well, it’s been a while since i’ve updated the blog here, the back end of winter seemed to be pretty quiet – too windy or rainy for mist netting or mothing – just had to be content with getting on with my knitting (very slowly) and i got accepted by the Uist Craft Producers so have been keeping occupied making up cards which are now for sale in their shop at Kildonan (where there is also a Cafe and museum).

So…. what’s been happening. Our first macro moth of the year turned up at the kitchen window on the 13th February – Ian dashed out with a pot, the poor moth was probably glad to get into the warm as it was only 2′C out there! It turned out to be a Dotted Border.

Dotted Border

Dotted Border

February was a blustery month and the weather station recorded a high gust of 57mph on the 3rd February – we weren’t here we were visiting Lewis. A nearby lightining strike had tripped our electric and blown up the internet hub so we returned at the end of the week to a defrosted freezer (lived on chicken portions, liver and bacon for four days, couldn’t see it go to waste!). The hub took nearly a week to be replaced, although i must say BT were very good and replaced it free of charge it just took an age to get here but that’s more to do with our location.

High winds on the 3rd February

High winds on the 3rd February

Clouds on the firing range, South Uist

Clouds on the firing range, South Uist

We received an email to ask whether we were interested in participating in the Garden Moth Scheme – this means trapping each Friday night, the same trap in the same location and recording what we get. The Scheme runs from the 4th March to the 4th November so it will be interesting to see what turns up. The first 3 weeks we caught absolutely nothing!

The first bee of the year turned up in the garden on the 23rd March – our neighbour Bill is the local bee expert so we sent him the photo, he says they can be tricky but believed it to be Bombus cryptarum – apparantly recently separated from B. lucorum.

First bee of the year in the garden

First bee of the year in the garden

A Brambling with a ring on turned up in the garden early in March – an adult male so surely the one that we ringed last year and retrapped in January?!

I really like late March here in the islands when the place is full of winter birds that are heading northwards and summer birds arriving. On the 26th March there were two groups of Whooper Swans low over the house, heading north – what a great sight! the Whoopers seem to gather up on Loch Hallan just south of the house then all leave together.

Whooper Swans, heading north for the summer

Whooper Swans, heading north for the summer

The next day, the 27th March i saw my first Wheatears of the year, near Kildonan.

On the 5th April our phones started ringing – various calls to let us know there was a Whiskered Tern at Loch Fada on Benbecula. We ummed and aaahhed for about thirty seconds then jumped in the van to go and twitch it. Good but fairly distant views. Nice bird though and a first for the Outer Hebrides.

Into April now and the moths have finally started to appear in greater numbers. We had a drive down to Eriskay to see if we could find Belted Beauty. The males are nice looking moths but the females very odd-looking in that they are flightless. It was quite breezy and we didn’t hold out much hopes of finding them. However with a little searching we found a female on a fencepost, managed a photo before she got blown off by a gust of wind. A few minutes later we found a male, i struggled with getting a photo as it’s wings were getting blown around, it eventually got blown off the post and relocated to a more sheltered spot where i managed to get a decent photo.

Belted Beauty, female

Belted Beauty, female

Belted Beauty, male

Belted Beauty, male

On the 10th April i was checking out the House Sparrows in the garden – the Retrapping Adults for Survival that we are doing runs from the 1st April so we’ve been logging all the sightings of the individuals that we’ve colour-ringed. I spotted another bird in the garden and saw a flash of red in it’s tail – hardly believing my eyes i called Ian who confirmed what i was seeing – a Black Redstart. We called Bill next door as it had headed off in his direction. Sadly we couldn’t relocate the bird and it certainly hadn’t hung around long enough to be photographed!

The best mothing night of the year so far was an impromtu session. The wind had dropped right out by 10pm during the evening on the 18th April so the trap went out. The temperature didn’t drop below 8.3′C and it remained cloudy all night. A good catch of macro moths: 72 Red Chestnut, 57 Hebrew Character, 20 Clouded Drab, 1 Dark Sword-grass, 1 Powdered Quaker, 1 Brindled Ochre and new for us an Emperor Moth. Micros included Depressaria heraclei, Agonopterix heracliana, A. ciliella and a migrant micro Plutella xylostella.

Emperor Moth, female (a little tatty looking)

Emperor Moth, female (a little tatty looking)

Dark Sword-grass

Dark Sword-grass

Brindled Ochre

Brindled Ochre

Migrant micro moth Plutella xylostella (Diamond-back Moth)

Migrant micro moth Plutella xylostella (Diamond-back Moth)

Hopefully we’ll continue to catch well as the summer progresses!

We have lots of things planned over the next couple of months, we have 3 squares to do TTVs on for the BTO Atlas (an early and a late summer visit for each tetrad), we also have a 1km square each to do a Breeding Bird Survey on (this entails two visits to each square during the breeding season) we’ll continue with the monthly WeBS counts when we can and we also have a Retrapping Adults for Survival project starting on Ringed Plovers which will take up quite a lot of our time.

Comments are closed.