Monday, 24 July 2017

Trying out a Moth Trap

For my birthday this month, I got a Moth Trap. I have been toying with the idea of getting one for some years now. Moths are a taxa that I am not particularly familiar with. I spend much of my wildlife time in daylight and so do not really come across them.

They are fascinating species and have a wide range of morphologies and life cycles. In fact, there are far more species of moth in the UK than there are Butterflies. After a bit of research, I asked for a portable 6 watt 12 volt Actinic Bulb Heath Trap - http://www.nhbs.com/title/160780/6w-12v-portable-heath-moth-trap

The trap arrived in good condition but needed a separate battery for operation. It is simple to assemble and well constructed. Metal panels make it durable whilst plastic funnels and veins direct moths into the collecting chamber whilst also keeping out the rain.

After reading up a little and watching a few you tube clips I set up the trap last night on the patio in my garden. I left it on over night and with some trepidation, I checked it this morning. I was hesitant as on some clips traps had attracted hundreds of moths and I did not think I was up to such identification challenges. As luck would have it the trap contained only a few moths.

As I carefully removed the egg boxes I managed to trap and/or photograph 12 moths. Only three managed to escape one Macro - the largest in the tap and two micro.

Of these 12 moths, five were Macro Moths and 7 Micro Moths. I then began the task of identifying them - I used: UK Moths and  British Moths and Butterflies. Below are the ones I have identified, most of the micros are too difficult for me and if you think I have something wrong let me know, I am very much a beginner at this.

Plume Moth - Amblytilia acanthadactyla 

Riband Wave - Ideae aversata 
Possibly a Black Owlet - Scythris grandipennis


Single Dotted Wave - Ideae dimidata

Cabbage Moth? -Mamestra brassicae

Large Yellow Underwing - Noctua pronuba

Common Carpet - Epirrhoe alternata

These are the micro moths I have been unable to identify:






I look forward to repeating the procedure next weekend and then venturing down to my land to increase the species list down there.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Could Micheal Gove save conservation in the UK?

A little under a year ago I reported on this blog my response to a letter I sent to our new Secretary of the Environment Andrea Leadsom. Twelve months have passed and we now have a new Secretary Michael Gove. I have to admit to rolling my eyes when hearing about his appointment. I work in education and so am familiar with his work, I have also, however, been assured of his razor intellect and ability to focus on important issues.

Farming is Mr Gove's First Target


I had the feeling his appointment was nothing but a political move in order to get a possible ally or enemy into the cabinet to prop up a post election unstable government. I saw him as a stop gap and so decided not to write to him this time. This week, however, I have readjusted my view, could Gove actually achieve something for nature conservation?

Mr Gove made his first speech this week and some of what he said filled me with encouragement. I have talked about my apprehension about the loss of environmental protection during Brexit as well as my hope that this will be a new chance for improvement and this speech seems to suggest that the government might also think this way.

His speech outlined his plans for a ‘green brexit’ and he extolled the virtues farming in partnership with conservation and even commented on his ‘deep regret’ that America has pulled out of the Paris Climate Change Agreements.

The key thrust of Gove’s speech which he reiterated on Radio 4’s Today programme was a need to shift the emphasis of the subsidy programme to farmers. These subsidies come from the EU Common Agricultural Policy. Over the years this scheme has come under fire, yes it helped create some protection for the environment but it also led to problems with the execution of the subsidies where in fact many landowners could be compensated for doing very little.

Gove’s new plans suggest a more rigorous approach to ensure that pays to protect. This harks back to the old adage of the ‘polluter pays principle’. I m not against farming, they truly are the guardians of our countryside but as a total industry, they can be lacking. Farming is a hard job but by offering proper financial incentives to effective measures would be very beneficial. This is the perfect time to restructure the payment structures to link subsidies to the burgeoning field of ecosystem services and whilst I am yet to be fully sold on the commodification of the ecosystem a more focused system can only be good.


Mr Gove’s tenacious nature also bodes well, he pushed through reforms to standards in teaching against the large teaching unions and so his ability to get things done cannot be questioned the actual question is what do we want him to get done? As nature conservationists or concerned parties, we need to get in at the ground form so that other lobbies don’t change the path. Perhaps it is time for us all to write to Mr Gove and encourage him to pursue this ‘green brexit’ vision and to do so with the backing of the science behind.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Commas everywhere

Today out on my patch the Comma butterflies were out in force. I recorded over 10 feeding on the extensive bramble flowers. All were vibrant orange, still glistening in their newly emerged form.



Comma -  Polygonia c-album

Bivoltine - March to End of April, July to Early October

First Sighting date in the Patch.

2003 -                                  13th July
2004 -                                    4th July
2005 -                  26th June
2006 -                                    2nd July
2007 -                                     8th July
2008 -                                     7th July
2009 - 10th May
2010 -                                    4th July
2011 -                                   2nd July
2012 -                                   8th July
2013 -                                 14th July
2014 -                29th June
2015 -                  7th June
2016 - 8th May
2017 -                                 10th July

Alongside the Comma's there were several Ringlets, a Meadow Brown and several Large Skippers.So far this season had been poor for butterflies but now seemed to be picking up.

The first of the Brown Hawker Dragonflies were on the wing and unusually I heard the first grasshopper -  Field Grasshopper whose orangy red abdomen caused me some confusion for some time.


Camera Update

My new camera is back up and running and this week it caught two interesting sights.

The first is a short glimpse of a Roe Deer. The first Roe Deer sighting was on the 14th May and was a doe. This week a young buck appeared on camera for a few seconds. You can briefly see the short horns.

video

The arrival of this species is interesting, as I stated before there aren't many habitats for Roe Deer nearby and had the individual being a female again I would have guessed that a lone individual was passing through the area but in this case the animal is definitely a different individual suggesting that there is a larger population in the area than I would have expected.

Secondly is a shot that I always hoped I might one day get. As you may have seen from other blog posts the site is blessed with a fluctuating population of Wood Mice, the numbers seem to rise and fall reflecting not only changes in weather but also predation.

video

I have recorded Tawny Owls on the site in the past, I have found pellets and was even lucky enough to see a youngster some years ago. The next clip is of a Tawny Owl emerging from a hunt. Obviously, in pursuit of some prey, the Owl has swooped down but become entangled in the undergrowth. In the brief footage, I do not think the owl's hunt was successful.


Sunday, 25 June 2017

To chop or not to chop - management on the small scale.

I have always taken a fairly hands-off approach to managing the small patch of wet woodland and meadow I look after. I've always believed in letting nature take its course and giving the plants and animals the opportunity to what they do best.

There are volumes and volumes available on habitat management and ways to improve the habitats but nature itself is capable of finding its own balance. Modern nature conservation requires habitat scale management in order to maintain species because quite often human impact has altered the balance of nature so much that more human intervention is needed to help them survived.

What we have ended up with is a range of heavily managed nature reserves that appear natural on the surface but in fact, the amount of work put into them illustrate that they are at least partially artificial. Do not get me wrong I am not knocking reserves by any means, they serve a very important purpose but in my situation, my small patch is not going to be a species specific site of intervention. 

The ethos of my patch is let it be free and do what it needs to. At first, I had attempted to control the spread of nettles on the site but soon found that once I had stopped that in wetter areas forget me not and willowherb out-competed them and elsewhere tall grasses and reeds have done the same. 

I must confess to some management. In the early days, I planted 20 trees of which today only 2 survive. I put up upwards of 10 bird boxes but these were nearly all predated by Woodpeckers or not used at all. There are more than enough natural tree holes for the bird species.

In the summer I also do some invasives management. The site is home to large quantities of Himalayan Balsam which spreads fast with its explosive seed pods it can cover riverbanks and crowd out native species. The problem I have with the presence balsam is how much the bees and hover flies like the nectar in the pitcher like pink flowers. Bees are in real trouble and so my approach is to cut the flower heads off after flowering and before the seed pods ripen. These seems to be controlling the balsam. Its is still present on the site but is not spreading.



Lastly, is pruning. By necessity, I have to get about the site and often I have to cut back the trees to keep the small paths clear. Yesterday I had to do this a willow that had split in a storm several years ago. Over time one of the branches has slumped causing an obstacle. Most pruning I do is just that, a quick trim, taking out the odd reaching branch but this one required the removal of a much larger branch. It took me awhile with my trusty hand saw but once it was done the path was clear. In line with standard practice, I have moved the fallen branches to one side where they can rot down and provide vital dead wood habitats. 

I guess what I am driving at here is that management needs to support wildlife, sometimes this means intensive direct action and in others little or no action. Ecosystems exist in a dynamic equilibrium and sometimes they need to be left to their own devices and sometimes we need to guide or support it. It is up to all managers to line up their management with their goals and find what works best for them, Sadly in the UK there is so little 'wilderness' or natural habitat that in most cases human intervention is needed to subvert the human impacts elsewhere.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

A short camera trap update

It's a little late this week but today's post looks at a couple of clips taken this week.

Firstly and most excitingly is the glimpse of one of this year's Badger cubs out with two of the adults.

video

Another regular - Half Tail the Fox has been about a lot this week too. He is looking in very good condition.

video

video

Sunday, 4 June 2017

General Election 2017



It is now just four days until the General Election and some regular visitors to this blog spot may have noticed a lack of election posts this time round and there is a good reason for this. Usually, I take some time to investigate the environmental policies of the various parties, but in the case of this election, none of the major parties seems to have developed any environmental policies worth discussing.
Here, however, I try to highlight the key policy differences:

Transport
Conservatives - Committed to expanding Heathrow
UKIP – Oppose Heathrow expansion in favour of enlarging smaller airports
All parties are committed to HS2 except Green Party and UKIP

Clean Air/Global Warming
Labour – New Clean Air Act to legislate against diesel fumes
Liberals – Diesel scrappage scheme, Binding target of zero net green house gas emissions by 2050, ultra-low emission zones in many cities
UKIP – Repeal the Climate Act

Fracking
Labour – Ban on Fracking
Liberals – Oppose Fracking
Conservatives – Will allow shale gas exploitation but not fracking

Hunting
Conservatives – Will offer a free vote on the Hunting Ban


THE LABOUR PARTY - Musings on the Wild Score: 7/10
The party manifesto has specific sections on Environment and Animal Welfare, however, a good chunk just says what the Conservatives have done wrong without outlining what they would do right. They talk enthusiastically about safeguarding wildlife and the environment but do not say how and in what way. Most promisingly they oppose changes to the hunting ban and would end the badger TB cull.

THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY - Musings on the Wild Score: 5/10
No specific sections in the manifesto. The party discusses the use of Shale Gas as a resource allowing non-fracking drilling accompanied with softening of the planning law. They will set up a specialist regulatory body and believe this will be a lower carbon resource than coal. 
Investment in developing low emission vehicles
In terms of the countryside, they want Natural England to offer more advice to farmers but do not say how they will fund this.
Disappointingly they will offer a free vote on the repeal of the Hunting Ban.
They do however offer to produce a 25-year plan for the environment to focus legislation.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS - Musings on the Wild Score: 8/10 
The liberals have a dedicated chapter on the environment. They give detailed plans on reducing diesel emissions and reducing Greenhouse Gases such as the Zero Carbon Britain Act. They promote a greener housing programme with more efficiency standards. They are the only party to suggest more green spaces and a Nature Capital Act.They also have an ambitious plan to plant a tree for every person in the country. The Liberals will increase legislation on waste reduction.

I know the environment is only one theme people consider in an election but I hope that all people who vote on Thursday will factor these ideas into their decision.