Saturday, 28 April 2012


Well, it couldn't have got much worse.... A reasonable night at last to get the moth trap out yielded 22 of 7 species including my first Brimstones and Muslins for the garden. Also 2 March Moth and a Streamer.

A few migrants around first thing as well with Garden Warbler (tricky here) and Whinchat (also tricky) and a few Swift and a Hobby over the village. Sadly enough, probably the best day of the spring so far!

March Moth


Tuesday, 24 April 2012

How does homeopathy work?

Thanks to one of my students for pointing me in the direction of this site (

I have to say that I don't entirely agree - we just have to find out what it is that makes it work for some.

Monday, 23 April 2012

What people search for on the Internet

Just had a look at the web stats for the site to discover that my post on mating slugs entitled "Slug porn" has been pretty popular. Delving a little deeper, several of the hits have come directly from google searches........ The U is pretty far from the A on the keyboard so I think we can rule out typos - the mind boggles as to what people were actually looking for! Let's hope that they either enjoyed it or it was exactly what they were looking for.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Dire (with highlight)

Truly dire this morning - moth trap had 7 moths (4 Common Quaker, 2 Hebrew Character and a Brindled Pug) as well as this:

Any ideas what it might be? (Pogonocherus hispidus - a Longhorn Beetle apparently)

Went for an early walk down to the beach and that wasn't much better! 1 Willow Warbler, 2 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff but there were at least my first 3 Whimbrel of the year. There were two Sandwich Terns this afternoon at the beach.

Then the highlight: The two of us who have a serious go at a Wembury year list (as motivation rather than Biophillia) have an agreement that birds must be seen and heard only does not count for the year list. That makes three species quite tough: Water Rail (heard many times but never seen on the patch), Tawny and Barn Owls. (I'd stop reading now Andy!). This morning, trudging my way back to the car I flushed what seemed to be a Buzzard from the trees on the path - I only caught a glimpse in my peripheral vision but it didn't quite look right though so I ran to where it looked like it had cut through the trees to be greeted by a very briefly perched Tawny Owl in broad daylight!

This afternoon I went to Dartmoor Zoo to be briefed about a Bioblitz in a couple of weeks time. These make anyone look like a good photographer!!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


Moth trap back on after almost two weeks. Poor weather for it but worth a go! 18 moths of 6 species including two new ones - Early Moth (probably) and Streamer. The Early Moth is quite late according to the books but I am pretty sure it is that and not Sloe Carpet.

Hebrew Character 6
Common Quaker 6
Powdered Quaker 1
Early Grey 2
Early Moth 1
Streamer 2


Early Moth

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Gratuitous Twitching

Hard to resist a lifer just a few miles away. I had always hoped that I'd come across a Long-billed Dowitcher but got fed up of waiting. Having missed the one at Greylake a few weeks ago due to Mothers Day commitments also influenced the decision. There were two birds present but mainly asleep. One was coming into summer plumage. I managed some truly awful shots which aren't even worth cropping more than just to take the edges off - we'll call it an atmospheric shot.

My son enjoying his second American wader (including a Spotted Sand while in the womb!)

Supporting cast also good with loads of Blackwit, at least 5 Bitterns seen (and almost photographed) and a Somerset tick in the form of a Great White Egret.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Italian Sparrows

Highly underrated the Italian race of House Sparrow. They are pretty creatures although apparently not worthy of species status as they seem to have started off as House/Spanish Hybrids. They also seem to hybridise with House Sparrows in the north and Spanish in the south. There is also quite an obvious clinal variation with those from the islands of the far south approaching Spanish Sparrows while those from the north are quite distinct (see below).  The most obvious feature is the lack of grey on the crown - in the photos of the males from the Naples area below (winter/spring), you can see a bit of grey at the tips of the feathers but this wears off to leave an all chestnut crown (see the male from Northern Italy in July). Overall, they are very uniformly reddish chestnut instead of the various shades of brown of House Sparrow. Note how the crown contrasts with the relatively large area of clean white (variable in size) around the eye in Italian Sparrow and compare that to House Sparrow. Note also how the photo from Lampedusa (an island between Sicily and Libya) shows extensive white in front of the eye like Spanish Sparrow as well as quite a bit of black contrasting with paler colors on the mantle and distinct black marking down the flanks. The other feature which is oft discussed is bib size. This is highly dependent on the time of year as depicted below (as the tips wear during the year, more black appears). In breeding male italae, the bib is larger than House Sparrow and never with a tidy edge - the further south you go, the more chevrons appear below the bib (like Spanish). I always think that the belly of italae is paler and cleaner than House Sparrow although the photos I took this week near Naples would tend to go against that.
Females are apparently indistinguishable.

Enough spouting on something I probably don't know enough about - it was probably best to have skipped the text and gone straight to the photos!

Male Naples (April)
Male HS, Spain (August)
Male HS, Scilly (May)

Male Naples (April)

Female, Naples (April)
Male, Naples (January)
Male Lampedusa (far south of Italy; March)

Male Novara, Northern Italy (July)

Un pranzo come si deve

as my mother in law would say - 5 courses over about 5 hours......  Have been in Italy for my father in laws 70th. Not much opportunity for any birding but lunch was accompanied by Serins, Wryneck, Sardinian Warbler and Fan-tailed Warbler. Plenty of Swift and House Martin around too as well as Violet Carpenter Bee. If anyone is ever looking for a place to stay near Naples and want to eat well, I can thoroughly recommend La Casa Del Ghiro

Watching too much Masterchef


Anyone want to guess the flower??