Sunday, 29 July 2012

Signs of Recovery

The title of this post could relate both to the rubbish below or to my hangover after my best mates 40th last night........... even though he had to be taken home after a mere 3 hours at his own party (never throw a glass of water at your sister in law!). We carried on for several hours after the birthday boy had left!!
Back in Somerset this weekend to see how Currymoor is progressing after all of the flooding. Better than expected I have to say - I was expecting worse. However, the ditches are still more or less empty although there were some inverts and a few snails in some. A few plants were also coming through including some of the good local species like Frogbit, Large Duckweed and Arrowhead. 5 Green Sands and 3 Common Sands were good local records as were the thousands of Swifts feeding.

The only bit of Frogbit I saw

Patch Tick!

There were a few dragons about with Southern Hawker being the commonest species

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Lots of Moths

Too many really to go through at the moment - here are some photos from the last few days!


Swallowtail Moth

Antler Moth

Poplar Grey

Small Fan footed Wave?

Buff Footman

Dark/Grey Dagger

Small Phoenix


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Excellent night for moths

Best night so far. 28 species, 55 moths plus one unknown (below)

Poplar Hawk 1
Large Elephant Hawk 1
Buff Ermine 3
Riband Wave 1
Single dotted Wave 1 NFM
Red Twin-spot Carpet 1
Dark barred Twin-spot Carpet 1 NFM
Uncertain 6
Buff Tip 1
Dark Arches 3
Snout 2
Bright line Bown Eye 2
Common Rustic agg. 1
Dot Moth 1
Scalloped Oak 1
Heart and Dart 1
Rustic 2
Buff Arches 1
Rosy Footman 1
Early Thorn 2
Common Wainscot 1
Dun-bar 1
Lychnis 1
Heart and Club 1
Dwarf Cream Wave 1 NFM
Brussels Lace 2 NFM

Single Dotted Wave - Note multiple dots!!

Dot Moth - note single dot!

Poplar Hawk

Large Elephant Hawk

Brussels Lace

Unknown - Common Rustic??

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Pan Species List numbers

A minor landmark reached this morning getting to 800 species (poor I know but everyone has to start somewhere!). The species was V Pug.

V Pug

As you can see from the list below, lots of gaps to be filled some of them covering entire orders! I also have to have a good look at the fungi I have seen as well as I am pretty sure I have missed lots.

While PSL might seems an exercise in kudos, I really don't think it is - my take on it is that it is more an exercise in learning (others may do it for kudos but I really don't get that impression). Thus, I am happy to publish lists of any of the superorders below and would be happy if anyone wanted to check through them to see whether I have made any glaring errors (if anyone can be bothered). Contact me via comments on the blog if you would like to see anything. I feel pretty confident with birds, odonata, butterflies, isopods and the fish as these are groups that I know well.

Moths     107 ( Macros 103, Micros 4)
Birds 302
Vascular Plants 154
Beetles 22
Craneflies, True Flies, Hoverflies 2
Butterflies 27
Bees, Wasps, Ants, Sawflies 11
Bugs, Hoppers & Aphids 0
Fungi & Slime Moulds 34
Terrestrial Mammals 32
Terrestrial & Freshwater Molluscs 5
Dragonflies & Damselflies 30
Spiders & Harvestmen 0
Lichens 0
Crickets & Grasshoppers 5
Amphibians & Reptiles 8
Marine Molluscs, Crustaceans etc 12
Centipedes & Millipedes 2
Woodlice & Freshwater Crustaceans 12
Mosses & Liverworts 0
Lacewings & Scorpionflies 0
Caddisflies 0
Worms & Leeches 0
Silverfish, Springtails & Bristletails 1
Freshwater Fish 22
Mites & Ticks 1
Seaweed 4
Cockroaches 0
Earwigs 1
Fleas 0
Lice 0
Stick Insects 0
Marine Fish 8
Mayflies 0
Stoneflies 0

Total 802

Armadillium depressum

Finally nailed this one after realising that I was misinterpreting the diagram in the AIDGAP key on the shape of the pleon. From under grass on top of a wall at Wembury.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Is Honey Legal?

Lots of Honey Bees in the garden today made me wonder this: If someone is selling honey from bees that visit your garden flowers, are you entitled to a share of the profits? The nectar is yours after all....... (not that I am about to sue someone - just interested in the legal perspective of this)

Good weather has not yet brought much of a change in the Moth situation with Friday night only producing 15 of 5 species with only a Scalloped Oak worthwhile of mention. Better last night:

Large Yellow Underwing 11
Buff Arches 1
Buff Ermine 2
Buff Tip 2
Dun-bar 1
Uncertain 6
Dark Arches 2
Heart and Dart 4
Double Square Spot 1
Common Rustic agg. 2
Garden Carpet 1
Riband Wave 1
Rustic 1
Dot Moth 1 (NFM)

A few recent ones:

Bee Moth

Rosy Footman


Sea Holly

Teeny Grass Snake (4th reptile for Wembury beach)

Friday, 20 July 2012

Pan Species Listing

Not wanting to be seen hopping on any bandwagons here......... My interests are many and varied and spread through a variety of phyla. Our natural world is way too interesting to restrict ones self. I had started to set myself a goal of learning a new group every year but that was rudely interrupted by a baby who doesn't let me! It was going well and I had been getting to grips with the Isopoda (Woodlice) mainly due to my garden being some sort of Isopod metropolis - to the stage where the buggers have eaten all of my cucumber plants and are now embarking on the almost ripe Strawberries.
I then started on Shieldbugs but was rudely interrupted without ever finding much. These groups add to my interests in birds, fungi, odonata, mammals, butterflies, moths, bumblebees, bees and some knowledge of plants. Before hearing of pan-species listing, I had never really thought about adding everything up but it now seems like the right thing to do being a bit of a Jack of all trades.

The really appealing thing about Pan-species listing for me is that there will always be something new to learn. We are not talking about the finer points of Black and White Flycatcher ID or obscure forms and subspecies, we are on about whole new groups with thousands of species and new structural terms (my favorite so far being the opistogaster). Furthermore, new species are and will continue to be everywhere. There is not a moment when outside when you might find something new. I have already had lots of new species just in the garden and some waiting for the bus. 

I have been threatening this for a while now and have been adding up in earnest. You may have noticed random organisms starting to appear on my blog! Not sure that I am ever going to up with the big guys due to time constraints (league table here) - that is not a typo, it does read over 10,000!!! I am getting near a very minor landmark and am starting to be happy that my list is probably a true reflection of what I have seen so will provide a breakdown into groups when I reach that landmark (don't expect anything mind blowing!)

In the mean time, you might want to have a look at how the masters do it:

The Lyons Den
Mark Telfer
Skevs Blog
North Downs and Beyond

I can only really aspire to be like these guys - they are bloody good!

A random organism on my Pan-species list - Trivia monacha (Spotted Cowrie)

If this post reads like something of a confessional, it probably is. I think I need the strength to admit to myself that I am now a Pan Species Lister. Ahh..... I feel liberated!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Christian Charity

This was on the door of the church yesterday - not sure that St Francis of Assisi would have been too impressed!

If you don't understand Italian then this might not make too much sense - The excellent Massimo Troisi and his take on why bird migration started - because St Francis wouldn't leave the birds alone and was always talking to them so they migrated!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Word of the day - Pedomorphosis

I enjoy learning new words and sometimes you come across a really good one! Pedomorphosis is not as bad as it sounds and was being used in the context of why dogs are not as aggressive as Wolves. Basically, it means changing into a child.

The explanation is quite nice as well: Used in the context of dogs, it describes the phenomenon that domestic dogs actually show lots of the same behavioral traits as Wolf pups but remain forever in that ancestral puppy-like state while real Wolves go on to develop their classic behaviors and aggression. Barking is an example - adult Wolves don't bark but prefer howling. Barking is a Wolf pup behavior associated with begging for food or play for instance. Whining and submissivness would be other examples. So our domesticated dogs are really just retarded Wolves! It goes further too with the concept of Neoteny where toy Dog breeds actually start to look like neonatal (newborn) Wolves.

So why does this happen? It seems that it is actually concomitant with domestication as demonstrated by the Farm-Fox experiment (web page)(pdf) - a lifelong project in domestication for Dmitry Belyaev started in 1959 and still ongoing 27 years after his death. By breeding Silver Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and selecting for tameness, a number of morphological, biochemical and behavioral changes were noted over just a short number of generations (~30). These included increased prevalence of piebald coat colour and curly fur, floppy ears and shortened, curly tails for morphological traits and significant (>75%) reductions in corticosteroid plasma levels (corticosteroids act as stress hormones - this is presumably related to aggressiveness). Some of the morphological  changes were greater than 1000% (10 times) compared to the non domesticated population and up to 7000%! All of this has been associated with the creation of a population of very tame animals in an evolutionarily short space of time.

Photo (CC)- TRiver

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Lots of new Moths

Lots of new ones last night including a Swallow-tailed Moth that escaped before a photo. Also my first immigrant - a Silver Y. Full list below.

Silver Y

Buff Arches

Common Emerald

Clay (?)

Scalloped Oak

Common Rustic agg.??

Riband Wave 9
Buff Ermine 2
Large Yellow Underwing 5
Flame 1
Ingrailed Clay 1
Dark Arches 3
Swallow-tailed Moth 1
Silver Y 1
Small Fanfoot 1
Heart and Club 2
Clay 1
Heart and Dart 2
Scalloped Oak 1
Buff Arches 1
Common Emerald 1
Willow Beauty 1
Common Rustic agg. 2

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Somerset Black-winged Stilts

This post comes with apologies to the Plymouth Birder whose bete (blanc et) noire is BWS - sorry I really couldn't say anything at the time.....

You may remember my post about the flooding on my Somerset patch. It was quite an unhappy post and this may explain some of that unhappiness. In the preceding week, I was working in my office when the phone rang. It was the RSPB (thanks for the call!) asking whether I knew what was going on on Currymoor. I set off on a little tirade about the flooding but was stopped to be told that a pair of Black-winged Stilts were nesting behind my mothers house............ I got itchy over the next couple of days and decided it was time to visit my mother!

Unfortunately, the Stilts had abandoned the day before I went (press release from SOS) and were unlikely to have been successful anyway given the state of the moor.

For posterity, some "record shots" that I probably won't be entering into Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Also a second patch tick in the same scope view - Garganey

If anyone is mad enough to want any copies of the photos for posterity, please contact me (via billington lab page>contacts). Free of charge - it would be morally wrong to ask for money for photos of this quality!!! I'll even touch them up a bit for free!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Why Physics Jokes Don't Work

A Higgs-Boson goes into a church and is met at the altar by a priest;

Priest: Sorry, I'm afraid that you can't come in here

Higgs-Boson: But why? I am the "God particle" after all....

Priest: Exactly, you prove that God does not exist - get out!

Higgs-Boson: Well, if I am not allowed in here then you cannot have mass..........

Point proven really without resorting to the one about cats sliding off a roof based on the friction coefficient ยต (mew) which is probably best told about 20 minutes after the apocalypse.

A cool Wasp Beetle -

Clytus arietis?

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A few moths in the rain

I trapped a couple of times over the end of last week/weekend but have basically resorted to trapping in the mist/drizzle as there are no other options! Saturday was actually one of my best catches of the year with 28 of 17 species including a couple of new ones - Uncertain, Small Blood Vein and Small Fan Foot:

Small Fan Foot

And some others from last week:

Barred Straw

Cypress carpet
Clouded Silver

Blood Vein

Marbled Minor group - poss Tawny

Double Square Spot?

I also managed a sneaky half hour at one of my favorite Odonata sites on Dartmoor before the clag closed in - not much of note bar some Large Red Damsels in cop.

Castor Downs

Sea Plantain, Wembury