Our summer holiday this year was a week in the english countryside. It has been ages since I've been away from Guernsey in the middle of summer, as I usually take my trips in the Christmas or Easter holidays. So, even though it was a family holiday, I was looking forward to seeing plenty of new species of insects and plants - if the weather was fine. We had rented a holiday cottage on a farm in the village of Rockbourne in the far west of Hampshire - well it was more of a barn conversion than a cottage - and my sister's family were in the cottage next door, with my parents in a hotel nearby. It was smashing accommodation and the location was super, an old farm on the edge of the village, with a large courtyard for the kids to play in whilst we relaxed on the patio.
There was a little bit of birdlife on the farm. We had Buzzards circling overhead regularly, and every now and again one of them turned out to be a Red Kite. The grassy field behind the farm had large flocks of Mistle Thrush feeding on it and the odd Red-legged Partridge. As it was getting dark on the first night I had an owl fly past which I presume was a Tawny Owl as one could be heard most evenings. Once, at dusk a Little Owl flew in and perched on the barn roof opposite - the first I'd seen for years.
Behind the farm was a sweeping valley which led north across the hill to the next village. There wasn't much of a variety of habitat here as the place was a huge Pheasant feeding location. The grass field shown in the pic below was very sterile although I did find the deep purple beetle Chrysoline sturmi strolling down the track there.
Above the field, there were belts of trees - no doubt for shelter for the Pheasants - but at least there were patches of bramble here. One patch had a heck of a lot of insects on it including my first ever Tree Bumblebee, as well as the distinctive hoverfly Cheilosia illustrata and the first Scorpian-flies I can remember seeing. Most of the plants here were not of interest but I found a small shrub which I later learnt was Box-leaved Honeysuckle.
More productive were the paths and lanes around the village of Rockbourne itself. On the first morning I went for a wander down a track to the churchyard, which was right next to the farm, and encountered many plants I had never seen before - Field Scabious, Agrimony, Hoary Plantain, Wild Marjoram, Vervain, White Comfrey. All these are clearly quite common round here but do not grow in Guernsey. On a umbellifer flower, by the church, I noticed a small 'longhorn' moth feeding on the nectar and managed to pot it up. I identified it as Nemophora metallica - not an especially widespread species it seems, so quite a good find. It was right next to its foodplant, the aforementioned Field Scabious.
I also walked the lanes to the west of the village, by the stream, where Blue Water-speedwell was growing profusely, and I also found Wild Basil, White Bryony and Dark Mullein. There were lots of other plants growing around the village but I am just mentioning the new stuff.
A few times after dark I went out with the moth net, but I was reluctant to go far from the cottage as I didn't want to be creeping aroud outside people's houses at night time. Dingy Footman seemed very common here and most of the species I did catch were also common Guernsey species. The best macro moth here was the Black Arches which was attracted to the window after dark.
Of course, we did leave the village at various times during the stay, but I'll mention what we saw elsewhere in the next post.