Sun 14th June 2009

moths : a warm and cloudy weekend - good conditions for moth trapping and indeed there was plenty in the trap. Over 100 species recorded but no rarities and few migrants, but Scorched Wing was only the second record for the garden - and there were two of them sticking their banana bottoms in the air.

  Scorched wing  - GARDEN - JUN 09

Scorched wing - GARDEN - JUN 09

Tue 16th June 2009

birds : About a month or so ago, I discovered a breeding pair of Grey Wagtails near the bottom of the Talbot Valley, and this was quite a notable find as the species has only bred on the island once before (in 1977). At the end of April the adults were feeding very young chicks and were very active. In my lunch hour today I visited the site to see how they were getting on and was disappointed to see just the male bird and an empty nest.

Looking closely at the nest, I suspect that the chicks have been predated when they were close to fledging. If you look closely, you can see some smeared feathers on the stones above and the vegetation seems to have been damaged. After watching the site for a while however, I did see that the male bird visited another deeper hole further along the wall and so hopefully the female is sitting on a second brood. I shall keep an eye out.

Driving past Port Soif on the way home from work this afternoon, the male Fan-tailed Warbler sang along to Nick Cave through the car window.  

 GREY WAGTAIL NEST SITE

GREY WAGTAIL NEST SITE

 MALE GREY WAGTAIL, TALBOT VALLEY

MALE GREY WAGTAIL, TALBOT VALLEY

Thu 18th June 2009

birds : Today after work the Fan-tailed Warbler was singing along to the Ting Tings. Its bouncy beat went a lot better with their jaunty alternative-pop-punk sound than it did with the depressing Mr. Cave. ". . . they call me Zit-ting, they call me Cistico-la, that's not my name, that's NOT my name . . . . "  The name Zitting Cisticola is totally cack and I refuse to demean the fine Fan-tailed Warbler by referring to it in such a way. I hate most of the new English names that have been plucked out of the air just to neaten up world lists - it's as if people don't understand what the scientific name of species is for. To zit is hardly a proper verb and Cisticola is just repeating the generic name. Why don't we go the whole hog and have Pinging Panurus, Jipping Loxia and Booming Botaurus . . . . . hang on a minute . . . they sound awesome!!

Sat 20th June 2009

moths : A bit of a chill in the air last night and a reduction in moth numbers in the garden with hardly any micros. Two Clouded Brindle were recorded (only four previous records) and there was one decent migrant, a Bordered Straw

birds : Called in to look at the Fan-tailed Warbler pair briefly yesterday and was hoping to see some fledged young hanging around. But the male was constantly in the air singing vociferously and almost dive-bombing me on occasion. The female was in the vegetation below and  it looked like he was displaying to her and so maybe they haven't bred yet or are trying again. Nevertheless, amazing views

 CLOUDED BRINDLE

CLOUDED BRINDLE

Tue 23rd June 2009

birds : Quite disappointed today that the weather was so fine. This meant that the Gannet-ringing team managed to have a long session and get onto both colonies (ringing over 900 birds!) which meant that they are not returning on Saturday when I was going to join them. Perhaps next year the visit will be on a weekend.

Fri 26th June 2009

birds : Picked up a grapevine message at lunchtime that a Red Kite had been seen mid-morning over the Little Chapel, so I had my lunch on Candie Road in case it appeared over the Fauxquets. It didn't, but two Buzzards were performing nicely, with another one very high, and a female Blackcap was singing oddly in a nearby tree. Wasn't gripped at all by the kite as we had one over our house in April.

moths : A bit of microscope work produced a new moth for the garden from last weekend - Coleophora deauratella.

 MALE COLEOPHORA DEAURATELLA - GARDEN

MALE COLEOPHORA DEAURATELLA - GARDEN

 TRUE LOVER'S KNOT - GARDEN

TRUE LOVER'S KNOT - GARDEN

Sun 28th June 2009

moths : This weekend was the 'Guernsey Moth Weekend' with Zoe and Les from the MothsCount project over from the UK to give a talk and host a couple of public events - and it was a really fab couple of days. Started well on Saturday morning with a new macro for the garden list - Marbled White-spot - two of them were recorded but flew off like the clappers before any photos were taken. And then it was down to Blanchlande with my full trap for joe public to look through. It was really good to see plenty of people interested in all the moths but when it was my turn to open up my trap, I felt strangely violated! Watching people rooting around in amongst the egg boxes before i'd had the chance to have a proper look made me feel quite uncomfortable and panicky - oddball Lawlor!

The next morning it was down to Sablons for a session with the juniors and it was great to see them so interested in everything. One youngster was incredibly knowledgeable - he knew practically every macro on sight and seem to have memorised the book. Also Tim brought his trap from home which is above Petit Bot and it contained a couple of examples of Lappet which I've never seen before and were pretty impressive pretending to be dead leaves. Also a Bordered Sallow was pulled out from Peter's trap - a new species for Guernsey! I had learnt from the previous day and had gone through my own trap earlier in the morning and just put everything back in. They rummaged at will!

Before a fine lunch at the Imperial, I managed 20 minutes up on the Pleinmont cliffs and found a couple of Thrift Clearwing and the first Graylings of the year, as well as something else which I was sort of looking for, and has to remain hush-hush for now I'm afraid......

birds : Dipped a Spoonbill at Claire Mare, but a Green Sandpiper was present.

 LAPPET - LE CHENE

LAPPET - LE CHENE

Mon 29th June 2009

birds : The Spoonbill was refound today at the Vale Pond just up the road. Called in on the way home from work and I could only see part of its mucky brown head sticking out of the reeds. Later in the evening though I had another look and it was showing well.

 SPOONBILL - VALE POND - 29 JUN 09

SPOONBILL - VALE POND - 29 JUN 09

Sat 4th July 2009

moths : An excellent haul in the trap this morning with over 110 species recorded and a few still in the fridge. The highlight was probably my second Beautiful Hook-tip in a week, but nothing rarer. There were a few more migrants including a Dark Sword-grass, a species I get very few of, and I had the darkest Dark Arches I've ever seen - we don't get a lot of melanism here in Guernsey.

Also had about 10 small ermine moths, half of which were identified as Orchard Ermine (Yponomeuta padella) and half as Bird-cherry Ermine (Yponomeuta evonymella). The former is the common species on the island with nests of the larvae very common on the cliffs and elsewhere, the latter is more irregular and is said to be a migrant. This genus of moths are notoriously difficult to tell apart, but these two are not so bad. The Bird-cherry is pure white with lots of tiny dots. The Orchard has a dusky wash and less spots.

birds : At lunchtime I headed to Port Soif to see if I could definitely confirm that the Fan-tailed Warblers have bred. The male was singing away in the sky for most of the time, and the female was also seen regularly flying low around the area. I saw her carrying food and so I assume that she has chicks in a nest. I worked out the approx area that it probably was and when I got close she stopped what she was doing and got quite agitated. Stonechats have nested there also as there was a very young juvenile seen.

 A DARK DARK ARCHES - GARDEN

A DARK DARK ARCHES - GARDEN

 ORCHARD ERMINE (Y. PADELLA)

ORCHARD ERMINE (Y. PADELLA)

Tue 7th July 2009

moths : Saturday night's catch was superb with over 120 species recorded, including a new species for the garden - the tiny but exquisite Argyresthia brockeela. The second garden record of Catoptria verellus was the rarest of the lot- 2 previous Guernsey records and still very rare in the UK. Also Small Yellow Wave and Marbled White-spot were 2nd garden records, and there was Small Elephant Hawk-moth, 2 Common Lutestring, E. bankesiella and 111 Diamond-back Moths counted. And there is still a few to investigate including a strange pyralid I do not recognise.

birds : Had my lunch in the hide at the Claire Mare on Monday. Dipped out on the Black-wit but enjoyed watching the Marsh Harrier. Also there were a couple of very pale White Wagtails obviously having bred nearby. The racial identification of the small numbers of alba wags nesting on the island is a bit confused as they are variously reported as White or as Pied by different people, and either or both forms could be nesting here in theory. In general, all the ones I have seen in mid-Summer have suggested to me White but they always seem to be in manky plumage at this time of the year and the bright sun doesn't help judging shades of grey. I am not totally happy with the identification features that are published between Pied and White - it seems more complicated to me than is implied in the books

 ARGYRESTHIA BROCKEELLA - GARDEN

ARGYRESTHIA BROCKEELLA - GARDEN

 MARBLED WHITE-SPOT - GARDEN

MARBLED WHITE-SPOT - GARDEN

 CATOPTRIA VERELLUS - GARDEN

CATOPTRIA VERELLUS - GARDEN

Sat 11th July 2009

birds : The mid-summer lull is upon us and I haven't been specifically looking for birds. The Buzzard slowly flapping over the house cricket competition was a pleasant highlight.

moths : Took the moth trap to school to show the year 8 class and most were pretty amazed by the Privet and Poplar Hawk-moths and the Buff-tips looking like sticks etc. It wasn't a massive catch but it included another Marbled White Spot, my 4th in the last few weeks - another species that has increased recently.

Tue 14th July 2009

moths : On Monday evening I went to pick up Abigail from the beach, and being 10 minutes early, I had a scrabble around in the grassy area by the car park - there was a couple of the Restharrow Plume (lunaedactyla) and quite a few little tortrix moths - Grapholita compositella, plus a Dichrorampha sp. which still needs identification. Looking on my list when I got back, the compositella was a new species although I thought I had seen it before - and indeed I had when I found a photo of one from last year (I'd just forgotten to record it in the system).

Monday night I put out the trap and was rewarded with a new species for me - Phlyctaenia stachydalis - the 3rd record for Guernsey as far as I know and a species I had been looking for for a while. Similar to the commoner P. coronata, it was smaller and more 'latticed' with dark stripes.

 GRAPHOLITA COMPOSITELLA - GRANDES ROCQUES

GRAPHOLITA COMPOSITELLA - GRANDES ROCQUES

 PHLYCTAENIA STACHYDALIS - GARDEN

PHLYCTAENIA STACHYDALIS - GARDEN

Sat 18th July 2009 - SCOTLAND

Friday after work, I flew up to Scotland to attend Mr. Fuller's wedding. Rather a complex business - flying first to Jersey, then Birmingham, then Edinburgh - but it went smoothly apart from my case not appearing on the baggage carousel in Edinburgh. I was getting a bit concerned until I noticed it trundling round a different carousel with the cases from Heathrow. Andy picked me up from the airport and we went to a nearby campsite. Luckily he had already set up the tent as it started raining even heavier. Every single time I have been to Scotland it has rained a lot.

Still wet and breezy the next morning, we packed up and headed for St. Andrews where the wedding was being held. As we were passing, we decided to look for the few Roseate Terns which breed on the Forth of Forth. All the gen we had was that they were on a small island under the road bridge. After searching a short while for terns we were very surprised to discover that the tern colony was actually directly under the bridge - quite a bizarre site. We managed to pick out a single Roseate flying round with the Common Terns.

Arriving at St. Andrews we didn't really expect to see many interesting birds - it is July after all - but we looked for seaduck from the town seafront. We couldn't find any scoter but there were plenty of Eider. We then met up with Rich and best man Seth to do a wee bit of traditional pre-wedding birding. We went to the hide at the Eden Estuary but there wasn't a great deal to see - Goosanders and a R-b Merganser and a Common Seal showing well in the creek.

In the afternoon we checked in at the hotel and went to the ceremony at the old University chapel which was a fabulous place to get married. I thought it was a nice romantic touch that Rich and Seth took their bins into the chapel, but they bottled out of scanning back down the isle as Claire appeared - I don't blame them - very funny, but potentially disasterous! A fine reception and shindig followed and we tottered back to the hotel in the small hours after a fabulous day. Rich now becomes the final BUBO lad to get married - the womenfolk of the world breathe a sigh of relief.

 THE NOT-SO-PEACEFUL TERN COLONY UNDER THE FORTH ROAD BRIDGE

THE NOT-SO-PEACEFUL TERN COLONY UNDER THE FORTH ROAD BRIDGE

 WORLD'S POOREST  ROSEATE TERN  PIC (TOP BIRD)

WORLD'S POOREST ROSEATE TERN PIC (TOP BIRD)

  EIDERS  - ST. ANDREWS

EIDERS - ST. ANDREWS

Sun 19th July 2009 - SCOTLAND

After yesterday's frivolities it was time to focus and get some serious birding in. Andy and I had planned to head up to the ancient pine forests in search of Scottish Crossbill. I ticked off the species about 16 years ago when I first went to Scotland with the BUBO lads, but back in those uninformed days we were not aware of the presence of Parrot Crossbills in the area. So we wanted to have another look at the crossbills and see if we could sort a few out, especially using the calls. Andy brought his dictophone to try and make some crude recordings to analyse later and maybe we'd be lucky.

After the late night and beers of the previous day we woke up surprisingly fresh, had breakfast as soon as it opened and headed off northwards. It was great to see the hills of the highlands approaching and we stopped at the pass above Glenshee where we had seen Ptarmigan before. The weather was clearing up all the time and, full of enthusiasm we decided to climb a hill! Halfway up it started getting wet again and the wind was quite blowy and there were no Ptarmigan to be seen. We had a few Ravens and a pair of Golden Plover, and we saw lots of Mountain Hares but it was hard work to find anything.

 MOUNTAIN HARE - GLENSHEE

MOUNTAIN HARE - GLENSHEE

 MUZZA LOOKING FOR PTARMIGAN

MUZZA LOOKING FOR PTARMIGAN

It was too blowy on top for any insects to be flying but along a marshy stream we did flush a couple of examples of a pyralid which turned out to be the alpine specialist Udea uliginosalis. Back down at the cafe there was a few moths in the toilets - Grey Mountain Carpets and Red Carpets.

 UDEA ULIGINOSALIS - GLENSHEE

UDEA ULIGINOSALIS - GLENSHEE

 RED CARPET - GLENSHEE

RED CARPET - GLENSHEE

 GREY MOUNTAIN CARPET - GLENSHEE

GREY MOUNTAIN CARPET - GLENSHEE

Dropping down into Deeside after lunch we parked up at the car park at Keiloch where we heard it was good for crossbills, and as soon as we got out, one flew across and landed in a tree. It was clearly Scottish or Parrot but we hadn't got all the equipment out before it flew off. So we set off for a circular walk which was excellent for lepidoptera, especially when we walked back across the south-facing slope of the valley with its mixed pine, birch and heather, as shown in the photo below. I had three new species of butterfly on just this short walk - Dark Green Fritillary, Scotch Argus and Northern Brown Argus - totally astounding.

As well as the butterflies, there was lots of new moths to see - Antler Moth, Heath Rivulet, Chimney Sweeper and Beech-green Carpet were all new species for me. It was a great afternoon for insects and I managed to glimpse a Red Squirrel also.

 KEILOCH, DEESIDE

KEILOCH, DEESIDE

 NORTHERN BROWN ARGUS - KEILOCH

NORTHERN BROWN ARGUS - KEILOCH

 ANTLER MOTH - KEILOCH

ANTLER MOTH - KEILOCH

 CHIMNEY SWEEPER - KEILOCH

CHIMNEY SWEEPER - KEILOCH

We didn't have any more crossbills on the walk, but back near the car park we did hear a few more. This persuaded us to camp in the car park as we would be on site at first light ready to record. We feasted in Braemar at the "Hungry Highlander" where Andy had the choice of Black, Red or White Pudding and chips - he chose the latter but couldn't decide what it was - looked like battered vomit to me - I stuck with just chips. 

Mon 20th July 2009 - SCOTLAND

Early on Monday morning, I woke with a start. Snug in my sleeping bag I could clearly hear the 'jipping' of crossbills from all around the tent. It was 5:45 and practically a sleep-in for me, so I thought Andy should be woken up to try and get some recordings. I'm sure he was very pleased with me. Upon stepping out into the fresh air, we could see that it was a wonderful morning, with blue skies and the sun slowly sweeping across the glen as it rose over the hillsides.

We did record a few crossbill calls, but I failed to photograph lots of individuals as I had hoped to do. The birds only visited the trees very fleetingly, and never in the closest pines, and, as it was quite breezy, the tops of the trees constantly swayed, blurring many images in the low light levels of early morning. The best shot was the effort below which appears to show a chunky crossbill with a deep bill. It could be either Scottish or Parrot Crossbill I suppose, but fits in with my idea of a Scottish the most. Maybe when Andy has analysed the recordings we might have a better idea which species were present.

 THE PINES AT KEILOCH AT FIRST LIGHT.

THE PINES AT KEILOCH AT FIRST LIGHT.

 PROBABLE OR POSSIBLE SCOTTISH OR PARROT CROSSBILL - KEILOCH

PROBABLE OR POSSIBLE SCOTTISH OR PARROT CROSSBILL - KEILOCH

After grabbing some fruit loaf for breakfast, we decided to try another pine wood and headed for Linn of Dee. We walked to the edge of the pines without getting a sniff of anything then a party of 6 crossbills flew out of the pines and across in front of us. They seemed massive brutes with deep flight calls and so we suspected they might be Parrots - but it was getting very confusing!

We had our second breakfast in a Braemar cafe and we headed on downstream to our next spot, Glen Muick. We didn't plan to walk anywhere here just look for things from the roadside. Andy spotted a fly-by fritillary on a superb roadside verge which was crawling with insects. As well as a few Dark Green Frits, there were lots of Chimney Sweepers and Andy netted a classy Gold Spangle. When the terrain turned a bit wilder, we saw two young juvenile Peregrines chasing each other but we failed to locate any Black Grouse that we had seen in the valley a previous year. Bird of the day though was a superb male Hen Harrier gliding across the heather-clad hillside. At the head of the valley there were lots of Red Deer to photograph.

 RED DEER - GLEN MUICK

RED DEER - GLEN MUICK

Our final planned stop was Glen Tanar near Aboyne which is also a good crossbill site. Although we did hear a crossbill early on in the walk which we recorded well, there were none obvious in the main forest. We eventually saw a bird near the car which from the snap I took looks like a smaller Common Crossbill to me. The walk though was fabulous anyway - the scenery was amazing and moths and butterflies were everywhere. I estimate that we saw at least 500 Twin-spot Carpets which took flight every few yards along the tracks, and we netted at least 11 other types of geometer moths during the afternoon, the highlight being the Caledonian Pine Forest specialist, the Rannoch Looper.

 DARK GREEN FRITILLARY - GLEN MUICK

DARK GREEN FRITILLARY - GLEN MUICK

 RANNOCH LOOPER - GLEN TANAR

RANNOCH LOOPER - GLEN TANAR

We had to head back down to Edinburgh for the night so we took an excellent little road which ran down the east side of the massif. We passed a superb viewpoint called Cairn O'Mount where you could see right across to Fife. Descending the steep hill following this we had a conversation something like this:

          "Andy, can you smell burning?"    --   "No"

          "I'm sure I can smell something burning"    --    "They're burning the heather - It'll be that"

          "But it smells like burnt rubber. I don't think it's heather."    --    "You reckon? It'll be right"

          "I think you'd better stop. We should have a look"

At which point we did stop and saw that the Skoda's brakes were giving off smoke big-style. We let them cool down somewhat. After cheating death, we decided that a nice meal was in order, so we drove into the well-known centre of haute cuisine - Forfar. The town seemed totally closed on a Monday evening and we were about to give up when we saw an Indian open, which was pretty darn good feed! Forfar is not quite as gloomy as it initially appears.

 NICE VIEWS FROM CAIRN O'MOUNT

NICE VIEWS FROM CAIRN O'MOUNT

We camped at the same place near Edinburgh Airport next to the loudest american woman this side of the Atlantic, whose boyfriend must have been very deaf. Luckily we were so tired during the night we didn't get to find out whether she did everything noisily. The next morning Andy dropped me off at the airport before he headed South on the marathon drive back to Norwich.

Sun 26th July 2009

birds : After arriving home from my trip there was much to do around the house so little birding has been done. On Thursday, over the house, I watched a Peregrine attacking an immature Herring Gull with extreme prejudice. It really looked like it was going to bring it down! Also, the same evening, two early Whimbrels called as they circled high over the garden.

moths : Highlight of the trap last night was Guernsey's second Yponomeuta sedella - I had the first almost exactly 4 years ago. It is one of the easiest small ermines to identify (see 4th July post) as it is a pale grey colour all over, rather than white.

Also on the insect front, whilst tidying the shed, I found, hanging from the ceiling, a neat little wasps nest. It was an upside-down bowl attached at the base, with a cluster of 7 hexagonal cells in the middle hanging from a rod from the base of the bowl. It was very intricate and delicate - and marvellous to think it was constructed by a little insect from mashed-up bits of wood. Unfortunately it was abandoned, probably because I had shut the shed window properly.

 YPONOMEUTA SEDELLA - GARDEN

YPONOMEUTA SEDELLA - GARDEN

 EARLY WASP NEST

EARLY WASP NEST

Fri 31st July 2009

birds : A couple of great raptor sightings today. Chatting in the garden in the early afternoon, a raptor appeared over the house from the North. Rosie kept an eye on it as I ran in for my bins and it proved to be a superb Honey Buzzard which circled for a while before drifting off towards the centre of the island - a new species for the garden list. Mark G had one late morning over his garden so it may have been the same bird. The regular Honeys that we get here in the summertime, I presume are post-breeding wanderers from nearby France rather than long-distance migrants.

Soon after that, Duncan and I were having ices at Port Soif kiosk with the kids, when thousands of gulls appeared circling overhead. The sultry conditions had brought the flying ants out of their nests and the gulls were feasting on them. The sky was covered with the swirling beasts and it was a very impressive sight - even joe public noticed them.  A couple of falcons joined the circling mass - then there were three of them - then five. And they weren't the expected Kestels but were actually five Peregrines! I have never seen so many flocking together and they looked like they were playing, chasing each other and the gulls.

moths : A new species for the garden list in the trap this morning was Agonopterix ocellana, the red ring in the centre of the wing aiding identification. The conditions for butterflies were fabulous today and at Port Soif dunes there were a great many in flight of at least 10 species, including two Clouded Yellows, my first of the year. I found a small geometrid larva nearby in the Tamarisks which I thought would have been Channel Island Pug but it didn't match the description in the book. Rather oddly, when I returned to the car after an evening on the beach, I counted 28 Yellow-V Moths perched on it.

 AGONOPTERIX OCELLANA - GARDEN

AGONOPTERIX OCELLANA - GARDEN

Wed 5th August 2009

moths : The moth trap this morning contained an unusually large selection of the tiniest moths - double-figures of Lyonetia clerkella and Phyllocnistis unipunctella, plus 3 species of Phyllonorycter and 2 of Nepticulidae (to be identified). And this included two of a tiny and distinctive, but unfamiliar moth which, upon investigation appears to be Bucculatrix ulmella - an oak-feeding micro which, according to my data, has not occurred in Guernsey before! (Although usually when I discover a new species for the island someone else has already seen it a few weeks previously.) Pebble Hook-tip was the pick of the macros, and there was also a Harlequin Ladybird - this is the aggressive far-eastern species which has been introduced to Europe and has been spreading quickly. It is not widespread in Guernsey yet, but no doubt will become common soon, and drive out our native species - although they might die out after 5 years when the States refuse to extend their housing licenses.

birds : Twice during the day I heard Peregrines calling from inside the house (me, that is - not the birds). Both times it was two high-flying birds circling above the garden which looked like juveniles, although they were too high to be sure with the bins. Also a Buzzard went over around lunchtime.

 BUCCULATRIX ULMELLA - GARDEN

BUCCULATRIX ULMELLA - GARDEN

 HARLEQUIN LADYBIRD - GARDEN

HARLEQUIN LADYBIRD - GARDEN

Sat 8th August 2009

birds : The first Wheatear of the autumn was noted at Port Soif. Always gives a wee tinge of excitement as it shows that migrant passerines have started to pass through, searching for these being my favourite type of birding.

moths : Thorough sorting of the moth catch of 4th Aug meant a second new species for the garden - Endothenia quadromaculana. The tiny species mentioned last post included Stigmella trimaculella, one of the few distinctive moths of this group, and two probable Cameraria ohridella, the infamous horse chestnut leaf miner. This morning's catch was poorer but included a lively, tiny moth, which may be Cosmiotes freyerella. If so, this would be a further new species for the island. Finally, the second garden record of the Mediterranean Flour Moth (Ephestia kuehniella) was found inside the house one morning, clearly having just emerged from the Guinea Pig food or bedding

 MEDITERRANEAN FLOUR MOTH - INSIDE THE HOUSE

MEDITERRANEAN FLOUR MOTH - INSIDE THE HOUSE

Sun 9th August 2009

nonsense : I was in the kitchen today and looked out of the window to check on Anais who was playing in the garden. I saw her sat in her usual spot playing with a toy rubber snake. Hang on . . . we don't have a toy rubber snake. I ran outside and she was grasping a live, foot-long Slow Worm, brandishing it above her head like a maniacal witch-doctor! I wanted to take a photo of her but I was concerned she might do a Lenny and throttle the poor creature. So I took it off her - the first time i've handled a reptile I think - and showed it to Abigail and Aidan before letting it go. We have seen a few Slow Worms under the decking recently - a very warm and safe environment for them I suspect.

The garden wildlife spectacular didn't stop there, as a few minutes later I noticed a massive Frog in the corner - I don't think I've ever seen a frog in the garden and this was the biggest one i have ever seen anywhere. Abigail and I managed to get it into a bucket, and I took it out of the garden but it leaped out half-way down the drive and I had to run after it. A woman walking her dog looked at me a bit strangely as I leapt around the driveway in my slippers with a bucket. I eventually re-caught it and released it in the grass over the road. Also today a Blue-tailed Damselfly visited the garden. A female of the 'rufescens' form it seems from looking at the book.

 SLOW WORM IN THE GARDEN

SLOW WORM IN THE GARDEN

 FROG IN THE GARDEN

FROG IN THE GARDEN

 BLUE-TAILED DAMSELFLY IN THE GARDEN

BLUE-TAILED DAMSELFLY IN THE GARDEN

Thu 13th August 2009

birds : I visited the Fan-tailed Warblers today, thinking that they surely by now they have some fledged youngsters. But no, the female was still bringing food to the nest site so there must still be chicks in the nest. At least I was able to find the (almost) exact location of the nest in the scrub. I sat in amongst the Fennel nearby and, although I wasn't really, really close to the nest, the female wasn't daft and refused to take the juicy spider it had caught back to the babies. Just shows that you don't have to be disturbing the actual nest to be disturbing the nesting process. So, of course I quickly retreated. Also, it seemed like the male's job was not finding food itself, but trying to distract attention away from the nest site whenever the female returned with food. When I heard the male calling loudly and flying round, often the female would fly in low with food. I don't know whether the species actually does this but that was my impression.

An hour and a half seawatch yesterday in poor visibility produced just 2 Balearic and 2 Manx Shearwaters but my highlight was a tight flock of 55 Common Terns that raced through close offshore. 

moths : Whilst sat on a rock waiting for the Fan-taileds to show, I noticed a tiny moth scurrying along the rock next to me. It was the distinctive micro, Eulamprotes wilkella. This is a very rare species on Guernsey and this was only the second modern sighting (it also lives on Herm Common) and it lives on sand dune systems associated with Thyme. Way back in 1875, the famous Lepidopterist W. A. Luff, recorded this species at "The Grandes Rocques", which may have been the same location as I saw it in today. It is nice to think that a species can persist at a location for 134 years without being noticed in all that time.

A Gypsy Moth was in the trap this morning - always a quality migrant - but it has been a bit cold and damp this week to get good catches. I have made a slight change to the trap by sticking some mirror tiles to a piece of plastic, resting at 45 degrees so the UV radiation will bounce straight up to the sky rather than being wasted going straight into the wall. Hopefully it will improve the catch but its impossible to be sure.

 GYPSY MOTH - GARDEN

GYPSY MOTH - GARDEN

Sat 15th August 2009

birds : I returned to the Fan-tailed Warbler nest-site to try and get a few photos. It was very frustrating as the female was showing very well but kept landing behind weeds slightly obscured. Also, I'd allowed myself a half-hour window to gets some snaps so I would not disturb the feeding of the young. It was trying to bring a Rosy Rustic to the nest and after a couple of attempts, it eventually did so - clearly I have a trusting face.

 BREEDING CONFIRMED FOR THE FAN-TAILED WARBLERS

BREEDING CONFIRMED FOR THE FAN-TAILED WARBLERS

 .

.

moths : A small selection of migrants in the trap this morning, including Bordered Straw and Tree-lichen Beauty. The best moth though was an abberantly-marked Brimstone, nothing like any I'd seen before.

 ABERRANT BRIMESTONE - GARDEN

ABERRANT BRIMESTONE - GARDEN

Tue 18th August 2009

birds & moths : Nothing much doing here - been looking after the kids for the last few days - apart from the now regular Buzzards and Peregrines over the house.

Wed 19th August 2009

birds : Here on Guernsey, we do not get many large concentrations of birds. Wader flocks seldom get into triple-figures and duck counts are pitiful. What we do get though is plenty of gulls, and when the flying ants decide to break out of their nests, the high-flying feeding flocks can be spectacular. This evening was such an occasion, with thousands of gulls wheeling over the house.

There seemed to be a few more smaller gulls in this flock than is usual and so I thought I'd look for Med Gull amongst them, a species I should have seen from the garden before now. Pretty soon I saw a first-year Med, then a second-year and then an adult - result! There was probably a further first year bird but it was difficult to be sure.

 ANT-FUELLED GULL FEEDING FRENZY OVER THE GARDEN

ANT-FUELLED GULL FEEDING FRENZY OVER THE GARDEN

I hate cats. Their only purpose is to be pets for people who are too lazy to get proper pets. Which other pets are allowed to just wander wherever they want, murdering wild animals at will? If dogs are seen attacking ducks at a park then the owners will have the law onto them, yet cat owner's animals can kill bird after bird after bird. We have 4 cats as neighbours and they feel my wrath every time i catch them in our garden. People say 'they're just following their natural instincts' - well my natural instincts are to put my size 11's through their tiny brains!

Anyway, at lunchtime today there were two of the feline gits sniffing around the garden cuttings by the driveway gate. I "shooed" them off then they were back again a few minutes later. As I went over for the second time, a shrew scurried out from under the gate and into our back garden. I quickly caught it in a bucket, saving it from the evil cats. The shrews we have here are Greater White-toothed Shrews so I'm told, which also live on Alderney and Herm, but bizarrely, Sark and Jersey have a different species, the Lesser W-t Shrew, which also occurs on Scilly. It was good to see it at such close quarters and I released it in the grass over the road. Haha! Me 1, Cats 0.

 GREATER WHITE-TOOTHED SHREW IN THE GARDEN

GREATER WHITE-TOOTHED SHREW IN THE GARDEN

Sun 23rd August 2009

birds : As there was a change in the weather from sun to rain showers, I was disappointed to find practically zero migrants on Pleinmont on Thursday. A Greenshank flew off the island to the South and it was quickly persued by a Peregrine, but it escaped to carry on its autumn migration. Checking the gulls at Cobo on the way home there were 6 Med Gulls in the BHG flock - 2 ads, 4 1st-years - the most I'd ever seen in Guernsey.

moths : As there were few birds, I looked in the trees for evidence of micro moths and found a few interesting mines. Many of the very small species of moths look very similar to each other and the best way of identifying them is to look for their larva feeding in leaves. As these leaf-miners are often very foodplant specific, it is a very important part of moth recording. They are called leaf-miner moths as the tiny caterpillars feed between the upper and lower surfaces of leaves, forming tunnels - two examples shown below. To identify these mines, you also have to consider the shape and size of the mine, as well as the frass (poo) pattern - dispersed (below) or linear (bottom)

 STIGMELLA LEMNISCELLA MINE

STIGMELLA LEMNISCELLA MINE

 stigmella hybnerella mine and larva

stigmella hybnerella mine and larva

Sun 30th August 2009

birds : I got a slightly bit twitchy yesterday when I got the grapevine call of a juvenile Red-backed Shrike at Pleinmont. Not that Red-backed Shrike is that exciting, just that I'd not seen one in Guernsey before. Luckily I was a a bit tied up and didn't rush off because when he looked at his photos, Mark Guppy thought it was a Woodchat Shrike, and when I saw them, it certainly was. So I didn't rush there since Woodchat was on my Guernsey list already and went to visit it today instead. It was in the small valley between the Scramble Track and Mont Herault, an area that I used to check when I used to be a regular visitor to Pleinmont, as it looks classic rare bird territory. As is typical of shrikes , it showed very well for us, perching high up on the bushes. I managed to snap off plenty of photos but most were blurred due to the annoying wind/old tripod combination, but I got a few acceptable ones.

 woodchat shrike - mont herault - 30 aug 09

woodchat shrike - mont herault - 30 aug 09

 .

.