Wed 2nd June 2010

birds : Well my declaration that spring migration was probably over was blown out of the water this evening when the grapevine sprung into action with a report of 3 Black-winged Stilts at the Claire Mare. As usual, the call did not come at a good time as I was half-way through putting together a flat-pack table. A few minutes of speed-DIY later, and we were on our way down west (Mum and Dad were my twitching buddies). The three birds were showing exceptionally well on the new pond at the back of the reserve but were mostly asleep whilst I was there. These birds were the 6th record for Guernsey.

Black-winged Stilts - Claire Mare, Jun 10

Black-winged Stilts - Claire Mare, Jun 10

Fri  4th June 2010

moths : I was shocked to see in my database that it had been 10 years since I had seen a Glanville Fritillary. This is the speciality butterfly of Guernsey and I went to see them the first two summers I was here, but haven't since. So with a couple of free hours today, and with the temperatures suddenly hitting the roof, I hit the cliffs. I didn't go to Pleinmont where I had seen them before because I haven't found them there since, so I tried further along at Mont Herault.

Upon arrival it was clear there had just been a massive emergence of Five-spot Burnet Moths - I estimated that there were 1000+ just in this area alone. They were everywhere, especially liking the Sheep's-bit flowers it seems, although one thought it would find some tasty nector up my shorts - poor beggar! I soon saw my first fritillary and discovered by looking down that they were mainly flying a few feet below the top of the cliff, right above the precipitous slope. This would make photography tricky as I was not going to go anywhere near the edge, but every now and again, one would fly up and fly around the flat bit. They were very flighty and difficult to get close to so I didn't get very good photos.

Glanville Fritillary - Mont Herault - Jun 10

Glanville Fritillary - Mont Herault - Jun 10

With the excellent conditions for insects, there was plenty more to see including my first Painted Lady of the year, and three migrant Silver Y moths, as well as another 10 species of moth. The highlight was the Thrift Clearwing which are very tricky to spot.

Thrift Clearwing - Mont herault, Jun 10

Thrift Clearwing - Mont herault, Jun 10

Sun 6th June 2010

moths : Had a terrific catch in the trap on Saturday morning, with lots of species I rarely see, including at least 2 new for the garden, one of which looks like a first for Guernsey. When I have finished sorting everything out I shall put pictures up. Meanwhile, here are some photos of the Five-spot Burnet moths from Mont Herault on Friday, gorging themselves on nectar - you can see the pollen stuck to their heads, carrying out their mission in return for their sweet treat.

Five-spot Burnet - Mont Herault - Jun 10

Five-spot Burnet - Mont Herault - Jun 10

Tue 8th June 2010

moths : The full count for Friday night is at least 112 species trapped, a couple of which still need to be identified. This is really really good for so early on in June, so hopefully this year will see an increase in moths caught. I took lots of photos and the highlights are below. As well as these, I had another Seraphim, my second record of Agonopterix ocellana, my third of Bucculatrix ulmella, 6 migrant Rush Veneers and a Pearly Underwing, very late Hebrew Character and Common Quaker and a massive 30 Oak-tree Pugs.

Cydia conicolana - presuming I have correctly identified it, and unless there has been a record in the last few weeks, this appears to be a first for Guernsey. A tortrix moth feeding on pine cones.

Cydia conicolana - presuming I have correctly identified it, and unless there has been a record in the last few weeks, this appears to be a first for Guernsey. A tortrix moth feeding on pine cones.

Grass Rivulet - garden - jun 10

Grass Rivulet - garden - jun 10

Fri 11th June 2010

birds : A recently-fledged juvenile White Wagtail at Vazon has been the only bird sighting of note this week.

moths : A spot of microscope work has revealed two new species for the garden - Lesser Common Rustic and Coleophora lassella - both from last summer.

Loose-flowered Orchid - Talbot Valley - Jun 10

Loose-flowered Orchid - Talbot Valley - Jun 10

Blue-tailed Damselflies - Talbot Valley - June 10

Blue-tailed Damselflies - Talbot Valley - June 10

Sun 13th June 2010

moths : Although there were some nice moths in the trap this weekend, there was nothing out of the ordinary. I had more luck this afternoon when I took a short walk to Icart Point where the eastern cliffs were quite sheltered from the chilly, westerly wind.

Scrambling down the slope here is much safer than it would have been at Mont Herault last week and I soon came across a Glanville Fritillary. This was the only one I saw and it was much more helpful than the skitty ones last time.

Glanville Fritillary - Icart - June 10

Glanville Fritillary - Icart - June 10

I found a nice sheltered little path on the top which had plenty of moths flying along the vegetation, including a few tortrix moths which might well be Cochylimorpha straminea. I will have to check this out properly as I have never seen the species before and there are very few records for the island.

Cochylimorpha straminella - Icart Jun 10

Cochylimorpha straminella - Icart Jun 10

Mon 21st June 2010

moths : A fantastic new species for the garden on Saturday morning, with 2 Rannoch Loopers in the trap. In the UK, this is a speciality of the Scottish Highlands pine forests, and me and Andy had one last year when we were there. So it is surprising that it is also a rare migrant to the Southern UK - I don't know where these ones would be arriving from. I was not exactly surprised to get one though, since I knew there had been a few caught here during the previous week .

Rannoch Looper - garden jun 10

Rannoch Looper - garden jun 10

There were also a few other migrants in the trap despite the slightly northerly vector to the winds - three Silver Y, a few Rush Veneers and a Gem. A Crambus lathoniellus was only my second records. Re-totalling up the garden Lep list brings it to over 550 species.

Pale Tussock - garden Jun 10

Pale Tussock - garden Jun 10

Thu 1st July 2010

birds : Hot weather and hay fever has forced me to mainly take cover in school during my lunch breaks this week. I have had a couple of brief looks in the Talbot for raptors but have only seen the regulars. Swift numbers have built up already and large flocks were feeding there on Tuesday. Best bird was the Hobby low over the house on Sunday morning.

Emperor Dragonfly laying eggs talbot valley jun 10

Emperor Dragonfly laying eggs talbot valley jun 10

White Plume - garden Jun 10

White Plume - garden Jun 10

Olive - garden Jun 10

Olive - garden Jun 10

Fly sp - garden Jun 10

Fly sp - garden Jun 10

Mon 5th July 2010

moths : Friday night was a decent night in the traps with a new species for the garden - Pale Oak Beauty - one I have been looking out for in the last couple of years as there have been a few in the island recently. Treble Brown Spot and White Satin Moth were also good - both only my third sighting of each.

Pale Oak Beauty - garden Jul 10

Pale Oak Beauty - garden Jul 10

Treble Brown Spot - garden Jul 10

Treble Brown Spot - garden Jul 10

White Satin - garden Jul 10

White Satin - garden Jul 10

The weekend was a 'moth' weekend with Phil coming over from England, bringing with him Dave, Dave's van and a whole load of moth traps! So on Friday night they set the traps upon the cliffs at Icart and we looked through them at Peter's on Saturday morning - Orange Moth and Grey Arches being new macro species for me, as well as a few new micros, and there were a great many Barrett's Marbled Coronets, a species I never see. Of course there is very little trapping done right on the cliffs by us locals as we tend to stick just to our own gardens, so there may be plenty of unusual stuff waiting to be found.

In the afternoon we had a quick belt round Pleinmont and managed to net a few examples of "moth X" which we had seen there the previous year. Also Dave brought some clearwing pheromone lures and he just unzipped the bag they were in and two Thrift Clearwing jumped in there almost immediately! There were hundreds and hundreds of butterflies in the TV Mast field - lots of Grayling mainly.

That evening, I helped them put out the 5 traps along the cliffs at Pleinmont - looking rather spectacular with these massive lights shining out across the Atlantic on the desolate headland. Sunday morning we looked through these traps and found even more great species. Macro-wise there were 5 Dark Tussocks (so clearly breeding there) and a fabulous Miller - two more new species - plus a handful of micro moths I hadn't seen before. So a great success and I shall put up a few photos when I get the chance.

Fri 9th July 2010

birds : Now that we are approaching mid-July, it is time to start looking out more for bird movement. There are the failed breeders (or the birds that never actually arrived in the breeding grounds) returning early southwards - such as probably was the Whimbrel I saw at Pulias this morning. Also, there is the post-breeding dispersal of birds wandering from the continent to look out for. One species that has been obvious this week was Peregrine, with two birds being very vociferous yesterday over the house. They were two very young juveniles just out of the nest and they were diving and screaming at each other. They were joined by a third bird but I couldn't see the age of that one, but it was good to see that one pair had been successful. I managed to record these calls but the traffic and wind were interfering with the sound.

moths : I never put the moth trap mid-week because I don't have time in the mornings to sort it out, but I did this week because I wanted to take some moths in to show the kids at school. So I really didn't want a massive catch but it was really good, including a second consecutive appearance by Pale Oak Beauty, Treble Brown Spot and White Satin. Also only my second garden Blue-bordered Carpet and a new species for the garden, only my second record of Broom Moth.

Broom Moth - garden Jul 10

Broom Moth - garden Jul 10

Blue-bordered Carpet - garden Jul 10

Blue-bordered Carpet - garden Jul 10

Also below are a few photos from last weekend of a few terrific species.

Orange Moth - Icart Jul 10

Orange Moth - Icart Jul 10

ark Tussock - Pleinmont Jul 10

ark Tussock - Pleinmont Jul 10

Miller - Pleinmont Jul 10

Miller - Pleinmont Jul 10

Privet Hawk-moths - La Broderie Jul 10

Privet Hawk-moths - La Broderie Jul 10

Fri 16th July 2010

birds : A quiet week with a splendid second-summer Med Gull on Cobo beach during the school sponsored walk being the highlight. At Foulon Cemetery, I recorded a young Wren begging for food from its parent.

Wren sonogram

Wren sonogram

moths : Last weekend I had an amazing four new species for the garden in the trap - two either night. Only one of these I had never seen before - Teleiodes luculella - and this was also a new species for Guernsey.

Teleiodes luculella - garden Jul 10

Teleiodes luculella - garden Jul 10

Catoptria pinella - garden Jul 10

Catoptria pinella - garden Jul 10

Fri 21st July 2010

birds : On Tuesday whilst waiting at the Saumarez Park cafe for the kids to return from their treasure hunt, a small group of at least 8 Crossbills suddenly appeared, calling and flying low over our heads. I scurried off and managed to find them feeding at the top of a very tall pine tree and managed to see at least one was a nice red male. I tried to record their calls but they were now being very quiet and I only got a few very faint examples - not enough to be able to assign them to form.

In the same area though there was a family party of at least 6 Short-toed Treecreepers, with both the adults and young calling vociferously.

Short-toed Treecreeper sonogram

Short-toed Treecreeper sonogram

moths : I had a week off from moth-trapping to try and catch up with my inputting and sorting records. One species that does seem to be doing well this year is the Comma butterfly - I am definitely seeing more than usual. I counted at least 8 along the Ruette du Frocq green lane, where I also saw a Buff Footman.

Dingy Shears - Jul 10

Dingy Shears - Jul 10

Tue 27th July 2010

birds : There has been a pair of Herring Gulls displaying and calling on the chimney pot next door since early in the Spring. They have been very territorial and respond to Merlin barking at them. Yesterday, a juvenile bird appeared next to them and I am wondering if they have bred somewhere nearby.

In Guernsey, the gull nests have always been restricted to the cliffs and offshore islands and I know of no pairs around here. In the last couple of years there has been one or two roof nesting pairs on the West coast and I shall have to keep an eye out next year and try and follow where they are going if they return.

moths : As soon as we break up from school the winds turn to a chilly northerly vector, which is not ideal for the trap. So nothing of major interest but there's always some nice species to appreciate.

July Highflyer - garden Jul 10

July Highflyer - garden Jul 10

Orache - garden Jul 10

Orache - garden Jul 10

Fri 30th July 2010

birds : Yesterday morning I took time out to have a look at the gull flock that congregates on Chouet beach by the rubbish tip. I have spent a few days 'genning' up on juvenile Yellow-legged Gull as I am determined to find one here on Guernsey. There are plenty of sites on the English side of the Channel that get plenty, so one would think that there were at least a few here - but I've never ever seen a juvenile locally. And again today, there were no obvious juvenile Yellow-leggeds, but there weren't a great deal of juvenile gulls at all. I did find two older Yellow-legged Gulls though.

Yellow-legged Gull - Chouet Jul 10

Yellow-legged Gull - Chouet Jul 10

I am happy that these birds are Yellow-legged Gulls but large gull identification is so complicated it verges on impossible sometimes. Both birds' legs were bright enough yellow and both had reddish-orange orbital eye rings, and they were pretty large and long-winged. Even though it was very difficult to make a judgement in the sunny conditions, the mantles of both birds were only debatably darker than the Herring Gulls present which has been a feature of most of the Yellow-legged Gulls reported in Guernsey recently. This may be due to: 1) The YLGs that we usually get are from quite a pale-backed population; 2) The local Herring Gulls seem a touch darker than UK birds, less blue-grey; 3) Many of these birds with yellow legs may actually be from a hybrid population.

3rd summer Yellow-legged Gull - JuL 10

3rd summer Yellow-legged Gull - JuL 10

I also did an hour's seawatch off Chouet since there was an inshore breeze. Two Fulmars, a Manx and a Balearic Shearwater were seen. Also a juvenile Med Gull was on Vazon beach.

Cormorant - Chouet, Jul 10

Cormorant - Chouet, Jul 10

moths : Trapping continues to be poor with nothing very interesting. I noticed some massive stands of Ragwort in the 'vacant lot' across the road - at least a metre tall - and I thought that there must be some Cinnabar larvae feeding on them. And there was - hundreds!

Cinnabar larva - Les Effards Jul 10

Cinnabar larva - Les Effards Jul 10

Wed 4th August 2010

birds : My only observation is from looking at the Swift migration that is in full swing : why do they always seem to be going directly West over my house? Why aren't they heading South?

moths : The weather conditions continue to be unhelpful but Saturday night was quite successful in the trap.

Opogona omoscopa - not exactly spectacular but a special moth for me, as I had the first records for the British Isles in 2006 and 2007. It has now occurred in a few other spots in the UK but I haven't had any for the last 2 years, so I was assuming that it had died off - but no.

Opogona omoscopa - not exactly spectacular but a special moth for me, as I had the first records for the British Isles in 2006 and 2007. It has now occurred in a few other spots in the UK but I haven't had any for the last 2 years, so I was assuming that it had died off - but no.

Pyrausta aurata - garden Aug 10

Pyrausta aurata - garden Aug 10

Southern Wainscot's eyebrows - garden Aug 10

Southern Wainscot's eyebrows - garden Aug 10

Sun 8th August 2010

birds : Things are slowly moving through - very slowly. A few Willow Warblers, the odd Wheatear and now the sun has decided to come out, a few more raptors are about - Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and 2 different Peregrines over the house yesterday. But nothing uncommon seems to be around. Patience, patience . . . 

moths : Pretty ordinary in the trap with numbers well down for the time of year. So I decided on a bit of bush bashing around the Garenne instead and found at least 13 species of moth.

Argyresthia goedartella - garenne Aug 10

Argyresthia goedartella - garenne Aug 10

Grapholita compositella - Garenne Aug 10

Grapholita compositella - Garenne Aug 10

Comma Larva - Herm Harbour Aug 10

Comma Larva - Herm Harbour Aug 10

Wed 11th August 2010

The life cycle of the Small White butterfly

About a month ago I was working in the garden when I watched a Small White butterfly lay its eggs on some weeds in an area that I was clearing. Since this section of the garden was about to be covered in stones, I uprooted the plant and put it in a container to see if anything hatched. In only 4 weeks, these eggs had turned into adult butterflies - it is amazing how quickly the whole process happens. So below is a series of photos showing the stages of the cycle (I was going to call it a 'photo essay' but that is far too pretentious).

Sat 14th August 2010

birds : The winds picked up a bit later on in the week, and with the direction still north-westerly, I tried a couple of seawatching sessions. I am not a terrific seawatcher - I usually get restless as I prefer to be on the move whilst birding. However, I am becoming more keen recently - I think that I appreciate the sit-down a bit more than I used to! The first session on Wednesday wasn't too great, with a couple of Balearic Shearwaters, but Friday was much better with a couple of hours of regular shearwater passage.

There were totals of 3 Sooty, 1 Balearic and 19 Manx Shearwaters, plus another 10 unidentified, mostly-distant shearwaters. Best birds of the day were 3 young Black Terns that went past, a species I do not see every year here. A flock of Common Scoter and a juvenile Kittiwake were both pretty early.

Sooty Shearwater

Sooty Shearwater

Migrant landbirds have mostly been Wheatears, Willow Warblers and Reed Warblers so far. I recorded this Reed Warbler making a half-hearted attempt at a song.

As can be seen on the graph above, 162 is my best year-list in Guernsey - not coincidentally the last year before I had children. There is a very clear pattern shown, that a birders year list is inversely proportional to the number of babies in the house! But there is hope for new-father birders that as the babies get older, the lines start to rise again. Whether I can get another 17 species before the end of the year, I don't know - but it is a possibility.

moths : With the poor conditions continuing, I was not expecting anything good, and indeed there has been very few moths in the trap, but I surprisingly managed to pull out a first for the Channel Islands!

Platytes alpinella - garden Aug 10

Platytes alpinella - garden Aug 10

Tue 17th August 2010

birds : Visited the reedbed at the Claire Mare this morning in the vain hope that the Aquatic Warbler that Chris had trapped yesterday might be showing. It was quite blowy and drizzly and not exactly the best conditions for reedbed-watching. The Willow Warblers and Sedge Warblers were showing well in the line of Tamarisks but no sign of the Aquatic. A Green Sandpiper flying over the pool was a first for the year, but I soon gave up as the rain persisted, and resorted to watching Vazon beach from the car and taking pictures of wet birds.

Sandwich Tern - Vazon Aug 10

Sandwich Tern - Vazon Aug 10

Starling - Vazon Aug 10

Starling - Vazon Aug 10

Swallow - Vazon Aug 10

Swallow - Vazon Aug 10

moths : Some microscope work has resulted in two new species for the garden, recorded in June - Scrobipalpa acuminatella and Coleophora glaucicolella - both small moths which look pretty much identical to some other small moths. Apart from that, the poor August continues.

Coleophora glaucicolella - garden Jun 10

Coleophora glaucicolella - garden Jun 10

Chinese Character - garden Aug 10

Chinese Character - garden Aug 10

Fri 20th August 2010

birds : The birding gods were smiling down on me today. So jammy was I this morning that I am thoroughly ashamed.

Yesterday a few people had seen a group of 3 Black Storks flying around in the Rue Mainguy area late in the afternoon. This was incredible. Only one previous record in Guernsey - way back in 1962 - and I haven't seen a Black Stork since Israel 16 years ago. However, the news was not good as they had disappeared within half an hour, and anyway, I couldn't get out to search as Rosie was in bed (she works nights btw) and I was sorting the kids tea out, etc. So I was pacing the garden, looking skyward just in case, but I wasn't too disheartened, as I expected that they would roost somewhere overnight and I'd have a second opportunity to see them in the morning.

So as soon as I could this morning, I checked a few likely sites such as Barras Lane, Vale Pond and Track Marais, in case the storks were feeding. But with no sign, I waited at home until the sun came out and the birds would start flying. And I was in the garden scanning when I received a much appreciated call from Jamie that the birds were up and flying again in a similar area as yesterday. The timing was terrible though, as Rosie had just driven away, and all 3 kids were still in the house in their pj's!

So, action stations - I needed to get them all into the car within a minute and set off to look for them. Slight complication was I had to get Anais to Rosie first as she had an appointment, so I ran up to her room to get her dressed. Job done, I stuck my head out of the skylight and had a quick look westwards, and there in the distance were 3 dark spots circling slowly!!! I sprinted down the stairs to get my bins - but where the hell were they? - I had them a minute ago - into the garden, but I couldn't see the birds again with the naked eye - so back in the house to look for the bins again - how can they just disappear?? - into the playroom and there is Aidan parading around with them round his neck!! The little ***** - so I grab them off him quick and back into the garden, no sign - climb to the top of the climbing frame, no sign - so sprint back up the stairs, and as I glanced out of the landing window as I ran by, there they were, floating in the wind, really low, just beyond the row of houses opposite - Superb!

But they immediately disappeared behind the large conifer opposite, so I ran back down again and grabbed my camera in case they came overhead. But they didn't. The stiff SW-erly pushed them further away towards Oatlands and when they appeared again from behind the conifer they were just little dots in the camera.

Black Storks - from garden - Aug 10

Black Storks - from garden - Aug 10

So, an extremely lucky sighting - I was struggling to get out and look for the birds, so they had the decency to come and see me, and I feel very privileged. It is just disappointing that I only had very brief views. As far as I know they weren't seen again and probably headed straight to the NE corner of the island, leaving from Fort Doyle back towards France. 

Tue 24th August 2010

birds : The last few days have been spent looking after the children and doing tasks at home so I have not been out searching for birds at all. Yesterday, I did go for a brief walk with Anais and we saw plenty of Willow Warblers but little else, but we did drive past a Ruff feeding on the saltmarsh at L'Eree which was a new species for the year.

moths : A brief swing to southerly winds improved the situation slightly and resulted in two new species for the garden on the night of 20th/21st August. A Twin-spotted Wainscot was probably blown in from the reedbed at the Track Marais and perhaps the Clepsis spectrana was also.

Twin-spotted Wainscot - garden Aug 10

Twin-spotted Wainscot - garden Aug 10

Swallow Prominent - garden Aug 10

Swallow Prominent - garden Aug 10

Earwig - garden Aug 10

Earwig - garden Aug 10

Tue 31st August 2010

birds : Went in for a bit of seawatching on Sunday as the winds were coming in quite stiffly from the northwest, and so it was a little disappointing after 2 hours of watching to just get 2 Sooty and 2 Balearic Shearwaters, plus 2 Great and 3 Arctic Skuas. Nice to see them, but I was after more. The two species of skua however were new for the year and brought me up to 152 species - surely I can get another 11 birds in the next 4 months to break my record?

Two better sightings however, were two new species for the garden list in the space of just three days. On Saturday, very early in the morning, a Spotted Flycatcher swooped in and landed briefly on the line of trees next-door before continuing south. Then on Monday morning I heard a familiar call and looked up to see a Greenshank fly pretty low over the garden, heading NW. Not too shabby for the garden list.

Yesterday the winds swung round to the East and look to be staying there all week, so I am looking forward to flocks of drift migrants on all the headlands soon. I had a couple of hours up Pleinmont this afternoon in the strong sunlight but the only things showing were the commoner chats, but it felt really good (I didn't see the Wryneck or Ortolan that were there). But things are looking up - September tomorrow and the winds in the East - can't ask for anything more! (oh, apart from having to start work again tomorrow).

Whinchat - Pleinmont Aug 10

Whinchat - Pleinmont Aug 10

moths : Trapping has been terribly poor - August has been just awful. The Square-spot Rustic below emerged from a pupa that I dug up whilst gardening, that's why it is looking so fresh. Square-spot Rustic is the probably one of the commonest "breeding" species in the garden. When I removed the front lawn a few years ago, I collected about 30 moth pupae and put them in a pot to see the variety of noctuid that emerged. And yes, all of those which were not parasitized were Square-spot Rustic!

Square-spot Rustic from pupa - Garden Aug 10

Square-spot Rustic from pupa - Garden Aug 10