Friday, 19 July 2013

Something you don't see everyday

Well the weather of late has been absolutely scorching and I for am not complaining. It seems to have brought the insects out in their droves and last weeks moth trap says it all. More on that later.

Did you see that!

The other day, as me and wifey got in from a jaunt down town, we walked in to the garden and within 20 minutes had spotted a Small Toroiseshell, Holly Blue, Comma, Skipper, Large White, Small White and a Meadow Brown. Yes, seven butterflies in 20 mins, but the best waited till last as all of a sudden a Swallowtail flew over one fence, across the garden and off over the next fence, making it eight butterflies, awesome. Now these butterflies are beautiful in themselves, but what's really special about this one is that Swallowtails are only common in the UK to one small part of Norfolk. I reported my sighting to Butterfly Conservation (Suffolk) who informed me that the last sighting of a Swallowtail in Ipswich was in 1998. The one I saw was either a migrant species from Europe, or a captive bread one that's been released. If it is the latter, I'm not impressed as someone's released a species that isn't known in this part of the UK and there's a reason for that and that is that this part of the UK is not suitable for them. Their only suitable UK habitat is on the Norfolk Broads, a long way from here. If it was a migrant, ain't I (and the wifey) the lucky one(s). This would be only my second UK Swallowtail I ever seen, my first one was on the broads a few years back.

This leads me nicely to the Big Butterfly Count which starts this weekend 20th July till 11th August. Just click on the link and download your ID chart, go sit in your garden/park/nature reserve and count what butterflies you see in 15 minutes. Couldn't be simpler.

On the subject of Citizen Science, I recently got an email telling me that a CS project I had been involved in has finally published a paper on the experiment. Yes, back in 2011 when that unpronounceable volcano in Iceland kicked off grounding all those planes across Europe and the inevitable travel chaos ensued, I came across a request for air samples. Not too sure how I came about it, I think I was doing a course with the Open University at the time and it came through them or someone linked with. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I had to attach a strip of selotape, sticky side up, on a book and leave out overnight. Then stick a bit of white paper on the sticky bit afterwards and send it to the researcher who looked at all the samples, under a high powered microscope, for ash. Well it seems that there was ash in my sample meaning that some did drift as far south as Ipswich. The paper can be seen here and just goes to show how important CS is, so do get involved.

From the moth trap

Well, with last weekends lovely weather, I knew I was going to be a bit busy when it came to emptying out the moth trap. I wasn't kidding. The final count from last weeks trap was 496 moths of 83 species, AND because it was taking me an age to go through them all, I let about 20 of them go without identifying them first. They seemed to be getting quite frantic, so it was for the best. But it's safe to say I broke the 500 mark and what with the scorcher we've had of late, I'm expecting pretty much the same tomorrow morning when I drag myself out of the bed to the bedlam that awaits me.

From the garden

Had my first signs of a hedgehog visit the garden a couple of nights back and I knew this because it left me a rather large present. This reminded me to leave some dishes of water out for them. On these warm muggy nights, there's not much moisture about and usually the hedgehogs would lick the dew from the grass leaves. But as there isn't much moisture in the air for the dew to form. This will cause the hogs to seek out ponds, where a lot will end up drowning. Especially as some ponds have steep or walled sides making it impossible for them to get out again. If you have a pond, make sure there is a sloped area rising out of the pond allowing them an easy escape from what would otherwise be a certain death.

Sorry the blog is pretty short this week, mainly due to a combination of things, man flu being one of them. However, next week I'll have some more news to tell you, so till then.

Keep safe, keep watching and don't forget to do the Big Butterfly Count


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