Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Last moth of the year

Well, what a year it’s been. I could never imagine at the beginning of 2014 that I would be looking back at the end of it going Wow!

2014 start

The started with me still of work with a ripped levator scapula muscle in my back. The chances of me going back to driving were slim, very slim. However, I had taken up a voluntary role with Suffolk Wildlife Trust as a Education and Events Volunteer. This would involve me working for Angela Jones under a Heritage Lottery Funded project called Networking Nature, teaching people and children about their local wildlife, how to find it, encourage it and enjoy it. It was a real eye opener and such an enjoyable job, even if I wasn’t getting paid for it.

I built a new moth trap as my original moth trap was beginning to warp out of shape and release the moths I was catching.

The new Mk 2 moth trap
I also came across an entomological cabinet for sale from the Natural History Museum. It was an historic piece too that used to house a moth collection by a French lepidopterist, Charles Oberthur.

20 drawers to restore and fill.
In February, Blue tits started to use my camera nest box for the first time and I looked forward to seeing the daily routines of this favourite little bird.

Checking out the potential property ladder.
I got a few new projects underway, including me trying to find a use for the tumble dryer fluff as nesting material, which failed and was never touched.

Not suitable nesting material.
Also, Plan Bee, which saw mr trying to encourage bumblebees to nest in a box in my office with a camera inside. Again, despite me finding several queens, none adopted the box and they flew away to find better nesting sites. But as a famous man once said, “Those who have never made a mistake, have never tried anything new” Einstien.

One project that did work however, was my footprint tunnel that I made from a cardboard tube from a carpet shop, some ink pads from eBay and some paper. The result was, I had mice at the end of my garden.

The footprints of mice.

March saw the spring start kicking into action with various moths coming to the moth trap and butterflies in the garden. Things were getting busy indoors too with the emergence of my Emperor moths which I grew last year and overwintered at the bottom of my garden.

Newly emerged female and male emperor moths
You can see a time-lapse film here

The new moths promptly mated and gave me even more eggs!

Eggs from the freshly emerged moths.
The Blue tit’s nest building was coming on well too

Then in April, I managed to convert an old hornets nest I found last year into an educational tool for Suffolk Wildlife Trust.
The original Blue tit nest box which had been converted by Hornets in 2013.
The newly converted nest box by me in 2014
The Blue tits had laid 9 eggs which were beginning to hatch.

By the end of May, the Blue tits were beginning to fledge and I had compiled a time-lapse from start to finish of the Blue tits.

Unfortunately, of the 9 eggs laid, only 4 made it out to the big wide world. But that’s the reality of nature, by having as many offspring that you can manage to feed, you get a much higher chance of some, no matter how few, through to adulthood to carry on the genes. Survival of the fittest.

I also had two new finds during May and both on the same day. It was a Butterfly Conservation members day and the weather really wasn’t good for butterflies, but walk we did despite the weather and I came across this lovely little beetle.

Lesser Bloody-nosed Beetle
The nest new find was a skull outside a fox den. Guess what? It was the skull of a fox, which had most probably died from traffic collision injuries as the site was right next to the busy A12.

Fox skull
My emperor caterpillars were also getting quite big and eating leaves at a phenomenal rate.

Emperor moth caterpillar.
June saw fame come knocking on my door when I was asked to appear on BBC Radio Suffolk with Etholle George. Spring watch was in town (Minsmere) and everyone in Suffolk had Springwatch fever. I had to be at Minsmere early for the radio interview, which was sited in the Springwatch media village. Whilst waiting to do my bit, I was approached by BBC Springwatch Red Button Extra asking if they could interview me afterwards.

So, here’s the radio interview if you haven’t heard it already.

And here’s the TV appearance (sorry about the sound quality)

Some caterpillars that I raised last year and overwintered in my fridge began to emerge and gave me a surprise too. I thought all along that they were Poplar Hawkmoths and it was only when they emerged that I found out they were Eyed Hawkmoths instead! Still very pleased though, loved rearing these fellas.

Beautiful Eyed Hawkmoth freshly emerged.
Also emerging was a Privet Hawkmoth whose large caterpillar I found on my Lilac tree in 2013. Once emerged, I placed him back on the very same tree.

An impressive looking Privet Hawkmoth
It was also time for the Yearly Suffolk Show to take place at the Trimely Showground and I was to be there for the first time working with Suffolk Wildlife Trust helping kids build a huge bug hotel and do some moth trapping. It was a great couple of days despite the overnight downpours and everyone had a great time, myself included.

Helping build bug hotels (c) Samantha Gay

Releasing the moths
I also got to see the Silver-studded Blue butterfly for the first time at Purdis Heath. This is a small, yet beautiful butterfly that is in decline at this site, however, important habitat management being carried out by volunteers of Butterfly Conservation are helping to bring back this beauty from being lost from Ipswich altogether. Keep up the great work guys and gals.

July saw me with SWT at the Latitude Festival helping kids with bug hunting.

Need I say more?

The weather was grand and again, everyone had a great time.

I also managed to record my first Barbastelle bat whilst our bat hunting in SWT’s Newbourne Springs Nature Reserve.

The unmistakable call of a Barbastelle bat
August came the Bioblitz at SWT’s Foxburrow farm which was a great event with lots found, including some rarities such as this Gasteruption jaculator wasp which was preying on the nests of a rare bee (RDB2) Heriades truncorum) which was also found be me (big smile).

Gasteruption jaculator
I was also part of an event at Christchurch Park in Ipswich, again for SWT, helping kids with a bug hunt. One child by the name of Helen came running back to me with a bug in a pot wanting to know what it was and to my surprise, it was a rare bug that I found in my garden (not the exact same individual, don’t start) last year, Rhyparochromus vulgaris.

Rhyparochromus vulgaris
Turns out Helen, who was doing her nature badge for the Brownies, was the second person to find it in Suffolk. Well done Helen.

One exciting piece of news was that after nearly a year out of work due to a back injury, I got a job with Suffolk Wildlife Trust as a Visitor Officer at their Lackford Lakes Nature Reserve. Beats driving a truck any day.

On the nature front, not much happened for me through much of September and October and this was because of some very exciting news, we were moving! Yes, Wifey Jo had found a lovely house in the middle of nowhere, but still in Suffolk, and although there were 3 other offers on the property, we were the first to sell (within 24hrs surprisingly) and so we got it!

The view from our new pad.
So, as you can imagine, much of winter November and December has seen me busy with DIY and settling in. However, the wildlife is already great with Sparrowhawk’s outside my window, Pygmy shrews in the loft and rats in the workshop and owls calling through the night. The New Year has some exciting projects in the making and I look forward to sharing them all with you.

This year really has been a great year for us, despite some serious  health issues with my poor Wifey, but all the same, we know we are very lucky people and every day is bliss for us in our new house.

Thanks you to all my followers, here and on Twitter, I’m glad you like my nature musings and although this year has been a bit sketchy on the blog side of things due to my busy work and volunteer schedule, I hope to improve this in 2015.

I also hope you all have a lovely, safe and pleasant New Year and may you get everything you wish for in 2015.

Oh yes, nearly forgot. As the title suggested ‘Last moth of the year’ and yet I haven’t shown you it. I found it on Christmas day, on the back wall of my house enjoying some sunshine.

A Grey Shoulder-knot
Turns out, it’s a Grey Shoulder-knot. I only found this out by using iSpot, as my moth books are still packed away in a box somewhere. One of the exciting bits of news was that this Christmas the family bought me a Robinson Moth trap, which is the best of of all moth traps. So next year, it will be interesting to see what moths I catch here compared to an urban environment.

Till then, keep safe, keep smiling.

1 comment:

  1. Roman ( January 2015 at 00:55

    Thanks for the best of 2014 review and I hope 2015 continues to be as enjoyable for you as 2014 ended.