Friday, 23 December 2016

End of the Year

We have been in the new house for exactly 6 months at the end of December.   The estate was built on a marshy field with a hedge down both sides but little else in the way of vegetation (I think the field was only ever used as a pasture); a few householders have planted trees, but not many which is a pity.  Birds are therefore rarely seen in the garden at the back of the house, but the hedge in front has proved popular, as has the pond 100 yards away at the top of the estate..   In the 6 months since we moved in we have counted 26 bird species, the latest at the end of last week were a pheasant and a wren.   Here is the list:
House sparrow Magpie Red kite
Blue tit Starling Buzzard
Great tit Blackbird Little egret
Long-tailed tit Crow Robin
Bullfinch Redwing Mallard
Chaffinch Fieldfare Pied wagtail
Goldfinch Song thrush House martin
Greater-spotted Woodpecker Dunnock

House sparrow

Greater spotted woodpecker




Little egret

There is nothing exceptional on the list and there were no greenfinches, coal tits, jackdaws, yellowhammers and so on which might be  plausible.  As the estate matures and gardens are established, it will be interesting to see the impact.  Hopefully it will create greater diversity, which might seem odd given that we started with a green field!

So far just 3 mammals, muntjac, pipistrelle 45 bats, and fox.   We saw another fox last weekend at 3.40 am - its barking woke everyone up.

I have adjusted my moth count to 104 because I missed out one trapping night, and a red underwing seen in the day time against the brickwork of a neighbour's house.  The commonest by number have been:

1 Brimstone
2 Setaceous hebrew character
3= Large yellow underwing
3= Dark arches
5 Heart and dart
Dark arches


The results are however unrepresentative because we missed most of the autumn.   Next year I plan to trap at least monthly, and more often in the warmer summer months.

Yesterday I walked over towards Whichford.  A common oak tree  had dropped its acorns or rather the knopper galls that had overwhelmed it; the tree is a full 1.7 km from nearest Turkey oak that I know of in the village.   A few weeks ago I met Mick Crawley who in the 1990's researched knopper galls.  Interestingly he could not nail down just how far from a Turkey oak the fly responsible, Andricus quercuscalicis will travel between the two oak species needed for its life cycle.   The females are just about to emerge from the galls and I brought back a few galls to examine them when they emerge.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Annual Moth Count

As light relief from preparing my tax return I tidied up the moth count for the year, working through those that on the first pass earlier in the year I had not identified.   Most of them were micromoths, whose identification is testing and laborious, and there were times when the tax return looked more fun.   The species count for the year was a very modest 98, though I missed the whole of the autumn because the moth trap was trapped behind boxes in the garage, following our house-move.   Also the numbers at our last house were much lower than in previous years, which I am sure is down to tree removal in the surrounding area.  I am hoping to get a regular count throughout the year in 2017.  Around 40% of the moths I have seen in Hook Norton were also present on Skye, 500 miles further north in a quite different habitat.

With it being a mild, around 10°C yesterday evening, winter moths (the 98th species of the year) were everywhere, especially under the oak tree nearby.  Only the males fly.  The females crawl up trees and after mating lay eggs there.   The resulting caterpillars can then damage fruit trees.  I suppose I should protect my recently planted plum trees but with a bit of luck the blue and great tits attracted by the industrial quantities of bird seed that my wife puts out in our bird feeders, might do the job for me.

The hedge in front, which has lots of hawthorn berries, is now a feeding area for migrant fieldfares. (Will Brexit put a stop to bird migration - coming over here, eating our food etc. etc.  It's a disgrace.).  We have counted at least 20 or 30 or so in one cloud, with a few intermingled redwing.    There is a nice piece on thrush migration on the BTO website BTO Thrush Migration; fieldfares are coming from Scandinavia, whilst the redwings come from a slightly larger area of North East Europe but with birds from Iceland also.