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#30DaysWild – Days 24 – 30

I had a manic few days to finish off the month of June and thus 30 Days Wild – pond dipping, moth trapping, butterfly chasing … the usual stuff really. Rather than go through all 6 days, I have included the highlights below.

Day 24

Day 25

Day 28

Day 30

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#30DaysWild – Days 15 – 22

Ok, so I fell behind somewhat on my #30DaysWild blogging – oops! Not to worry though, I have been connecting with nature every day despite being busy with work, AFON bits and pieces, and general life stuff. I won’t go into every single wild act that happened every day, so here is a summary, shown through my tweets.

Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera)! <3 <3 <3

Somehow, and after quite a bit of searching, I found the Bee Orchid from last week again. And in fact, I found a further 6 plants! Then later that day, I was informed of two more locations of Bee Orchids on the estate, which is fantastic news indeed.


I was able to put the moth trap out at Wimpole for the first time in ages (since I need to be there two days in a row to run the trap). There wasn’t much, but I did catch this beautiful Pale Tussock moth (Calliteara pudibunda).


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#30DaysWild – Days 8 – 11

It’s proving difficult to blog every day for 30 Days Wild this year, but there is no need to worry. I am most definitely still connecting with nature every day!

Day 8

I actually had a day off from working on Wednesday (Day 8), though I spent much of it either working on my laptop or working in the garden. However, Matt and I did go for a lovely walk at lunchtime. Alongside admiring dragonflies and butterflies, we also heard a Corn Bunting (Emberiza calandra) and I managed to get good views (but no photos) of a Whitethroat (Sylvia communis).

Day 9

The wildlife spotting started early on Day 9 when we emptied the garden moth trap. There was a good variety of species, above you can see Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae), Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi), White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda) and Green Silver-lines (Pseudoips prasinana). The morning was then further improved when I found out that the abstract I had submitted for giving a talk at Ento ’16 had been accepted!

I was working at Wimpole that day, so I took a lunchtime walk in front of the house. The lawn is absolutely gorgeous, as they let the grass grow long and there are lots of wildflowers amongst it. Including a Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera), as shown below. I think I may attempt to photograph the orchid in flower next week – though I don’t know if I will manage to find it again!

Day 10

On Friday I was working at Wicken Fen, leading KS2 school groups in pond dipping. We caught a silly number of newt tadpoles, and some absolute whoppers of diving beetles and their larvae. I recently learnt that the underside is useful in identifying the different diving beetle species, hence the photos below of their undersides! For example, I am pretty confident that the adult beetle below on the right is a Black-bellied Diving Beetle (Dytiscus semisulcatus). We also saw the food chain in action when a diving beetle larvae was caught with a water boatman in its jaws! I knew they were predators, but didn’t realise that they ate adult beetles of other species!

Day 11

I had yet another day off this week! Very strange indeed. My To Do list was depressingly long so I spent the morning and much of the afternoon attempting to tackle it, but I did manage to get out and visit a local nature reserve in the late afternoon. I decided to local Wildlife Trust reserve, Houghton Meadows. On the walk down the lane, I found a couple of feathers to stick into my hat which was fun.

Houghton Meadows is a lovely place, the fields were just brimming with flowers. Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor) was everywhere, and so because it has parasitic properties on grasses (thus limiting their growth), there were other wildflowers everywhere too: Bird’s-Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Ox-Eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) and Red Clover (Trifolium pratense). The insect population was strong too, lots of Diamond-backed moths (Plutella xylostella), a Common Blue butterfly (Polyommatus icarus) and plenty of damselflies and dragonflies. I had particular fun photographing a male Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) through the grass stems.

On my walk back to the car, I was thrilled to find a family of Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus), as they were one of my favourite birds. Mind you, they are a nuisance to try and take photographs of as they move around so much! However, a couple of these particular birds didn’t move around as much, I think they must’ve been fledglings.

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An Update

Moving house has been fun. However, it has also been stressful, taken up all my free time and at times, it has created difficulties for me as I struggle with the winter blues and the ongoing issue of depression and exhaustion. Particularly when I learnt that the internet wasn’t being installed for a while, and then when the boiler broke during one of our coldest weeks of the year. Fun fun! Being me, I have taken solace in my usual way. Yes, you guessed it, through connecting with nature.

Whilst the odd sign of spring has shown itself, true spring is still a while off. By true spring, I am of course referring to the start of the butterfly and moth season.  My mind wistfully longs for it, and I’ve even been dreaming of Lepidoptera – White Admirals gloriously flutter through my nights, Brown Hairstreaks feed in hot sunshine, whilst Small Coppers are shy and humble amongst wildflower meadows. Spring and summer can’t come soon enough.

Such utterances make it seem like I haven’t found anything worthwhile recently. Which is completely untrue, but I haven’t found all that much in the Lepidoptera department. No, instead, I have contented myself with the beauty of the Avian and Flora worlds.

An unexpected staff illness at National Trust’s Anglesey Abbey during their peak snowdrop season, meant that I was seconded over there for a few days. In addition to testing out the soups and scones of the restaurant team, and keeping track of visitors to their bird feeders, I did my best to learn about their snowdrops (Galanthus). First though, a note about said soups and scones – ever so scrumptious, but I prefer the much cheesier scones at Wimpole. I will also take this time to recommend Anglesey Abbey’s tiffin which is utterly delicious.

As for their avian fauna, it was the usual suspects on the bird feeders, including regular visits by a flock of Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus). This species is an ever favourite of mine, despite being so fast-moving and thus difficult to photograph! Most annoyingly, I missed a pair of Crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) that had been reported in the Winter Walk. I went over, with both camera and binoculars, but it seemed they did not want to be seen by me. Oh well, such is life!

Back at Wimpole, I managed to hit a personal record for the number of species seen in a day from the Garden Gate Ticket Office. I had been pleased previously with 12 species, but just last Friday I managed to see a stunning 20 species – including 2 that were new for me in that location: Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) and Long-Tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus). Of the 12, and then the 20, other species have included Jay (Garrulus glandarius), Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), Buzzard (Buteo buteo) and Goldcrest (Regulus regulus). On Friday just gone, I also saw my first Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) of the year, a big beauty that must have been a queen, who buzzed her way around the ticket office until I managed to pot her up and set her free outside.

Now that is all very exciting, but doesn’t quite compare to that of late January / early February when I learnt of a tree that is often favoured by Little Owls (Athene noctua). Having only seen this species briefly and usually at quite a distance, it is fair to say I was desperate to leave the ticket office and see them. Fortunately, I have a wonderful line manager, who also wanted to see them, so off we went! And continuing with the good fortune, the owls posed nicely for a few photos – and have done so again on a couple of days since. I now make a habit of checking aforementioned tree every time I drive into / out of work.

Last week, my line manager and I took a walk into the parkland of Wimpole, discussing some of the history and access that can be pointed out to visitors. In doing so I added some birds to my Wimpole list, and partially worked towards completely my resolution of exploring Wimpole more. New additions to the Wimpole bird list include: Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) and Mute Swan (Cygnus olor).  Not particularly exciting I suppose, but it is always good to note them down as records.

What else is there to update on? A few new additions to the garden list at the new house for sure, as our bird feeders have been discovered by some of the locals. Again the usual suspects, such as Goldfinch and Greenfinch (Chloris chloris), but wonderful to see them nonetheless. Whilst digging in the garden to create a vegetable plot, my keen eye spotted a couple of caterpillars and beetles (still to be identified), and later, whilst in the shed sowing herb seeds into pots, I found a beautifully and delicately marked slug (promptly relocated to outside, away from the veg plot!).

Gosh, I almost finished without mentioning one of my favourite events of the year! The National Moth Recorders Conference! I attended for the first time last year and had a blast, and this year was no different. In fact, I could dare to say this year was better. I knew more people, allowed myself to buy a book and soap, and … I contributed to a presentation! Alongside three others, I was representing A Focus On Nature with a talk entitled … wait for it … A Focus On Moths! Simon Phelps began by introducing AFON and University Moth Challenge, followed by Laura Richardson on how she had got into moths, followed by Ben Porter who spoke about the importance of mentors. Last of the four, I spoke about the future, young people and moth recording. Due to moving house the week before, I hadn’t really had time to prepare properly, but I felt it went well and was congratulated afterwards by many for giving a good presentation. In conclusion, Simon finished with thanks to those who are supporting AFON, for being invited to speak, and an invite to attendees to get involved (and who could resist such an invite?).

Sadly it is a while yet before the internet is installed in the house, and so, it could be a while before my next post in all likelihood. However, I am sure I shall be kept busy by the local wildlife and you shall be treated to another post before you know it.

For now, here are a few more photos that I have taken recently at Wimpole.

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Here comes the weekend, I get to see the insects

Winter is beginning to settle into the bones now, don’t you think? I’ve had needed to layer up and dig out the thick socks! In the garden, I have been doing some tidying and sorting – pruning of fruit bushes and the hedge. Rather than putting into the green waste bin or straight into the compost, I have made a nice heap of all the cuttings, in the vain hope that I’ll get a hedgehog in there.

Whilst gardening, I was joined by that trusty gardener’s companion, the ever-lovely Robin (Erithacus rubecula). Additionally, I came across a Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) in the shed, and some Candlesnuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon) by the pond. The latter is a new addition to the garden list, and is quite a distinctive and beautiful fungus species, so do look out for it!

The discoveries continued at the weekend when I attended a course run by the local Wildlife Trust (BCN) – Indoor Invertebrate Techniques, which looked at the different methods for identifying species under microscopes (usually look at their “bits”), for pinning and preserving them. It was highly interesting, though I wish there had been a bit more practical stuff – such as doing some pinning. We did get to dissect a beetle though – taking off its abdomen in order to find its genitalia. Gross, but fascinating.

At Wimpole, they have moved the gorgeous White Park cattle into a field so they are no longer about to keep me company when I am at the Garden Gate ticket office. However, the ornithological gang were about as usual, and of course, I had to take a few photos of them! I counted 11 species on one of the days, which is rather decent for one small spot, plus there were a few species that I know are around there but I didn’t see on that particular day!

At the end of the fortnight, I was headed up to Shropshire as I was treating myself to a weekend away. On a course about dissecting moths to look at their genitals! Busman’s holiday anyone? It was a fascinating weekend, run by Dave Grundy for the Field Studies Council as part of their Tomorrow’s Biodiversity project (and thus very kindly, and heavily subsidised by the project). The first day was given over to demonstrating and attempting the different stages. We were given moths from Dave’s collection of “moths to ID”. I was dissecting a pug moth that had originally been collected in 2002! It turned out to be a male Grey Pug (Eupithecia subfuscata), and although my final slide is a little messy and the bits were all separated and not quite in the right positions, I was rather happy with myself!

The second day was given over to some discussions on the taxonomy of Lepidoptera, including the latest numbering system, followed by more practice in dissecting. On this day, I was doing two moths at the same time – a Copper Underwing sp. and a Common Rustic sp. Upon genital dissection and identification, I was able to say that they were a male Svensson’s Copper Underwing (Amphipyra berbera) and a female Lesser Common Rustic (Mesapamea didyma).

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A New Dawn

Well, I am all settled in here in Cambridge, and I have started a new job too! However, I shall come onto that momentarily, as I had some interesting wildlife sightings beforehand.

Before the live wildlife sightings, I took a train ride down to big old London town for a meeting at the Natural History Museum. A wonderful meeting, and in addition, I got a quick tour of Angela Marmont Centre – a resource for naturalists! When we went to look at the specimens, naturally I requested to see the Lepidoptera. How superb it was! I spent much of it just going “oh wow … oh look at that one … oh that’s gorgeous”!

Following this, my parents came to see where I am now living and we went for a lovely autumn wander in the nearby woods and fields. Toby had a wonderful time – lots of new smells to investigate! And then we enjoyed a scrumptious Victoria Sponge that I had made as a belated birthday cake for my mum. I suppose I ought to be modest, but it really was scrumptious.

I’m trying to learn how to garden as best I can. I am not naturally green-fingered but I am giving it a go nonetheless. The pond had been completely covered with grass, so I have been clearing that. I haven’t done all of it yet, I wasn’t sure if I should, but I have done a good proportion of it. And managed to spot a little frog (Rana temporaria) whilst doing so! A couple of days later I was pruning the hedge (which is attempting to take over the garden) and found the summer form of the Hawthorn Shieldbug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale, the first generation in spring looks different). Matt and I are collating the garden list, I wonder what else will turn up? Domestic cat has – on numerous occasions!

A Saturday morning dawned bright and mostly clear of clouds, and we took ourselves to RSPB’s Fen Drayton Lakes where autumn had definitely taken hold. However, I did spot a couple of bramble flowers! At the end of October! Very odd, or perhaps not? I’m not sure. From what I remember, we saw almost 50 different bird species in just a couple of hours – including my first Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)! Strangely Matt spotted it from the car park within a minute of getting out the car! Other highlights included Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus), Devil’s Coach Horse Beetle (Staphylinus olens) and Ruby Tiger Moth caterpillar (Phragmatobia fuliginosa). For the latter, I risked life and limb to protect it from cyclists zooming past, before managing to safely relocate it off the path!

And so, suspense over – news of my new job! *drum roll* I am now working in the Visitor Welcome and Membership Team at National Trust’s Wimpole Estate. It’s a beautiful location and the team are absolutely lovely! Do flick through the photos below!