18.08.13. Birdlog

18.08.13. Birdlog

16-08-13-field-poppy-on-frodsham-marsh-bill-morton

At 3:00 pm, 21 Black-tailed Godwit and 2 Dunlin on No 6 tank along with a scattering of Lapwing.

Water Rail calling from reed bed.

3 Raven pestering a male Marsh Harrier on No 3 tank.

Ciao Guido D’Isidoro.

Weaver Bend 5.30-6.30pm: 25 Redshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 juvenile Little Ringed Plover and a Green Sandpiper on the Lum. 7 Little Grebe on river.

Elsewhere No 6 tank from 7.00-7.30 pm held 5 Dunlin, Single Ruff, 17 Black-tailed Godwit, 300 Common Teal and a variety of developing ageing Common Shelducklings.

Observers: Sean O’Hara (additional sightings from WSM)

Image of Field Poppy along Moorditch Lane.

17.08.13. Birdlog

17.08.13. Birdlog

17.08.13. Green Sandpiper, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A Little Egret joined with 310 Common Teal, 43 Tufted Duck, 4 Common Pochard, 170 Common Shelduck (including the hybrid Ruddy X Shelduck) were present on No 6 tank. Also here were 2 Common Snipe, 3 Green Sandpiper, 1 Redshank, 1 Reeve, 210 Lapwing. A mixed flock of 40 Ringed Plover and Dunlin came in with the evening tide.

17.08.13. Green Sandpiper, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton.A juvenile Marsh Harrier hunting over No 4 tank and a male spotted on No 5 tank.

17.08.13. hybrid Shelduck, No 6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonA swirling cauldron of Swifts joined other hirundines above the poplar trees bordering the pot-holed track south side of No 5 tank. Numbering c 500 birds they appeared unperturbed by a juvenile Peregrine joining them as they continued a frenzied feeding session.

3 Raven over Frodsham Score.

Observers: Frank Duff, WSM.

16.08.13. Birdlog

16.08.13. Birdlog

16.08.13. Helsby Hill from the wheatfield by Lordship Lane.

Red ADmiral, Frodsham Marsh300 Lapwing, 100 Ringed Plover, 14 Dunlin and a Green Sandpiper all present on No 6 tank.

Duck numbers looking good with 200 Teal, 50 Tufted Duck, 10 Gadwall, 6 Pochard and 37 Shelduck also on the tank.

300 Swallow lined along the fence wires on No 5 tank and 9 Raven flying south over Lordship Lane.

.

Observer and images: David Smith

14.08.13. Birdlog

14.08.13. Birdlog

11am – 5pm. No 6 tank: 16 Dunlin with Lapwings. Male and female Marsh Harrier (food pass, male dropping prey for female to catch). Also Raven, Kestrel, Common Buzzard, and Little Grebe pair  with young on small pool.

.
Hundreds of Swallow, House and Sand Martin over No 2 tank, just 5 Swift seen during the day.

River Weaver: 5 Little Grebe also on river. 2 Common Sandpiper.

.
Weaver bend: 17 Redshank, 1 Ringed and 1 juvenile Little Ringed Plover, also 2 Common Sandpiper there.

Then the rain came !

Observer: Sean O’Hara.

13.08.13. Birdlog

13.08.13. Birdlog

Frodsham Marsh from noon today: Peregrine watching the birds on the River Mersey from the blue-topped chimney at Weston Point. Several hundred Curlew and Dunlin etc on the mudflats. 11 Raven at Marsh Farm feeding on a dead sheep and another 9 on the Frodsham Score.
.
12 Dunlins on No 6 tank with a few Lapwings.
.
Several Whitethroat still around and c4 on No 3 and another in field south of the old birdlog track (Brook Furlong Lane).
.
Ciao Guido D’Isidoro

Watch with Moth-er

Watch with Moth-er (Part Two of Two)

Old Lady Moth, Runcorn. Bill Morton.Most birders are instinctively drawn to all aspects of nature, even if their primary mission in life is to find / or see as many birds as makes their lives happy and content. However, the listing part of their brain won’t let them past a butterfly or a dragonfly without at least acknowledging that it’s been seen. Most birders note them alongside the birds in their notebooks. However, when the sun begins its final journey of the day and begins to light up other parts of the planet, our UK world is plunged into the velvety blackness of night time…and millions of little alarm clocks go off and the moth world awakes. Unseen and unappreciated by the majority of people and a lot of birders, these butterflies of the night play a vital role as they go about their business. They are pollinators of many species of plants and their larvae provide a rich food source for birds and other wildlife. They are part of our lives. An essential part.

largeyellowunderwing01

Do you remember as a kid when that big brown moth came in through the open window and your dad whacked it with a newspaper? It was probably a Large Yellow Underwing. Remember your mum getting your school sweater out of the wardrobe only to find it full of holes? It was most likely caused by the larvae of a Brown House Moth. What about coming out in the morning and finding the outside light surrounded by moths…? There are nearly 900 ‘macro’ moths (generally large moths but not always) and over 1600 ‘micro’ moths (generally tiny or small but not in every case) in the UK. The brown jobs are the Lanceolated Warblers of the moth world whereas the brightly coloured species are the Bee-eaters…and there are some really stunning moths!

I began moth trapping in about 1978. I used a 200 watt house lamp fixed above a wooden box with two pieces of glass sloped towards a slit across the middle. It worked but a lot of moths escaped. The only literature was a two-volume works by Richard South, illustrated by painted specimens. Identifying moths was hard work, but thoroughly enjoyable. Myself and Steve Hind did however have the advantage of being able to visit Prof Ian Rutherford who lived in Alderley Edge. He had a museum-type collection of most, if not all, of the British macro moths. Many nights were spent pouring over and discussing moth identification. The old gentlemen was an expert whose knowledge and enthusiasm made us all the more keen to pursue our night-time quarry. Funnily enough neither of us amateurs ever thought about collecting as Ian had done.

So, how do you start? I experimented. A wooden box. A house lamp…then a small fluorescent lamp and eventually a mercury vapour lamp…  I learnt all about wavelengths of light and in particular the ultra violet emitted by the lamp. It’s this, not so much the visible light that us humans see, that attracts moths. There are even black lights available, mercury vapour lamps that only emit a weird purple glow. They don’t disturb the neighbours as much as a brilliant dazzling ordinary MV will do. I actually produced state of the art moth traps commercially for a while with a friend. His expertise in plastic forming and computer cutting of high density plastics and my knowledge of traps meant that we produced a brilliant trap. ‘Hawk Moth Traps’ did okay for a while until technical difficulties meant we had to wrap it up. Producing a trap is easy if you have some basic DIY skills. Marine ply, some Perspex, a light source..and you’re away.

scan0002

Opening your trap is like opening your Christmas presents every day. Moth-er’s who get the bug become obsessed. One birder who took to trapping used to get up at 4 am in summer just to beat the local Blackbird to the trap. Curtains would twitch as his neighbours peeped from darkened rooms as he leapt about the garden in his pyjamas, trying to catch moths as they left the trap. Bizarre! Birds quickly learn that they have an easy food source on their doorstep and will clean up any moths that are resting on the outside of the trap or on the floor or in the nearby bushes. They will even mug you as you examine moths and steal a big juicy one from the egg carton  you’ve just put down if they are given the chance. Yummy.

Blaire's MochcaThere’s even incidences of moth-rage. A dead ‘Blair’s Mocha’, a rarity in Britain was brought back from Spain and dropped into a trap as a joke. Unfortunately the moth-er took his find too seriously and when he found out it that he’d been duped, went into a tantrum, threatening to throw the prankster and his trap into a stream…Everyone else thought it was really funny!

You can buy several commercially produced traps but they are expensive, around £2-300. It’s relatively simple and a great deal of fun to make your own and it’ll cost relatively little, depending on what you use. I’m making one at the moment. Sourcing the materials has been challenging but I’m almost there.

Oleander Hawk Moth

There are some good identification books out now and identifying moths is satisfying and more-ish. Some species migrate thousands of miles to reach the UK. In Autumn we occasionally get Nearctic species from North America and real rarities. Just as in the birding world there are much sought after species that definitely need underlining… The Holy Grail is a hawk moth, the Oleander Hawk…a real mega. There’s also an excellent website, ‘http://ukmoths.org.uk‘ with photos of most species and another great site, ‘http://www.atropos.info‘ run my moth-ers’ for moth-ers’ and people interested in butterflies and dragonflies. It has an up to date news forum which details catches of rarities and migrants from around the country.

In Cheshire the chances of getting a ‘biggy’ are about the same as in birding….slim. But it does happen from time to time. As in birding, the east coast and south coast migration hotspots score heavily and many bird observatories run moth traps. Portland is famous for its moth trapping as well as birds.

So…give it a go…nick the blue fluorescent tube out of the fish tank, get a big cardboard box, some clear plastic sheeting and see what you get… but be warned…it’s highly addictive! To download diagram right-click and ‘save as’.

Tony Broome.

Images: Large Yellow Underwing, Oleander Hawk Moth, Blair’s Mocha

Image: Old Lady Moth (WSM).

Of Monsters and Moths

Of Monsters and Moths (Part One of Two)

Deaths-head Hawk Moth. Bill Morton

A few years ago when I was employed as a countyside ranger in Runcorn, Cheshire we would occasionally be asked to go and investigate concerns the general public may have about animals they have found secreted in unwanted places in the garden or home. On nearly every occasion it would be something really common or misidentified and/or in the wrong context e g Newt (Lizard) in washing basket or Mouse (Bat) hanging from a porch… but sometimes they turned up a real nugget!

It was a sultry August summers day with beautiful azure blue skies and the morning temperatures were rising the thermometer steadily.

I received a telephone call via the authority’s main switchboard from a couple who had phoned Liverpool museum about a strange creature on their driveway in Oxford Road, Runcorn (in the centre of the old town). The museum’s (wisely in these circumstances) advice was to contact their local council, adding “it was probably something common and not to get too unduly alarmed”. Eventually word got through to me and I was given the task to investigate their query and go through the inevitable rigmarole of picking it up and finding some suitable habitat where it would be safe and sound to be released. Along with my colleague (Karen) we went along to the house in question and knocked on the door. A short wait and a friendly couple greeted us both. Hello my name is Bill and this is Karen and we have come to rescue the critter from your driveway. “Oh, we’re really pleased to see you both we have tried everywhere to get someone to come and tell us what this ‘thing’ is?…It was shrieking when we found it”.  A glance from Karen and I could see written large in her eyes…A M.O.U.S.E! A banshee was my telepathic reply. The couple escorted us both to an empty upside down ice cream container. “It’s under there” the lady said. Karen hesitated to lift the container up and not wanting to let malekind down I manly reached out and lifted up the box…I wish I could describe the sound of my chin hitting solid concrete with a thud! I turned to Karen and somehow managed to silently mouth WTF! It’s a ‘dead’ DEATH’S HEAD HAWK MOTH!!! She didn’t realise the significance but assumed from my expression it was a goodie!

The couple said “Oh, is it unusual?” I’m no moth-er by any means (there are some who would beg to differ?) but I do know you don’t get many of them to the pound. The couple continued to say “last time we looked it was fluttering about!” I didn’t have the heart to tell them they were probably responsible for its undoing by placing a plastic box over the creature in blazing sunshine at midday in August. I asked the couple if they wouldn’t mind me taking the creature away and getting its id confirmed (It’s id didn’t need confirmation, but I didn’t want them chucking it away after we left).

I managed to get the Death’s Head Hawk Moth mounted and it was on display at the Runcorn Hill Visitor Centre for the rest of that summer. It now sits happily framed on the top of my CD shelf at home and away from JS’s unapproving hands.

So – sometimes it’s worth following up a neighbours sighting you never know what can turn up in totally unexpected places, at unexpected times of the day and at unexpected times of the year.

th

…And of course this species became notorious by appearing on the cover of The Silence of the Lambs.

Hannibal Lecter: “All good things to those who wait”

.

.

An extract from the Runcorn World Newspaper from the day

Rare Halton Visitor

Death's Head Hawk Moth, Runcorn 1999.

Picture the massive moths in Silence of the Lambs and imagine one landing on your doorstep.

Pat and Ron Houghton got quite a surprise when they found a rare, six-centimetre long Death’s Head Hawk Moth lurking under a car on their driveway on Norman Road in Runcorn.

They called the council’s parks and countryside service who revealed that the insect was a rare visitor from the Mediterranean or South Africa, spotted only three times in Cheshire.

Sadly, the moth didn’t recover from its transatlantic journey and died shortly after it was discovered. The rangers took it to a moth recorder in Manchester to be pinned, mounted and prepared for display at Runcorn Hill.

Bill Morton from the Parks and Countryside Service said: “This was an exciting find as the species is very rare and we are grateful to Mr and Mrs Houghton for contacting us. I’m sure when it goes on display at Runcorn Hill it will prove a popular attraction.”

Eds. Typical newspaper reporting:- crossing the Atlantic via South Africa and the Med?

And a short video from the NHM http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/species-of-the-day/evolution/acherontia-atropos/index.html

Bill Morton

11.08.13. Birdlog

11.08.13. Birdlog

Leucistic Sand Martin, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde. 1 copy

A flying visit to the marsh this morning resulted in the following high lights: Leucistic Sand Martin watched over No 6 tank. 
Leucistic Sand Martin, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde. 2 copy

11.08.13. Sparrowhawk, Frodsham Marsh. Heather Wilde.
 .
Young male Marsh Harrier and Sparrowhawk over No 4 Tank.
Flock of about 100 Canada Geese did a flyover.
Flock of about 60 Lapwings over the canal.
Flock of about 40 Goldfinch over No3 Tank.
.
Female Bullfinch in thickets on the Marsh Lane bridge (Arthur Harrison).
 .
Never got to see the grebes 😦 but we did see lots of people at the marsh who had turned up to look for them 🙂
 .
Catch up soon.
 .
The Wilde Bunch All images: Heather Wilde

Facebook Links

Facebook links

Two facebook groups to join up with Cheshire & Wirral birders is a group of people interested in the birds of Cheshire & Wirral, and provides a network and a voice for local birdwatchers. The group is self-administered,and is for the benefit of anyone interested in wild birds.

Cheshire & Wirral Birder header

https://www.facebook.com/groups/532171363504043/

Shoveler, north-west corner of No6 tank, 17th May 2004

The Birds of Frodsham Marsh on facebook. Some additional items and photographs that don’t make it onto to the blog and an opportunity to make comment.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Birds-of-Frodsham-Marsh/117180855126736