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The weblog below is for naturalists to use to report interesting sightings, ask questions, report on field meetings and generally post pictures and any information or questions generally relevant in some way to the wildlife and geology of Essex. You will need to register and be logged-on to post to the forum, and you need to upload pictures first, for use in posts. Find out more

Mon 27th May 2013 06:36 by Peter Pearson
Rain, rain go away.
Bedraggled Copyright: Peter Pearson

Couldn't resist posting this photograph taken last Friday, a day of heavy rain and cold wind. I thought it summed up how we are all feeling about our spring weather.
Sun 26th May 2013 07:23 by Peter Pearson
Deceased caterpillar
Deceased caterpillar Copyright: Peter Pearson

The above unidentified caterpillar was found hanging on our garden fence yesterday. It was dead when spotted and appeared normal at its front end, but the rear was very bloated. It had only recently crawled to the position it was in, as this is a sheltered fence panel and usually attracts insects so I watch it regularly. A leaf was plucked from a nearby plant and the caterpillar was eased off the fence, but as it came off the panel on to the leaf it burst and a quantity grey/white fluid was released. There didn’t appear to be a parasite problem so I guess the larva had succumbed to the cold, wet conditions recently experienced and suffered a bacterial or fungal attack.
Mon 20th May 2013 17:20 by Graham Smith
Lack on Insects
Peter - Virtually everything is lagging behind this year. Even the grass is refusing to grow, if not on my lawn then at Blue House, where it is coming up in patches and providing very poor grazing for the stock. The Blackthorn did not reach its peak until late April/early May (when it has often faded by the end of March) but when it did it coincided with the Wild Cherry blossom and the spectacle was wondrous to behold; while in the meadows the Bulbous Buttercups are only just beginning to add their splash of yellow to the hardier Dandelions! Birds too have been late arriving; the Swallows that nest in one of the hides at Blue House came back only last week; in 2011 they already had young at this time (in 2012 the young died of starvation in the cold and wet at the same time) so perhaps they are wise! As for the breeding Lapwings, the first birds normally lay in late March and the young hatch in the third week of April but this year the March winds froze the males libido in mid-air and they decided to wait three weeks before getting back into the right mood; the young only now appearing. At least they appear to be safe behind the new fox-proof fence. As for moth trapping in the garden; I am averaging 2-3 night, which is appalling, and I'm still catching the likes of Hebrew Character, Common Quaker and Early Grey which normally first appear in late February and are well over by now. I think the problem was three months of almost unrelenting east or north-east winds from mid-January to mid-April. They reduced air temperatures from the forecast 4-5`C to well below zero for much of that time. Enough to inhibit anything - including OAPs like me! At present we seem to be averaging one warm and sunny day every ten or so; thus things are finding it difficult to catch up, especially insects, which are so dependent on the warmth. Nick, the warden at Blue House, has just sent me this photo of an Emperor Moth - a species I have not seen for years - so perhaps things will soon be on the up.

Emperor Moth 2 Copyright: Graham Smith

Sat 18th May 2013 13:20 by Peter Harvey
I think the main problem is that many insects are at least 4-5 weeks behind a usual year at the moment. Everything then gets concertina-ed into a short time when we get good weather. We will probably be back to normal later in the season - at least we can hope!
Fri 17th May 2013 15:51 by Peter Pearson
Lack of insects
Am I just unlucky or is the insect population very low this year. During a visit to Wrabness Nature Reserve yesterday (16/05/2013) all that was seen were one or two Red-tailed Bumble bees, a small number of unidentified flies, one Large White and a Large Red Damselfly hawking gnats over a pond. A bonus was to see my first Cuckoo this year and excellent views were had of 2 Turtle Doves one of which is the subject of the below photograph.

Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) Copyright: Peter Pearson

On a previous (07.05/2013) visit we did observed a large flight of Alder Flies which attracted a group of Black-headed Gulls together with 4 Mediterranean Gulls.
Thu 9th May 2013 14:45 by Tim Harris
Thanks. I'll see what I can organise.
Thu 9th May 2013 13:27 by Peter Harvey
There is some guidance on the Providing moth records page. The Excel template available for download is a large file because it contains a Lepidoptera checklist to make sure names match those needed for import, but any Excel file which provides the records with the information needed is ok. Generally speaking, providing records once or twice a year is good. The preference if for records for each date, with numbers if available - these data all help producing phenology charts etc. However whatever you can provide is good.
Thu 9th May 2013 11:13 by Tim Harris
Broom-tip moth in Wanstead
Thanks Peter. Two of us ran traps fairly regularly in gardens either side of Wanstead Flats last year. I could get that data to you. We recorded mostly common species - about 220 species between us. How do you prefer the records, and how often? Tim
Wed 8th May 2013 19:00 by Peter Harvey
Broom-tip at Wanstead
This is good news. I am not aware of any recent change to the status of Broom-tip. Wanstead Flats would provide good habitat for the species, and it has probably been present for a long time, but not previously recorded. If you run a trap at Wanstead, it would be very good if you could provide the results to myself as County Recorder. It would make a big difference for this part of the county, where I don't think a lot of recent recording has been undertaken.
Wed 8th May 2013 15:33 by Tim Harris
Broom-tip moth in Wanstead
One of the moths in my back garden trap this morning was a Broom-tip (Chesias rufata), a species I'd not seen before, let alone trapped. When I looked at the records map for the species there didn't appear to be any previous records for my area (Wanstead, TQ 402 870). Does anyone know if the species has undergone a recent change in status? I am close to Wanstead Flats where there are several patches of broom. Tim Harris


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