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Wildlife Notes

Read Terry and Susan Dove's monthly wildlife notes from Little Barton Farm

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Little Barton Farm Wildlife Notes

September 2018

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

Total monthly rainfall was 39 mm with a maximum daily rainfall of 22 mm on 23rd September. Measurable rain fell on only 6 days of the month, and woodland ponds are at a very low water-level.

Maximum temperature on the warmest days was 23°C on the 3rd and 17th; the  maximum  temperature on the coldest day was 13°C on the 23rd. Overnight grass frost occurred on the 24th and 25thand strong winds occurred on the 11th (green leaf-fall), and 18th to 23rd, when leaves, large twigs, and small, thin branches came down.

There was a shortage of first-sightings for the year, consisting of a knotgrass  moth caterpillar on lake-side iris leaf (3rd), a pink-barred sallow moth among wildflowers (13th), a lunar underwing moth beneath porch light (22nd)  and a square spot rustic on a lighted window frame on the 27th.

The majority of our observations for this month relate to the progress of autumn as indicated by our trees and shrubs. Ripe conkers were falling from the horse chestnut tree on September 2nd.  Poplar leaves began falling on the 3rd, followed by field maple leaves on the 7th when we noticed the first signs of orange colouring on them. There was yellowing on some hornbeam leaves on the 8th, while leaves of the hornbeam, hawthorn, and silver birch fell quite strongly on the 11th. By the 12th dog rose, silver birch, and hazel leaves were turning yellow, and two days later, on the 14th, hawthorn leaves were turning orange, blackthorn were yellow, and wild cherry becoming red. Orange-coloured leaves began appearing on the horse chestnut on the 15th, while on the 21st some oak leaves were becoming yellow. At last, on the 28th, the horse chestnut began to shed its leaves.

As damselflies began to disappear for the year, the autumn batch of crane-flies emerged, initially only a few but rising to a vast number by the end of the month. The first damselfly to go was the red-eyed damselfly on the 2nd, followed by the blue-tailed damselfly (15th), emerald damselfly (16th), white-legged damselfly (21st), and willow emerald damselfly (27th). With the ruddy darter disappearing on the 19th, the only dragonflies probably left on site by the end of the month were the southern, brown, and migrant hawkers, and the common darter.

Butterflies suffered a similar decline, starting with the disappearance of the comma on the 3rd, the large white on the 7th, and the meadow brown on the 13th. We saw what may be the last green-veined white on the 21st, red admiral on the 26th, and small white on the 28th, although it is possible one or other of these may re-appear next month. The speckled wood (29th), small copper, and common blue (30th) may well continue into October.

A count of wildflowers still in bloom on September 30th produced the following list: Knapweed, fleabane, yarrow, white and red deadnettle, oxeye daisy, water mint, dandelion, rough hawkbit, red clover, redshank, and great willowherb. We are still also relentlessly dead-heading thistles and removing spiny oxtongue .                                                                                                             



August 2018

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

Total monthly rainfall was 65.5 mm with a maximum daily rainfall of 14 mm on August 10. Rain fell on 11 days during the month, and there were 15 days with 100% cloud cover. Maximum temperature on the warmest day was 31°C (3rd August). Maximum temperature on the coldest day was 17°C on the 26th. Temperatures exceeded 27°C for the first 7 days of the month. Strong gusts of wind on the 10th brought down twigs and clusters of green leaves, together with some dead branches in the wood. 

August is often a month of few first-sightings and this was no exception. We only spotted two new flowering plants, water mint which we realised were already out by the 1st, and red bartsia on the 8th, bringing our wildflower count to 72 species for the year.

There were no new butterfly species this month, so it is looking unlikely that we will now see the clouded yellow. There were, however, 5 new moth species, starting with a red underwing on a shed wall on the 2nd. Our grand-daughter Isabel brought us a vapourer moth caterpillar on a rose-leaf on the 8th, and we saw a twin-spot carpet moth among field grasses on the 16th. A lime-speck pug moth appeared to light in our bathroom on the 18th (identified with thanks by Keith Palmer, from our photograph). On the 24th a snout moth among field grasses alongside woodland completed our sightings for the month, and brought the species-count to 40 for the year so far. 

Our dragonfly count for this year rose to 20 species when a pair of willow emerald damselflies oviposited into a young bank-side willow shrub during late sunshine on the 31st. Although we have recorded the willow emerald here before, this was the first time we have seen a male and female egg-laying in tandem at the lake,  the previous lone damselfly being recorded at the back woodland pond in 2013.

During much of the summer, our reptile shelters have yielded little more than large numbers of ants, plus recently the occasional slug.  On the 18th we came across a large leopard slug, which we left because it was a long way from the vegetable garden, while on the 25th we came across our first slow-worm accompanied by a grass snake.

On August 21st we found three parasol mushrooms at the back of the woodland, and some common funnel fungi were growing near the lake on the 27th.

We also had a brief rare sighting of a black American mink near our back woodland pond on the 29th which ran from the pond edge into some nearby brambles, and was gone within about 5 seconds!

We finish this month’s sightings with some early autumn fruiting: ripe elderberries (1st), ripe sloes (17th), ripe hawthorn berries (27th), and, finally, ripe dog rose-hips on the 28th.



July 2018

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

Total monthly rainfall was 36 mm with a maximum daily rainfall of 15 mm on July 30th. Rain fell on only 6 days during the month, and there was 100% cloud-cover during 6 days of the month. Maximum temperature on the warmest day was 32°C (27th July).  Maximum temperature on the coldest day was 18°C on the 29th. There were 17 days when the daytime temperature reached 25°C or more, and woodland ponds in particular were losing water rapidly. By the end of the month, pastures were turning brown.

Ten new species of wildflowers bloomed this month, bringing our annual total to 70. To our surprise a new type of yellow-flowered thistle showed itself in astonishingly large numbers on all parts of the property on July 1st, and, after some research we identified it as a bristly ox-tongue. It was most prolific around the entrance to our property and we presume it came in with a visiting vehicle or piece of farm machinery. It quickly became a candidate for pulling, mowing, and de-heading, along with creeping thistle and ragwort. Hedge woundwort and fleabane flowered on the 2nd in our wildflower meadows, to be joined by knapweed on the 5th. Redshank flowered among our soft fruit, while small quantities of ragwort mingled with our other wildflowers in the meadows (8th). On the 10th July, pale persicaria appeared, as did gypsywort in our woodland ride. The final two wildflowers to bloom were rough hawkbit in the fields, and water plantain in a woodland pond on the16th.

One new butterfly, the gatekeeper, appeared appropriately beside a field-hedge gate on July 7th, to bring our annual total butterfly species to 22 so far. Six more moths brought our total to 35, beginning with the magpie moth near gooseberry bushes on the 12th, while on the 19th we found the first of many straw dot moths among field grasses. The 21st produced our first shaded broad bar moth in the woodland ride, while on the same evening a micro-moth of the Crambus species (probably C. perlella) appeared in our lighted bathroom. A common footman moth flew into the same room the next evening (22nd), and, finally, a copper underwing settled on a handwash dispenser on the 23rd.

Two other insect-species appeared during the month, these being a migrant hawker (our 19th dragonfly species of the year) at our back woodland pond on the 16th, and a black shield bug (looks like Troilus lubidus) on reed-mace at the same pond on the 18th.

Finally, on the 25th July, a kingfisher turned up at the front woodland pond; two fallow deer jumped the fence out of our wood into a neighbour’s field, and we saw the first of several ripe blackberries to appear before the end of the month.


June 2018

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

Total monthly rainfall was 4 mm with a maximum daily rainfall of 3 mm on June 7th. There were 3 days with recordable rainfall during the month, and only 12 days with 100% cloud cover during part of the day. The maximum temperature on the warmest day was 29°C on June 26th, while on the coldest day it was 16°C on June 4th. Altogether there were 21 days with 20°C or more.

The 20 wildflower first-sightings we recorded this month brought our total to 60 for the year so far. The woody nightshade in our woodland pond on the 2nd was followed by tall melilot, tufted vetch, and wild woodland honeysuckle on the 6th. The 7th produced white clover, before creeping cinquefoil on the 8th, and large quantities of selfheal flowered in our woodland ride on the 11th. Meadow vetchling bloomed on the 14th, together with field bindweed among lakeside rushes then hedge bindweed followed on the 16th. We then discovered dark mullein (17th) and nipplewort (19th), plus agrimony, weld, and marsh willowherb (20th). On the 21st, we found selfheal in an unusual colour-form (white), one of three different species to exhibit this tendency during the month. On the same day we saw yarrow in bloom, and on the 25th marsh woundwort. The last two wildflowers to bloom this month were great willowherb and water figwort  beside a pond (29th).This is the first time ever we have discovered water figwort, and we can only assume that it came in on the plumage of a wild duck or similar creature.

The fine weather encouraged 8 more butterfly species to put in an appearance this month. Meadow brown appeared among grasses on June 1st, and vast numbers have followed since.  Large skipper, another grass-lover, emerged on the 2nd, then there was a long wait until the 18th, when a very late red admiral, normally one of our earliest butterflies, arrived at last,  the same day as our first white  admiral appeared beside our back woodland pond. Also, next to the same pond, we found a pristine purple hairstreak just after breakfast on the 26th, perched on bramble in bright sunshine. The 25th produced two more grass-loving species, small skipper and marbled white, with a remarkably smart

silver-washed fritillary to follow in our woodland ride on the 26th. With our annual butterfly total now at 21 species, we should mention another unusual colour-pattern on the 7th, when an extraordinary common blue butterfly turned up next to our lake on the 7th. Seven new moth sightings bring our total to 29 species so far, starting with a brown china-mark moth beside our lake on the 1st, and a common white wave moth on yellow iris on the 3rd. A cream bordered green pea moth on grasses near woodland followed on the 7th then indoors on the 15th we found a common swift moth on bathroom tiles. On the 18th, we disturbed a white plume moth and a blood-vein moth while weeding a gooseberry bush, and finally, on June 26th, we saw a six-spot burnet moth among permanent grasses.

On June 3rd we spotted our first common blue damselfly of the summer. Despite their name they are far from common here, and difficult to spot because of their tendency to remain out over the water, where they are susceptible to swallows feeding their young. On the 15th we spotted the first of many common darters, while on the 19th we found an exuvia for the brown hawker which reappeared over the lake from the 30th onwards. June 23rd was warm enough to entice a male banded demoiselle away from its natural home along the River Beult, and both a male and a female emerald damselfly appeared in separate parts of the lake the next day (24th). On the 26th we found a southern hawker exuvia at our back woodland pond, and also saw our first ruddy darter of the year. A dragonfly was also responsible for producing the remaining unusual colour-form of the month, as, on 2nd June we saw and photographed a female emperor with colours resembling a lesser emperor, egg-laying among the water lilies which it did for two days. The problem is that the nearest recorded site for this somewhat rare species is at Dungeness, and the lesser emperor habitually oviposits in tandem with the male. We now have to hope that we can find a lesser emperor exuvia over the next two years to be able to record it as a lesser emperor instead of an emperor!

Three other insects remain to be mentioned, these being a 24-spot ladybird on hop leaves (7th June), the crane-fly Tipula lunata (new to our site on the 10th), and another crane-fly that looks like Nephotoma quadripharia on the 13th (identified from our photos by Laurence Clemons, with thanks).

Our final record is of a family of blackcaps (which to our shame we thought were great tits!) spotted in our garden Juneberry tree on the 18th by two young bird-watchers who do our fencing and coppicing. We won’t be making that mistake again.


May 2018

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Written by Terry and Susan Dove   

Total monthly rainfall: was 87.5 millimetres with a maximum day rainfall of 24mm on May 30th. Rain fell on only 8 days of the month, with only one day’s rain between the 4th and 23rd. There were twelve days with 100% cloud cover for part of the day. The maximum daytime temperature on the warmest day was 27° C (27th May), while on the coldest it was 12° C (1st and 2nd).

Because of the earlier slow progress through spring, there was a lot of catching-up to do, particularly with pollinating insects  A ground-frost overnight into the 1st set back our potato crop and reduced our apple crop (including crab-apples) for the coming summer, but despite this, bugle soon bloomed on the 3rd. After a brief gap, oxeye daisy, meadow buttercup, and white bugle flowered on the 9th, followed by creeping buttercup and yellow water-lily on the 10th. This was soon followed by bird’s-foot trefoil (12th), yellow iris (13th), red clover and red campion (14th), common vetch (16th), and sheep sorrel (18th). Finally, scarlet pimpernel bloomed on the 23rd, while pineapple weed and white water-lily bloomed on the 27th with marsh bedstraw and bluewater speedwell to complete the month on the 31st. The 17 wildflower species to bloom this month bring our total for the year so far to 40. Trees and shrubs to flower this month are horse-chestnut on the 1st, elder (17th), holly(19th), and dog rose (25th).

Six new butterfly species this month increased our tally to 13 for the year so far. On the 4th, a large- white butterfly appeared among crab-apple trees in our woodland ride, while on the 8th we spotted our first brimstone in the garden near an alder buckthorn. Purely by chance, as we were getting the car out on May 20th, Susan caught a glimpse of a small green butterfly sunning itself on a Ceanaothus. This proved to be the elusive green hairstreak, which we see very infrequently – the last  being 4th May 2011. A very late small tortoiseshell flew slowly along the woodland edge on the 26th, before a pristine common blue emerged in our flower meadow on the 28th, and our first immigrant painted lady arrived on the 31st.

More moth-related species appeared this month than during the previous four months put together.

We began on the 1st May with a brindled pug moth on the outside of a lighted window, followed on 5th May by a bee-moth on the brickwork of a lighted porch, and a green-oak tortrix caterpillar dangling from a woodland hornbeam. A muslin moth settled on the doormat of the lighted porch on the 10th, then, after a delay, we spotted two lackey moth caterpillars on waterside soft rush, before small china-mark moths began appearing among marginal rushes at a woodland pond on the 21st; about 50 longhorn moths, Nemophera degeerella “danced” around hazel bushes, and a red twin-spot carpet moth tried to hide in a white Spiraea shrub in the garden. Two days later, the first burnet companion appeared among the field-grasses, and at the back-woodland pond we found the green caterpillar of a bright-line brown-eye moth (identified for us by the Kent Moth Group) on the trunk of a goat-willow tree. May 25th produced a Mother Shipton moth in the vegetable garden, followed on the 26th by a cinnarbar moth among field-grasses and the first of many silver Y moths among waterside rushes.  Our tally ended with a yellow shell moth on the 27th, and the grass moth Chrysoteuchia culmella on the 30th.

The first two downy emerald dragonflies emerged on May 1st, before the large red damselfly on the 5th, and the white-legged damselfly on the 6th. Three more species appeared on the 7th these being the azure and red-eyed damselflies and the hairy dragonfly the latter complete with its larval skin (exuvia). The 9th produced the first two of a succession of four-spotted chasers, with the broad-bodied chaser following on the 15th. The black-tailed skimmer on the 23rd and the emperor dragonfly on the 27th brought our year’s total so far to 11 species.

Other insect species to appear were the white-tailed bumblebee in the garden on the 1st, while on the 3rd we saw about 50 of last month’s St Mark’s flies committing suicide by drowning themselves in the front woodland pond. A somewhat infrequent spotted crane-fly visited the pond margins on the 8th, and a scorpion fly settled by the back woodland pond on the 10th. The 13th saw a triple-tailed mayfly among soft rush in the lakeside margins.

We saw no new migrating wild birds this month, so sadly the collared dove failed to arrive here this year.


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