Neil Freeman

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Neil Freeman
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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Neil Freeman » Fri Dec 08, 2017 7:52 pm

Cheers Wurzel, I know what you mean about the Song Thrush looking neater than the Mistle Trush. I also look for the shape of the spots, they seem to be a bit more elongated on the Song Thrush.

Thanks Andrew, the garden certainly helps to get through the winter months, at least at the weekend as it is dark when I get in from work in the week.

Thanks Trevor, we have a cat too. The feeder is out of his reach and he always wears a collar with a bell on it.

Friday 8th December

A couple of (relatively) mild nights earlier in the week tempted me to put the moth trap out to see if anything was about. The answer was 'not much', just two moths on Monday night, one Light Brown Apple Moth (micro) which is a species I see every month of the year, but a male Mottled Umber was the other one which was a first for the garden which made it worthwhile. This is a common and widespread species which has a single generation from October through to January so is a true winter species. The males are very variable but this is also a species that has completely flightless females https://www.ukmoths.org.uk/species/erannis-defoliaria/

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Mottled Umber - Coverdale 04.12.2017


It has been a bitterly cold day today with a daytime temperature that didn't rise above 2 degrees and as I write this there is a light covering of snow outside. We didn't get as much snow here as they had just a little further west but according to the forecast our turn is on Sunday.

Bye for now,

Neil.

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby essexbuzzard » Sat Dec 09, 2017 9:19 pm

Yes, I think many of us can expect a bit of the white stuff tonight and tomorrow. No moths this weekend!

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Neil Freeman
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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Neil Freeman » Sun Dec 10, 2017 5:42 pm

Cheers Mark, we did indeed have some of the white stuff...in fact rather a lot of it :shock:

Sunday 10th December

Well, the weather forecast was bang on for around here, it started snowing sometime in the early hours and by the time I got up just after 08.00 there was already a good covering of at least a couple of inches. Since then it has not stopped, only varying from light stuff to periods of larger flakes and as I write this there is a blanket of at least 6 inches over everything. Furthermore it is forecast to continue snowing until around 04.00 in the morning so tomorrow's journey to work is looking like it could be 'interesting'.

There have been loads of birds in the garden today, I guess their natural foods are covered with a blanket of snow so they come into the gardens looking for sustenance.
As usual, in between the household stuff, I took a few snaps through the windows from the comfort of inside the house.

First off, some general views taken through the day...

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And some of the birds...

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Great Spotted Woodpecker


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Blue Tit in the snow.


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There is something just 'right' about a Robin in the snow.


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Another Blue Tit in the bushes


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Chaffinch


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A pair of Chaffinches picking up seed dropped from the feeders above them.


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Male Bullfinch


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Two male Bullfinches


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Bullfinch pair.


With freezing temperatures forecast for the next few days and maybe some more snow on the way later in the week, looks like we could be in for a bit of proper winter...at last.

Bye for now,

Neil

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby MikeOxon » Sun Dec 10, 2017 6:52 pm

I envy you the Bullfinches in the garden :mrgreen: Nothing unusual here yet but if the cold snap continues, we'll probably see an invasion of Winter thrushes.

Very nice set of photos.

Mike

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Andrew555
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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Andrew555 » Mon Dec 11, 2017 8:48 am

Nice shots Neil, a bit of snow fell here on the SE London / Kent border but nothing like you have.

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Wurzel » Tue Dec 12, 2017 8:40 am

Brilliant Christmas Card shots Neil - especially those Bullfinches - I'm seeing a few more of them about now but still haven't managed to capture them on film :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :D


Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby David M » Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:49 pm

Fabulous array of winter garden birds, Neil. Your garden is Christmas card worthy! I think Swansea must be virtually the only city to have escaped even a dusting of the 'white stuff'.

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Neil Freeman
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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Neil Freeman » Fri Dec 15, 2017 8:09 pm

Many thanks for the comments Mike, Andrew, Wurzel and David...very much appreciated as always :D

We had a bit more snow last night, not much and then it turned to rain...and then it froze making for treacherous conditions early this morning on my way into work.
Anyway, this is UK Butterflies so I suppose I had better post something to do with butterflies :wink:

So what did I think of my 2017 season? As always my impressions are based on what I saw around my local patch plus various trips around the country. Other people may have different thoughts depending on where they live, for example the south east appeared to be a lot warmer and drier than my patch here in the midlands, particularly during the first part of the season.

Looking back at 2017 part 1 - Spring.

My own personal season started in late March which is fairly normal for me with the past few years all producing my first sightings during the last week of the month. I have still not yet seen a Red Admiral early in the year although there is beginning to be some evidence that they are occasionally successfully overwintering in the midlands as they already seem to be doing in the south.
My first butterfly this year was a Comma in my garden on the afternoon of Friday March 24th, followed the next day by a few more seen at one of my local spots along with a few Small Tortoiseshells.

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Comma - Bickenhill 25.03.2017


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Small Tortoiseshell - Langley Hall 31.03.2017


I was surprised not to see any Peacocks during this visit as they are usually one of the first species seen, but they did start showing up from the following week albeit in fairly low numbers. In fact all three of these hibernators seemed to be in lower numbers than previous years.

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Peacock - Bickenhill 02.04.2017


The first weekend of April produced my first Brimstones plus singles of Orange-tip and Small White, both these latter two species being a bit early for around here, mid-April being more usual for these to start showing up. Speckled Woods, Holly Blues plus Large and Green-veined Whites soon followed during the following week or so. By mid April I was seeing all the species that I would expect to see around my local spots with Orange-tips in particular seeming to be having a good year although numbers of most other species were just average at best.

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Orange-tip - Castle Hills 18.04.2017


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Large White - Coverdale 15.04.2017


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Green-veined White - Castle Hills 18.04.2017


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Speckled Wood - Coverdale 15.04.2017


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Holly Blue - Coverdale 30.04.2017


The good weather in the first half of April wasn't to last and by the second half of the month there were plenty of dull cloudy days although there were still some nice warm ones and l managed to get out and see plenty of butterflies around my local Spots. So far, most species that I had seen were appearing slightly early albeit not as early as I was seeing in reports from down south.

Early May saw me taking a trip over to the Wyre Forest to see Pearl-bordered Fritillaries and a bit later in the month I visited Ryton Wood Meadows for Green Hairstreaks and Bishops Hill for Small Blues, all of which I seem to have caught early in their flight period this year before their numbers had built up and with most examples seen being nice and fresh. The visits to the Wyre Forest and Bishops Hill were both in cool, cloudy and showery conditions which were becoming much more frequent through May.

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Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Wyre Forest 01.05.2017


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Green Hairstreak - Ryton Wood Meadows 10.05.2017


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Small Blue - Bishops Hill - 14.05.2017


At Bishops Hill I was pleased to find couple of Grizzled Skippers which I had failed to see in 2016, but numbers of Dingy Skippers were well down on what I have seen at this site before, although I had seen better numbers of these at Ryton Wood Meadows a few days previously.

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Grizzled Skipper - Bishops Hill 14.05.2017


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Dingy Skipper - Ryton Wood Meadows 10.05.2017


I had also seen some fresh Common Blues at Bishops Hill and by the end of May these were also flying in good numbers at a couple of my local spots.

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Common Blue - Castle Hills 28.05.2017


Small Heath is a species that seems to be suffering around Warwickshire in recent years so I was pleased to find quite a few flying locally. On the other hand Small Coppers were again few and far between locally with only a few scattered first brood examples seen.

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Small Copper - Castle Hills 21.05.2017


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Small Heath - Castle Hills 28.05.2017


Also, by the end of May the first fresh Large Skippers were showing up, a species that for me always marks the transition from the spring species to those of early summer.

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Large Skipper - Castle Hills 28..05.2017


A reasonable spring overall which started off with some good weather before it started to show signs of going downhill later in April and into May. The hibernating species had started to appear around their normal time for around my patch although some of the following emerging species were showing up a bit earlier than usual. Apart from Orange-tips which seemed to be doing well, numbers of most species so far appeared to be about average or even slightly lower than usual.

Bye for now,

Neil.

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby trevor » Sat Dec 16, 2017 7:06 pm

Your summary of Spring species gives me something to look forward to.
Some great images, especially the Orange Tip, Green Hairstreak and PBF.

All the best for 2018, Neil,
Trevor.

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Wurzel » Sun Dec 17, 2017 6:45 pm

Great start to the Season look back Neil, great set of images :D Interesting that your first butterfly was a Comma - that's normally my second or thirds with Small Tort usually taking pole position :D

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby David M » Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:42 pm

Lovely spring sequence, Neil, and something I didn't expect following so shortly after your local images of winter conditions.

Hopefully in another 3 months we will all be able to revel again in the presence of our winged friends. Meantime, we must negotiate our way through several weeks of cold, dark and dreary conditions. :(

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Andrew555 » Mon Dec 18, 2017 8:01 am

Beautiful selection Neil, great report. Hard to choose a fav, that Copper looks particularly fine, but hell, they're all good! :D

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Neil Freeman
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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Neil Freeman » Fri Dec 22, 2017 8:32 pm

Thanks Trevor, Wurzel, David and Andrew. Putting these 'looking back' reports together always helps to pass the dark nights at this time of year...especially on those evenings that Jane is glued to soaps on the tele all night :roll:

Looking back at 2017 part 2 – Summer.

At the end of May we went down to Cornwall for a short stay on The Lizard. This took us into the first couple of days of June and the weather had now settled into the typical early summer pattern of recent years with plenty of cool and cloudy days with the occasional bit of warm sun to brighten things up. My main targets on this trip were Marsh Fritillaries and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, both of which I found in good numbers.

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Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary - Lizard 31.05.2017


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Marsh Fritillary - Lizard 02.06.2017


My first Red Admirals of the season were also seen in Cornwall along with quite a few Painted Ladies, most of these looking a bit worse for wear, probably due to having flown some distance to our shores. A few Wall Browns were spotted along the coast paths along with good numbers of Common Blues.

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Red Admiral - Lizard 31.05.2017


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Wall Brown - Lizard 01.06.2017


A drive over to Upton Towans on the north coast also produced some nice fresh Silver-studded Blues. It is perfectly normal for these to be flying in late May on the dune systems of north Cornwall but from reports that I read this year it appears that they had already been on the wing at a number of sites in the south-east as well which does seem a bit early.

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Silver-studded Blue - Upton Towans 01.06.2017


Back home, Large Skippers were now on the wing in good numbers and were soon joined by loads of Ringlets at my local sites. Meadow Browns were appearing by mid June although numbers of these were well down from the hordes of a couple of years ago. On the other hand Marbled Whites again increased in numbers at my local spots after first appearing there a few years back.

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Ringlet - Langley Hall 30.06.2017


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Marbled White - Castle Hills 01.07.2017


A trip down to the Heddon Valley for a few days in late June produced High Brown and Dark Green Fritillaries plus a few early Silver washed Fritillaries, although apparently we had missed the best weather the week before and it was mostly dull and cloudy with a fair bit of rain when we were there. I has also managed to see a few Heath Fritillaries during a brief stop off at Haddon Hill on the way down.

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Heath Fritillary - Haddon Hill 26.06.2017


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Dark Green Fritillary - Heddon Valley 27.06.2017


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High Brown Fritillary - Heddon Valley 27.06.2017


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Silver-washed Fritillary - Heddon Valley 27.06.2017

The theme of cool cloudy weather continued into early July with a few better days including when we went to Snitterfield Bushes, just north of Stratford-upon-Avon, where we saw good numbers of SWFs and my first fresh Gatekeepers of the season. This visit also produced my only White Admirals this year with a couple seen flitting about amongst the trees. The first summer brood examples of a number of species were also seen at Snitterfield including Brimstone, Large & Small Whites, and Comma.

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Gatekeeper - Snitterfield Bushed 09.07.2017


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Brimstone - Snitterfield Bushes 09.07.2017


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Comma - Snitterfield Bushes 09.07.2017


I had been seeing Small Skippers locally from late May and Essex Skippers from around the second week of June but both of these seemed to be down in numbers from previous years, probably due to the early summer weather taking a turn for the worse.

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Small Skipper - Langley Hall 30.06.2017


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Essex Skipper - Bickenhill 23.07.2017


Red Admirals were appearing in good numbers locally, as were Commas, but both Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells seemed to be having another poor year around here.

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Peacock - Castle Hills 13.08.2017


We then had a trip up to Arnside at the end of July and into the first couple of days of August. Not only was it yet another few days of cloudy and cool weather but it was apparent that they had been having far more rain up there than we had seen in the midlands. I know that there tends to be a north-west / south-east split in our weather patterns but this seems to be becoming more pronounced in recent years with a run of poor summers in the north-west. My main target was Scotch Argus and these were seen in good numbers up on the Knott, but like last year they were not so numerous as I have seen here in the past.

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Scotch Argus - Arnside Knott 30.07.2017


All the other usual species were seen on and around Arnside Knott including loads of Gatekeepers and a few Graylings plus around half a dozen mostly faded High Brown Fritillaries were still flying.

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Grayling - Arnside Knott 01.08.2017


The third week of August saw us down in Cornwall again, this time for a family holiday but of course I managed to squeeze in some butterflying. Highlights of this visit included second brood Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, Clouded Yellows and Painted Ladies, along with increasing numbers of Red Admirals and loads of Common Blues. I was also pleased to see good numbers of Small Tortoiseshells at last, having only seen a handful of summer brood so far this year.

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Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (2nd brood) - Upton Towans 25.08.2017


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Clouded Yellow - Lizard 22.08.2017


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Painted Lady - Lizard 24.08.2017


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Small Tortoiseshell - Lizard 24.08.2017


Meadow Browns also seemed to be doing much better in Cornwall than they had been around my local patch. I have commented in my diary before that I have been finding increasing numbers of female Meadow Browns with large orange patches on their wings, including the hindwings, and I found a number like this at various sites again this year, especially in Cornwall.

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Meadow Brown - Lizard 21.08.2017


So then, on the whole the summer developed into another mostly cool and cloudy one. It wasn't particularly wet around my part of the midlands although when we did get rain it tended to be heavy. I also noted that it had been a lot wetter up around Arnside, particularly just prior to our visit. Some species seemed to have been hit by the deterioration in the weather in early summer with Small & Essex skippers, Meadow Browns, and Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells noticeably down in numbers around my local patch. There had also seemed to be a general shortage of Large and Small Whites during the summer although I saw plenty of Green-veined Whites locally. Common Blues seemed to do well this year at many sites, particularly in Cornwall where they were the most numerous butterfly seen during our week down there in August. Gatekeeper and Speckled Wood seemed to have a good year with both species showing up in good numbers at most places that I went to from early July onwards.

That takes me up to the end of August which is another convenient place to end before I look at what the tail end of my season was like.

Wishing everyone a Very Merry Christmas and hope that you have all been good and Santa brings you all that you asked for :D

Neil.

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Wurzel » Sat Dec 23, 2017 6:36 pm

Another great look back Neil - what a cracking year you had - seeing all the British Fritillaries, Clouded Yellows and Scotch Argus :mrgreen: :D Looking forward to the next installment :D Havea Happy Christmas and New Year :D

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Neil Freeman
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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Neil Freeman » Fri Dec 29, 2017 10:02 pm

Cheers Wurzel...not quite all the British Fritillaries, I didn't see Glanvilles. Still, like you say, I had a good year although it was challenging at times.

A Happy New Year to everyone on UKB and lets hope that the coming butterfly season is a good one.

Cheers,

Neil.

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby trevor » Sat Dec 30, 2017 9:26 am

A beautiful Summer selection, Neil. I don't think it's possible to obtain
a better High Brown Fritillary image than yours. Superb stuff !.

Wishing you a fruitful, happy 2018.
Trevor.

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Wurzel » Sat Dec 30, 2017 3:36 pm

"Cheers Wurzel...not quite all the British Fritillaries, I didn't see Glanvilles"...They don't really count in my book as you have to get on a boat to see proper, truly wild ones now, you'll soon need to take your passport to tick them off :shock: :wink: :lol:
Have a cracking New year!

Have a goodun

Wurzel

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby David M » Sun Dec 31, 2017 9:45 pm

Beautiful reportage, Neil, and one that makes me yearn for the first signs of spring.

May I wish you all the best for 2018.

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Neil Freeman
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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby Neil Freeman » Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:05 pm

Thanks Trevor :D ...although I have seen better High Brown photos posted by others in previous years.

Cheers Wurzel, I am with you on needing to get on a boat to see Glanvilles in their proper place.

Thanks David, I am also yearning for spring although with the wind howling and the rain lashing down outside as I write this it seems a long way off.

Tuesday 2nd January 2018

Back to work today :(

With the weather over the festive period alternating between cold and frosty and milder but wet I didn't bother putting the moth trap out. The last time it was out was on December 21st when I had 5 moths consisting of 2 Winter Moths and 3 Light Brown Apple Moths(micro). The Winter Moths were the first ones this winter but I had also caught a few of these last January.

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Winter Moths - Coverdale 21.12.2017


Plenty of birds are visiting the garden feeders including a pair of Blackcaps. These have been turning up in the garden for the past few winters but I never see them before Christmas, usually from the first week of the new year. The male has mostly been lurking around in the shrubs but the female has been on the feeders more often, usually it is the females that are more secretive.

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Female Blackcap - Coverdale 30.12.2017


Plenty of the usual four species of Tits are around, usually hanging around in gangs of mixed types,

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Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tit - Coverdale 30.12.2017


and the Bullfinches are still visiting regularly, at least two pairs,

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Bullfinch pair - Coverdale 30.12.2017


Looks like the next couple of days are going to be a bit windy and wet and then another cold snap is forecast by the weekend.

Bye for now,

Neil.

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Re: Neil Freeman

Postby bugboy » Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:10 pm

Again some :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: for your avian garden visitors, Bullfinch I only ever glimpse occasionally these days as they dart into the undergrowth and I don't think I've ever seen a winter Blackcap, even though they're everywhere all spring and summer long!
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