It's the national event for moths this weekend and as part of the annual Moth Night the RSPB team will be out this Friday night from 9pm with our Robinson light trap. On previous nights when we've set out traps we've recorded moths such as Map-winged Swift. Hebrew Character, Rustic Shoulder-knot, Antler Moth, Dark Arches and Marbled Beauty.
This year's theme for Moth Night is brownfield sites, by definition being sites that have been previously developed. Brownfield sites can support good colonies of moths and butterflies as well as other wildlife. They're areas that can be really variable with regards to the nature of what they previously would have been used for from railways to post-industrial sites to disused or former quarries, so this latter one fits in well with areas that are very much part of Dove Stone's landscape and history.
Here's my chance for a general point about brownfield sites. They're important sites for wildlife and yet brownfield sites are highly threatened environments being a high priority for redevelopment by both this government and previous governments to the cost of wildlife. There's also a culture in local authorities and communities of perceving brownfield sites as scruffy and unimportant areas that have to be tidied up. What's really good is those brownfield sites that have basically been abandoned, which allows them to develop naturally and become great habitat for, for example, patchy scrub, open woodland and just for open, bare ground.
You don't need a lot of equipment to carry out your own moth trapping. Here's a link to recording techniques http://www.mothnight.info/www/index.php/recording-techniques. Why not check out a brownfield site near to you ? And there are plenty of day-flying moths too, such as Cinnarbar moths so you don't even have to be out at night.
Back to Dove Stone's moth night. If you fancy coming along and taking a look at some of the moths that we've found then drop-in to Dove Stone's top carpark at Binn Green. We'll be there from 9pm. We're hoping that it won't be either too wet or too windy and that we can leave the trap running until the early hours. And on the Saturday morning from 11am to about 12noon we'll be on hand at Binn Green again to show what late night and early hour moths we found.
An update on what's happening with the Peregrines at Dove Stone this year. Over the last few months we've had some really great views of both birds and we've watched them through their courtship displays to mating to what looked like sitting on eggs. Unfortunately the Peregrines haven't had any chicks this year. Elsewhere around the country it's also been an unpredictable year for Peregrines - particularly the Nottingham Peregrines - raising young particularly early and then experiencing a long period of extremely wet weather and eventually three of the chicks dying.
So what's happened with Dove Stone's Peregrines ? We think that one of the birds is possibly only a second year bird and therefore still not fertile. The birds will go through mating, laying and incubating although the eggs will ultimately fail. The good news is that the Peregrines can still be seen regularly from our Peregrine viewing area at Ashway Gap. We're hoping that next year will be a successful year for the Peregrines.
A very brief stop-off at Binn Green feeding area last night gave views of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Mistle Thrush, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, juvenile Coal Tits, Wren, an adult Black Pheasant and some young Pheasants. Obviously that's just one small part of Dove Stone and there's plenty to see elsewhere around the estate. Binn Green is lookiing lovely at the moment, particularly with lots of long grass - lots of good sweep-netting potential. It's going to be great for the BioBlitz on Saturday 7th.
More soon with an update on National Insect Week...
Kicking off our top-ten species, ten day countdown to BioBlitz on Saturday July 7th it's Green Hairstreak ( Callophrys rubi ).
Green Hairstreaks are widespread throughout Britain, although this butterfly has declined in some local regions. They can be seen at rest with wings closed, showing their bright green undersides. And if you've ever wondered about their colour, it's produced by light scattered and reflected from structures on the underwing known as gyroids. These gyroids are orientated in different ways and the overall effect is to scatter green light, a natural example of a photonic crystal. The light from the wings is polarised and since insect eyes are polarisation sensitive, it's thought that this light may produce an invisible signal that might be used in mating in some way. Some Green Hairstreaks will have white spots which form a white 'streak' although this marking is really variable and sometimes almost absent. In flight the Green Hairstreak's upperwings give it a brown appearance.
Another cool fact about Green Hairstreaks is that the pupae, which are formed at ground level, make a squeaking noise ! This attracts ants who in response bury any pupae they find. Green Hairstreaks can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including moorland and are strongly associated with scrub and shrubs. Bilberry is likely to be the main foodplant for Green Hairstreaks at Dove Stone although other foodplants include Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Dogwood, Bramble ( rubi derives from rubus, meaning Bramble ) and Gorse amongst other plants; all of which we also have at Dove Stone.
Males and females look similar but differences in behaviour help with id'ing. Male Green Hairstreaks are territorial; they'll use a favourite spot where they'll wait for passing females and rival males can be seen spiralling in flight together. Females will spend most of their time away from the male territories, searching for nectar and foodplants on which to lay eggs.
Green Hairstreak are on the wing into early July so every chance of seeing this superb looking butterfly at the BioBlitz. A bit of warm weather might also help...!
A quick update with sightings yesterday of two Ravens and a Kestrel seen whilst walking the main Dove Stone trail from Chew Brook, with the Ravens mobbing the Kestrel. Thanks to Jamie for the info. Elsewhere around Dove Stone our woodland birds are showing well, particularly up at Binn Green. And flying low over Dove Stone reservoir we had 5 Oystercatchers as well as a Common Sandpiper.
The team at Dove Stone are gearing up for next Saturday's BioBlitz. It will be really interesting to see what birds we record on the day - as well as everything else of course. More soon with the second in our top 10 species countdown to the BioBlitz. Today's top-10er was Green Hairstreak. Anyone want to take a guess on what tomorrow's top-10 species will be ?