27 August 2012

Almost birdless

Very quiet at the patch this morning in light to moderate southerlies. The world's 2 most wary Whinchats were still around the temporary fence along the Colne, 2-3 Common Whitethroat and 1 Hobby overhead could be local breeders, and 7 commic terns over east were probably just commuting between reservoirs. Very small numbers of Barn Swallow pushing south provided the only vis mig.

Residents logged include 1 Kingfisher along the Colne, 1-2 Sparrowhawk (including 1 successfully catching a Goldfinch), c100 Goldfinch feeding out on the moor, c40 Linnet and 2 Meadow Pipit. On adjacent Stanwell Moor, 1 Reed Warbler, 1 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff were noted, and at Stanwell Moor village, several Barn Swallow and House Martin were hanging around and a Little Egret flew over.

NOTE TO MIGRANT GODS: Please would you remove the no-fly zone from around Staines Moor - there's Honey Buzzards, Ospreys, Marsh Harriers, Wrynecks, Pied Flys, Spotted Flys, Yellow Wags, Crossbills etc. turning up everywhere around London except here. I mean FFS, even a b****y Willow Warbler would be nice! Many thanks.

26 August 2012

Cypress Pug

Been playing with the new macro lens and getting used to manual settings on the 7D. It's all great fun, but have I got a lot to learn!! This morning I photographed this Cypress Pug that's been hanging around the living room the last two days.

Apparently this uncommon pug is a relatively recent arrival to the UK, being first recorded in 1959 at Lamorna in Cornwall, before spreading across the southern counties. They usually don't get much further north than Gloucestershire or Suffolk, although it has been recorded as far north as Warwickshire. A distribution map can be found on the excellent UK Moths website here.

Cypress Pug Eupithecia phoeniceata, dorsal surface (click to enlarge)

Cypress Pug Eupithecia phoeniceata, ventral surface (taken through clear plastic)

25 August 2012

Mothing indoors

Loads of things to do still before returning to REGUA in Brazil next month - trail leaflets to finish, maps to create, a butterfly guide to start, updates to the REGUA website etc. So last night I was working late in the living room with the windows open and a light on the window sill. Along with a whole load of micros, this little lot came in:

1 Brimstone Moth
1 Cypress Pug
1 Lesser Yellow Underwing (male)
1 Flounced Rustic
6 Square-spot Rustic
1 Silver Y
4 Willow Beauty (all males)

Not a bad haul considering it was quite windy with heavy rain at times, and I don't have a moth trap. These are the first photos I've taken with my new macro lens. Unfortunately, the light today was very poor but some aren't too bad. Many thanks to Alan Martin for help with some of the IDs.

Brimstone Moth Opisthograptis luteolata

Flounced Rustic Luperina testacea

Square-spot Rustic Xestia xanthographa

Square-spot Rustic Xestia xanthographa. Check out the variation compared
to the one above.

Silver Y Autographa gamma

Silver Y Autographa gamma. Don't often see these
resting with their wings open.

Male Willow Beauty Peribatodes rhomboidaria

22 August 2012

Back to the patch

A look around Staines Moor today was my first visit to the patch for ages! A few autumn migrants were in evidence, the best being 2 Whinchat at the north end along the temporary fence beside the Colne (no sign of yesterday's Common Redstarts). Chiffchaffs were calling everywhere but being elusive with only 2 birds actually seen, and 1 Reed Warbler, 2 Common Whitethroat and 1 Blackcap were the only other warblers seen. 1 Hobby overhead and 1 Common Buzzard and small groups of Swallow were moving south.

1 of 2 Whinchat present today

Plenty of butterflies around, with 2 Small Coppers, lots of Meadow Browns and Small Heaths on the grassy areas of the moor, and also many Speckled Woods, Small Whites, several Common Blues but just a single Red Admiral.

Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas

Female Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus

Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina

Banded Demoiselles are still on the wing in large numbers around the edge of the moor, with small numbers of Common Blue Damselfly near the Wraysbury River. A single female Common Darter was also seen.

Male Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens

Female Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens

Mating pair of Common Blue Damselfly
Enallagma cyathigerum

Female Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum

After such a wet spring and summer, the vegetation on the moor is very tall,
obscuring the usually obvious anthills.

The River Colne is also very high with no exposed muddy edges.

On adjacent Stanwell Moor, 2-3 Hobby, c20 Swallow, several House Martin and a Chiffchaff were hanging around.

21 August 2012

Birdfair 2012 roundup

Had by far the most successful Birdfair since Rachel and I started representing REGUA at the annual event at Rutland in 2007, despite the Birdfair feeling quieter than usual. This year's event (17-19 August) was the first time that we have had our own stand for REGUA, which attracted a huge amount of interest. Almost all of our leaflets went, we sold lots of the new Checklist of the Birds of REGUA as well as a few bookmarks, and Rachel's cakes went like, er, hot cakes. We also had massive surge in interest from even more tour companies.

Caught up with a lot of friends. Andy and Cristina from Serra dos Tucanos had little Olivier with them, Rick and Elis Simpson filled us in on their exciting new Wader Quest venture, Steve Cale delivered the stunning tanager paintings we commissioned last year, Steve Brookes came by, and in the eleventh hour we finally caught up with Ruth Miller from The Biggest Twitch (but unfortunately Alan eluded us). It was also great to see many of the guys from the World Land Trust, Kevin Cox, wildlife photographer Margaret Welby, and lots of past guests at REGUA.

The first independent REGUA stand at the UK Birdfair, with Rachel and Sue Healey
in action.

The calm before the storm at the REGUA stand

Bristlefront Brownie - a REGUA stand endemic. See
RAW Baking for loads more baked goodies from Rachel.

Also Wise Birding had their first stand this year. Chris Townend and Helen Booker had a huge amount of interest and even Nick Baker popped by to say hello. The Wise Birding business model of donating a percentage of each tour to a local conservation organisation visited on the tour seems to be big draw! If you are a Facebook user, and haven't already liked the Wise Birding Facebook page, please do so here.

Chris Townend and Helen Booker on the Wise Birding stand

Also bought a few bits - a shiny new Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro lens, the Richard Lewington illustrated guides to moths and micro-moths and a couple of Bushnell trophy cams - can't wait to use these in Brazil next month! Many thanks to everyone who stopped by the REGUA stand, and I hope you see you at REGUA one day soon.

This micro-moth, Agriphila tristella, had decided to sit out the day on the front of
the Canon display cabinet, and who would blame it?

Spoon-billed Sandpiper painted on the Birdfair mural by Mark Andrews. This year's
Birdfair is raising funds for conservation efforts in the East Asian/Australasian
Flyway - crucial for migratory waders and many other waterbirds.

More on the REGUA stand at this year's Birdfair on Sue Healey's blog.

16 August 2012

Whites and Sulphurs

Back in June at REGUA in Brazil, there were also a lot of Pieridae butterflies (Whites and Sulphurs) flying. I found these very difficult to identify, but one of the great advantages of the digital age is you can simply photograph everything and ID it later! Brilliant when there isn't a field guide available.

Male Elathea Yellow/Banded Yellow Eurema elathea, REGUA, June 2012

Male Elathea Yellow/Banded Yellow Eurema elathea, REGUA, June 2012.
This species almost always rests with the wings closed. In flight the yellow
upper side to the forewing with the black border on the male is striking!

Mimosa Yellow Pyrisitia nise tenella, REGUA, June 2012

Cloudless Sulphur Phoebis sennae, REGUA, June 2012

10 August 2012

Pale Prominent

This Pale Prominent turned up in the house last night. Managed a few half decent images. Such a weird looking moth!

Pale Prominent Pterostoma palpina

9 August 2012

Neotropical skippers at REGUA

So far 93 species of skippers (Hesperiidae) have been recorded at REGUA in south-east Brazil, although there are probably a lot more species present. Here's three very different looking species, photographed at REGUA in June.

Brown Longtail Urbanus procne, REGUA, June 2012

Neotropical Chequered Skipper Pyrgus oileus, REGUA, June 2012

Common Banded Skipper Autochton neis (probably), REGUA, June 2012. Skippers
are notoriously difficult to identify. The only other species that I think this could
possibly be is Autochton integrifascia, but this species seems to have four white
apical spots and a broader median band. It would also be new for REGUA.

7 August 2012

Clearwings, metalmarks and hairstreaks

In June there were a lot of clearwing butterflies (Ithomiinae) flying at REGUA (south-east Brazil). They seem to prefer the dark forest interior which made getting sharp photos real a challenge.

Hymenaea Clearwing Episcada hymenaea, REGUA, June 2012

Dero/Celtina Clearwing Dircenna dero celtina, REGUA, June 2012

Hypothyris ninonia daeta, REGUA, June 2012

And a few metalmarks (Riodinidae).

Blue Doctor/Periander Metalmark/Variable Beautymark Rhetus periander eleusinus
REGUA, June 2012

Erota Metalmark Notheme erota agathon, REGUA, June 2012

Nyctea Eyemark Mesosemia nyctea, REGUA, June 2012

Also a few hairstreaks (Lycaenidae) were around as well, but I only managed half decent photos of this one.

Cupentus Hairstreak Megathecla cupentus, REGUA, June 2012

4 August 2012

Neotropical butterflies at REGUA

On my recent trip to Brazil I became just a teeny weeny bit obsessed with butterflies and moths. For much of the trip, birding took a back seat and I spent many hours photographing the large numbers of butterflies found around the wetland. However, putting a name to them was far from easy. In fact, being almost a complete novice, just assigning them to family was problematic.

There is currently no comprehensive field guides to either butterflies or moths of the Atlantic Forest region in Brazil. But the excellent natural history library at REGUA's Guapi Assu Bird Lodge has two books that helped me identify some of the butterflies - Misiones Butterflies (Díaz et al., 2007) that illustrates a few common species of north-east Argentina, and Butterflies of Southern Amazonia (Garwood et al., 2009).

These are of the Nymphalidae family (Brush-footed/Four-footed butterflies).

Orsis Bluewing Myscelia orsis, REGUA, June 2012

Abia Sister Adelpha abia, REGUA, June 2012

Scarlet Peacock Anartia amathea roeselia, REGUA, June 2012

White Peacock Anartia jatrophae, REGUA, June 2012

Blue Cracker Hamadryas arete, REGUA, June 2012

Juno Longwing Dione juno, REGUA, June 2012

Tropical Buckeye Junonia evarete, REGUA, June 2012

Cramer's Eighty-eight Diaethria clymena janeira, REGUA, June 2012

Stinky Leafwing Historis odius odius, REGUA, June 2012

Over the last few years, Alexandre Soares and Nilton Tangerini of the Department of Entomology, National Museum, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and Jorge Bizarro, REGUA's Research Co-ordinator, have been carrying out fieldwork on the Lepidoptera at REGUA (published in 2011). 287 species of butterflies have been recorded so far with a large photo library built up, and two years worth of flight period data collected. As a result we've decided to produce a Checklist of the Butterflies of REGUA, similar to the recently published Checklist of the Birds of REGUA, but with the addition of a photographic field guide to the 50 most common butterfly species.

More butterfly photos to follow, once I've identified them. I'd like to promise a bird post soon, but I live in Surrey and it's early August so it don't, look, good.