31 December 2014

Med Gull over Weybridge: 31 December

A quick notebook entry. Parking the car for work when an adult Mediterranean Gull flew low east over The Willows in Weybridge at 08:52 - probably the same adult seen at Walton Bridge over the last few days and possibly one of the two birds I found at Cowey Sale back in February returning? Nice end to the year!

21 December 2014

Review: Cluson ML8 Pro Spotter torch

With an advertised beam range of 350 m, a white CREE LED light and a good run time on high beam, the Cluson ML8 Pro Spotter torch looks ideal for night-birding. I could find no information on the luminous flux of the ML8, but being around half the price of many other LED torches on the market with a similar specification I decided to try it out and see how it compared to the LED Lenser M7R reviewed back in March?

Clockwise from top: the Cluson ML8 Pro Spotter; mains charger; vehicle charger

The build quality of the ML8 is just as good - constructed from aircraft grade aluminium with a black anodised finish, and sealed against the elements with rubber "O" rings. The torch is compact, at 160 mm in length and with a maximum diameter of 55 mm, and easily fits into a pocket, and at just 236 g is also light. Power comes from a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and the two modes (high or low beam) are controlled by a single large button on the end of the barrel that also functions as the power switch.

The ML8 comes supplied with a lithium-ion battery, a mains charger, a vehicle charger and wrist strap. A filter set (including red, amber and yellow filters) are also available - useful for some wildlife observation. For recharging, the battery must be removed from the torch by unscrewing the tail cap, and charging takes about four hours from empty. Surprisingly, there is no charge indicator light on the charger (the red light is displayed simply when the battery is inserted), but charging stops automatically when the battery is fully charged.

Cluson ML8 Pro Spotter key technical details

Lumens Unknown
Run time 3.5 hrs high beam/20 hrs low beam
Beam range 250 m
Focus Fixed spot
Weight 236 g
Battery Lithium-ion
Body material Aluminium

For more technical details see the Cluson website.

On delivery I found the packaging stated a beam range of 250 m - 100 m less than advertised on the Cluson website. Cluson claim the maximum beam range is actually 350 m and that the 250 m beam range relates to maximum shooting distance achievable with ML8 when used with a rifle scope (although they are changing the packing to state a 300 m beam range for shooting). In the field, I estimated the maximum usable range to be around 200-250 m - comparable to the LED Lenser MR7 and was a little disappointed.

The single CREE LED produced a bright and fairly neutral white light, with very little of the blue hue traditionally associated with older LED torches. The beam range is similar to the LED Lenser MR7, however, the focus is fixed as a spot light, and although much more homogeneous than the light produced by a Maglite, the beam is not as uniform as the LED Lenser MR7 with some slightly darker circles noticeable. The light weight and compact size made it easy to use for long periods, and even allowed use of binoculars while scanning.

To conclude, the Cluson ML8 Pro Spotter is a good torch for looking for birds, mammals, insects and other animals at night. A beam range between 300-400 m as well as the ability to focus from spot to flood would make this an excellent torch, but at £66 it is very good value for money for the specification and so highly recommended.

12 December 2014

Woodcock back on the patch: 12 December

Met up with fellow patcher Keith Kerr for a few hours this evening to look for wintering Eurasian Woodcock. After searching for about an hour we found a very obliging bird by the Iris Channels in the NW corner of Staines Moor that showed extremely well. A look around the NE corner found at least another 2 birds running around the anthills.

Also noted on Staines Moor were a roosting Redwing in a tiny clump of sedge, a roosting Meadow Pipit in one of the Iris Channels, a Common Snipe (H) and 1 Red Fox. No sign of the Tawny Owl heard by Rob Innes on 29 November along Bonehead Ditch. On Stanwell Moor a couple of male Winter Moth Operophtera brumata were noted along the Colne Valley Way along with 9 other moths possible this species or Northern Winter Moth Operophtera fagata.

One of three Eurasian Woodcock seen this evening at Staines Moor

7 December 2014

Mining for moths: 6th - 7th December

Spent the last week visiting friends Kevin and Donna Cox at their place on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon - part holiday and part helping out planting a yew hedge in their newly built walled garden - part of much larger wildlife garden (or rather, grounds).

Yesterday and this morning, we explored one of the old copper mines on the Brook Estate looking for cave-dwelling animals. Copper was mined here from 1845 to 1885 and the main shaft at this particular mine, Pixton’s Shaft, drops vertically to an incredible 305 m! We looked at a short (c15 m) horizontal adit in the woods here.

Found quite a few Herald moths (counted 23 yesterday) as well as lots (c40 yesterday) of European Cave Spiders Meta menardi, including one guarding an egg cocoon suspended from the mine ceiling.

Two of the 23 Herald Scoliopteryx libatrix moths found hibernating in the mine, 6 December

Herald Scoliopteryx libatrix, 7 December

Spot the Heralds, 6 December

European Cave Spider Meta menardi, 6 December

Egg cocoon of European Cave Spider Meta menardi, 7 December

The only other noteworthy sighting from the week is a superb adult Goshawk low over the garden at Brook Manor being mobbed by 2 Common Raven on 3rd December.