Thursday 23rd. Although numbers were slightly reduced, they nevertheless brought our first ever Broom Moth and Mouse, then a Short-cloaked Moth that was found on the wall later in the morning. Marbled Minor agg. became the latest to reach the hundred mark. In contrast to the last few days it was increasingly overcast with a light shower in the afternoon. However, in a brief sunny spell before lunch an Essex Skipper was on the knapweed in our garden.
Wednesday 22nd. Last night was one of those that, if you are lucky, happens once a year. 216 moths of 65 species (not including grass moths) included no fewer than ten new for the year. Three of these were new for Dorset: Scorched Carpet, a migrant Bordered Straw and Galium Carpet, which we never recorded in Sandwich. The others were Scalloped Oak, Common Emerald, Kent Black Arches, Poplar Grey, Common Footman, Buff Arches and Beautiful Hook-tip. In the afternoon a Small Skipper was lurking around our emerging buddleia blooms and a Ringlet was bouncing along the hedge, typically failing to settle. That makes 20 species of butterfly for the garden so far this year.
Tuesday 21st. Things steadily calmed down after a windy weekend with a decent few days forecast and last night was ideal for trapping. Tawny-barred Angle was new for us for Dorset and Muslin Footman, Lilac Beauty and Lackey new for the year. We set off rather late for Tout Quarry, passing a Red kite just beyond the Langton Herring turning. We arrived just before midday, but despite the sunshine it was quiet for butterflies. Best of all were several Silver-studded Blues, with a supporting cast of Meadow Browns, Marbled Whites a few Large Skippers and a Painted Lady, while several Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moths were fizzing about on the clifftop.
Friday 17th. Moth numbers leapt back up on an overcast and warm night which produced the best catch of the year so far. 176 moths of 56 species included Middle-barred Minor, Bordered Beauty, Green Pug and Small Blood-vein, while Brimstone and Buff Ermine became the latest to crack the hundred barrier, making eight species to have done so. At the same time last year only Heart & Dart had got there. Although temperatures elsewhere hit the thirties we were spared by a gentle breeze that kept values pretty much as they have been for the previous few days.
Thursday 16th. Wednesday night’s moths showed a slight increase, with Lobster Moth and Plain Golden Y new for the year. This morning began notably at 0445 as I was attending to the moth trap when a Green Sandpiper, calling hysterically, flew NE from the direction of our garden pond, the only bit of standing water so close by. Moth numbers remained subdued in the clear moonlit conditions, but even so Eyed Hawk-moth and Yellow Shell were new for the year.
Tuesday 14th. The Full Moon continued to exert its influence, lowering moth numbers to only 35 last night, though Heart & Club was new for the year. The remainder of the day became steadily warmer, giving me a good excuse to try out my recently purchased scythe on the grassier bits of the meadow. It is always hard to remember what a place looked like a year ago, but as the following photographs illustrate our meadow is a good deal more flowery than last June. Now, our bird feeders have proved to be a great success, but the appearance of an adult female Siskin at the sunflower hearts was totally unexpected, particularly at this time of year when we have previously recorded it only as an autumn migrant.
Monday 13th. As the great Captain put it, it goes to show ya what a moon can do, as numbers fell even further under an intense moon and clear sky. Still, our hare population seems to like it; there were at least 14 in the field opposite at dusk last evening. We drove out to Powerstock Common but were dogged by cloud which consumed the sun for most of our visit, but we did see 3 Ravens and a Painted Lady. Back at home, the field across the road has been cut for silage and this attracted a Red Kite and our first Lesser Black-back of the month. A nice surprise was a dragonfly exuvia, probably an Emperor, on the stem of a globe lily in our pond.
Sunday 12th. With a full moon imminent moth numbers were much reduced, though Barred Yellow and Magpie were new for the year. Once we got ourselves in gear we headed off with Phil, down here for the following week, to Tout Quarry. We found several very fresh Silver-studded Blues, a few Marbled Whites and a Hummingbird Hawk-moth, hovering around valerian on the clifftop overlooking The Fleet. On the way back we stopped at Ferrybridge for a coffee and, despite a very low tide, saw two Sanderling out on the mudflat.
Saturday 10th. This excellent spell of moth records continued with a catch of 164 of 45 species, including our second Alder Moth, Orange Footman and the scarce reed bed species Anania perlucidalis, probably from a similar source as yesterday’s Silky Wainscot.
Friday 10th. Last night’s mothing was again eventful, bringing 154 of 42 species including six new for the year: Light Arches, Silky Wainscot, a reed bed species presumably on an away day from The Fleet or West Bexington, Peach Blossom, Cream-bordered Green Pea, Turnip and Dingy Footman.
Tuesday 7th. 161 moths of 40 species made the 6th the busiest night so far, with Coronet and White Satin Moth new for the year and Clay Triple-lines our first in Dorset. However, it does look very iffy for at least the next couple of nights with forecast strong winds and spells of rain after dark. However, before things deteriorated significantly a Large Skipper became this year’s 16th butterfly species for the garden.
Monday 6th. The moth trap busy again, with Single-dotted Wave, Brussels Lace and Delicate new for the year and White Ermine and Setaceous Hebrew Character joining the 100 Club. As for butterflies, numbers of Small Tortoiseshells built up through the morning until at least 11 were nectaring on the ox-eye daisies in our garden by midday. By mid-afternoon all but two had moved on. We took a walk along the old railway in the afternoon, returning along the ridge to the north, adding Large Skipper, Meadow Brown and Broad-bodied Chaser on the way.
Sunday 5th. Thunder and lightning close by didn’t stop trapping for a second night but our morning was a slow affair after a very late night, by our standards anyway. This stemmed from a visit to Abbey House in Abbotsbury to see Gods and Dogs, a highly entertaining, acerbic and thought-provoking play by a group of seven performers who go by the name of The Rudes. Despite our indolence it turned out to be an interesting day. For moths It was actually a very good night with 130 of 31 species, including Riband Wave and a most unexpected Nematopogon metaxella; one of the longhorns that was considered very local in east Dorset until it began to appear with increasing frequency in light traps across the county. A Greenfinch became the latest species to appear at our feeders (it was the first here since February) and, glory be, England actually won a Test match, beating the Kiwis by five wickets thanks in no small measure to a ton from Joe Root.
Thursday 2nd. The new month commenced with the addition of Lime Hawk-moth, Mottled Rustic and our first Dorset record of Small Clouded Brindle (below), while Common Wainscot became the third species to reach the hundred mark. Not to be outdone, butterflies got into the act as the brisk easterly wind started to die down in the afternoon with the appearance of a Small Heath in our meadow; the 25th species for the garden and the 15th this year so far.
Wednesday 1st. Last night was quieter still for moths, though the addition of Dark Arches and Shears brought an excellent month to a conclusion. The total of 108 macro species was the largest we have recorded by the end of May with the exception of 2017 which was the best year we had in Sandwich by some distance. Perhaps more to the point we recorded 90 macro species here in May, compared to just 38 in the same month a year previously. In the spirit of being on holiday (as Karen is all week) we took Tom and Sheila for lunch to the New Inn at Shipton Gorge near Burton Bradstock. The inn was to be closed a few years ago but has been taken over and run by locals ever since and was very pleasant. As for Shipton Gorge, it doesn’t have anything remotely resembling a gorge anywhere nearby, though the portions of food were by no means small, so perhaps that’s what it means.