July 2022

Sunday 31st. Good grief, another month nearly gone. Still, despite a warm but very windy night our run of new Dorset species continued last night with the capture of our first Small Rufous. The afternoon featured the Women’s European Cup Final between England and Germany. We watched the second half but missed extra time with the score at 1-1, discovering that England had won, unbelievably without going to penalties, with two minutes left as we were in Portesham village hall for a magic performance by the Great Baldini. Not quite Tommy Cooper but great fun.

Saturday 30th. Although variety in our moth trap fell away last night Brown-veined Wainscot was a species we have never trapped before; presumably a refugee from reed beds along the Fleet. The remainder of the morning was taken up with a visit to Alners Gorse butterfly reserve, organised by Butterfly Conservation and led by the encyclopaedic Martin Warren. It was overcast and not quite warm enough at 10, so it was initially slow going, but we soon saw Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Green-veined White and Speckled Wood. It warmed steadily and we added Purple Hairstreak and Small Skipper as it did so, then as puddles of blue began to appear overhead just before midday, Red Admiral, Small Copper, Peacock, Common Blue, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell appeared in quick succession. Martin spent some time at a set of larval tents of Marsh Fritillary, explaining in detail the relationship between the butterfly and the wasp that parasitises it, resulting in desertion of colonies as the infestation builds and the role of the females in searching for replacement sites with devil’s-bit scabious, its food plant. However, the main reason for our visit was to see Brown Hairstreak and although the first we found was a very tatty individual we located this pristine female low down in vegetation that posed for photographs, to the obvious delight of all. Our morning ended with a Wall as we walked back to the car, underlining what a superb job Butterfly Conservation are doing here.

Brown Hairstreak

Friday 29th. This year has been so much better for migrant moths than 2021 and the latest addition last night was our first Scarce Bordered Straw for Dorset, accompanied by the first Dusky Thorn of the year. Karen had much of the morning to spare, so we headed off to Portland for a walk along the Weston cliffs. Wall was the most prolific butterfly, with a supporting cast of Chalkhill and Common Blues, a Brown Argus and numerous burnet moths; Narrow-bordered 5-spots were all worn and past their best, while 6-spots were much fresher. Just as a taster, here’s a pic of my favourite British butterfly, the stunning Chalkhill Blue ….

Thursday 28th. Last night’s moths showed an increase in numbers and variety, bringing Jersey Tiger and our first Dorset record of Maple Pug. We took a walk up to Top Hill in the afternoon, mainly to look at the fields sown with wild bird mix, but saw some nice insects along the way, including a very obliging Golden-ringed Dragonfly and, among the butterflies on view, a Clouded Yellow, a Painted Lady and eight Walls. Oh, and our cow field is up and running again, this time with Rupert the Bull in the mix ….

Tuesday 26th. After two windy and unproductive nights moth numbers recovered a bit, but not so much as to suggest that we might be treated to another outstanding capture. This time it was our first ever Dingy Mocha, a species found in few places outside East Dorset and in that respect not unlike Festoon in the scarcity of its occurrence here. Butterflies also got in on the act again when a Clouded Yellow appeared in the afternoon to make it 24 butterfly species for the garden this year; one more than last year.

Dingy mocha

Saturday 23rd. So far as our moth recording was concerned, today was inevitably after the Lord Mayor’s Show, and although numbers fell, variety remained very good, including our first Dorset record of Hoary Footman, along with Canary-shouldered Thorn and Cloaked Minor. The rest of the day was rather cool by recent standards, so Karen spent some time building up the stone wall in front of the cottage and I took the scythe to our meadow, which was very dry after so little rain this month.

Friday 22nd. To say that July 2022 was a good month for moths would be to understate its excellence and an overcast 21st brought the icing on the cake. A renewed upturn in numbers and variety with 314 macros of 62 species included the best moth we have recorded since moving down here, a superb Orache Moth that was clinging to the wall of the cottage. A rare immigrant, there appear to have been fewer than ten previous records in Dorset, though from reports on Atropos Flight Arrivals this seems to be a good year for them, with several along the English south coast in the last few days.

Orache Moth

Thursday 21st. Fresher conditions have swept away the really hot weather but mothing remains in a very productive spell. Our first Dorset record of Small Mottled Willow and a Rosy Minor appeared last night, bringing our Dorset macro total to 310; fairly remarkable as we reached the 300 mark only two weeks ago. There were tentative signs that avian interest might be picking up as autumn passage approaches; at least 30 Swallows were swirling around the ripening winter wheat early on, a Sparrowhawk circled near the foot of the ridge inland and in late afternoon a Whinchat was flycatching from the fence separating the fields across the road. We also had a notable garden tick when a stoat passed by our pond, doubtless up to no good.

Small Mottled Willow

Tuesday 19th. The last couple of nights have been very warm (scorchio last night!) and additions of new moths for the year have come thick and fast. The latest new macros have been Black Arches, Festoon, Barred and Pebble Hook-tips and Four-spotted Footman, of which we had three last night, including our first female.

Black Arches

Thursday 14th. It was windy when I attended to the moth trap and it was no surprise to find last night’s moths well reduced in numbers and variety. In fact, the only thing worth mentioning was a fox, mooching about in our drive. Gina came in with a very fat tail. With the heat continuing, not much happened for the rest of the day until, while topping up our evaporating pond, a Brimstone and a Golden-ringed Dragonfly appeared in the garden, the latter showing for the first time just one day later than last year. We said goodbye to Pinball in mid-afternoon and after a Flush Fund meeting in Portesham settled in for some much-needed sleep!

Moonrise yesterday evening

Wednesday 13th. Last night was overcast and the warmest night of the year so far, with an overnight minimum of 18.2°C, which brought 450 macros of 71 species, our highest species total since we began trapping here. These included our first Olive for Dorset, Blue-bordered Carpet, Vapourer and, on the downside of a very good night, an infestation of beetles. Olive appears to be a thinly distributed species in Dorset, with over 50% of county records coming from a single site east of Bournemouth that is planted with black poplar, a largely uncommon tree in Dorset.

Olive

Tuesday 12th. Thanks largely to the warmest night of the year so far and 180 Common Footman last night’s moths were manic, with 390 macros of 59 species, including Leopard Moth, Rosy Footman, Phoenix, Marbled Green and Fen Wainscot all new for the year.

Phoenix

Monday 11th. Our macro total for the year reached 201 last night, with the addition of our first ever Chevron, our first Miller in Dorset, Sandy Carpet, which we had only previously recorded on the farm, our second Dun-bar and Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing.

Miller

Sunday 10th. Moth numbers were up on yesterday but quality down, unsurprisingly, with Lesser Yellow Underwing and an early Flounced Rustic the only species new for the year. The day warmed steadily, becoming hot by early afternoon, when a Painted Lady and a Humming-bird Hawk-moth appeared in the garden.

Saturday 9th. Although moth numbers dropped back we were still treated to yet another species we had never previously recorded; the scarce immigrant Small Marbled, along with Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, all of which took the edge off the effects of last night’s excesses. We headed off to Portland for some lunch at the Lobster Pot, overlooking a more or less calm sea, then returned to watch the day’s rugby internationals. Ireland played excellently to beat an uncharacteristically off-colour and ill-disciplined New Zealand, who played much of the game with 14 men and, for a short period, only 13. England reversed last week’s result by holding off the Aussies in Brisbane and to complete a total turn-around in Northern Hemisphere fortunes Wales pipped the Boks in Bloemfontein. As Zaphod Beeblebrox put it, it’s not just amazing, it’s amazingly amazing.

Small Marbled

Friday 8th. Last night was outstanding, bringing two moth species totally new to us in Scallop Shell (unfortunately not in pristine condition) and Satin Beauty. Small Dusty Wave was new for the year and a burst of 51 Common Footman elevated it to the Hundred Club.

Satin Beauty

Thursday 7th. A very busy night brought 67 moth species, including our second records of Small Rivulet and True Lover’s Knot, both species we trapped on the farm but not at Coryates, plus Ruby Tiger, Dusky Sallow and our 300th macro species to have been recorded here or on the farm; a Broad-barred White. As the thermometer headed into the twenties in the afternoon nine butterfly species were recorded in the garden; the most so far this year. There was also an impressive post-breeding gathering of around 80 Rooks and 130 Jackdaws on the ridge inland.

Broad-barred White

Tuesday 5th. Last night’s moth catch was significantly improved, with Brown-tail and Garden Tiger new for the year. We braved the much-improved traffic at Ferrybridge to look at what high tide had to offer but were rewarded with little more than a handful of waders and a Sandwich Tern. After a bit of shopping in Dorchester we nicked some stone from Top Hill and continued with the re-building of our garden wall (well, Karen did, to be honest). I spent much of the time watching Stage 4 of the Tour de France that finished in Calais, taking in some of the countryside I recall so well from the regular birding trips I made with Tony Greenland and Paul Laurie. I recall driving up the hill from Escalles being hard enough in a car, let alone on a bike after goodness knows how far they had already travelled. Happy days.

Sunday 3rd. Yellow-tail and Rosy Rustic were new moths for the year in our trap last night. With the breeze having dropped we opted for a visit to Broadcroft Quarry on Portland, passing several noisy Sandwich Terns at Ferrybridge and an impressive traffic jam created by a 10-foot hole in the road and attendant traffic lights. Butterflies were in-between times, consisting mainly of Ringlets, Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites, but a few worn Common Blues  were up and about, with a Small Heath, a Small Skipper and the first Lulworth Skipper I’ve seen at Broadcroft. At least three Lesser Whitethroats were still singing. The return journey was tortuous; a whole hour to get off Portland, so we’ll be checking Google Maps before our next attempt.

Saturday 2nd. July kicked off with a windy night that nevertheless brought Dot Moth and L-album Wainscot for the first time, but the rest of the day was overcast, breezy with some drizzly showers and not very warm. Ideal for watching rugby, in fact. Ireland got taken out by New Zealand, despite playing some decent stuff themselves, then England crumbled to defeat against 14-man Australia and Wales, dare I say it, very nearly beat the Boks in South Africa, scoring a try with only 13 players on the field then going down to a penalty in added time.

Friday 1st. June concluded with our first Dorset record of Lychnis, together with Swallow-tailed Moth and Common Rustic agg. Although we could have done without the recent windy spell, it was nevertheless a very good month, at the end of which we had recorded 176 macro species; well ahead of 118 at the same time last year and better than any year at Sandwich with the exception of the outstanding 2017. For butterflies it was a similar story. We had logged just 14 species by the end of June last year but this year have reached 22 species; just one short of last year’s total. Being a new month a bit more attention was given to avian goings-on, but by far the most notable sighting was a Marsh Harrier that flew W at 15.10; only our second record here.

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