Wednesday 31st. A few migrants were in the moth collection this morning, including Scarce Bordered Straw, Dark Sword-grass, Pearly Underwing and Delicate and the migration theme continued with a Grey Wagtail overhead as we were going through the trap.
Sunday 28th. Although our moths continue to be fairly predictable the occasional treat keeps turning up and last night’s goodie was our first ever Clouded Buff, a species generally restricted to the eastern half of the county. By way of celebration we all tramped off with Tom and Sheila for a very enjoyable lunch at Hive Beach, which ensured that we would spend the rest of the day in suspended animation.
Saturday 27th. Frosted Orange was new for the year amongst our moth collection from last night, along with our second Portland Ribbon Wave. We partook in the Portesham Volunteers breakfast with Liz and Sarah and on reaching home found a bunch of Med. Gulls and Black-headed Gulls anting over the cottage, not long after which a Yellow Wagtail flew over, further signs that autumn is upon us. For the afternoon we kidnapped Liz and Sarah and whisked them off to Sculptures by the Lakes, which we all thoroughly enjoyed.
Thursday 25th. with rain heading up from the south last night brought several migrant moths, including Convolvulus Hawk-moth, 2 Dark Sword-grass, 6 Delicates (if indeed they are migrants these days), a Vestal and a strongly-blotched Maiden’s Blush, unlike any we’ve recorded before. It also took us past last year’s macro total, emphasising how good a year this has been.
Tuesday 23rd. For the second successive day it was heavily overcast and drizzling at first light, the rain continuing all morning. However, amid the drizzle a substantial flock of birds appeared on the fence line at the back of the cottage, among which was our first Spotted Flycatcher for the garden. As for our moths, apart from the occasional bright spot we are in the familiar August hiatus during which the same species keep turning up while autumn awaits around the corner. To compound the sense of frustration an almost certain (and very worn) Bloxworth Snout made off while I was attempting to nail down its identification.
Saturday 20th. Although moth numbers have fallen since the end of the hot spell we manage to keep turning up new and interesting species. Last night’s treat was our first ever Portland Ribbon Wave, together with another Dark Sword-grass and 13 Rush Veneers. For lunch we set off for the Vegan Market at Maumbury Rings where we tucked into some excellent falafel, then walked to the nearby cider festival. It was necessary only to look at the audience to know how that was going to end (we suspect that for some it already had). We ended up back at Sculptures on the Lakes for a Murder/Mystery evening, accompanied by a string quartet playing some Mozart and the like. It got pretty chilly once the sun had disappeared and by the end everyone was ready for the results to be announced and, glory be, we won! Our prize was two complimentary entries which we can save until next spring.
Thursday 18th. Karen went for a horse ride with cousin Debbie, who uses the stables at Sweet Hill on Portland. This allowed me an hour and a half to wander along the tracks that lead down to the Bird Observatory and back again across the upper fields and I was rewarded with 3-4 Wheatears, at least one Whinchat, a Pied Flycatcher and a Clouded Yellow for good measure. The fields still look very parched and it seems possible that Portland missed most of yesterday’s rain.
Wednesday 17th. The migrants Scarce Bordered Straw and Dark Sword-grass were my mothy birthday treats from last night, but we received no more rain until mid-afternoon when some heavy downpours arrived, allowing us to top up our water reserves from their previously exhausted levels.
Monday 15th. Hedge Rustic was new for the year last night, as was Saltmarsh Plume; a most unexpected record of a species that is pretty much confined to saltmarsh in the Poole and Christchurch areas. Ours was probably only the 8th record for West Dorset. We also had a new August record total of 336 Common Wainscots on Saturday night, along with new moths for the year in Straw Underwing and Iron Prominent. However, the main event of the morning was the withdrawal of the extreme heat of the last four days and some rain; not what we need by any means but enough to wet the surfaces outside.
Friday 12th. Having dipped below the hundred mark for the first time in six nights Common Wainscot was back on form with 234 in the trap, though the star of the show was our first Angle-barred Pug for Dorset. A rare moth in the county, the sporadic nature of the few records makes it difficult to assign a resident status to the species, particularly as most are from the coastal belt where dispersal is suspected (Dorset Moths). A Wheatear was buzzing along the road to Friar Waddon as we drove towards Upwey and we spent the afternoon sheltering from the 27°C heat.
Wednesday 10th. The migrant Pearly Underwing appeared in our moth trap last night, though numbers (even Common Wainscot!) declined, perhaps in response to the growing moon. The arid conditions are making life challenging for all insects, so it was good to see Holly Blue and Brown Argus in the garden in the afternoon. Here’s a picture of the sunflower field along Cheese Lane ……..
Tuesday 9th. The current drought conditions, high daytime temperatures, set to climb even further, and clear conditions by day and night have all conspired to bring a sense of the doldrums at present. So, it was rather against the run of play that a Red Kite appeared over Tatton ridge to the south just before midday. As for our moths, Common Wainscot reached a new high of 252 last night and we aren’t yet at their peak period, which tends to be in early September.
Saturday 6th. Amid a sudden explosion in numbers of Common Wainscots last night brought first records for the year of Square-spot Rustic and Least Yellow Underwing. Much of the rest of a sunny day was spent rebuilding the dry stone wall outside the cottage, then watching a ferocious duel between South Africa and New Zealand that saw the Springboks win 26-10 with a pretty dominant performance. After that we went to one of our favourite Dorset spots, Sculpture on the Lakes, to see a performance by FB Pocket Orchestra entitled Around the World in 80 Staves. With music from Venezuela to Germany it was a collection of world music that recalled much of the wonderful Sunday evening shows by Alexis Corner and then Andy Kershaw on Radio 1, when it was worth listening to. It even featured Tom Waits’ Chocolate Jesus, a piece I never believed I would see performed live. The band members are Jenny, with a warm, bluesy voice and an excellent clarinet, Paul and Ollie on Fender Stratocaster and percussion, augmented by accordion, all producing laid-back jazzy blues dating back to the 1920s and 30s. Headlined by the platinum-haired Carley Varley (yes, really) who had something of Suzanne Vega about her with her acoustic guitar and sharp vocals, it was a thoroughly excellent evening. I even got up to boogie!
Thursday 4th. Last night mothing brought another new species for Dorset and, indeed, for ourselves, never having encountered it in Sandwich: this fabulous Mocha, a rather local species in the county, associated with field maple.
Tuesday 2nd. Oak Eggar was new for the year last night and as we went through the contents of the trap it began to rain! Actually it was merely a soft and inconspicuous drizzle that lasted for an hour or so then fizzled out, though it remained windy.
Monday 1st. The final mothing session in July produced another Small Rufous that was a different individual to the previous night, together with a Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet. To say that July was a good month would be a major understatement. Having reached the 300 mark for macros recorded in Dorset on the 6th we reached 316 by the end of the month; a figure that it took two years to achieve in Sandwich, not the 15 months since we started trapping here. Avian interest at the start of the new month included a Sparrowhawk soaring over Tatton.