October 2022

Sunday 30th. We are off to Kent for a brief work-related visit for Karen. I had intended to stay here but delays caused by railway engineering works meant that the journey by train would have been over 8 hours. Still, poking my nose outside just after the first cuppa of the morning gave me a garden tick when a Redpoll flew over calling. We are now up to 92 species in just under a year and a half.

Friday 28th, A Little Owl was calling as I retrieved the moth trap in near-darkness after light overnight rain that kept numbers well down. It looks like our mothing in October has rather fizzled out after an outstanding year. A few Fieldfares were still hanging about and 7 Hares were on the fields either side of us but it was otherwise uneventful.

Thursday 27th. A heavily overcast morning with a light SE breeze produced some enjoyable birding from the garden. The principal protagonists were 244 Fieldfares, 78 Woodpigeons, 36 Starlings and 6 Redwings, mostly dropping in from the NE, while Yellowhammer and Mistle Thrush were new for October and a big female Sparrowhawk was lurking down by the old railway, doubtless sensing that its opportunity would not be far away. The morning also brought the not unexpected news from Moorfields that removal of my eye is inevitable, though the good news is that the procedure can be carried out in Bournemouth.

Wednesday 26th. A breezy day after early rain didn’t have a great deal to recommend it until a flock of at least 80 Fieldfares appeared in the trees close to the dismantled railway; the first this autumn.

Tuesday 25th Karen’s birthday treat was a visit to Sculptures by the Lakes which turned out to be something of a fungus foray, though the highlight for me was this lovely painting that beautifully recalls Lars Jonsson in the way the artist (Paul Stirling?) has captured the light. Fungi included an Oyster Pleurotus sp., Small Stinkhorn Calocera sp. a bracket Phellinus sp. and Bonnet Mushroom Mycena sp.

Sunday 23rd. A bit like The Queen’s used to be, Karen’s birthday tends to be spread out over several days, so off we went to visit Athelhampton House just outside Puddletown, to be very impressed by both the gardens, which must be even more beautiful in summer, and the house itself. We also had lunch in the very grand Long Hall Dining Room and left for home feeling ready for an afternoon nap! However, as we got indoors a text arrived from Jack Oughton asking if we would like to see Crimson Speckled and Flame Brocade, both species neither of us had seen before, so off we went to the Portesham village shop to add two nearly-armchair ticks that were almost equally appreciated, though I have to say that the Crimson Speckled got my vote.

Athelhampton House gardens and the River Piddle

Saturday 22nd. It was all aboard the Masochists’ Express for the Bath v Northampton game at the Rec. The train arrived around 15 minutes late, a delay that increased steadily as it crawled along, arriving in Bath nearly 40 minutes behind schedule, with standing room only for much of the journey. However, the game transformed the mood as Bath looked like a rugby team for the first time this season (though they apparently played well in losing to Saracens last week) and ran out 27-14 winners. The return journey was the usual mix of standing until Westbury, drunken South Africans and normal people utterly bemused by the whole thing. Oh, and the overhead information system telling us we were heading in the opposite direction at one point. Great fun.

Friday 21st. In the words of Marvin the paranoid android from Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, there it goes and does. Yesterday’s visit to Moorfields revealed that the partial detachment of my retina still obscured the tumour, making it impossible to tell how things are progressing, or otherwise. So, given that the eye is ‘very poorly’, in the words of the doctor I spoke with it looks like we are heading towards removal of the eye, something I’ve been increasingly regarding as a possibility. They will discuss this at their meeting next week and let me know what they feel on Thursday or Friday. The good news is that the procedure can be carried out at Bournemouth and it is relatively straightforward.

As for today, it remains very mild but gloomy conditions were made doubly so by lengthy spells of torrential rain, driven on by a gale force southerly, that lasted into the evening.

Wednesday 19th. Strong easterlies overnight continued into an overcast morning and while hiding indoors for most of the time I noticed a Little Egret struggling into the wind over Tatton ridge just after breakfast time.

Tuesday 18th. I just had a look at the weather forecast and the rest of the month looks pretty dire, so last night could have been the last chance saloon, with November Moth the only addition for the year.

Monday 17th. Well, it just goes to show. Last October Jays were an almost daily feature here, with flocks of up to 17 moving west. However, this month has been entirely different and the Jay that appeared in the hedge bordering the field behind us was in fact the first since January. We decided on a late afternoon walk along the old railway line between Portesham and Abbotsbury and were rewarded with 23 Cattle Egrets and at least 6 Chiffchaffs.

Thursday 13th. No mothing last night due to rain, but while letting Gina out for her morning walk a Peregrine drifted across the valley close to the cottage; the first here this year. Late morning brought a new species for the garden when a Coal Tit appeared calling in the elm above our pond and after lunch a pack of 60 House Martins appeared from nowhere and remained over the valley until at least mid-afternoon. Karen finished work in time to investigate the old railway line between Portesham and Abbotsbury, which turned out to be a very pleasant walk that was made even more interesting by at least 6 Chiffchaffs and 9 Cattle Egrets, rather perversely feeding with a flock of sheep.

Wednesday 12th. Last night’s moths turned up the first Blair’s Shoulder-knot of the year, bringing our macro total to a very respectable 270. A pre-dawn shower may have been responsible for an arrival of birds that included a significant influx of thrushes. These included 12 Song Thrushes, a species that hasn’t been recorded here since July, and 9 Blackbirds, while 220 Med. Gulls were among the gulls on the fields, 2 Grey Wagtails were on our roof and 2 Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest were in the hedgerows. As the weather deteriorated in the afternoon 38 Canada Geese flew west up the valley; comfortably the biggest flock we have seen here.

Monday 10th. Ahead of another trip to Moorfields last night’s moths were a good deal more numerous, encouraged by an overcast, drizzly night. Highlights were a Vestal and a most unexpected White Ermine; a species usually on the wing in June and July.

Saturday 8th/Sunday 9th. Friday night’s moths included in Sallow and Green-brindled Crescent, so October had already surpassed September in terms of new species for the year and although only 12 moths appeared on Saturday night, supressed by an intense moon, they did include the first Red-line Quaker of the year.

Friday 7th. Despite a breeze and an audible shower in the night the contents of the moth trap this morning included our first Dorset record of Brindled Green, which we trapped only three times in Sandwich, and the autumn’s first Feathered Ranunculus. While emptying out the trays a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew up the valley and a party of 6 Canada Geese flew in the same direction in mid-morning.

Brindled Green

Tuesday 4th. Merveille du Jour (our first in Dorset) and Barred Sallow appeared last night, which looks like being our last session ahead of some typically unruly early October weather later on and into tomorrow. Birds have been rather subdued so far this month, but a Grey Wagtail flew over in the afternoon.

Merveille du Jour

Monday 3rd. The weather and extraneous circumstances relented and allowed us to set the moth trap for the first time in five nights, the result of which were migrants in the shape of our fourth Dorset record of Beautiful Marbled since 2020, 3 Delicates, a Turnip and Beaded Chestnut, which was new for the year.

Beautiful Marbled

Sunday 2nd. With pre-dawn rain lasting well into the morning it was a great opportunity to watch the NRL final between Penrith Panthers and Parramatta Eels, just 30 Km from each other in western Sydney. It turned out to be the sort of game that shows Rugby League to be just as good as its Union counterpart, especially when played at this level. The Panthers ran out 28-12 winners, dominating the game almost entirely until the Eels got two consolation tries in the final five minutes. As if that wasn’t enough sporting excellence for one day I decided to watch the Manchester football derby and witnessed a superb 6-3 winning display by City, the goal involving a Kevin De Bruyne pass and Erling Haaland finish being clinical in its accuracy, vision and positioning. Quite magnificent, and that’s from someone who became jaded with football and all the nonsense surrounding it a long time ago.