May 2023

Wednesday 31st. Although early cloud had disappeared by mid-morning the brisk NE wind persisted, so our moth trapping efforts were suspended last night. However, there was a slight upturn in butterflies, though it hardly amounted to a hill of beans, with a Painted Lady flying across the road near Friar Waddon as we returned from Dorchester and a Wall in our garden; the 10th species for us this year.

Sunday 28th. Four more moth species for the year last night included Clouded Border, Sharp-angled Peacock, Lychnis and Purple Bar, to add to yesterday’s Pale Mottled Willow. After yesterday’s excellent Premiership final in which Saracens deservedly overcame Sale by ten points it was time for a bit of knock-about rugby between Barbarians and the Rest of the World, which amounted to Barbarians². The aggregate of 90 points between them was even more that the forward passes and knock-ons that the referee ignored but everyone had a great time in some brilliant sunshine. A bit closer to home, a Bullfinch was calling from the garden hedge as we went through the collection in our moth trap; the first we’ve recorded here between January and July.

Friday 26th. Privet Hawk-moth and Spectacle were the latest additions to our 2023 moth list, but the day’s highlight for me was the IPL semi-final between Gujarat Titans and Mumbai Indians. Now, not everyone accepts the value of T20 but Shubman Gill’s 229 off 60 balls to set up a win for the Titans was sublime. The great players in any sport always look like they have so much time to display their skills and this young man fulfils that benchmark in spades.

Wednesday 24th. Numbers in our moth trap remain pretty low (14 of 11 species last night), but variety continues to maintain interest, with new species for the year including Common Marbled Carpet, Blood-vein and our third record of Oak Hook-tip; the first in spring (photo below). The good news is that it was warm from very early on, enticing me into summer plumage for the first time this year. Hooray!

Tuesday 23rd. Sandy is down for a few days and she tried reasonably convincingly to look interested in the contents of our moth trap, which included one new for the year; a Light Emerald. Otherwise it was a lazy day that had as its highlight (and I never thought I would write this) a party of 10-12 very fresh Pheasant chicks with mum in our garden!

Monday 22nd. I spent the weekend feeling pants after Friday’s experience but this morning have a bit more energy. Our moths have just about kept going, with four more new for the year on Saturday including our earliest Maiden’s Blush, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Mottled Pug and Vine’s Rustic, followed by Flame last night.  

Friday 19th. Well, if we had taken our cue from recent low numbers we may well not have set our moth trap last night but 32 moths of 23 species was a welcome surprise, with six new for the year including a rather early Shark, Oak-tree Pug, Small Square-spot, Common Wainscot, Heart & Dart, Burnished Brass and Treble Lines. The afternoon was taken up with a PET scan in Poole, after which I felt utterly wiped out: a combination of the infusion and having to keep my arms above my head for 25 minutes, after which I could barely move them (that’s hardly at all, not like a bear).

Thursday 18th. Although only eight moths were in the trap, they did included three new for the year; Buff-tip, Marbled Minor and White-point. Buoyed by our success we toddled off to my favourite place in Dorset: Alners Gorse Butterfly Reserve. It wasn’t exactly heaving but we did see numerous Brimstones, several Speckled Woods, at least one Orange Tip, Holly Blue and a Small Copper, while Beautiful Demoiselle and Broad-bodied Chaser were the first dragonflies we’ve come across this year.

Wednesday 17th. Well, a visit to Lodmoor was a good deal more rewarding than the meagre contents of our moth trap, which have returned to the bad old days of single figure numbers and species. Since our last visit three weeks ago Common Terns have arrived in noisy profusion and a Hobby appeared over the reserve, where at least two Lesser Whitethroats were wittering away. However, there were no migrant waders and in a warm hour we failed to see a single butterfly.

Tuesday 16th. Well and truly After the Lord Mayor’s Show, a much diminished moth catch did at least include a Shuttle-shaped Dart, new for the year. We had a very enjoyable lunch with Chris and Pam Cox at the Brewer’s Arms in Martinstown and spent the remainder of the afternoon upside down in a tree sleeping the food off.

Monday 15th. Last night’s mothing was even better. 32 moths of 21 species, of which ten were new for the year, included our second records of Brown Silver-line and Puss Moth, our first spring Iron Prominent and other semi-notables including Eyed Hawk-moth and Pale Tussock.

Sunday 14th. Last night brought a welcome upturn in our mothy fortunes, with 19 moths of 14 species including the migrant Bordered Straw (photo below) and five species new for the year, probably the best being our first Poplar Hawk-moth. There were also three cockchafers in the trap. We managed in the end to overcome our disappointment at Britain finishing next to last in the aforesaid song contest.

Saturday 13th. The stiff overnight breeze slackened through the morning and by early afternoon it was warm and sunny. Butterflies were better than at any time so far this year, including Holly Blue, Orange Tip and Small White and Sparrowhawk added itself to the month’s avian list with a couple of passes across the garden. Our evening was spent avoiding the Eurovision Song Contest which, I am proud to confess, I have not seen since the days of black and white television.

Friday 12th. Despite a catch of only five moths last night they did include Silver-ground Carpet and Common Pug, both firsts for the year. I felt pretty tired after Peter’s visit – lots of catching up to do – and apart from getting the trap sorted didn’t get out of bed until gone 9! However, a bit of scanning through the patio doors produced my first Swift of the year. Before it clouded over in the afternoon it was also the warmest day of the year so far, reaching 18°C, though by the evening it felt distinctly chilly in a brisk NE wind.

Thursday 11th. Our moth numbers continue to struggle along, but at least Rustic Shoulder-knot was new last night.

Wednesday 10th. Feeling quite a bit more human today, we went to Poundbury to buy supplies for the visit of Peter Roberts this afternoon and overnight and while looking out of the patio doors an Orange Tip fluttered by. As first dates go, this seems to be very late, though the mean first emergence over the 17 years of study at St.Margaret’s near Dover was May 10th, in fact.

Tuesday 9th. A mostly dull day for my sixth immunotherapy session, which left me knackered for the afternoon. I even slept through the second innings of the RCB v Mumbai game!

Monday 8th. Rain started not long after I got the trap in, but it was worth the effort as 7 Silver y were joined by 2 Small Mottled Willows, so clearly some immigration is afoot. Other nfy species included Nut-tree Tussock and Lime-speck Pug.

Sunday 7th. We awoke (well, some of us) to the sight of a moth trap full of Silver y – 26 of them to be exact, thanks to a night that was calm and very foggy. Arne seemed a good bet on a sunny day but when we arrived there it was very late and cloudy. However, Tree Pipits were everywhere and it was a nice walk.

Saturday 6th. It was a foul day, with rain lasting from before dawn into the afternoon, to be replaced by low cloud once it petered out. Perfect for a Coronation! We went up to Tom and Sheila’s to watch Bath play Saracens with a place in next season’s Champions Cup at stake, if they could win with a bonus point and Bristol didn’t. Well, both got bonus points and it came down to points difference, with Bath flinging the ball about and gaining a 61-29 victory to finish only a neck in front of Bristol for the final Champions Cup place. All incredible when you think where they were only five games ago. 

Friday 5th. In a dull and drizzly start that began to brighten grudgingly in mid-morning a Little Egret flew west up the valley just after breakfast. The afternoon arrival of migrants seems to have been a feature of this spring, on this occasion a Whinchat perched on the fence across the road.

Tuesday 2nd. Four more moths new for the year last night included our earliest Bright-line Brown-eye by over three weeks, Waved Umber and a couple of Silver y. A Lesser Whitethroat was rattling away from the elms above our garden pond, but little else was of note in a gathering breeze blowing up the valley from the east. It is a sobering thought in what looks like a bad season for butterflies and moths that in 2022 we recorded 33 butterfly-days in April but only 7 in the same month this year.

Monday 1st. Last night brought an improvement in our moths, with five new for the year including our second first for the garden this month; a Purple Thorn. We decided on a visit to Broadcroft Quarry on Portland, but found it very quiet, with only 2 Speckled Woods and a Wall and very few birds apart from the locals. Back home our May list got off to a good start courtesy of a Wheatear across the road, a Grey Heron that flew west up the valley and a Great Spotted Woodpecker, which we failed to record last month.

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