Sunday, 14 April 2013

First Moth Records 2013

It has been a very cold spring so far, and I have been lazy in getting the moth trap out.  I start every year with the intention to trap at least once a month, every month, but the months race past in a flurry of adverse weather, with a few nights where I could trap but wouldn't be there or have time to look at the catch.
With the change in the weather, I was looking for a mild and dry night to get the trap out. It's a Skinner trap with a 125W MV lamp to run off mains electricity (with a rain guard, although that's only really good if it's not raining hard!). Friday night was forecast as not too cold and dry until the morning, so out went the trap in the little back garden of the cottage, just to see what's about.

I had mostly finished emptying the trap by the time the rain arrived, earlier than expected. There wasn't much in there; one March Moth Alsophila aescularia, two Oak Beauty Biston strataria (ooh, big, furry, pretty, etc), ten Hebrew Character Orthosia gothica (all looking quite new), and a handful of noctuids which will require some research.  The trouble with not trapping for a while is that I get woefully out of practice in identifying the moths, and emptying the trap/recording the catch takes far longer than I think it should.  And then, if I get some lovely furry moths, I start admiring them from all angles and before I know it, it's time for breakfast.

Oak Beauty Biston strataria
Moth identification is not really for those who have no patience for details, as the details are important. The patterns are subtle and some moths are quite variable in their colouring. Although mostly they aren't brightly coloured or iridescent, the scales on their wings reflect the light and this can make the colours change.
I eventually decided that my handful were a Common Quaker Orthosia cerasi, a Red Chestnut Cerastis rubricosa and three Clouded Drab Orthosia incerta. I shall post my results over on the Carmarthenshire Moth and Butterfly blog and may stand corrected once other group members have seen the pics.

See what I mean about the Oak Beauty?  There was a darker one too, but I preferred the markings on this one.  Isn't he lovely?

Monday, 8 April 2013

Easter Projects

Here we are again, having a dry, cold spring.  We've missed the worst of the snow here, something to be thankful for, given the devastating effect it has had on stock, especially ewes and lambs, elsewhere. The jet stream is on the wrong side of us again, and we might be looking at another washout summer.

A couple of months ago, I realised I was starting to feel depressed (again), overwhelmed by all the things on my 'to do' list, frustrated and unsettled.  It looks like we will be putting the farm on the market, and that raises questions about where I will go and what I'll be able to afford, as well as how I shall earn enough to keep myself.  I am also waiting for an operation on the osteoarthritis in my right foot. It may be in July or August, if I am deemed fit enough to have the op, but I don't have a firm date.  It makes it very hard to plan ahead or commit to anything. Over the past several weeks, I've been fighting my usual procrastination and lack of motivation but this time, I feel as though I'm winning.

I always have lots of 'projects' on the go, but decided to concentrate on two which would make a big difference to me.  One is a hall stand, so that I have somewhere to put boots, shoes and coats.  I've gone for years with the boots and shoes in a heap and the coats on a back of a chair.  There isn't really enough room in the small hallway, but considering that the loose boots and shoes create something of an obstacle course anyway, it has to be an improvement.

The second project is to transform the back 'garden' to this cottage. It used to be enclosed by various shrubs, but these were mostly cleared away a couple of years ago, which allowed a clear view out to the north and allowed more light into the cottage, but removed most of the cover and interest for wildlife. Since then, the rough grasses, nettles, docks, brambles, creeping buttercup, hogweed and ivy have had a free reign to turn the 'garden' into a weedy patch with a washing line in it. Last year I thought that I should clear it, construct a couple of raised beds out of old palettes and have a central area covered with broken slates. I allowed myself to be dissuaded, told that it was too much work and not worth it. It's not a big area - roughly the size of a mock-up patio you might see in a DIY or garden centre. Every time I looked out at the garden, with its dead stumps where the shrubs had been cut back so hard they died and brambles scrambling over everything, I compared what was there with my vision for it.  So, I've started work. It is proving hard going. The clay soil is still claggy, even after this dry spell, but there is a lot of stony rab and building rubble in there too, all bound together with a mass of nettle, bramble and ivy roots. It needs to be done now, before everything springs into life again. Still, it feel like good exercise and I am enjoying it. I also bought a cheap bird feeder stand and some peanuts and seed.  I've noticed the birds are very happy with that, and the bare earth I'm creating, so much so that every so often I have to take a break to stop them scolding me for getting in their way.

Coffee break over. Time to get back out there!