Tuesday, 27 May 2014

On the hop

A couple of interesting invertebrates in the garden today. Firstly this Red-and-Black Froghopper.

Red-and-Black Froghopper Cercopis vulnerata

There were also some newly hatched Mullein caterpillars.

The Mullein (larvae)

Monday, 26 May 2014

Arachnophobes, look away now

We noticed something on our Buddha statue this afternoon, perhaps it was a new patch of moss of lichen. You can see it on the Buddha's little finger on his right hand.

A closer look, and it seems to be alive moving. It is in fact some newly hatched spiderlings. From the dark triangles on the yellow bodies we can tell these are European Garden Spiders Araneus diadematus.

European Garden Spider Araneus diadematus spiderlings

They seemed to be searching out every crevice - here they are getting into the Buddha's ear.

European Garden Spider Araneus diadematus spiderlings

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Early arrival

A beautiful Wednesday evening meant that Jo and I went out for an after-work stroll up to the top of Novers Hill, which offers great views across the northern part of the hills. At the highest point I found this Painted Lady, the first I have seen this year. It was not particularly settled and was having to fend off a territorial Wall butterfly, so the photograph is not the best.

Painted Lady

Jo had in fact been for a longer walk up Long Batch earlier in the day, and had taken a photograph of a mystery moth - this Ruby Tiger. I am slightly envious, as I have only ever seen the hairy larva and not the adults, but pleased to know they are around the area.

Ruby Tiger

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Every Cloud...

A gap in work commitments, along with promising conditions overnight, meant that Tuesday night was moth trap night. The returns were modest, with 27 moths of 13 species, but this included a new macro species for the garden and two new for the year appearances.

The crowd-pleasers were this squadron of Poplar Hawk-moths. Having been waiting for my first record of 2014, three arrived at once. All were beautiful fresh-looking individuals, with the lovely lilac sheen on parts of the upper forewing.

Poplar Hawk-moths (with Brown Rustic)

The new macro species for the garden was this Clouded-bordered Brindle, and very nice it was too. Not a record that caused much of a surprise, except for why this has taken so long to appear here. This is a common moth species, and the larvae feed on various grasses (which are not in short supply here).

Clouded-bordered Brindle

The other new species for the year was the only micro moth amongst the 27, this Teleiopsis diffinis. This is one of the gelechids and though apparently common over much of the country, it does not seem to be recorded particularly frequently in moth traps. It is a species that I have recorded several times, though the number of records for Shropshire is quite small.

Teleiopsis diffinis

One of the other highlights was this lovely Scalloped Hazel. Before this spring my only record had involved a dead individual found in my porch, however this is the third 'live' individual I have found this year.

Scalloped Hazel

Friday, 16 May 2014

Caer Caradoc

A beautiful Friday evening and to celebrate the end of the week, Jo and I took an evening walk from the house up to the top of Caer Caradoc. We realised that we had not been up here since September, so another ascent was overdue.

There were a few things to look at on the way. In the open woodland on the way to the summit were these Early Purple Orchids. Whilst I had been told by a neighbour that they could be seen here, it is the first time I have seen them. There did not seem to be much else in evidence on the woodland floor apart from these.

Early Purple Orchid

Early Purple Orchid

I also managed to get a reasonable picture of one of several micro moths flying in the grassland on the slope of Caradoc. Close investigation of the picture shows this to be one of the grass veneers, Crambus lathionellus.

Crambus lathionellus

The view from the top made the walk up worth it, along with the swifts which were flying around us close to the summit. Looking north we could see the Lawley and, in the far distance, the Wrekin.

North from Caer Caradoc

Thursday, 15 May 2014


I spent this evening close to Wild Moor for the last Red Grouse survey of the season. With a lack of grouse activity I started to wander around the heather to look for moths, thinking I may have the chance of finding an Emperor Moth. This proved to be a success when I found this female resting on some heather.

Emperor Moth

The evening was rounded off in some style with a drumming Snipe on one of the wetland flushes, now a very rare species on the Long Mynd.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Helmeth Wood again

With family visiting for the weekend, we walked across for another look at the bluebells in Helmeth Wood. They were still stunning, as were the other spring flowers, and we were again serenaded by singing Redstarts. We also found some interesting insects to look at, starting with this Green-veined White butterfly photographed on a Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis).

Green-veined White

Sharp eyes also picked out this micro moth on a bluebell. One of the longhorns, so called because of the extreme length of the antennae, this is a male Adela reaumurella.

Adela reaumurella

This hoverfly was on a dandelion flower, and I think it is the Common Hoverfly Syrphus ribesii.

Syrphus ribesii

Saturday, 3 May 2014

On a wander up Novers Hills this morning we found a couple of things of interest. A larva of The Drinker, a type of moth, quite a conspicuous caterpillar at the moment.

The Drinker larva

This Bronze Shieldbug was found on some bramble.

Bronze Shieldbug

Thursday, 1 May 2014

A walk in the woods

We went for a walk in Helmeth Wood on Wednesday evening. The woodland sits between Caer Caradoc and Hazler Hill, on the eastern edge of Church Stretton. It is known locally as the place to go to see Bluebells. And with a soundtrack of singing Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers in the background, we were treated to a fabulous carpet  of spring flowers throughout the wood.

Bluebells (Hyacynthoides non-scripta)

Bluebells (Hyacynthoides non-scripta)

There were plenty of other classic spring woodland flowers in evidence, including Wood Anemone and Greater Stitchwort.

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa)

Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea)

Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) and spider

In the boggy areas, Marsh Marigold and Cuckoo Flower were much in evidence. The former playing host to some unknown type of insect.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis)

There were also a couple of flowers that were perhaps not quite what they seemed. We found some Yellow Archangel, but on closer inspection the white blotches on the leaves indicated that this was the variagated form - a garden escape which spreads rapidly once in the wild.

Variagated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. argentatum)

This pretty pink flower found commonly in the wood is Pink Purslane, a naturalised garden escape. This was first noted in the wild nearly two hundred years ago.

Pink Purslane (Claytonia sibirica)

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Back to Purple

There were several nice surprises in the moth trap this morning, with several new moths for the year and one new species for the garden. Probably the best moth was this Purple Thorn, resting in the grass outside the trap.

Purple Thorn

This species rests with its wings held open, an easy was to distinguish it from the similar Early Thorn. This was my second record for the garden, following one seen last summer.

Purple Thorn

The new species for the garden was the Waved Umber. In fact I had three of this species in the trap, including this one that was resting on the outside of the trap itself. This is a moth I have been on the look out for, as it was a glaring omission from the garden list. Its curious shape and habit of resting flat with wings fully spread makes this an intriguing moth.

Waved Umber

There was also my second record of Water Carpet, though quite a faded individual. Despite the name this moth is not particularly associated with wetland habitats, and can be found in woodland, grassland and scrubby areas.

Water Carpet

And finally my first Bright-line Brown-eye of the year. Also in the trap were the years first Small Phoenix and Brown Silver-line, along with a yet to be identified leaf miner.

Bright-line Brown-eye

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Dor Beetle

On a Sunday walk up Batch Valley we found this large beetle in some of the sheep-grazed grass slopes above Robin's Lye. This is of course a Dor Beetle, the archetypal beetle with its classic beetle shape and shuffling gate. The blue sheen, particularly noticeable when the sunshine comes out after the rain, makes this an attractive and familiar insect.

Dor Beetle (Geotrupes stercorarius)

Dor Beetles are a characteristic species of meadows and grassland, particularly were there are livestock present. Like many species of the Geotrupidae group, they are dung feeders and they fill underground burrows with dung for their larvae to feed on. With plentiful sheep and horses on the Long Mynd, I imagine it is close to being Dor Beetle heaven!

Dor Beetle (Geotrupes stercorarius)

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Lounging Lizard

An occasional sight on my walk up Batch Valley is Common Lizard basking on a sun-baked wooden fence. True to form, this individual was seen today.

Common Lizard (Zootoca vivipara)

Here is a picture of what is presumably the same individual lizard a few weeks ago on the same section of fence.

Common Lizard (Zootoca vivipara)

Thursday, 24 April 2014


After a year and a half I have decided to resurrect Batch Valley Wildlife. My diary of sightings in Batch Valley and its surrounds on the Long Mynd. Batch Valley is the entry point to the Long Mynd from where I live, in the village of All Stretton in the Shropshire Hills.

To start here is a delightful monochrome bee that I found resting on some scree in Jonathan's Hollow. This is one of the solitary bees, a male Ashy Mining Bee (Andrena cineraria).

Ashy Mining Bee (Andrena cineraria)

This is apparently quite a common and distinctive solitary bee, which is typically recorded in the spring months. It is apparently increasing in abundance across it's range, and this is hopefully not the last time I will record this in the valley.