A weekend of wildlife began with a sunset.
Heronry Pond, Wanstead Park (having been re-filled)
A crowd of people waited in the warmth (we are about to break June temperature records again in London with five consecutive days when the mercury has topped out over 30 degrees centigrade) and watched dark shapes scythe through the sky.
We had come to watch bats, but in the light cloudless skies of the evening, it was a huge flock of swifts at first that cut through smoke-like murmurations of midges rising up from the trees like Ashphodel souls.
The bats did come out later, also appearing silently from the trees, and were silhouetted against the sky or water like the bat-sign from comic legend. Silent, that is, apart from the fact that several of us were armed with bat detectors. Common Pipistrelle were picked out from their tiny shapes in the sky, but also from the fast-paced pricking at frequencies well out of range of human hearing. Also too high to hear unaided, but positively bass-like compared with their tiny cousins, were the abstract beats of the beefy Noctule bats punching and pulsing out of the speakers in a way that would have many hip-hop artists drooling with envy.
Friday night ended, not with multiple gin and tonics, as is my normal wont, but with the strangely hospital-like glare of moth traps drawing some moths, but tens of thousands of midges and other tiny flying creatures of the night.
Moth (and midge!) trapping
All of this activity was for our local conservation group’s annual bio-blitz weekend. Check us out here: Wren Group
The wonderful, knowledgeable Tricia Moxley teaching us about introduced and wild plants
I started Saturday leading several of my neighbours (people I know and people I didn’t) on a walk around our local wood. I talked a lot about trees, but the highlights were the butterflies including a year-first Ringlet
and a location (but not full patch) first with a Purple Hairstreak
(a species that would get me in trouble the following day).
Ringlet butterfly (Aphantopus hyperantus)
A temporarily trapped Purple Hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus) and a rather disinterested baby
Overall, it was a reasonable weekend for butterflies. I counted thirteen species in total (a little way off my record patch day total of 16 from last July).
Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus)
Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris)*
The number ’13’ is unlucky for some. Unlucky ever since that 13th disciple betrayed Christ for some silver. Well, I too felt mildly betrayed, or was it simply embarrassed, soon after I saw another hairstreak on the ground near some elm trees whilst I was trailing behind one of Tricia’s walks. Elms, as in the favoured tree of the White-letter Hairstreak
I peered down at the little lepid and started breathing a little faster when no large orange eye peered back at me from the hindwing. The hindwing was a little crumpled, not only obscuring the eye, but also rippling the hairstreak into a ‘W’ shape. The newly emerged butterfly was promptly, but gently scooped, into an inspection pot and whisked off to be held aloft triumphantly in front of the wondering eyes of my fellow Wren members. But, on closer inspection, it was, of course, simply another Purple Hairstreak despite my earlier innocent efforts to ‘string’ it into something more exciting.
Purple Hairstreak again with the offending unfurling hindwings
So we may not have scored any super rare butterflies, but the far less excitable (than me), and far more expert, arachnologist, David Carr did find some great spiders.
The maestro at work, David Carr
We believe that one of his finds of the weekend was the 19th specimen ever found in the UK, of Philodromus buxi
David and Araneus triguttatus
Across all the activities, we had about 300 participants. An opportunity for many people to find out a little more about the wildlife on our doorstep.
*All photos on here were taken with the iPhone 7. I really am very impressed with the quality of the camera on it.