‘Purist’ birders will often scoff at those notion of setting a moth trap, throwing a few quadrats around a meadow or seawatching on a flat calm day without the intent of seeing some seabirds. Boredom? Distraction? Attempted upskilling? Some of the derogatory taglines they cast upon the efforts carried out by those of us who indulge in these ‘extra circular activities'. But the simple fact is, many of us have an inherent appreciation (and/or obsession!) of all aspects of natural history, not just birds. As such, it is no surprise then that this manifests itself during a days birding, often peaking during the summer months due to a relatively 'quiet' period for birds but also coinciding with high time for insects, plants, bats etc.
Patch birding results an in-depth knowledge of the birds which can be found on ones patch and this lends naturally to all other flora and fauna. With that, we asked PWC contestants shout from the rooftops about their love of moths, cetaceans etc. and let us know what non-avian highlights they came across during Spring, Summer and early Autumn before they got distracted with chasing around after feathered rarities in October!
Gareth Stamp and Jonny Rankin caught in the act of indulging in some botany! (c) Jonathan Holliday
Moths! Ah yes, the dark side of birding… literally! Plenty of early morning rises to check through the traps ensured that moths featured heavily in the Alt-highlights submission forms. Who can deny the awesomeness of hawkmoths?! Our own Ryan Irvine recorded a Bedstraw Hawkmoth at Hemsby on 4th August whilst Adam Bassett found a Lime Hawkmoth larva at Little Marlow GP in London. Dedicated trapping produced lots of patch rarities such as Rob Frays Bulrush Wainscot on 4th September in his garden which was a first for Shetland. John Bowler is a vertible rare magnet, not just with birds but also with Lepidoptera, recording 39 new moth species (18 macros) for Tiree during 2014 including Ling Pug and Rusty-dot Pearl in August. Ryans Hemsby mothing also revealed Tree-lichen Beauty on both 28th July and 2nd August of which there were less than 10 Norfolk records of that species at the time.
Bedstraw Hawkmoth at Hemsby (c) Ryan Irvine
Bulrush Wainscot at Virkie (c) Rob Fray
Tree-lichen Beauty at Hemsby (c) Ryan Irvine
For the daytime lepidopterists, yellow is most certainly the new black this year. It has been a great couple of months for Clouded Yellows with plenty of them to be found at coastal patches in the South and East in particular (although perhaps not quite at the extent of the ‘invasion’ style numbers seen in the mid to late 1990’s). Three PWC contestants reported finding new colonies of Brown Argus on their patches this year and in addition, Darren Starkey also recorded Marbled White at Fairburn Ings RSPB and White-letter Hairstreak at St. Aidan’s RSPB (plus his survey pen which he lost in the wet grasslands!).
Clouded Yellow at Brockholes Nature Reserve LWT (c) Bill Aspin
Brown Argus at Wellington Gravel Pits (c) Espen Quinto-Ashman
Brown Argus at Draycote (c) Matthew Bruce
Local Odonata of note included Mike Terry’s Golden-ringed Dragonfly at Hosehill which was well ‘twitched’ during its lengthy stay and Niall Keogh’s first record of Common Hawker at Kilcoole. Craig Fulcher found a Willow Emerald Damselfly at Southwold on 13th September. Their foothold in the UK continues to gain strength. Orchids are hard to pass by and Bee Orchids are no exception with three patch birders noting them as firsts on their respective sites. Reports were relatively quite on the marine end of things with the only cetaceans of note being two Minke Whales seen from Sumburgh by Gary Bell and a ‘stranding’ event reported by Niall Keogh of 50+ Barrel Jellyfish in the small estuary at Kilcoole in June.
To cap things off, Toby Collett also witnessed the awesome might of two Lancaster Bombers and a Vulcan over Frampton Marsh!
Golden-ringed Dragonfly at Hosehill (c) Mike Terry
Common Hawker at Kilcoole (c) Clare Murray
Bee Orchid at Draycote (c) Matthew Bruce
Bee Orchid at Hosehill (c) Mike Terry
Bee Orchid at Goole fields (c) Tom Lowe
Barrel Jellyfish at Kilcoole (c) Anne-Lise Gerard
For any PWC contestants who manage not to get distracted by all the lovely Sibes and Yanks this October, please feel free to let us know of your continued 'Alternative Highlights'. A deer rut? A bat roost? Fungi forays? What has Autumn got in store?...