Thursday, 22 December 2011

Grin for John!

John Marchant (Lakes uber-lister), Neil Calbrade and I (both Lakes low-listers) headed out for the penultimate lunchtime Lakes wander of the year earlier today. As Neil isn't in tomorrow, we made a special effort to find the/a Jack Snipe, to no avail. In fact - and against all the odds - the only one of us who got a Lakes tick was John, when a Peregrine flew over and had a half-hearted go at a Mallard! Heard-only Crossbill and a male Goosander were the other highlights.

Merry Christmas to all TEAL Cuppers, and everyone who has been following the action this year! Only 9 days to go...

Sunday, 11 December 2011


Not sure how many times I've squelched round the likely-looking spots this year but it finally paid off today as a Jack Snipe shot out from under my feet! Great bird, and the list moves on to 143 (mine to 130).

Cryptically-patterned waders were the order of the day; a couple of Snipe and a Woodcock were in the same area as the Jack Snipe. The other highlights of a 60-species haul were 4 Goosander and 2 Little Egret.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


"It's all gone quiet." said Roobarb. "Too quiet." said Custard. So here's something to make a noise about after a 2 week lull in TEAL blogging:

All pics courtesy of Dave Leech

First seen in Jeff and Alison Kew's garden (easily the most nyger-rich spot in Thetford, if not the whole of East Anglia) on 23 November, caught and ringed by Dave and I at the Nunnery Lakes on 26 November.

Shame the rest of it wasn't as white as its head! See comment below as to why it should be described as leucistic (as opposed to a 'partial albino'), and for more information about plumage aberrations in birds, this detailed article in Dutch Birding.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

More White-fronts!

Tuesday morning, Nick texts to say he's just had eight Whitefronts over his house. I wandered down the lakes at lunchtime, not really expecting to be lucky, but a flock of 10 flew east over the reserve. Nunnery tick scored back! Now where's that Bean....?

Monday, 14 November 2011

Still clinging on

A walk round Derek Whites Eggs pit on Saturday morning found me looking at three Goldeneye.  And as the mist was clearing I knew I just had to try for them from The Lodge.  Ten minutes later I was squinting at the area of water I'd last seem them in from the plateau at The Lodge.  No sign - they must have moved I thought - then bingo!  A drake popped up right in my field of view.  139.

I wonder if we can find the White-fronts and Egyptian Geese that are currently hanging round the valley too...

Sunday, 13 November 2011


The following text came pinging in from Dawn late this afternoon:

"3 White-fronts, 2 ads and 1 juv flew south 1535 over lakes, dropping down over Shadwell or Barnham. Flew right over Pete's head and I ran out of (the) wood just in time to get them!"

Result! Another unexpected bonus; lots of White-fronts and Bean Geese coming in on the coast at the moment but to get any 'proper' geese here is a real rarity. I belted down on the bike and was able to find where they'd landed... but unfortunately for me the only place from which I could view the birds was about 75m from the reserve boundary. Never mind: that's 142, which extends the lead up to 4 again with just 6 weeks to play!

...and still there this morning! Next time someone shows you a frame-filler and mutters something about it being 'just a record shot', refer them to the following:

Friday, 11 November 2011

Miners strike!

My first trip down the lakes for a couple of weeks today. Rather dull weather, and it felt like a rare waterbird should have dropped in, but the avian highlight was my record count of four Little Egrets.

However, I grabbed a few oak leaves and, as hoped, found a few new leaf-mining micro-moths - Ectoedemia quinquella, E. subbimaculella and E. heringi. The total now reaches 1,785 (1,720 named to species level).

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Pochard at last

Gull and waterfowl numbers are creeping up and with them came a long-awaited personal Lakes year tick today (courtesy of Neil): a female Pochard. That takes me to 127 for the year but how are Neil and Darren getting on (and anyone else who is keeping their own score)?

My Nunnery Lakes species accumulation in 2011
(BirdTrack Explore My Records facility)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Rock on...

I was standing on the plateau having a cigarette at 10:30 this morning (ok, so I've started smoking again, but it has it's plus points) when I heard a familiar autumnal call overhead, ''viiiss!....viiss!'' Two birds flying over north, but only one  - so far as I could tell - was calling. In rubbish light, they appeared dark, but there was no mistaking the call.

After a week's constant dawn vis-migging without adding anything new, I decided against it today and scored a tick when least expected. About time I contributed something - and it wasn't the Stonechat, SEO or Hawfinch (outside bet that one) that I was hoping for. 138 (STA).

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Warden's wizardry

Eight months ago The Lodge warden Andy Schofield conjured up a gripping record of a certain magical falcon. Yesterday afternoon Nunnery Lakes site manager Chris Gregory struck back with our very own Merlin (shortly after Dawn Balmer had seen a small falcon chasing passerines over the Nuns Bridges whilst she was driving home from work)!

That takes us to a stratospheric 141... but will it be enough? Back in January Darren and I reckoned >135 would clinch it; perhaps we need to revise that to >145!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Little beauty!

It was hard to believe the string of texts I received whilst on Fair Isle two weeks ago. First a Rufous-tailed Robin in Norfolk, then even more gripping news: Short-eared Owl, Tree Sparrow, another Woodlark and a Whooper Swan at the Lakes in quick succession, all of which would have been Lakes ticks for me (this patch-listing lark does funny things to your perspective)! Although Blyth's Reed Warbler, Olive-backed Pipit and a certain jewel-throated Luscinia up in Shetland went a long way towards softening the blow of those dips at the time, once I was back in full Lakes mode, the still-present Goldeneye just wasn't enough to rectify things at a local level.

The balance was well and truly restored today though; an impromptu scan of D Lake this morning (when I'd told my wife I was only going as far as the flood) resulted in a big Little surprise: a first-winter Little Gull swimming around among the Coots and Black-headed Gulls! The latter weren't particularly welcoming to their diminutive relative, and after a preen and a couple of brief circuits of the lake, it headed off south.

140 OTL (both the Challenge list and my own Lakes 'life' list).

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Big ears

Ledra aurita appeared in our moth trap a few weeks ago. I found the one pictured here earlier in the summer when I was walking along the path and heard a short buzzing noise coming from an oak. I did not know they could make themselves heard like this; it seems to be the closest thing to a cicada that we have on our list.

Dry weather has halted the mushroom season for us. Assuming that there has been a similar drought in Thetford, I am quite glad. because it gives me time to look at insects of having to spend evenings chopping up fungi and looking for clamp connections.

Our species total is now 1592. Still behind, but perhaps close enough to make it an interesting finish.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Feed the birds weekend

The only new one - Black Redstart
It’s been quite a rip-roaring weekend at The Lodge.  Not only was it a ‘feed the birds’ event all weekend, but some excellent birds dropped in to say hello too.

First up are the regular Woodlark posse, which has dropped from a peak of six last week to a fairly constant three.  They have been showing really well often at just a few yards around the Hill Fort.

Next up there has been an Osprey which seems to like to feed on it fishy meals in one of the trees on the new heath.  It was first seen on Friday afternoon and reappeared again Sunday.  Some of the photos taken of this bird are so good that you can also identify the species of fish in its talons!  I wonder if we can count that too?

The ‘best’ bird of the weekend was a Black Redstart which flitted around the top of the Avocet building right above the main event on Sunday.  This was not only a new bird for the challenge, but also a site tick for me!  It kept visitors entertained all afternoon, but unfortunately did a bunk Sunday night so many staff missed it.

As if that lot wasn’t enough, the ringers in the gardens caught a Firecrest Sunday afternoon too.  So all those, along with plenty of Siskins, Redpolls, and the odd Brambling and Crossbill makes The Lodge a great place to come birding for a few hours at the moment.
One of the six Woodlarks that have been around The Lodge recently

We’re still two down on the Nuns with our Black Red triumph.  I wonder if we can make up the ground before the year is out?

Black Redstart

Yesterday was Feed the Birds Day at The Lodge, so several staff members were on site, including Tony Payne, who for a change had his bins with him. Good job really, because he found a Black Redstart bouncing round on the roof of the Avocet building (where, incidentally I work). He beat Bash to it by seconds, so BX remains a glaring miss on the latter's self-found Bedfordshire list. I believe Steve has photographic evidence to be posted here soon.


Friday, 21 October 2011

All that glitters...

As expected, yesterday's Whooper Swan had realised its mistake and presumably headed to Welney overnight, but it had been suitably replaced by a 1st winter drake Goldeneye, taking us to 139.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Thanks goes to WWT for the temporary loan of one of their Whooper Swans, swimming around on D lake this lunch time. We'll send it on to Welney shortly. Bird no 138. Only my second record here (one in 1999).

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Weekend double

I spent this morning down the lakes hoping to relocate Dave's Short-eared Owl from yesterday but with much more disturbance from fishermen, there was no sign.  With glorious weather, there was quite a bit of stuff going over, the highlight being 3+ Tree Sparrows which circled overhead before possibly dropping onto the adjacent fields.

That puts us on 137 and back in the lead for now, and I quite agree Steve, I must come into work on a weekend more often!

What an 'Owler

Not wanting to know the score of the Man United Vs Liverpool match yesterday until I got home to watch the rerun, I switched my phone off.  Getting home, watching the game and satisfied with the 1-1 result (Charlie Adams diving for the free kick not withstanding!), I switched my phone back on to be greeted to a text message and two frantic voicemail messages from Dave Leech who was (well a couple of hours earlier at least) watching a Short-eared Owl along the track by the lakes.

That puts us on 136.

Ring-tailed Ouzel gets us twozl

Quite a cracking morning at The Lodge today.  Darren did a bit of vismig first thing, but apart from Wood Pigeons not much else was moving.  His highlight were up to three Woodlarks and a mighty Ring Ouzel south-west, leveling the playing field between RSPB and BTO.

I arrived a little later after being on an adjacent hill seeing just as little.  As I arrived, one of the Woodlarks was on a song-flight that went kept going for the next hour non-stop.  A Raven cronked over, and just as I reached the vismig spot another Ring Ouzel zoomed over west - right over Darren's head (and who never saw it!)

The best was saved to last however, when we tried to locate a furiously cronking Raven in a pine belt.  While scanning the tops of the trees a dark brown raptor came out the top of one of them - a ring-tail Hen Harrier!  Boom!  After an unid'd ring-tail over the house on Friday, this baby sealed the deal.

I think that makes us leaders in the bird stakes once again?  I should come to work at weekends more often...;-)

Monday, 10 October 2011

Golden moment

The following text pinged onto my mobile yesterday morning:

"12 goldies w over the track now"

... so that's Golden Plover finally OTL (assuming Dawn hadn't just seen a flock of eagles, diving ducks, orioles or pheasants). If only I hadn't been trying to make things happen on the N Norfolk coast I'd have probably got them on my garden list too... but that can wait. 135 and after a lengthy absence from top spot, the Nuns retake the lead!

Well done to Dawn's husband Pete who first picked them up - having expressed his amazement to me that they weren't already on the list exactly one month ago!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Back in the game

As if pulling the Woodlark back wasn't enough, whilst failing to relocate that bird at lunchtime, compensation was delivered in the form of a Barnacle Goose (fully winged and unringed to boot!) on one of the Lakes, looking exhausted after its (probable) 8 miles flight from Livermere.

That puts us back on level terms at 134

Wood you believe it?!

Stop press news: Paul Stancliffe and Kate Risely have just heard a Woodlark singing whilst they were out on the reserve filming a Breeding Bird Survey training video! Those who've followed this blog for its entirety will know that this one really hurt the Breckland-based White Nuns when it squeezed onto The Lodgers' list way back in March - there was always a slight chance of us getting Woodlark back in the autumn but having never seen/heard one on/from the Lakes myself, I wasn't holding out much hope. I refer you to the following phrase:

Get in!

Running out of time

The recent heatwave was probably the last chance to pick up a fair few insects before they succumb to the first frosts. Checking out the flowering ivy in the garden produced the two standard large Eristalis species (tenax and pertinax) but also this rather handsome Epistrophe grossulariae which is a first for the year.

Epistrophe grossulariae

The Merv

Surely this is the Rolls-Royce of moths? And what a great name (best said in a ropey 'Allo 'Allo! style French accent): Merveille du Jour.

1 of these stunners was in the trap this morning, with 2 more sitting around outside it (as they do). The other TEAL tick was a Streak and the total haul was 61 moths of 21 species - not bad for October.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Manic Miner

The leaf-mining micro-moth Stigmella malella, found yesterday on apple leaves, was number 1,700 on the Nunnery Lakes all-taxa list (including aggregates not identifiable by us to species). Quite a few new leaf-miners in the last week, plus an excellent weekend fungus foray where we were again joined by Tony Leech. The fungal highlight was the first Entoloma atrocoeleum for the east of England, plus the first inland Norfolk record of Galerina atkinsoniana. Other new fungi included Blackening Waxcap, White Spindles, Orange Mosscap, Yellow Fieldcap, Shaggy Ink-cap, Clustered Domecap, Ugly Milkcap and Tiger's Eye.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Brick by brick

More autumnal goodies in the moth trap this morning, including several Sallows, 2 Brindled Greens, a Black Rustic and TEAL ticks in the form of Blair's Shoulder-knot and Brick.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Influx of waterbirds!

I accompanied John Marchant on his monthly WeBS count round the Lakes this lunchtime and contrary to what normally happens (ie all interesting webbed-footed birds vanish), there was a mini-influx of waterfowl! OK so nothing earth-shattering but 28 Tufted Duck (up from <10 of late), a Little Grebe (my fourth record for 2011) and a pair of Shoveler (only my second of the year) were a significant improvement on recent fare.

Friday, 16 September 2011

New fungi too

Finally a fungi we can identify - a Common Stinkhorn. Hope to get round to looking at the photos we've taken recently and add a few more.

Heath Rustic

Only 55 moths in 2 traps this morning... but there was definitely quality if not quantity. Along with one each of autumn specialities Brown-spot Pinion, Frosted Orange, Autumnal Rustic, Large Wainscot and Brindled Green was what looks the part for Heath Rustic - a potential first for TL88 and not previously recorded in Norfolk this year!

Photos by Dawn Balmer

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Thank heavens for little galls...

Additions to the list are getting a bit harder to come by now - where have all the insects gone? Still, there are new things to be found and I've turned up a few galls this week, including Aceria fraxinivora (ash), Jaapiella veronicae (speedwell), Dasineura ulmaria (meadowsweet), Dasineura auritae (sallow), Puccinia urticata (nettle) and Taphrina alni (alder). A few more leaf-mines knocked off the target list too, including a rather belated appearance by the usually easy Stigmella aurella (bramble) plus Caloptilia stigmatella (sallow), Phyllonorycter ulmifoliella (birch) and Liriomyza amoena (elder). We've (well, Dawn mainly) also photographed lots of fungi but are still looking for names for most of them - will cover these in a future post. My favourite addition of the week though was this cool looking harvestman doing the splits, which Mike Toms has kindly identified for me as Dicranopalpus ramosus. Looking at the distribution maps, it might even be a new one for Norfolk (I bet it isn't though...)

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Raptors are the only birds that count

During my first wander at the lakes for a few weeks, I happened to look up from the plants and insects and for the zillionth time wondered if a distant gull might be an Osprey. And at last, it was. Bird no 150 for my Nunnery list and one more for the TEAL list (as was a poxy little gall, to be identified, but it's not quite the same to be honest).


Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Birds are the only things that count

Thanks to local birder Jim Gurney, The Lodge year list keeps trickling upwards - these two Whinchats were found by him on Sandy Heath today, making 134 for the year.  We're still missing Yellow-legged Gull...

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Raptors as predicted...

Well raptors there were this lunchtime (3 Buzzard and 2 each of Hobby, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk), but still a distinct lack of anything new. 7 September Swifts were probably the highlight (though if I'd been in a more 'optimistic' mood, the large, full-tailed, big-headed Accipiter mobbing a Buzzard might have made for an addition to my personal Lakes list... but I need to save something for next year!).

Dot Month

It pains me to say this but its finally happened - an entire month has gone by without the addition of a single species for the BirdTrack Challenge. Whilst The Lodgers have been 'employing' an ever-increasing range of tactics (unseen toilet waders, plastic parakeets, nefarious non-staff Nightjars and the like) to keep their list ticking over, the White Nuns might as well be renamed the White Nones (or something ruder), for all that our own efforts of intense craptor* watching and wader habitat creation have yielded.

Still, light easterlies and scattered cloud today... surely there must be something better than the 5 Buzzards and single Sparrowhawk that we managed at coffee time?

*craptor = Corvid, Grey Heron, large gull, distant Woodpigeon... ie pretty much anything that momentarily fools you into thinking you're on to something interesting

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Continuing the lavatorial theme...

Following on from the RSPB's list addition from within a portaloo, BTO have gone one better and actually added three new species from a piece of, er, poo. Rabbit dung, more precisely.

During a fungus foray a few weeks ago, we were helped in our quest by Tony Leech, father of Dave Leech (Head of BTO Nest Records), but more importantly also Norfolk Fungus Recorder. Tony politely helped us look at the larger fungi we spotted, but he had much smaller targets in his sights. He soon scooped up some rabbit droppings and popped them in a pot.

Now, I've often been accused of acting somewhat bizzarely in the search for new species, so it was highly reassuring to me to find someone apparently acting even more oddly. But no, Tony has now come back to report that not one, not two, but three species of fungi have grown out of these droppings. More amazingly, two of them appear to be entirely new to Norfolk! (Hard to believe, given the large numbers of rabbit dung fungus culturers who must be out there...) These are Schizothecium tetrasporum and S. vesticola, in addition to the more widespread Coprinopsis cordispora.

What the listing ethics committees will have to say about these is anyone's guess (although several of us were part of the fungus foray and did see the dung being collected, and Dave did peer down the microscope when visiting home).

Schizothecium tetrasporum (proposed common name Dalek Dung Fungus) - Tony Leech

Monday, 22 August 2011

Not one, but tew-tew-tew

After seeing a Greenshank on Derek's last night and knowing I didn't have time to race up to The Lodge to get it on the list, I decided to try early this morning.  Luckily the light was good, and there was virtually no horrible heat haze.

The Lapwings were easily visible on the tiny muddy edge, and the Little Egrets stood out a mile (literally).  All of a sudden a Greenshank ran along past one of the Lapwings - bingo!  OTL.  Not one we expected to get back now that Derek's was virtually full with water again and you could only see a fraction of what we could in spring.  In the end there were two Greenshanks, and they made sure they weren't going to get mis-id'd as Greater Yellowlegs by having a little fly around together too.  Very satisfying.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Just in the car park portaloo here at The Lodge earlier on and mid-way through heard this:

Obviously I couldn't run out to try and see it, but rather satisfyingly I think that puts us one ahead of the Nuns in the bird stakes?  Whimbrel = number 132.

Our TEAL score however is far below what the irrepressive Nuns are clocking up at the moment!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

I don't like crickets...

...I love them, when they're Long-winged Coneheads! This was a long-expected new Orthopera species for the Nunnery Lakes as it's been spreading through East Anglia for a while now. Still need to sort out Short-winged Conehead this year though, which we've certainly had before now.

Quite a lot of work recently looking at plants, hoverflies, etc etc. We passed the 1,500 mark today, courtesy of an interesting non-native, the Narrow-leaved Ragwort Senecio inaequidens that was located growing on the wall of the ancient Nunnery itself. This also seems to be spreading rapidly - my 1997 edition of Stace says it is "now natd on sandy beach in East Kent, perhaps soon to spread as in N France". Quite prophetic, when you look at the distribution map produced by the BSBI.

Other recent additions have included Lighthouse Gall, Thorn-apple, Acleris emargana, Twin-lobed Deerfly and Apple Mint.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Six of the best...

Mark Ward mentioned a small patch of Bird's Foot Trefoil outside the office and wouldn't it be good to see a Six-belted Clearwing on it. Well today, there was. Egg-laying too.

Bit of a staff twitch... (photo by Mark Ward)

Monday, 8 August 2011

Pied Flycatcher

Gareth Fisher was in Sandy Heath Quarry yesterday, where he found a male Pied Flycatcher. This puts us on 131 for the year.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Almost a ladybird

We'd already got quite a few proper ladybirds on the list for the year, but this False Ladybird Endomychus coccineus was a new one for me, found by my son Duncan yesterday as he was clambering around in a tree. I obviously spend far too much time on the ground. This was one of many additions yesterday, when we were joined by Nick Gibbons and Tony Leech, amongst others - thanks very much for their help. Amongst the other species recorded were the grasses Bearded Fescue, Rat's-tail Fescue, Purple-stem Cat's-tail, Smaller Cat's-tail, Crested Hair-grass and Dense Silky-bent, Burnet Saxifrage, Lesser Pond Sedge, Prickly Sedge, Pale Persicaria, Scented Mayweed, Musk Mallow, Silverleaf Fungus, Blackfoot Polypore, Cinnamon Bracket (a good one, apparently!) and The Blusher. Oh, and a belated entry by Bank Vole, courtesy of a small mammal trapping course being held at the Nunnery! The White Nuns pass the 1,400 mark...

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Its an update Jim, but not as we know it

Andy Musgrove has been flexing his Excel muscles; as a result we now proudly present...

...a graph!
Number = number of species added (on any given date)

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Keep on keepin' on

I'm sure the lack of recent postings from both teams can be put down to the intensity of effort of late... nothing from the Lodgers on their BioBlitz last Monday, and we've certainly had our heads down following our own TEAL day last Saturday. I can reveal that we now have Wryneck on the list... but only in terms of Tony Irwin's assessment of the scarcity of the fly Myopina myopina (henceforth known as Wryneck Fly), which he put on a par with Wryneck (it turned out to be a first for Suffolk as it was from the west side of the River Little Ouse - more Short-toed Treecreeper than Wryneck then, I reckon)! A huge thank you to Tony for helping us out with countless Diptera - I'm pleased to say that he did seem to enjoy it and was certainly very patient as he talked us through various keys and ID criteria (using numerous words that made me embarrassed to have previously called myself a Biology teacher, as most were new to me!).

The marathon of mothing is continuing at a good pace - a bumper haul of 60+ macro species last night included a whopping 9 new ones:

Purple Bar
Black Arches
Poplar Kitten
Cabbage Moth
Square-spot Rustic
Marbled Clover - a Brecks speciality
Fen Wainscot
Twin-spotted Wainscot

The other recent highlight was a Silky Wainscot - not much to look at but v few recent records round Thetford.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Brown and green

Two days, two year ticks. Unfortunately neither of them seen by me.

The first was a Nightjar seen on the new heath briefly on Sunday evening by Graham Wilton-Jones. A few of us gathered at dusk hopeful of hearing a churring bird, but the heath was unfortunately silent.

The second was a Ring-necked Parakeet that zipped over the same area on Monday morning, seen by Andy Schofield.

The bird list moves up to 130.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Week round-up.

Bit tied up with work this week, but the arrival of the weekend has given me the chance to check some of my photos from the week, mostly from a walk along the riverbank on Monday lunchtime. A closer look at one of our very few Wych Elms revealed the presence of two new leaf-mining moths (Phyllonorycter schrebella and Stigmella leminscella) and the gall of the aphid Tetraneura ulmi. The other new leaf-mine of the day was of the fly Agromyza alnivora on the alders. Nearby, the hoverfly Myathropa florea was netted from a thistle head. The other additions on Monday were all plants: Wood Dock, Water Figwort and Fen Bedstraw. In addition, I peered closely at the path outside the Nunnery and found what appears to be one of the pearlwort (Sagina) species, although now having done my homework I clearly need to go back to it next week for a closer look to clinch which one (or two) it is.

The only notable birds I recorded at work this week were a few Crossbills heard flying past the window, and a Hobby over the river, neither new for our list unfortunately. However, further close inspection of the thistle flowers on Friday produced the bee-mimicking hoverfly Eristalis intricarius (below).

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

All action on CES 8

A busy Constant Effort Site session kicked off at stupid o'clock this morning with a Willow Tit calling and eventually showing near our base, before conveniently jumping into one of the nets half an hour later! Despite not being much smarter than the first bird (which we also retrapped this morning), close inspection indicated that it was a juvenile.

Next came a few interesting fly-overs: a Yellow Wagtail and my first Crossbills from the Lakes this year. Other goodies in the nets included a Kingfisher and this fine male Bullfinch:

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Tern up

Dave Leech made an impressive start to the year's Lakes listing but has been otherwise engaged with his own challenge of late, that of recording 300+ Reed Warbler nests! Despite spending most of his time swamped by Phragmites, Dave managed to see enough sky this evening to record something even more exciting than a Reed Warbler nest (in TEAL Cup terms anyway): Common Tern! A day short of 3 months after The Lodgers chalked this one up, species 131 is now on our list, and not a moment too soon - the possibility of this one escaping our clutches had been looming large. Nice one Dave!

[Picture below taken the following morning, proving that Dave still occasionally handles a juvvie Reed Warbler that does have feathers!]

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Second for Norfolk

After turning up the first Box Bug for Norfolk on 28th April, it was a surprise to find apparently the second for Norfolk yesterday! On an alder leaf, not a box in sight.

Other additions from yesterday so far include the Sulphur Beetle Cteniopus sulphureus and the hoverfly Helophilus pendulus.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Award for bravery?

While ringing birds on the BTO reserve, we occasionally get bird parasites "abandoning ship", and jumping on to us instead. Sat back at my desk after a morning's ringing, I was concerned to find one of these crawling out of my clothes....

It's a flat-fly, or louse-fly, and I came across the perfect quote to describe these beasts in the New Naturalist 'Fleas, Flukes and Cuckoos; a Study of Bird Parasites":

"They never fly forward but sidelong, as it were, hopping and skipping as they go. For reasons which defy analysis, louse-flies are particularly repellent insects, and most people experience a shudder of disgust at the sight of them, and are filled with a quite unreasonable feeling of horror if they happen to dart up their sleeves or into their hair while handling the host"

I fully agree with this assessment, and so I consider it a rather heroic act on my part that instead of squealing like a little girl and flicking it away, I not only caught the creepy scuttling thing in a pot, but then spent time studying it closely in order to identify it as Ornithomyia avicularia - new to the list. Do I get some kind of TEAL medal for bravery?

Lesser Stag Beetle

Today I popped to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, and met this coming the other way. Not sure what a Lesser Stag Beetle was doing walking down a corridor inside the Nunnery, but it's new to the list, and after being photographed (complete with carpet fluff) it was released outside into a safer environment, with no chance of being trampled by caffeine-deprived BTO staff.

South bound

We finally got another bird species for The Lodge list this morning - Yellow Wag.  One flew over the fuel dump as I was collecting a moth trap at 8am this morning, and Dave Buckingham had another flying south about an hour later. 128.

New Order

No, not the 80's band, but this odd-looking creature which I photographed back in May on the reserve. Thanks to the nice people using iSpot to help beginner-entomologists like me, it transpires that this is Graphopsocus cruciatus. Not only is this new for the Nunnery list, it's an entirely new Order of insects for us - the Psocoptera (or booklice, barklice or barkflies).

Monday, 11 July 2011

New, new, new

The Lodge is one of the best recorded of all the RSPB's nature reserves. We have commissioned several invertebrate surveys over the years; one of the former wardens is an expert mycologist who accumulated a large fungus list for the site; and staff with expertise in various groups have been based here for some of their careers. So I have been surprised by how much we have been able to add to the reserve list this year. Our current total of 1146 for the year includes 253 species new to the reserve, so over 20% of what we have found has not been noted here before. One of my favourite new finds was Platystomos albinus, a weevil that lives in dead wood (above). The taking part really has been good, regardless of who wins.

Common Frog!

Found a froglet on Saturday afternoon (with no help from my 2-year-old, who was too busy playing with thistles) - at long last! Other things sorted out at the weekend included Masked Hunter Reduvius personatus and the localised - if otherwise rather uninspiring - Dotted Fan-foot. The 1200 mark has now been passed...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Twitching with a ladder

No, not another White-throated Robin, but Chris Gregory kindly showed us one of the Nunnery's rarest and most specialised species - Wall Bedstraw Galium parisiense. OK, possibly not the most stunning addition to the list, but they all count and this is presumably (?) one that doesn't occur at the Lodge anyway. Not easy to see here either!

Other additions today were Richard's Hummingbird Hawk and Dawn's Agriphila straminella , whilst I could only chip in with yet another leaf-miner, Parornix anglicella.

Monday, 4 July 2011

More Leps

In addition to the fantastic night's mothing that Moth(-)er Musgrove initiated, I managed a few more micros at the other end of the reserve the following night - namely Phlyctaenia coronata, Epagoge grotiana and Helcystogramma rufescens. Better still were the Purple Hairstreaks that eventually yielded to my scoping of the 4 mature oaks that mark the boundary of my front garden and the reserve - from the reserve, of course! I make that 1138, give or take.

Whilst initially scanning the canopy with bins, a Little Egret flew through my field of view! There was another one on the flood a few minutes later, along with an obliging pair of Little Ringed Plovers that I scoped from the meadow.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Mothing at the Nunnery Lakes - Act 1

Although we've notched up a fair few moths so far, we hadn't actually got round to any trapping down on the main part of the reserve. So ten of us (seven staff and three visitors) were out on Friday night until late (in fact, it was getting light as I got home). A very enjoyable evening, especially after Kate showed us that the generator worked much better with the air inlet open.

Not a bad haul, with 2 MV traps and 1 Actinic producing at least 97 species of moths, of which 34 were new to the BTO's TEAL list. Not a huge amount in the way of the real Brecks specialities though, so we'll have to go back a few more times. Also various beetles and bugs potted by the team.

For interest, the moth additions to the list were:

MACROS - Scalloped Hook-tip, Common Emerald, Lesser Cream Wave, Wood Carpet, July Highflyer, Toadflax Pug, Bordered Pug, Rosy Footman, Yellow-tail, Short-cloaked Moth, White-line Dart, Lesser Yellow Underwing, Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Gothic (not Bordered Gothic as we hoped for a few moments), Southern Wainscot, Suspected, Oak Nycteoline;

MICROS - Roeslerstammia erxlebella, Carcina quercana, Cochylis atricapitana, Pandemis cerasana, Aphelia paleana, Acleris forskkaleana, Thiodia citrana, Epiblema uddmaniana, Epinotia bilunana, Gypsonoma dealbana, Chilo phragmitella, Calamotropha paludella, Agriphila inquinatella, Catoptria pinella, Schoenobius gigantella, Elophila nymphaeata and Dipleurina lacustrata

In addition, a handful more micros reside in the fridge at Chez Musgrove, to be considered more fully when I feel more awake. There's an interesting looking plume moth here though.

1130+ now


Friday, 1 July 2011


Whilst the light traps were running last night, I had a look round the reserve for nocturnal beetles. It is a very different place after sunset, and many of the insects that hide away during the day were sitting out on tree trunks. I was hoping to find one of our most spectacular residents, the huge Tanner Beetle Prionus coriarius. I got lucky, and discovered this one was emerging from the soil at the base of a larch. It has been delighting or horrifying people for most of today. We were not far over the 1000 species mark yesterday, and there should be a few more moths to add in once I get lists back from all who came out to help last night.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011


944.  That's our TEAL score up until yesterday.  It would appear that the Nuns have a huge advantage in that they have more than just sand for soil, thus our plant diversity is low in comparison.  Oh, and they also have a huge lake too - that helps a little bit as well.

Was this ever a fair fight?  We'll see at the end of the year...

White-letter Hairstreak

Mark and I ventured down to Deepdale at lunchtime today and specifically to a stand of Elms known to support White-letter Hairstreak. Upon arrival, we split up and peered hopefully into the canopy.

Needless to say, I chose the wrong canopy, but M did manage two sightings - one from within the Lodge boundary. We also had good views of Purple Hairstreak (already on the list), Marbled White (ditto) and Brown Argus (still needed for the list).

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

1,066 and all that

Hard to keep up with the additions from the Nunnery, as ever at this time of year, but a nice selection over the last few days, including Small Skipper, Silver Y, Epinotia tenerana, Stigmella anomalella, Tufted Vetch, Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, Marsh Woundwort, Roesel's Bush-cricket, Forest Bug and a shedload of moths from Mr Moran, highlights being Ethmia quadrillella, Pediasia contaminella, Festoon and Lunar Yellow Underwing. Working total now on 1,066, but that's probably gone up in the time it's taken me to type this...

Friday, 24 June 2011

Cool insects

Been watching the clouds pile in as lunchtime approaches but today, we had sunshine from 1pm and enought time to hang out the washing bags and attract a Yellow-legged Clearwing. Before that however, I found a Purple Hairstreak on the ground. Plus two. (Photos by Brian Reid)

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Another normal day at the Nunnery

Is there anywhere but the BTO where you could get an email like this from your line manager?

"Ok Nick, from a Dutch hotel (where I'm failing to log into TEAL blog), how about these from my notebook: Phyllonorycter maestingella, Stigmella tityrella, Buttoned Snout, Black Horehound, Large-flowered Evening Primrose, Stigmella plagicolella, Phyllonorycter salictella, Phyllonorycter platanoidella, Syrphus sp. and I've a feeling we may not yet have written down Cameraria ohridella. And has anyone else had Ringlet yet? Another possible 10 in my notebook but these (all from yesterday's walk along the river) safely see us into four figures."

Fantastic Andy - that's us safely into 4-figures: 1008 (not inc. the Syrphus sp.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Passage waders

Nipped out at lunchtime to look for the Green Sandpiper Dawn found yesterday morning; the 'Wimbledon weather' ensured that I came back soaked to the skin but at least the bird was there. Some waders are clearly already southbound... which means even more regular checking of the flood (which, thankfully, is far less overgrown than this at the moment!):

Messing about with new BirdTrack Explore My Records tool produced the graph below, showing all my Lakes records of 'passage' waders (i.e. Little Ringed Plover, Ruff, Jack Snipe, Redshank, Greenshank, Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers) since July '09. Apart from the obvious, it also shows that I was a bit slack at birding the Lakes in my first 2 Julys at the BTO...

Oh and one last thing - a bit of moth record-updating put the TEAL list to 998 so we're perfectly poised for the big 1000 by half time!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Spotted Flycatcher

Working at home today; fortunately home is a grand total of 1 minute by bike from where Dawn Balmer found a pair of Spotted Flycatchers whilst she was doing a Bird Atlas 2007-11 Timed Tetrad Visit this morning! Not new for the BirdTrack Challenge (Andy Clements had one land in front of him whilst he was lunching al fresco in mid-May) but my first on the reserve. It was really encouraging to hear that they were gathering nesting material when Dawn found them this morning.

For Darren's challenge-within-a-challenge that's 121 for my Nunnery Lakes year list, 139 in total.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

BTO: scores on the doors

OK, I'm feeling guilty for not contributing much since returning from my hols. Have now had a look through the list we've compiled and although there's a little tidying still to do, best estimate is that BTO are on at least 987 taxa for the year so far. I suspect we're really over 1,000 now, as there are still a load of unidentifieds still residing in pots or on cameras, but that's the score for now. Just to clarify, by "taxa", this means organisms mostly identified to species, but where we don't feel confident in our ability to do so, we're including aggregates at higher taxonomic levels (e.g. Dark or Grey Dagger; Unidentified Stonefly; etc).

A breakdown of the list then so far, which is quite revealing in the groups we really ought to try a bit harder with:

Fish - 14
Amphibians - 2
Birds - 130
Mammals - 25
Reptiles - 3

Springtails - 1
Mayflies - 3
Thrips - 1
Dragonflies - 10
Stoneflies - 1
Grasshoppers - 9
Earwigs - 1
True bugs - 23
Lacewings - 4
Scorpionflies - 1
Moths & butterflies - 208
Caddisflies - 4
True flies - 45
Bees, wasps, ants - 40
Beetles - 46

Other invertebrates
Worms - 2
Arachnids - 78
Centipedes - 2
Milipedes - 2
Crustaceans - 8
Molluscs - 11
Horse Hairworms - 1
Sponges - 1

Fungi - 10

Algae - 1
Bryophytes - 17
Horsetails - 3
Ferns - 4
Conifers - 4
Dicotyledons - 231
Monocotyledons - 41

One of the interesting things is to look at the daft things we're still missing. Frog leaps out at me (sorry) as a particular gap, but Bank Vole and Wood Mouse are also somewhat embarrassing. There are also some very obvious plants we just need to remember to look for, such as Smooth and Prickly Sow-thistles.

Better get back to work then. I could do with a few months' sabbatical to do this properly though...

Friday, 10 June 2011

Ancient Hoverflies

Yesterday was a good day for hoverflies at the lodge, with two scarce species found only in ancient woodland added to the list. First up was the striking Brachypalpoides lentus

Brachypalpoides lentus

then the equally distinctive Volucella inflata decided it wanted to hang out with the moths in the MV trap

Volucella inflata

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Clearing clearwing

Another mega insect was recorded at The Lodge on Saturday afternoon - Large Red-belted Clearwing.  Some Northants birders with clearwing lures came along to the reserve and asked to dangle them in appropriate areas in the hope of attracting one of these mythical beasties.  And amazingly they found at least three, with another coming in a little later when the warden Andy Schofield came along!

They are the first in Bedfordshire since 1957, and that was a single record from a site well away from The Lodge.  The hunt now continues for more sightings of these amazing insects...

Dingy tick

I'll be the first to admit that my butterfly identification isn't what it should be. Last Saturday I had a wander round the lakes and photographed a butterfly or dayflying moth that I couldn't immediately identify. On returning home I was able to identify it as a Dingy Skipper (albeit a faded one) which I was quite happy with, being first one I had (knowingly) seen. What I didn't know was that it may be the first record for the reserve, possibly the first local record since 1999.

Another good local record was a female Broad-bodied Chaser the previous evening, one we didn't expect to get.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

WT tick!

Nope, not some White Throated waif but a far more satisfying personal Lakes and ringing tick during CES this morning: Willow Tit! Well worth the 4am get-up; 129 OTL. Not forgetting, of course, a valuable record and important data on a scarce and declining species.

STOP PRESS: Not only has our satellite-tagged Nunnery Lakes Cuckoo (that was still here last Thursday) now appeared 160km south of Paris but Neil Calbrade has also weighed in with another long-awaited BirdTrack Challenge grip-back: Crossbill! A two-tick day in June?! Who'd have thought it? Nice one Neil - 130.

Friday, 3 June 2011

New to Beds

Pempelia palumbella in a pot (Colin Campbell)
This micro moth was sat on the side of our small actinic trap on the heath this morning. We almost ignored it, but its a good job we didn't as it appears to be Pempelia palumbella, a new species for Bedfordshire!

Holly Warbler

There's a Reed Warbler singing in there...
While sorting through the moth trap this morning, Mark Gurney's ears were surprised to find a Reed Warbler singing from some holly in the Lodge gardens!  Certainly not a regular visitor to the Lodge, but most records have come from the gardens.  127.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Redshank #2

Easy to gloss over things that are already on the list but the Redshank that Richard Thewlis found on the flood this lunchtime was only the second in 2011 (and was only my second ever at The Lakes - and my first 'on the deck' - when I wandered down to have a look this evening). Oystercatcher numbers are now up to 6 adults with (at least) 2 chicks, and Egyptian Geese are now into double figures, the latter likely to increase as birds that have (presumably) bred on surrounding farmland congregate here post-breeding.

As for our TEAL figure, it wouldn't be right to unveil where we've got to without one of our all-taxa leaders, Andy Musgrove, who is currently AWL (like AWOL but 'with' rather than 'without') in Greece... he's back 8/6 so watch this space.

Friday, 27 May 2011


We've finally gotten round to putting the complete Lodge list together. Already we've found some gaps (my Black-tailed Skimmer isn't on there for instance!), so the figure will go up after the weekend. Take a look here.

Birds - 125
Other taxa - 476
Grand Total - 601

We're sure BTO are thrashing us though...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Moth-tastic avec trap

Despite windy and clear conditions over the weekend, Saturday night produced another decent haul of moths, including 7 hawkmoths of 4 species (Pine, Eyed and two of my favourites, Elephant and Small Elephant). On a personal note, sorting out Epiblema cynosbatella (with its diagnostic yellow labial palps - handy info for my next pub quiz, I'm sure) and Ancylis mitterbacheriana without assistance was surprisingly gratifying!

Friday, 20 May 2011


I nearly didn't wander down to the flood this morning... glad I did though because there was a smart adult Little Ringed Plover on it, 128! As I moved in for a better look my 'phone went - Neil Calbrade about to tell me there was a LRP on the flood (he was watching from under the trees on the Barnhamcross Common side so we hadn't seen each other)! A minute or two later a Common Sandpiper appeared, and there was a burst of song from the Nightingale too - not a bad detour on the way to work.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Moth-tastic sans trap

You don't need a moth-trap to get a shedload of species at this time of year. Didn't make it to the lakes today, but walked along the thin strip of BTO land that goes alongside the R Thet. A good selection of moths, mostly common and expected stuff but several new for the year - always nice to see Nemophora degeerella, Micropterix calthella and the tiny Glyphipterix simpliciella, but I don't see so many Adela croesella or A rufimitrella so these were particularly pleasing. Other newbies were Grapholita jungiella, Udea olivalis, Anthophila fabriciana and Dingy Shell, but pick of the bunch was my first Endothenia nigricostana, which appears to be the 4th Norfolk record since 2000, according to the mighty Norfolk Moths website. A couple of Coleophora also require further attention...

Non-leps were represented by Water Forget-me-not and Dock Bug, plus a Melangyna hoverfly that may be barbifrons, although needs more careful checking still.

Birds - what are they?

Dragon slaying

Scarce Chaser (2nd record for The Lodge, photo by Nigel Willits), and Hairy Dragonfly (from a few years ago by Katie Fuller).

The Lodge dragon and damsel count is currently 11 species, with a Black-tailed Skimmer I saw on the heath today a new addition. The full run-down is as follows:

Hairy Dragonfly

Scarce Chaser

Four-spotted Chaser

Broad-bodied Chaser

Black-tailed Skimmer

Azure Damselfly

Common Blue Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

Banded Demoiselle

Red-eyed Damselfly

Blue-tailed Damselfly

The Hairy Dragon and Scarce Chaser are both interesting as they are both relatively new to the area, having presumably worked their way down the rivers Great Ouse, and Ivel. The closest known Scarce Chaser colony is around four miles away, so having them occasionally turn up in the middle of the Lodge woodland is rather surprising. Hairy Dragonflies have increased in number around The Lodge in the last few years, with small colonies now around the swimming pool and Jacks pond. They can however, be one of our most elusive of dragonflies to see!