The first Hawk… moth

Following on from my previous post, I put the trap out on Monday evening and was very pleased with the results. Switching to a fluorescent bulb had definitely shown an increase in both volume and variety and I was over the moon to get my first Hawk-moth in there. A rather lovely Poplar Hawk-moth which at times showed great views of its rusty red underwing, though difficult to capture on camera. I’ll post a selection of the moths below to give you an idea on variety.

Poplar Hawk-moth
Willow Beauty
Riband Wave
Mint Moth
A rather well-worn Rustic
Pale Prominent
Marbled Beauty

Casting a wider net

One thing has definitely become apparent since the arrival of my darling daughter some 7 weeks ago… time is precious and very limited!

I’ve managed very, very little by way of birding in the last month and a half and I expect this trend to continue for some time yet.

This got me thinking, what can I do additionally to keep my curiosity stimulated, besides birding from the Garden? Moths! They’re very like birds in a lot of ways, unique plumages, yearly migrations and a plethora of variety.

Having done a quick scan of moth traps online I quickly realised they’re not cheap, despite most of them looking like old apple crates with some Perspex attached. So I decided to make my own and here’s what I came up with:

It’s a rather rudimentary setup but it should do the trick, it’s just a 16L bucket with lid that I’ve put a kitchen funnel through the top of, attach a light bulb across the top and voila! There’s a tad more to it with a secondary, smaller funnel below the entrance funnel for rain drainage (with net across). The whole thing probably cost me £15-20 so not bad going. Worth mentioning that I ran the trap last night with a filament bulb which I have subsequently replaced with a fluorescent one for tonight.

I also wouldn’t normally trap two nights simultaneously, but I released the moths a good enough distance away to avoid disturbance.

Anyway, here’s my favourites from those I managed to snag last night (around 12-15 species total, mostly micros).

Bird-cherry Ermine (Yponomeuta evonymella)
Oak Lantern (Carcina quercana)

Last year we left our borders in the garden to rewild and as a result had a lot of moth foodplant available, we’ve since tidied up so a little less available but still some. In fact, we had good numbers of elephant hawk moth caterpillar last year so I’m hopeful I might trap one of those at some point.

Casting a wider net

One thing has definitely become apparent since the arrival of my darling daughter some 7 weeks ago… time is precious and very limited!

I’ve managed very, very little by way of birding in the last month and a half and I expect this trend to continue for some time yet.

This got me thinking, what can I do additionally to keep my curiosity stimulated, besides birding from the Garden? Moths! They’re very like birds in a lot of ways, unique plumages, yearly migrations and a plethora of variety.

Having done a quick scan of moth traps online I quickly realised they’re not cheap, despite most of them looking like old apple crates with some Perspex attached. So I decided to make my own and here’s what I came up with:

It’s a rather rudimentary setup but it should do the trick, it’s just a 16L bucket with lid that I’ve put a kitchen funnel through the top of, attach a light bulb across the top and voila! There’s a tad more to it with a secondary, smaller funnel below the entrance funnel for rain drainage (with net across). The whole thing probably cost me £15-20 so not bad going. Worth mentioning that I ran the trap last night with a filament bulb which I have subsequently replaced with a fluorescent one for tonight.

I also wouldn’t normally trap two nights simultaneously, but I released the moths a good enough distance away to avoid disturbance.

Anyway, here’s my favourites from those I managed to snag last night (around 12-15 species total, mostly micros).

Bird-cherry Ermine (Yponomeuta evonymella)
Oak Lantern (Carcina quercana)

180!

I’d pondered over the bird that would make up my 180th for the Deepings. All sorts of ideas crossed my head and left just as quickly, but I never imagined it would be Caspian Tern.

Sitting on the sofa last night at 22:00, a message popped through from Josh Jones on the Peterborough WhatsApp news group, not unusual as he will often report sightings he’s seen that day a little later as a roundup. I assumed this was that, but when I finally checked 15 minutes later, it was in fact news of a Caspian Tern he had found at BLGP Wader Pit. With light dying rapidly by this point and my heart pounding, I grabbed my bins and was out the door immediately.

I arrived to find Bob Titman and Josh still on the bird at 22:30, light was almost gone but I could still make out the giant tern through the scope and a gull kindly positioned itself behind the bird to allow its signature carrot bill to be still just about visible.

I was gutted that I never saw the 2017 bird found by Mike W and worried that I would never connect with this bird on the patch, so glad I have and all credit to Josh for finding such an awesome bird!

It was lost to view flying S/SW this morning by 4:20.

Photo in dying light by Josh

May breakdown

After what was the wettest May I can remember, it’s time to breakdown what i’ve been up to by way of birding.

Things started well with numbers of waders building on East pit Deeping Lakes. On the 5th there were 5 summer plumage Dunlin, 2 LRP, a pair of Oystercatcher, lapwings and a Green Sand. We were hopeful it would produce several more species and a build in volume but unfortunately the weather had other plans… by Mid May most of the wader’s favourite spits were underwater. By contrast, I went last Monday and saw a single Ringed Plover. Bit of a wash out. However, on the 8th, I had 3 Cattle Egret over the East Pit going South over the Welland until out of sight. Presumed to be new birds, rather than an extension of the two long staying birds (which departed late April).

Usual spring migrants continued to arrive and I managed 7 species of warbler along a dyke, north of Etton on the 17th. Included Garden and lesser Whitethroat. Cuckoo arrived in reasonable numbers and were fairly easy to hear throughout the patch from the first week onwards.

Quail arrived but continue to be elusive with only a couple of records from Baston Fen. The more obliging birds off Renew’s drove are yet to materialise (or have lost their voices!) so fingers crossed they’re just late. Corn Bunting are about in good numbers on the same road however and 8-10 put on a good display yesterday (31st).

Perhaps the most interesting bird i found during the month was a partially leucistic / albino Wren in a copse along the High Bank. An interesting bird showing pure white wings and little other defects to plumage. A quick google research session provided very little evidence of albinism in this species other than total albinism.

That’s about all for May, let’s hope for a better June (though it’s looking doubtful).

Sedge Warbler – Present in good numbers along the Welland
Yellow Wag continue to provide a splash of colour to the fens, no unusual ones to report recently though.
The ‘White-winged Wren’
Hard to determine whether the white spots around the crown are further evidence of albinism or just regular plumage details, certainly not obvious.
Front on shot shows no plumage irregularities, other than the pure white wings.
Not immediately obvious, the Corn Bunting bottom left in typical stance on the fens. Easiest to locate by song for this reason.
Corn Bunting – Renews Drove, nr. Crowland

Another unexpected garden tick

Been birding sporadically since my last post, spring migration in full effect now having heard my first Reed warbler, willow warbler etc. Also managed a single house martin over the East Pit at Deeping Lakes a couple of weeks ago, seems like it must have been one of the first birds back in the country as i haven’t seen any since!

Deeping Lakes continues to play host to a smattering of decent birds including the long staying drake Scaup, a pair of Cattle Egret, 12+ Yellow Wags and a handful of decent waders. I missed the Little Gulls earlier this week found by Mike W which was disappointing but sure there will be plenty of other opportunities later in the summer.

Biggest birding news this week came in the form of a new garden tick. I was sitting in the conservatory on the 24th and saw a group of 4 birds come into view over the top of my neighbour’s roof. Initially thought they were large gulls but could tell by the flight pattern and the general jizz that they were something different. Got the bins on them and they were Crane. Not massively unheard of in these parts (having bred at Willow Tree Fen last year) and obviously common on the Nene Washes, but this was a new bird for me in the Deepings. Better yet, a tick for my garden list too, awesome stuff!

That brings my Deepings total to 179. Still on my pursuit of 200, i wonder what will bring in the big 180! My money is on Curlew which has still evaded me so far.

Cattle Egret – Deeping Lakes. One of the pair of regulars.
Good numbers of Oystercatcher along the Welland now with at least 6 between the bridge and 4 mile bar.
An unexpected bonus was a close encounter with a handful of gigantic rats which have made the muck heap opposite Gull Farm on the high bank their temporary home. This little fellow was particularly curious!
The squadron of Crane overhead from my garden in Deeping St. James.

When it rains… it pours!

News came in this pm from Josh Jones, he’d relocated the female Ring-necked Duck from Tallington. Turns out it had been a half kilometre or so away at Langtoft West End pits, the whole time! I was eating dinner and dealing with family chores etc when the news came in so I sat on it, debating….

Then a further notification popped up from Mike Weedon, a Kittiwake in the adjacent pit. Needless to say, I was out the door and on my way not long after, I arrived at 19:00ish in rapidly fading light but was quickly put onto the loafing Kitti by Mike et al. The bird was cruising around the pit (no other gulls in sight) always distant but busily feeding, an excellent Deepings tick, never easy to twitch. The RND meanwhile had disappeared, I scanned the tufted flock on the pit but it was fruitless.

Heading back for the car, a call from Mike came in to let me know Chris Jones had relocated it on the pit closest to the road. A 400m romp down to their location and I was enjoying full frame scope views! Don’t get me wrong, I was happy with the record I got at Tallington but was always a little miffed I didn’t get better views or record shots, this made up for all of that. The bird was fighting off the sleep with it’s tufted companions approachable to about 75m. Dying light made photography difficult but the views were immense! Things are really starting to hot up locally, watch this space!

Ring-necked Duck – Langtoft
Awful record shot of Kittiwake – Langtoft

Spring mig starts

The signs have been building up over the past week or more, last weekend I got my first Wheatear of the year (courtesy of Josh Jones). A shy female on Cradge Bank Road. Always too mobile and / or distant for any decent photos.

Today I went out late evening to Deeping Lakes following news of a Grey Plover, LRP as well as Yellow Wagtails. All were still present when I arrived as well as a pair of white wagtail among the 50+ pied wagtail in the East Pit pre-roost. The plover is my first photographable individual in the area, my only other record being a FO.

I was elated to see my first Yellow Wagtails of the spring, my favourite of all the spring migrants, and a much needed blast of colour.

Grey Plover Deeping Lakes
It doesn’t get any better than a clean Yellow Wagtail for me!

The Pink, the Peregrine and the bizarre

Birding locally has been slow to say the least these past couple of weeks. The wintering birds have started to depart, shown by the thousands of whoopers which were seen flying over the fens (including 15 NW over the garden) and the reduced numbers of things like Goosander. But Spring birding hasn’t really gotten going, at least locally. I’ve been down to Deeping Lakes pretty regularly the past 14 days or so, mainly looking for waders. Not much to report but did have a pair of green sand which were my first migrant waders of the year. I dipped on the drake Scaup found by Will at East Pit and dipped on the Brent Goose which was also seen there. So birding has felt a bit morose lately. That is, until yesterday.

It was 14:40 and I was readying myself to go and collect Noah from school, finishing off some things on the computer. I’ve recently had to relocate my desk and PC to the conservatory to allow us to convert the old study into a nursery for our expected daughter (due June). Turns out this was a bit of a blessing in disguise as I looked up from my desk to see a bird on the patio, it was front on and my initial thought was ‘oh, a Dunnock, that’s a garden tick!’. The bird then flew from the patio up to the arm of our outdoor sofa and I was stunned to see the rusty red tail of a Black Redstart. Not a bird I ever remotely considered to turn up in my urban garden in the Lincolnshire fens! Luckily my desk is where I keep my camera so i calmly removed the lens cap and began blasting through the conservatory door so as not to scare the bird away. It stayed there for the next 15 minutes whilst i put the news out, looking at me and me looking at it. It sat preening, feeding and generally loafing about without a care in the world. There are few memories I have of birding which i will cherish as much as this one, such an awesome bird. Following me putting the news out, locals Will Bowell and Josh Jones managed to connect whilst the bird was still in the locality of my house, I went to pick up Noah and by the time I had returned, the bird had relocated to a couple of houses down but very elusive. It took about 45 minutes and a very heavy rain shower to put the other birders off the trail. As soon as the rain lifted, I was out again and down the street and there it was, calling it’s little heart out on a 3 ft high fence outside my neighbour’s house. It then spent 15-20 minutes feeding on the driveways and rooftops of the adjacent houses. A further 4-5 birders connected whilst those who turned up a little later sadly dipped. One things for sure, I’ll be looking a lot harder at the birds in the garden this weekend!

The Garden tick of dreams… a Black Redstart!
Peregrine – Deeping High Bank – not a common bird in these parts, especially to see stationary.
The Pair of pinkies which have made Deeping Lakes their home for the late winter / spring.

Clearing the backlog

I’m going to be dumping a few photos of recent birds i’ve seen in and around the Deepings, including some new ticks. I can’t really muster the motivation to write the long narrative blogs i normally post here as i’m working through a backlog of photos off the camera. Below each photo will be a brief description of the bird and the circumstances.

Pair of Goosander – Deeping High Bank. Another good winter for these birds on the fens with numbers up to 35+
Grey Partridge – I’ve seen a pair of GP the last few times i’ve been down the High Bank, smaller numbers than previous years but definitely seem to be more reliable.
Imposter! A female tufted duck on East Pit Deeping Lakes giving knee-jerk Scaup calls to lots of birders, i’m sure.
Again, a good year for Whoopers on the Lincolnshire fens with really strong numbers of 150+ in certain flocks though the percentage of Bewick’s among them is rapidly declining.
Red-throated Diver – Deeping High Bank. This bird turned up after the deep freeze mid Feb and this particular bird, despite losing all mobility in it’s left leg, stuck around until at least the 1st of March. Towards the end of it’s visible stay, it spent most of it’s time on the bank close to the jetty around Crowland Bridge and was approachable sometimes to within 5m. The reports stopped after the 1st so one presumes it unfortunately perished. A tick for me in the Deepings area.

I was abroad on my Honeymoon when the 2020 influx of White-fronted Geese occurred in the Deepings so didn’t get a chance to connect. Needless to say I was pleased when this wandering individual turned up on the High Bank 04/03/2021. It turned up at the same time as an individual appeared on Baston Fen so a good contender for a genuine bird. Subsequently, a flock of 6 were located close to the Maxey Etton complex whilst this bird relocated to BLGP to join the other individual from Baston Fen. Another (overdue) Deepings tick!

My last addition to the Deepings list came in the form of a Juv / Female type Ring-necked Duck which Josh Jones found on Tallington Lakes. The bird was present for a week or two and gave a handful of local birders challenging views. When Josh originally found the bird, it was pretty confiding and remained close to the vegetated island near the footbridge over main lake. By the time I got a chance to come and look for myself, the bird (along with close to 750 tufted duck and 250 pochard) had dispersed across the lake. The winds were awful and the water choppy but i managed to pick out the bird close to the lodges on the opposite side of the lake. An hour and a half it took to pick out but certainly happy i did so before it departed later that week. No record shot from me unfortunately but below is an image Josh managed.

Ring-necked Duck – Tallington Lakes – Photo by Josh Jones.