Very interesting day yesterday (20th July). In the morning I received an email from Jeff and Ann. Amongst the birds that Jeff has been recording in his part of Gravesend during lockdown were sightings of linnets. He wrote “[these] are the first I’ve seen mating in this area since 7th May 1998, when a pair nested in a privet hedge in a front garden [near us], collecting nesting material from our drive.” That’s really good. Good for the linnets, of course, but also good that Jeff has kept systematic records of all of the birds in his patch for such a long time! He must be using a notebook to record everything he sees. But I wonder how he organises the data so that he can extract details such as the date of the nesting linnets. Linnets are lovely birds, although their song sounds (to me) like a goldfinch with a bad cold. Sally took this picture at Rye in Sussex but during our local lockdown walks we have found, much to our surprise, 2 pairs in Chalk. We usually expect to see them on the marsh near the Police Training Centre but these birds were around Chalk Church. Lets hope linnets are having a good year.
Jeff also wrote “Circa 10a.m. on the 16th July 2020, a new moth I had not seen before, flying around Rosemary and Box. I fear it was a Box Tree Moth (Cydalima perspectalis). ” This species arrived in Britain (Kent) in 2007 and is a very destructive invasive pest of Box – the caterpillars will make short work of Jeff’s Box plants. I saw my first Box Tree moth (top right) last year, However, Jeff also sent this picture (bottom right) of a moth that had flown into his conservatory on the 20th – and the reason that he had sent me the email was to ask if I could identify it!
Yes I can. It’s the same species but a dark morph variety. You just wouldn’t think that they could be the same. It took me ages to work it out last year when eventually I caught the two versions in my moth trap. Can anyone explain why there are two colour morphs?
I had just finished reading Jeff’s email when I received this photograph (below left) from Kevin. He thought I would like to know about the white-lettter hairstreak he had seen on his lockdown walk in Gravesend near his home.
What a cracking butterfly. As many of you will know, the caterpillar of this species feeds on elm and is now rather scarce because of the loss of trees due to Dutch Elm Disease. The adult butterflies are very difficult to see because they keep close to the tree and fly very little. Except, that is, when they come down to nectar on plants on the ground. Which is how Kevin saw it. He tells me that he was able to watch it for about 20 minutes! This is the second record of white-letter hairstreak butterfly in Gravesend in recent years that I know of. Yet the nearest large colony of this species is the RSPB reserve at Northward Hill. There must surely be a small breeding colony of butterflies nearer Gravesend than that.
By the time I had read all of these emails and done all of the housework I decided it was time for my own local lockdown walk. I took Sally with me and we walked across the fields to the canal opposite our house. We sat on a bench and watched a little grebe feeding two young. Gradually the numbers increased and finished with two adults and five little little grebes. What a treat!
It’s amazing what wildlife you can see close to home.
Thanks to Jeff and Kevin for sharing their sightings and photographs and to Sally for the photographs.