28th December


A reminder that there's an In Focus field event at the Obs between 10am and 4pm tomorrow, Saturday 29th December.

It was again a lovely day to be out birding - calm, mild and, at least until midday, bright - and there was a decent little array of sightings. The sea was well covered and returned totals of 19 Red-throated Divers, 5 Common Scoter, 3 Brent Geese and a Great Northern Diver through off the Bill; auk numbers there have been less than impressive so far this winter, with a sample count this morning coming up with just shy of 1000 in an hour (a total that would be just 5 or 10 minutes worth in many recent winters). Three Redwings at the Obs were overnight arrivals that left as soon as dawn broke, whilst other odds and ends from the land included 4 Purple Sandpipers, 4 Turnstones, 3 Short-eared Owls and the Grey Heron at the Bill, 3 Chiffchaffs at Pennsylvania Castle, 2 Goldcrests at Avalanche Road, a Firecrest at Thumb Lane and a Black Redstart at Blacknor. Elsewhere, 21 Black-necked Grebes and a Great Northern Diver were in Portland Harbour.
Late news for the last couple of days: at least 3 Short-eared Owls in the afternoons at the Bill and a Blackcap visiting feeders in a private garden at Southwell.

We haven't had any current moth news to report for a few days (no immigrants have been trapped since before Christmas), but indoors our bred stock of Radford's Flame Shoulders have been emerging. Since we were going to be out of circulation for more than a fortnight during December we hadn't really intended trying to breed any through but such was the quantity of eggs obtained from some of last autumn's wild-caught specimens whilst they were briefly confined in tubes that we kept a few just to see how they'd do. In the event they fed up so voraciously that they'd all pupated in a little less than a month and we ended up having to chill the pupae so they didn't emerge whilst we were away. A variety of foodplants have been tried by folk who'd had some of our eggs or obtained some of their own; given a selection of choices, our larvae took readily to Bristly Oxtongue and went right through very successfully on this alone. The fully fed larvae were much of a muchness, with just some minor variation in colour tone - these two photographed specimens were perhaps towards the pale end - and in the strength of the black and white lateral lines: 

The bred moths were, as might be expected, rather more beautifully richly-coloured and crisply marked than the majority of wild-caught specimens. Since we released literally hundreds of unwanted eggs and tiny larvae it'll be interesting to see if there's evidence next year of a summer brood of wild-caught specimens (the literature is in places a little ambiguous but seems to suggest that the species is usually bivoltine) - to date our moth-trap captures have only been of late season moths and we still have the feel for them all being primary immigrants© Martin Cade: