Friday, 24 February 2017

First Frogspawn of the year. 2017

First Frogspawn of the year.

Monday 20th February 2017. After a week of croaking the frogs are spawning in the pond at home and at work. I've seen bumblebee queens on the wing also so spring is on it's way.

 (* See previous first spawning dates in the same pond)
05th February 2016
26th February 2015
23rd February 2014
21st January 2013
19th February 2012
11th February 2011

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A dead owl, blackberries and honey. (* Not a recipe)

Found a dead tawny owl on the back road to Glastonbury last Sunday, in remarkably good condition considering it had clearly met a sudden end on the front of a car. Had planned to mount it but, as with most taxidermy projects, 2 or 3 days passed before I went back up to the shed only to find that to my horror a rat had got to it and eaten most of it. I salvaged the wings this afternoon however and have pinned them out to dry, the cabinet from last year's quarry artwork making a rather fine drying cabinet.

The autumn marches on with the last blackberries still adorning the hedges, conkers still under the trees, the starlings begining to collect together and the last beekeeping duties coming to a seasonal conclusion with the last honey now in jars and varroa treatments applied.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Elephant Moth Caterillar

Found an Elephant Moth caterpillar on the path in the garden. An amazing caterpillar, large and brilliantly marked. The caterpillar would let you turn it upside down, always flipping back uprightas I tried to draw it. When handled it withdrew it's head back into itself to inflate the eyepatch segment, perhaps to look more like a snake? Released it onto some willow-herb by the pond.

Other natural history news: Saw two barn owls hunting last night, one carrying a vole, and saw an otter dead on the roadside towards Somerton.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Moth Trap for my Birthday

I got a moth trap for my birthday.
(*Birthday not actually until next week but I couldn't wait to play with it)

Set it up last night for it's first use and there was much excitement this morning with my children looking through the box. Lessons learnt - perhaps 20 micro moths escaped as I lifted other moths out of the box and I soon realised that there were also quite a number of moths sitting on the ground near to where the trap had been standing so I need to be aware of this.

Identified most of the moths but some 'brown ones' and micro moths evaded easy identification so I need to get a more comprehensive guide. Terrific names and some beautiful specimens, did a few sketches in my journal and took photos before releasing them all into the bushes. Looking forward to seeing what I can find in the coming weeks in Ilkley and Norfolk.

The tally: Perhaps 40 moths in total-including:

1 Garden Tiger
1 Swallow Prominent
4 Jersey Tiger
2 Plume Moth
1 Common Rustic
1 Canary-Shouldered Thorn
1 Dusky Thorn
2 Dark Arches
2 Large Yellow Underwing
1 Setacious Hebrew Character
1 Buff Ermine

* Note: The swifts have left us for Africa.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Early summer specimens.

Its the day before I take my family into a muddy Glastonbury Festival and I'm running about collecting marquees and putting up signage for next weeks Ashcott Beerfest. However in between all this, and work, I picked up a dead wren in the lane by the Apiary and collected two bee swarms from a friend's garden. I have rehoused the bees in a hive over the road and a new one set up in my garden. Several bees seemed reluctant to enter the hive, once I'd managed to get them out of the skep, sitting in as sleepy group outside as night fell so I picked them up and put them into the top of the hive, clearly perhaps tired and hungry so gave them a little honey. The dead buzzard I found last weekend also needed dealing with so I skinned it and prepared the carcass for preservation, as I learn taxidermy. You have to be very careful not to tear the skin around the base of the tail and I shouldn't have left it a week, lesson learnt. (* Roadkill freezer already full and a lot to deal with in the coming weeks)

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Buzzard on the road.

Stopped to pick up a dead buzzard on the A39. Not the first time as they hang in family groups above the Polden ridge and collect roadkill from the tarmac, a feeding habit with predictable risks for a large, and not particularly agile, bird. This specimen seemed unharmed by the collision that ended it's life, so perfect in-fact that I began to wonder if it might not be stunned and spring back to life inside the car. The eyes covered by the pale lower eyelids, the body still warm and limp. Larger than perhaps expected and particularly so when the wings are out, beautfuly hinging as the feathered canopy opens, splayed and stiff and ready to take to the air. The body coverlet feathers astonishingly soft, the beak and claws so sharp and hard, the beautiful rosy brown barring on the feathers. I haven't got any more room in my roadkill freezer and with the examiner visiting work and the End of Year Show coming down there hasn't been any time to draw this week but I am underway preparing this buzzard for taxidermy now.