Friday 9 July 2010

Cattle diss the warden

I was down at the farm the other day and came across a huge group of people - well, at least 30 - wandering around with butterfly nets and pooters and magnifying glasses and the like. Turns out they were the Ecology and Conservation Studies Society from Birkbeck College, London, on a week's field trip and jolly. I introduced myself and was immediately surrounded (I hesitate to say mobbed) and bombarded with questions, some of which I was able to answer, such as:

"How do you manage your hay-fields?"

"When does the Cornish Heath flower?"

"Where's the nearest pasty shop?"

"What's the capital of Azerbaijan?"

The leader of the group told me that when he had walked into the first field he had been delighted to see a specimen of Parentucellia viscosa. "Yellow Bartsia!" he explained, on noting my blank expression. He then went on to say he had been completely astonished to find the next field, and the next, and the next, absolutely full of the stuff. This is an uncommon plant and he had never seen anything like it in his life. So I was able to brag about it, quite a lot.

Resuming my walk round I was struck by the numbers of young birds around: Willow Warblers, Whitethroats and especially Goldfinches. It seems to have been a great breeding season so far.

I ran the moth-trap again on Wednesday night and it produced 242 moths of 51 species. You can add to this a few escapees, a couple of micro-moths who will have to remain unidentified and a full English breakfast for the Sedge Warblers who live in the adjacent bushes and picked up many of the moths unlucky enough to have parked up in nearby vegetation. These numbers are an improvement on the last couple of summers but I reckon they are still down on five years ago. The most numerous species in the trap was surprisingly Elephant Hawk-moth, with 32 individuals. Here are some of the squadron waiting for the signal to scramble.

And here's a Plain Golden Y, a beautiful moth, though not quite as beautiful as the Beautiful Golden Y!

Yesterday I found a group of cattle which had managed to infiltrate the meadows which are kept for hay, via a broken electric fence-wire. They were clearly having a wonderful time chewing on the succulent long grasses. I went over and and made an attempt to herd them back out on to the pasture. No way were they going to agree to this. They just went round in a circle and settled back down where they started. I tried to appeal to their better judgement:

"This is your winter feed. If you eat it now you might regret it later." I said.

Here is their spokescow, mouthing "We're staying put, so get lost!"

I left them to it and phoned James, the farmer. It's his problem, not mine!


  1. Andy I'm just trying to picture 32 Elephant hawk moths all together. I haven't ran mine again yet. I can't do it unless I know it's not going to rain, I don't want to have to buy another lamp...

  2. Yes Rich, they were jostling for position somewhat. What kind of lamp are you running? I put mine out in all weathers and I've never had a problem. So far.