Moth trap

August 30th, 2010

I still have problems with my left leg, and can’t do any walking at the moment – very frustrating!

However, to help cheer myself up  and keep me occupied, I have bought a moth trap. I have been vaguely interested in moths for two or three years, ever since learning that they had such intriguing names as Setaceous Hebrew Character and The Uncertain.

The trap is basically a bright light above a box with a perspex roof. The moths are attracted to the light, and drop throgh a hole in the perspex and largely fail to get out. I run the trap overnight, getting up early to collect any moths outside the trap before the birds find them, then photograph the moths and try to identify them. I release the moths when it gets dark again.

So far I’ve run the trap twice, setting it up overnight here in my parent’s back garden (probably a good location, with many mature gardens around and several mature trees about, plus open fields nearby). You can see how I’ve got on on this thread on the Wild About Britain web site:  (I’m grateful to the people on that site who help me so much with my identifications).

The results from my first night’s trapping were very encouraging, with no less than 34 species of moth found (27 of which I’d never seen before):

Setaceous Hebrew Character x10+
Brimstone x2
Riband Wave x3
Orange Swift x3
Blood-vein x1
Willow Beauty x2
Mother of Pearl x3
Maiden’s Blush x1
Swallow Prominent x1
Lesser Swallow Prominent x1
Small Magpie x1
Common Wainscot x2
Flame Shoulder x1
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing x10+
Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing x1
Tawny Speckled Pug x2
Mint Moth x2
Spectacle x1
Lesser Yellow Underwing x2
Large Yellow Underwing x4
Copper Underwing x1
Dark Arches x2
Straw Dot x1
Six-stripe Rustic x3
Square-Spot Rustic x4
Shuttle-shaped Dart x1
Garden Pebble x2
Common Rustic x4
Eudonia mercurella x1
Straw Underwing x1
Vine’s Rustic x1
Flounced Rustic x1
Endotricha flammealis x1
Agapeta hamana x1

A week later, I ran the trap a second time. The conditions were less favourable (clearer skies – the theory is that moths confuse a bright light for the moon, and so trapping works best on cloudy nights when the moon is obscured) but I still managed to find 21 species (four new to me):

Lesser Broad-barred Yellow Underwing x6
Mouse Moth x1
Lunar Underwing x2
August Thorn x1 (I’m claiming it, but happy to see what others think about it)
Large Yellow Underwing x21
Riband Wave x1
Brimstone x5
Garden Carpet x1
Mother of Pearl x2
Square-spot Rustic x13
Orange Swift x4
Willow Beauty x2
Double-striped Pug x1
Setaceous Hebrew Character x9
Burnished Brass x2
Dark Arches x2
Straw Underwing x1
Common Rustic agg x1
Straw Dot x2
Garden Pebble x1

Garden Rose Tortrix x1

The numbers are not 100% accurate but give an idea of how many of each species I saw. I was delighted to see some Setaceous Hebrew Characters, it was their name that first prompted an interets in moths. The most colourful moths I’ve seen so far are the Orange Swifts and Burnished Brass, but th Lesser Swallow Prominent and Swallow Prominent were quite impressive too.

It’s certainly an addictive hobby, I’m really looking forward to next weekend when I’ll run the trap again. You shouldn’t trap too often in the same place as you’ll likely get the same months again. I’m planning on running the trap weekly into the autumn, then monthly during winter. 

General update

August 8th, 2010

Well, it’s been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog! I am currently suffering from foot and leg problems that are preventing me from doing any long walks, so I thought I’d spend some time writing a general update for this blog about what I’m doing now.

I think the reason I got out of the habit of blogging was that I started a ‘Latest Walks’ section on my web site, and so would write up my walks there rather than on this blog. I did intend using the blog for non-walk related things, but then a problem occurred when I switched to using the Opera web browser. I found it far better than Internet Explorer, but unfortunately there are one or two sites it doesn’t seem to be compatible with, including this blogging site. When I tried writing a blog entry, each new line appeared ABOVE the previous line. So it meant I had to open IE each time I wanted to blog, and I gradually got out of the habit.

The big change since my last entry here is that I have had to go back to work. Having ‘retired’ at the end of 2002 and spent several happy years wandering the countryside and learning more about the natural world, I suddenly hit severe financial problems (not entirely my own fault). It took me just over a year to then find a job – not having worked for 6-7 years, I was extremely lucky to finally get a job as a Software Tester again.

I now work for a company in Huntingdon, Cambs., living in ‘digs’ in Huntingdon during the week and returning to my parents’ home in Kensworth, Beds., at the weekends.I have now been in the job six months (I started1st February 2010) and it has gone well so far. The people I work with are very nice and very helpful, and it is certainly a pleasanter place to work than my last job when I was contracting at BT. But I have found it a real strain going back to work after so long. Having had so many years where my time was all my own to do whatever I liked, I now find the working day very long indeed! Particularly on fine days, it’s hard not to think about how much I’d rather be outside on a 15-mile walk or exploring a nature reserve.

I had hoped to continue walking and to walk both days at weekends, but usually this hasn’t happened (either due to lethargy and/or too many chores to do)  so I am generally only doing one long walk each weekend, which I then write up and put on my web site a few days later.

During the spring and summer months I have occasionally visited a few nature reserves around Huntingdon in the evenings – Grafham Water, Paxton Pits, Monk Woods and Woodwalton Fen. The last I only discovered a couple of weeks ago, but intend to visit it regularly from now on. On my first visit I found no less than 10 wildflowers that I’d not seen before, and there are also lots of dragonflies and moths. I am getting more and more interested in moths – next year I hope to buy a moth trap and start trapping and photographing them regularly.

As usual, I have been using the WildAboutBritain web site to have my new finds identified. This summer I have been to two meetings of members of the web site, firstly at Ivinghoe Beacon and College Lake in Buckinghamshire (which I arranged)  and then one at Thursley Common in Surrey. On both occasions it was really good to meet up with other people interested in the natural world, and there were plenty of new flowers, dragonflies, etc., for me to discover.

I hope to continue using this blog to write up my visits to nature reserves, etc., while my walks will appear under ‘Latest Walks’ on my web site.

Web site update

August 4th, 2009

I have just updated “Pete’s Walks” again.

No new walks (well, a couple in the Latest Walks section, one a nature ramble at Thursley Common, the other a short local walk) but lots of new wildlife photos I’ve taken in recent weeks – Moths, Butterflies, Dragonflies and a few more Wildflowers.

Bricket Wood

July 19th, 2009

Yesterday morning, I spent about three hours wandering around Bricket Wood, south of St Albans in Hertfordshire (there is a village there too with the same name).  I had walked through here on the Hertfordshire Way, and passed by recently on the Ver-Colne Valley Walk.

Apart from woodland, there is a small open are that is more like a heath. I was hoping to see White Admiral and Silver Washed Fritillary butterflies. I just got a fleeting glimpe of the former, and saw none of the latter. But there were lots of Gatekeepers, Ringlets and Meadow Browns, plus a few Marbled Whites and Peacocks.

Despite my lack of success with regards seeing the target species, it was a very pleasant morning.

Wisdom teeth

July 17th, 2009

I had two wisdom teeth removed on Tuesday. It was quite painless (thankfully, as I’ve got to have the other two out in three weeks time!) but my mouth is going to be somewhat sore and tender for several days, and at the moment I can only eat ‘semi-solid’ foods.

The weather has been very indifferent, with lots of showers. So I’m not really sure when I’ll be able to do my next walk.

Flower walk to Totternhoe

July 14th, 2009

Yesterday I walked to Totternhoe and back, recording as many species of wildflowers as possible. I have written a report of what I found on the WildAboutBritain site:

The highlight was probably finding a couple of Common Broomrapes, only the second time I’ve found this peculiar parasite.

There were also loads of butterflies on the walk. Having just seen my first Gatekeeper of the year a few days ago, they are now out in force! I was seeing them almost everywhere, they were possibly the most numerous butterfly I saw. I saw at least four Commas, they seem to be doing well this year, and a couple of very faded Painted Ladies. Many Meadow Browns, Ringlets and MarbledWhites, two or three Small Tortoiseshells and a Brimstone.

I had a couple of brief showers and then it rained heavily for 10-20 minutes, starting while I was eating my lunch on top of the castle site at Totternhoe Knolls. This was at 2pm, which showed how often I’d stopped to take photos – if I’d been just walking, I’d have been back at Dunstable Downs or Bison Hill by 1.30pm!  I took pretty much the quickest way home (except I didn’t fancy the direct route up the steep slope of the Downs!), and fortunately there was no more rain.

Ivinghoe Beacon and College Lake

July 11th, 2009

Today I had arranged a meeting for members of the WildAboutBritain web site at Ivinghoe Beacon.  It was very nice to meet a few people who share my interests in wildflowers and such like. Only a small number attended (it was very much a last-minute thing, I didn’t give people much notice, and unfortunately it clashed with a similar meeting elsewhere) but we had a good time and after exploring round the Beacon most of us moved on to College Lake.

I saw six or seven flowers I’d not seen before, including Frog Orchid and Green-flowered Helleborine – this was all due to one of the guys being a real expert on the subject of wildflowers, I’d never have spotted them myself or known what they were.

I’ve written a report on the meeting along with some photos here:

Ivinghoe Beacon nature walk

July 1st, 2009

I spent three hours this morning going round Ivinghoe Beacon looking for wildflowers, butterflies and other wildlife. I have started two threads about it on the WildAboutBritain site, with loads of photos:

College Lake

June 21st, 2009

This morning I visited the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust’s College Lake nature reserve. I have written a report about my visit, with about 20 photos, here:

Big in the Czech Republic!

June 20th, 2009

My web host, 1&1, provides a tool that gives me statistics about the visitors to my web site “Pete’s Walks”. Obviously it doesn’t give personal information, but it does give me details of visitor numbers, page hits, from which URLs visitors have come and which country visitors are from (based on their Top Level Domains). I thought I might share some of the statistics with you.

I’m pleased to say that the number of visitors and page hits have both been increasing steadily – in fact over the course of 2008 they went up fourfold! Currently “Pete’s Walks” is getting 450-500 visitors a day, with about 900 page hits. The average number of pages visited per visitor is less than two, but this is because a large number of visitors are ‘bots’, automatic programs used by search engines to scan for new pages.

Typically there are around 30 hits a day from Google, and maybe another 5 a day from other search engines (the stats program can only detect where a small percentage of hits come from, so these figures may be greater). I usually get 2-3 hits a day from sites where I have reciprocal links (such as ‘WildAboutBritain’ and ‘WalkingBritain’) and once or twice a week I get hits from a couple of links on Wikipedia (a couple of articles on long-distance paths refer to my site).

One of the fascinating things is looking to see where visitors come from – it is truly a world-wide web! Obviously, most visitors are from the UK. I can’t tell how many US visitors I get, as they come under ‘.com’ which covers a range of other groups as well.  But I assume US visitors come second (they may possibly even outnumber UK visitors, but I doubt it – I’ve had 2 or 3 contacts from people in the US, but far more from the UK).

What is intriguing is that the third highest number of visitors come from  …  the Czech Republic! Last year they were fourth, but during 2009 they have overtaken the Germans. I have no idea why I should get such a disproportionate number of visitors from a relatively small country. I’m quite pleased though – Prague is one of the most interesting places I’ve ever visited, and I was sorry I only had a day and a half to explore it (I was on a walking tour of the Tatra mountains that had a bit of sightseeing thrown in as well).

Canadian visitors come fifth, followed by another surprise, Poland (Krakow is another brilliant place, which I visited on the same holiday that I went to Prague). The Dutch come eighth  – but then they get everywhere, wherever I’ve been on holiday, no matter how remote, there’s always a couple of Dutch visitors! Just as well they’re such nice people – I’ve worked in the Netherlands three times and have always got on with the locals, their sense of humour is very similar to the British one (and they almost all speak better English than I do!).

The Australians are ninth (I hope we stuff them in The Ashes this summer!) with Thailand providing the tenth highest number of visitors to the site (presumably a number of ex-pats keeping in touch with home). Outside the top ten, more exotic visitors include people from Oman, Peru and Indonesia.

Despite the visitor numbers, I don’t get too much in the way of feedback – maybe an email once a fortnight, and an entry in the guestbook once in a blue moon. I think the fact that the guestbook (provided by 1&1) displays people’s email addresses is a problem that puts a lot of people off (quite understandably). I’m thinking of finding another one that doesn’t show the addresses, but this would probably involve using one with adverts (and, as a privacy isssue, I’m worried what the providers might do with addresses). People can always email me at anyway.