Insects and animals 

We have another moth special this week! Here are the moths you’ll be seeing this month (if you’re lucky!)

You might describe the pale tussock as the cutest, fluffiest moth (I would anyway!) Females are larger, and males are slightly darker but you’ll recognise them by their fluffy, forward-facing legs. You will see them everywhere - gardens, hedgerows and woodland.

There’s no mistaking why these guys are called blood-vein - you’ll see them during the day around low plants like docks and knotgrass; in hedgerows, ditches and other ‘wet’ places.

Blood vein and tussock moths

Blood vein and pale tussock moths (Credit to Nicola Ceconi)

The white ermine and buff ermine are similarly named but different enough in appearance that you’ll be able to tell the difference. The white ermine looks like a tiny Dalmatian, essentially and the buff is not only slightly darker but they have a diagonal row of black spots (as well as the random spots)- you’ll see both of these these guys virtually everywhere, from your gardens to hedgerows and woodlands.

Buff ermine and white ermine

Buff ermine and white ermine moths (Credit to Nicola Ceconi)

The colouring of the markings on the common swift vary colour wise, but the males are more marked than females. You will normally see them around grassy areas, like roadside verges and gardens.

Another moth with amazing leaf-like camouflage is the poplar hawk - the males only come out after midnight but you’re likely to see them in parks, woodlands as well as your gardens so you don’t need to go on a late night exploration to find one.

One of my favourite names for a moth is the scorched wing. Again, you can absolutely see how they got their name. You won’t see these guys during the day and they’re mainly around trees, so you’ll only see them in your garden if you have big, roost-worthy trees.

Common swift, poplar hawk and scorched wing moths

Common swift, poplar hawk and scorched wing moths (Credit to Nicola Ceconi)

Plants

The ox-eye daisies are out - you’ll spot them pretty much everywhere as they’re (unsurprisingly) the biggest member of the daisy family. If your birthday is October 29th, they’re your birthday flower! Throughout Marston Meadow (in the Millennium Country Park) right now you’ll spot yellow rattle. It loves open grassland and is semi-parasitic, feeding off the nutrients from surrounding grasses. This isn’t great for the grass, but is amazing for biodiversity in general, as it means other, more delicate wildflowers have the chance to grow. Look out for dog rose (you definitely can’t miss it’s thorns!) It’s a climbing rose - you’ll see it in hedges or in scrubby areas, where is uses other shrubs to support its growth. When autumn comes round, you’ll recognise its bright clusters of red rosehips, which are a great source of food for the birds.

 Yellow rattle, dog rose and ox-eye daisy

Yellow rattle, dog rose and ox-eye daisies (Credit to Don Morris)

It’s always good to see elms that we planted as part of the Elm Project doing well (this one is from around the Pillinge, in the Wetlands Nature Reserve). After Dutch Elm disease wiped out most of the elms in the UK, the project planted resistant strains in the hope that they could be properly re introduced to our woodland mix. So far, there have been mixed results but it’s relatively early days - tree time is a lot longer than human time, after all!

Elm tree

Elm Tree (Credit to Bob Hook)

Birds

You’ll notice we have a lovely cuckoo photo (above) taken by Rolf Taggart on his walk through Folly Wood recently. We’ve got some footage below of a chiff chaff, preening itself whilst singing, with a bit of a cuckoo interruption at the end!

We’ve finally got some footage of the great spotted woodpecker that we’ve mentioned a few times drumming over near the sewage works.

There are now water rails over on the Pillinge - they’re fairly common breeding birds but they’re generally hard to see so you’re better off listening out for their squealing/grunting sounds. This video shows one from a few years ago, looking for worms.

Obviously we hope people never have a water based accident in the Park anyway BUT even more so at the moment as we have bluetits nesting and breeding in one of the life rings!

Our ‘annual osprey fly-over’ happened this weekend which is a pretty big deal - they were very nearly driven to extinction in the early 20th century and there are only 240 breeding pairs in the whole of the UK (the nearest to us is Rutland Water). They’re summer migrants and are mainly seen in Scotland as that’s where they naturally started to breed when they came back in the 50s (read more about that here) - but 30% of them nest on artificial platforms, even now. We’ve actually looked at having a nest platform in the Park in the past, but the project hasn’t been discussed for a while. There are now obvious issues with introducing something that would drive a lot more visitors to the Park, sadly, but if we ever look at the project again you guys will be the first to know! One of the reasons they were hunted to extinction was because they were eating a lot of fish, meant for humans - check out the awesome video below of one ‘fishing’ in Scotland. They can actually dive up to 100 feet (which is 3 times higher than an olympic diving board, for reference).

Credit to Maramedia

They pretty much only eat fish but that doesn’t stop other birds being defensive. We have a (very cute) video of the exact moment the osprey flew over the park, and these canada geese made an alarm call to get their young to come back to safety, in case it was a dangerous bird of prey.

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All bird videos credit to Bob Hook