No commitments today , so I headed off in good periods of sunshine , to do the Reptile survey at Fackenden Down . The closer I got to the site , the thicker the clouds came over , the story of this site this year . Anyway , I was there now , so I got on with lifting some tins , and basically , that was all I did , as I only recorded 4 Slow Worms under all the refugia , and just one Common Lizard on top of one of the tins . Not a sign of an Adder or a Grass Snake , even though the temperature was still around 16C . In the absence of Reptiles , I had to hope for other interests , and wasn't let down , when I found my old friend , the Common Awl Robberfly , taking breakfast on one of the corrugated iron tins . I am not certain , but it looked to me as if the Robberfly had his beak embedded in the back of his victim . After allowing a couple of shots , it flew off to continue it's meal in private .
Very little colour showing now amongst the grasses , which are also fading , but a couple of plants are still showing well . My first sighting this year of Devilsbit Scabious , and the diminutive Dwarf Thistle , which barely has a stem to support the flower .
Butterfly numbers have dropped dramatically with the onset of colder nights , in fact only 7 specimens from 4 species were recorded . A female Chalkhill Blue , in reasonable condition , was found , but no other of the species , so she could well have missed the boat . Small Coppers on the other hand , could go on to the end of October , given reasonable weather . The one I recorded on site was very fresh , but one I found later off site , was decidedly beyond it's sell by date . Also in the same category , was this Common Field Grasshopper , but it was still fit enough to spring out of sight before a second shot could be taken . Another Hornet was also seen .
Like everything else , birds were very few , but there was a singing Chiffchaff , a flock of about 6 Long Tailed Tits , and a very mobile flock of 10/15 , chattering Goldfinches . On the top of the slope , the only place out of the wind , sheltered by the woods behind , there were plenty of insects on the wing , and making the most of the opportunity were 3 Swallows and about 10 House Martins . I watched them for a while , then they carried on with their long journey , heading South . On the edge of the woods , amongst scrub , I found the berries of Deadly Nightshade-Atropa bella-donna . It is of course , these glossy black fruits that make this plant extremely poisonous . Heading back to the car , the roadside bank provided a splash of welcome colour in the form of Common Toadflax .
And finally , two from the garden , the first , a blast from the past . Some might remember presenting one of these at a Police Station , and getting 3d or 6d in exchange , but Carol found this Squirrel's tail down the garden this morning . We can only guess at who bit it off , the Fox that was lying in the sun the other evening ?
Secondly , I found this caterpillar , not far from where the tail was found . I don't have a reference book for moth caterpillars , which I think it is . A good colour likeness in the shot , and the pink line running the length on the back , is the prominent feature . Any ideas please ?
With many thanks to roger.wood800 , the mystery is solved . Roger has identified the caterpillar as that of the White Ermine-Spilosoma lubricipeda moth .
15 hours ago