First swallows!

Irene and family reported seeing swallows flying over the river Inny and at Trekenner yesterday on April 5th. And later they walked down the fields along the river and saw two fieldfare and flowering wood anemones, marsh marigolds, swathes of daffodils and large patches of violets. Sheltered and balmy right down by the river where they saw a pair of mallards.

Who will be the first to see and hear the……..?

~ swallows & martins, even a cuckoo.   In the few days since we received our April newsletter, several more firsts have been recorded. The chiffchaffs are well and truly settled; blackcaps are singing but as far as I know, no one has yet seen a house martin or swallow. Possible cuckoo calls heard on the moor near Bearah Tor & Stowes Hill but moving on so not settled. Wheatear are spreading down off the moor; grey wagtails are moving to their breeding territories. Most of the bumble-bees and other mining and flower bees are being seen, as well as oil beetles and bee-flies. Spring butterflies, even a large white have been recorded in the last week or so and the primroses and blackthorn blossom is the best ever!   So, despite the cold winds and mention of wintry showers, birds are nesting so I think spring has arrived…. enjoy.

Beavers on the Otter in Devon.

For anyone who is interested in beavers, Devon Wildlife Trust hosted an excellent presentation about the beavers on the river Otter and the possibility of introducing them to the Culm which can be viewed from this link:

This years Big Garden Birdwatch is from 29th to 31st January

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Apparently this is the world’s largest wildlife survey. Quite a few of our wildlife group take part each year but anyone can join in.

Basically, you spend an hour looking at the birds in your garden or local park. You can wrap up well and go outside (take a hot drink!) or stay in the warm and look through the window. it helps to have bird feeders to attract more birds but many birds will be looking for natural food on the ground or in the bushes. You count the maximum number seen at any one time rather than totalling up everything seen in the hour otherwise you may count some birds twice. And they need to be actually in your garden or on the boundary rather than flying over.

The best times seem to be in the first part of the morning and then early to mid afternoon.

Follow this link to find out more:

Do let us know how you get on and which birds you saw.


The Nature Recovery Plan for Cornwall is really important!

This is a reminder to have your say about the Nature Recovery Plan for Cornwall, one of five areas in England chosen to trial this plan. Click on the link below to read the details but the important part is the survey where you can select your priorities and place a ‘pin’ on the county map for your area of concern. You will need to register but only minimal details required.

There are 10 questions which will require some thought and a chance to add comments.

If you really care about the natural environment, prove it to the county and fill this survey in before the survey ends on 31st January 2021!

Thank you.                                                                                           

New Year Flower Hunt

Each year the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland organises a New Year Plant Hunt between the 1st and the 4th of January. Just search for BSBI New Year Plant Hunt to find out more. Inevitably, the coastal areas do best because of the warmer climates but Gill and Katy from our group set off along their local patch near the north coast and found at least fourteen as follows: Dandelion, Dog Violet, Primrose, Alexanders, Ox-eye Daisy, Hawkweed(?), Barren Strawberry, Daisy, Red Valerian, Herb Robert, Sow Thistle, Hogweed, and Gorse. Sweet violets are in flower in her village but that’s fine because garden escapes count as do tree and shrub flowers like Hazel but they need to be in flower.

Red Valerian.

Can anyone add to this list? If so, please let us know. You can add your records straight onto the BSBI website or use their app.

Armstrong’s Wood Boxes Update: 30/12/2020

The Autumn inspection on 11th. October was a quiet affair with just me and Coral Edgumbe (social-distanced by a 10ft. Ladder – she was at the front and I brought up the rear!) looking at all the bat boxes, while Simon and Rosie Richardson went off on their own to do the Dormouse boxes.

We replaced a couple of the wooden boxes, and found just one Noctule and one Brown Long-eared bats in the others. In the six hanging boxes there were 6, 3, and 2 Soprano Pips. And one Soprano Pip in one of the chainsaw slabs.

But in the beginning of November I had an email from Gemma Crow, the CWT Reserves Warden letting me know that she had received a message to say that one of my boxes had fallen down. When I went to investigate I found that the last box I had hung up in the last tree on the top ride had come down, fairly soon after I had hung it up in the October visit. I couldn’t tell whether it was squirrel damage or just some rotten courlene rope I had used. Anyway, I took the chance to separate this box, AWD, from the nearby one which has had the breeding colonies in. So I “lynched” it over a bough on another Oak tree about 50m further east along that top ride. While I was at it, I looked at the other boxes from the ground. The only other bats were 2 unidentified in one of the chain-saw slabs and one Soprano Pip in another. None in the hanging boxes.

Finally, yesterday, 30th. Dec.,  Nic Harrison-White and I visited and took a ladder to hang AWD from a stronger strop (I’ve tried wire this time) and take down the “lynching“ rope. One of the hanging boxes above the leat had a single unidentified bat, and one of the chain-saw slabs had a single Soprano Pip and the hanging box in the corner of the second field, AWE had a single Soprano Pip.

So bats are still happy to hang around in these insulated boxes during the depths of winter. But, alarmingly, one of the chain-saw slabs had a Woodpecker shaped hole drilled in it just about where a bat would be inside! So any replacements for these are going to need some exterior protection from birds.


I’ve several times had some of these insulated boxes hanging in my barn at home, where I often get a Long-eared night roosting.  But only once did I ever see a day roosting bat in any of them. But it seemed pointless keeping them at home, so back in October I hung one in some woods on the Coldrenick Estate, just north of the A38 about midway between Trerulefoot and Liskeard. It will be interesting to see what this one attracts.

Moths in December from Mary Atkinson

The Gem moth, female.

Part of the unsettled weather we are having at present is giving us pulses of warm air coming up from the south, bringing some migrants, particularly to the southern part of Cornwall. Apart from the usual trickle of Rusty-dot pearls and Dark Swordgrass, there’s always a chance of less usual species, for example the Gem which will come to light. Widespread on the continent, it is a great wanderer. The sexes are dimorphic as shown in the pictures.

Gem moth, male.
Dark Chestnut.

Dark Chestnut, less common than the Chestnut, this richly coloured moth, aptly described by its name, can be seen at light or often feeding on late ivy flowers. Different clumps of ivy open at different times in the autumn, thus giving an extended season when insects are able to nectar on this valuable food source.

The Dark Chestnut is single-brooded, appearing from November to February, and can be differentiated from the Chestnut because the tips of the fore-wing are pointed or even slightly hooked. See pictures. Care is needed however,  because worn specimens may well have this feature abraded and less obvious. The leading edge of the Chestnut wing is rather fuller and slightly rounded. Practice helps.


The books say that the Dark Chestnut can be commoner than the Chestnut but I don’t find that is the case here in east Cornwall, although both species are increasing their distribution throughout the UK. Bear in mind that increased moth trapping even through the winter months when these moths fly, may have some effect on the numbers of records collected.