A Trail Of Destruction

It's coming up the hibernation season for hedgehogs and plenty of warnings are going out about the dangers of strimming in gardens, and to check or rebuild bonfires before lighting them. These are very very important. But today I witnessed another massive danger. The council have been out 'cleaning up' the verges. They did this in May as well, when all the birds were in mid nesting season. The cleaning up involved a large tractor with a very powerful cutter that was put on the ground and cut everything in its way. It was then moved up higher to cut back the trees as well.



As you can see this has ripped out quite a large amount of cover and would have destroyed any small mammals or amphibians in its path. Surely this practice must be stopped or at least they find a better way of doing it.

I'm now holding my breath hoping all the hogs turn up tonight unharmed.



The Filming Commences

Everything has got very exciting here. A tweet, a response, an email, a phone call and suddenly a BBC producer is on the way. The next day a Wildlife cameraman is camped in my garden with so much kit it is unbelievable!

BBC Autumnwatch have been here doing a piece on all the hedgehogs that visit the garden. They wanted to film the hogs in the garden and then do a piece with me (must admit I’m feeling a bit nervous about that bit!). They have collected some of my footage that I have caught over the year but also wanted their own better quality stuff.

They sent the fantastic Hector Skevington to do the filming. He spent a total of 5 nights here filming. What a lot of amazing kit he brought, infra-red lights, an infra-red converted Canon 5D, IR video cameras and some awesome lenses.

Infra-red lighting rig set-up









On the Friday we had 2 cameramen. Hector brought Joe Charlesworth with him. Joe is the remote camera specialist on Autumn/Springwatch. Joe set-up a remote controlled camera in one part of the garden and operated it from the car. He was able to pan, tilt and zoom and got some amazing footage.

Joe in command of USS Enterprise (his car)







The Cannonball camera remotely operated from the car








An iPhone pic of the on screen hedgehog






The other purpose of that night was to try and get the hedgehogs in colour. They rigged up approx 2000 watts of lighting by the pond. The garden looked like a Fairy Grotto! I had my doubts that the hedgehogs would show, but they tried anyway









All Hector had to do then was wait and hope








At about 11.30pm, his patience paid off and a hog duly appeared! He got the shot!

There was also a cable cam at the bottom of the garden to get a shot of the hogs moving through the garden. This was controlled via some more remote kit







Hector checking it’s working









After 5 days of filming and hopefully some amazing footage it was time to pack it all up and leave.









Hector was pleased it all fitted!







I’m sorry to see him go. He was great and it was really interesting to see how it was all done. He shot loads of footage, I feel sorry for the editors who now have to cut it down! The plan is to have a 5 minute segment. It’s incredible how much time and effort is taken into putting together a piece that long.

Thankfully the weather held for most of the shooting and the hedgehogs were very obliging and showed up every night on cue, even with all the goings on in the garden. I can’t wait to see what it looks like on the big TV screen when it’s finished.

Next up, my turn! A camera crew is coming this weekend to do my bits and I get to meet Martin Hughes-Games!

More Hedgehog Going Ons

Here’s a few videos of the hedgehogs from the last couple of nights. Numbers are still high as the are eating loads before hibernation.

3 Hogs turned up at once the other night. A little bit of argy bargy ensued

This is taken from my cams whilst the lighting rig was set up (more on this later….)
The wood mouse got in on the act too. As soon as the lights went they were straight back out!

Lots more on the hogs to follow……

Coal Tit

I've been trying to get photos of the Coal Tit in the garden, but it never stays still long enough for get a decent shot. I decided to give the Trap Focus function a try. I set the camera up on a tripod and focused on a point where it comes to feed, then when something comes into focus the camera takes a shot. You then just have to wait!

It came out quite well, going to try it again on other subjects.

The Spectacle Moth

Here’s the first of the amazing moths that I have caught in the moth trap. The Spectacle Moth is an amazing looking moth. Superb markings and a really funky flattop haircut. It is called the Spectacle because when you look at it head on it looks like it is wearing specs!

Spectacle Moth
Spectacle Moth
Spectacle Moth
Spectacle Moth

And here’s the Specs

Spectacle Moth - Face

Moths, Moths And More Moths

The DIY moth trap has been running most nights over the last moth so I thought I ought to show some of the variety I have caught (and eventually ID’d!)

This one is a Vestal. It is an uncommon migrant to the area and amazingly the County Recorder contacted me about it (I had put it on iSpot) as he wanted to include it in the monthly newsletter. Not bad for my first month!

Buff-tip – looks just like a twig

Magpie Moth
Magpie Moth

The rather large Elephant Hawkmoth
Elephant Hawkmoth
Elephant Hawkmoth

Buff Arches
Buff Arches

A Willow Beauty
Willow Beauty

Pebble Hook-tip
Pebble Hook-tip

Fan-foot – the legs look like they had those cowboy trousers on

Marbled Beauty
Marbled Beauty

Copper Underwing – lovely patterns
Copper Underwing

Brimstone Moth – we had loads of these
Brimstone Moth

Ruby Tiger – very well named
Ruby Tiger
Ruby Tiger Flying

Nut-tree Tussock
Nut-tree Tussock
Nut-tree Tussock

Iron Prominent – the name makes me think of Brunel and the Industrial Revolution!
Iron Prominent

An Old Lady – no… not my Mum!
Old Lady

Small Phoenix
Small Phoenix

A Flounced Rustic
Flounced Rustic

Square-spot Rustic
Square-spot Rustic

The amazing Black Arches – one of my favourites
Black Arches
Black Arches
Black Arches

Rosy Rustic
Rosy Rustic

Light Emerald
Light Emerald

The aptly named Silver Y

Silver Y

I love the diversity of the moths, so many shapes, colours and sizes. The names are also pretty superb, harking back to a bygone era. I have some more moths to show but I think this is enough for now and some of them deserve there own post.

DIY Moth Trap

I’ve become slightly obsessed with moths recently. I’ve tinkered over the last few years with a homemade moth trap but wasn’t having much success so I decided to try and refine it.

I found a plastic bucket in the local bits and bobs shop that seem the right size. I cut out a hole in the middle of it to allow the moths in. This would also have made it easy for rain to fall in so I added a piece of old tube I had laying around and siliconed it in place.
Take One Bucket

As we are in quite a built up area I decided to try a blacklight which I suspended from the handle

Add Blacklight

I also added a normal bulb to see how bright I could get away with. I’ve also filled it with egg boxes for the moths to settle in

Dual Lighting

The handle was a bit unstable so the lights now attached by some clip-on lightbulb holders


The moths weren’t staying so I painted the bucket black to try and help them settle. This seems to have helped retention quite a lot. I’ve also added a rain guard made from an old bird feeder tray to stop the bulb getting wet in the lovely Welsh weather. As I didn’t get any complaints I’m now trialling a new light. It is a 100w reptile light, it gives out a lot of UV. Results seem pretty good.

Rainguard And New Light

It’s quite bright so I have to position it carefully so the light doesn’t fall on neighbouring houses


It seems to work really well and I’ve caught some amazing moths (which I will post later).
Easy to make and cheap! Well worth a try.


Some Late Fledglings

Even though it’s September we have had some new fledglings in the garden this week. A small group of 3 Goldfinch fledglings turned up with their mum and dad. It always surprises me how late Goldfinches have young. I was lucky enough to capture some of the begging and feeding behaviour against a backdrop of blue skies (even more of a rarity this year!).



Garden Bioblitz 2012 – Part 2

Everything has now been ID’d, entered and recorded! I’m really pleased with what I found and the end total was 172 species. I’m amazed what I was able to find and how much there is when you start to look. This was my first attempt at it and now I’m looking even closer all the time, wondering what every little thing is. Before I would have ignored them. Massive thanks goes to the organisers of the event, and all the lovely people on Twitter and iSpot that have helped with identification. I have so much to learn about all the insects groups, but it’s fun discovering a whole new world, I’ve caught ‘the bug’ (sorry, couldn’t resist!). Everyone should give it a go, I’m looking forward to next years event.

Here’s a link to the species recorded in the 24 hours – Species List

You can read Part 1 of the blog here – Part 1

Here are some of the highlights –

A Harlequin ladybird larva being parasitised by a Phorid Fly
Harlequin Ladybird, being parasitised by Phorid Fly

A leaf cutter bee flying a leaf to one of the bee tubes
Leaf Cutter Bee

Another type of leaf cutter bee cutting a leaf. It turns out that the colour of the hairs on it’s bum differentiates the two types!
Leafcutter Bee

Beech woodwort fungus on one of our logs
Beech Woodwort

Bumblebee on Buddleia
Bumble Bee

An amazing Garden Spider
Garden Spider

A honeybee flying to lavender. You can see the pollen baskets on it’s legs
Honeybee in Flight

A Small Fly, amazing patterns on it’s wings
Geomysa tripunctata

A small Bacchini Species

I didn’t have to hunt for this awesome Swallow Tailed Moth, it turned up on the windowsill!
Swallow Tailed Moth

The ubiquitous Dandelion picture

I thought this would be easy to ID but apparently there are 2400 species of Ichneumons!

Cecil the Hedgehog put in an appearance after dark
Cecil The Hedgehog

The foxes came overnight and I got them on the trail cam

This bee has some amazing pollen baskets
Pollen Baskets

Green Lacewing
Green Lacewing

This tadpole is developing nicely into a frog

A very tiny Varied Carpet Beetle crawling over a flower
Varied Carpet Beetle

Fly close up

Curled up in the leaf of a Hazel was this Pine Ladybird
Pine Ladybird

A Harlequin pupa, looks like something out of Alien
Harlequin Pupa

A Robber Fly had caught some prey
Robber Fly with Prey

Pond dipping turned up this Cased Caddis Fly Larva
Cased Caddis Fly Larva

A Large Red Dragonfly Nymph
Large Red Damselfly Nymph

A tiny Water Beetle
Water Beetle

This is called a Snail Eating Fly!
Snail Eating Fly

One of many Weevils I found

A humongous Crane Fly. No wonder it’s called Tipula maxima
Tipula maxima

Lichen on a twig

And finally my little helper, who followed me round all day (getting in the way of course) – Doggus Painius, otherwise known as Button
Doggus Painius

You can view all the pics I’ve uploaded here – Photos

Having done this project has got me intrigued as to what else is using the garden, which leads me to an extension of the scope of my patch. I have focused on the big stuff – birds, mammals, butterflies etc, but there is so much more out there to be found. I am going to start recording, surveying and monitoring everything that uses the garden. This is a large project and is going to take years, but should be interesting to see what there is, how it changes through the seasons and over the years. The website will need some new pages! I can’t wait to see what I discover and learn (there is a lot to learn!). You never know I might get quite good at this IDing lark. Please feel free to check back to the blog regularly to follow me on my exploration and journey into this world of the unknown.