Thursday, 18 December 2014

Moths Of Winter And A Day Of Laying Hedges

I've been suffering Moth Withdrawal Symptoms.

The last time the box went out (9th Dec), the temperature dropped to -1.8 and, although a Winter Moth bravely sat on the outside of the front door, in the morning there were no moths waiting for me in the box itself :-(

I thought perhaps the season had ended, because although there are moths flying every month of the year here in the UK, they are very thin on the ground (or in the air I suppose) in terms of numbers, and you don't always get them visiting light boxes. I was disappointed, because I hadn't yet seen a December Moth and they are one of my favourites. Chocolate coloured and very fluffy. We had them here last year on Dec 5th but I figured I'd just managed to miss them this year. 

Anyhoo, my week quietened down as of last night so I decided to try again. Poppy and I carefully put the box out (she is very helpful in these matters but does tend towards over-enthusiasm and an insistence on being very involved in everything, which can translate into me tripping over her) and lit the lamp just before nightfall. Within minutes it began to rain heavily. Oh well, I thought rather glumly, that's probably that. The temperature, however, remained high. My weather station cheerfully informed me when I checked this morning that far from dropping as the night wore on, the temperature actually increased from a low of 11.5 to a whopping 12.6 degrees :o)

And guess what I found when I went out at 6.30 with a head torch......? Only thirty of these.......









December Moths!


I couldn't believe it: they were everywhere. 25 were asleep on the gate/ fence/ plants/ wall, and the other 5 were in the box fluttering about banging into each other and waking up the other moths.

Other moths? I hear you cry. Surely not?!

Yes indeed. Not many it has to be said but there were four other species in the box which is a lot more than I was expecting.

There was a beautiful Mottled Umber whom we have all seen before because I posted his pic a couple of months back....


A gorgeous Red-Green Carpet....


And a Dark Chestnut and a small something (some kind of micro) who escaped before I got an ID.

Two of today's batch are new for the year, taking my 2014 moth species total up to 307, which is about 70 more than last year.

I also found a caterpillar wiggling about. Not sure who he is (a moth, obviously, but which one?). I'm waiting an ID confirmation....


So I'm a Happy Moth Bunny and it just goes to show that you shouldn't give up on things :o)

The other thing I wanted to tell you all about is the Hedge Laying practical we engaged ourselves with yesterday. I did it last year too and it has to be said we were a lot better at it second time round. It's an old countryside skill, making a living hedge out of pleaching and bending a line of trees and it really looks lovely when it's done well. The methods vary from county to county and we were following The National Hedgelaying Society's way of doing it (essentially this is to do with the way you fold the binders in at the top).

Initially, trees are planted in a line ready to be cut at a later date to create the hedge. The tree is cut almost but not quite right through with just enough connection left for it to remain alive.

The branches are then laid almost flat to the ground, one over the other as you can see in the right of the pic


6 foot Stakes are driven into the centre of the laid branches in a straight line at approx 18" apart, and banged into the ground with a mallet until they are secure





Binders (long whippy sections of hazel or ash) are sliced diagonally at one end using an axe to create point
Each binder is threaded into the hedge under the two previous binders and woven around each stake alternately (boy did we have fun trying to work that one out and make sure each binder had gone in correctly).
The external (and visible) sections of the hedge are then trimmed to neaten the appearance of it and any stray branches are woven in more securely.

When all the binders are in they are banged down to waist height and the tops of the stakes are trimmed



Finally, the tops of the stakes are cut to create a point
Once we'd finished I went off to admire the new Dormice boxes that one of the other classes have made and put up in the hazel trees. Nuts were discovered there this year that had been nibbled in such a way as to suggest that we have Dormice living in the woods, so the boxes are there to encourage them. Dormice cut hazelnuts in a very particular way and, because they are so timid and are therefore rarely seen, these are often the best evidence that they are present. You should keep an eye out for a precise, circular hole, 5-8mm across with a smooth rim and faint diagonal tooth marks round the edges. Wood mice and bank voles make similar holes but they aren't as precise and don't often have such a smooth rim and the tooth marks are usually perpendicular to the egde. 

Dormouse Box
Dormice are a very heavily protected species. You need a license to both survey and handle them and it is illegal to disturb them, kill them, remove them from the wild or to affect their habitat. I shall be keeping an eye open for them next year when I do my butterfly surveys in the wood.

Hazel catkins

After all our hard work we celebrated the end of term with a bbq in the woods and ate sausages, cake and mincepies (I made the cakes and pies).

Uncle Dave manning the sausages :o)


You can't beat a Victoria Sponge

The mincepies are tasting reassuringly alcoholic now they've been around for a few days


Cal kept a close eye on the cake....

George had bought marshmallows which were toasted over the fire and Fi won the competition for the best marshmallow toaster.









It was a cracking day and a lovely end to the term. I am now on Christmas Mode gearing up for the festive season and looking forward to some time off. How about you?


I'll leave you with a pic of the Doggy Folk, who are getting very excited indeed about opening their presents (really? says M sceptically). I have got them each a squeaky toy and Pop also has a ball because they are her favorite things in the whole wide world and L won't let her play with the one she really likes because it's a cricket ball granny bought him and he's worried it'll get ruined. She is in need of a bath as she managed to roll in Fox Poo while out on our walk this morning and is now very stinky indeed (revolting child), and equally determined to go to sleep on my lap, so her bath is my next job. Then I am going to sit down with a bowl of chicken soup and catch up with what you've all been up to. 




Hope all are well?

CT :o)

24 comments:

  1. Now that hedge is really something else. I have never seen this done, and I am simply amazed at how efficient and wonderful it looks. WOW, I think we could do that. Always nice to lay out the food and toast marsh-mellows after all that work. Very interesting post. Thank you for all your hard work.

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    1. Do they not do them in Canada? You could start a trend... :o)

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  2. That is a work of art, that fence and well worth the hard work that goes into it but with all those sausages and goodies, who would not work hard. Love all the Moths shots. you have been very busy

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    1. We were soooo chuffed with it, it looked really beautiful :o)

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  3. It's good to see the countryside skills being taught. I see so many field hedges that are hollow underneath and sheepwire fitted to try to make them stockproof. Great pics CT.

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    1. They look so much nicer made from living wood, but it is time consuming and therefore expensive so I can understand why they're not common these days. We did fill the base of the hedge with left over brash, which is probably not technically correct, but on the hand it was better than burning it and it did fill in the few lamb-sized gaps that were there. The sheep are going in there in a few weeks so we'll see how well it holds together! :o)

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  4. Brilliant post as usual. Love the first moth, he looks like he's a bit of fur from an old vintage fur coat, and the green one is amazing.
    Who is the girl in the pink hat, she looks a bit menacing with that axe. lol
    Briony
    x

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    1. Thanks, Bri :o) The December moths are some of my absolute favourites- very compact, very furry and very rich chocolatey colour. Sash is in the pink hat :o) xx

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  5. Great to see that old skills are still being taught CT, and that cake looked deliciously eatable

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  6. I can see why the December moth is a favourite. He looks like he has a fur shrug on, and what a lovely furry face he has. When you look at mother nature and all her wondrous creatures, you can see where designers and artists draw their inspiration from. The green moth could be wearing a Missoni cape.

    Jean
    x

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    1. You are so right Jean. Nature has so many wonderful rich colours and textures to draw inspiration from. I often wish I could find a fabric the colour of certain flowers, or butterflies or moths xx

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  7. It is great to see that the moths have been visiting you again, they are still flying around obviously! A fantastic total for the year too. I know that it has been a lot of work putting the box out and monitoring and cataloguing them all, so I think you have done a wonderful job on all of this and of course it has been fascinating to see the photos of them!!

    The hedge is a triumph too, you can enter hedge laying competitions now! The camp meal must have been wonderful after all that hard work, what could be better than sausages and cake topped off with mince pies and marshmallows!! Fantastic.

    Oh, I am sure that T & P are very excited about Christmas and are definitely hoping that father Christmas will bring them some lovely new toys to play with!!

    Happy Christmas! xx

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    1. You say the loveliest things my friend, thank you :o)

      T and P will love their presents- I expect Pop will open them while Teddy watches patiently. I made pompoms yesterday and L gave his to T to look after for him so Pop couldn't get it. Teddy went to sleep with it tucked under his head, bless him, and it stayed un-poppied :o)

      A very happy Christmas to you too xx

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  8. What a wonderful seasonal treat this blog post is!
    So much activity - and not too Christmassy!
    I particularly like that green carpet moth...

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    1. Thanks very much ;o) Glad you enjoyed it x

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  9. Wow - a December Moth bonanza!! I guess it must have been the rise in temps which got them on the wing? Good about the others too and that Red Green Carpet moth is something else.

    Well done with your fencing - is that what I think of (know of?) as a stake and bound fence? Here we have regional variations of them depending on which county you are from - they do them differently in Breconshire than in Carms. Sounds like you had a great day anyway, and happy Dormouse hunting next year.

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    1. I think so re temps- rain doesn't seem to bother moths as much, interestingly.

      Haven't heard that regional hedge name but suspect it is the same- they were used all over the UK where stone wasn't available before wire etc became widespread. They look so much nicer!

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  10. Well done on the December Moths - worth putting the trap out!! :) I don't think I've ever bothered here in December but obviously its worth a rethink!!

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    1. While this mild weather lasts it's def worth having a go to see what you get :o)

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  11. 30? Good grief! They look like fun fluffy moths. Great to have some bug life around isn't it? :-) The hedge laying looked like a fun time was had by all and great to see young people learning the ancient skills too. Cake, mince pies, toasted marshmallows and barbied sausages look good too. :-)

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    1. I know! I was astonished to see so many. Last year there was only one! xx

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  12. Those December Moths are beauties!

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    1. They are fab aren't they? Hope all's well with you Casey. Best wishes for the festive season.

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x