Monday, 13 December 2010


We had lying snow for around 10 days and I saw no moths during that time: earlier species would have died off, and new specimens would be staying underground until the snow went away. Sure enough, the same day the snow thawed, I found two specimens of the December moth:

Male December Moth

These feed on broad-leaf trees as larvae, and adults can be found from October to January; their eggs staying dormant until the trees have leaves in April or May.

Note the very feathered antennae. These perform a very similar function to the gills on the underside of mushrooms. Feathered antennae are more sensitive, making it easier to find the female, thereby increasing the chances of reproduction. Mushroom gills increase the surface area for spore production, making more spores available and again increasing the chances of reproduction.

As I was taking the shots of the male above, I spotted a minute (3mm) Springtail on the wall just below it:

It looks to be the same species as the one I showed on a mushroom earlier in the year.

A trip to the frozen high area yielded very little. I did see the empty seedpods of Yellow Rattle:

Empty seedpods of Yellow Rattle

And this frozen puddle on the path had an entertaining spiral pattern:

Ice spiral on frozen puddle
I just realised that the images for today are all virtually monochrome.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Background research

At this time of year I tend to do a lot of background research, since most of our wildlife is under the snow hibernating. During the summer, I bought a copy of "A Practical Guide to Nature Study" by J.H.Crabtree. It was published in 1924, so the material is at least 90 years old. The book deals with tools and techniques that assist with the task of studying our wildlife, and much of it is still relevant today. Having said that, as a keen photographer (he wrote books on photography, too), I'm sure he'd be astonished with our progress from film to digital.

J.H. shares his wealth of experience in collection, preservation and examination of plants, fungi and insects as you might expect, but his narrative is also peppered with references to the contemporary lack of education and awareness of the wildlife around us. He seems surprised that even in the early 20th century most school pupils couldn't identify many of our most common birds, trees or flowers. Given that I recently showed a photograph of a Bullfinch to a class of 11 year olds and was given a universal reply of 'Robin', I'm not sure that we've made a lot of progress.