Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The big avian news of the day is only the seventh record for Bardsey. But as it was a Coot there is little else to say. We couldn't even string it as a yank. Much more impressive is the Turtle Dove at Nant which is present for its fourth day. Rare in Wales, Turtle Dove isn't too far off being a description species. Otherwise it's a rather quiet day with a few Lesser Redpoll and Goldfinch starting to move again and a reasonable passage of Swallows and House Martins.

Buffeted by the continuing strong winds, the Turtle Dove seems happy to stay low among the ruts in the old cow field. (c) Richard Brown

Now that the trees are all in leaf, Willows in particular are dripping with the silken tent nests of Lackey Moth caterpillars. While Lackey Moths are common across Southern Britain and Central Europe, they've only recently managed to form a stronghold on Bardsey. In 2006 there were only three adult Lackey Moths, all recorded in July, and they had not been noted for seven years previous to that. The first silk tent was found in Nant Withy in 1995. Since their single figure, erratic, occurrences in the late 90's, it seems the small arrival in 2006 was enough to form a colony on Bardsey and several tents were recorded in 2007. I (Giselle) did a count of the silk tents in the Obs Garden yesterday. There are at least 40 nests (that I can see from my height of 5'2) and double figure counts are also present in the Withies and in several of the gardens on the island.

These silken tents are woven by the caterpillars and are used to regulate their temperature, acting as a sort of sleeping bag for them to nestle into on cold days. On warm days they can be seen on top of their tents, basking in the sunshine. (c) Giselle Eagle

Lackey Moths themselves are dull and brown, but the caterpillars make up for this dullness with their fantastic array of blue, yellow and orange stripes. Their retro stripes are an obvious defence mechanism against the hungry passerines. They also have a fake face and have a tendency to wave around when disturbed, both of which must also go some way to deterring predators. It's not always a success, however, as the Golden Oriole was witnessed eating several of this species as it toured the Obs garden at the end of last week. (c) Richard Brown

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