ROSY FOOTMAN: A MOTH, NOT A FLORID FLUNKEY


Rosy Footman Moth, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

Until last weekend I’d never heard of, let alone seen, a ROSY FOOTMAN. I’m beginning to discover and enjoy the ornate to downright bizarre names that moths tend to be given. They have this in common with fly-fishing flies – the previous day I had caught a plump wild brown trout on the River Frome with a ‘Tups Indispensable’*.

Rosy Footman Moth, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

High on an inside wall above a mirror, I saw a small pink item. On closer inspection, I could tell it was a moth, and one I had never seen before. I had to fetch a small stepladder to inspect it and (with some difficulty) to photograph it, . Meet a Rosy Footman.

Rosy Footman Moth, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

The Rosy Footman is apparently a moth of southern England, in particular the southern-most counties from Kent to Cornwall. They fly in July and August. With such very particular markings, they are unmistakeable, but clearly I’d failed to notice one ever before… I’m glad I have now.

Rosy Footman Moth, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

* For those concerned about these things, I use barbless hooks. I netted the fish, unhooked it still in the water and released it in about 30 seconds to fight another day. Or preferably to produce more wild stock.

HYBRID BIRDS OF PREY IN IRELAND: A GYRFALCON / SAKER FALCON CROSS


Gyrfalcon / Saker Falcon cross / hybrid, Russborough, Co. Wexford

During a recent short trip to Dublin, we hired a car for a day to explore the Wicklow Mountains and to visit Russborough House in Co. Wicklow. This wonderful country estate has a fabulous collection of paintings and furniture – and has been the location for some spectacular burglaries. One was by Bridget Rose Dugdale, for example, for those with long memories. It is also home to the National Birds of Prey Centre of Ireland, which we had time to visit briefly.

Gyrfalcon / Saker Falcon cross / hybrid, Russborough, Co. Wexford

I took some photos of several uncaged birds that were tethered out in the open. Many were, or at least looked, familiar. They were unlabelled and when I came to check IDs later, including on the centre’s website, some of them didn’t add up. Eye-colours were wrong. Facial and frontal markings were unusual. And so on.

Gyrfalcon / Saker Falcon cross / hybrid, Russborough, Co. Wexford

I emailed some low-res imaged to the centre, and they quickly explained the reason: we had been looking at hybrids. This post shows one example, a juvenile female gyrfalcon crossed with a saker falcon. Here are wiki pics of each of the pure-bred birds.

GyrfalconGyrfalcon / Saker Falcon WikiSaker Falcon Gyrfalcon / Saker Falcon wiki

So now I realise that there’s a whole extra angle to bird of prey ID that I had never before considered…Gyrfalcon / Saker Falcon cross / hybrid, Russborough, Co. Wexford

 

 

 

PALE TUSSOCK MOTH, DORSET


Pale Tussock Moth, Dorset (Rolling Harbour)

Until a few days ago, I’m not sure I’d ever before seen a pale tussock moth Calliteara pudibunda that was on a wall inside our house. I took it outside and put it gently onto an old garden bench. 10 minutes later it was gone. As is so often the case I only had an iPhone with me at the time, so the photo above is a bit rough and ready. On the other hand, you get a good idea of the subtle and pretty colouring and marking of this moth – and as you see, it was intriguingly furry, with spotted legs.

I flicked through a couple of slightly basic butterfly / moth books we have, but could find nothing like this creature. So I checked out the FB page of UK MOTHS to find a match. Sure enough, others had queried the ID of this species so I discovered the name easily enough. I don’t think it is particularly rare. There were also plenty of other fascinating and indeed extraordinary-looking moths that are apparently quite common in the UK. A FB page that’s well worth taking a look at.

The pale tussock is a moth of spring / early summer, and its appearance seems to be distinctive enough to avoid confusion with other moth species. The other feature, only deployed once I’d got it outside the house, are its feathery antennae (below).Pale Tussock Moth, Dorset (Rolling Harbour)

To make up for my rather poor photos, here is a really good one to make up for it, showing a pale tussock in all its glory…

Pale Tussock Moth (Kurt Kulac - wiki) Photo credit: Kurt Kulac / Wiki

BLUE TIT BREEDING SUCCESS IN A LONDON GARDEN… AT LAST


Blue Tit - Terracotta Bird Ball - Nest

About 10 years ago I was given a terracotta ‘bird ball’ as a birthday present. Over the years it has been hung in several shady positions around the garden. We have seen blue tits give is a cursory once-over in April. It’s been ‘perch on the top, head through the door, quick discussion, fly off never to return’. This year it was different: late April interest and preliminary inspections, followed by moving in, furnishing, egg-laying, incubating, hatching, frantic activity, tiny squeaks and cheeps… then we went away for four days. Bad timing – we had missed the main event. 

The nest is now empty, the occupants all flown. With some difficulty, I managed to get a shot of the little nest made of dry grass and moss. The birds left the nest very tidy, with just a single tiny thank-you feather left behind… 

Blue Tit - Terracotta Bird Ball - NestBlue Tit - Terracotta Bird Ball - NestBlue Tit - Terracotta Bird Ball - NestBlue Tit - Terracotta Bird Ball - NestBlue Tit - Terracotta Bird Ball - Nest

TULIPS AT FORDE ABBEY, DORSET


Forde Abbey, Dorset

Forde Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery dating from the c12. Grade 1 listed, it is now privately owned. The gardens and parts of the house are open to the public, and in Michelin guide speak Forde undoubtedly Mérite le détour and is Vaut le Voyage. In spring, the gardens are filled with thousands of tulips. Here is a small collection.

Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips

DANEBURY TRIG POINT S1695, HAMPSHIRE


Danebury (or ‘Danebury Rings’) is an Iron Age hill fort in Hampshire. The hill is 143 m (469 ft) in height, not spectacular in itself but its prominence in the landscape gives clear, distant views in all directions over the county and beyond. The fort itself covers around 12 acres, and was extensively excavated in the 1970s. The evidence suggests it was built in the c6 BC, and was used for some 500 years. 

Danebury Trig Point S1695

We hadn’t walked on Danebury for many years, though we drive past it frequently. When we set off for a walk there, I didn’t even know about the trig point – though the location makes perfect sense for one. I had no camera with me, just an iPhone. On a chilly, cloudy May day, these photos will at least give some idea of the extensive views from the Trig Point across the patchwork of fields. Next time, we’ll choose a clear sunny day for a walk there…

Danebury Trig Point S1695Danebury Trig Point S1695Danebury Trig Point S1695Danebury Trig Point S1695Danebury Trig Point S1695Danebury Trig Point S1695 - the plate

CLOSWORTH CHURCH, SOMERSET: A TOMB & A SUNDIAL


Closworth, a small village on the Somerset / Dorset border, has a fine church with c13 origins. The village itself is best known for its historical importance as a bell-foundry between the c16 and c18, originating with the Purdue family. Few traces of the foundry remain, but some notable bells survive from its earliest days, for example in Wells Cathedral.

A quick visit to the church revealed two items of interest for this blog: a fine early c17 tomb; and an agreeable but gnomon-less sundial of uncertain date.

TOMB OF WILLIAM COLLINS, 1609

HERE . LYETH . THE . BODIE .
OF . WILLIAM . COLLINS . THE .
SONNE . OF . ELLIS . COLLINS . WHO
DIED . THE . XXIX . OF . IAN
ANO . DOMI . 1609

The inscription on this lichened hamstone tomb is in leaded letters set into the stone and fixed. Not all have survived the intervening centuries. I have no idea how this was achieved, but presumably the lettering was first cut into the stone; and with the stone on a horizontal surface the lead was then added to fit the incisions, and pinned in place. The result is pleasingly rustic, with some ornamentation of the As and Hs. This type of inscription-work may not be particularly unusual, but seeing this ancient tomb dappled by sunlight on a spring day made it seem special. And I always enjoy ornamental dates.

Tomb 1609. All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Tomb 1609. All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Tomb 1609. All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset

 

SUNDIAL: ALL SANTS CHURCH, CLOSWORTH

We didn’t notice the sundial on the way into the churchyard. Our attention had been drawn to a tall memorial to the other side of the path. On the way out, it was of course obvious – as was the lack of a gnomon. Like the tomb and the gateposts, the pillar appears to be made from the local hamstone. There isn’t much information to be gleaned from the dial itself. There’s no maker’s mark (though sometimes those are hidden on the underside of the plate). At a guess, it is c19, but any comments would be welcome.

Sundial, All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Sundial, All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Sundial, All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Sundial, All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset

DOG FOX IN THE CITY – RUS IN URBE


Dog Fox in the City: West London

In the leafy inner ‘burbs of the big city, fewer than 5 miles from Hyde Park Corner, foxes are now commonplace. No longer are they lone scavengers skulking down the road at dawn and dusk and lying low during the day. Now they treat gardens as their own, fences as their walkways, and flowerbeds as their… well, let’s not go there. 

Dog Fox in the City: West London

We generally see foxes several times a week, singly or a pair sauntering down the street, in transit along the fences, or resting in the sun at the end of our garden.

Dog Fox in the City: West London

They are not particularly bothered by us unless we make a noise. At this time of year, their nocturnal yowling can be astonishingly loud – a reminder that these are wild creatures that have made themselves at home in the city – and indeed in our garden – for their mating rituals.

Dog Fox in the City: West London

We were abroad for a couple of weeks last month. The day we got back, this fine fox was in our garden. These photos were all taken through the kitchen window. The fox knew perfectly well that I was there, but I couldn’t risk the noise of opening the French windows into the garden for a clear shot. 

Dog Fox in the City: West London

While we were away, a child from a neighbouring garden must have thrown or hit a ball over the fence. The fox had it by him. I watched for at least 20 minutes as he played with it, patted it, chewed it, chucked it in the air, and rolled over on his back pushing it through the grass with his nose with all 4 legs in the air. He behaved in fact just like a dog. A dog fox.

Dog Fox in the City: West London

By coincidence, an article about urban foxes (and fox merchandise) was published in the Guardian online yesterday. It’s a good read, and contains the fact – which I did not know – that foxes are one of the few species that will hold eye contact with a human. You can read the article HERE.

Dog Fox in the City: West London

POCHARD ON RADIPOLE LAKE, DORSET


Pochard, Radipole Lake, Dorset

A flash of sunlight across the lake, and suddenly assorted wildfowl emerged from the half-gloom and showed their true colours. This pochard was closest so I seized the moment…

Pochard, Radipole Lake, DorsetPochard, Radipole Lake, Dorset Pochard, Radipole Lake, DorsetPochard, Radipole Lake, Dorset

MEA MAXIMA CULPA

My attention levels to this blog have dropped from the insouciant to the negligent, and right down to the culpably neglectful. A prosecution for recklessly wasting precious space in the diminishing capacity of world’s supply of ether must surely be close. I have considered closing it down, but somewhere in the mix there are a few things that people obviously find interesting or useful; things I have researched and photographed in detail. Followers may be comparatively few, but the daily hit tally remain surprisingly high – whether I post anything or not. So for now, I’ll keep this running… But there’s only so much time in the day, and this blog is one project that takes a hit.

A DORSET SHEPHERD’S HUT: A LITTLE PIECE OF HISTORY


shepherds-hut-4-copy

Shepherd’s huts are very vogue. For the price of a small- to medium-sized car you could have your own bespoke hut. For rather less, you could build one from a kit. If you had the time and patience. Then you could go glamping, even if only in your own garden. Or you could search online for a ‘pre-loved hut’, with the reassurance that apparently almost no hut, however dead, defunct or derelict, is beyond restoration. Even if what you end up with is, to all intents and purposes a new hut with couple of original parts (de-rusted). 

shepherds-hut-1-copy

For as long as anyone living remembers – and it’s at least 65 years – the hut featured here has been in situ by a gate in one of our fields. There’s some evidence that it may even have been brought over from Ireland sometime after my wife’s grandparents came to Dorset a hundred years ago. I first met the hut more than 40 years ago, when its condition seemed to be much as it is now. Over the passing years, until this winter, it had gradually become entirely concealed. First, there was luxuriant undergrowth. By the end, there was luxuriant overgrowth as well: you could have walked straight past without knowing there was anything under the thick tangle of bramble, hawthorn, old man’s beard and the like. Recently the area was cleared of much of the vegetation, and the hut stands revealed.

shepherds-hut-3-copy

As far as I know, no one has been inside – or even tried to open the door – for decades. The family that farms the fields is into its 3rd generation of pastoral care. They haven’t needed the hut. A bit more clearing of undergrowth will be needed before we try to get in. It may prove interesting. During WWII some shepherd’s huts were used to house prisoners of war who had opted to work on the land in preference to captivity. In one I know of, their graffiti is still visible inside.

Shepherd's Hut, Dorset: wheel

On the hub of the wheel is the maker’s name: Pierce Wexford Ireland – the Irish link. The company was established in 1839 and continued in operation until 2002. At one time, Pierce was the largest manufacturer of engineering and agricultural machinery in Ireland. Pierce stoves are still made, though elsewhere.15507008_1-2

the-forgotten-labour-struggle

The enormous former Pierce foundry is now mainly occupied by a huge Tesco supermarket, their largest store outside Dublin. A memorial to the historic usage, made from machinery parts, is all that remains there of Pierce of Wexford. However, the name lives on, stamped on machinery and other manufactured items from the past. I find there is quite a trade in Ireland for Pierceiana, as no doubt it is known.

tesco_pierce-copy

surprise_3-copysurprise_2-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-ahr0cdovl21lzglhlmfkc2ltzy5jb20vnwnlzjvlmzizodc0zgqxztyxmmnlnjzmotzlzwyzndrly2nhzjczmtdjndzmode5zjeyyzq3mdu3ztiymdrizc5qcgd8fhx8fhwzotr4

We have no plans for the hut, apart from having a look inside to see what (if anything) is there. A rattery, maybe. Its work is done, and it can continue to watch over the fields for many more years to come.

shepherds-hut-2-copy

Credits: Pierce’s info & images from random online sources, in particular Emma Stafford (Observations from Daily Life), who hasn’t posted anything for 2 years and who I hope will not mind a credited use of the Pierce tractor seat & drain cover if she comes across this post; Photopol for the Tesco / statue image; National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (gateway); History Ireland Magazine (foundry image); and adverts.ie for the other Pierce items