July-Sept Nature Notes for the Launceston Area


Wahlenbergia on Hawks Tor Marsh

Althought this spring and early summer has produced some interesting weather, it does seem to have been a better spring for wildlife generally with some very good if not excellent moth catches; lots of fledgling birds seemed to have survived and our garden is still full of them. Dormice numbers still low thoug but a couple of us have seen some early broods so hopefully things will improve. Difficult to compare the numbers of butterflies although the Marsh & Heath Fritillaries have been seen in good numbers. The Butterfly Count starts on July 14th and carries on into August and quite a few of our group do record for that. Last year's results were low for many species and so repeating the counts in the same locations is important so that comparisons can be made. 

Recording.   We do now have our own group pages on the new recording system set up by ERCCIS and a few of us have added records but without our regular form or checklist, it is proving more difficult to focus ~ there are so many species! At present we are unable to approve new applicants under our group name which is a real nuisance. But it is still possible to enter records as an individual.The up-side is that now one can record anything, anywhere in the county although we should still concentrate on our local area. It can be frustrating when you attempt to enter records for the more unusual species but ERCCIS checks and approves where they either know the recorder or the local records. I still hope that it may be possible to have a dedicated LAPWG form that follows the old checklist so one does not have to keep changing the species filter when you change from mammals say, to insects. 

It is worth checking the Cornwall Butterfly Conservation Group web-site to see what events they have on. Weather permitting, well worth attending; the one on the 8th July is at Penlee Battery which has some interesting plants as well as a lot of butterflies ~ see list of web-sites at the end of these notes for a link.

August 1st is Lammas day, the start of the traditional harvest and for some the beginning of autumn. Not sure how well hazel nuts and other fruit will crop this year; much later than last but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Events programme, all are welcome:
July During July and part of August, Ian and the Botanical Group are carrying out several surveys in our area and most are listed under Up-coming events on our home page. There will be a moth evening/breakfast at Treovis Cross farm, date to be decided.

In August, the Waterways Bat Surveys will be taken at Tutwell and near Greystone Bridge (dates to be checked with Tony) and Alison & Eric are planning a walk, in north Cornwall close to the border with Devon, later in the month. Silver Washed Fritillary

Nothing confirmed yet for September. 

Full details of these events will be featured on our home page as soon as known and an email will be sent out to all on our list before any new events.

Other activities:
 'The Big Butterfly Count' is on for three weeks from the 14th July to the 6th August, same period as last year. Do try to support this project to get our area's butterflies on the map! Just 15 minutes at any location, repeated as often as you wish. 

And there is now a new citizen science project called 'The Dragonfly Challenge' which runs from July 15th to 23rd July. Details will be posted on the forum. 

 What to look for in this third quarter:

See the following sections: Birds, Butterflies, Moths, Mammals, Bats, Plants, Insects .

This information is regularly updated to reflect what we are finding from our own observations. Contact us if there is anything you feel we should add. If you want to tell us about species species you have seen then include Who saw the species, What the species was and any notes about the observation, Where the event was seen (description or grid reference) and When it was seen. We need all four pieces of information to make it a scientific record.

Birds. Many birds are still nesting; Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps and a few Song Thrushes continue to sing although most birds will soon go through their summer moult and are reluctant to advertise their presence by singing. The first few weeks of July is the last period to note where our summer visitors are located by their song within the parish. The summer migrants will be leaving us later in this period, starting with the Cuckoo in July (the PTO tagged Cuckoos have already started to move south!) followed by the Swifts in August. Please note any locations where you think Swifts are nesting as the BTO run a national survey, RSPB as well this year because of the huge decline in numbers. Reports of Red Kites continue this year but seem to be explorations (young birds dispersing?) rather than settlements.

Towards the end of the period, resident birds will be leaving their breeding areas and grouping together in small, often mixed flocks, so take a careful look at such groups. Willow Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher are important species to note as they seem to be in decline. Look out also for Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Swifts, Wheatear, Yellowhammer, Green Woodpecker, Kingfisher, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Skylark, and any birds of prey - there appear to be a few more Kestrels about so take note where you see them.

Butterflies. Most of the spring butterflies were seen but not in huge numbers. There were some early Red Admirals so their offspring should appear soon. Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Skippers have just started to appear and this is the quarter when we should see most numbers so look out for: Gatekeepers, Peacock, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Holly Blue, Common Blue, Small Copper, Wall Brown, Ringlet and Silver-Washed fritillary. There may still be some Marbled Whites.

Many of us have seen Green Hairstreaks but what about the Purple Hairstreak that flies high in the tree canopy. Especially in oak so binoculars are required. Or you can bring in a mechanised high-rise platform like someone did one year for a Butterfly Conservation meeting! The Clouded Yellow is another species to look out for - although the first immigrants of this species start to arrive to our shores in late May or early June, much larger numbers can appear in July and August and favour sunny warm sites. This year may be a better year for migrant butterflies and moths; Painted Ladies arrived early this year.

Small Elephant HawkmothMoths There are several day-flying moths to look out for in this period, especially the pink Elephant Hawkmoth and the Humming-bird Hawkmoth. Sooty black Chimneysweeper mothsChimney Sweeper moth fly amongst the grasses in pasture.  Mary Atkinson is now taking the lead in moth recording in our area and is happy for people to contact her if they would like to be notified about events which are often planned at the last minute to take advantage of perfect weather conditions. Email: maryatk7@yahoo.co.uk There is a Robinson trap available for members to borrow and thanks to the Caradon project, we have a set of safety glasses for use when catching moths around any MV lamps. Another member has a Robinson trap to lend out for short periods and a Safari lamp which is very safe to use when children are present.We can also advise on a cheap UV source that will attract moths to your window.
This year there may be some species flying in from the continent ~ you never know what may appear.
Mammals. All species will have young in this period making observations more interesting. Parents need to find food for their young and this can make them more adventurous. Under recorded species include Hedgehog, Brown Hare, Grey Squirrel, Common Shrew, Water Shrew, House Mouse, and Common Rat. Remember that a road kill is a valid record; the results from tests on Polecats or polecat hybrids have just been published; three Cornish animals were 100% Polecat but others, although in appearance true to type, showed a percentage of Ferret in their genes. Dave Groves will be able to report on this in greater detail.

The Hare is a rather special mammal, only present in small quantities in only some of our parishes, but the others should be quite common. Muntjac or the Barking Deer  is believed to be in our area, so keep a look out for a very small, odd-looking deer! Keep up to date on Dormice in this area, through Jenny's notes on our sites (to be updated!). Dormice numbers were low in June but probably because they were able to seek natural nest sites; once the first young animals become independent after about 6 weeks, they will add to the numbers that we find using the nest boxes.

Bats. - a special group of Mammals. Bats also produce their young in this period and inevitably some get lost trying to find their way back to the roost. If you find any, protect them from cats, but try to leave them as close to where you feel the roost is. If you are aware of the location of nursery roosts, it is a good opportunity to count them out of the roost at dusk. Typical numbers could be 50 to 100. Different species come out at different rates. For those close to Lanson, keep a look out for the very large bats that appear on Windmill Hill, Coronation Park, just before dark- if you see them, spread the message for others to enjoy the experience. Last year breeding numbers were believed to be very low (and again this year?), so we are very interested for you to do counts on bat roosts in your area. Please contact Tony Atkinson 01579 370433.

PlantsWe hope that members are finding the Common Plants Booklet useful. Many of our events include plant interest so we have not arranged any separate meetings this year. If anyone would like to have a copy of the booklet or would like to organize a meeting, please contact Jen Bousfield on 01566 782661. Try to join in with the walks organised by Botanical Cornwall, all are welcome and you learn new plants each time.

InsectsWe mentioned these last year for this quarter, as this is the most interesting time of year for them. For many species, especially beetles, this is near the end of their breeding cycle and they are effectively hibernating. However, this period is good for dragonflies, damselflies (look out for the White Legged Damselfly north of Launceston), grasshoppers etc and it is an important time for adult glow worms - 9th July to 19th August is supposed to the time to record them. Their breeding cycle is 3 years, Glow Worm (Lampyris noctiluca)so if you see adult glow worms every year, then you have a substantial colony. Tell us how many you see and where they are. The number of known sites in our areas is increasing. Lezant and St Stephens, Launceston are known sites. See our own section on Glow-worms. Already one of our group has reported Glow-worms in their garden after a lapse of eight years so this may be a good year to spot them.

Wildlife Gardening: Just enjoy the huge variety of insects that will be visiting your garden this quarter. (They are not all bad!) Fuchsias, Sweet Tobacco and many scented flowers have rich stores of nectar and attract long tongued bees and many moths & butterflies. Always have some fresh water available; not only for the birds but many insects will come into drink on hot sunny days. Go out at night with a dim torch or infra red lamp and smell the scents of flowers and warm cut grass and, as your hearing adjusts, you'll be amazed at just how much is going on. make sure that you allow some grasses and plants to set seed to provide feed for the autumn.   Also a chance to find which slug or snail has been eating your best plants.... please re-home them responsibly!

For updates on Wildlife in Cornwall from other organisations, look at the following:

Cornwall Wildlife Trust - latest Wildlife news, ERCCIS for issues related to recording species in Cornwall;
What's on, Ask a question from the Wildlife Information Service

BBC Cornwall Nature - with features, images, video and A-Z of Wildlife; Wildlife Extra, Cornwall - useful links to latest wildlife news in our county, with maps

Cornwall Mammal Group's NEW WEBSITE - information about the atlas, information sheets and maps, events.

The Big Butterfly Count website and the Cornwall Branch of Butterfly Conservation web site. 

The Botanical Cornwall Group has a new website. They hold regular walks throughout the county.