Objective 7

Prasocuris phellandrii

Prasocuris phellandrii © Geoff Foale

It’s not all about the birds at SML. Objective 7 of the current management plan seeks to fill gaps in our knowledge of the flora, fauna, hydrography and chemistry of the reserve. To that end, members of the Devon Moth and Devon Fly Groups have visited in the last couple of years and Dr Martin Luff is currently working on beetles there. Together, they have produced an arthropod list, which now stands at an impressive 712 species. No individual has added more to the list than Geoff Foale from Salcombe and he continues to turn up new species at almost every visit. Coupled with the fact that these are usually documented by high quality photographs, I will use this blog to publicise his efforts.

Actually, the beetle in the header photo, Prasocuris phellandrii, was identified independently by both Geoff and Martin. It normally feeds on Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) and Geoff reports that “they are uncommon in this part of the country with only 3 previous records for the whole of the south west area on NBN”. The latest discovery, the Alder Signal Moth (Stathmopoda pedella) could be one of the first records west of Bristol.

Stathmopoda pedella

Alder Signal Moth (Stathmopoda pedella) © Geoff Foale

22nd and 29th June 2018


June is never the most exciting month at South Milton with the ringing dominated by local breeders so there is little of interest to put in the blog. I have pooled together my last two visits, both completed during the current prolonged spell of good weather. Even then, there were a couple of surprises with an adult female Yellowhammer being the last bird trapped on 22nd and a young Treecreeper finding its way into a net on the 29th. Neither of these species is annual at SML.

In total 67 birds were caught of which 11 were recaptures: 3 Blackbird, 7 Blackcap, 11 Blue Tit, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Dunnock, 3 Greenfinch, 3 Great Tit, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Reed Bunting, 16 Reed Warbler, 4 Robin, 6 Sedge Warbler, 1 Treecreeper, 1 Whitethroat, 5 Wren and 1 Yellowhammer. One of the re-trap Reed Warblers was first ringed as a juvenile way back in 2011.

Wednesday 13th June 2018

SML Horswell Ditch 13-06-2018 1

Horswell Ditch – nine months after excavation

With the weather forecast to deteriorate tonight, I squeezed in a ringing session this morning. Not the most exciting of days but pretty typical for the middle of June. Just 27 birds of which 7 were recaptures and one a control Reed Warbler. This has probably come from Slapton Ley. Wrens and Blue Tits made up the bulk of the new birds but these also included the first juvenile Chiffchaff and Sedge Warbler of the year.

Things were so quiet at one point that I strolled across to look at the new ditch. The water level has dropped recently, exposing muddy banks but vegetation is already re-establishing after last year’s excavations. There were four species of damselfly and dragonfly present and I spotted a young frog close to the sluice. This is the first amphibian I have ever seen at SML so it looks as though the hoped-for increase in biodiversity has already started!

Wednesday 6th June 2018

Another fine day tempted me out again today to complete clearing the net rides. Ringing produced 21 new birds: 1 Blackcap, 1 Blue Tit, 2 Long-tailed Tit, 8 Reed Warbler, 7 Robin, and 2 Sedge Warbler. 16 re-traps included a further 10 Reed Warbler and 2 more Sedge Warbler. There were plenty of juveniles of the resident species knocking about and the first juvenile reed warbler of the year was ringed.

Saturday 2nd June 2018

It’s been a while since my last blog entry, partly because of a week off waiting for my stitches to come out but mostly because I was struck down with a particularly nasty intestinal bug, which showed no sign of improving. Tests followed, then more tests, followed by bloods and x-rays before a diagnosis was reached two weeks later. Turns out I had picked up Giardia, a water-borne parasitic flagellate, which attacks the lower intestine, most probably caught whilst splashing through the mud and water at South Milton when clearing the net rides on my last visit. It turns out that David Walliams caught the same bug during his charity swim down the Thames.

Fortunately, things improved rapidly after a course of antibiotics although I’m not 100% even after three and a half weeks. Nevertheless, I felt fit enough to get to SML on 2nd June and face up to the task of clearing the net rides again. I started at the seaward end. These rides had been under a metre of water during the late winter but were accessible now and the soft young reeds only took about thirty minutes to clear. The net rides by the sewage treatment works were more problematic and were at risk of being swamped by hemlock water dropwort. It still amazes me how much bramble and willow can grow in a few weeks as well.

Anyway, I carried on clearing vegetation until my batteries ran out then set up a few nets at about 9am. This turned out to be surprisingly productive, with 68 birds caught and a reasonable variety: 3 Blackbird, 4 Blackcap, 4 Blue Tit, 4 Chiffchaff, 4 Dunnock, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Goldfinch, 2 Greenfinch, 1 Great Tit, 23 Reed Warbler, 4 Robin, 11 Sedge Warbler, 3 Whitethroat and 3 Wren.