30 Days Wild | Day 15

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It was not a morning for early rising: taking advantage of the brief hiatus in strong winds yesterday, we decided to try mist-netting Storm Petrels on Pen Cristin into the darkness of the night. Being close to the summer solstice and with a bright gibbous moon rising on the eastern horizon, that meant a pretty late night! It was worth the 2am finish, though, just to lure in the one flittering Stormy to the net…

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Storm Petrels are just awesome birds: not only do they smell amazing, but their truly pelagic lifestyle sees a migration from the northern extremities of Britain all the way to the rich waters off South Africa. And that’s for a bird barely bigger than a Swallow, faring raging seas and pattering the water’s surface in search of small fish and plankton.

Whilst it was a fairly bright night, it didn’t put the shearwaters off too much: the air was still full of a cacophony of wheezing and wailing calls, punctuated by the more muffled echoes as incubating birds began vocalising from within their burrows…

For #30DaysWild today, I spent some time around the steep, grassy slopes of the island’s East Side, where a superb mix of vegetation communities are blooming at the moment. Slopes carpeted in thrift, sheep’s bit scabious, english stonecrop, cat’s ear and the odd scarlet patch of foxgloves

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Pen Llyn in the backdrop with a mix of grasses and Sheep’s Bit Scabious in the foreground

It was great to have Mum’s brilliant botanical knowledge in identifying the myriad species of wildflowers, sedges and lichens proliferating on the slopes. It was great to observe the subtle transitions in species which mark the change from one subcommunity to the next; the underlying substrate, nutrient levels, pH of the soil and countless other factors dictating which assemblage subsisted. Here are just a handful of the species around at the moment:

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Aside the floral community, there were plenty of insects despite a bitter and gusting southerly wind! A dazzling Green Tiger Beetle showed off it’s formidable jaws, Lobesia littoralis micro moths clung to seeding Thrift heads in the breeze, and the peculiar larval cases of the so-called ‘Bag Worms’ were apparent on some of the cliff outcrops

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a female Green Tiger Beetle with rather impressive mandibles! I wouldn’t fancy being an Ant…
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The larval case of a ‘bagworm’ called Psyche casta. These odd constructions are the product of an odd group of micro moths, the adult of which you can view here. These peculiar larvae feed on dead animal matter, lichen and plant material, whilst the females don’t even develop wings and remain in a grub-like state!

After a bright and breezy day, the colours in the evening were pretty spectacular. I am hoping tomorrow’s lighter southerlies might present more amenable conditions for migrants to make a move. Today we actually had a good selection of new arrivals, including possibly two Cuckoos, a Willow Warbler, a Spotted Flycatcher, a Lapwing and a dark-phase Arctic Skua out to sea.

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one of our milking goats, Penny, with the island at sunset in the background
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