Getting Sun Burnet At Staines Moor

We took advantage of a lovely sunny day on Sunday 19th July to head out to Staines Moor. Sightings at the moor were almost non-existent on the regular birding sites, but we figured we needed to stretch our lazy legs, and we were also hoping the warm conditions would bring out some insects and day moths.

We found Stanwell Moor strewn with large, strangely funnelled spider webs. We believe these were the webs of Labryinth Spiders. They could be seen on nearly every patch of hawthorn and nettle as we made our way along the pathway. Breaking the misty grey of silken webs and abundant summer greenery, we had flaming orange from this Comma Butterfly.

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And the slightly more subdued tones of this Gatekeeper.

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Bird noise was generally lacking as we moved through Stanwell Moor. However, we did see the resident Little Owl at the far end of the paddock on both our inbound and outbound walks. The occasional Whitethroat, Blue Tit or Wren would fleetingly appear. Our first clear sighting of avian interest came with this female Mandarin Duck on the River Colne.

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Mingling quite comfortably with a few female Mallards, I had to double take to make sure it was a Mandarin. I think the pics provide pretty solid evidence that my initial thoughts were correct.

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We made our way through the resident equine and bovine life to the butts. Mrs Sausage found that the Ragwort on the butts was home to plenty of Cinnabar moth caterpillars.

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The Cinnabars were sharing the Ragwort with plenty of Common Red Soldier Beetles.

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The striking gold and black of the Cinnabar moth caterpillars act as a warning to potential predators that they are not a tasty meal. They absorb toxic and bitter tasting alkaloid substances from the ragwort which apparently makes them a rather nasty tasting morsel.

As we were snapping away at the Cinnabar larvae, a shrill call came from just behind the butt as a young Kestrel rose from nowhere and took position on a dead tree.

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If ever there was a picture that sums up Staines Moor and its location it could be this. Our newly arrived Kestrel with a British Airways 747 taking to the skies just beyond.

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Energised by seeing what for us were new species (the caterpillars), we headed down to the open plains of the moor for further exploration, where Mrs Sausage spotted our next new sighting. Moving almost bee-like between thistles with rapid whirring wing-beats, in frantic blurs of black and red, we saw our first Six-spot Burnet moths.

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Photos came at a premium as the moths were quite skittish. Despite the fairly hot afternoon, there was also a fair breeze  running across the moor, blowing the thistles and thus regularly obscuring their colourful passengers from the focus of the camera.

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Persistence paid off as we managed to get some OK record shots. These are really lovely looking moths and we can’t go past thistles now without hoping we’ll see more. Highlight of the day by some distance!

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Fleeting fly-pasts by unidentified dragon flies and Banded Demoiselles took us back along the Colne on our homeward route. I noticed that some of the Demoiselles were an emerald green rather than the almost turquoise of the Banded variety. Pics aren’t great as the bugs didn’t allow too close an approach, so strictly record shots again but I believe these are Beautiful Demoiselles.

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Despite the expected high-summer feel of things with regards to bird sightings, we have found that there is nearly always something to be seen at Staines Moor, big or small. Our amateur lepidoptery continued as we arrived home and found this Least Carpet Moth in our lift lobby. A fitting end to a day which brought us a few new sightings, plenty of pleasant surprises, and a superb day out.

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