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November 11th- tree sparrows and December moth

The tree sparrows are actively searching for nest sites, particularly during the first half of the morning. They are visiting the swift boxes which reminds me that I must block the entrances up until next spring. I have plenty of alternative boxes for them and four or five pairs nest under our roof tiles. I have to remind myself of the decline this species suffered. Fortunately in this and many other areas their numbers are increasing again, they are easily the most common species in our garden and far outnumber house sparrows. They are certainly a delightful species to watch and sketch.

We caught two December moths in the trap last night. This is a remarkable species because it flies during some of the coldest months of the year. They are attracted to outside lights or windows. Their blood contains a sort ‘anti freeze’ made up from alcohols and they are able to expel fluid from their bodies to prevent freezing. The moth is unable to feed so from the moment it emerges from the chrysalis it will start to use up the energy it stored as a caterpillar.

The December moth is a good example of an animal that I feel I must see every year. It is as important as the first swallow in the natural year; think of the millions of birds that the December moth caterpillars feed showing that each species plays a vital role in our eco system. But in addition, to my eyes they are gorgeous creatures to look at, jet black with rust and cream markings and a very furry body to keep out the winter chill; observing nature can help make us feel good on the shortest days of the year.

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