The great advantage of visiting Skegness, from my point of view, good though the Seal Sanctuary was, was the opportunity it presented to pop to the nearby Wildlife Trust reserve at Gibraltar Point.
Despite the blue skies it was bitterly cold, although I did see my first swallow and hear my first chiff-chaff of the year during the visit, and, as you can see above, the blackthorn was flowering which hadn’t happened yet at home, so it did feel a little like spring.
The principal phenomena I shall remember from this visit were the tattered rags of tissue paper and burst teabags apparently hanging in the branches of the sea buckthorn which grows abundantly along the edge of the low dunes.
Except they were neither tissue paper nor teabags, but the nests of brown-tail moth caterpillars…
The moths have overwintered together in these communal nests and were probably just emerging when we saw them, since the sea-buckthorn had abundant buds but no leaves yet.
Apparently, these moths are considered to be a pest, although I can’t decide if that’s because of their unusually catholic tastes – they’ll live on a wide variety of plants (called polyphagia* I learn) and presumably strip them bare – or because the hairs on their bodies are extremely irritating and can cause a nasty rash, headaches and breathing difficulties. Neither traits are particularly endearing I suppose.
A pied-wagtail again!
*Polyphagia, it transpires, has two meanings:
an insatiable appetite for food
the habit on the part of some animals of feeding on many different types of food
Both of which might equally well be applied to the caterpillars and to me.