Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Mothing update

The good weather had to end and last monday after I did my very successful butterfly survey, the heavens opened at about 9PM and didn't close til about 2PM the next day. I took advantage of the gap inbetween showers and cycled down the river to Netherfield Lagoons to see if any good birds had decided to turn up. I couldnt stay long so just had a swift walk round the deep pit, past the slurry lagoon and wader scrapes, but in the 90 minutes or so I had there, I racked up about 40 species. Best of all was a Hobby, the first I've seen this year, which was seen flying low along the banks of the deep pit, obviously looking for Dragonflies. No waders apart from a couple of Lapwings, with the only bird of note on the wader scrape being a Grey Wag
Its moulting season for ducks too, so the slurry lagoon was a hotbed of confusion, with loads of distant brown-looking ducks, but I did count 50 or so Gadwall, including a female with about 7 or 8 young ones. Winter must be round the corner too as I saw a drake Wigeon knocking about too.

That evening there were flash floods around the city, with rain lashing down for about 20 minutes, but causing buses, supermarkets and pubs to be under a few inches of water. It stopped all of a sudden and ended up being a relatively dry, muggy evening, so I put the moth trap on. However, the rain must have put them off as the numbers were down somewhat on the last few outings.

I only got one new macro, a Light arches. 

But the micro numbers were good, and I got this Stunning Phlyctaenia coronata.

This Emmelina monodactyla

and this, a Cnephasia spp. One which requires dissection to get to species level... i let it go with its balls intact

On Friday I got the trap on again, and when I went round to check it Saturday morning I wasn't expecting much, as it was a little chillier than normal and there was a slight breeze. However it ended up being one of my best catches, especially for new species caught. Unfortunately I cropped the pictures on my phone and they ended up coming out a bit rubbish. 

New for the garden included this Silver-Y

Prob my favourite so far, this Sallow Kitten

Lime speck pug

Dingy footman


Copper Underwing

I got 6 micros too, one which still needs an ID, and this big micro, Mother of Pearl

I've been getting a few Wainscot species the last few weeks which I initially thought were smoky wainscots. I've since decided they were southern wainscots, and I caught one this week, right next to a smoky wainscot... Good to compare and thats 2 more for the garden.

Left - southern wainscot
Right - Smoky w

So thats now 63 moths for the garden, I've got one more July trap to do and thats tonight. Looking forward to it :)

Bumper Butterfly Haul

I did my 7th butterfly transect of the year last Monday, the 22nd of July. The recent hot weather has really brought the butterflies out and in comparison to last year it really is turning out to be a fantastic year. It seemed I was constantly adding more insects to my tally as I walked down the grove, with the majority being whites, which caused much ID confusion, but I tried my best to seperate the smalls from the green-veins.

I ended up with 208 butterflies of 12 species, which is more than double my best on last year. There must have been a mass emergence of whites, as there was always some flying down the path, and more feeding and mating in the hedges and on the woodland edge. The large whites were simple enough to ID, being easily compared to their smaller cousins, which while flying were a lot harder to seperate. On the most part I could ID them on the wing as they usually landed eventually but there were a lot I was unsure of.

It surprised me just how many green-veined whites there were, with 32 counted along the transect. I always thought these were a lot scarcer than the others but it seems they are doing quite well up here. I managed to get some good views of them, including a pair in copulation.

Green-veined Whites 

It was nice to get some good views of small whites too, which when at rest have a delicate beauty about them, with lemony yellow underwings. Such a common and familiar butterfly is often overlooked but I have really come to appreciate them.

Small White

Once again, ringlets were very common and must have been at their peak with 74 individuals noted, gently bobbing between the grass stems and quietly sitting amongst the brambles. Meadow browns were less abundant, and only a handful of Gatekeepers were seen, but i think their numbers should swell soon.

Skippers were present again in small numbers, with just Small and Large being seen, I've yet to record Essex skipper but I keep checking those antennae. Both species are great to observe, with the small skippers generally being seen greedily hopping between thistle flower heads, while the large skippers I've seen have been sitting on low grasses, defending their territory jealously.

Large Skipper

Red admirals also seem to have just emerged too as they have suddenly reappeared from nowhere, while small numbers of small tortoiseshell and commas were also observed. I've seen loads of peacock caterpillars in the last few weeks, and so I am expecting an emergence of these when I survey the area this week. Indeed, over the last few days there has been good numbers seen at other sites, especially on Buddleia, which is now in full bloom too. Good timing on the butterflies part, is it a coincidence???

Small tortoiseshell

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

More moths, dragons and tigers.... ?

I've been continuing my moth trapping at my friend harry's house and am still getting some good catches, with the last one being 61 moths of  23 species. Its getting increasingly frustrating catching lots of micros without means of identifying them but i'm hoping to get the Micro ID book in the next few weeks.

From trapping more regularly I am starting to see some regulars turning up in the trap each night, which is good as it keeps me familiar with the more common species.

Uncertains are still making regular visits to the trap, now with much smaller numbers of rustics, and all parties are looking more and more worn.
An uncertainty of Uncertains.

Marbled beauties are now making up the bulk of catches with nearly 30 caught in the last two sessions. Dark arches are also a familiar sight, and representing the geometers are Riband Waves, with both forms being present in the last few traps i've set. 

Lots of moths are coming in small numbers, often the ones which are new to me, but some seem to be coming back for more on successive traps. I have had several Coronets, Sycamores and wainscots, and other singletons are turning up each time to add to my list.

Recent additions include -

Toadflax Pug - quite a stunner

Worn-looking Poplar Grey - nice to get
as I got the similar Sycamore last week

White Satin - Top class stunner.

I also went to Kinder Scout in Derbyshire last week. We went in the evening to catch the sunset and thus there were loads of moths. Unfortunately we were pressed for time so couldnt hang about to ID them, but I did get to see my first tiger moth, this Wood Tiger, a bit worn but still awesome. Bird-wise it was extremely quiet, with just a few Red grouse, some family parties of Meadow Pipits and good numbers of Grey Wags. 

Wood Tiger

On Thursday I took myself down to Holme Pierrepont for a mixed bag of Birding, Butterflies and Dragonfly hunting. It was exceptionally hot and I thought I was going to melt at any point but I had an excellent 4 hours knocking about Skylarks NR, blotts and the watersports centre. I rode along the rowing course, picking up a couple of Oystercatchers on Colwick Sluice, along with the usual BH Gulls and cormorants, before heading into Skylarks.

Azure Damselfly

Once I had locked the bike up I was instantly into looking at damselflies with scores flying around the sun-scorched grass in the first meadow. Common Blues and azures were both present, as well as many butterflies. Gatekeepers had emerged in earnest, with lots being seen flying amongst the nettles and brambles along the pathways. Green-veined whites and other browns were also flitting about in good numbers.

Common Blue Damselfly

I headed down to the jetty overlooking the main pond, and was greeted by many damsels and dragons, including Brown Hawkers and Emperors. On the mats of weed covering the surface of the pond were loads of damselflies, including some Small Red-eyed Damselflies, a new one for me. I was unsure at first as they are very local in Nottinghamshire, but I wrote off them being 'normal' red-eyed damsels, as they were as small, if not smaller than the blue-tailed damsels which were with them on the pond. I'd seen some 'normal' red-eyes at Holme Pit a few weeks back and they looked very large and bulky. Nice. There were also lots of shoals of Roach in the shallows, Reed Warblers in the reeds, and a couple of Grey Herons down the lake.

Round the corner, in the 'Glade', which had become infested with ragwort and Rosebay Willowherb, there were lots of butterflies. This site is particularly good for Meadow Browns, and i couldn't even begin to count the amount that were flying around the Ragwort and down low amongst the foliage. With these were several Peacocks, Small Torts and heaps of Cinnabar caterpillars.

Meadow Brown

I knocked around the rest of the reserve for a bit seeing lots of Butterflies in the Sunnier areas of the reserve, especially on the northern edge where it borders the watersports centre. Lots of  Ringlets and Gatekeepers were here on excellent habitat that mixes grassland with scrub and woodland edge.



I spent some time across the road exploring the grassland and scrub which borders Blott's pit afterwards, and added some more butterflies to the list including Small Skipper and a few Common Blues. It was reasonably quiet on the bird front, but I did find a Garden Warbler, as well as a couple of Stock Doves feeding near the entrance.

Male Small Skipper

Female Small Skipper

I also added Black-tailed Skimmer to the list, the first I've seen this year, basking in the sun on the banks of a dry ditch. It was very flighty though, which caused problems photographing it.

Black-tailed Skimmer

I sat by blotts pit for a while, watching a few Common Terns feeding across the lake, including a few young ones. Otherwise it was quiet bird wise, with just a few coots and swans on the water and little in the surrounding meadows. On the way out I took a route through some more 'lush' grassland near where some dry reedbeds are, and found a Latticed Heath, along with my first Six-spot Burnets of the year, and another Small Tortoiseshell feeding on some Ragwort.

Small tortoiseshell
I had a great afternoon in the searing heat, with 10 species of butterfly seen, around 40 species of bird, a new damselfly 'tick' and some nice moths thrown in. Good stuff.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Moths and Butterflies, 12th July

The roasting weather has continued, giving us a good indication as to what a real summer should feel like. I went out to do survey number 6 up at Clifton Grove on Friday. I had expected the butterfly numbers to be  high, and was not disappointed, ending with 103 individuals seen on the 1km transect. The majority of these were Ringlets, with 65 being seen floating quietly through the grass stems. They really are a wonderful little butterfly, whose numbers peak around now, and they seem to do very well up here, better than any other species.

Otherwise there were a lot of others flying around including reasonable numbers of Meadow Brown and Speckled Wood. The skippers seem to be livening up too, with a few Large and Small Skippers noted throughout the transect. I also saw 2 Small Tortoiseshells, the first time I've recorded this species up here since a single butterfly seen on the very first transect I did at the beginning of april 2012.

Holme Pit was again a hive of activity, with loads of around, including the first Gatekeeper I'd seen this year, along with 5 other species. Odonata activity was high too with lots of copulating damsels, and clusters of 100s of Common Blues over the open water. Dragons were appearing more frequently too with lots of Brown Hawkers, along with an Emperor or two and a Broad-bodied Chaser.
Damsels copulating

On some stinging nettles by the path were some well developed Peacock Caterpillars, munching their way through the foliage, so hopefully in a couple of weeks we should be seeing lots of them as emerged adults. Just before leaving, I disturbed a Barred Yellow moth, a first for me, with a distinctive resting position matched only by its close relative the Spinach. I let it rest without photographing it though. I'm itching to go down to the lake again soon, to get some photos of the dragonflies, which I think will be a good challenge.

Peacock caterpillars

On Friday evening I ran the moth-trap again, as the temperature was due to stay around the high teens throughout the night, good conditions for mothing. I was correct in my judgement as when I opened the trap  in the morning I was greeted with my best catch yet, 45 moths of  5 species. This was made up of 8 macro species and 7 micros. 

Nice box of moths

The macros consisted of:

The Flame - 1                    Dark arches - 3
Marbled Beauty - 7           The Uncertain - 10
Heart & Dart - 2                Riband Wave - 3
Coronet - 1                        Sycamore - 1

The latter two were new ones for me, and the Flame was new for the garden. I'm still in the process of identifying the micros, as I still havent got the micro id book yet.

Sycamore and Dark arches


Marbled beauty

Riband Wave

It's hottin' up...

The sun finally put his hat on proper last weekend, so it was with some excitement and anticipation that I went to Clifton to conduct my 5th butterfly survey of the year. It wasn't excellent, but things certainly are picking up. In the hour I walked my transect I saw 50 individuals, of 6 species. The browns are starting to emerge in numbers, and should be peaking within the next week or so, with hopefully some Gatekeepers making an appearance towards the end of the month. It was also nice to finally see some skippers, a couple of Large Skipper, a wonderful conspicuous golden creature sitting pretty on blades of grass. Speckled Wood seemed to be doing great as ever on this site, with 21 individuals seen.

Birding-wise, nothing out of the ordinary, the same species seem to make an appearance but I guess that's to be expected when walking the same transect every week or so. Saying that though, a few Coal Tits at the end of the grove was a nice surprise, as i've never had them here before, they're usually restricted to Clifton Wood. Juveniles were noted throughout the area, with a family of Wrens at Holme pit, joining the Mute Swan, Mallard and Coot families nearby. Juvvy Blue Tits were also noted on the grove, and some humbug-headed Great Crested Grebe young were on the river.

The diversity of odonata was increasing at Holme Pit, where Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damsels have been in abundance for a few weeks. Today they were joined by several copulating pairs of Red-eyed Damselfly, a species i've not seen before, as well as my first dragons of the year, Brown Hawkers. Several Banded Demoiselles were noted too, which are infrequent visitors to the pond, usually preferring the river and my transect up on the grove.

Since then I've noticed, probably in the advent of this lovely hot weather, that butterfly numbers seem to have exploded in the last few days. I went out for a walk on Tuesday morning and was surprised to see good numbers of Small Tortoiseshell. They were everywhere but highly mobile so I struggled to get a good shot. It seems strange to remark on such a 'common' species, but they seemed to do disastrously last year, as I didn't see ONE in Notts during the whole summer. Hopefully these butterflies are a sign they had a good breeding season early on this year. I also saw the first Comma I've seen since early spring, obviously a recently emerged second-generation insect.

Buff arches

Dark arches
I also ran the moth trap again on Monday night, and was happy to see it was again a success. 18 moths of 10 species, all but 1 new for the garden, seems little compared to other peoples catches out in the countryside, but I was still very happy. The highlight was a Buff arches, a splendid, intricately patterned moth. I also got to grips with trying to seperate the aptly named 'Uncertain' from the frustratingly similar 'Rustic'. I am not totally sure if my decisions were 100% correct, but it was interesting trying to find out anyway.
Uncertain - note the centre bar joining the kidneys
In comparison, a Rustic, displaying no centre bar 
and a pale fringe to oval and the kidneys

Monday, 8 July 2013

More mothing...

Last Tuesday I continued my butterfly survey up at Clifton Grove and was again disappointed with the results. The weather was pretty perfect for butterflies with the temperature around the high teens and only a slight breeze, but the butterflies were very few and far between. It may be due to the poor weather last year, although my transect seemed to do OK despite the rain, or it could be the horrid cold spring we've had. I've also noticed at some sites, the Grove included, that the grasses seem to be growing very thick, giving other flowering plants little room to flourish, which could also be a factor for the small numbers of butterflies. In the whole transect I only recorded 11 individuals, though it was nice to record the first Meadow Brown of the year.

Speckled Wood, Clifton Grove

I had a good wander round the rest of the patch and got a reasonably good bird list for this time of year, with nearly 40 species present. The highlights were a Lesser Whitethroat in the Rough Wood hedgerow, some juvenile Blue Tits and a few Buzzards as well as the resident Red-tailed Hawk. Despite seeing all these species, it did seem very quiet, but it comes with the time of year I guess.

The following day, I had a day off so in the afternoon I biked to Gunthorpe for a pint by the river before heading down back to Nottingham on the North bank, stopping off at Netherfield Lagoons on the way back. It was very warm in the sunshine, but there was a brisk wind which scuppered my plans of seeing some insects, but I still had a good walk round. The reserve looks great at the moment with lots of wildflowers covering the banks of the gravel pits and lining the paths. There were several Early Marsh Orchids in flower amongst the commoner plants and it made for a pleasant hour or so's walk.
Orchids at netherfield

Bird-wise there was a fair bit about, including a singing Cetti's as well as several other warbler species. On the scrapes was a single Little Ringed Plover, the first i've seen in a while, but little else. Overhead there were swarms of Swifts and Sand Martins which seemed to have found something tasty to feed on. Otherwise there were quite a few ducks on the slurry lagoon, mostly Tufties and Gadwall, as well as some of the resident Pochard, a scarce species to see in Notts in summer. It was also good to see a young Song Thrush on the banks of the Deep Pit, hopefully they've had a good season.

Now... moths.

I ran the moth trap a couple of times last week, the first on monday night. Sadly however, my UV bulb had broken and so I had to make do with a standard energy saving bulb. In the morning I was extremely disappointed to find only one moth in the trap, which escaped before I could ID it...

I thought it may have been due to the bulb that the catch was so poor but I wanted to try again, especially as I couldn't get a new bulb til the weekend. The weather was poor for the rest of the week so the next chance I got was Sunday night. It was quite muggy and so I hoped for a better catch and was happy to end up with 9 Moths in the trap, which is actually quite good for what I've managed so far. Here's the list:

Green Pug

angle shades - 1
Straw dot - 1
Green pug - 1
Pug sp. - 1
Chrysoteuchia culmella -2
Small magpie - 1
Epiblema sp - 2 (disappeared before confident ID was made) - 2

angle shades
It was awesome to get a small magpie, what a stunning little moth.

Small Magpie

This Tuesday I was invited to join the wildlife trust at Ploughman's Wood for a charcoal making session. I did it last year and had an excellent time so was excited to do it again. The process of charcoaling is good fun and it also gives us a bit of time for doing other fun things in the wood too. This included birding, and I got a nice list of classic woodland birds. This is an ancient woodland and I really would like to explore it more, although I have visited it many times before, but it is a lovely site and great for birds, and the highlight was hearing a Marsh Tit, a declining species which seems to do quite well at this site. Other good birds included Treecreepers, the 2 commoner woodpeckers, a Grey Partridge on the meadow and lots of loud Tawny Owls in the dead of the night. We also found several 'batches' of Peacock caterpillars too in the meadow, something I haven't seen for a few years.

Caterpillar frenzy

Meadow Brown

One of our party brought along his MV Skinner trap with him, so as night fell we got that on and ran it for several hours. It was the first time I've used an MV trap and doing it in such an excellent habitat was awesome. We couldn't move for moths and it proved very difficult to keep track of them all but we identified all we could and tried to keep numbers without recounting too many. We identified 27 species, with 77 individuals, what we couldn't ID we had to let go as we just didn't have time to do them all but here is a list of everything we could get to grips with.

Light Emerald

Willow Beauty - 10
Silver Ground Carpet - 8
Clouded Silver - 8
Peppered - 7
Double Square Spot - 4
Brimstone - 1
Minor spp. 3
Light emerald - 3
Snout - 2
The Uncertain - 2
Poplar Hawkmoth - 2
Ingrailed Clay - 2
Flame - 2
Peach Blossom - 1
Tawny Speckled Pug - 1
Green Silver Lines - 1
Green arches - 1
Green Carpet - 1
Riband Wave - 1
Common Marbled Carpet - 1
Dwarf Cream Wave - 1
Common Wave - 1

The Flame

Pseudagyrotoza conwagana - 5
Pandemis cerasana - 5
Epiblemia spp. - 2
archips pordana - 1
Timothy Tortrix - 1 (i'm unsure of this due to habitat but 2 others thought it was correct)

Peach Blossom

Green arches - the photo doesnt do it justice

One of many peppered moths

It was excellent, especially as a complete beginner, to see so many different species in one sitting, and it really helped me along in my moth ID. The majority of them were new to me, but having had my head firmly in my concise guide for the last 2 months I was able to identify a lot straight away and the others at least down to family level before referring to the guide. Highlights were definitely the Green arches, Peach Blossom, and of course the Poplar Hawk, and the Light Emeralds were stunning too. I'm looking forward to going out in the garden with my little DIY trap again, but I think I'd sooner go back to the woods.

Poplar Hawk.