Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Underwing invasion

Since the poor catches I was getting from the moth trap at the beginning of august, I've been pleasantly surprised to open the lid to a trap full of moths the last couple of times I've run it. Over a week passed between the last time I'd run it and the first decent august catch I got, mainly due to me not being able to access my trap in my friends garden.

On wednesday 21st, I ran the trap on a pleasantly warm evening and was greeted by a good haul of moths in the morning. First things first... Yellow Underwings. I'd begun to trap some of these regularly and had read that they can dominate your trap in the summer months. In this instance I had 43 Large Yellow Underwings in my trap, which constituted 52% of the total catch. I won't grumble though as they are a fascinating species, with much variation in their patterning which means they must be checked anyway, due to possible confusion with similar species. Obviously size rules out all but the Broad-bordered yellow underwing but this has much more distinctive patterning from my experience. These two photos show some of the more contrasting forms which may be found.

Classic patterning, with clear stigmas

More brick-red appearance, another common form

Other than this I had small numbers of other common species, including Lesser Yellow Underwing and Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing. I also caught several Copper Underwings which I had a crack at with seperating to species leve, mainly by looking at the palps and the brightness and contrast of their forewing markings. I made no conclusive decisions but it was interesting to look at these moths in more detail. I'll still record them as aggregates though, to be on the safe side.

Uniformly light palps.... could be Copper rather than svenssons...

I got some new ones for the year, including two macros, Garden Carpet, the first carpet i've trapped in the Garden, which is fitting. I also had my first Square-spot Rustic of the year. More confusing noctuinae. I have also finally invested in the 'micro bible' so can now try to identify some micro-moths without bothering people on twitter and birdforum, or trawling through photos on UKmoths. Borkhausenia fuscescens, Phycitodes binaevella and Pandemis heparana are all micros which were new to me which were ID'd from this source, so it has come in handy already.

Square-spot Rustic

Garden Carpet... in the Garden

The weather was once again perfect on Sunday night, warm, overcast and still, so I put the moth trap on again. I went over at 5.30 am to turn it off and cover it up and put it away somewhere sheltered as I was off bird-ringing. Once I'd finished ringing, I returned and took a look at what I had.

It was another successful night, with some more new ones for me, as well as good numbers of the other regulars. There were only 21 yellow underwing species, 18 of them of the 'Large' variety. The best of the 'Newies' were all residing at the bottom of the trap, saving themselves til last. The species, 'Old Lady' is, I think, a bit of a sought after moth due to it being one of our larger species. I had four tonight which I was impressed with, and they were reasonably docile, allowing me to get a good look at their chunky bodies and large wings.

In addition, I had 4 Shuttle-shaped Dart, which I struggled with, originally mistaking them for The Flame (axylia putris), due to their similar colouration. 

Setaceous hebrew character was also new for me, and was the first moth I pulled out the trap, and instantly recognised it from looking at my books. 

Small Ranunculus was new for me too, and one I was hoping to encounter, as this moth has been trapped locally over the last few years and was once regarded as extinct in the UK. I'm unsure of its current status in Notts, but i'm particularly pleased about it, especially as it nearly escaped the trap too. 

I'm on 87 moth species this year which I'm happy with. The traps on tonight... hoping to crack 100 soon.

Here's another Large Yellow Underwing to wrap up

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Moth trapping in august

I've been pretty busy of late, with my birthday bringing many celebrations, my girlfriend preparing for buggering off to mexico for four weeks and me working at Boardmasters festival in Cornwall, so blogging has been neglected a bit.

I've done 3 moth traps since the beginning of august and it is strange how quickly the catch has declined. On the 30th July I caught a reasonable catch of 37 moths of 22 species, not bad for my garden and in fitting with the good catches i'd been getting over the month. However, august hit and with it some slightly cooler nights, and my catches dwindled too. I was catching billions of uncertains and marbled beauties, when all of a sudden, they disappeared, replaced by various yellow underwings and common rustics.

On my birthday I woke up to a quiet trap which included a trio of 'newies':

Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing

Large Fruit Tree Tortrix, note the little grebe in the top right corner

Udea lutealis

all of which are damn fine looking moths, especially the yellow underwing.

Next up was 13 moths of six species on the 6th, very quiet.

Common rustic agg. variant #1

Common rustic agg. variant #2

Lesser Yellow Underwing NFY

and then after being away in cornwall I returned eager to get some more moths in, and was overrun with them, catching a whopping 5 (with about as many escapees).

This did include two more newies though:

Lesser broad bordered yellow underwing (longest name ever, and worn to boot)

agriphila genicula

and a couple of stunning large yellow underwings, well fit, common as they are

.... and another common rustic agg......

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Bumper butterflies... again

Previous to doing last weeks survey, I had predicted that there would be an increase in Peacock sightings, due to lots of big healthy looking caterpillars being seen in numerous locations. More have been noted round and about as well as lots more Commas. In fact i went to attenborough briefly last monday afternoon and despite poor weather conditions, butterfly numbers were good, and i saw lots of individuals of both species and managed a few nice shots.



On the Tuesday I went up to the grove for my eighth survey of the year, it was pretty hot but there was a bit of a strong wind and some dark clouds were rolling in towards the end of the survey which turned into a pretty substantial shower which soaked Michelle and I on the cycle home. Despite this the butterflies were still very active and I still got a very respectable 128 individuals of 12 species.

Green-veined white

Whites were still very abundant and again, it was very difficult to clinch ID on a lot of them as they flew past, so I recorded many as just 'White spp.' instead, while still recording down to species level where i could. I ended with approximately 20 each of Large, Small and Green-veined, while a futher 17 were unidentified. Some interesting GV white behaviour was noted which I have read about previously, in which a female which has already copulated was being pestered by an 'interested' male. He was hovering above here scattering his pheromones (or 'lemon-scented love-dust'), but she was sat stock still holding her abdoment erect, which apparently stops any attempts at copulation. Interesting to read about and good to see in the field. I tried to get photographs but they were in a shady location where my attempts all came out blurry and overexposed.


Peacocks had indeed emerged in numbers, and a flowering Buddleia early on in the transect held 11 individuals, which boosted the numbers which ended on 18. One Red admiral was seen on the transect too, and a couple of commas. The second generation of Holly Blues must be emerging too as I saw one of these tiny delicate little things on the walk too. Numbers of all these butterflies should increase throughout august.

Gatekeeper on Ragwort

Ringlets, which dominated last week were down significantly which really goes to show that the peak time really is mid july, as I only noted 14, compared with 5 times that last week. Meadow browns too were uncommon but numbers of Gatekeeper were up, and the Speckled Woods which were absent last week seemed to be back in small numbers.