Searching the Border

In the beginning there was no moths, catching a total of zero moths in the last 3 trapping nights. Fortunately, highly irregular events do occur and tonight was no exception with a total of 3 species from both Geometridae and Noctuidae families. The moth trap was set at the south-eastern corner of millennium wood, but initially the moth trap seemed problematic but easily resolved. The old MV bulb had died, some unique mothing memories where shared with that bulb, nevertheless a replacement bulb marked the start of a new beginning ending the Lepidoptera drought. The night started off redundant with the sign of moths, but the lure of a sheltered woodland became intriguing with the hope of finding moths. It did not take long before we struck moth, the aptly named Early Moth (Theria primaria) with both winged male and wingless female, a great find. The larvae of these moths feed on hawthorn (Cratageous monogyna) and blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) and are locally common in central/southern Britain. The morphological features of this moth are fairly inconspicuous, composed of a background wash of bark brown colouring, with an orbicular spot within the discal cell on either forewing.

Satellite
Satellite

 

Dotted Border
Dotted Border

 

Another Geometridae appeared, a wonderful moth called Dotted Border (Agriopis marginaria) in the sub Family Ennominae. It’s a beautifully demarcated moth with two central cross lines as well as basal cross lines on the forewing. But this was a novel encounter of a moth’s lifecycle, settled on an ash tree were two dotted borders copulating, an awesome moment! The females of this species are wingless and sculp low down at the base of tree trunks within the crevices and fissures of the bark. A quite contrasting species was found in comparison to the Geometridae species, this was the Satellite (Eupsilia transversa) in the sub Family Cuculliinae. Some individuals of this species hibernate during the colder months, this moth had orange reniform or kidney spot though other individuals can have white spots. The E. transversa adult stage are specifically attracted by sugar but have carnivorous tendencies. No moths where caught in the trap, instead we had to search for them with great success.

Dotted Border copulating
Male and Female Dotted Border
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Gloucestershire and Somerset trail

A group of four set off at 05:00 on the 17th of February and following a city pick up of two more we started the journey south. The roads were quiet and we made good timing, with time to stop for breakfast on the way.

Our first stop was at Longford, Gloucestershire, to try and twitch a male Penduline Tit- a rare visitor to the UK- which had been present at the site for some time. We arrived to find a few people with cameras but unfortunately the bird had carried out a magnificent disappearing act despite being seen at first light. There was some consolation as a Stonechat (below) was constantly feeding on the rushes and showing very well. After waiting for a while it was time to move on to our next location; WWT Slimbridge.

Stonechat 5 (17.02.2018) (2).JPG

A previous ConSoc committee member is on placement at Slimbridge so we met him there and were able to be given a tour of the site. We started by walking around the bird sanctuary with many exotic species but then went out to the hides which overlook the river Severn estuary. We spent a few hours here and had a look in some different hides. This resulted in some impressive records including; Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, Common Crane (below), Eurasian White-Fronted Geese, Common Snipe. Other highlight species were; Water Rail, Common Buzzard, Ruff, Redshank and Avocet.

Slimbridge Crane (17.02.2018).jpg

After this the group split with some going to a campsite while the rest went with another student on placement to her house at RSPB West Sedgemoor, Somerset. After pitching up tents and having a walk around the reserve respectively, we all joined together for a nice and relaxed evening.

We woke up early again on the Sunday morning and it was time to make bacon sandwiches for the morning ahead. Despite the hick up of setting off the smoke alarm, the sandwiches were made and we travelled to RSPB Ham Wall and neighbouring Shapwick Heath NNR where we met up once again. We spent a few hours at the reserves and visited a number of hides, seeing and hearing many species, including; Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Great Egret (below), Kingfisher, Cettis Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Common Snipe, Treecreeper and large numbers of waterfowl.

GW Egret 2 (18.02.2018) (2).JPG

The group then travelled to Westhay Moor reserve via the campsite so that tents could be taken down. Westhay Moor was a fairly small reserve and we only had about an hour and a half here, but this didn’t stop us from seeing some great birds, like further views/sounds of Marsh Harrier, Bittern, Water Rail and Cettis Warbler. We were about to head back to the bus when Mr. President heard the ‘ping’ call of a Bearded Tit (below). We were able to locate the bird feeding low in the reed which was a lovely treat.

Bearded Tit (18.02.2018).JPG

The journey home began but with our luck in we kept an eye out in the fields for any other birds of interest. A few minutes later some Little Egrets were spotted on the left and almost immediately after the excitement really started when a Glossy Ibis (below) was seen feeding in a field next to the road. In the further field was a group of Egrets, where at least two Cattle Egrets could be picked out from the Little Egrets. This was a really cracking end to a good trip.

Glossy Ibis 2 (18.02.2018).JPG

We managed to scope out some good reserves and hopefully we will get lucky on the 3rd/4th March and see some more cracking birds!

Looking forward to seeing everyone who has signed up for the trip.

By Owen Beaumont.