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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.

Turnips and Satellites

Angle Shades
Angle Shades

 

This week the moth trap was located at Plantation Close south of Millennium wood for the second time on the 25/10/2017 started at 2100 and finishing at 0030. Firstly, tonight was the most successful in terms of the amount of species captured. This included 9 species in total, 8 macros and 1 micro moth. The most frequent moths seen last night was the November Moth (Epirrita dilutata) and Feathered Thorn (Colotois pennaria) both belonging to the Family Geometridae. Pleasantly, the C. pennaria is a wonderfully marked and peach coloured wings was prevalent tonight as we caught 5 in total. Similarly, the E. dilutata has toothed edge coupled with wavy cross bars and closely resembling other closely related Epirrita species, a total count of 9 individuals. As the night progressed several beautiful moths made themselves catchable with the use of nets and pots.

A cryptic wonder of an Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa) appears to be a foiled leaf, a logical adaptation for avoiding predator during its day roost. The flight period of these species extends from April to October where UK populations are supplemented by the amazing migration of individuals from continental Europe. Another fabulous macro-moth from the Noctuidae Family appeared, a wondering Satellite (Eupsilia transversa) with warm ginger centred kidney spots on the forewing. This is a species which appears from September to October then hibernating to reappear in May to April. The second Noctuidae species to join us was an inconspicuous and demarked Turnip Moth (Agrotis segetum) which has pure cream white fringing to the forewing, interestingly the larvae feed on roots of low growing plants.

Satellite
Satellite

As moth presence began to diminish, a leisurely walk over to the bus shelter produced more Epirrita dilutata, Colotois pennaria and a Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata) all having a cosmopolitan distribution and abundance across the UK. An easily identifiable micro-moth, a Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) settled on the side of the trap for a substantial amount of time allowing successful identification. At this dynamic and transitional time of year, certain Genus groups enter their specific flight periods. A  striking yellow and ashy barred moth called Barred Sallow (Xanthia aurago) turned up and impressed the audience of budding lepidopterologists.

Turnip Moth
Turnip Moth

Consequently, as the moths began to disappear into the depths of the bedraggled dark cape of the night sky, we decided to disassemble the trap. What sprung out of the plastic works was two new species for the night. One that I and my cohorts could recognise as a Yellow-line Quaker (Agrochola macilenta). The final species of the night was a lovely specimen finishing off a delightful nights mothing. Two sharply squared off forewings and dark qualities made it relatively easy to identify as a Dark Chestnut (Conistra ligula). Thanks to the attendees of this moth trapping night, it was very enjoyable.

Barred Sallow
Barred Sallow

 

Thorns, Quakers and Crescents

Feathered Thorn
Feathered Thorn

The night began with a pleasant walk to Planation close just south of Millennium wood. Technical difficulties with the generator required the assistance of Simon Taylor who solved this problem instantly. Vocally active Tawney Owl’s (Strix aluco) made themselves heard throughout the night. The present weather conditions was in our favour with a relatively warm southerly breeze coupled with light cloud cover. The first moth attracted to the light was a November Moth (Epirrita dilutata), a worn individual easily confused with either Pale November Moth (Epirrita christyi) and Autumnal Moth (Epirrita autumnata). The males November Moths have 3 separate morphs being different in colour, markings, shape and size. So, jumping to conclusions is not an option as there many aspects to consider when identifying a species of the Genus Epirrita. As the night progressively turned cooler I opted for a hat and gloves. Another moth was spotted around the trap, a Snout (Hypena proboscidalis) was the second moth of night though at first quite difficult to separate from other Hypena genus and species in the Herminiinae sub-family. The worn appearance didn’t help, but, evidence of dark and light sub-terminal spots, recurved tip of the leading edge and distinctive proboscis reassured us that it was a Snout (Hypena proboscidalis).

Green-brindled Crescent
Green-brindled Crescent

After a brief blight in moth occurrence a little gem appeared from the night fluttering purposefully towards us. The general impression of size and shape (jizz) funnelled our identification to the family Geometridae. It turned out to be a stunning moth, a Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata) of the sub-family Larentiinae with distinctive protruding palps, glossy green waved cross lines and a cross band running on the forewing running through the upper abdomen segments. The cold breeze was becoming uncomfortable for some members so a walk to the bus shelter proved to be fruitful in terms of moths. Initially, a further three November moths (Epirrita dilutata) caught our eye all of which were male and of several structural and colour morphs. But we narrowed our attention to the metallic gloss and bulbous kidney marks of two Green-brindled Crescents (Allophyes oxyacanthae).

Re-green Carpet
Red-green Carpet

It seemed the moth gods were rewarding us with some great species. Two micro’s appeared unsurprisingly unidentifiable at first. The first one was easy to identify as a Light brown apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana) which is the only moth I have been able to identify as they fly all year round. However, the other micro was difficult to place a name on it, so the Identification of Micro moths of Britain and Ireland book was required in combination with the Facebook UK micro-moth identification page leading me straight to Eudonia augustea (Narrow-winged Grey). As the night got colder and mothless, member started to disappear. And to the sad part when we have to pack away the moth trap, but excitingly the egg trays produced at beautiful moth known as a Yellow-line Quaker (Agrochlora macilenta) which was a fitting end to a great night mothing.

Yellow-line Quaker
Yellow-line Quaker

Big Moor Trip

Wednesday 11 October, 2017. Purpose of Trip: to watch the deer rutting.

Deer have a mating season which culminates in the rut, in October.  The rut includes such behaviour as loud bellowing, clashing of antlers and pacing parallel to each other, to eye up the competition! (Deertails, 2017).  They are, of course, competing for mating rights with the females.  This is what we aimed to see.

stag and hinds a way away

First group pic with simon to the right

We left Brackenhurst at around 13.30.  Originally, it was intended to leave at 13.00, but it was found that the trip was rather popular, with more people attending than we thought we had room for, so a little bit of ‘sorting out’ was required!

We parked at the Grouse Inn (no, we didn’t go in, and anyway, it was closed!) and walked across the road, through the gate (shutting it after us!) and across the cow field.

Due to the rain, which was coming down in buckets, the going was very muddy, and slippery in places, so we had to pick our way up the hill, but we managed fine.

group spread out along the path

We managed to spot deer almost straight away, after we had reached the top.

Sophies female deer pic 1

 

 

A stag was spotted on the far horizon, and we heard some stags bellowing, then saw a couple of them running away, along a ridge, from another stag.

stag looking to its left

stag bellowing

Due to the rain, our binoculars needed to be wiped on a regular basis, and so did our camera lenses, which unfortunately led to some hazy images.  The views around us were beautiful even so.

general view near the rocks

Looking from the sticking out rock

Sophies big moor pic near the sticking out rock

When we got to the top, there was some interesting lichen on the stones.  On the way, Max found a bird’s foot.  So it wasn’t ALL about the deer, but mainly, it was.

Lichen with raindrops

 

The drive was a long one, but the trip was worth the effort, and one might say that the wind and rain were exhilarating!  A definite recommendation for another day out.

group pic near the top stones and shelter

group pic two in two groups

 

References

Deertails. 2017. Looking Forward to the Spectacle of the Autumn Rut.  [Online] Available at: http://whydidthedeercrosstheroad.langbeinwildlife.co.uk/ [Accessed 17 October 2017]

 

Bibliography

Mitchell, B., Staines, B., W., Welch, D., National Environment Research Council. 1977. Ecology nof Red Deer. [Online] Available at: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/5137/1/Ecology_Red_Deer_Scotland_.pdf

The National Trust. 2017. Walking Trail. [Online] Available at: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/longshaw-burbage-and-the-eastern-moors/trails/eastern-moors-red-deer-and-edges-walk

 

Mystery Noc

group picture
Rose Garden- 06/10/2017

The night began with no moths, but we had faith in our Robinson trap that shined a stairway of light irresistible for any passing moth. However, what came first was the consoc members who were very interested and engaging in the moths. Our first moth of the night was very pleasant indeed, a Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata) and ended up with 2 individuals. Continuing on from this crisp yellow aerofoil, another moth appeared this time less distinctive at first glance however by the general impression, wing shape and posture we could place it in the Family of Geometridea (sub-family Larentiinea).  While consulting the moth guide the temperature started to drop slightly though we eventually discovered the moth we caught was a November Moth (Epirrita dilutata). An inconspicuous species with several male forms having variable amounts of marking consisting of pale coloured underwing, vertical vain lines with black and pale white trailing edge to the forewing.

A Tawney Owl (Strix aluco) kept us company when moth action was quiet. Tawney Owls in autumn are noticeably vocal as adults attempt to oust first year individuals from there aggressively protected territory. Fortunately, a bright green moth landed beside the trap and was expertly caught and potted. A wonderful moth known as the Merveille du Jour (Dichonia aprilina) which in appearance consists of lichen greens and symmetrical black lines forming two kidney spots in the centre of the forewing. This species forms falls into the Family Noctuidae (sub-family Cuculliinae) accompanied with sharks, pinions, chestnuts, sallows and allies.

November moth 2
November Moth

The next moth that turned up took us some time to work out what species it is. The Rosy Rustic (Hydraecia micacea) which has a flight period from August to October. Orange brown with a dark central cross band bordered black containing two pale ovals on each forewing. The leading edge of the forewing is straight with a decurved sub-terminal tip. After a mothless 20 minutes we decided to check the other moth trap which in actual fact is a bus shelter, a Common Wainscot (Mythimna pallens) was the only moth we found. Previously, the bus shelter has harboured some great moths of late including Barred Sallow (Xanthia aurago), Pink Barred Sallow (Xanthia togate) and Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa).

Rosy Rustic
Rosy Rustic

At 11:30pm we started to pack away the equipment. While checking the egg trays a mystery Noctuidae appeared, the abraded and worn wing where apparent instantly. This made identification problematic. Initial thoughts where leaning towards sub-family Noctuinae (including darts, underwings and clays) and Cuculliinae (Including sharks, pinions, chestnuts, sallows and allies). But, Noctuinae was more likely family as posture, shape of kidney mark and dimensions of the leading edge. After the stage of identifying the individual to family level, the next step was to decipher which genus this moth belonged to. Two moths sprung to mind Square Spot Rustic (Xestia xanthographa) and Small Square Spot (Diarsia rubi). Consulting opinions so I could come to a logical conclusion, an emphasis on the curvature of the leading edge, and resemblance of the small square spot on its forewing. It’s relatively conclusive that this moth is a Small Square Spot (Diarsia rubi).

Small-Square Spot
Small-square spot

 

Brack to Mothing

Merveille Du Jour

A Robinson’s moth trap, generator, pots and a moth net is all you need to have a mothing experience you’ll never forget. That’s exactly what happened on the 29th September for the first Conservation Society moth trap of the season located at the rose garden on brackenhurst. So excitedly, I began to assemble the moth trap at 8:00pm. The overcast and warm weather conditions meant it was night to trap moths. As the new and existing consoc members arrived a moth fluttered quite precariously towards the trap eventually ending up in my pot. After consulting the bible of moth book (Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Martin Townsend, Paul Waring and illustrations by Richard Lewington) we decided it was a Dusky Thorn (Ennomos fuscantaria). As the light began to have short term effect on my ability to see anything, a medium sized noctuid fluttered in front of the group and without hesitation my net encased it within seconds and safely potted. A Merveille du Jour (Dichonia aprilina) appeared before us, a stunning green moth with dark central lines and specks of white continued to amaze people throughout the night.

Moths are interesting insects and are members of the order Lepidoptera. The individual species are then represented in families and subfamilies. There are over 2500 species of the moths recorded in the UK including both macro and micro-moths. This time a smaller moth landed beside the trap, a micro-moth possibly that would take me the rest of the week to identify, but thankfully it was a Staw Dot (Rivula sericealis). A minimalist moth in terms of colour and markings but none the less a smart little moth.

The Families Geometridae and Noctuidae collectively contain the greatest number of species in the UK than other families. A combination of indicative morphological and behavioural traits are used to place an individual into on of these Families. Moths in the Family Geometridae generally have slender bodies, with broad fore wings and hind wing visible. Flight is slow, fluttery and weak giving the resemblance of some smaller butterfly species. Some are day flying so you don’t really need a moth trap to become a moth enthusiast. Constituents of the Noctuidae are broad bodied and when at rest trailing edge of wing is overlapped or connecting therefore the hide wing is hidden. A typical characteristic of this group is the kidney and oval markings on the fore wing generally involving some horizontal barring.  A common species throughout the UK turned up known as the Lesser Yellow Underwing (Noctua comes) having a yellow hindwing, distinctive kidney spots on forewing and a relatively broad black sub-terminal band across the outer web of the hindwing.

A combination of some great moths and interested consoc members made for a pleasant night to be out moth trapping.