Saturday, 27 April 2013

A matter of opinion

The moth trap has been out in Batch Valley several times in the last week, with a nice selection of species on show. Some have been rather straightforward to identify, others not so much! The highlight for me was this lovely moth recorded when emptying the trap on Thursday morning. It was not in the trap, but several metres away, resting on the garden furniture.

The Engrailed
This is a moth called The Engrailed.... or is it? There are two very similar species in the Ectropis group - The Engrailed and the Small Engrailed. They have a very similar appearance and are not without controversy. Some claim them to be two forms of the same species, and this has apparently been proven by DNA studies, whilst others believe them to be different species. Whatever the reality, they are extremely difficult to distinguish. Many moth recorders simply record any Ectropis in a UK garden as 'The Engrailed' (and so do I!).

The other tricky moth was this intriguing micro, which I caught on Monday night.

Caloptilia elongella or betulicola
This is from the same group of moths as the Caloptilia stigmatella in Wednesdays blog, but unlike this species the lack of distinctive markings makes a positive identification difficult. From the length and the plain appearance, we know it is one of C. elongella or C. betulicola, but we cannot be 100% sure which. My instinct is that it is the former, but many recorders believe that the two species cannot be separated without dissection. So this will have to stay a mystery for now.

Friday, 26 April 2013

A plume flowing in the wind!

I don't know whether to be pleased or disappointed as there were only 16 moths in the trap. There were however 4 other moths, of which 2 were on the outside of the trap and 2 were on the house wall some 10 metres from the trap. The 2 on the outside of the trap were Pugs and one of them was  Double-striped, which is a first for me here, though not for the Strettons.

The two on the house wall were an Early Thorn and the other was what is defined in the title. If you were expecting a plume moth you will be disappointed. The above dictionary definition refers to a streamer, and as you will see below, the Streamer is a very pretty moth. Its colour will gradually fade over the next few days.


The total count of 20 moths represented 11 species, but to date, one of these remains unidentified -
here is a photo - the moth is very worn and I have a good idea of what it might be, but I shall put the photo on one of the Moth Group sites and ask for help.

To be identified
 And just for luck, a Double-striped Pug

Double-striped Pug

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Coincidence or what?

Decided to run the trap for 2 nights running as the forecast seemed to indicate a good night. This is something I try to avoid in order to let the previous nights catch get as far away as they want. I did wait as long as possible before switching on though.

There were only 36 moths in the trap but yet again there was a new moth for the site.
But what has this got to do with the title? I will explain: - yesterday I noted that we have a new "follower" for the blog - welcome Sam - and so I looked at his blog this morning and he has recorded the same moth - and he is not just down the road. OK, not much of a coincidence, except that on his blog yesterday I saw he has a photo of a small larva found on Ivy, and seeing that, I went into my garden and looked at the Ivy growing round the telegraph pole - and indeed I too found larva there. Now is this a coincidence?

Without more ado, here is the proof.

Caloptilia stigmatella

Lozotaenia forsterana

I looked in my book which lists all the moth larva which can be found on different food plants and it seems to me that this is the only possibility. However, the photograph of this larva in the Micro-moths field guide (Sterling and Parsons) is very different. Perhaps the next instars will change colour.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Home and away

The 80 Watt trap was at home on Saturday night and the 125 Watt trap was away - less than a mile away at Woodcote, quite close to the Long Mynd hotel as part of the SACWG moths surveys.

Catches in the two traps were remarkably similar, the away team scoring a couple more species and 12 more moths. Both traps contained an Early Grey, only a day behind the one in Mike's garden. Otherwise nothing was new.

However, my trap last night, though not as full as I hoped (41 moths, 10 species), had two new moths for the Stretton Moths list.

The Shoulder Stripe is quite common and the colours can be quite variable.

Shoulder Stripe

The very pleasant surprise was to spot a golden coloured micro-moth sitting on the rim of the trap, If the sun had not been shining, I would not have seen it, glinting there in the early morning sun.

It was an Eriocrania, now renamed as Dyseriocrania subpurpurella. This moth, with a wing length of about 6mm is a leaf miner on Oak trees. They are often speckled with purple - as its name implies, but this one lacks any such colouration and is unusual in that it is "stripey".

Dyseriocrania subpurpurella

Friday, 19 April 2013

Early again

Whilst an Early Thorn has been gracing Graham's moth trap, this morning I found an Early Grey in mine!

A new moth for us, though one we would be expecting. It was very active and only posed for a brief picture on the lid of a pot before flying off.

Early Grey

Thursday, 18 April 2013

A nice photo at least!

So the trap went on on Sunday and there were 50 moths, of which there were 21 Small Quaker and a few others of the current suspects.

There was however an Early Thorn, not new to us, but a welcome visitor nonetheless. A nice photo, taken by Catherine - thanks.

Early Thorn
The Early Thorn is one of those annoying moths that does not want you to see the upper sides of its wings.

The trap went on on Tuesday too and there were over 100 moths, 2 Agonopterix heracleana being of interest - the first micros for some time. There were 81 Small Quakers - how many will there be tonight?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Eastern promise!

Trap was on last night but the weather was not kind. and the catch was disappointing. (Will try again tonight though.)

However, all was not lost! Following a trip out to Harton Hollow on Friday where I searched for larvae on Hartshorn ferns (without success) I decided to look at the one plant we had in the garden and yes, there they were, feeding on the sporangia! It is called Psychoides filicivora.

This species does not exist on my European list and it is thought to have originated in the Far East, but it is now established and spreading in the UK. Don't know how it got here though.

Psychoides filicivora

On the road

Having signed up many volunteers back in January, and following weeks of cold weather, the Strettons Area Community Wildlife Group moth trapping surveys are finally underway. Last night I paid a visit to our first 'client' in the Strettons and a new moth trap was given its first outing. I called round this morning to go through the contents, and we were not be disappointed.

The first thing that caught my eye was a micro moth roosting near the trap. It was not a species familiar to me and my initial identification forays in the Crambidae group were wide of the mark. Once back home I had another look and worked out I was looking in the wrong family, and then was quickly able to identify it as a Diurnea fagella. This species shows sexual dimorphism in terms of wing shape, and this example was a male.

Diurnea fagella

Also lurking on the outside of the trap was a new species for me, and one of four Orthosia species on offer. A very nice Twin-spotted Quaker, with the distinctive blackish 'twin spots' near the base of the forewing.

Twin-spotted Quaker

Once the trap was inside and being emptied, the other quakers started. There were four Common Quakers and seven Small Quakers. One of the latter caused me confusion, as I was thrown by the reddish colouration and dark filled stigmata and this led to an incorrect identification of Blossom Underwing. A closer look at home showed I was well wide of the mark and, as the picture below shows, it was a Small Quaker.

Small Quaker

The final Orthosia was a fine Hebrew Character, the best looking moth of the morning. We finished up with a worn Chestnut that caused some brief head-scratching, and four Red Chestnuts.

So a successful first outing, lets hope that the next few visits live up to expectations.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

House guest

Graham wrote in his last post about how a change in power of bulb can lead to a change in moth numbers, with the the comparison of using a 125w vs 80w mercury vapour lamp. This is certainly true, and my catches with my 20w actinic bulb are often much lower than those down the road!

What I also find interesting is the different make-up of species that we catch at our different sites. Recently I have regularly been catching Mottled Greys and Red Chestnuts, which have not been recorded by Graham. Whilst Graham has been catching several Orthosia species that have not troubled the scorers in Batch Valley.

Checking the contents of the trap this morning showed this pattern again. I had a Mottled Grey and a Red Chestnut, along with two Oak Beauty and my first two Small Quakers. No sign of some of the other species that we have seen on Ludlow Road recently. It keeps it interesting and shows that only by trapping in several locations will we be able to record a truer representation of the moths of the area.

I also had a welcome house guest today. We rudely disturbed this Twenty-plume Moth from a coat in our utility room. A species that I have not seen since the late summer.

Twenty-plume Moth

Friday, 12 April 2013

Watts the difference?

Ran a trap with an 80 watt bulb instead of the usual 125 watt.  The weather was not as kind as the previous night, so comparison of the relative catches is not scientific.

There were in general fewer moths, but of similar species (39 moths, 7 species) with the exception that there was also a Brindled Pug - generally, the first pug of the year to emerge. The wingspan is about 25mm.

Brindled Pug

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Not quite Philadelphia!

The title might make sense if you know what the city of Philadelphia is sometimes called.

Yes, "Quaker City", but why 'Not quite'?  Well, because although there were a lot of Quakers in the trap this morning, it was a lot fewer than there are in Philadelphia.

There were 112 moths in the trap this morning, the largest number since I began trapping here last August, and this included 88 Quakers, as follows: 76 Small, 11 Common and 1 Twin-spotted.

Common Quaker

As I said in my previous post, these are known as 'Orthosias' and include the Small Quaker and the Hebrew Character which have already featured. It also includes the "Drabs" and I have included a photo of a Clouded Drab and one of a Twin-spotted Quaker. Both of these species are new to us here, although quite common.

Twin-spotted Quaker

Clouded Drab

The rest of the catch included Oak and Pale-brindled Beauties, Satellites, Hebrew Characters, a Chestnut and another new for the site, a Pale Pinion, as below.

Pale Pinion

Monday, 8 April 2013

And we're off...

The weather is finally turning, and the moths are beginning to come. Just a few degrees warmer at night is enough to make moths more active and more likely to come the trap.

This morning I was pleased to find four moths in the trap, each of different species. First out was this lovely Grey Shoulder-knot. This moth will have emerged in the late autumn and over-wintered before becoming active again with the warmer conditions.

Grey Shoulder-knot

Also in the trap was an old friend, a Satellite (with yellow planets and satellites), and our second Red Chesnut. The final moth was a new one for the garden, the very attractive Hebrew Character. This striking moth is a common species, but none the less impressive for it.

Hebrew Character

Sunday, 7 April 2013

News eggstra!

So the sun was shining and some exercise was called for. A trip from home to Little Stretton and back over the top was called for and a look at the Alder and/or Hazel catkins for the signs of larvae was of course one of the objectives.

Nothing doing was the result, except on one hazel bush there was an old leaf and some "spiders web" type fluff.

The contents of this revealed no spiders, but an empty larval case and a lot of very small moth eggs.

So, how do you find out what sort of eggs these might be? I happen to have a photocopy of the "Entomologist's Log Book" by Alfred George Scorer, dated 1913.

This lists, in alphabetic order, moths and food plants and gives all manner of information concerning moths. So, starting with the foodplant (in this case Hazel, under Corylus) there is a list of moths whose larva feed thereon. Then you can go through them one by one (there are 28 listed) or make an inspired guess. Then you can go to to the website and see if you are right.

As it happens, my first guess seems correct - see if you agree. The vapourer moth.

Here is a photo of the eggs found today. You can compare them (as I did) to those on the site!

One more for the Strettons list too!

Vapourer (eggs on Hazel)

Coincidences ....

Yes, I too saw a Small Tortoiseshell in the garden yesterday (and another down the road). I hope lots of them were about.

But I did put the light trap on last night, even though I had done so on Tueday and got a nil return.

So this morning I was both pleased and disappointed. Disappointed as there were only 5 moths in the trap, but pleased because one of them was new for me here. The first of the "orthosias" a group of fairly common spring moths.

It is called a Small Quaker, Orthosia cruda. In some years (in France) I have had hundreds in the trap, but today, one was enough.

So, here is a picture of my visitor;

Small Quaker

The other moths in the trap were 3 Oak Beauties and a Chestnut

Day flying

I took a nice long walk on the Lond Mynd yesterday, starting out in Batch Valley and walking across to Carding Mill Valley. Very pleasant it was too, with signs of spring provided by a male Wheatear. I sat down for a rest half way and was surprised to see a moth fluttering over the grassland. A closer inspection showed it to be a Mottled Grey - not a day-flying moth but out in the midday sun for some reason.

Mottled Grey

On my return to Batch Valley I found this lovely Small Tortoiseshell sunning itself. Not a moth, but no excuses needed for posting a photo here. I also saw three Peacock butterflies on my walk, a sight to lift spirits. These are our hibernators, though, rather than newly emerged butterflies. Hopefully we will be seeing Holly Blues and Whites soon.

Small Tortoiseshell

According to the forecast we will finally have nights staying above freezing from tonight. So the moth trap will be out and hopefully we will have sightings to share soon.