Tuesday, 10 December 2019

This Small Phoenix has certainly 'risen from the flames'

With the temperature hovering around 0c. when I went to check my trap last night I wasn't really expecting much (if anything at all), so imagine my surprise when I noticed a Small Phoenix (photo below) on the side of our porch. The latest this species has ever been recorded in Montgomeryshire is the 31st October, so this is nearly six weeks later than that - quite remarkable.


Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Pont Llogel Event - Saturday 19 October 2019

Well, the last event of the year, and there was a good turnout - of people anyway.  Traps were turned on at 7pm, and then it was just a case of waiting for the moths to turn up.  It was quite chilly down by the river - and although the thermometer said the lowest temperature of the evening was 7.5 degrees, it felt cooler.
There was a lot of huddling round the white sheet, and it did prove quite productive for moths.  We had a masterclass from Peter on the difference between November Moth, Pale November Moth and Autumnal Moth.  I didn't necessary graduate from that class, but it was good to have the opportunity to see some quite well marked individuals where there was a chance to see the distinguishing features.  It was concluded that the illustrations in the otherwise excellent Waring and Townsend field guide didn't necessarily help. I think I will still be recording them all as November Moth agg.

November Moth

Pale November moth

Other highlights from the night included an early December Moth (perhaps the Christmassy weather confused him), a Red-green Carpet, a Chestnut and Common Marbled Carpet.  A full list is available here. Just 1 moth per attendee!  Thanks to Gavin Chambers for all the photos. 

December Moth

Finally a big thanks to all the events team for making the events possible this year: Phil McGregor, Paul Roughley, Mark Thomas and Gavin Chambers, and to Peter Williams & Douglas Boyes for leading events and being there to help us all identify our moths, and to all those that attended and contributed in whatever way.  We will be starting to think about next year's programme over the winter - and we are planning to concentrate on events as accessible to the public as possible.  We have a few ideas already but feel free to contact us if you have any ideas for events that we could run.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Llandinam Gravels Event

Hello all

The weather forecast for tomorrow night is not very good (weather warning for heavy rain from 8pm onwards) so we have reluctantly decided to cancel the event at Llandinam Gravels.

Hopefully we will have more luck for our October event.


Saturday, 7 September 2019

Searching for Miners - Wern Claypits Nature Reserve Saturday 31 August

This was a training session that opened up a whole new world to some of us attending this daytime event. Douglas Boyes led the event and provided us with copies of: “The Identification of Leaf-mining Lepidoptera” (available on the website www.leafmines.co.uk ) which provides a key to leaf mines by food plant, so if you can identify plants and trees you stand a chance of finding the relevant leaf miner. Armed with the knowledge that there is only one leaf mine that feeds on Meadowsweet, I proceeded to present countless mines to Douglas only to learn the hard way that Lepidoptera are not the only miners!  Apparently flies do it too.  And the mines look pretty convincing until you get your eye in with the frass (their poo).  Yes, we learnt a whole new vocabulary too.
Sue, Tim, Douglas and Peter considering the options

Once Douglas had given us the basics, off we all went searching each tree and plant around the nature reserve for what we hoped would be Lepidoptera.  The weather was fairly kind to us, and the site excellent.  

The leaf miners fall into a number of families with different mining characteristics, so some of them tunnel in the leaf causing gallery mines and occasionally leading to blotches (the Nepticulidae) and some make folds or blisters or blotches, or even cones (Gracillariidae). Some mines are found in the leaves, but some are found in the seeds – for example Field Maple. 

We targeted certain “easier” trees: Field Maple, Alder, Ash,  Blackthorn & Hazel, and with Douglas’ help we were able to identify a number of species. For example on Hazel we found all three gracillariid species – one which causes a blister on top of the leaf (Phyllonorycter coryli), one where the larva feeds in a rolled leaf edge (Parornix devoniella) and one a long mine with a strong central fold (Phyllonorycter nicellii). 

Phyllonorycter rajella on Alder
Some species are not identifiable from the mine alone, and you need the larva or to rear to be certain. And some trees are more challenging – for example Oak, which has many species living on it.  This didn’t stop Gavin searching every Oak tree!

We didn’t spot many flying moths – just a Nettle-tap ably netted by Gavin and a Brown China Mark seen by the canal and captured by the swift camera of Sue.  We also found the larva of a Mother of Pearl wrapped up in a nettle leaf and a Yellow-tail larva in an Oak tree.  
Among the highlights of the day were the breeding record of Caloptilia falconipella, found on Alder.

Altogether we totalled 32 records – mostly leaf miners – so it just shows that it is worth taking time to look at the little things – and it is something you can do all year round and really add to the records.  There is a book: “Micro-moth Field Tips” by Ben Smart, which is a guide to finding the early stages of micro moths (not just miners) by every month of the year.  Worth a look.  It means we can keep moth-ing right through the year. For full species list click here.

 Many thanks to Douglas for a really interesting session (and for making sure I got this report right!), and to Sue for taking photos and keeping the list of records on the day, and to everyone that turned up (even Peter found us eventually!).

Brown China Mark
Caloptilia Stigmatella on Willow

Caloptilia semifascia - the larva feeds in a cone
 formed from the leaf of a Field Maple.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Wern Claypits - Daytime Event Saturday 31 August

Don't forget it is our daytime event at Wern Claypits on Saturday 31 August, starting at 1pm.  Douglas Boyes will be leading a leaf mine workshop and we will be looking for day flying moths as well.  Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve - 3rd Aug 19 - Coming up roses!

Well, where to begin.... The forecast for once was looking extremely favourable and there was a crowd of 26 people eagerly anticipating some moth action even before the traps were switched on. Though before they'd arrived a July Highflyer had already been found on the visitor centre wall.

Common Rustic agg. feeding on Molinia - Gavin Chambers

With Tom's help from the Cors Dyfi Osprey project we had traps up and running from about 9.30pm, with 7 traps and a white sheet. Peter gave a short talk about the moths and then we were all set free to hunt out the moths. It wasn't long before moths started to be potted and ID'd with Small Rufous, Smoky Wainscot and the first rosy of the night in the form of a Rosy Rustic. Along the boardwalk it was interesting to note numerous moths, including the Bordered Beauty, seemingly feeding/nectaring on molinia seed heads which must have just bloomed, as much as grass does!

Scarce Silver-lines - Gavin Chambers

More colourful moths then appeared with Orange Swift, Ruby Tiger and the intricately marked Antler Moth wowing the crowd of 'mothers'. As often is the case, the white sheet was a great spectacle (we caught one of these too) for the public with a great variety posing nicely, such as the striking Black Arches, stunning green Scarce Silver-lines (bigger than I'd imagined!) and mezmerising Gold Spots.

Webb's Wainscot - Greg Osborn
It was extremely useful having numerous footmen on site, despite just lingering around the moth traps. We ended up with a few types; Common, Scarce, Dingy, Buff and the superb Rosy Footman (the second and probably best looking rosy of the night). With the reedbed on site it was no surprise to catch numerous Wainscots. The stand out of these was a subtly but destinctly marked Webb's Wainscot which is only the 2nd county record after one caught at Cors Dyfi in 2015.

There were plenty of micro moths around, including the large Patania ruralis (Mother of Pearl) and gold spangled Argyresthia goedartella. However, there were also plenty of tiny apparently non-descript species which were quickly put in front of the experts, it was a great relief to see Douglas turn up to keep us right! One of only a couple of migrant species was the small Plutella xylostella (Diamond-back Moth) which was dwarfed by the other common migrant of the Silver Y.

Rosy Marsh Moth - Ben Porter (https://benporterwildlife.co.uk)
We got to midnight with most people having left for home, but the moths were going strong with 100's now swarming around traps. Clouds of Large Yellow Underwing made it trickier to pick out something different but a quick look through some of the egg boxes revealed one of the specialities for the reserve, the rarest rosy of the night and perhaps most sort after amongst most of the nights 'mothers', the Rosy Marsh Moth. A Red Data Book species restricted to only a handful of sites in the UK, with larvae feeding on bog myrtle. They are so rare that even the police had to drop by to check them out, at least that's our story...

A heavy rain show around 1am had us sheltering for a short time before starting to pack up around 1.30am. As always more species were discovered as we emptied the traps such as both the Copper Underwing and Svensson's Copper Underwing, Miller and Tawny Speckled Pug along with the more unusual Dotted Carpet, Clouded Magpie and Small Argent and Sable. There was also a couple of hitch-hikings with a Cloaked Minor (arguably the moth of the night 😉) on my head and a Slender Brindle on Mel's shirt. Surprisingly the elephant in the room was missed by all white sheet onlookers all night, as an Elephant Hawk-moth larvae was found munching on willowherb below the sheet not long before packing up, the adult having been found earlier in the night.

Elephant Hawk-moth Larvae (left) and Adult (right) - Mel Jones

In total we finished with a mammoth 114 macro species and 58 micros totalling the highest ever catch during a moth event and we still managed to leave at 2am! For a full list of species please click here.

Thank you to everyone for coming along and to Tom for being on site to keep us under control on what turned out to be a great night for moths. Thanks also to the photographers for making it hard for me to pick which ones to use, they were all great. Fingers crossed the weather is turning in our favour for moth events this year and we get a warm, dry day for the next event at Wern Claypits, a daytime event (more details here).

Friday, 2 August 2019

Butterflies to look-out for - plus two exotic records

Thought I'd share some info on a couple of native species to be on the look-out for, plus some news of some exotic sightings...

Essex Skipper
Since being added to the county list in 2017, this species is now established in the north-eastern corner of the county. Multiple records now from the Welshpool and Llanymynech areas (and one from near Newtown). This butterfly will spread further into the county so do please check those Small Skippers! Check out the 'Similar species' section on the UK butterflies website for some excellent ID pointers here.

Marbled White (Oxfordshire)
Marbled White
Recorded on a BMS transect at Roundton Hill in mid-July this year: only the second county record (and first since 1999). Seen during a period of very hot weather, this probably represents a dispersing individual. Marbled White probably isn't breeding in the county yet, but is expanding its range and may well become established in the coming years.

Scarce Swallowtail
New county record from mid-June. Two reports from a plant nursery near Welshpool. This species is a very rare migrant to the UK and the individual seen is highly unlikely to have arrived of its own volition (probably imported as a pupa among plants grown in continental Europe).

Two reports from Powis Castle gardens last week (3rd and 4th county records). This species is a rare vagrant from across the Atlantic and these sightings undoubtedly represent the release of captively-bred individuals (apparently for a wedding). Pictures of one sighting here.

Monday, 22 July 2019

New sightings of Welsh Clearwing and Ashworth's Rustic at Lake Vyrnwy

Gavin Chambers has been doing some fine work in Montgomeryshire on luring Welsh Clearwings to pheromones and trapping Ashworth's Rustic at lake Vyrnwy. To read his report please click on the following link. https://community.rspb.org.uk/placestovisit/lakevyrnwy/b/lakevyrnwy-blog/posts/a-clear-success?fbclid=IwAR1N4IfLGtDDwd_PJyCrp_s-Otfd1jgk9u5V61QS8eHyyBh0ldfuamd8iWc


Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Llanymynech Rocks daytime event - A silver lining to a cloudy day with a new county record

Wouldn’t you just believe it, prior to this event we had a week or more of sunny weather, but come Saturday the weather was overcast and drizzling, not good conditions for butterflies and day flying moth species. However, we had to work with what had and we did our best to make the most of things - and in fact it turned out to be an excellent day.
The trapping site

After meeting in the carpark, we hiked up to the trapping area by about 1:30 to get set up. On reaching our desired trapping site, even before we got setup we more or less walked into a Small Eggar Larval nest (an uncommon species in the county and a Nationally scarce B species throughout the UK), which was a real treat for us all to see and, furthermore, throughout the afternoon three more larval nests were discovered making four in all, a great record for the site. 
Small Eggar larval nest

After marvelling over the Small Eggar larval nests we set up our two pheromone traps. One pheromone trap was for our target species, the Six-belted Clearwing and we were trying another pheromone for the Yellow-legged clearwing just on the off-chance one was in the vicinity. We all gazed at these pheromone traps for a while until we got goggle-eyed then we started to fan out, searching for other day-flying moths and butterflies.
Checking the net

Butterflies, it has to be said, were very thin on the ground and during the afternoon we only saw three species which braved the gloomy conditions; Small Heath, Ringlet and Meadow Brown.
Small Heath and Ringlet

We did slightly better for moths, recording 3 macro species (including the Small Eggar) and 9 micro species, which included 3 plume species, one of which was a new county record for Montgomeryshire; the rare migrant plume species Oxyptilus laetus---for a full species list please click here.
Yellow Shell

Merrifieldia leucodactyla

Oxypilus laetus

At 4:30pm we decided to call it a day and stated to pack up and wouldn’t you just know it - in the best manor of most mothing events there was a moth, on this occasion a Clay, underneath a bit of kit, there’s always one last moth, isn’t there - somethings never change! To sum up, I think we had a pretty good day, what with the Small Eggar larval nests and the new county record micro species Oxyptilus laetus.
Many thanks to those who turned out on a pretty gloomy day, (those clearwing species are still eluding us), and to Mel for taking the photos.
Our next event will be at Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve on Saturday 3rd August, full details can be seen on the events area of our website.



As a post script to this event it was rather good to hear that two members of our group; Sue Southam and Paul Roughley went back to Llanymynech Rocks the following week and this time they were successful and did indeed manage to lure the six-belted Clearwing to the pheromones. Up to six individuals arrived at any one time - photos below.

Six belted Clearwing at the pheromone

Six-belted Clearwing


Sunday, 16 June 2019

Bat and Moth night, Deri Woods. Saturday 8th June.

This event was at a community owned woodland situated just outside Llanfair Caerinion. It was an open to the public joint venture between Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust and Montgomeryshire Moth Group.

Under what appeared to be (oh no, not again) a clearing sky, the event started a little after 8.30pm.  Tammy Stretton from the Trust was present to give a very interesting and informative talk and tour (with Bat detectors to hand) around the woodland, investigating which species of Bat were present.

Meanwhile, some of the moth group members were setting up base, to include 5 Skinner's traps and the perennial white sheet. Due to a cool breeze and dropping temperature it was decided to only place one trap at the lowest part of the wood on the river bank as on a previous cold event 3 traps placed there had caught nothing.

10pm was switch on time for the traps, handily, just as the group of Myotis chasers returned. The temperature at this point was around 11 Celsius.  Peter Williams was our welcome expert for the night to sort out the dreaded micros!

Tammy reported that it was a rather quiet night with only the usual suspects, Common and Soprano Pipistrelle and one unidentified fly-by.

Gavin produced the first two moths from the traps,  a Common Carpet, whose thunder was rapidly stolen by a cracking male Lime Hawkmoth...and then five more male Lime Hawkmoths.

Male Lime Hawkmoth

Amongst the regular moths trapped at this site (for full species list click here)
were the remarkably shaped Pale Prominent,

Side profile of Pale Prominent

and a rather lovely, fresh Scorched Wing.

Scorched Wing settled on the sheet

Midway through the event Sue produced a tin of delicious Shortbread which revived our enthusiasm no end. A fresh push on the potting front produced amongst others, another five male Lime Hawkmoths, Shoulder-striped Wainscot and to round off the event,

A variation of  Ingrailed Clay

 a very fresh example of Ingrailed Clay. With very little moth activity we turned the traps off around 1.30am.

(A selection of very well drilled moths from release at the end of the night)

Peter declared that in all his time with the moth group he has never witnessed so many Lime Hawkmoths in one trapping - apparently they were all males (their up-curved abdomens indicating this). 

Happily, the night temperature for this event had steadied around 10 Celcius and so we totalled 30 Macros species by the end. We also had a showing of four micro's, the low number perhaps reflecting what was still a relatively cool night. Oh, yes and quite a few of those unavoidable Cockchafer's as would be expected at this time of year!

15 people in total attended the evening. Thanks again to the collaborative efforts of Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust staff, members of Montgomeryshire Moth Group (particularly Sue with that Shortbread and Mel for the photographs) for making the event possible and of course the attending members of the public.

Next event is a daytime activity targeting Clearwing moths and other day-fliers at Llanymynech Rocks nature reserve on Saturday 6th July at 1pm.

Phil McGregor