Wednesday, 16 May 2018

'One to look out for' - the Orange Footman

There are some species in our database which are recorded very infrequently due to scarcity or distribution in the Montgomeryshire. So I thought it might be a good idea to highlight these species as and when their flight times arrive so that we could target them a little better. I shall call these particular series of posts 'One to look out for'. So today I'll get the ball rolling with the Orange Footman.

This species was first recorded at Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve in the west of the county in 2012 and in the subsequent six years there have been 9 further records from six different sites across the county. The species is predominantly found in the southern and eastern side of England, but in recent years it has slowly spread westwards and northwards. Its foodplant as in common with many other species of footman species is lichen, so we shouldn't have any problem with that, as lichen can be found in abundance throughout much of the county. It's on the wing from late May to June, so plenty of time coming up to record this species (I actually recorded one last night 15/05/18 at my home site in Commins Coch in the west of the county). It doesn't really have any confusion species as the only ones it can be confused with are the Dingy and Buff  Footman, but these species aren't on the wing until late June, so there shouldn't really be a problem here, but at always, if you're unsure, just send me a photo and I will confirm it for you one way or another. The species page can be viewed here.

Orange Footman
So there we are, we've kicked off with our first 'One to look out for', so let's see if we can add a few more records of this species to our database.

Peter.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

A Night out in the City - Saturday 28 April 2018

Saturday night saw 13 of us, including our hosts, at Lower View, City, near Sarn, on a private nature reserve that had not previously been trapped.  It was a chilly evening, with a full moon, so expectations weren’t high, but for those that arrived early there was an excellent chance to walk around the reserve and enjoy the sight of Early Purple Orchids emerging.  It was also a chance to enjoy being bitten by midges!  It was good to see some new faces, and Peter put in a celebrity appearance later on, in time for refreshments.

The traps went on at 8pm and a lot of the moth action came from the lighted sheet. The first moth of the evening from the sheet was a Water Carpet.  In all 19 species were trapped, which was higher than anticipated, including 2 micro species.  The highlight for those of us not at the last trapping was a Tissue, which comes out of hibernation in April/May.  There were many of the usual suspects coming to the end of their season, including Common Quaker, Clouded Drab, Twin-spotted Quaker & Hebrew Character, and some of the emerging Spring species like Early Thorn and Early Grey.  The full species list can be read here.

Tissue

Early Grey



Early Thorn

Members of the group enjoying a warming cuppa in Steve's weaving shed

Some people brought their own moths in case there wasn’t enough action on the night.  Paul presented Peter with a bag of Owl pellets.  He had previously had Monopsis laevigella emerge from the pellets but on the night it was a White-shouldered House Moth that put in an appearance. 

Many thanks for the splendid hospitality from Steve & Lisette, who let us shelter in their very comfortable shed, including a wood burner, and fed us very welcome sandwiches & sausage rolls towards the end of the night.  Washed down with lashings of tea or Bullace gin, and followed by Sue's legendary shortbread. No wonder we didn’t venture out to the traps very often!  As the night got colder (minimum 4C) & clearer there were less moths around and the evening drew to a close at midnight.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Rhoslan Farm Event - 14th Apr 2018

The first moth event of the year took place at Rhoslan Farm near Llanfyllin on the 14th April and despite winter seemingly dragging on into April we were fortunate to have a nicely timed increase in temperature. With intermittent cloud cover all 6 traps and the white sheet were turned on by 20:30 with a light breeze blowing through the garden and fields. Four traps were set up in surrounding fields and 2 more immediately around the farm house.

The white sheet
Bulbs had barely warmed up when the first moth was potted and was the first sign that moths were perhaps emerging a little later than normal this year as it was a March Moth. One of the highlights of the night was surprisingly second to be found, a Dark Chestnut, which gave some of us a chance to scrutinise a species not often caught by most, if at all.

March Moth
There was then a trickle of the more typical early Spring species; Red Chestnut, Hebrew Character and a hat-trick of quakers; Twin-Spot, Common and Small. At about this time we were all invited in for light refreshments in the warm conservatory by our host, Simon Spencer, where we found quiche, sandwiches and a range of delicious cakes. It was therefore not surprising that the next moth took quite a while to be found!!

Tissue
Sometime later, with Early Grey and Early Tooth-striped potted, the star of the event showed up in the form of a Tissue, which was followed by a chorus of Bless You! It appeared to be in pristine condition with a great patterning and pink flush. Perhaps the smartest looking moth was the Red Sword-grass that Peter managed to predict before it appeared by the white sheet. A moth of great disguise that could have easily just been a broken twig among leaf litter, though not so useful on a white sheet.

Red Sword-grass
There were just a couple of micros found, Agonopterix heracliana and Diurnea fagella. The night was then finished with a smart quartet of a Herald, Yellow Horned, White Marked and an Oak Beauty making it a total of 23 macro species and the 2 micros. With a huge thanks to Simon for his hospitality and use of his farm we packed up and were off around 00:30.

The species list can be found here.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Keep an eye open for those tricky spring species

We all need to be very vigilant when checking the trap at this time of year as some of the more uncommon spring species can be easily overlooked or misidentified in among the more common species. The following list shows what we should be checking for in the trap.

·         The Small Quaker can be a very numerous species, but check them carefully as there might just be the similar looking, but very uncommon Blossom Underwing in amongst them.
·         Clouded Drab and the Twin-spotted Quaker both have very variable colour forms and one colour form of Clouded Drab in particular can look like a form of Twin-spotted Quaker, so we need also to be on our toes here.
·         The Powdered Quaker will be on the wing soon. This species has a dusting of speckles and is slightly bigger than the Common Quaker, but if the speckles aren’t very prominent it can easily be mistaken for the latter.
·         The Lead-coloured Drab has been recorded in a few sites in the east and south of the county. This species can easily be confused with the Common Quaker, so all individuals much be checked thoroughly. The Lead Drab has a more even lead colour and the apex of the forewing is more rounded. It would be great if we could get some more confirmed records of this species, so again, be vigilant.
·         Our first two specifies of Pugs are also on the wing now, i.e. Brindled Pug and Double-striped Pug and while they’re not that similar, care should be taken with id.
·         Several species of Agonopterix and Depressaria are also on the wing at this time of year, many of which can be confused with others.

If you’re in any doubt with identification, of any of the above species, as always, send me a photo and I’ll do my best to confirm it for you.  

Other good early species to look out for now are; Pine Beauty, Brindled Beauty, Glaucous Shears, Broom-tip and Grey Birch.

Happy mothing

Peter.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Costa Rica - Moths and other insects

Last November, we visited Costa Rica, primarily on a birding trip, but it offered good opportunities to see moths.  Simon said before we went 'I hope you are not going to spend all your time looking at insects....'

In some places, there were moths around the hotel lights after dark, but at Rancho Naturalista, in the Talamanca Mountains, there is an illuminated sheet, just inside the rainforest. This is switched on about 3 or 4 nights a week, and attracts hundreds of moths and many other insects including mantis, wasps, flies and katydids.

I found myself getting up at 4am to photograph the moths, (and rescuing some by taking them away from the light and into the rainforest), before the woodcreepers and flycatchers arrived to feast at first light.  Some moths could be easily assigned to families eg hawkmoths and tiger moths, but with no field guide available some were much trickier – made more difficult by the incredible mimicry which is an important survival strategy.

There are moths which resemble wasps, as well as wasps which resemble moths; moths which looked like butterflies, and moths which looked like scorpions; and others which mimicked their toxic relatives. There were many moths which resembled dead leaves complete with ragged edges, ‘disease’ blotches and sometimes even curled wings. There was even one moth which resembled a thorn.




  
































Early, one morning, I was surprised by a huge Saturniid moth, probably Rhescyntis hippodamia. It is the size of a dinner plate and fluttered about like a large bat, before landing on the sheet. You can see how huge it is compared to the hawkmoths on the sheet next to it. If you look closely, you can see that the tips of the forewings resemble a snake’s head.


You can see more photos from the trip here








We spotted  number of rather impressive caterpillars including this handsome creature:


There were plenty of beautiful butterflies - my favourites were the glasswings – we were lucky enough to find a lekking site in a dappled patch of sunlight in the rainforest where the males were displaying to attract mates.  






Lurking under the hummingbird feeders outside our room, we spotted a few hooded mantis. These amazing insects actually catch and eat hummingbirds - although thankfully we didn't see this happen.














And no, I didn't spend all my time looking at insects - we also saw many birds, amphibians and reptiles, and mammals. The only thing I was short of was sleep!

Clare Boyes

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

2018 January Moth Challenge

Hello Mothers,

The January challenge has now finished, the data is all in and has been collated in the two charts below.

This year 12 mothers took part (one more than last year) and between us we recorded 22 species, the same as last year (11 macro and 11 micro) and 204 moths (179 macro and 25 micro), which is again an excellent effort on everyone's part. However, in general, moth numbers were well down on last year.
Only one person achieved the macro part of the challenge, with 10 plus species that was myself with 10 species. Julie Pearce/Mark Thomas and Sue Southam were next with 6 species. I also managed to achieve the micro part of the challenge with 8 species.
The six recorders who managed to record nothing this year will have to share the coveted ‘wooden bulb’ award (formally the ‘wooden spoon’ award).

Click to enlarge

Now for a more in depth breakdown of what was recorded.

Macros - As can be seen in the chart below several people managed to record 3 species. Across all recorders the most numerous species was the Winter Moth with. Once again the Mottled Umber came second with 31 moths and the Mottled Grey was third with 26 moths.The most moths recorded by individual recorders was 125 by myself, Sue 32 and Julie/Mark 21.Of the 11 species recorded, none were totally unexpected, although the Pale Pinion and Spruce Carpet are always good January records.

Micros - Interestingly, for the first time, the micro species recorded of 11 matched the macro species recorded, so that was a particularly good effort on the part of the five recorders trapping something (one up on last year). The species recorded by the most recorders was once again Agonopterix heracliana (2 people). No unexpected micro species were recorded this year.

Click to enlarge

Many thanks to all those for taking part this year - key below.

DG             Deborah Griffith                         Welshpool
SS              Simon Spencer                            Llanfyllin
PRW          Peter Williams                            Commins Coch
JP&MTT   Julie Pearce & Mark Thomas     Aberbechan
PR              Paul Roughly                             Abermule
AT             Alan Tadman                               Derwenlas
GBC          Gavin Chambers                          Lake Vyrnwy
JH              Jeny Heard                                  Montgomery
SOS           Sue Southam                               Guilsfield
TS              Tammy Stretton                          Welshpool
IM             Ingrid Maugham                          Meifod
LW            Les Wilkins                                  Dernol

Happy mothing to all in 2018.

Peter

Monday, 19 February 2018

The evolution of butterflies and moths

Many of you probably saw the recent discovery of ancient moth scales in the news. Following on from this discovery, I wrote a blog on the early evolution of Lepidoptera - including what the first moths living over 200 million years ago looked like and some of the reasons why the group has since evolved to be so successful. Might be of interest in these winter months when the trap is (relatively) quiet?

Link: http://www.douglasboyes.co.uk/blog/2018/02/13/flying-with-dinosaurs/

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

My 2017 Mothing Highlight

In March 2014 I had a Small Eggar one evening fluttering around by the moth trap. I checked what food plant they used and was surprised to find that such an uncommon moth feeds mostly on hawthorn and blackthorn. From April through to July I checked the bushes nearby for signs of the larva or their tent and found nothing. In the autumn I lightly trimmed some of my blackthorn and hawthorn as that is what they are supposed to prefer. Checked again in 2015, found nothing. More trimming in autumn, checked the hedgerows in 2016, still nothing. By 2017 I had lost interest and didn't bother checking, with only a couple of sightings of larva for Montgomeryshire I thought it was unlikely that I would ever get to see them.

In early 2017 I had obtained some pheromones for luring Burnet moths as part of a project run by Ashen Oleander at Canterbury for his PhD. In July to test the lures I went to a site about a mile away from here were I had seen some Burnets in 2016. I was putting out the lures when I noticed something odd in a small hawthorn bush a few metres away. On closer inspection I realised it was a Small Eggar larval tent. The larvae were well grown, and most were clinging to the outside of the
tent, with a few wandering around the bush munching on hawthorn leaves. I watched them for a while, most didn't stray from their tent, but some were moving quite rapidly along the branches looking for leaves to eat, or returning to the tent after feeding. There is a short video clip of them here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RpGgyrSahY



The area they were in was grassland that had been allowed to scrub up, there were a number of smallish hawthorn bushes and a few clumps of gorse dotted around. The hawthorns didn't look very trimmed, but I suppose the sheep might have been nibbling at them. It is hard to understand why some species are so unusual. The habitat didn't look different to anything else around, so why arent they everywhere?




Paul Roughley

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Essex Skipper confirmed in Montgomeryshire

2017 saw an extremely rare - though, in this case, not unexpected - event in Montgomeryshire: a new county butterfly record. Essex Skipper has been spreading rapidly in recent decades and has become common over much of southern England and Wales. It is rather similar to the Small Skipper so has possibly been overlooked to some extent.

It's definitely worth checking your Small Skippers in 2018, especially in the east of the county. There are some useful pictures for separating the two species under the 'similar species' section on UK Butterflies. If possible, please take photos to have any potential sightings confirmed.

Essex Skipper. Peter & Sue Young. July 2017, Welshpool.

Monday, 15 January 2018

2018 event programme

We will begin the year with two events held at private residences - this should give us the option of some shelter and warming beverages in the (unlikely!) event of poor weather. On the 14th April, we are visiting Simon Spencer's smallholding, hoping to catch Broom-tip (a nationally scarce species that has been found at the site in the past). On the 28th April, Steve Attwood-Wright is hosting us at his private nature reserve in the south-east of the county. This is a particularly under-recorded area and the site has had no moth trapping in the past, so who knows what will turn up...

We will hold an event at Cors Dyfi reserve in the far west of the county on the 2nd June. Later in the month, for Moth Night 2018, we will be trapping on limestone grassland at Llanymynech Rocks (16th June). The site has produced a number of exciting records over the years including:
This Netted Pug was caught at Llanymynech last year (GO).

On the 14th July, we will hope to entice amorous male Welsh Clearwings at Lake Vyrnwy (a joint event with the RSPB). This rare day-flying species has not been seen in the county for several years (though it is thought to experience population cycles lasting several years so this may not be a cause for concern). Fingers crossed! Even if we're unsuccessful in luring the clearwing, we will no doubt be able to find some other moths which may be on the wing (or feeding as larvae).
Welsh Clearwing at pheromone lures. Lake Vyrnwy, 2010 (MDH)

Wern Claypits nature reserve is another site that has not had any previous trapping - a fact we'll be rectifying on the 4th August. The site is designed to recreate the habitat of an abandoned canal. We'll be targetting specialist moths associated with wetland habitats. Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust (MWT) will be joining us and will be aiming to record some interesting bats foraging over the water.

We'll end the year by visiting two MWT reserves: Coed Y Dinas (1st September) and Deri Woods (22nd September). The latter is a joint event with the MWT and we will be targetting the autumn sallow moths.

Please consult the programme, which can be found in the events section of the website, for further information (including location details, directions and meet times).