Tuesday 30 December 2014

January moth challenge

Hello Everyone,

With another New Year approaching I am once again doing our January moth challenge.  The challenge is to record ‘10 macro and or 5 micro species during January’. As many of you have found out in the past it's definitely not an easy challenge, but it’s well worth having a go at as it generates many extra winter records for the county when recording is often very sparse. It’s also a bit of fun, have a go, see how you get on, you might surprise yourselves. So go on, dust those traps off and get recording!
I’ll ask you all for your results at the end of January (please send your results even if you don’t record ten macro or five micro species, as it all goes towards building the bigger picture), then I’ll post the results on the blog at the beginning of February.

All the best and a Happy New year to you all,


Sunday 21 December 2014

National Macro Moth Recording Scheme - Annual meeting

Hello All,

Just a reminder that the National Macro Moth Recording Scheme (NMRS) is once again holding its annual seminar at the Lyttelton Lecture Theatre in the Birmingham and Midland Institute, B3 3BS in Birmingham on Saturday 31st January 2015.

It's an annual gathering of moth recorders from around the country, hosted by Butterfly Conservation and everone is welcome attend this excellent day of moth related talks. Full details (including the programme) are available here. It is essential you book a place for this event.

Seasons greatings to everyone.


Friday 19 December 2014

The smaller moths of Shropshire

A book recommendation from just over the border. The smaller moths of Shropshire has only just been published and has been written by Godfrey Blunt, the VC40 micro moth recorder.

The book features all the micro species recorded in the county, giving a paragraph account and in most cases a distribution map too. The book also has various analysis exploring factors which might limit the distributions of micro moths such as climate, habitat, etc.

Although I don't do much mothing in Shropshire, it's very interesting to see what lives just over the border - much of the VC47 boundaries are shared with Shropshire as well as some great sites, eg Llanymynech Rocks (and my garden!).

Should anyone stray into Shropshire, Godfrey would certainly like to receive any micro records.

It's a chunky A4 size and the price seems fair: £13 before 31/12/14 (£15 thereafter). Details on this new publication here.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Moths in bird nests

Contents of several nest boxes
In October 2013 I collected the contents of several vacated nest boxes. I stored the nest material and general detritus in sealed tubs over the winter. The hope was that there would be moth pupae within the detritus. There are quite a number of British species associated with bird nests, the larvae probably feeding on detritus or fibers.

Fast forward to spring 2014 when adults began to emerge from the tubs. Within a couple of months the following had appeared:

52x Monopis laevigella
19x Niditinea striolella
11x Endrosis sarcitrella
2x Nemapogon wolffiella

Monopis laevigella, Niditinea striolella & Nemapogon wolffiella

Monopis laevigella is clearly an abundant species. I've occasionally seen the species free-flying outside, often by day, but never in large numbers. Andrew Graham comments on such numbers emerging from owl nests on his website. It also was interesting to note that none of the laevigella presented any issues separating from M. weaverella: the main confusion species. The two can look extremely similar at times but the 52 exhibited all the features of laevigella without exception.

Niditinea striolella is quite a difficult species to identify. When I potted the first one, I knew it was a species I'd not seen before. Clearly a tineid and a look in the books suggested the Niditinea genus as a likely candidate. N. fuscella appears to be the commoner species, however I felt my moth resembled striolella more closely. The two species can be very similar, as well as confused with other members of the family. To be certain of the identification, I checked its genitalia which are quite distinct. This confirmed the identification of Niditinea striolella: a nationally scarce B species and the first record for the county,  and indeed all of north Wales. Many more emerged over a three-week period, during this time, I selected a few individuals for gen det to ensure the emergence consisted of this single species. The large numbers which emerged suggests this is a locally common species and is probably more widespread. To find 19 individuals from a few bird nests but not a single one in five years moth trapping suggests the species is very easily overlooked.

Endrosis sarcitrella was definitely an expected species being common in moth traps, as well as indoors.

Nemapogon wolffiella was, however, a real surprise. I first came across this nationally scarce B species a few years ago when I found the first county record in the house. I've since discovered it to be fairly regular when netting late afternoon in a wooded part of the garden. Also occurs very infrequently in moth traps. It was a surprise because the literature states it feeds on dead wood and bracket fungi and therefore should not be found in bird nests. It's possible the species feeds on decaying matter within bird nests, like many other members of the family. Another possible explanation is the larvae had been feeding on dead wood but moved into the bird box to pupate.

There were a number of species I felt were missing. For example Tinea trinotella and T. semifulvella are both fairly regular in moth traps here (more so than M. laevigella)  and both are said to feed in bird nests, however none emerged. This is quite possibly just a case of sampling error and collecting a larger number of nests may well produce more species. Alternatively, the conditions in the tubs might not have been right for these species over winter and these pupae died or otherwise failed to emerge. Also possible that those two species prefer different types of nest e.g. nests in hedgerows.

Collecting nest material in the autumn certainly seems likely a worthwhile undertaking. There are at least 10 species, probably more, given in the literature that feed in bird nests. Many of these are likely to be very under-recorded. If nothing else, the whole exercise enlightened me that birds have at least one purpose after all...


Monday 8 December 2014

Butterfly records

A page from 'Butterflies of VC47 - 2013'
It's that time of year again: with winter closing in, I'm starting to sort through the county's butterfly records for 2014.

If anyone has any records, now is the time to send them in. If you use iRecord, that's fine, I will download them in one batch in a few weeks.

It doesn't matter how many records you have or what format they're in, I'd love to receive them. Even a simple list of the butterflies seen at a particular location in a single year is very useful. The chances are you'll be adding a new dot to the maps.

Once I have all the year's data,  I will consolidate it and add it to the county database. It will be used to update all the distribution maps in my 'Butterflies of Montgomeryshire' PDF and a new version will be published in the spring. The data will also be forwarded to Butterfly Conservation's national recording scheme.

Please do get in touch if you have any questions, etc.