Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

New Grass

I left the garden trap off on Tuesday night. The forecast was for slightly cooler conditions with the temps and risk of thundery showers increasing by Wednesday night, so I opted for a lie in and to then give it a proper go last night with both traps. The plan paid off, as at 5am this morning both traps were liberally covered with moths. And there in plain view was yet another new macro for the garden!

Grass Rivulet - 674th garden and 315th macro species

There is also another potential garden macro tick, I'm fairly confident but I'm awaiting the thoughts of others about this one - a putative Hoary Footman. This species has moved into the county in the last couple of years and has been spreading pretty rapidly.

Hoary Footman?

Scarce Footman left (straw yellow hindwing) / Hoary Footman? right (off-white hindwing)

Other highlights were the second Privet Hawk for the garden, fourth Anania perlucidalis, Sycamore, 3x Miller, several Coronets and these ....

Stathmopoda pedella - 3rd garden record
Love the daft legs-akimbo pose of this moth. Thought it was out the picture after a neighbour cut down the only large alder tree in the vicinity.

Dark Umber - less than annual
Always seem to be knackered by the time they end up in my garden traps!

And here's a couple for the sake of it.

Batrachedra praeangusta - I like these, slightly quirky

Hypsopygia glaucinalis - another name change to get used to

Common Emerald

And whilst I'm at it, here's a couple from a breif but very enjoyable session with a sheet and trap at Misterton Marsh on Monday evening with Adrian Russell and Graham Finch.

Miller

Blue-bordered Carpet

Phalonidia manniana

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Cor blimey Mary Poppins ....

... "chim chimney chim chimney chim chim cheroo, a moth in the garden is nice when it's new".

But .... what the hell was this doing in my garden moth trap!

Chimney Sweeper

A quick check on my garden habitat and the surrounding area confirm that there are no quality meadows within sight. Add to that, this is a pronounced day-flying species that rarely (ever?!) comes to light. So imagine my surprise when I saw that this morning and promptly added it to the garden list (673rd moth, 314th macro). Okay it's a bit knackered, not a nice pristine glossy black with shining white apex fringes - but all the salient features are there to see.

There was another potentially exciting species in the trap, not that I knew it when I potted it up. I thought it was a worn Momphid of some sort and almost ignored it, but decided I might as well get it detted. So when I grabbed a couple of quick shots this evening I was surprised to see that I'm actually photographing a gelechiid. I think it is Exotelia dodecella (which will be new for the garden as well) but I'm not confident enough to record it as that at the moment.

Possible Exotelia dodecella - TBC

And there was yet another odd Acleris sp. - I've now got four for gen det, two large and well marked like this one and two smaller less distinctly marked individuals.

Acleris sp.

And here's a few others from last nights trap.

Mompha ochraceella

Brown China-mark

Common Wainscot - hindwings checked as forewings well marked

Monday, 19 June 2017

Look at the elytra on that!

Click beetles are dull, brown, boring beetles ... like this one ...

Ampedus balteatus

This was a completely chance find at Bradgate Park yesterday, where we headed for some sunshine, a nice family picnic and a decent walk. I'll post some pictures from the park another day, and I'll stick with the beetles theme here. A couple from my garden moth trap, and another from the park.

Mealworm Beetle (Tenebrio molitor)

Curculio sp. (maybe C. venosus, but I need to check further)

 Wasp Beetle

And just to prove it's not just moths that wear, this is the new-to-science Bald Weevil

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Yee-haw!

I done gone got a damn fine garden tick ya'll, and it's a redneck fer sure.

Red-necked Footman, 672nd garden species, 313th macro

This is yet another species that not that long ago was a major county rarity. I remember how surprised and pleased we were to see it back in 2006. I'm not aware that it has started spreading like Orange Footman, but I do know it's been picked up in a couple of other gardens recently so I guess it is, Either way, it was the first thing I saw in my Synergetic trap and the last thing I expected to see.

The traps were busy, but the other highlights for me were the first properly variegated form of Coronet that I've had here, and a female Ghost Moth which is only the sixth for the garden. Also good to see a few other summer species turning up.

Coronet

Ghost Moth

Barred Yellow

Buff Arches

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Hot - Damn!

Nice and warm last night bringing a fair bit to the garden traps, albeit nothing exceptional apart from the 2nd Box Tree Moth for the garden, me and VC55. Someone somewhere near here is going to be losing their hedge shortly!

Today has been roasting hot. I nipped out with the clearwing lures but was scuppered when the first site I visited for Red-belted had been bulldozed. No joy at the second for Currant, and I gave up then as it was just too hot to think.

The ultimate irony is that the warm nights and hot days generally mean the moth traps are getting busier, but the hot days also mean that moth photography is nigh on impossible. Nothing sits still without having been in the fridge, and everything that's been in the fridge immediately tries to warm up and does so with amazing speed and efficiency. I potted up a number of species, knowing that maybe half of them would be lost before I got a shot. So here's a small selection.

Clouded Brindle

Lime-speck Pug

Elephant Hawk-moth

There was also another visitor to the traps last night - looking a bit emaciated, and I'm hoping it's not planning on fattening up on moths .....

Common Frog

Friday, 16 June 2017

Minor-ity Report

As anyone that runs a moth trap during the early summer will attest, you quickly become oblivious to the Minors, the Oligia spp. They are just there, duly counted but pretty much ignored, or just about. There are four species that are likely to turn up, three of those being common, one less so depending on where you are. Of the three commonest, two are strictly indeterminable without inspecting their bits - and so they quickly fall into the agg. category and thereby lose interest. The less common species is also not 100% reliably determined except in the brightest examples. Only one is entirely identifiable. They are all relatively small for noctuids, which along with being indeterminable really does impact on your interest value as a moth. All in all there's not much going for them. Unless you are building up a garden list, trapping a new site or working on a mega yearlist - in which case you will be looking out for obvious suspects for gen det! Here's one that was interesting.

Middle-barred Minor
Reliably identifiable, the smallest of the four. Innocuous.

Marbled Minor
Probably, but could be an exceptionally well marked Tawny Marbled. Or a dull Rufous.

Rufous Minor
Maybe, based on that thorax and the basal patches. But could be a Tawny Marbled. Or a Marbled.

I should've potted up another couple of minors for this, but they would of been duller than these. Or brighter, but equally aggregated. There are two other minors that turn up in gardens, but these are Mesoligia spp. and they are more interesting in that they are identifiable. I'm competely ignoring the other 'minor' because it isn't one other than the name (Haworth's Minor).

Here's another non-minor.

Shoulder-striped Wainscot

Thursday, 15 June 2017

(Not) Boxing Clever

Last night was excellent conditions for garden moth trapping; mild, slightly overcast and fairly still. I had big hopes. These were boosted further when I gave the traps a quick check just an hour or so after darkness fell, and immediately spotted a new moth:

Luquetia lobella
New for both me and the garden (670th species, 358th micro)

There were a few other bits, nothing too exciting, but I headed off to bed thinking I'd be inundated with moths in the morning. As it happened I was a little later emptying the traps than I'd hoped, but there were plenty of moths on the walls, fences and outside the trap so probably nothing lost. And then before I started looking properly I was immediately aware that there was a stonking black and white thing on the outside of the Synergetic trap. I can't remember the last time I saw a moth and had absolutely no idea what it could be - must be well over a decade! I couldn't mess about, and quickly boxed it up in one of my large carboard pots. It was quite a size, pretty much same as a Willow Beauty, and was certainly a pyralid. But a quick check in all my guides brought a blank. The only remotely similar thing was Diaphania hyalinata (Melon-worm Moth) - but it didn't look right with extra black markings and being too big. I grabbed a quick snap on my phone and posted onto Facebook, then got on with emptying the traps. Half an hour later it had been sorted ......

'Box Tree Moth' Cydalima perspectalis
New for me and the garden (671st species, 359th micro)

This is an adventive species from Asia that was first recorded in Kent in 2007, then in Surrey in 2008 and with increasing frequency in the south-east and London since then. It's been spreading steadily and is already a concern that it could be a major pest. A bit like Light Brown Apple Moth, only much bigger!

Sadly, the good news ends there for the above individual - I had expectations of getting a better / proper photo this evening after work only to find that it has flapped itself stupid so it has a bald thorax and has ost the tip of its right forewing. It also refuses to sit nicely on anything so I gave up. I can't knowingly let it go (non-native, potential pest etc). It was going to go to the VC55 reference collection but probably won't be worth bothering now. It is almost certain that this will be breeding in the county within the decade and likely to be become a regular garden moth anyway, so I'm sure I'll get another chance to photograph one properly.

Catching two species that are not only new for the garden but also full British ticks for me is pretty spectacular these days. And both are also good in a vice-county context. My Luquetia lobella is only the fourth VC55 record, and the Cydalima perspectalis is a VC55 first.

The rest of the trap was relatively mundane, but there were two Acleris sp. that will need gen det. I think they are both schalleriana, but one is much bigger than the other so worth checking them out.

Acleris spp.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Sex on the Birch

No, it's not a new cocktail. I found this pair of Hawthorn Shieldbugs in-cop on my garden Silver Birch sapling this evening .....

Hawthorn Shieldbug

I guess if I had hawthorn in the garden they may have chosen it instead. I'd nipped in the garden to get a prop for some moth photography. I decided it was time to have a quick look for something different and I plumped for an algae-covered terracotta plant pot. Not sure it was ideal, but never mind. I find choosing a prop a bit hit and miss - everything works well for something and not so well for others, and frankly I once I'm set I just need to get on with it using whatever I picked. I do need to get out and sort out some new props, different stones and bark and ideally something with a nice lichen colony,

Mottled Beauty

Small Magpie

Barred Straw

Willow Beauty

Short-cloaked Moth

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Saving Jerry

I can't remember (and can't be arsed to look back) whether I ever mentioned that the family acquired a cat back in autumn 2014. I never wanted a cat, family were adamant they did. In the interest of family peace, as always, I being the man of the house backed down and gave in. So we have had a cat for over two years. He's a git. I could fit cow bells on his collar and he'd still manage to catch something. He's not exactly proficient - it's not like we have mounds of corpses every day - but he does catch the odd shrew, vole, mouse and recently mole! He also had a nasty turn a couple of weeks ago, quite likely after having had a toad in his gob. How I laughed at that as he slobbered and foamed at the mouth for an hour before and after having his face liberally drenched in cold water.

Anyway, this evening he had a Wood Mouse giving him the run around in the garden. The mouse had the upper hand, but nevertheless I stepped in and saved the mouse. I took a snap, figuring that the temporary blindness and subsequent heart failure would still be better than being played with by the git.

Here's Jerry, shortly before he scarpered for good, free of feline jaw around his scrawny neck.

Wood Mouse

The other thing that the git cat does do, which appears to be beneficial, is deter some of the moth-eating early morning birds. Quite often in the past I've had to race the juv Blackbirds and Robins to the traps, but I've not had any problems so far this year. The fact that the bleedin cat probably eats the odd moth still outweighs the lack of moth-munching thrushes and chats.

Here's some recent garden moths that neither he or any birds munched.

Plain Golden Y

Fan-foot

Small Fan-foot

Beautiful Hook-tip

Udea olivalis

Dark Sword-grass

This small male is almost certainly a primary immigrant, and the first in the garden since 2013. It's also the earliest I've taken one during a year - the previous earliest coming in late July.