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

Sunday, 10 September 2023

A Good Walk (not) Spoiled

I've not swung a gold club in earnest for quite a long while, and it is even longer since I managed an after-work Friday afternoon round at what was the nearest municipal course to where I work - Western Park Golf Course. Even if I wanted to, there is no chance of playing there these days; it was closed to the public and abandoned as a course by Leicester City Council in (I believe) 2015. The Council could no longer afford or justify having two large municipal courses and closed Western Park GC whilst leaving Humberstone Heights GC open and better funded - the course where I first played in any way as it is just up the road from where I grew up.

Anyway, what I had become completely oblivious to is that at some point the site has essentially been opened up and is accessible. Not sure if that has been deliberate and formal, or just a by product of such a large green space being close to housing estates. I hadn't though about it at all until I noticed that both the tetrad where I work and the adjacent tetrad where the course is are lacking in leaf mine records. So I nipped to have a quick look after work in the week - no intention of recording there and then but just to sense check access and have a quick nosey.

The course is readily accessible from a strip of land known as the Kirby Frith Local Nature Reserve - itself a decent bit of habitat that I'd not bothered to look at before. There is a saying that 'Golf is a good walk spoiled'; an abandoned golf course is the very antithesis of this with a great mosaic of grassland and diverse woodland planting and spinneys. The club house and buildings have long gone, but the car parking area and the foundations are still there rewilding naturally. Have to say it all looked very promising and I will go back very soon to do some recording. Trees include plenty of oaks, poplars, White Poplar, Silver Birch, Hornbeam and Rowan. Long term though I fully expect - sadly - that this area will be turned over to expanding the large industrial estate and/or housing.

Watch/listen to 3:53 in for even more relevance ....

Tuesday, 29 August 2023


Where the hell did the time go? Feels like I've been cheated, short changed or robbed. I've barely posted bugger all this year, and it appears nothing since early June. But, for a change, that's not because there was nothing to post about. But between bouts of activity I've been pretty busy and work and, you know, stuff. I'll have a bit of catch up one way or another, though not chronologically (or indeed following any logic). For a starter, here's a few new for garden moths and one or two highlights that haven't been posted.

Black Arches - new for garden, 29/07/2023

Bordered Straw - 27/07/2023, third garden record

Bordered White - 12/06/2023, the first here since 2002

Box-tree Moth - 30/06/2023, surprisingly the first here since adding it to the VC55 list in 2017

Crescent - 27/07/2023, fifth garden record

Dewick's Plusia - 28/07/2023, a return after adding to garden list last year

Obscure Wainscot - 12/06/2023, another return after adding to garden list last year

Small Elephant Hawk-moth - new for garden, 24/06/2023

Small Rufous - 27/07/2023, fourth garden record

Toadflax Brocade - 19/07/2023, recorded for fourth consecutive year here

Apotomis lineana - new for both garden and me, 09/08/2023

Lesser Treble-bar - new for garden, 15/08/2023

White-point - an overdue new for garden, 20/08/2023

Sunday, 11 June 2023

Lucky Man ...

Last night I was invited to join Margaret McLoughlin and Graham & Anona Finch out for some light trapping at a private site in Charnwood that the Loughborough Naturalists' Club has been surveying. The forecast was looking good anyway, and it certainly turned out to be an excellent night in many ways. I ran a 125W MV over a sheet and 2x 125W MV traps. And my new car is delayed so the pseudo-Uber got another run across terrain it wasn't built for.

The sheet was quite quickly alive with tiny diptera, caddisflies and an assortment of tiny beetles. But a few early swifts aside, moths were a bit slower to get going. I'll come back to the catch, but first a backstory ....

Whilst setting up, Graham (who you may recall is the VC55 Coleoptera Recorder) had pointed out to me a free-standing dead birch trunk which he suggested I should have a look at after dark. On this same tree last year, he'd found literally dozens of the beetle Corticeus unicolor, the first VC55 record of Colydium elongatum and other interesting beetles. Once the lights were on and dusk had just about phased into night, I went to have a look. Sure enough, exactly as explained, I found plenty of Corticeus unicolor - a new beetle for me.

I also found Mycetophagus quadripustulatus (one I ticked at the end of May) and what I am sure is Triplax russica (black scutellum).

All of these where on and around Hoof Fungus [Fomes fomentarius]. But on the trunk close by was another interesting beetle, Megatoma undata.

I let Graham know what I'd seen, although it became apparent that I'd actually checked a different (but equally interesting) dead birch. The one I checked was close to the footpath, though the trunk was a bit boxed in by bracken and bramble. A bit later when I went to have another look, I found the tree that Graham had originally meant which was just set back a bit from the path. Pretty much the same story with masses of Corticeus unicolor, and amazing to see the fungal spores drifting off into the night. But right in front of me on the lip of the 'hoof' was a completely different beetle, and one that did not ring any bells or look familiar. I grabbed a shot in situ and potted it up. I was sure Graham would recognise it. I showed Graham the photo; he immediately recognised it was interesting, was sure he'd not seen one and wasn't sure what it was. He was all the more pleased to hear I had it potted, and I was more than happy to pass it on so Graham could do his magic on carding and imaging it. I decided to do a quick Google in the woods, and later in the night let Graham know what I though it was - albeit that couldn't be right. Anyway, here is my not so great shot of it in-situ on the fungus (in pitch black using my TG-6).

Anyways, I reckoned it was a perfect match for Bolitophagus reticulatus, but noted that the distribution for that seemed to be limited to the Scottish highlands. Must be something similar and commoner? When I got home much later, a quick check in Duff .... can't see that there is anything similar. Graham let me know he was in agreement on the ID. I posted it to the Beetles of Britain and Ireland FB site - no alternative IDs offered. So there you go, new for me, new for VC55 and it appears new for England! I'm sure a first for England is not really recognised or notable but, you know, I'll take it anyway.

The fungus is pretty common in Charnwood, and appears to be present continuously throughout between Leicestershire and the highlands and pretty much everywhere else too. The beetle also appears to have been recorded in mainland France, Poland etc. It therefore seems very likely that it is indeed present wherever the fungus is - though how it would have evaded detection until my random lucky encounter I have no idea.

Right, back to the sheet. There were far more non-lepidopteran 'intruders' than I've seen so far this year. I pointed the camera at one or two caddisflies, one of which I've not seen before.

Phryganea bipunctata

As for the moths I ended up with 351 of 94sp. + 3sp. for dissection, not a bad total at all though not really anything too exciting. I know Graham is already at c110sp, from his x4 traps, and I know Margaret had a few bits I did not get from her x2 traps so I am sure the overall total for the night will be pretty strong. Margaret absolutely had the main moth highlight, one I was delighted to see ....

Rosy Marbled

Sunday, 4 June 2023

Clean Sweep in Heather

I spent a couple of hours vigorously sweeping the (relatively) abundant heathers and bilberry at Warren Hills yesterday in nice sunshine with with the continual strong breeze that we've had for a week or so. My targets were actually a couple of Coleophora spp.: I hoped to find the distinctive cases of Coleophora pyrrhulipennella amongst the sweepings, and perhaps something that looked in contention for the cases of Coleophora juncicolella. No joy with either, which initially made it seem a bit of a fruitless effort, but there were a few beetles and a couple of small vaguely familiar tortrix moths. Turns out that this initial dismay quickly turned into a major win once I checked out the IDs. I was also left wishing I'd brought some clumps of heather and bilberry home for photographic props.

Firstly the tortrix: not the most spectacular thing, which reminded me of a small Holly Tortrix. I retained one for a photo, and quickly ascertained it was the closely related Rhopobota myrtillana. Brilliant; not only a new moth for me but also effectively new to VC55 (VCH listed, so any records are pre 1907 but there are no specimens so cannot be verified).

The only other Lepidopteran highlights were a Maiden's Blush disturbed from oak and this early leafmine on the same tree ....

Acrocercops brongniardella

I've not seen an adult A. brongniardella for a number of years, so will try to remember to look out for later developed mines to try and rear one through.

As for the beetles, aside from one obvious click beetle which I have seen before (on Cairngorm!) three turned out to be new to me. First up, a weevil from heather that has only x5 prior VC55 records, the most recent of those being 1992. This is Strophosoma sus, subtly smart and boggly eyed ....

Also from heather were a couple of Lochmaea suturalis, and despite me thinking I have seen it before it wasn't on my list.

The click beetle I'd seen before was Ctenicera cuprea, pretty smart as clicks go.

Also from the heather and bilberry area was this Eurygaster testudinaria - confirmed to species and as a female by looking at the undercarriage.

Finally, from the same site but actually beaten from oak of all places was this new to me click beetle ....

Prosternon tessellatum

The inadvertent beetle ticks didn't end there, as in the evening at home I noted a bright green weevil sitting on the edge of a leaf on our small ornamental red Acer sp. Once potted up and checked through Mark Gurney's guides as a starter it soon came out to Polydrusus formosus, very common but new to me and the garden. It started nibbling a birch leaf as I tried to get snaps.

Thursday, 1 June 2023

Bumping into Beetles

On Monday, though the weather wasn't as great as it had been, we nipped down to Coombe Abbey park for a few hours of mainly wandering through decent woodland etc whilst avoiding the growing crowds of picnic-ers and families with kids / dogs. I was entomologically naked in most respects: no net, no pots, no real intention of looking for anything. But I did have the TG-6, you know - just in case ....

I'd seen quite a few interesting bits and pieces, but nothing extraordinary. And in one of those perfect moments that you cannot plan, and certainly don't happen when you are properly looking, as I stood next to a tree for a moment whilst Nichola read a sign I noticed a stonking Rhagium mordax at eye level and promptly got my camera out. Literally as I went to put my hand on the tree to steady the shot, I noticed a much smaller but altogether more colourful beetle. One that I immediately recognised and one that I'd not seen before! I couldn't quite believe it - even more so when the blasted thing dropped down to the floor. Whilst I stepped back and thought expletives to myself, Nichola ambled over and pointed up a bit asking what were these two beetles. A quick glance and incredibly it was a pair of Rhinceros Beetles in-cop. With another Rhagium mordax wandering past them. I had to poke myself a bit and get some photos; a reminder these were all on the same tree trunk within a meter or so of each other.

Rhagium mordax

Rhinoceros Beetle

Having got a couple of shots, I set about optimistically trying to find the dropped beetle. Only to find it scuttling back up the trunk and another one already on there - fantastic!

Thanasimus formicarius

The luck did not stop there. Having filled my boots with these beauties, we walked on and I noted a number of hoverflies including Brachypalpoides lentus which I should have tried to capture with the camera. Nichola pointed at some fungi growing off of a stump, which I mentioned were also good for beetles .... and there is one. I grabbed a couple of poor snaps before it settled albeit quite deep into a crevice. But, there was more than enough to confirm another new beetle for me.

Mycetophagus quadripustulatus

Seeing these just made an already relaxing and refreshing few hours walking around even better.

Here's a great track that's got nothing to do with the post; except maybe tenuously as they're scousers like The Beatles. These are just one of the bands that I am looking forward to seeing at the Isle of Wight Festival in a couple of weeks. Or at least hoping to, alcohol and overall programme permitting.

Monday, 29 May 2023

What a Ride

On Saturday night I headed out with a couple of light traps, something of a rarity in recent years for all the obvious reasons (cancer / chemo / surgeries / covid restrictions ....). Checking back, I managed four nights out in 2019, none in 2020, two in 2021 and just the one last year. Most pertinently, only two of these were nights out on my own setting up and recording and they were in 2019. I am absolutely going to be out a bit more this year.

Aside from the paucity of nights out around a light, it has just occurred to me that in all that time my current car has been the most under-utilised vehicle I've ever had. Weeks parked up whilst I was unable to drive, long periods off road during lock-downs, and we've not been up and down to Devon with any regularity either. Coincidentally: it very much looks like the this outing will be the last mothing effort in this car anyway, as I'm expecting a changeover in the next week or so (though dealership delays may scupper that), and the last mothing trip I made in the previous car was to the same site - Fox Covert at Ulverscroft.

My next car will not be mistaken for an Uber everywhere I go.

Even more under-utilised than the car, good to know it still runs.

I ran a 125W MV over a sheet ....

.... and a couple of 125W MV traps along the main track.

I really wasn't expecting a lot, as garden catches have continued to be poor and anecdotally the mothing up and down the country has been relatively poor. There really does seem to have been a major entomological crash, perhaps more due to the prolonged drought and searingly hot period last summer. Time will tell if anything picks up or recovers. So it was no surprise really that things were a bit slow, at least for the first hour. I ended up with a pretty respectable total of 174 of 50sp. running the lights from dusk until 00:30. Most pleasingly though I saw quite a few species that I haven't seen for a long while, and some that are either rare or have never turned up in my garden.

I had the TG-6 to hand, which meant I was able to snap quite a lot on the sheet rather than bringing stuff home. Very serviceable snaps, albeit not the most aesthetically pleasing background! I did take a few micros to check. So in no particular order, here's a load of moth photos from the night ....

Green Silver-lines

White-pinion Spotted

Barred Hook-tip

Scalloped Hook-tip

Grass Rivulet

Marbled Brown

Brown Silver-line

Orange Footman

Coxcomb Prominent

Scorched Wing

Lesser Swallow Prominent

Dwarf Pug

Swammerdamia caesiella [probably, pending dissection]

Capua vulgana

Eulia ministrana

Epinotia tetraquetrana

Epinotia tetraquetrana

Argyresthia conjugella

Argyresthia conjugella f. maculosa

There were numerous Netelia/Ophion type Ichneumons on the sheet, a number of Melanotus sp. click beetles, but by far the most numerous thing were Cockchafers. Loads of them. Initially, the first ten or so were unceremoniously chucked away, only to come bumbling back like six-legged boomerangs. I then started collecting them in the plastic tub that the light bulb goes in, more successful but I can assure you that two hours or so of writhing incarcerated Cockchafers stinks.

There were at least 80 or so spread across the lights. I rarely get these at home - thankfully - and had forgotten how much I loathe these getting in the way. I thought I'd done a great job of containing them and then getting shot of them all. However, much to my surprise given that I cleared out the gear yesterday and used the car, today there was one sitting on the parcel shelf. How the hell it avoided setting off the alarm for two nights I'll never know. It prompted a further check, during which I found a much less offensive weevil which I can only assume came home on Saturday as well ....

Bumbling hairy twat Cockchafer

Strophosoma melanogrammum

The outing yesterday was to go and watch LCFC win majestically whilst being relegated. Wow, it's been a ridiculous few seasons that we could never have imagined possible, and which makes this drop even tougher than any we've suffered previously. We played shite all season, were badly managed and the Club made decisions too late. Totally avoidable. Back to a 46-game season in the toughest league to get out of. If we don't bounce straight back up (and I'm not sure we will) I suspect a long period of frustrating play offs. Still, we won more in our short stint than some other clubs (Spurs, Everton ....).

All your hopes and dreams, all you need to know, joy ride ....