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

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Hornet Moth, Loughborough 21/06/2008

Following a tip-off, I met up with Adrian in Loughborough in perhaps the worst possible conditions to be searching for a clearwing moth. Seeing these is typically associated with warm, still sunny days, so a cold, dull and rainy morning was absolutely not the right weather.
We carried on anyway as at least we'd be sure of the site for reference and hopefully find a few exit holes. On the fourth of five likely looking poplar trees - AWESOME! A superb Hornet Moth climbing up the trunk. These are big clearwings (about an inch long), much bigger and beefier than the other clearwing species I've seen. Also stunning markings - I'd expect anyone finding it casually to think it was a big wasp rather than a moth.
We only found the one, plus a few exit holes, but considering the conditions we were lucky to see any. With the dull light photography was on really possible with flash.

Hornet Moth - superb!

Stonesby Quarry - 20/06/2008

Me and Adrian Russell ventured out to Stonesby Quarry last night for a short mothing session. First time I've been to this LRWT reserve - looks very good and reminded me very much of Brown's Hill Quarry. It was already starting to get dusky as we arrived though so no chance to check for orchids although we found a single Pyramidal after dark. Nothing too exciting on the moth front as it turned cold by midnight (although we had expected a deluge so at least we got some records in for the site). There are still a few micros to sort out and the list to be compiled so I'll update on that in another post. Perhaps of more interest was finding glow-worms - always excellent to see. Would have been even better if I'd remembered my camera! A lolloping badger and at least 3 foxes on the way home, along with a couple of Little Owls on the way there, completed the wildlife interest for the night.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Garden birds - Woodpigeon 17/06/2008

We often get Woodpigeons on the front garden mopping up spillages from the feeders in winter, and otherwise as occasional roof-sitters. We very rarely get them in the back garden or even sitting on the garden fences.

I was a bit surprised then to find a bulbous throated male on Tuesday evening actively ripping of twigs from bushes in the garden, flying off and coming back for more. I was even more surprised when it stayed put as I opened the door and walked into the garden, and it then allowed a fairly close approach for photography (I'm used to them flapping off like loonies from woodland roosts at night when out trapping).


It soon became clear that the activity was due to its partner female building a nest in a large blackthorn overlooking our garden.

Female on pathetic twiggy platform.

The male then landed within a meter of me!


Meanwhile, the Collared Doves have started again (already) with the female back on her third clutch this year.


At one point, the newly resident Woodpigeon landed on the roof above the sitting female Collared Dove, leading to an aggressive posturing from her mate.

Feck off you fat bastard.

From the garden trap - 16/06/2008

Total catch 46 of 19sp. (125W MV 27 of 14sp., 80W actinic 19 of 8sp.) Pants. First for the year in garden: Turnip Moth (Agrotis segetum) 1 Highest counts: Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) 17 Other highlights: May Highflyer (Hydriomena impluviata) 1 [latest garden record]

Huncote Embankment 15/06/2008

With Nichola working a shift swap, and Isabelle moping about at home with her arm in a sling (again) after a skating fall, I decided to get out for some fresh air with Josh and Alex. Despite the weather being less than ideal, with more cloud than sunny spells, we headed to Huncote Embankment. I was hoping to get a chance to photograph a few dragonflies / damselflies but the lack of sunshine was always likely to make this a non-starter.

When we got there, I was surprised to find that there was hardly any parking space along the road. It soon transpired that Bardon Aggregates and the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust were running an open day with activities for kids. Couldn't have worked out better.

After we'd walked along the track to the pond, with Alex pointing out every pile of rabbit shit on the way, they soon got stuck into pond dipping. Plenty of bloodworms, leaches, toad-poles, water boatmen, water snails and other bits to look at. We then had a walk along the board walks before heading back to the entrance and up the embankment steps to the plateau over-looking Croft Quarry.

Here's a map I sketched earlier by freehand (okay, it's an old ariel shot nicked from the excellent MultiMap). The red dot marks the entrance and also the access steps up to the plateau marked by the white spot. The straight line from the red dot to the yellow dot is the main track running between the embankment side and adjacent floodplain/farmland. The yellow dot marks the excellent dragonfly pond, and from there you follow a bendy boardwalk trail around to the south-western end of the reserve. There are a couple of other shaded ponds along this track, roughly where the the pale blue dot is. I have to say that this is developing into a great looking site with a lot of habitat diversity. I've enquired about moth recording there - I reckon it could be very interesting.

Not many photographic opportunities though with the lack of sunshine. I would have been better off with the CoolPix rather than the DSLR as we kept finding shiny beetles and stuff that I couldn't get onto well enough.

Banded Demoiselles were knocking about, but always settling in an awkward place away from the track.

There were a lot of these flies setting on the boardwalk - I think it is Mesembrina meridiana (would welcome confirmation or correction from any Dipterists out there).

View from the boardwalk looking back towards the main pond - the embankment is rising up behind the shrubbery.

Part of the excellent boardwalk.

Just needs an iconic Windmill and it could be Wicken Fen.

Reedy margins and ponds - excellent.

Looking across from the embankment plateau towards Croft Hill.

Croft Quarry is still fully operational.

A Discworld-esq dwarf mining operation run by the Low King.

From the garden trap - 14/06/2008

Things looked promising earlier in the day, when I was lucky enough to pot a garden first Bryotropha affinis whilst knocking about in the garden. However the cool night produced nothing exciting.

Total catch 52 of 24sp.
(125W MV 24 of 14sp., 80W actinic 28 of 15sp.)

First of the year for garden:
Riband Wave (Idaea aversata) 1
Buff Ermine (Spilosoma luteum) 1
Dark Arches (Apamea monoglypha) 1
Dusky Brocade (Apamea remissa) 1
Highest counts:
Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) 13

Dusky Brocade - albeit an unusually coloured individual for my garden.

Buff Ermine left, White Ermine right. Very difficult to get these mixed up really; even though Buff Ermine can be a very pale creamy colour the spot distribution and jizz is very different.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Garden Birds - Collared Dove, 14/06/2008

Remember the pair of Collared Doves nesting on a satellist dish overlooking my garden?

Today they fledged their second brood of two, so the choice of nesting site was obviously not that bad. All morning the two gawky dull smaller versions of the adults were knocking around the garden on fences and in bushes. I last saw them in a large hawthorn being mobbed by a mental female House Sparrow.

Elegant, smart, beautiful - three words that fail to describe this just-fledged Collared Dove.

This is the less well known Non-collared Dove

Outrageous waste of money and resource ..

.. yes, that's right. I am referring to the Official Queens Birthday and the Trooping of the Colour parade. The celebrations included more than 1100 soldiers poncing around in stupid hats and gaudy coats, and a flypast of 55 aircraft. What a fucking waste of money. All this pomp and bollocks whilst thousands of the poor misguided sods that join up to the forces are having to duck and dive in Afghanistan. One of the aircraft was a dodgy Nimrod - sadly not dodgy enough to ditch into the Palace.

The front row conversation:

"You know grandmama, father says this flyover has a frightful impact on the Royal carbon footprint"

"Oh here we facking go again"

"Well one is the Queen, and Charles is just a big eared malingering twat! He can bloody well fack awf"

Image courtesy (ie uplifted) from BBC News

Saturday, 14 June 2008

From the garden trap - 10/06/2008

A poor catch in declining conditions. Total catch 48 of 27sp. (125W MV 19 of 17sp., 80W actinic 29 of 18sp.) First for year in garden: Blood-vein (Timandra comae) 1 Broad-barred White (Hecatera bicolorata) 1 Shoulder-striped Wainscot (Mythimna comma) 1 Highest counts: Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) 8 Garden Carpet (Xanthorhoe fluctuata) 5

From the garden trap - 09/06/2008

Total catch 108 of 39sp. (125W MV 53 of 28sp., 80W actinic 55 of 26sp.) First for the year in garden: Apple Leaf Miner (Lyonetia clerkella) 1 Acrocercops brongniardella 1 Carcina quercana 1 Mottled Beauty (Alcis repandata) 1 Setaceous Hebrew Character (Xestia c-nigrum) 2 Common Wainscot (Mythimna pallens) 2 Brown Rustic (Rusina ferruginea) 1 Straw Dot (Rivula sericealis) 1 Highest counts: Clouded Silver (Lomographa temerata) 12 Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) 11 Green Pug (Pasiphila rectangulata) 9 Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) 8 Other highlights: May Highflyer (Hydriomena impluviata) 1

From the garden trap - 08/06/2008

A good catch including another garden first. The MV trap completely outperformed the actinic for a change.

Total catch 159 of 50sp.
(125W MV 92 of 43sp., 67 of 28sp.)

First for the garden:
Plutella porrectella 1

First for the year in the garden:
Red-barred Tortrix (Ditula angustiorana) 1
Marbled Orchard Tortrix (Hedya nubiferana) 3
Udea olivalis 1
Thistle Ermine (Myelois circumvoluta) 1
Common White Wave (Cabera pusaria) 1
Coxcomb Prominent (Ptilodon capucina) 1
Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba) 1
Dusky Brocade (Apamea remissa) 1
Highest counts:
Green Pug (Pasiphila rectangulata) 15
Common Marbled Carpet (Chloroclysta truncata) 14
Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) 14
Clouded Silver (Lomographa temerata) 12
Marbled Minor agg. (Oligia strigilis agg.) 8
Other highlights:
May Highflyer (Hydriomena impluviata) 1
Eyed Hawk-moth (Smerinthus ocellata) 1

Plutella porrectella

Eyed Hawk-moth

Light Emerald

Mothing don't half give me the Horn(et)

As I'm sure Derek & Clive would say.

One of the risks of moth trapping in prime broad-leaved woodland is Hornets, especially in the late summer / autumn. They are normally pretty easy going and much less likely to give you a sting (or bite!) than a wasp. Trouble is, once they have been disturbed/attracted by the light then they go fucking bonkers! Apart from that problem, they are also pretty good at eating the contents of a trap.

Having said that, they are damned impressive insects. We managed to pick up a couple at Pickworth Great Wood, and one of these was the biggest I've ever seen being - almost an inch and a half - presumably a queen.

Hornet - superb insect, unless you stick your thumb on it when grabbing an egg tray from the trap!

"I fancy a Peppered Moth for breakfast"

Pickworth Great Wood - Images

A few shots from the Pickworth Great Wood session on 7th June - all photographed during the trap emptying session the following morning. All should be clickable for a larger size.

Poplar Lutestring

Pale Oak Beauty

Brindled White-spot

Iron Prominent

Light Brocade

Alder Moth / Buff-tip

Clouded Brindle / Beautiful Golden Y

The Coronet

Grey Arches

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

National Moth Night - Pickworth Great Wood, 07/06/2008

This is one of the best mothing sites in Leicestershire and Rutland (VC55). We have had some brilliant nights there in the past, and we decided to head there for our NMN effort. To ensure the best chance of a good range of species, we ran multiple traps and stayed overnight to go through the traps at dawn. It worked!! Before lighting up there were a few Woodcock roding over our heads - always good to see. The overall catch for the night was a superb 1065 of 107sp. from 18 traps/lights. I ran a 125W MV light over a sheet, 3 x 125W MV traps, 1 x 250W metal halide trap and the 80W actinic with a catch of 443 of 85sp. Adrian Russell ran 6 x 125W MV traps, a 16W actinic and an actinic/tungsten combination trap, with a catch of 445 of 80sp. Derek Lee ran 3 x 125W MV traps & a 40W actinc, with a catch of 177 of 52sp. There were no new species for the county on the night, but plenty of highlights. The numbers are from my traps/lights followed by the overall number for the night in brackets: Triaxomera parasitella 1 [1] Elachista bisulcella 2[2] Carpatolechia proximella 1 [3] Spatalistis bifasciana 1 [2] Ancylis diminutana 1 [1] Poplar Lutestring (Tethea or) 2 [5] Clay Triple-lines (Cyclophora linearia) 1 [1] Cream Wave (Scopula floslactata) 6 [13] Pale Oak Beauty (Hypomecis punctinalis) 16 [51] Brindled White-spot (Parectropis similaria) 0 [1] Orange Footman (Eilema sororcula) 16 [24] Grey Arches (Polia nebulosa) 3 [6] Light Brocade (Lacanobia w-latinum) 1 [1] Alder Moth (Acronicta alni) 2 [5] Coronet (Craniophora ligustri) 1 [3] Marbled White Spot (Protodeltote pygarga) 2 [14] The trap emptying session was made all the more enjoyable by the camping style bacon sarnies, singing Blackcaps and Chiffys, calling Great Spots and warming sunshine. A great nights mothing. I've got a load of photos to sort out from this session - I'll have to sort them out and post separately in the next few days. I'll also post a link to the full listing on the VC55 Yahoo Group.

From the garden trap - 07/06/2008

National Moth Night result for my garden were actually not bad, especially considering I only ran the MV trap and didn't empty it until 10:30 after getting home from Pickworth Great Wood. No surprises or real highlights though. Total catch 65 of 39sp. First for year in garden: Silver-ground Carpet (Xanthorhoe montanata) 1 Small Rivulet (Perizoma alchemillata) 1 Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi) 1 Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) 1 Middle-barred Minor (Oligia fasciuncula) 1 Mottled Rustic (Caradrina morpheus) 1 Fan-foot (Zanclognatha tarsipennalis) 1 Highest counts: Clouded Silver (Lomographa temerata) 6 Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) 5 Marbled Minor agg. (Oligia strigilis agg.) 5

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Birthday & NMN

Today is my thirty-tenth birthday. Last night I went out for a meal with Nichola at the Narborough Road branch of La Dolce Vita, and very nice it was too. We followed it with a couple of beers at The Criterion. Today we've had a lunch time meal at Frankie & Benny's as the kids enjoy the food there, and again it was good - I am a sucker for Calzone Sicilione. I have therefore obliged the family and their expectations in celebrating my birthday, leaving me free to go out tonight to participate in National Moth Night. I shall be running traps overnight at Pickworth Great Wood with Adrian Russell, Derek Lee and probably Keith Tailby - should be a good overall list. Good luck to everyone getting out and about - NMN traditionally fucks up the weather and all hopes of a good night but you never know!

From the garden trap - 06/06/2008

Total catch 111 of 42sp.
(125W MV 41 of 24sp., 80W actinic 70 of 34sp.)

First for year in garden:
Blastobasis lacticolella 1
Agapeta hamana 1
Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix (Pandemis cerasana) 1
Plum Tortrix (Hedya pruniana) 1

Epiblema trimaculana 1
Light Emerald (Campaea margaritata) 1
Eyed Hawk-moth (Smerinthus ocellata) 1
Pale Prominent (Pterostoma palpina) 1
Snout (Hypena proboscidalis) 1
Highest counts:
Common Marbled Carpet (Chloroclysta truncata) 16
Garden Carpet (Xanthorhoe fluctuata) 8
Freyer's Pug (Eupithecia intricata arceuthata) 8
Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria) 7
Other highlights:
May Highflyer (Hydriomena impluviata) 3
Lime Hawk-moth (Mimas tiliae) 1

Lime Hawk-moth - this is a fat reddish female

May Highflyer - this individual is very well marked and of the typical form but is actually unusual for my garden

Grey Pug

Pale Prominent - or piece of wood

From the garden trap - 05/06/2008

Total catch 69 of 30sp.
(125W MV 30 of 17sp., 80W actinic 39 of 19sp.)

First for the year in garden:
Common Swift (Hepialus lupulinus) 2
Peppered Moth (Biston betularia) 1
Lychnis (Hadena bicruris) 1
Highest counts:
Clouded Silver (Lomographa temerata) 8
Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria) 7
Common Pug (Eupithecia vulgata) 7
Common Marbled Carpet (Chloroclysta truncata) 6
Other highlights:
Argyresthia cupressella 1
May Highflyer (Hydriomena impluviata) 1
Sycamore (Acronicta aceris) 1

Peppered Moth

Thursday, 5 June 2008

From the garden trap - 04/06/2008

Hurrah - another garden tick!

Total catch 43 of 20sp.
(125W MV 19 of 12sp., 80W actinic 24 of 15sp.)

First for garden:
Argyresthia cupressella 1
First for year (in garden):
Crambus lathoniellus 1
Willow Beauty (Peribatodes rhomboidaria) 1
White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda) 1
Vine's Rustic (Hoplodrina ambigua) 1
Highest counts:
Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) 8

Argyresthia cupressella - actually a County and British tick aswell if I could be arsed to keep lists for them.

Crambus lathoniellus - in real life the back end was also in focus.

Small Square-spot - this species appears to be cyclic in it's appearances in my garden.

Monday, 2 June 2008

This week, I have mostly been listening to ..

Kraftwerk. I have all of their stuff from Autobahn onwards (plus one of their earlier offerings - 'Kraftwerk'). I really like the late 70s / early 80s studio albums Trans Europe Express, The Man Machine and Computer World, but I also enjoy the early 90s re-workings on The Mix and the more recent Tour De France Soundtracks and live Minimum-Maximum. All great great stuff as far as I'm concerned. Seeing Kraftwerk live is all about the music and visuals - don't expect a scintillating energetic performance! I saw them in Birmingham and London in July 1991 during the Mix Tour, and I was also lucky enough to see them at the Leicester Poly on 18/06/1992 - fucking awesome! It as one of a couple of warm-up gigs arranged at short notice before Kraftwerk joined U2, Public Enemy and Big Audio Dynamite at the Stop Sellafield concert in Manchester the following night.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Gisborne's Gorse, Charnwood Lodge 31/05/2008

I'll be busy at work next week so no chance of any out of garden mothing before National Moth Night 2008, so I decided to leave traps running overnight at Charnwood Lodge.

Total catch was 345 of 59sp., although there were no surpises or major highlights. Plenty of new species for the year though. Total catch list available from VC55 Yahho group for subscribers:

Highest counts:
Pale Tussock (Calliteara pudibunda) 56
Brown Silver-line (Petrophora chlorosata) 50
Marbled Brown (Drymonia dodonaea) 35
Capua vulgana 25
Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria) 18
Common Wave (Cabera exanthemata) 13
Orange Footman (Eilema sororcula) 13

Click on images for larger versions.

Ancylis mitterbacheriana

Denisia similella

Shoulder-striped Wainscot

Green Silver-lines

Pale Tussock - many were of this darker form.

Lesser Swallow Prominent

Coxcomb Prominent