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

Monday, 31 July 2017

That's reet Campion

The garden synergetic trap was back out last night for the first time in a few days, given that it was dry, cloudy and the wind had dropped. But overall it was still a low catch - the summer peak is well and truly over and we're in that annual lull between the summer variety and the autumn noctuid glut.

Whilst having a quick nose at the trap before I went to bed, I could see a smallish noctuid high up on the wall above our kitchen window (and therefore above the trap) but couldn't see exactly what it was. But it did look interesting, so I got one of the garden chairs and set about precariously standing on it and reaching up to pot the moth. Having done that, I thought I knew what it was but in torchlight outside and artificial light indoors I thought my eyes might be deceiving me. It went in the fridge and I forgot about it until I got home from work. And yes, there was a feint remaining trace of lilac colour and it was indeed a garden-first Campion.

678th garden moth, 317th macro and 11th garden tick this year with others pending

Not much else in there to be honest, so to sign off here's another one that's changed name ......

Acrobasis advenella

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Overdue - Small Phoenix

Here's an odd overdue moth, not odd in the nature of the species but odd in that it really should be turning up a lot more than it has. You'd struggle to refer to it as anything but common, and it feeds on willowherbs that are everywhere. So why do I only have two garden records of Small Phoenix!? In fact when I looked back, it's so common that I didn't even bother to photograph either of my garden records despite them appearing when digital photography was new to me and I was grabbing shots of everything. I've seen this species all over the place, sometimes in numbers, so it's not one I'd feel obliged to get a shot of.

My two garden records came on 26/07/2001 and 15/05/2002. It's double-brooded (at least) and my overall VC55 records show that it could turn up anytime between mid-April and late August. So when will it pop up again here!

I at least tried to dig up an old photo of one in VC55 - from Skeffington Wood on 23/04/2004.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Nice Pear

All this recent banana-ing lark in the garden reminded me of an unplanned but novel event some years ago, and I set about trying to find a couple of photos I knew I had somewhere on an old external hard-drive. Anyway, it was way back in 30th June 2001 and a group of us were running a light over a sheet in Martinshaw Wood in Leics. This is back when running a tripod and sheet for a few hours was about as hard-core as it got for us, before the days of running a stupid number of traps over night.

One of the group (I'm sure not me) had brought along a couple of pears, of all things, for a snack. After polishing off the first one the core was accidentally dropped and ended up on the sheet. Being blokes, no one bothered to pick it up and chuck it into the undergrowth .... which turned out to be a good thing.

Quite soon after the fruity core hit the sheet, one or two moths gravitated towards it. Before long we were watching out for moths on the pear rather than round the light. I'm sure none of the moths were primarily attracted by the pear, but it certainly got their interest once they were on the sheet. The other pear was duly half-eaten and dropped to add to the spectacle.

Here's some crappy old digital photos under MV light at night photoshopped back to some semblance of life showing Mottled Beauty, Tawny-barred Angle, Light Emerald, Large Fuit-tree Tortrix, Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix, Green Oak Tortrix, Ingrailed Clay and Plain Golden Y on it. There were probably others, but you can't expect me to remember everything that happened 16 years ago unless there's a photo .........

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Larval Life Down The Lane

Some might remember that within a couple of minutes from my front door, I can be on a rural lane running through what is sterile farmland on one side and sterile grazing on the other. I used to walk down there a lot, and then stopped when a service road was laid down running up to an area of new housing. I also stopped because that co-incided with me completely losing interest and having no time for a while. Anyway, I had a quick walk down there today and started to remember what I have been missing.

Yellowhammers singing, Little Owl calling, Buzzards mewing, Red-legged Partridges being fat and stupid etc. Plus a fair bit of insect activity in what was a warm sunny spell between heavy showers.

I found a few larvae, although actually these were right at the top of lane by the last houses. I found a big lettuce of some sort, and there were plenty of small larvae on it.

Big lettuce (Prickly?) - I'm going to keep my eye on it and hope someone doesn't 'tidy up'.

A small group of larvae (at least ten times this lot) - surely Small Ranunculus?
I'll try and collect a few to rear once they are bigger - shouldn't be too long.

Also a handful of Cinnabar on a few straggly ragworts near to the lettuce.

The other larva was more of a surprise and a lot more funky, found whilst wildly bashing some elm hedgerow with my net.

Comma - the first time I've knowingly seen the larva

There were a fair few common butterflies on the wing too, though not many sat still for long enough to grab a shot ......

Damaged Red Admiral

Strangely similarly but differently damaged Red Admiral on typical resting substrate

Knackered Comma

Damage-free Gatekeeper

And there were plenty of hovers on the thistles and ragwort .... including two of these beauties ..

Volucella inanis

And another.

Meanwhile, the garden banana has been taken down. I had x2 Copper Underwing agg. on it on Thursday night, but by Friday it was looking a bit manky and with the cooler/wetter spell it was time to take it down. But there will be another when the conditions suit! So in lieu of banana-action, here's a shot of our resident git prowling the fence.

Benny, with a face that say 'Move!'

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

More Banana-ing

I can't quite believe how simple and effective this 'hanging a banana off a bush' technique (banana-ing) is - certainly feels more immediately successful than sugaring in my garden at least.

First night up : a just-ripe banana
Old Lady x1

Second Night up : now a sun-ripened and fly/wasp chewed banana
Old Lady x1
Copper Underwing agg. x2
Dun-bar x1
Blastobasis adustella x4
Red-barred Tortrix x4
Endotricha flammealis x1

Third night (tonight so far) :  banana getting quite brown now
Old Lady x1
Copper Underwing agg. x5
Dark Arches x2
Mother of Pearl x1

Not to mention the numerous flies and wasps that I'm only seeing a fraction of late in the day - wonder what else has been on it! I'm going to leave it up as long as it seems to be working.

The garden trap was busy last night with warm humid conditions and the threat of thundery downpours. In the end we got the downpour at around 03:30 but no thunder and lightning show. I'd constructed an additional rain cover over the trap which worked well - no apparent impact on trap effectiveness and no rain-soaked egg trays. Another Gelechia rhombella plus a few new for year species - all safely recorded on my dictaphone, but I do need to work on catching up on my record entries for the last couple of weeks.

No trapping tonight - too knackered!

Ruby Tiger

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Banana smeller / G. rhombella

Well that didn't take long. Barely an hour after dark last night I found this .....

Old Lady sucking my banana ...... sorry.

When I got home after work today, there were lots of flies and a couple of wasps on it, and it's looking a lot mushier. This would be a good recording technique for dipterists! This evening there were at least four Red-barred Tortrixes on it, so early evening tonight could see a banana bonanza.

Not so much in the garden trap though, but I almost missed by far the best moth. In the early morning light and with tired eyes I almost dimissed this as a worn Brown House Moth, but it isn't. It's actually a completely new moth for me, of course therefore another garden tick and looks like it could also be effectively a VC55 first (in so far as there are no other modern/documented records - it's not VCH listed, and there is just a paper record with no voucher/photo/credence from an unknown recorder).

Gelechia rhombella - 677th moth and 361st micro for the garden

A few other recent micros ...

Gelechia senticetella

Catoptria pinella

Donacaula forficella
Done well for wandering 'reedbed' Crambids this year, with this, Calamatropha paludella, Ringed China-mark and Anania perlucidalis all re-appearing. Only this one managed to avoid completely flapping itself useless in a pot before photography .......

Rhodophaea formosa - another name change  .....

Monday, 17 July 2017

Banana Republic

We've not got any viable fruit trees in our gardens. The flowering cherry on the front does just that, flowers with no end product. We also have a small grown-from-a-pip apple tree that is currently way too small to fruit, and maybe never will anyway. However, we do now have a banana tree .......

I saw a post on a facebook group showing just such a fruit dangling from a tree with openings cut in the side. The only difference was their photo showed the banana with four Old Ladies and a Large Yellow Underwing hanging off it. I've seen ripe bananas being used in tropical butterfly houses, and I'm sure a long while ago I mashed up a banana into a sugar mix, so I though I'd give it a go.

It will go one of three ways: roaring success, pathetic failure, or wife notices and protests about an errant banana hanging at head height from the lilac bush before the trial has concluded. This actual banana may not be ripe enough yet, but let's see what a happens after a day in the sun tomorrow.

ps: just had a quick peek and the fruity drug has attracted a large number of small fruit flies and one large fly before dusk, so patently it has potential!

We've also cleared a load of redundant crap from behind our shed and it's created quite a big space, albeit one that useless for anything practical. Or so the wife thinks. I've relocated my 'log pile' to one corner - I say logs but in reality they are just quite thick twigs from a silver birch sapling, an old conifer, the flowering cherry and next doors huge buddleia (not that there were any neighbours there when I cut lots of it down ......).

Whilst not exactly logs fit for saproxylic beetles, it does create a nice retreat for all sorts of inverts. I'm also thinking that starting from next year I'm going to run one of the traps from this area. I've run my MV in the same spot since 2000, but this year it seems to be struggling more than usual and I think that's partly due to it now being competely overshadowed by the lilac, birch and a big sallow growing from the neighbours garden. But I'm reluctant to start experimenting now - I'll wait for a complete new season and give it a proper go.

Otherwise, some of my bamboo tubes (over 50%) have been eagerly tenanted by Willughby's Leafcutter Bees. I really need to get my act together and make more homes for these and other solitary bees next spring.

And here's a couple of obligatory recent moths to sign off .....

Brimstone Moth

Riband Wave

Foxglove Pug

Scalloped Oak


Sunday, 16 July 2017

Sugar, do do do do do do

Ah honey, honey, do do do do do do ....... sorry, is it just me that remembers the popular music hit by the manufactured band The Archies - loved that when I was a toddler.

I've not gone completely mad by the way, it's just that I've had the mothing sugar out a couple of times lately. It's not a new batch of sugar, in fact it's the same recycled batch that I've had going for years - the same batch I was using back in 2009 at least. I've re-heated it, given it a stir and added some more alcohol (Drambuie this time) which helps give it a lift as the alcohol evaporates and carries the scent. Anyway, it still works .....

Old Lady - two on 14/07/2017

Old Lady - one of three to the dried-up dregs on 15/07/2017

Both these shots were complete point, shoot and hope efforts with my phone - not too shabby I reckon. I'll keep trying the sugar through the autumn, leading up to the National Moth Night Ivy & Sugar theme. So far just the Old Ladies and one Large Yellow Underwing. And one mahoosive unidentified Teg.

Doubt it was actually imbibing!

Otherwise, here's a few recent noctuids from the garden traps .....

Knot Grass



Least Yellow Underwing

Lesser Common / Common Rustic agg.
Although I'd bet a large sum on this actually being Lesser if detted.

Dot Moth