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

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Defeated by Parthenogenesis

First up, a revelation. Remember the psychid case that I found at Ketton Quarry, and which I then through a process of elimination identified as a Dahlica sp., either lichenella or inconspicuella with all my money going on the latter? Well if I'd placed my bets I would be homeless and pennyless.

When I got home on Saturday I had a quick squint at my various larval rearing tubs as you do, and noticed a number of tiny specks of dust around the psychid case that weren't there in the morning. I feared the worst, and sure enough when getting my eyeglass on them I could see that they were living moving and definitely parthenogenetic larvae. Bugger.

So unless there is suddenly a parthenogenetic form of D. inconspicuella in the UK, then this is in fact Dahlica lichenella. This is not all bad, as although not new for me it is very definitely a new VC55 site and miles away from the other known area. The larvae are now on a lichen/algae covered rock from my garden in a large tub, and they are actively building cases and mooching about which I'll try and capture another day. Here's a couple of rough shots of the very tiny case-less larvae.

I had the garden trap out last night for the first time in a week or so, and picked up a couple of NFY - Brimstone Moth and Purple Thorn. I tried and failed to get a compliant individual of the former to sit for a photo, and frankly I couldn't be arsed to even try with the latter so just poked my phone camera at it this morning on the egg boxes.

Purple Thorn - NFY

Muslin Moth - not NFY

And whilst I'm at it, here's a couple that will need gen det.

Cork Moth - probably, from Devon on 24/04/2019

Heliozela sp. - probably sericella, from Burrow Wood on 26/04/2019

Monday, 29 April 2019

A Broad and Beany Tick

So Leicester City took part in the 'City Nature Challenge', which is some sort of global bio-blitzing competition as far as I can make out. Either way I was happy to try and contribute a few records, and in particular inverts. But. I was really only available for any proper time in the field on Saturday, and the weather was absolute dogshite. Unseasonably cold for late April, and very blustery - a massive weathery u-turn from the Easter bank holiday weekend. Still I gave it a go and got very little for my efforts. I tried at both Aylestone Meadows and then Watermead Cp South. Sweeping was nigh on impossible as the net was all over the place and in any case the vegetation was wet from morning rain. So I resorted to beating every flowering hawthorn and salix I passed to within inches of their lives. I found a handful of beetles and bugs, but not a lot else. Not even a plethora of lep larvae to look at. During the whole day I saw exactly zero flying butterflies, moths, hoverflies or other diptera aside from the odd tiny gnat. I had to resort to looking at common plants and birds to even scrape 122 species, and with the uninspiring conditions I wasn't going to be arsed trying to scrutinise every moss/grass/lichen etc .

However I did get a botanical tick, and a very unlikely one at that. What the hell is a Broad Bean plant doing growing out of the water-side vegetation at Watermead CP South!

The few inverts I did find were not really suitable for photography. I had a very half-arsed attempt at a couple.

Anaspis maculata

Anaspis fasciata

24-Spot Ladybird

Physatocheila dumetorum

I had more fun poking about in a bracket fungi for 10 minutes the previous day whilst walking around the Cat Hill Wood Several beetles, all new to me although only two identified at present.

Orchesia undulata - jumps around like mad, makes a click beetle look static

Rhizophagus dispar - a typical and a darker individual

A Cryptophagus sp. and a couple of Cis spp. Probably.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Bluebells / Bell-ends

This morning I had a quick walk down the lane to have a squint over the recently ploughed field (nothing to see though) and to collect a bit of hawthorn for the Brown-tails and a Green-brindled Crescent that I'm rearing. Sadly, what I mainly found down there was absolutely loads of fly-tipped waste. Most of it had been tipped over field gates and into the ditches, which in turn means that the council will not touch it as it becomes the landowners responsibility and and it therefore becomes an even bigger issue for the local farmer. At least one pile was clearly the by-product of illicit drug production: silver-coated heat reflective sheeting, high-powered light bulbs and the whole lot smelt strongly of weed. I rang the council anyway to make sure they knew about it. I also reported a pile of asbestos to them. In fairness the council usually do a good job of clearing up fly-tipped rubbish, but the actions of a few complete bell-ends causing these issues in the first place is infuriating.

In a complete antithesis to this modern suburban shit, I headed up to the Charley Woods near Charnwood Lodge with Nichola later in the morning. We had a good quiet and peaceful walk around both Burrow Wood and Cat Hill Wood taking in the beauty of the bluebells. Naturally I had a poke about in bracket fungi whilst there and potted up a few beetles for another day, and after a couple of hours we found ourselves taking in lunch and a pint at the Copt Oak.

I won't bother labelling the photos, as I reckon you'll be able to tell the bluebells from the bell-ends.

Thursday, 25 April 2019


Nothing new for the trip in the moth trap, and actually not a lot in it at all in much cooler conditions. In fact the only highlight was this ambling about near the trap ......

Smooth Newt

There were a couple knocking about, brought out from their hiding places by the rains I guess.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Carpeting The Trap

The 22W synergetic was not quite so busy last night, with cooler conditions and a spot of rain. I had the trap partly sheltered under a clear plastic roofed wood shed which may have additionally affected the catch, but the trap was bone dry.

There was another Horse Chestnut, but other highlights were more standard shaped geometrids ....

Scorched Carpet

Early Tooth-striped

Red Twin-spot Carpet (probably)


Today has been distinctly cooler and wet. We headed south-west along the coast to Bude and a few other places along the north Cornwall coast where it was dryer, but it was a day of site seeing, cafes and pubs rather than any natural history.

The trap is out again tonight for the last time on this visit. But it is still cool and the skies have cleared so no great expectations.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

New Macros

So, I'm down here in North Devon staying with the in laws. We're down here for a couple of days without the kids, so that means there was room for a moth trap in the car. Can't remember when I last trapped here and can't check until I'm home, but it would of been a while ago. I ran the 22W synergetic last night, and the prospects were pretty good with mild and overcast conditions. I ended up with 113 of 34sp., markedly better than recent catches at home. Oddly though there was only one micro in this catch, a single Bee Moth.

Absolute stand out highlight was a macro tick, albeit not the most showy moth you could imagine.

Horse Chestnut

Nut-tree Tussock was the other highlight, and otherwise it was good to see a number of species for the first time this year, such as: Pale Tussock, Pebble Prominent, Flame Carpet, Green Carpet, Silver-ground Carpet, Small Phoenix, Red Twin-spot Carpet, Foxglove Pug, Common Pug, Spruce Carpet, Brimstone Moth, Powdered Quaker and Lychnis.

Nut-tree Tussock

Small Phoenix

Brindled Beauty

Powdered Quaker

Today we had a quick walk around Ilfracombe like proper grockles. I've got some hemiptera and a weevil potted to check out another day, but otherwise it was just refreshing to get some sea air and a pastie. The controversial Verity still stands over the harbour questioning truth and justice, but looks like she needs a decent jet wash to clear the gull shit from her head.

Looking back to Ilfracombe town from the harbour


This Herring Gull had a knackered leg, allowing a close approach, this is an uncropped phone shot.

Later in the afternoon I headed to the edge of Exmoor, actually just over the border into Somerset near the Pinkery outdoor pursuits center. I was intent on proving once and for all that the EMP lure does actually work. I found a suitable looking place with some heather, though otherwise it looked a bit dry and bleak. Not ideal conditions with a bit of a breeze and no sunshine, though it was still warm.

Well, the lure went out and within five minutes I had the first male in. Then over the next five minutes or so I had at least 8 males before I pulled the lure in. I'm sure if I'd actually walked further into the moor I would have recorded lots more.

I netted one for a proper shot. I say proper, I mean a quick snap with my phone.

This is the first time I have recorded Emperor Moth myself, so effectively another macro tick as I have only seen a female from a group trapping session and adults from captive rearing.

The moth trap is out again tonight, though we are expecting rain so the trap is slightly protected under a wood shed canopy. Let's see what comes in.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Itchy Cats

Just time for another post before I hit the road heading south to North Devon.

Yesterday afternoon I managed to get out and enjoy some quality solitude over at Huncote Embankment. I had a good walk around the site, heading all the way along the 'plateau' and then down the steep steps at SP5197296354 and back round along a board walk to the pond at SP5174796795. All the way around I was sweeping and beating and filling pots to keep me busy.

Here's a few shots from my walk around.

I managed to beat and sweep a few larvae, including Green-brindled Crescent, Drinker, Acrobasis advenella and Winter moth, plus a couple that I haven't been able to ID yet. However the best larvae were found all over a small hawthorn bush with a big larval web where they'd accumulated for the winter.


These larvae are notorious for causing itchy rashes and irritations. Brown-tail was first recorded here in VC55 in around 2005, and though there has been an increase in records since then it is still relatively scarce and as far as I know this is the first larval record. These are not in the final instar yet, so I've potted a couple to try and rear.

Sweeping also produced quite a few hemiptera, with the best being a couple of Blue Shieldbugs that I've only seen once before. Also Stenocranus major, Javesella pellucida, Rhopalus subrufus and loads of macropterous European Cinchbugs. Other interesting inverts included Red-girdled Mining Bee and Ashy Mining Bee. Sadly no time to try and photograph all of these, but I had a quick go this morning at a couple.

Red-girdled Mining Bee

Blue Shieldbug

Rhopalus subrufus

When I got to the pond, I stopped to gaze into the shallows and soon noticed a Smooth Newt. As I tried to get the camera sorted it disappeared. I waited patiently for it or another to appear, and then noticed a toad loafing about on the surface next to a support post for the boardwalk I was on. Eventually the newts started showing themselves, though getting photos through even a few inches of water was a bit hit and miss.

Common Toad

Smooth Newt

I'll round off with a couple from the garden moth trap last night.

Swallow Prominent

Red-green Carpet

Semioscopis steinkellneriana