Friday, 30 May 2014

Norfolk moths: Rockland St. Peter garden, 29 May 2014

Dark Brocade Blepharita adusta, a UK BAP species
After three days of moderate E winds, the prospect of a mild, overcast night with a light E breeze was too much to resist. It was not dark enough to turn on the trap until 21h25, by which time it was still 12.4°C, with the sky masked by white cloud. I took the opportunity of a 02h30 start the next day to stay up and daub some sugar around as well. The sugar itself attracted only slugs and woodlice, and while checking it at regular intervals I trod squarely on a hedgehog! But the trap was abuzz with activity from 22h00 onwards. It was interesting to watch the different moths come in, circle and then disappear again into the dark; very few seems to fall into the trap. At exactly 23h00 pm, we heard something crashing through the pear tree and watched as an Eyed Hawk-moth came in to rest in the shade of long grass near the trap, where it remained until dawn. I turned off the trap at 04h25, when the thermometer showed a mild 10.5°C.

Scorched Wing Plagodis dolabraria
We ended up with 42 species of which 16 were new and 7 new for the year – all this from only 99 moths, which is a pretty good ratio. I was able to identify only two micros; a lovely bright pink and yellow micro that was not obviously illustrated in Lewington almost made me want to learn dissection. The highlight was perhaps BAP species Dark Brocade, which is common and widespread, but rapidly declining. It was lovely to see Scorched Wing (local in Norfolk) and Beautiful Golden Y.

Beautiful Golden Y Autographa pulchrina

There was a first Peppered Moth, last seen with 27 years ago with Mike Majerus!

Peppered Moth Biston betularia

       May Highflyer Hydriomena impluviata
Other new ones were Broken-barred Carpet (these with intact bar), May Highflyer (an alder carr species which should find sufficient habitat in this area), Freyer's Pug, Clouded Border, Pale Prominent, Common Footman, Flame, Ingrailed Clay, Shears, Brown Rustic, Dark Arches and Clouded-bordered Brindle. Of course, Eyed Hawk and
Poplar Hawk-moths are always welcome.

As ever, I am grateful to Andy Mackay for casting his experienced eye over some of the moths I found puzzling and either confirming my identifications or – more usually setting me straight.

Freyer's Pug Eupithecia intricata

Macro-moths (99 moths of 42 spp.):-

Hepialus lupulinus Common Swift 3
Timandra comae Blood-vein 2
Xanthorhoe montanata Silver-ground Carpet 4
Chloroclysta truncata Common Marbled Carpet 4
Electrophaes corylata Broken-barred Carpet 2
Colostygia pectinataria Green Carpet 1
Hydriomena impluviata May Highflyer 1
Eupithecia exiguata Mottled Pug 1
Eupithecia intricata Freyer's Pug 2
Lomaspilis marginata Clouded Border 1
Plagodis dolabraria Scorched Wing 1
Biston betularia Peppered Moth 1
Hypomecis punctinalis Pale Oak Beauty 1
Campaea margaritata Light Emerald 1
Smerinthus ocellata Eyed Hawk-moth 1
Laothoe populi Poplar Hawk-moth 1
Pterostoma palpina Pale Prominent 1
Drymonia dodonaea Marbled Brown 1
Eilema lurideola Common Footman 4
Spilosoma lubricipeda White Ermine 2
Agrotis segetum Turnip Moth 1
Agrotis exclamationis Heart and Dart 6
Agrotis puta Shuttle-shaped Dart 1
Axylia putris Flame 2
Ochropleura plecta Flame Shoulder 3
Diarsia mendica Ingrailed Clay 3
Diarsia rubi Small Square-spot 1
Xestia c-nigrum Setaceous Hebrew Character 3
Hada plebeja Shears 1
Lacanobia oleracea Bright-line Brown-eye 2
Mythimna pallens Common Wainscot 1
Blepharita adusta Dark Brocade 1
Rusina ferruginea Brown Rustic 2
Apamea monoglypha Dark Arches 1
Apamea crenata Clouded-bordered Brindle 2
Apamea sordens Rustic Shoulder-knot 4
Oligia strigilis agg. Marbled Minor agg. 10
Charanyca trigrammica Treble Lines 16
Paradrina clavipalpis Pale Mottled Willow 1
Diachrysia chrysitis Burnished Brass 1
Autographa pulchrina Beautiful Golden Y 1
Abrostola tripartita Spectacle 1

Micro-moths (6 moths identified, of 2 spp.):-

Evergestis forficalis Garden Pebble 2
Eurrhypara hortulata Small Magpie 4


Sterling, P., Parsons, M. & Lewington, R. (2012) Field guide to the micro-moths of Great Britain and Ireland. British Wildlife Publishing: Gillingham, Dorset. 416 pp.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Aphomia sociella Bee Moth, the perfect inquiline?

Aphomia sociella Bee Moth
Aphomia sociella is a rather attractive, relatively large micro moth of the Pyralid family. Despite its rather specialised life history (see below), it is fairly common and widespread in this part of the world. This female was found resting low (15 cm up) on a shed wall this evening, above a thicket of Herb Robert Geranium robertianum. The photograph is poor due to low light (handheld ½ sec. shutter speed!) and does not do the moth justice.

Like some other members of the subfamily Galleriinae, the larvae inhabit the nests of bumblebees Bombus and wasps Vespula, typically those that are above ground like the recently-arrived Tree Bumblebee Bombus hypnorum, which is one of the commonest species in our garden. Initially they consume waste materials, debris and old cells, but can eventually graduate to devouring the comb and bee larvae, leaving the nest riddled with silk-lined tunnels.

Since Bee Moth caterpillars mostly feed on nest materials, waste products of the bee and wasp larvae, as well as on dead adults, they are neither parasitic nor necessarily predatory, and so are denominated inquilines (cf. L. inquilinus, Fr. inquilin, Sp. inquilino = lodger) – animals that live as commensals in the nest, burrow or dwelling place of other animals. Bee Moths are not an apicultural pest, since they only rarely infest Honeybee colonies, but they have been introduced into E USA (Opler et al. 2012) where they may have an impact on native North American bumblebees.

Photographs and video of Bee Moths and their bumblebee hosts can be found here.


Goater, B. (1986) British Pyralid moths: a guide to their identification. Harley Books, Colchester, Essex. 175 pp.

Opler, P.A., K. Lotts & T. Naberhaus (coordinators) (2012) Bee Moth Aphomia sociella (Linnaeus, 1758). In: Butterflies and Moths of North America. Data set accessed on 28/05/2014 at

The Natural History Museum Identification and Advisory Service (n.d.) Bee Moth Aphomia sociella. IAS Sheet #7. The Natural History Museum, London. 2 pp. PDF

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

IUCN formally adopts the use of Red Lists for Ecosystems

Red Data Books were conceived in 1963 by Peter Scott as "a register of threatened wildlife that includes definitions of degrees of threat" (Scott et al. 1987). The first Red List, an abbreviated form of the Red Data Book, was published exactly 50 years ago, and Red Lists of threatened species are now a well-established conservation tool. Today, IUCN formally adopted the categories and criteria for evaluating threatened ecosystems, creating the equivalent Red Lists for Ecosystems. This concept, conceived and pioneered in Venezuela, will now become an internationally-recognised way to assess the conservation status of the ever more threatened spaces that all Earth's species, including ourselves, inhabit. 

The first ever assessment of a country's ecosystems was carried out in Venezuela in 2010 (Rodríguez et al. 2010) and a Red List of American ecosystems, from Alaska to Patagonia, will be published next year. The door is now open for a global list.


CEM-IUCN & Provita (2012) IUCN Red List of ecosystems. The Comission on Ecosystem Management (CEM) of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Provita, Caracas, Venezuela.

Rodríguez, J.P., F. Rojas-Suárez & D. Giraldo Hernández (eds.) (2010) Libro Rojo de los ecosistemas terrestres de Venezuela. Provita, Shell Venezuela & Lenovo (Venezuela): Caracas, Venezuela. 324 pp. PDF.

Scott, P., J.A. Burton & R. Fitter (1987) Red Data Books: the historical background. Pp. 1-6 in: Fitter, R. & M. Fitter (Eds.) The road to extinction. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Norfolk moths: Rockland St. Peter garden, 16 May 2014

Eyed Hawk-moth Smerinthus ocellata
After a warm, sunny day, the sky remained clear at least until my last look at the trap at 22h00, by which time the temperature was still 14.0°C. The moon was a couple of nights past full and there was little evening activity at the trap. By dawn (04h30), the temperature had only dropped to 10.8°C and there were a dozen or more moths around the trap, with several Blackbirds anticipating an easy breakfast.

It proved to be a diverse, if small, haul of macros, including 16 species new for the trap: Chinese Character, Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet, Silver-ground Carpet, Foxglove Pug, Mottled Pug, Common Pug, Eyed Hawk-moth, Iron Prominent, Marbled Brown, White Ermine, Buff Ermine, Heart and Dart, Light Brocade, Marbled Minor agg, Treble Lines and Buttoned Snout.

Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet Xanthorhoe ferrugata
Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet Xanthorhoe ferrugata is now thought to be considerably scarcer than Red Twin-spot Carpet X. spadicearia, since previous separation criteria (including the pronounced notch on the inner edge of the wing-band at the costa in X. ferrugata) have been called into question. I have trapped good candidates for X. ferrugata in the past, but this one is about as close as one can get to being sure of the species without dissecting the animal. No hint of red on that dark central bar. And this one does show the wing notch...

Buttoned Snout Hypena rostralis, a local, former UK BAP species
Scarcer still was my first Buttoned Snout. This was, until 2007, a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority species. The larvae feed on Hop Humulus lupulus (of which we have a supply in the garden) and adults over-winter to emerge about now.

Scorched Carpet (first caught in early April) is another fairly local species, whose larvae feed on Spindle Euonymus europaeus.

Light Brocade Lacanobia w-latinum      

Marbled Brown is a local moth of "long-established woodland in which mature oaks remain plentiful" (Waring et al. 2003), of which there is precious little in this area. Unfortunately, this smart little Notodontid fell victim to a Blackbird before I could photograph it (and despite my best efforts to protect it).

In contrast, Light Brocade, another local species represented by two of last night's catch, is associated with open ground on calcareous soil.

Foxglove Pug was attractive and easily identified (and, of course escaped before I could photograph it), but I struggled for a long time several other pugs and had to leave two unidentified, despite unstinting help from Norfolk Moths groups. I felt confident of Common and Mottled though.

Mottled Pug Eupithecia exiguata

Five species were firsts for 2014: Common Marbled Carpet, Green Carpet, Pebble Prominent, Turnip Moth and Small Square-spot.

Macro-moths (45 moths of 30 spp.):-

Cilix glaucata Chinese Character 1
Xanthorhoe ferrugata Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet 1
Xanthorhoe montanata Silver-ground Carpet 1
Chloroclysta truncata Common Marbled Carpet 4
Colostygia pectinataria Green Carpet 2
Eupithecia pulchellata Foxglove Pug 1
Eupithecia exiguata Mottled Pug 1
Eupithecia vulgata Common Pug 1
Ligdia adustata Scorched Carpet 1
Opisthograptis luteolata Brimstone Moth 5
Menophra abruptaria Waved Umber 1
Smerinthus ocellata Eyed Hawk-moth 1
Notodonta dromedarius Iron Prominent 2
Notodonta ziczac Pebble Prominent 1
Drymonia dodonaea Marbled Brown 1
Clostera curtula Chocolate-tip 1
Calliteara pudibunda Pale Tussock 2
Spilosoma lubricipeda White Ermine 3
Spilosoma luteum Buff Ermine 1
Agrotis segetum Turnip Moth 1
Agrotis exclamationis Heart and Dart 1
Agrotis puta Shuttle-shaped Dart 1
Ochropleura plecta Flame Shoulder 2
Diarsia rubi Small Square-spot 1
Lacanobia w-latinum Light Brocade 2
Phlogophora meticulosa Angle Shades 1
Apamea sordens Rustic Shoulder-knot 1
Oligia strigilis agg. Marbled Minor agg. 1
Charanyca trigrammica Treble Lines 2
Hypena rostralis Buttoned Snout 1

Micro-moths (3 moths of 2 spp.):-

Evergestis forficalis Garden Pebble 2
Eurrhypara hortulata Small Magpie 1


Waring, P., Townsend, M. & Lewington, R. (2003) Field guide to the moths of Great Britain and Ireland. British Wildlife Publishing: Hook, Hampshire. 432 pp.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Grey Partridge alive and well in Rocklands?

After Wednesday's chance encounter with one of the remnants of the UK's Turtle Dove population, my luck continued, bringing really good views of three pairs of Grey Partridge Perdix perdix in various parts of Rocklands. I only got on to the first bird when it was spooked by a pair of the much more common Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa I had been checking out in the morning near St. Peter's Church. The other two pairs were the result of an evening stroll on high ground in Rockland-all-Saints. This species is in a near identical situation to the dove and far less easy to find now.

The decline of the Grey Partridge Perdix perdix in the UK (BTO - ref. below)


Baillie, S.R., Marchant, J.H., Leech, D.I., Massimino, D., Eglington, S.M., Johnston, A., Noble, D.G., Barimore, C., Kew, A.J., Downie, I.S., Risely, K. & Robinson, R.A. (2014). BirdTrends 2013: trends in numbers, breeding success and survival for UK breeding birds. BTO Research Report No. 652. BTO, Thetford. 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Book review: Rare Birds of North America by Steve Howell, Ian Lewington & Will Russell

Rare Birds of North America 

Steve N. G. Howell, Ian Lewington & Will Russell
Princeton University Press | 2014
448 pp. | 18 x 24.7 cm | 275 colour plates. 2 line drawings. 9 tables. 17 maps
Hardcover | £ 24.95 / $35.00 | ISBN: 9780691117966

I have spent the last few weeks looking through a review copy of the Rare Birds of North America, kindly sent to me by Princeton University Press. It has taken a while to get down to the review itself because of the temptation to revel in the craftsmanship and absorb the fine detail. This is a stunning book. Not surprising, given the authors and artist. Nevertheless, it surpassed my high expectations. The text is masterful, the illustrations as good as anything yet produced in the bird identification literature. The publisher must take credit for the clarity of design and quality of production. I wish all new bird books were produced to this high standard – not just on the part of the authors, but also the publisher. It is not often that a technical manual will serve equally as a coffee table book but Howell, Lewington and Russell and Princeton University Press have achieved that in this guide.

Rare Birds of North America is quite simply a 'must-buy' for any North American birder with more than a cursory interest in vagrant birds or bird migration. 262 species fulfil the selection criterion of fewer than five records per year since 1950 (the approximate year that birding became popular, according to the authors). Of these, 50% are Old World, 33% New World and 16% pelagic. With an increasing tally of Palaearctic vagrants on Trinidad & Tobago, and records of Redwing from Brazil (Brito et al. 2013), it will perhaps have relevance even for those south of the US-Mexican border. The comparative illustrations of Piratic and Variegated Flycatcher (p. 355) are better than those available in Neotropical field guides!

What about a British or European readership? Some will judge from the title that there is likely to be little of relevance here for Old World birders. They would be wrong. A large proportion of the species covered have occurred, or could potentially occur on this side of the Atlantic. This book is another tool in the birder's kit, and will very definitely help western Palaearctic birders sharpen their identification skills. How? On one hand, this book provides the inverse perspective on identification of American vagrants – how to tell a Golden Plover from an American Golden, a Hen Harrier from a Northern, rather than vice versa – and in doing so it gives many insights into field separation of similar species. On the other, it is often quite simply the best source of information available for species which present identification pitfalls on the E side of the Atlantic. Considering solely non-passerines, European readers will find a wealth of useful information in the accounts of snipe, smaller Tringa waders, Cuckoo & Oriental Cuckoo, besides a host of pelagic birds.

From the cover onwards, the plates are of the very highest quality: amongst the most accurate and helpful to be found in any identification literature. Apart from their accuracy (only a few of the tropical species are anything but completely convincing, and even they are extremely lifelike), they are charming works of art. The text is masterful, a distillation of decades of field experience, offering countless insights. The re-evaluation, documentation and referencing of individual records is scrupulous, allowing the user to consult original sources and perhaps arrive at his or her own conclusions. In this case, the layout and design deserve the highest praise too. The plates are placed close to the appropriate text, and they are reproduced large enough for the reader to appreciate the artwork itself and for field characters to be easily visible, while the text itself is extremely well laid out with clever use of different fonts to enhance clarity.

Quite apart from the identification section, the introductory information on bird migration is the best non-academic summary I have seen of what is known to date about migration and the causes of vagrancy.

This will doubtless prove to be one of the most important birding books of 2014. It is a pleasure to browse through, an endless source of curious and surprising information and a key reference in the identification literature.

So, a hearty approval from me. A wonderful book!


Brito, G.R., Nacinovic, J.B. & Teixeira, D.M. (2013) First record of Redwing Turdus iliacus in South America. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 133(4): 316–317.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

New Buckenham Common

Spittle Mere, New Buckenham Common

A brief evening trip to New Buckenham Common. The meadows were in full flower, with lovely displays of Meadow Saxifrage Saxifraga granulata and Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio.

Meadow Saxifrage Saxifraga granulata

Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio

Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio

Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio

Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio

Most curious of all, I had been working all day on a revision of the conservation status of the large blue Anodorhynchus and Cyanopsitta macaws and had finished the day's work with Blue-and-yellow Macaw Ara ararauna just in time to leave for New Buckenham. For a minute or two after we entered the common, I had been subconsciously hearing the harsh raaak calls of a large Ara macaw, but had been ignoring them, probably because they have for so long been a familiar background sound to me. Suddenly, realising that macaws should not be a usual component of English summer bird song, I raced after the sounds and traced them to a lonely captive bird on a sad little plot of built-up land in the middle of the common.  

The traditional spring evening chorus included resident Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, and conversing Rooks as well as a distant Reed Bunting. Summer visitor vocalists included Swift, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Swallow, House Martin and... the unmistakeable purring of a Turtle Dove. It did not allow us to study it on the perch, but we did have three or four passable views of the dove in display flight. There is certainly nothing to complain about even a glimpse of this species: its population has plummeted by over 90% since I began birding, almost certainly due to herbicide use, and is now below 14,000 territories.

The decline of the Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur in the UK (BTO - ref. below)

Our final bird was a Barn Owl, lit by the last of the setting sun as it quartered over the grassland.


Baillie, S.R., Marchant, J.H., Leech, D.I., Massimino, D., Eglington, S.M., Johnston, A., Noble, D.G., Barimore, C., Kew, A.J., Downie, I.S., Risely, K. & Robinson, R.A. (2014). BirdTrends 2013: trends in numbers, breeding success and survival for UK breeding birds. BTO Research Report No. 652. BTO, Thetford. 

Collar, N., Boesman, P. & Sharpe, C.J. (2014). Blue-and-yellow Macaw (Ara ararauna). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2014). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 14 May 2014).

Small Magpie

It might be a micro moth, and it might be common and widespread, but this is a really attractive little insect. Now I feel bad about pulling up all those nettles, many of which had curled up tops, from my vegetable plot. One survived at least. Small Magpie inside the house this morning...

Small Magpie Anania hortulata

Common Swift Korscheltellus lupulina was hovering low amongst the Lavendar at dusk last night.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Neotropical Birding 14: contents

Neotropical Birding 14: contents

Lowen, J.C. & G.M. Kirwan (2014) Guest editorial. Neotropical Birding 14: a tribute to Juan Mazar Barnett. Neotrop. Birding 14: 3-4.

Lees, A.C. (2014) Splits, lumps and shuffles. Neotrop. Birding 14: 4-18. [amongst other things, includes a summary of those Amazonian species described in the HBW Special Volume]

Lees, A.C., C. Albano, G.M. Kirwan, J.F. Pacheco & A. Whittaker (2014) The end of hope for Alagoas Foliage-gleaner Philydor novaesi? Neotrop. Birding 14: 20-28.

Pugnali, G. & D. Alarcón Arias (2014) Capital birding: La Paz. Neotrop. Birding 14: 29-36. Available (soon!) as a sample article at:

Laranjeiras, T.O. & L.N. Naka (2014) Birding sites: The state of Roraima, Brazil. Neotrop. Birding 14: 40-53.

Kirwan, G.M. (2014) Photospot: The blue treasure at the end of the world: Lear’s Macaw in the backlands of Bahia. Neotrop. Birding 14: 54-57. [Anodorhynchus leari]

Kirwan, G.M., D. Brinkhuizen, D. Calderón, B. Davis, J. Minns & I. Roesler (2014) Neotropical Notebook: published and unpublished records. Neotrop. Birding 14: 58-72.
Available (soon!) as a sample article at:

Bird, J. (2014) NBC Conservation Awards update. Neotrop. Birding 14: 76-77. [Tachycineta euchrysea]

Sharpe, C.J. (2014) Book review: A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago (3rd edition). Neotrop. Birding 14: 78-79

Sharpe, C.J. (2014) Book review: Handbook of the Birds of the World, Special Volume: New Species and Global Index. Neotrop. Birding 14: 79-80

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Snakes in the kitchen...

Grass Snake Natrix natrix, new for the kitchen list.
Our kitchen by night is a great place for Yellow Limacus flavus and Leopard Slugs Limax maximus. Last year I was surprised to find a couple of Common Toads Bufo bufo under the fridge. They were followed by Common Frogs Rana temporaria heading towards the bathroom. Of course, there are usually Wood Mice Apodemus sylvaticus in the roof and House Mice Mus musculus under the floorboards. Now, in a gratifying leap up the trophic levels, this juvenile Grass Snake Natrix natrix emerged from beneath the dishwasher this morning; incontrovertible evidence that the ecosystem is becoming richer, more complex and more interesting under my management regime. Should I be looking forward to the arrival of Hedgehogs and Badgers, or is it time to consider some sort of ecological intervention?

Grass Snake Natrix natrix. No animals were harmed in the making of this blog.
When we tried to catch it, the snake proved to be quite aggressive, opening its mouth and repeatedly feigning strikes. When that failed, it rolled onto its back, pretending to be dead, and produced the typical foul smelling greenish exudate. In the end, we did manage to get it out to the compost heap, and I think I remembered to wash my hands before making the boys' sandwiches...

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Neotropical Birding 14 is here!

Neotropical Birding 14 has just flopped through my letterbox, so...

Welcome to issue 14 of Neotropical Birding!

This issue is dedicated to one of the Neotropical Bird Club's closest and most-valued collaborators, Juan Mazar Barnett who died in November 2012. The idea for a memorial issue was suggested by James Lowen a day or two after we heard that Juan had passed away; Guy Kirwan was already thinking along the same lines. They knew Juan well enough to coordinate the issue. I had only met him once or twice, when we happened to coincide during our annual August pilgrimages to the UK to attend the Birdfair, but I was still shocked by the news – Juan seemed such a vital figure with a vast amount still to contribute. Together with Germán Pugnali, my Guest Editors contacted some of those who knew Juan with an invitation to submit articles, and also penned their own. We quickly received too much material for NB14 and, no doubt, could have comfortably filled two issues on the same theme. Seventeen months after we began, this Juan Mazar Barnett memorial issue goes to press. But we have certainly not seen the last of the tributes to one of the region's most gifted and well-loved ornithologists.
We launch straight into the thick of Neotropical systematics and taxonomy with a monster edition of our regular Splits, lumps and shuffles column, which includes a summary of those Amazonian species described in the HBW Special Volume – and for a fraction of the cost and shelf space. Alex Lees ably guides us through the terrors of suboscine splits, as he probes scythebill systematics and reshuffles his manakins. Epinecrophylla ailments and Myrmeciza moans end here. Don't be frightened: do what the man says and just “get your lists out!”

Alagoas Foliage-gleaner Philydor novaesi at RPPN Frei Caneca, Serra do Urubu, PE, 13 Nov 2010 - one of the last images of the species (Ciro Albano)
Even more terrifying than taxonomy is news of the probable extinction of Alagoas Foliage-gleaner Philydor novaesi, a species discovered just 35 years ago, currently considered Critically Endangered and the subject of our Globally threatened bird column. Alex Lees and his co-authors assess the chances that this and other avian endemics of the Pernambuco Centre continue to survive. Ciro Albano provides the photographs.

The world's highest capital city, La Paz, is the subject of this issue's Capital birding,as guide Germán Pugnali tells us how to beat the soroche with some high altitude birding.

Brazil's state of Roraima is our Birding sites destination, with Luciano Naka (who already wrote a JMB memorial for El Hornero) and Thiago Laranjeiras. Many of the specialities of the previously inaccessible white-sand forests can be found here along with Guiana Shield forest and savanna species that have been traditionally sought in southern Venezuela and Guyana. 
Lear's Macaw Anodorhynchus leari by Edward Lear, publ. 1832
Guy Kirwan muses on the Endangered Lear’s Macaw, named after bird artist – and sometime nonsense-poet – Edward Lear. This Photospot features more of Ciro Albano's beautiful images, one of which graces our cover.

After 20 years at Cotinga, the regular Neotropical Notebook column has migrated over to Neotropical Birding. Guy Kirwan continues to coordinate the collection of published and unpublished records, helped by a team of national compilers and benefiting from NEOORN's wonderful NeoLit service. If anyone thinks they fill Guy's shoes, please let me know – I am looking for someone to take on the job when he retires from duty in 2015.

Jez Bird tells members how our conservation funds have been used to the benefit of the Neotropical birds we all enjoy in the NBC Conservation Awards Update.

And we end with my own Book reviews of the new edition of ffrench's Birds of Trinidad & Tobago and – an ornithological tour-de-force – the impressive coda to the 16 volume Handbook of the Birds of the World: never has an index been such an exciting read!

More on Juan Mazar Barnett and the birds that inspired him in this special issue of Neotropical Birding. My special thanks to Germán Pugnali, Guy Kirwan, James Lowen and to all our writers and photographers for working to make this a fitting tribute to Juan. 

I know Juan would have wanted us to wish you happy Neotropical birding!

Christopher J. Sharpe, Senior Editor

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Norfolk moths: Rockland St. Peter garden, 30 April 2014: first hawk-moth of the year

The last day of April was warm with sunny spells and the night-time forecast was for cloud and warmer temperatures than we have had for a while. It sounded ideal for mothing, particularly with the prospect of frost forecast for the weekend. There was a light E breeze and evening temperature was high (11.0°C at 21h30), yet there was no activity at the trap for the first couple of hours that I checked – typically the time of peak activity. All I could see was a Pine Beauty nestled inside the egg cartons (which had escaped by dawn). I toyed with the idea of turning off the light and packing up the trap, but resisted the temptation. By first light, the mist had come down and enveloped the trap. A Cuckoo sang not far off in the pre-dawn at 04h50 – my first of the year, though Walnut Tree Garden Nursery had one singing on 21 April and another was reported in the village yesterday. The temperature dropped very little overnight (9.3°C at 05h05). The new moon had been on the previous night.

The first thing I noticed was a Buff-tip lying on the sheet by the base of the box – new for this trap, but a familiar species from the past, and a good omen.

Buff-tip Phalera bucephala, on the birch twig it mimics

A large moth on the outside of the trap proved to be new too Scalloped Hazel, with a second inside.

 Scalloped Hazel Odontopera bidentata
But the best was inside the trap. I had only removed one egg carton when I saw it: a Poplar Hawk-moth in all its glory – first hawk-moth for the trap and, again, a flashback thirty years to Cambridge moth-trapping days. 

Poplar Hawk-moth Laothoe populi      
Poplar Hawk-moth Laothoe populi      

As, I removed it, I realised that I had almost grabbed a ghostly Pale Tussock, and alongside a Rustic Shoulder-knot – three new moths together.

Pale Tussock Calliteara pudibunda

Rustic Shoulder-knot Apamea sordens, with "shoulder-knot" just visible

Coxcomb Prominent and Shuttle-shaped Dart were new for the year. The rest of the trap contained very few moths, resulting in a night of low numbers but high diversity.

Macro-moths (21 moths of 14 spp.); no micros:-

Opisthograptis luteolata Brimstone Moth 1
Odontopera bidentata Scalloped Hazel 2
Menophra abruptaria Waved Umber 1
Laothoe populi Poplar Hawk-moth 1
Phalera bucephala Buff-tip 1
Ptilodon capucina Coxcomb Prominent 1
Clostera curtula Chocolate-tip 1
Calliteara pudibunda Pale Tussock 1
Diaphora mendica Muslin Moth 1
Agrotis puta Shuttle-shaped Dart 3
Ochropleura plecta Flame Shoulder 1
Panolis flammea Pine Beauty 1
Orthosia gothica Hebrew Character 5
Apamea sordens Rustic Shoulder-knot 1