Saturday, 21 June 2014

Norfolk moths: Rockland St. Peter garden, 20 June 2014

It might have been about the shortest night of the year, with the trap only on for six hours or so, but it yielded the best catch I have had from this Skinner trap. After a warm, sunny day, skies remained clear for most of the night, with temperatures of 13.2°C at 22h30 and 10.0°C when I turned off the MV light at 04h00. Calm, with the hint of a light S air. A last quarter moon, with the new moon a week off.

There was still almost no activity by 23h00. The trap was almost dead, except for a Aphomia sociella Bee Moth on the wall alongside. I had painted a bit of sugar around the garden, but only a few Marbled Minor spp. had come in. I anticipated a quiet night. But by 03h45 the trap was abuzz with insects attempting to escape. It took me the remainder of the morning to identify and log all the moths, and even then I had to pass over several other pugs, though not Green Pug an easy call! The more unusual species included a Wood Carpet (noticeably larger than the 2 Common Carpets and with almost no black wavy bisecting line in the outer white band of the forewing; confirmed by Jon Clifton), a Miller resting on the wall, Bird's Wing, a couple of Large Nutmegs (confirmed by Andy Mackay) and a Beautiful Hook-tip on the side of the trap – all nationally local species. Highlights for me were 2 Privet, 2 Elephant and a single Poplar Hawk-moth.  (I only got a quick photo before it left & will post).

Privet Hawk-moth Sphinx ligustri      

Elephant Hawk-moth Deilephila elpenor      

Bird's Wing Dypterygia scabriuscula

Large Nutmeg Apamea anceps      

Miller Acronicta leporina      

Green Pug Pasiphila rectangulata      

Wood Carpet Epirrhoe rivata      

Macro-moths (188 moths of 41 spp.):-

Hepialus humuli Ghost Moth 1
Idaea biselata Small Fan-footed Wave 1
Idaea aversata Riband Wave 16
Epirrhoe alternata Common Carpet 2
Epirrhoe rivata Wood Carpet 1
Eulithis pyraliata Barred Straw 3
Pasiphila rectangulata Green Pug 3
Lomaspilis marginata Clouded Border 6
Biston betularia Peppered Moth 1
Peribatodes rhomboidaria Willow Beauty 2
Alcis repandata Mottled Beauty 10
Cabera pusaria Common White Wave 3
Lomographa temerata Clouded Silver 3
Sphinx ligustri Privet Hawk-moth 2
Laothoe populi Poplar Hawk-moth 1
Deilephila elpenor Elephant Hawk-moth 2
Phalera bucephala Buff-tip 11
Eilema lurideola Common Footman 3
Spilosoma luteum Buff Ermine 6
Agrotis clavis Heart and Club 1
Agrotis exclamationis Heart and Dart 3
Axylia putris Flame 20
Ochropleura plecta Flame Shoulder 8
Xestia triangulum Double Square-spot 19
Lacanobia oleracea Bright-line Brown-eye 5
Mythimna ferrago Clay 2
Mythimna pallens Common Wainscot 2
Acronicta leporina Miller 1
Dypterygia scabriuscula Bird's Wing 1
Rusina ferruginea Brown Rustic 3
Apamea monoglypha Dark Arches 4
Apamea anceps Large Nutmeg 2
Oligia strigilis agg. Marbled Minor agg. 8
Hoplodrina alsines Uncertain 9
Hoplodrina blanda Rustic 2
Caradrina morpheus Mottled Rustic 8
Diachrysia chrysitis Burnished Brass 1
Abrostola tripartita Spectacle 1
Laspeyria flexula Beautiful Hook-tip 1
Hypena proboscidalis Snout 8
Zanclognatha tarsipennalis Fan-foot 2

Micro-moths (12 moths identified, of 3 spp.):-

Tortrix viridana Green Oak Tortrix 1
Eurrhypara hortulata Small Magpie 10
Aphomia sociella Bee Moth 1

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Aglossa pinguinalis (Dark Tabby)

Aglossa pinguinalis (Dark Tabby)
Micro moths can be just as interesting as their notionally larger counterparts. Not long ago, I happened upon an Aphomia sociella (Bee Moth) resting in the garden. This evening, at about 19h00, I noticed a similarly dull brown, but relatively large micro about 20 cm up on the kitchen wall. After the previous encounter, I had the feeling that this might prove to be interesting too. And so it was...

Easily identified, Aglossa pinguinalis (Large Tabby) is a local moth that has declined significantly over the past few decades. Its larvae feed on cereal chaff, hay debris and dry dung in barns, a foodstuff that is common around here. It is also well known for resting in the dark corners of barns and outhouses. 

Aglossa pinguinalis UK distribution (UK Moths)

Aglossa pinguinalis Norfolk distribution (Norfolk Moths)

Monday, 9 June 2014

Marsh Harriers at Sculthorpe Moor

Thanks to a last-minute call from Mike Dawson and kind invitation from Lin Murray of the Hawk and Owl Trust, we had a wonderful evening out at Sculthorpe Moor Community Nature Reserve to watch the Marsh Harrier chicks being tagged and ringed by Phil Littler and John Middleton.

View over Marsh Harrier habitat from the Whitley Hide.
The evening began auspiciously, with a Red Kite soaring over the car park at the visitor centre shortly after we arrived. Together with the other guests we walked down towards the Whitley Hide, passing a feeding station together with a family of Bullfinches (male, female and two juveniles) on the way. Comfortably installed in an extremely well-appointed hide, we soon heard the song of a Cuckoo, which then flew across the meadow in front of us. As the ringers walked out to the nest, the female Marsh Harrier flushed and began to circle high above the nest, calling.

Meanwhile, the monitor showed the four chicks eyeing the approaching ornithologists. It was not long before the boys were holding three bags, each containing a Marsh Harrier chick (the youngest was too small to ring). In a very short time, Phil and John had measured, ringed and tagged all three chicks: two females and a male. They had nevertheless used the opportunity to explain the entire process to us, to tell us how previous tagged birds had fared and to discuss how the data had been used. We also learned how to sex the species, even at this young age, according to talon span.

Phil Littler & John Middleton get to work on the first bird, putting on the ring.
Phil Littler & John Middleton attaching the wing tag.
John Middleton with tagged and ringed Marsh Harrier chick.
I've done my fair share of ringing over the years but this was something else truly inspirational place and people.

The next generation of Marsh Harriers: tagged, ringed and restored to the nest.

The progress of this nest can be followed on the Hawk and Owl Trust's live webcam. Must get over to Norwich Cathedral to see the Peregrines before they leave...