Sunday, 18 February 2018

29th January

Chapel Hill


Spring Usher ushering in the cold!


A chance outing to the woods near Chapel Hill after some awkward preceding weather over the last few days turned out to be a chilly ending on the 29th January as the evening set in. Clearing skies meant a full moon rose to shine through the trees in its upward arc and temperatures starting to fall.
It was mostly calm as a positive but I felt the full moon and the dipping temperatures would go against me enticing anything to the light trap.
With a thick coat and coffee to hand I sat there and watched more in hope that a moth might pay a visit with the backdrop of Tawny Owls hooting nearby.
The Owls are regular here but they always check in overseeing what I'm up to despite actually seeing me here quite often.
They could see as well as me that absolutely nothing was happening at all. Another coffee I thought as the Owls left on there customary flight around the woodland.


Then near 50 minutes into the trap session a flicker to the left signified a moth. It disappeared but returned and dived into the trap. Then another followed and I got my hands on it, carefully coaxing it into a pot. I left it for some time before it settled to reveal a Spring Usher. Nice one, as I had not seen too many of this species.
Nearly an hour passed and I decided to pack up as my hands were beginning to tingle with the cold, it must have been 5c (I later found out), I was sure I'm not seeing any more moths.
Then as I set the light to one side another moth came in followed by two others within a minute. They must have been waiting near by I reckoned.
After a check they were all Spring Usher's that evening, all 5 of them and I could not help think that these moths are extremely hardy, tough in this cold weather, tougher than me. One good thing that is at their advantage this time of year is very little in the way of predators are around especially bats so a wise evolutionary process going on here for survival me thinks.

 Four of the five Spring Usher's that turned up this cold evening

Saturday, 27 January 2018

December 2017-

Deceivingly productive


Many people but not all, have packed away traps by this time of year and resigned themselves to armchairs for the winter months.
There are a select few that continue to search and I have decided to follow suit and keep looking for moths as a experimental project.
I had tried it last year and came up with a few moths and was of the opinion that the mothing season does not grind to a halt completely.
Some moths do overwinter, some emerge even on the much cooler days, and occasionally some moths are found in homes, sheds and outbuildings. All is not entirely dead quiet in the lepidoptera world yet, as one might think.
With December 2017 I continued to trap when possible between adverse weather, albeit with a few missed opportunities and surprisingly came up with figures of 140 moths of 14 species.
I was taken aback by these figures and equally very pleased with the result given the effort I put in plus backing up initial thoughts from 2016.
12 were macro's, some of which fly at this time of year and a few Autumn hanger-on's.
Two of the 14 species seen were overwintering micro's, one of Scarce A category, so it's definitely worth having an eye open even on the milder days.

 The appropriately named Winter Moth, which can be found quite commonly throughout the winter period.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

3rd December 2017

Llanishen


A surprisingly productive trapping session at a little known site early in December produced 63 moths of 9 species.
A bit of a 'off-the-cuff' moment to trap here was quite rewarding and quite possibly a timely visit after several frosts.
I had considered the site way back in April but after completely forgetting about it in the frenetic escalating pace of life and fitting in other projects in between it got put back until today, in early December.
It was not until I drove towards it that I decided to have a quick survey to see if it was possible to trap here in the practical sense. It seemed alright but I did not expect much to turn up.


Arriving late afternoon to set up, a steady stream of  moths soon arrived nearly as soon the light got switched on which was encouraging.
Late Autumn and Early Winter moths turned up as expected with Winter Moth (21) and December Moth (32) making up the majority of the 63 total.


Others included a Brick, Feathered Thorn, Mottled Umber, Spruce Carpet, Chestnut, November Moth agg. and most definitely the highlight of the session as it was a first for me, was a Scarce Umber.


Its another moth that is classified as common according to the National UK status.
From my personal perspective I can't say that it is common at all, even though I have put my myself in the correct habitats and only found one so far. Maybe its just bad luck or poor timing in hindsight.
Overall there are scattered records in the county and I suspect it is more likely 'widespread and scattered' and in 'low frequency' in the county but without records to hand I do not know.

An immediate thought comes to mind over the word common used to describe this moth's status.

I don't know anybody else out there but I expect the word common to be used to describe anything in higher frequency numbers at possibly at least 2-5 in number or even more.
I don't want to get into a great debate about this but I find the definition 'common' to be not a true reflection of status at times. I'm finding difficult to understand as it turns up all to often when looking up a moths status.
It's an odd concept because 'Common' could represent 15-20 individuals or just one single moth that turns up in a single Ordinance survey square. Perhaps 'Widespread and frequent' or 'abundant' and 'Widespread and in Low numbers' might tidy things up, who knows.

I'm sure many other 'moth trappers' or even 'birders' (if the same applies) out there will have come across this situation all to often over the years of surveying I suspect.







Thursday, 21 December 2017

Rare Acleris micro in Town


Chepstow Town 
November 23rd and December 3rd

One of my wanders around the town on the 23rd November produced this intriguing micro moth, upon which I left on my camera for several days before having a serious close up look.
I had thought it was a Light Brown Apple Moth from a distance for it had settled high up on a whitewashed wall on a building and was nearly out of reach of my cameras focal distance.
After looking closer at the better of two pictures I took, I sent it off to Sam assigning the name of Acleris Umbrana totally oblivious of its county and national status.
Although not pin sharp, the distinctive black longitudinal streaks were clearly visible along with the odd scale tufts and there really was not any doubt that this is was what it was.
Sam Bosanquet agreed and commented that it was a recent new addition to the county list only as of this year, 2017.
 Dark-streaked Button- Acleris umbrana

The photographs here are from another encounter dated 3rd December where thankfully another or maybe the same moth had perched lower down the same wall conveniently providing a better opportunity for me to take a closer view. You can see the 'streaks' and 'tufts' better in these pictures. 

Most if not all records from the latter part of last winter had emanated from around the Newport area I believe, so this meant it was a new site for it.
Although I could not manage to produce photographic at the time, I strongly believe that this moth was at this site last year. Again it was positioned high up on the wall like the encounter this year albeit much higher up and out of reach of the camera.

I did some further reading up on the Dark-streaked Button, Acleris umbrana, and its National status is in the 'Scarce A' category at present, 'a rare and localised species'.


I also found a few other findings and comments that may ring true for the county where no records existed then a sudden mini-explosion of encounters occurred.
I particularly like the comment made by Sheldon in 1930 where he describes the moth as a 'rather mysterious species' always very local, never common and entirely disappearing from its known haunts for years at a time'.
Forty-three years later his observations/comments were echoed by Bradley, Tremewen and Smith as they also found it elusive for years at a time at known sites, so very little had changed in 1973.
Could it be that in future that the moth will frequent known habitats here in Gwent and then inexplicably disappears for long periods only to return....could be an interesting experimental exercise for the people who have found it so far possibly.




Saturday, 16 December 2017

20th November

Chepstow Town, North-east 
Very Uncommon find on Hornbeam


With leaves disappearing at a rapid rate at this point looking for leaf-mines was becoming more difficult, however I did spot a few in the Castle Car Park.


I had not really taken a lot of notice of these small trees which had densely packed branches.
The leaves were a warm yellow with a slight tint of orange and 90% intact on the tree itself. It was a Hornbeam, a tree I have only started to get comfortable in identifying.

Closer inspection revealed some winding mines which had me looking at Stigmella microtherella on several leaves. I collected a few quite readily. I felt I needed a few more to make a nice collection display and it was upon this further looking an elongated blotch mine came into view opposite a S. microtherella mine.


That's odd I thought, never seen that happening in Hornbeam!
After some photographs were taken, and a look at a leaf mine site on-line, Phyllonorycter tenerella appeared to have a close resemblance to what I had found on the leaf.


A quick reply from Sam Bosanquet after sending the photographs off, revealed a positive ID, it indeed was P. tenerella.
As often the case I'm all too often unaware of several of the moths status in the county-I just like finding them- so this came as a very nice addition to my collection and to the V35 county, for it was just the 3rd record of this micro ever found so far.  

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

November 12th-26th

Stigmella myrtillella- further discoveries


Intrigued by Sam findings on Stigmella myrtelliella in an earlier post on the blog dated the 1st November.
I thought I would have a go at a few sites that I remembered from my butterfly days which had its food plant, Bilberry.
Sam mentioned in the post that it was difficult to find but I like a challenge and decided to have a go.

November 12th
My first port of call was at Ninewells Wood not too far away from the first sighting ever made way back in 1973 at Cleddon Bog. Along the way I decided to make leaf mine observations on other plants and trees to make the visit worth while just in case I could not find it.
Looking over a more sheltered spot for around 15 minutes I struggled to find any evidence at all before I started to feel spots of rain. With a dark cloud looming and approaching quickly I thought I would jump back in the car and gather my thoughts over a cup of coffee.
The shower passed bringing some small hail with it, so it was just as well I had got in the car.
The biggest issues today I soon discovered were the lack of leaves on plants, frost shrivelled or water stained leaves that had turned brown deceiving the eye and mines of a possible fly that was getting in there, so a bit of needle in a haystack situation.
Next I then wondered up a track that I had never been before and my mind was diverted away from Bilberry to Birch and a few Oaks and Beech. They brought forward some interesting mines of Stigmella luteella, confusella and sakhalinella on Birch with Stigmella atricapitella on Oak, so least I had come away with something on my trip.
Reverting back to Bilberry and beginning to give up on its presence here I changed tack deciding to concentrate on more open ground. It was a good move for within 20 minutes I discovered a group of three leaves together within a few feet near to an isolated Oak. These were definitely Stigmella myrtellella I was sure, so a brilliant result. Further wonderings for another 30 minutes produced nothing until the very last opportunity where another single mine was found quite some distance from the initial find, this time at a more sheltered spot.

November 19th
Broad Meend which is connected to Cleddon Bog was the next port of call on the 12th but this would have to wait until the next week-end before time was available for a search.
It was a cool day much like the week before with bright sunshine, minus the gusty winds.
The much calmer day allowed me to scour the heath without any weather interuptions.
Looking at plants today however seemed much more difficult here with less of the greenness in the leaf after another week of weathering. Leaves were browned once again making selection difficult to process from a distance and even when something positive turned up it was still difficult to determine unless close up photography was used. After some lengthy looking, I came up with nothing of interest. Again I scoured near to trees in protected areas but this proved unproductive after 30 minutes.
Once again I decided to move to more open ground as the week before and once again this proved to be the right call for I found two mines after some very intense searching over the course of some 35 minutes in sunshine which was lowering towards the horizon.
This I believe might the right way forward for this elusive miner by looking at more open heathland in the future and something I will be bearing in mind in future searches.

November 26th
I conducted another search in a different area today but was unsuccessful. The season for these Bilberry mines is closed more or less I reckon. Finding mines over the previous weeks must have been at the very edge of availability for this season, so very timely indeed and very rewarding.


Tuesday, 21 November 2017

A few October butterflies


I don't go out like I used to looking for butterflies which is a shame, instead most of my efforts go into finding moths or evidence of them.
This October however, I could not help but see butterflies mainly in the form of the Red Admiral.
Impressive high numbers of the butterfly were around virtually everywhere I went whether I was looking for them or not. As Martin Anthoney mentioned in the newsletter many were on Ivy and indeed I often found them feeding on ivy blossom competing with flies, bees and numerous other insects that just love the nectar this time of year.


The butterfly has had a good year overall in 2017 with some individuals managing to overwinter successfully due to a milder season. This had reportedly helped numbers when the new influx arrived from the continent allowing successful breeding and numbers to grow to high levels.
It used to be the case where you would only expect them to arrive through the summer months. So is it possible that maybe the butterfly is slowly adapting along with the slightly milder phase in climate at present.
Lets hope so because they made for a colourful Autumn in amongst the hedgerows etc. 

I actually saw 36 individuals without really looking for them in October. A total of 14 were happily feeding on Ivy blossom that adorned the perimeter wall at St. Mary the Virgin church in Magor.


The same day I saw a couple of Small Tortoiseshell's on thistles not too far away. This butterfly is suppose to be in decline although I'm not entirely sure why. I did see it on occasion this year but I was not seriously looking. A few years ago when I seriously surveyed for butterflies it appeared quite regularly, even common in some areas I visited.