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. 

Monday, 13 November 2017

23rd October

Fryth Wood, Howick

Just a mere 146 years between sightings.

A last minute decision to chose this location to moth trap was a to be an inspiring revelation.
I had already found a immigrant Gem 9 days previous which I was very pleased about, but I had heard a Vestal's had been sighted in various counties. I was hoping but felt a wood was not ideal.
My ideal location had to be aborted because the remnants of storm 'Brian' was still passing through.
A keen west-south-westerly was still blowing in exposed areas this evening bringing a few spots of rain on occasion in breezes.
Luckily my usual spot in this wood was sufficient enough to thwart most of the stronger breezes which tended to brush over the tops of trees leaving the lower ground levels protected and much calmer compared, however a few gusts did spiral downwards.
I did not hope for anything unusual to come to the trap, not in this wood, just the possibility of perhaps a new species to the site that I had missed on previous visits.
The breeze was a concern but moths still arrived which put me in a positive frame of mind.
Things went quiet so I had a coffee and a short wander only to come back to find a Red Admiral butterfly perched upon an egg box looking at me from inside the moth trap.
An unusual situation indeed and a first ever for this to happen to me on a night time trap.

It would be the first of three highlights within the next 30 minutes though as things got busier.
Next a small moth came to the light and kept flirting back and forth. I wondered if it was an out of season Small fan-footed Wave, for I sometimes get extra generations of moths in favourable conditions here in the south-east of the county. A temporary pause by the moth allowed me capture it revealing a very nice Vestal, and a new location for it.
The best was to come not too long afterwards as another butterfly came to the trap, or so it appeared.
It looked like a Marbled White butterfly as it's wings flapped around the upright, actinic tube light.
Excitement poured over me, this looked very unusual, unfamiliar, even visually exotic on this blustery mild evening.
I managed to capture it quite easily with no fuss and in one of those moments that I can't explain I spoke under my breath and said a Crimson Speckled. Why I said this I don't know for I'd never seen one but it most have logged somewhere in the grey matter after looking at pictures in my book and online.
The moth settled down and upon checking my book it had to be a Crimson Speckled.

A stunning moth with beautiful markings which derives from the Mediterranean countries and north Africa.
So how had it got here. I can only think storm Brian had collected it with the strong warm southerly winds that had originated right back into the African continent shown on weather maps a few days previously.
Further investigations found that somebody had found one before in the county in Monmouth in 1871, a mere 146 years ago as confirmed by Martin Anthoney.
He said he had always wanted to have seen one and I can see why. I'm extremely lucky to have seen it myself and probably this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to have seen it here.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Stigmella myrtilella - a very elusive miner

I have been half-heartedly searching for mines of Stigmella myrtilella on Bilberry for years, but never found any.  Then someone posted a photo of one Twitter with a comment along the lines of "I searched 1000 plants today and finally found a mine".  During a day's fieldwork NVC mapping the edge of Waun Afon today, I scanned across loads of patches of Bilberry without seeing any mines.  Eventually I thought some additional shelter from Molinia plants might provide suitable conditions, so I checked the first such patch and found a mine immediately.  Despite a lot more checking I failed to see another - these are clearly exceedingly elusive moths!  There is one previous county record: from Cleddon Bog in 1973.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017


New micro to the V35 list

Yet another micro was added to the Vice county list just recently.
A chance find in a small park of all places in Chepstow.
Stigmella incognitella (Grey Apple Pigmy) was found on small apple trees by chance originally on the 30th September.
Sam Bosanquet reserved judgement concluding that it was possible that it was this moth but wasn't sure if Ectoedemia atricollis was at work.

I decided to leave it and put it down to a potential revisit next year as I thought the season was over.
A few weeks went by and I went by the location again on a walk around the town but couldn't help but have another look over the trees again today the 19th October.
Again I found empty leaf mines identical to the ones I found a few weeks before and then I had a breakthrough because a larvae was present.
I took several pictures, checked it over and felt it was correct and sent off to Sam.
 This time there was no doubt about what was mining the leaves as the larvae was pale yellow. Ectoedemia atricollis has a dark head and greenish/white in appearance so this was ruled out.

The county list continues to grow.....

Friday, 27 October 2017

Vestalfest reaches Dingestow

26th October seemed like the last chance to hit the southerly airflows of October 2017, although the winds swung to light NW for much of the night.  Moth'ers in SW England caught 100s of Vestal over the previous two nights, along with many rarer migrants, so I had my fingers crossed.  A check of the flowering ivy produced the first Vestal of the night, and this was followed by 12 more around the MV trap (not one of them was on or inside the trap, all were on the wall/grass).

Vestals were only part of the story on this mild night.  23 moth species appeared at the MV, with a few more on the ivy flowers.  Highlights were a pristine Chocolate-tip (an extraordinary 3rd-brood for this species), a Sprawler and a Brown-spot Pinion, with a tiny gammina among the Silver-Ys.  No more exciting migrants appeared, unfortunately, although my fingers are crossed for another pulse of migrant activity later in the autumn.


Thursday, 26 October 2017

Hendre Woods

I was at Hendre Woods (near Monmouth) today to check on some habitat management work we've had done to try and increase the amount of Wood Spurge for Drab Looper. I spent a few minutes looking for leaf mines and was pleased to find Ectoedemia angulifasciella on wild rose
I've been looking out for this species on rose this autumn but until today had only found mines of Stigmella anomalella/centrifoliella. Note the greenish white larva of angulifasciella (very different from the bright yellow larvae of the Stigmella species on rose) and also the broader mine forming a 'false blotch' in its later stages.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

12th October

'What the hell was I doing'.

I hadn't been out for a trapping session for a while or so seemed, so I had made up my mind I was going no matter what this evening.
My original site of choice for that evening I hoped would be fine, but upon getting there I soon had to quickly forget about it because a stiff breeze was blowing making things near impossible. Quickly I packed up and made my way to what I hoped would be a more sheltered spot.
Got to Highmoor Hill and thought this was alright and set up. As I had assembled the kit and started settling in, the breeze here then started to pick up as if following me, occasionally gusting at times shortly afterwards.
A foolhardy idea and I thought... 'what the hell was I doing'.
Unsurprisingly the shortened night trip brought little reward as expected with 4 moths of which 3 I got hold of, literally in the keen breezes.

Viburnum Button

There was not much doubt in my mind about the star of the paltry three moths that I captured, a Acleris schalleriana I think it is.
I came across one last year in December and I remember Sam being equally as pleased with the find as I was.
It was reported as the 5th Vice County then, so maybe this might be the 6th in a new location away from the Wye Valley unless Sam has received other records in the meantime.
Would be interesting to know.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Always check around your trap!

I have blogged regularly on the subject of checking around the MV/Actinic trap, not just in the trap itself on the Carmarthenshire Blog, and this remains as true as ever.  My Scarce Bordered Straw from 20/10 was found on the grass 2m from the trap at midday, and my long-awaited 2017 Vestal last night (22/10) was the very final moth discovered after nearly 20 minutes combing the grass and short vegetation around my trap site.  Careful searching around the trap this morning produced 10 additions to the 19 species in the trap, including both Udea ferrugalis and all 4 Yellow-line and 4 Red-line Quaker.  Some species seem to favour hitting the ground rather than flying to the trap, and there does seem to be a propensity for migrant moths not to be in the trap itself.

The other highlight of 22/10 was a stunning Figure-of-Eight, hot on the heels of one on 21/10 (which was still in the fridge).  I have waited 13 years for this species to reappear at Dingestow, despite it being regular here in the 1990s and early 2000s until 2004.  Martin says it is frequent at Heather Colls' trap site in Jingle Street a few miles east of here, but otherwise has recent records only from southernmost Gwent.


Southerly winds continue off and on for the foreseeable future, so there remains considerable scope for interesting finds! 

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Thankyou Brian

Having missed out on Vestal-fest on 18th October, I hoped that the strong southerly winds coming in with the forward edge of Storm Brian might bring me a migrant or two.  Checking the trap at 07:00 was disappointing, with 9 resident species and nothing more noteworthy than a Pinion-streaked Snout.  Much later, at 13:00, I noticed an Angle Shades on the lawn next to where I had trapped; a closer look revealed a pristine Scarce Bordered Straw sitting next to it!

My first Scarce Bordered Straw at Dingestow in 2003 was also new for Gwent.  How things have changed - this is now an expected autumn visitor to the county, albeit an exciting one to see.  Last night's was my 5th here, following one in 2003, two in 2006 and one in 2016.


Name that bug

Its amazing what other wildlife becomes attracted towards your light when your out moth surveying of an evening.
Its not just moths that get attracted, other insects including a myriad of flies, caddis fly's, Bees, dangerous Hornets, Beetles, strange looking insects not of this planet, even Lizards on rare occasions.
Birds get spooked, drop in inquisitively to see what your up to on their territory like Little Owls. Tawny Owls silently creep up you, perch above your position unknowingly, screech and scare the s**t out of you on a dead calm night.
Late summer can bring in Nightjars on occasion at the right habitat. On two occasions I've had Nightjars swoop down within a few feet of my head and perch close by, interested in what you are doing which is a delight.

This month October, I had three 'bugs' that were quite interesting turn up and I wondered if anybody out there could assign names to photographs.
I thought Sawfly caterpillar for the 1st one, the other two I'm not sure. The Beetle was extremely large as you can tell from the £1 coin. approximately 30mm plus in length I estimated. Maybe a Scavenger Beetle?  

 Sawfly Larvae?
 Scavenger Beetle?

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Juniper Carpet - New for VC35 on Friday 13th October.

Friday the 13th proved to be a lucky Moth Night for me in Blackwood, as I checked the trap at about 6:00AM I noticed what looked like an interesting Geometrid on the shed by the trap (first thoughts were - great my first Cypress Carpet). So I immediately potted the moth and popped in the fridge for further checking once the light had improved.
Well - when I checked the moth it definitely wasn't a Cypress Carpet, and the best match that I could find in the Waring Guide was Juniper Carpet, which is quite rare in South Wales. So having photographed the moth and emailed Martin Anthony, he confirmed that it was indeed a Juniper Carpet, and a first record for VC35!

Monday, 16 October 2017

12th October

Abundant Argyropeza on Aspen

Along with Sam's quest to look for Poplar mines I've managed to come up a few more sites for the newly found Stigmella trimacullela in the county and two more sites for Phyllocnistis unipunctella.

Further investigations to the south around the Rogiet area have proved to be fruitful for a difficult to find micro Ectoedemia argyropeza. I've already found two other potential spots for Ectoedemia argyropeza which feeds on Aspen which comes under the Poplar family, but these sites have drawn a blank. It ties in with Sam's efforts at finding evidence of this moth which again have not been forthcoming.
This time though today I was finally rewarded highly for my efforts.

Its a bit difficult to spot exactly what tree you are looking at from a distance but I find you can gradually get to know the taller Poplar but Aspen is some what more difficult but can be mastered after a several attempts.
Aspen itself is a bit of an odd tree where one tree can support several others in the form of Ramets or suckers. These are formed from an potential extensive underground root system which can travel some distance from the parent tree. New trees can shoot up from this system eventually forming small groves with each tree of the same sex, male or female only.

There was such a small group of Aspen here, if fact two I believe although its possible they could have been connected. A awkward passage to get to them to check leaves was ultimately very rewarding especially the first batch where I readily collected 41 leaves (39 on show on the cloth photograph). There were 15 on the other section of trees but I'm sure there were plenty more.
It proves if conditions are right the moth can flourish left undisturbed. 



National Moth Nights at Dingestow

Moth Night 2017 was a good one at Dingestow, in contrast to some previous National Monsoon Nights.  Winds were southerly, with warm conditions and little rain.  Ivy produced 11 species on 12/10 and 10 species on 13/10, with Pale-mottled Willow, Brick, Dark Chestnut, Flounced Chestnut and Satellite all appearing on the Ivy flowers but not in my MV traps.

MV catches of 26 species on 13/10 and 27 species on 14/10 were really good for this time of year.  A Shoulder-striped Wainscot was the surprise highlight of 13/10 (I wish it had be an L-album), along with a couple of Grey Shoulder-knot, a Mompha divisella and Dingestow's 5th Large Wainscot.  A long-awaited first Dingestow record of Four-spotted Footman was star of 14/10, along with an extraordinary 4 Large Wainscots (we have no Phragmites anywhere nearby), my 5th record of Orange Sallow, and a couple of November Moth agg.  A total of 44 moth species at Dingestow on the 3 nights of National Moth Night was much better than expected!





Thursday, 12 October 2017

Cardiff City mining

The easternmost part of the Cardiff Unitary Authority is in VC35 (Monmouthshire), although not the old Gwent.  I treat it as part of my VC35 patch!  A lunchbreak wander around St Mellons from the NRW office produced a good range of miners, including several of interest.  Highlights among >20 species were Phyllocnistis unipunctella and Stigmella trimaculella on Poplar, Phyllonorycter esperella on Hornbeam, and Stigmella glutinosae on Italian Alder.  The Phyllocnistis and Phyllonorycter only had Dingestow/Monmouth records, S. trimaculella was found new for the county this year, and S. glutinosae has only one previous county record.  That sole record of S. glutinosae came from Allt-yr-yn (ST28Z) in Newport, which is the only site in south-westernmost VC35 with a decent leafminers list, thanks to a visit by Dave Slade in 2003.  Welfare Park in Rogerstone also has a few Stig/Phyllo records, but there is huge scope for finding notable Micros in this part of the county.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

19th September- late post

Highmoor Hill- yet another new micro for V35.

I've been meaning to put this post up for some time, so here it is.
It was a reasonably rewarding evening trap at Highmoor Hill with 37 moths of 18 species turning up, mostly with a common status tag.
A couple of micro's were localised however.
One of them especially, looked decidedly battered and faded under the actinic light and I paused to think about it.
A few more moments passed before I collected it anyway put it in a pot and set it to one side until I decided to pack up later.

Upon packing up I went through what had turned up and again came to this battered faded moth in upright posture a type of Gracillariidae.
I placed a torchlight across it and then began to see markings and colours along its flank. I then realised that it wasn't in bad condition at all, quite the opposite.

Caloptilia populetorum (Clouded Slender)

The next day's photoshoot saw this moth in completely different light. It took me a while to decide on which species it was whilst looking at my moth book and indeed online but I felt I could assign the moth's name under Caloptila populetorum before sending it off to Sam to have a look at. I was pleased, for it was another potentially new moth for me and as is often the case I'm unaware of the county status of many moths.
Sam returned my mail to report it as indeed Caloptilia populetorum to my surprise and yet another new micro for the Vice County.
The list is growing for micro's in V35 and in a recent correspondence Sam informs me that the past two years have been very productive "outstanding years". As years progress additions now to the vice county list are much harder to find.

The moth prefers Birch which is reasonable widespread in the county so why have we not seen it before?
I can think of three things why maybe this moth hadn't been seen...
  • It may have just been ignored because not too many people record micro's in the county
  • Moth trappers (me temporarily included) felt that it was poorly marked and did not consider it further investigation
  • It may be reluctant to come to light/ only receptive to certain light spectrums 


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

An extraordinary coincidence

Dave Brooks, who records moths in Caerleon, recently sent me photos of two interesting Micros he caught this week.  One was an extraordinary coincidence: Dave caught an unfamiliar Pyralid on 8th October 2017 which a friend IDed as the very rare Etiella zinckenella.  The coincidence is that the only previous Welsh/Gwent record was from almost exactly 4 years to the day before Dave's record: Nick Felstead caught one in Chepstow on 7th October 2013.

Dave's other Pyralid, caught the night before (7th October 2017) was the strikingly-marked Box-tree Moth Cydalima perspectalis.  This Asian moth was first seen in Britain in 2007 and has increased rapidly in SE England, becoming a pest of Box in some areas.  Its arrival in Gwent has been anticipated for a couple of years, but it is still a notable new species for the county.  There has been a previous record from Glamorgan, but Dave's is probably the second for Wales.

Well done and thankyou Dave!