Wednesday, 11 March 2015
On Monday night I went trapping at Chimney Meadows, near Shifford lock where there is a Rothamsted light trap. A few years back I used to identify the catches from that trap and there was a Small Eggar in March one year so I thought I would go and have a proper look for it with the original forecast for Monday night, well at least the one I was following, suggesting a warm, cloudy night. I set up 2 MV traps and 3 Actinics (which were left running overnight) near Blackthorn/Hawthorn hedgerows. One of the actinics I placed under a flowering Sallow, the only one I could find and which stood out quite remarkably with its fresh yellow catkins. The catkins were being visited by lots of moths, invariably Common Quaker, Hebrew Character and Clouded Drab with the odd Chestnut and the trap positioned underneath it had 174 moths the following morning. Well over a hundred of these were Common Quaker, with another fifty made up of Hebrew Character and Clouded Drab. Other species included Shoulder Stripe, Dotted Border, Twin-spotted Quaker, Dark Chestnut, Chestnut and Satellite. I gave up with the MV traps at 21:30 after catching less than a dozen moths between them in over 3 hours and the temperatures having plummeted with superbly clear skies and the promising cloud and light drizzle at the start of the night showing no signs of returning. The other actinic traps fared similarly badly, adding just a March Moth to the overall species list. No Small Eggar, but it was too cold and there is so much potentially suitable habitat there that for an increasingly scarce moth it felt a little bit like trying to locate a needle in a haystack in a freezer. I intend to return on a warmer night in the near future for another go IF the weather improves enough - the nights are so cold at the moment. Small Eggar is a moth I have seen a number of times as larvae, I have reared them and even found the odd cocoon, but have never actually personally trapped an adult. The signs are that it has greatly declined and it would be nice to try and find out more about its distribution and ecology so that we can try and implement suitable conservation. Waring, Townsend & Lewington suggests hedgerows that are lightly cut in Autumn are favoured. In my experience of farmland locally outside of nature reserves there is no such thing as a 'light trim' so I guess it shouldn't be too surprising this moth is doing so badly.