Sunday, 26 April 2015

Drab reward

After joining Dave Wilton, Peter Hall and Dave Maunder at Ivinghoe a couple of years back to see Northern Drab I had planned to find a more local site to see it and Aston Rowant always seemed like a good bet - there may or may not be old records, I haven't checked yet, but NBN shows no records from that area. My only personal VC Oxfordshire record was from my previous garden near Benson. Anyway with the forecast changing hourly I did a bit of hedge-betting and tried Thursday (almost certainly going to be clear skies) and Friday (rain forecast, then no rain forecast, then rain forecast, then no rain forecast......). Thursday was indeed very clear and very cold and after 2.5 hrs of catching barely any moths and starting to feel a bit fed up I packed up unsuccessful. Quite a few Nut-tree Tussocks including one of the nice melanotica form, but little else. Friday looked much better with cloud all day and no rain forecast. Optimism high I had another go and literally as I arrived it started to rain but not heavily and with temperatures (if you believe car thermometers) not falling below 11 degrees - although there was a fair wind. A couple of hours produced very few moths despite mild, warm and cloudy conditions, but just before I was about to start packing up a nice male Northern Drab arrived!!

Northern Drab - Aston Rowant 24/4/15

Other species included my first Red Twin-spot Carpet, Chinese Character, Oak-tree Pug, Flame Shoulder and Waved Umber of the year with Nut-tree Tussock again the most common moth with a staggering 5 individuals - it really was that busy :).

Meanwhile the moths in the garden trap, whilst still incredibly scarce, have undergone a substantial change in clientele with Shuttle-shaped Dart, Bright-line Brown-eye and Pale Tussock on Friday night, and traps out at BBOWT's Environmental Education Centre on the same night were dominated by Shuttle-shaped Dart and Flame Shoulder albeit in small numbers again, along with a few usual suspects and first of the year Lesser Treble-bar, Common Wave, Seraphim, Cochylis atricapitanaScrobipapla acuminatella + a couple of small species for which I require further confirmation but that look like Perittia obscurepunctella and Elachista apicipunctella, both of which there were a small number of.

Less good news is that I accidentally left my main batch of Emperor females out overnight in the garden and some small animal got inside the cage and ate them all bringing my assembling season to an early end :(. I suspect the same damnable creature(s) that has recently predated our Robin nest and is stealing all the chicken and bird feed.

Marc Botham, Didcot.


  1. Excellent news that you got Northern Drab at Aston Rowant! That may mean that it is waiting to be (re-)discovered at other chalk grassland sites along the Chilterns scarp slope, if only more of us could be persuaded to go and sit out on a freezing cold hillside in April!!

  2. Well done Marc, Just checking my old Fernham records (which is VC22): 15 records of Northern Drab, last recorded in 2005 (we moved in 2006).

    Surprised you didn't travel to Durlston on Friday!

  3. Hi Dave,

    Yes I expect it is all across the Chilterns and further south - Lardon Chase, Hartslock maybe? Looks cold this week otherwise I might be tempted to have a go. The one I had in my garden last year at Lonesome Farm is probably off the ridgeway.

    Steve - I saw a Convolvulus Hawk was caught in...Sussex was it?. Did you head south? At this time of year I have too much work and local trapping to do so it's hard to fit in long distance trips, though on saturday I did go and help out looking for Silurian Larvae in the Black Mountains which was a lot of fun and very successful.

  4. Hi Marc, Yes, two convolvuli in Co. Cork and W. Sussex - very unusual at this time of year. I even had peltigera in the garden! I had to head to Sussex early on Sat and so missed a trip to the coast sadly. This year should be the best migrant year since 06', with large numbers of migrants reported in S. Europe.

    Glad to hear the Silurian trip was successful.


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