Saturday, 28 March 2020

Last of the common Orthosias

Last night's collection of moths at Westcott (31 individuals of five species) was made up entirely of Orthosias but at least they included four specimens of Powdered Quaker, a new arrival for the garden year-list.

Powdered Quaker, Westcott 27th March

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Lockdown Moths

At least the sunny days recently have encouraged a bit of moth activity (and, unfortunately, bat activity) here for the early part of each night.  However there has been little of interest amongst them since Shoulder Stripe and Early Thorn were added to the garden year-list on the 18th.  Each subsequent night the catch has been entirely of Orthosias, so last night I decided to try two lights for the first time this year but it didn't make much difference!  The MV managed 11 moths of six species but was still out-performed by the actinic which caught 21 moths of five species.  The only non-Orthosias were Diurnea fagella and Dotted Chestnut to the MV and Amblyptilia acanthadactyla to the actinic (a rather worn specimen but a garden year-list addition, 41st species for 2020 to date).

Amblyptilia acanthadactyla, Westcott 24th March

The adult macro-moth list for the garden currently stands at 27 species.  Looking back over the last 15 years, it means that 2020 currently lies in third place for the highest number of macros achieved here in the first quarter (the total reached 37 in both 2017 and 2019).  Hopefully something else will turn up before 31st March but I suspect that 3rd place is set in stone now!

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks   

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Brindled Pug

Still trying. This morning brought this early Pug, Common Quaker, Twin-spotted Quaker and Clouded Drab.

Steve Lockey (Garsington)

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Small Quaker & Diurnea fagella

I've done very little trapping this year, last night felt like the first "proper" catch with Common Plume, Diurnea fagella, Common Quaker, Small Quaker & Hebrew Character.

Mark Griffiths, Garsington, Oxford

Micromoth ID

Indoors moths in 2020 at home have been limited so far to Nemapogon cloacella and Mompha subbistrigella (two examples of each). Yesterday around lunchtime, my wife found a moth of another species flying in her study.

It's not something I've seen before, and after spending a while perusing the field guide and a few websites, I think its appearance suggests that it is from the Oegoconia genus. Some things support this: the overall pattern, the posture (the wings are held somewhat flat, with only slight "tenting"), and the forewing length is about 5mm, which is just compatible. However, there are substantial difficulties with this identification because the flight period is late June to September and the larval foodplant is decaying leaves.

So I'm stuck and would appreciate some advice. I also note that if it is an Oegoconia spp., then getting it to species level will require gen. det.
Tim Arnold
Newton Longville, Bucks

Two more for the list

I was actually a little disappointed in last night's collection of moths here at Westcott but with two more species for the garden year list I shouldn't really complain.  They were a Pale Pinion tempted out of hibernation and a very smart fresh Blossom Underwing.  Apart from another Grey Shoulder-knot (the fourth so far this year) and the nightly example of Agonopterix heracliana, the others were all drawn from the common Orthosia species.  Noticeable by their absence here so far have been the flimsier geometrid moths, with just a single March Moth back in February and no sign here yet of Shoulder Stripe, Red-green Carpet or Engrailed.  I'm sure their time will come although it looks as though we're due another run of cooler or wetter nights now.

Pale Pinion, Westcott 17th March

Blossom Underwing, Westcott 17th March

A few days ago in the garden I had one of the forms of Twin-spotted Quaker which can sometimes cause a bit of confusion because the "twin spots" are nowhere near as prominent.

Twin-spotted Quaker, Westcott 12th March

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Further new species

Last night was quite good for overall numbers at nearby Finemere Wood, Bucks where 885 Small Quakers and 73 Common Quakers came to MV light in the usual three hours.  Altogether twenty different species put in an appearance there, but a lack of Diurnea fagella (despite getting one at home) seemed a little odd and micros were actually confined to Agonopterix heracliana (1) and Tortricodes alternella (17, winding down quickly now).  I would also have expected Oak Beauty to have been present in some numbers by now but just the one example turned up.  New for the year were Brindled Pug, Early Thorn, Pine Beauty and the first of my favourite Orthosia species, Blossom Underwing.

Brindled Pug, Finemere Wood 14th March

Pine Beauty, Finemere Wood 14th March

Blossom Underwing, Finemere Wood 14th March

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks

Problematic micro

Not too sure about this one, but wondered if it could be Acleris laterana or A.schalleriana?

Saturday, 14 March 2020

First Moth of the Year

At last something has decided to come to the trap and for me it is a bit of a stinker.
Is it a Diurnea fagella?
Two photos of the same moth, one enhanced slightly.

Friday, 13 March 2020

Museum Moths

I put a light out at COAM for the first time this season which added Water Carpet, Brindled Pug, Hebrew Character, Common Quaker and Clouded Drab to my year list. Most numerous species was Small Quaker.

Dave Morris
Chalfont St Giles.

Caterpillar Field Guide is out

I received my copy of the new caterpillar field guide yesterday and had the opportunity to put it to the test straight away with a well-marked noctuid larva found wandering across the lawn towards the actinic light last night.  At just over 2.5cm in length it might or maybe might not be final instar.  Without the book I would have gone for Square-spot Rustic/Six-striped Rustic (which can't really be separated in the field), but with it I couldn't really come to a safe conclusion at all!  I imagine it probably is one of the pair I originally thought it might be but this just goes to show that ID'ing caterpillars is often not as easy as it looks, even with this splendid new reference source available.  If anyone has any other ideas on this particular specimen, please let me know!

Noctuid larva, Westcott 12th March

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks     

Bucks Recorders Seminar

I imagine that everyone who was planning to attend will know by now anyway, but in case not it is worth mentioning that due to the current Coronavirus situation this event in Aylesbury, planned for tomorrow, will NOT now take place and has been postponed until the autumn.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

A good night

I was hopeful that last night (Tuesday) would be a good night for moths. I was aware that there was a full moon in an almost-clear sky which might reduce numbers by a bit, but the day had been warm (15°C) and the night was forecast to be warm and dry.

In spite of my already-optimistic expectations, when I checked the two traps in my garden this morning I was delighted to find that I had 49 moths of ten species. The most frequent species was Common Quaker, with 25 moths.  The Orthosia family was also represented by Hebrew Character (12) and Clouded Drab (1).  Other macros comprised Twin-spotted Quaker (2)*, Oak Beauty (2)*, Early Grey (1)* and March Moth (1)**.  There were three species of micromoth: Agonopterix subpropinquella (2)**, A. heracliana (1) and Emmelina monodactyla/Common Plume (1)*.  A single asterisk denotes a first-for-the-year; a double asterisk signifies a new addition to the all-time garden list, but bear in mind that I'm still in my second year of trapping.
Oak Beauty, Newton Longville 10th March
The very observant may notice that this adds up to only 48 moths: there was one other moth which I think was another Clouded Drab, but which I'm rather doubtful about.  Its forewing isn't particularly pointed and it seems to lack the black marks along the outer cross-line.
Newton Longville 10th March
There were about as many moths that settled on the sheet behind the trap (or within the folds of the sheet) as entered the trap. One of the Common Quakers laid a batch of eggs under the fold.
Common Quaker eggs, Newton Longville 10th March
[edited to reload the photo of the eggs, which was showing as deleted]

Tim Arnold
Newton Longville

Dotted Chestnut

Amongst the nine species that came to light last night were Red Chestnut and Dotted Chestnut which were both new for the garden year-list.  Dotted Chestnut has been a sporadic visitor to Westcott since 2006 then annual since 2015 .  It now appears in the garden sufficiently regularly that I get it in the autumn before hibernation as well as in the spring afterwards (which seems to be the most likely time to record the moth), but it is not so common yet that the excitement of seeing one has gone away!

Dotted Chestnut, Westcott 10th March

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks 

Sunday, 8 March 2020

First time for everything

Well this has never happened to me before.  Surprise No.1: the lamp, bulbholder and rainshield blew off my MV trap in the night. Bigger surprise No.2: the light was still working when I went out at 7am, and still is.  There were two Common Quakers in the eggboxes and a single March Moth on top of the light's rainshield.

These are my first three macros of 2020 when I haven't trapped since the beginning of January. February saw a solitary micro, below, found by chance in our shed when I banged the door. I think that it is Agonopterix heracliana but guess it could be A.ciliella. Sadly, it is long gone and so the world and I will never know.  Martin Wainwright, Thrupp, Oxon

Westcott, Bucks

Last night wasn't as good as I'd hoped it might be, but there was another double-digit count of moths in the garden here from four species:  Double-striped Pug, Common Quaker, Small Quaker & Hebrew Character.

I also took an MV trap into some local oak woodland for a few hours and the results there weren't all that exciting either (280 moths of 17 species).  However, it did at least produce Acleris ferrugana/notana, Engrailed, Twin-spotted Quaker & Red Chestnut which I haven't seen anywhere else yet this year, any of which could be appearing at a trap close to you in the very near future... 

Engrailed, 7th March

Twin-spotted Quaker, 7th March

Red Chestnut, 7th March

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks  

Friday, 6 March 2020

Indoor micro for ID

At lunchtime today, I found a moth fluttering in front of a window in our utility room.  After studying it with a hand lens and by blowing up the photos I took, I think it might be Nemapogon cloacella (a.k.a. Cork Moth).  However, the flight season is apparently April to September, so I would appreciate some help.  I took the second photo to show the yellow head.  Forewing length is about 7.5mm.  I've retained it, just in case.

The larvae of N. cloacella apparently feed on some kinds of bracket fungus, which I'm relieved to report is absent from the utility room! One of the sources I checked also mentioned an association with stored vegetable products.  I keep some bird food in that room, albeit in sealed containers, and it's next to the kitchen, so perhaps that's how it got there.

Tim Arnold
Newton Longville

Quiet nights about to end?

It has been surprisingly quiet here at Westcott since we entered March.  The busiest (for want of a better word) night was the 3rd when Agonopterix heracliana (2), Dotted Border (1) & Small Quaker (1) came to the actinic light, otherwise it has just been a single example of one of the Orthosia species each time (last night's was a Hebrew Character before the frost arrived).  However, maybe tonight and definitely tomorrow night it looks as though there is going to be an improvement in the weather conditions.

There have been just two additions to the garden list over the past couple of weeks, Agonopterix ocellana on 24th February and Small Quaker on 3rd March, taking it up to 29 for the year so far.

Agonopterix ocellana, Westcott 24th February

Small Quaker, Westcott 3rd March

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Spring slowly seeping in

It was quite cold on Tuesday night - the temperature dropped steadily to a minimum of 0.6°C - but more of the wildlife seems to think that spring is here. While I was emptying the traps before sunrise this morning, the recent weeks' chorus of robins, song thrush and great tits was augmented by a goldcrest and a wren; a couple of dunnocks joined in as I finished packing up after the sun was up. The blossom from our plum trees is falling like confetti and later in the morning I saw my first bumblebee in the garden (too briefly and too distantly to identify). My total count of moths reached a new high for 2020, albeit with no new species for the year.

Common Quaker, Newton Longville
3rd March
Common Quaker, Newton Longville
3rd March
The 15 moths were dominated by Common Quaker, which ranged from the dull and the gone-a-few-rounds-with-Tyson-Fury to the very smart. The other four moths were two Hebrew Character and singletons of Clouded Drab and Dotted Border.
Dotted Border, Newton Longville
3rd March

One additional moth will have to go into the "if in doubt, leave it out" category. While I was looking in on one of the traps at about 7:30pm last night, a micromoth fluttered into view, paused on the sheet behind the trap for half a second and then flew off again. I didn't even have time to put my hand in my pocket for a pot.  Tentatively, it might have been Agonopterix heracliana, but I'll never know.

Tim Arnold
Newton Longville