Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Westcott, Bucks

It is time again for the weekly Wednesday write-up from Westcott.  This has been a relatively quiet period, with nightly counts varying considerably.  The final night of the previous week (Tuesday 22nd) was a good one with 356 moths of 41 species, but then it got colder and counts fell dramatically, with only 78 moths of 11 species here on the 24th.  However, things have subsequently picked up again with another good, if rather damp, night on Monday 28th producing 343 moths of 37 species.  There have only been three further confirmed adult additions to the garden year-list, although I've found one or two more leaf-mines which have brought the 2020 total up to 579 species now:

(23rd)  Green-brindled Crescent
(25th)  Red-line Quaker
(28th)  Brick

Two other moths which have potential to be added to the garden year-list have been retained for dissection.  The first was a tortrix on the 26th which looks to me to be a candidate for Epinotia cinerea.  This species has been confirmed from the garden once before, although perhaps more likely is that it will turn out to be a plain example of Epinotia nisella.  

Epinotia species, Westcott 26th September

The second moth was a rather interesting noctuid on the 28th which I hope will turn out to be a form of the nationally scarce Pale-lemon Sallow rather than the oddly-coloured Sallow which I first thought it was when viewed in the trap before dawn.  If correct it will be the first record for Bucks in 48 years.
Possible Pale-lemon Sallow, Westcott 28th September

Needless to say, it has been Lunar Underwing which has accounted for most of the activity this week and the garden count for the season has now reached 2,591 individuals.  Last year's total has already been surpassed but I'll need to see roughly a thousand more for it to exceed what was achieved in 2014.  I doubt that'll happen now!  Deep-brown Dart and Black Rustic are also still doing well (counts now of 260 and 340 respectively) .  The only migrant noted here over this period was another Dark Sword-grass on the 27th.  My first Chestnut of the season appeared on the 28th, while two oddities that same night were a very late Orange Swift and a second-brood Swallow-tailed Moth.

Orange Swift, Westcott 28th September

Swallow-tailed Moth, Westcott 28th September

Based on past experience, species which are guaranteed still to appear here over the final three months of the year are now confined to Acleris hastiana, Acleris sparsana, December Moth, November Moth, Pale November Moth, Feathered Thorn, Scarce Umber, Figure of Eight, Sprawler, Large Wainscot & Yellow-line Quaker.  If I'm very lucky I might also get Northern Winter Moth, Autumnal Moth, Dewick's Plusia, Tawny Pinion, Oak Rustic or Large Ranunculus, while migrants like Vestal or Scarce Bordered Straw are still a faint possibility.  Others still to come but which have already been recorded here during the first few months of this year include Winter Moth, Pale Brindled Beauty, Mottled Umber, Buttoned Snout, Dark Chestnut, Dotted Chestnut, Pale Pinion, Grey Shoulder-knot & Satellite.  There's not much left to see in 2020!

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks             

Grey Pine Carpet?

 Is this a Grey Pine Carpet? I still have trouble with this and the Spruce Carpet despite all the hints in the book on Conifer moths.

Mark Griffiths, Garsington, Oxford.

Greeny glow

My first Green-brindled Crescents of the year, both form capucina. One of them (but not the other) had a phenomenon which I hadn't previously noticed: a greenish tinge to the light markings on its otherwise variously brown wings (clear to the naked eye and not an iPhone digital quirk). Perhaps this helped to inspire the name Ealing's Glory given to the moth by Charles Lockyer, the MP and secretary to the notorious South Sea Company whose insect collection included the first-recorded Clifden Nonpareil (see thread of comments on Martin Albertini's post, below).  Martin Wainwright, Thrupp, Oxon.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Elachista consortella

 I started running a moth trap again in the garden (Nuney Green, Goring Heath) in August after a break of 15 years and pleasingly have just hit the 600 species mark (580 before August).  The 600th was a rubbed male Elachista consortella which had to be dissected to ID.  It's listed as Nationally Scarce B but suspect just under-recorded as it's not the most exciting insect; interested to know if others find it commonly. 

Clifden Nonpareil

And another - in the moth trap in Berghers Hill, South Bucks, this morning 29th September.

Monday, 28 September 2020

Which Chestnut?

The progress of Autumn was indicated last night by the species count dwindling to 14 and the two lights yielding just a single and very battered Square-spot Rustic. My run of Autumnal Rustics seems to have come to an end, but Lunar Underwing were still going strong with 139 individuals, including a few very smart examples.

Among the moths attracted to the actinic light was a Conistra (Chestnut) species, but which one?

Conistra sp., Newton Longville 27 September 2020

When I first saw it, I wondered if it might be Dark Chestnut (C. ligula). A closer look at the photograph has increased my uncertainty: the wingtips may not be sufficiently pointed, so is it a Chestnut (C. vaccinii)?

Website research has increased my confusion: the British Lepidoptera site mentions that the rare migrant Red-headed Chestnut (C. erythrocephala) has the head colour lighter than the thorax. While it's true that my two-tone example doesn't seem to be echoed in photographs of ligula or vaccinii, other aspects seem to rule out erythrocephala: the moth I caught was rather stubby and not large enough, also lacking the required black dots in the trailing edge of the kidney-mark. It is slightly darker there, which is more typical of vaccinii. It's also notable that the oval is squashed and slanted, something that isn't mentioned in any text that I've found, but which is seen in some photographs of vaccinii.

Overall, I'm leaning more to Chestnut (C. vaccinii), but help would be appreciated!

Tim Arnold
Newton Longville, Bucks

Lyonetia prunifoliella

I discovered active mines of Lyonetia prunifoliella on blackthorn in Finemere Wood, Bucks earlier this month (see here).  A couple of them were brought home to rear through indoors and within a few days they'd pupated in the strange hammock arrangement also favoured by its close relative, the ubiquitous Lyonetia clerkella.  Today the first adult emerged.  Although the moth was found for the first time in Bucks during 2018 (and in Oxon only this year), its spread will no doubt be very fast and soon we'll all be seeing it.  The adult has different wing markings to those on clerkella but, being so small, it is likely that moths will have to be potted and looked at with a hand lens in order to check which species they are.

Cocoon of Lyonetia prunifoliella, 19th September

Adult of Lyonetia prunifoliella, 28th September

Edit:  an additional photo of another adult, showing how variable the markings can be:     

Adult of Lyonetia prunifoliella, 2nd October

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks


Sunday, 27 September 2020

Clifden Nonpareil returns home

The Clifden Nonpareil was first recorded in the UK at what is now the National Trust estate at Cliveden, near Taplow in South Bucks. After almost 300 years it has turned up there again. Owen Hibben (NT) spotted one on a Beech trunk on 26 September. The odd thing about the original record is that I have not been able to find a published year for it. I have the month, July, and the name of the recorder (also kept the specimen). It must be somewhere, but going back to the 1730s (or thereabouts) is not so easy. If anyone can shed any light on the year for the original I'd be most grateful to hear from them.

Elm mines

I had an hour's search of our garden elm this afternoon looking for active leaf-mines and managed to find just two each of Stigmella ulmivora and Stigmella viscerella.  Both have green larvae, although they are slightly different shades of green, but they mine in completely different ways with viscerella producing a distinctive gut-like pattern.  There was no sign yet of the third nepticulid species found on elm, Stigmella lemniscella (yellow larva), but I'm sure it will appear soon because all three are reasonably common here even though the number of trees is dwindling thanks to Dutch Elm Disease.

Mine of Stigmella ulmivora, Westcott 27th September

Mine of Stigmella viscerella, Westcott 27th September

Dave Wilton
Westcott, Bucks  


 As a newbie, I may be pushing my luck here by asking for more IDs, but over the last few weeks I've trapped and photographed a few moths that I can't identify. Can anyone please help? The first image is from 22nd Sept, the second is from 18th August, and the last three are from 13th August. All from 3 miles NW of Chesham near the Bucks/Herts border.

Thanks in advance, David

European corn-borer?

24/9/20 European corn-borer. Fortunately it stayed on
its back just long enough to photograph underside.

Alan Diver


Marvellously early

Back from a few days' holiday in Dorset, and I almost missed this very welcome debut for the year, snoozing after a pretty chilly night on the house wall near a Black Rustic whose familiar triangle was much less effective as camouflage - see below.  It's the earliest Merveille du Jour in my seven years of running the light trap in Oxfordshire.  I never encountered the moth in Leeds although a friend in Scarborough recorded plenty.  Previous first-arrivals here were: 2013: 16 Oct, 2014: 9 Oct; 2015: 10 Oct; 2016: 9 Oct, 2017: 9 Oct; 2018: 8 Oct and last year: 4 Oct. Martin Wainwright, Thrupp, Oxon

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Help, please!

These two moths turned up in my trap on Monday 21st. I'm confused as to whether I have Clays, White-points or one of each. Isn't it too late in the year for Clay? Grateful for any help! David

Friday, 25 September 2020

Yet more Clifdens!

One down Stony Lane in Hawridge on Thursday, and another today in Buckland Common, both Nr Chesham, Bucks. Both seen at windows during the day. The Buckland Common one is attached. David Dennis

Pale Tussock

 Following Martin's post, showing a dark form larva, here is the 'normal' version: 

This photo was taken on 11 August, but the caterpillar still looks much the same - just twice the size. 

(Found at Aston Rowant NNR). 

Andy King. 

Thursday, 24 September 2020

What's this??

Can anyone help with this worn specimen? In a trap on Monday night near Chesham, Bucks. We're trying to make it either Straw U/wing or White-line Dart, but in both cases, we're very unconvinced!

Thanks, David

Dark Pale Tussock

This dark form Pale Tussock larva was hanging from a long thread off our apple tree in August. It was about 12 mm long and the usual pale green. I decided to keep it, and it subsequently moulted into a brown form. Initially the hairs were tinged strongly with pink but this was lost in the final instar. I've never seen one like this and neither MBGBI, Porter or Henwood & Lewington mention it, although lepiforum shows a pink-haired one. 

Another Blue Underwing!

I'm happy to report that one (not exactly pristine) Clifden Nonpareil was in my trap on Sunday morning in my friends' garden between Aston and Ducklington, Oxon.  I was utterly amazed and delighted - I just thought this would never happen to me.  Then as we were recovering with a coffee, there were 2 Red Underwings on the wall right in front of us. 

Mary Elford

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Maybe autumn's not that bad...

I suspect numbers are going to fall off a cliff over the next few nights here in Wolvercote, Oxfordshire, but I enjoyed several typical autumnal species over the last couple: a Black Rustic (definite this time, unlike the borderline Deep-brown Dart last week) with the subtle patterning which makes it one of my favourite species; a Frosted Orange and a Brown-spot Pinion, both of them very handsome; and a nice Dark Sword-grass (OK, not an especially autumnal species, but always nice to see).

Steve Goddard

Yponomeuta sp.

I wondered whether this could be whittled down to species based on flight season. In my field guide there don't seem to be many that are still around beyond early September.

Janice, Milton Keynes

Must be good for Bucks

After a quiet year for scarce migrants, this cheered me up no end, a very lively L-Album Wainscot in Burnham.

Westcott, Bucks

It has been a good week for numbers of moths in the garden with the average over the last seven nights being 394 individuals of 32 species.  Monday night provided the best count of individuals (468), while last night was the best for species (41) and might have been best on both counts if I'd been prepared to sit out in the drizzle just before dawn because Lunar Underwings were still arriving in their droves at that point.  The 2020 garden total for Lunar Underwing should pass 1,700 tonight, while Deep-brown Dart and Black Rustic are currently at 238 and 282 respectively.  For Deep-brown Dart that's already nearly double the previous highest annual count here.  

While numbers may have been good there have been no migrants here and few new species for the garden year-list, with only four added over the period:

(16th)  Cacoecimorpha pronubana
(19th)  Brown-spot Pinion, Blair's Shoulder-knot
(21st)  Merveille du Jour

Cacoecimorpha pronubana, Westcott 16th September

Merveille du Jour, Westcott 21st September

The Merveille du Jour was my earliest ever garden record, 26th September (in both 2013 and 2018) being the previous first date for the site.  

A late record for Notocelia uddmanniana on the 20th, a regular garden visitor not seen here since 11th August, is suggestive of a second brood.  A female Ostrinia nubilalis (European Corn-borer) appeared on the 21st, the eighth to visit this year since the first on 30th June, whereas I've only had the moth sporadically as singletons in past years.  Clifden Nonpareil hasn't appeared again since a pair on the 13th, but I have had several Red Underwings over the past week. 

Notocelia uddmanniana, Westcott 20th September

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks 

More Away Trapping

Thinking that we might well get another COVID lock-down, I made a last-minute decision to go out on Monday and went to the Grangelands SSSI in the Chilterns near Princes Risborough.  It was a warm, calm evening, perfect for trapping on a chalk grassland hillside with a splendid view over the Vale of Aylesbury.  The cattle on site moved well away from where I was trapping, the moon set early on and the silence was disturbed only by owls, edible dormice, the occasional Chiltern Railways train and the odd mountain-bike lunatic hurtling along the ridgeway in the dark.  I wasn't expecting much at all in the way of moths because most of the interesting chalk species there would be over by now, but it was a case of not wasting the opportunity to go somewhere - anywhere!  In fact it was quite an acceptable three-hour session with about 50 species coming to the MV lights, but nearly all of them were the usual autumnal suspects.  A Large Ranunculus was nice to see (I don't often get it at home, let alone while trapping away), while other species worthy of mention included Tachystola acroxantha, Pandemis cinnamomeana, Cydalima perspectalis, Galleria mellonella (seems to be doing very well at the moment), a late Juniper Pug and my first Chestnut of the season, while the Clifden Nonpareil which arrived as I was packing up means that this splendid species has been found at yet another new site.

Trapping at Grangelands, 21st September

Large Ranunculus, Grangelands 21st September

Last night I ran a couple of MVs at nearby Finemere Wood SSSI for the usual three hours in a final attempt to get a record of Clifden Nonpareil there, but it wasn't to be.  196 moths of 42 species was quite a reasonable result though, with Figure of Eight, Black Rustic & Lunar Underwing all well into double figures.  The rather nondescript tortrix Epinotia maculana came to one of the lights, a species which the books say starts flying in August although I've never ever seen it that early and most of my 60+ sightings have been in October.  Considering that most of the conifers in the wood have been removed, a count of five smart fresh-looking Pine Carpets seemed odd but they're obviously still using the very few remaining trees.  Amongst the regular autumnal species an early Red-line Quaker was my first of the season.

Epinotia maculana, Finemere Wood 22nd September

Red-line Quaker, Finemere Wood 22nd September

Dave Wilton Westcott, Bucks   

Dark Spectacle ? and ??

 Couple of different moths last night.

I think one is my first Dark Spectacle rather than a dark The Spectacle? The other, not sure. I've looked at Dusky-Lemon Sallow and Scarce Bordered Straw but can't decide. 


Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Wormwood in Bucks

Thanks to Colin Le Boutillier for allowing this record to be placed on the blog. Whilst sweeping Mugwort on Rammamere Heath (just North of Leighton Buzzard) a single larva 35mm long was found and turned out to be that of the Wormwood Cucullia absinthii. This is only the fourth Bucks record (third site) and first of a larva. A scarce moth which has declined nationally and a very good find. Well done Colin.

Clifden Nonpareil at Goring Heath

On 21st, Clifden Nonpareil for the first time in our garden at Nuney Green near Goring Heath, on a night with a good catch including, at the opposite end of the size spectrum, a late Coleophora alcyonipennella (dissected).

Scarce Bordered Straw et al

Had a few unusual visitors to the trap in my garden in Sonning this week. My first ever Scarce Bordered Straw and second records for Large Ranunculus and Dewick's Plusia.

Scarce Bordered Straw

Large Ranunculus