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Thursday, 1 October 2020

What a year...

Following the very belated posting covering the computer crash through to the end of the year, who would have thought it could get worse....  In December I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer which caused a period of great uncertainty and putting annual subscriptions on hold; various scans suggested it was treatable and I was booked in for four sessions of aggressive chemotherapy.  Then as a vulnerable person I was on total self isolation with my family, with the general lockdown just before my last dose of chemo.  My operation due late April was cancelled and I was put on lower dose tablet chemo until my operation was rescheduled for mid June.  The op and subsequent recovery went extremely well and actually got back to work a month ago.

I just cannot use the excuse of not having enough time but it is a matter of priorities.  I used much of the lockdown time assembling an up-to-date Atropos magazine index, some 2600+ pages to scour, and having done most of it I just need to finish off, check it and format it.  I have re-labelled the Yorkshire Moth website photos in preparation for the planned update by MapMate to cope with the new numbering which is currently holding the website data updates back, 

Initially I was rather down about the prospect of just trapping at home, but I did manage some trapping at my private site at Brafferton (VC62) where I 'exercised' at night on my own, probably safer there than anywhere.  Following subsequent generator malfunctions I reluctantly started trapping on my parking spot at home in Langthorpe (VC65) and was pleasantly surprised at the results until wasp infestation brought things to a halt in September.

As a result of this rather fractured and stop/start recording this year, I will just just pick out the highlights to get back up to date.

The first period of trapping was 16 May to 1 June, 8 nights in total all at Brafferton VC62, with 1550 moths of 130 species.  Highlights were 95 Grey Pine Carpets, 53 Poplar Hawkmoths and 98 Orange Footman.  The best night was 20 May which was excellent for scarcer Ancylis moths with examples of the rare Ancylis laetana and Ancylis upupana, and Ancylis myrtillana well away from upland heath.

Ancylis laetana, Brafferton, VC62

 Ancylis upupana, Brafferton, VC62

Ancylis myrtillana, Brafferton, VC62

The second period at Brafferton was four visits 12 July to 2 August, 956 moths of 122 species.  The highlights and new for me in this period were a Monochroa cytisella, a bracken feeder rare in Yorkshire and only the 2nd record for VC62; a nationally scarce B Nemaxera betulinella probably only 2nd recent VC62 record; a Zeiraphera isertana a scarce oak feeder, and the scarce pine feeding Clavigesta purdeyi.

Monochroa cytisella, Brafferton, 7 Jul 2020 

 
Nemaxera betulinella, Brafferton, 25 Jul 2020

Zeiraphera isertana, Brafferton, 18 Jul 2020

Clavigesta purdeyi, Brafferton, 30 Jul 2020

Following reliability issues with both generators I reverted with reluctance to trapping at home.  I trapped 14 nights between 6 August and 19 September, catching 821 moths of 115 species.  This was considerably more than I had trapped in the previous 13 years there, so unsurprisingly I added 71 new species to the garden list.  Most were the expected common species, but it was great to get 11 confirmed and obvious Willow Ermine 6 - 14 August, and best of all was a micro new to Yorkshire, Metalampra italica, not one but two specimens.

This Willow Ermine clearly shows the greyish cast to the cilia and main part of the wings, with a narrow white border to the outer edge of the wings.

Willow Ermine Yponomeuta rorrella, Langthorpe, 6 Aug 2020

The next was a huge surprise, very obvious and not difficult to identify.  As a species it has an interesting history in that it appeared in Devon for the first time in 2003, and has slowly spread to other counties in the south, with odd ones turning up as far north as Lincolnshire and Lancashire, it was to be expected in Yorkshire.  Metalampra italica was previously known only from Italy before occurring in Britain whereas another species, Metalampra cinnamomea, is more widespread in Europe, including France and so seemed to be a better candidate for turning up here.  Having let my first one go, the second was obviously on its last legs and died shortly after potting.  I have forwarded it to Harry for gen. det..  This is a species that the larva inhabits decaying oak, and as there are not that many oaks close to my garden I wondered whether they arrived in my neighbour's hardwood logs for firewood? 

Metalampra italica, Langthorpe, 14 Aug 2020

Metalampra italica, Langthorpe, 14 Aug 2020 (same as above individual)

Metalampra italica, Langthorpe, 20 Aug 2020 (different individual and moribund)


Trapping at Langthorpe becoming very uncomfortable in September with increasing numbers of wasps, on the last two occasions outnumbering the moths 10:1; fortunately they were very dopey and did not bother the moths or me.  I took the opportunity to set up my trap at my work premises nearby in Roecliffe (VC64) and was extremely fortunate to have another new species for me, a Tachystola acroxantha, new at least for the Harrogate DNS and quite a distance from the next nearest record...just 50 meters further north and it would have been new for VC65.  This adventive species originally from Australia and probably introduced on imported plants, was first found in Devon in 1908, and has gradually spread northwards.
Tachystola acroxantha, Roecliffe, 21 Sep 2020

Having spent many hours sat on my terrace while isolating, I was fortunate to see some reasonable birds and butterflies.  Birds included Common Tern, Red Kite, Yellow Wagtail heard, Lesser Whitethroat, nearby singing Corn Buntings, Tree Sparrows, probable breeding Yellow Wagtails and at least one Hobby and a Blue-headed Wagtail. A good selection of common butterflies including several sightings of Holly Blue.  Finally a couple of other photos just to show it has not all been moths.

Comma, Brafferton, 19 Sep 2020

Common Darter, Nosterfield, 20 Sep 2020

What will the rest of the year bring and what can one hope to achieve in 2021?  At least I made it this far, and looking positively to the future.

Disaster recovery....!

It is obvious that I have neglected updating the blog and I am writing this in December 2019: following a mishap with a glass of milk and my laptop I have had a lot of catching up to do.  It was fortunate I had a fairly recent backup and in getting a replacement laptop I have spent a couple of months reconfiguring it and restoring as much as I could.  I don't think I have lost much data June/July, most re-entered from paper records, and a small number of photos are gone, fortunately the most significant already saved elsewhere.  A far more strict backup regime will be in place from now!

Botany themed meeting walks at Swillington Ings and South Gare added dozens of plant species, more moth trapping at Brafferton and a night at Ashberry NR both in VC62, a Shieldbug and Grasshopper course at Formby on a stormy Saturday still produced the goods, and casual day visits to Brafferton and Pilmoor.  Rather than add a lot of text I will just provide a selection of photos from the last few months.

Green Tortoise Beetle

Brown Hawker

Ruddy Darter, newly emerged from exuvia

Small Copper

It was worth letting this horsefly bite me to get a photo of those amazing eyes!
Notch-horned Clegg

Small Tortoiseshell

A fine portrait of one of my favourite damselflies.
Banded Demoiselle, male

Scorpion Fly

A couple of interesting micros at Ashberry Pastures NR (VC62), both scarce in the County.
Adela croesella

Ancylis achatana

Twin-spot Carpet

 The pale band near the tip of the antennae is diagnostic.
Bronze Shieldbug, late instar, Pilmoor

 This tiny weevil is only 5-6mm in length and closeup looks very distinctive.
Weevil sp.

Figwort Weevil, Brafferton, 7 Sep 2019

The following is an Ichneumon parasitic wasp, one of two individuals attracted to light on different days, and apparently new to Yorkshire.  Very little is known of the species, on what it preys or its full distribution; identification confirmed by Gavin Broad (one of the authors of the RES handbook on Ichneumon wasps)..
Himerta sepulchralis, Brafferton, VC62, 14 Sep 2019

Scarce Footman., Brafferton, VC62, 3 Aug 2019

Pine Hawkmoth, Brafferton, VC62, Aug 2019

Later in August I was lucky enough to catch up with a Maidens Blush, a southern moth moving northwards.  I had caught one earlier in the year which I glimpsed as it made a dash for freedom, so was pleased to catch another.
Maidens Blush, Brafferton VC65, 25 Aug 2019
Maidens Blush, Brafferton, VC62, 25 Aug 2019

Monday, 8 July 2019

Two new macro-moths

This is something that doesn't happen too often these days, two new macros.  Off the back of delivering a vehicle to Carlyon Bay in Cornwall I had enough tacho hours to get back as far as Somerset.  Calling on my local knowledge I aimed for Shapwick Heath where I used to do some bird ringing back in the 1990's. I parked up and walked to my proposed site to find that the willow sprigs planted all those years ago and kept to no more than 10' by regular cutting were now a veritable forest!  It really wasn't suitable for moth trapping close enough to parking, so I opted to try Godwins peatworks on nearby Westhay Heath with ample parking and where I also ringed some birds.  On arrival a Great White Egret feeding on an open pool was an excellent omen.  I put a single Robinson trap out 100m up a drove with reed-beds on one side, willow scrub and a open water on the other.  It proved a reasonable night with modest numbers and species, 94 moths of 39 species, but did include some interesting species; there were a good selection of China-marks and Wainscots as might be expected from such habitat.
Elophila nymphaeata (Brown China-mark)

Archanara dissoluta (Brown-veined Wainscot)

Chilodes maritima (Silky Wainscot)
The commonest moth was another Wainscot, of which there were 15, and one was potted for photographing and identification.  On checking it soon became evident they were Obscure Wainscots, another new one for me and according to the Somerset Moth Group website not showing any dots for the County.  I have since learned that the moth does occur in Somerset with some frequency and the absence of dots on the map is a result of name changes within MapMate.  
Brown-veined Wainscot (left) and Obscure Wainscot (right)

Obscure Wainscot
There was only one pug which looked very small, nondescript and had an orange 'waistband'; it was clearly a Haworth's Pug, another new one for me.
Haworth's Pug
A successful visit to a County where I started moth trapping all those years ago but not seriously enough to have recorded my Blackford gardens catches in Mapmate.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Second half of June

A bit of a catch up with several visits to new sites and a new moth at Sun Beck.  A bout of dog-sitting on the weekend of 22/23rd June gave me the opportunity to have a stroll round Formby Point in Lancashire.  Several new plants were seen including Hound's-tongue Cynoglossum officinale  and Japanese Rose Rosa rugosa, and a number of amorous Dune Chafer Anomala dubia.
Cynoglossum officinale (Hound's-tongue)

Ononis repens (Common Rest-harrow)

Anomala dubia (Dune Chafer)
Three new plants were identified in the carpark at work in Roecliffe: Weld Reseda luteola, Golden Melilot Melilotus altissima and Great Lettuce Lactuca virosa.


Friday night and at last a nights trapping at Sun Beck Wood, Brafferton Spring. 189 moths of 53 species, two new for site, and by far the best was an adult bagworm moth with very few records in the north of Yorkshire, a Taleporia tubulosa.
Taleporia tubulosa
Another botanic walk with the Wild Flower Society at Swillington Ings east of Leeds added a handful of new species on what was the hottest day of the year so far.  Photographically it was a bit of a nightmare and I struggled to get any photos of any value.  Docks were well represented with Greek Dock Rumex cristatus, Water Dock Rumex hydrolapathum, Golden Dock Rumex maritimus, and Marsh Dock Rumex palustris.  A very rare rush Great Soft Rush Juncus pallidus, originally from Australia and New Zealand, at one of its very few sites in the northern hemisphere, an escapee /introduction.  One of the scarcer flowering plants was the diminutive Lesser Centaury Centaurium pulchellum.
Alder Beetles

Pilosella aurantiaca (Fox-and-Cubs)
Finally a late morning walk in the wind at South Gare near Redcar on Sunday was a revelation although not conducive to macro photography.  For what is mainly a man-made site in an industrial area the array of plants was outstanding.  There were some naturalised garden plants growing wild here, such as Sweet William Dianthus barbatus, Common Snapdragon Antirrhinum majus, Cypress Spurge Euphorbia cyparissias and the rather exotically named Elephant-eared Saxifrage Bergenia cordifolia.  A scarce plant found was Purple Milk-vetch Astragalus danicus.
Astragalus danicus (Purple Milk-vetch)

Bergenia cordifolia (Elephant-eared Saxifrage)

Euphorbia cyparissias (Cypress Spurge)

Lagurus ovatus (Harestail Grass)

Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William)