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Monday, 22 April 2019

Up and running again

Following the usual early part of the year hiatus it only takes a few decent days weather and the first flush of Spring growth to get me going again! 

Despite my best intentions to look at other things besides moths in the last few years I have only scratched the surface.  In an effort to broaden my experience I have spent the last few months looking into and planning which species to look for and places to visit.  To start with as a frivolous attempt of setting goals I created my British Pan list (not cooking implements...but a list of all living species identified.).  The bulk of the list was made up by moths and birds, a modest list of plants and small numbers of other species and came up with just over 2000 species in the UK.  This is a small number compared with the top Pan listers who claim well in excess of 10000 species.

To kick-start my efforts I booked a number of themed walks, botanical visits to Arnside, Silverdale and N Y Moors, and an insect course at Ainsdale.  The first of these was just over a week ago at Arnside in Lancashire, fantastic scenery, welcoming attendees, great weather and a reasonable list of plants.  It was a pleasure to have the experience of various experts and a lack of pretentious one-upmanship.  The only downside was one of the target rarities Teesdale Violet was not in flower, but many of the other more common species more than made up for it.

Arnside promenade
Looking over towards Lake District from Arnside Knott

Looking for Teesdale Violets and Rare Spring Sedge
Even though some of the species were common I still amassed over 40 new species to me.  The list included lichens, ferns, mosses as well as flowering plants and shrubs.

Caloplaca flavescens (Golden Crustose lichen), Arnside, 13 Apr 2019

Carex ericetorum (Rare Spring-sedge), Arnside, 13 Apr 2019

Erica carnea (Winter Heath), Arnside, 13 Apr 2019

Lathraea squamaria (Common Toothwort), Arnside, 13 Apr 2019

Petasites hybridus (Butterbur), Arnside, 13 Apr 2019
It was such an enjoyable day that I am really looking forward to the next trips, and a casual look over the last few days has added several more common species.

Back to the last few days and the fantastic weather has got me out and about....at night, three on the trot.  Two nights at the private site at Brafferton Spring followed by last night under the aspens at Pilmoor.  Modest numbers and up to 23 species with several new for site at Brafferton: Red Chestnut, Grey Shoulder-knot, and a cracking micro which at first glance looked fairly indistinct.  However, once photographed its subtle pale green colouring and markings revealed it as Acleris literana which is a rare oak-feeding moth in North Yorkshire.  The awful modern common names given to micro moths names it as Lichen Button, not a reference to its food plant but more to its appearance.  Don't get me started on common names....
Acleris literana, Brafferton Spring, 20 Apr 2019

Thursday, 17 January 2019

A look back at 2018

If I thought 2017 had been good then 2018 has been outstanding!  I achieved my best year total of species identified and I had 60 (!) new lifer moths in total, seven of which were outside of Yorkshire.  In Yorkshire alone I had 65 moths for the first time in the County, 12 of which I had seen elsewhere before, mainly southern species making their way northwards.  Once again leaf-mining micros made a sizeable contribution to the total, but seven new Yorkshire macro moths were of note including three not identified anywhere else before.

The first highlight of the year was a planned foray to Lancashire to try and see Belted Beauty, a very rare moth in one of its main English sites, and was lucky enough to find this fine male.
Belted Beauty, Pott's Cornet, 14 April 2018
In May through to mid June I concentrated on leaf mines on birch leaves in particular looking for Eriocrania mines, a small family of mainly birch feeders, very few of which recorded in VC62.  My aim was to find at least one salopiella mine acceptable as new to VC62, following two probable vacated mines in previous years, both in early June.  I managed to find a total of twelve E. salopiella mines at four sites at Pilmoor, Sessay and Brafferton, 13 - 26 May.  Other birch feeding miners were seen in the same area as a result: two E.unimaculella, 7 - 13 May; two E.sparmannella, 24 June - 2 July; eight E.cicatricella, 7 -20 May; and finally 59 distinctively grey larva tenanted mines of E.sangii.

 



Clockwise from top left: unimaculella, salopiella, sangii tenanted mines and a cicatriella larva.



                                                                       

As a further consequence of looking at leaves I found at least 18 Heliozela sericiella mines on oak at Brafferton, following the first VC62 record I had belatedly identified from an older photo at Pilmoor.  The larvae mine from the petiole out through the main rib, cut an oval hole off the midrib and drops to the ground to pupate.

Heliozela sericiella mine on oak, Braffertond Spring, 29 Aug 2019
My use of trapping sites was rather more limited than in recent years mainly due to focussing my attention from early May to a new private woodland site, Brafferton Spring (VC62).  This site is just east of Helperby, and is loosely associated with my sites at Pilmoor and Sessay.    From early May I spent  a total of 21 nights trapping at Brafferton Spring using a 125w MV on a Robinson trap and a 160w MVB over a white sheet, and at least a further 14 day visits looking for mines. In just six months trapping at this new site I amassed a total of 325 species which is not at all bad considering the lack of Spring species.

 

The highlights from Brafferton included at least three new VC62 records: the leaf-mine of Eriocrania salopiella already mentioned, and adults of Dioryctria sylvestrella and Epinotia signatana both of which have been accepted, and a first record since 1868 of Nemapogon clematella.
Dioryctria sylvestrella, Brafferton Spring, 21 Jul 2018

Nemapogon clematella, Brafferton Spring, 21 Jul 2018

Epinotia signatana, Brafferton Spring, 30 June 2018

Other highlights from Brafferton included my first Devon Carpet away from its very few upland breeding sites in the County, a total of 11 of the scarce Pine Hawk-moth, two rare Wainscots, Mere and Twin-spotted, and the first Dog's Tooth probably for twenty years.  Remarkably the Devon Carpet, Twin-spotted Wainscot and the Dog's Tooth all occurred on the night of 3rd August along with several others scarcities.

Devon Carpet, Brafferton Spring, 3 Aug 2019
Pine Hawk-moth, Brafferton Spring, 29 May 2018


Twin-spotted Wainscot, Brafferton Spring, 3 Aug 2018

Dog's Tooth, Brafferton Spring, 3 Aug 2018
In the autumn I targeted more leaf-mine species and again this proved very succesful.  New to VC64 was mines of Ectoedemia sericopeza on the samara of Norway Maple in Boroughbridge, and hundreds of mines of Ectoedemia argyropeza on aspen leaves at four sites in the Boroughbridge (VC64) and Pilmoor and Brafferton area, with only one previous unpublished VC62 record.
Ectoedemia sericopeza, mine on samara of Norway Maple, Boroughbridge, 15 Aug 2018

Ectoedemia argyropeza, mines causing 'green islands' on aspen, Boroughbridge, 29 Nov 2018
So then, what about 2019?  I think I will be targeting some of the less well covered parts of the County in the far west and especially some of the moorland moth species, and also try my hand at a few of the other insect families and plants.  So much to see but I don't think I will be achieving the same number of new moths for the year!

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Alder Leaf Beetle

A line of alders at Pilmoor (VC62) were noted as being totally decimated on 15 September 2018 by what appeared to be at least 100 small shiny beetles. Having seen a similar photo on the internet I was alerted to the fact that they were Alder Leaf Beetles Agelastica alni, that were considered extinct in the UK until 2004, when they suddenly reappeared in Manchester presumably as an accidental import on alders.  It has since spread to Lancashire, South and West Yorkshire and also appeared in Hampshire.  On checking my records my first photos of the culprit were taken on 20 August 2018.  The first photo below is a slightly out of focus phone photo but does indicate the scale of the damage to the alder leaves. I do recall seeing them here in at least one previous year (probably 2017) but despite looking through my photos I cannot find any evidence.

Alder Leaf Beetle on alder, Pilmoor, VC62, 15 Sep 2018

Alder Leaf Beetle on alder, Pilmoor, VC62, 20 Aug 2018
On sending the record to the YNU Coleoptera Recorder he was kind enough to advise me of the current distribution in the Yorkshire database, and so it would appear to be new to VC62.


Monday, 12 November 2018

Where one species becomes three...

Not a huge amount to report over the last month except a few more leaf mines which I will summarise at the end of the year but the opportunity to attend a days training on moth genitalia dissection proved most worthwhile.  I had taken four specimens of November Moth agg. from my last trapping attempt on the night of 20th October at Sunbeck Wood, Brafferton Spring.  I used the training opportunity not only to brush up on technique but to also dissect the four specimens I had.  The first three appeared to be males of each of the three species, so instead of November Moth aggregate x 3, I can now record singles each of November Moth, Pale November Moth and Autumnal Moth.  The fourth turned out to be a female sp. which cannot be done.  Although this proves that each of the three species do occur at this site there is no way of knowing the proportion  of each population without a much larger sample.  I am not interested in taking any more specimens at this site, just knowing and proving each occur is good enough for me.
November Moth
Both of these photos were taken by iPhone down a microscope eyepiece so despite not being of the best quality they are enough to show the salient features.  The photo above shows the complete male genitalia and the easiest feature is the two upper dark points on the anal plate that are well spread apart (not the pair of lower points on the valvae).  Compare that with two inward pointing and much closer dark points on the plate (minus the rest of the genitalia) of what is clearly a Pale November Moth.  I neglected to get a photo of the Autumnal Moth...however it is obvious in that there are no spurs at all on the valvae. 
Pale November Moth
There is often uncomfortable questions asked about the validity of taking specimens. I am very conscious of all such concerns but console myself with the fact that very selective specimen taking is essential to identify some species and that conformation of presence is valuable in conservation terms.  The very tiny number taken is probably far fewer than the numbers killed by driving a car at night.

I did attempt a couple of micros but it was soon very evident that my ability did not stretch to such small genitalia, so for any important micros I may still have to defer to the vastly superior expertise of Harry....

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Bit of a catch up....

After the first week of August numbers of moths plummeted and very little was caught in August and September, not helped by a generator malfunction on a particularly warm early autumn night.  However, this time of the year does offer opportunity to see early stages of some moths, and I was very pleased to have had the benefit of a Leaf-mining foray in Lancashire with Ben Smart (who wrote the leaf-mining book) at the end of September.  

I atach some photos of the more interesting mines/cases with some relevent comment.  This first one is a scarce miner on Aspen, a new record for VC62.
04.040 Stigmella assimilella, mine on Aspen, Pilmoor, VC62, 02 Sep 2018

04.056 Stigmella speciosa, mine on Sycamore, Pilmoor, VC62, 16 Sep 2018
 The next few are a small selection from the leaf-mining trip to Docker Moor in Lancashire:
06.004 Heliozela resplendella on Alder, Docker Moor, VC60, 30 Sep 2018

14.002 Bucculatrix nigricomella on Oxe-eye Daisy, Plain Quarry, VC60, 30 Sep 2018

15.043 Phyllonorycter oxyacanthae on Hawthorn, Docker Moor, VC60, 30 Sep 2018

37.044 Coleophora discordella, case on Bird's Foot Trefoil, Docker Moor, VC60, 30 Sep 2018
 This next one is a scarce miner of Sycamore in Yorkshire.
04.039 Stigmella trimaculella, mine on Poplar, Brafferton, 07 Oct 2018
 Having had a couple adults of this rare moth it was satisfying to get a record of larval feeding.
08.005 Phylloporia bistrigella, mine on birch, Sessay, 06 Oct 2018
Possibly overlooked in Yorkshire this appears to be the first accepted record for VC62 of Stigmella continuella.
04.044 Stigmella continuella, mine on birch, Sessay, VC62,  06 Oct 2018
This next miner is one I targeted on the Aspen copse at Pilmoor, and once noted was remarkably easy to see.  The larvae burrow from the petiole and make small mines at the base of the leaf, which produce green 'islands' as the leaf turns yellow.  At least 50 were seen on small saplings or fallen leaves, so goodness knows how many may have been lurking higher up in the large trees.  There is an unpublished record in VC62 in 1976 but this is the first modern record for the Vice County.
04.085 Ectoedemia argyropeza, mine on aspen, Pilmoor, VC62, 10 Oct 2018

04.085 Ectoedemia argyropeza, mines on aspen, Pilmoor, VC62, 10 Oct 2018
Having got my eye in looking at Juncus seedheads on Docker Moor in Lancashire, a peruse locally of juncus at Brafferton and Pilmoor produced hundreds of larval cases.
Coleophora alticolella or glaucicolella, cases on Juncus, Pilmoor, VC62, 10 Oct 2018
2018 is looking like a record year for new species for me, especially as a result of concerted effort looking for larva.  A full year-end report to follow.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Pied Shieldbug

I saw this one at Pilmoor back on 3 June and the significance of the record was not really understood until I checked the latest version of the Shieldbug Atlas.  It is easily the northern-most record and what a cracking insect it is!
Pied Shieldbug

Provisional atlas of shieldbugs and allies - March 2018 version 1.1 
produced by Tristan Bantock for the Terrestrial Heteroptera Recording Scheme.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Some days out and about

During July I took the opportunity to spend a bit of time out and about visiting sites I would not normally go to.  In a week off in the 2nd week of July I visited a very breezy Fen Bog on the North Yorkshire Moors to see Large Heath and Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, and also Keeled Skimmers.
Keeled Skimmer

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary
The following day I headed south into Lincolnshire armed with a map and directions for a completely different site, something I didn't realise until I arrived at Chambers Farm Wood and couldn't make head nor tail of it.  With no site directions or anyone to ask I walked off into the wood and found a likely clearing and lucked in on at least two tree-top Purple Emperors, at least five White Admirals and dozens of high-flying Purple Hairstreaks.  There were probably hundreds of Ringlets along the rides, and a casual search of a Field Maple provided a mine of an Ectoedemia louisella, a new moth for me.
Ectoedemia louisella

Purple Hairstreak (with damaged wing)

White Admiral
Later that same week I attended a Field Studies Centre course at Preston Montford on Fly Family identification and managed to see a new moth, a Meal Moth!
Meal Moth
At the end of the month I had the opportunity to visit Slapton Ley in Devon through work, and spent the night trapping at the north end of the reed-beds.  Despite competition from an almost full-moon, numerous ships with lights in the bay and Start Point lighthouse, I still managed a reasonable nights catch.  What a beautiful morning, two young Hobbies flying around over the reed-bed, a singing Cirl Bunting in a distant hedgerow and a few Sedge and Reed Warblers chuntering away in the reeds.  
Slapton Ley, Devon
The moth highlights at Slapton included one new micro Homoeosoma sinuella (a poor phone photo), a Phycitodes maritima based mainly on small size, and Webb's Wainscots and Eupoecilia angustana both of which I had seen before at Gunwalloe in Cornwall in 2010. Migrant Silver Y's were in evidence and at least half of them were of the very small form dwarfed by the others. 
Homoeosoma sinuella

Phycitodes maritima

49.111 Eupoecilia angustana
The next two are the same species, Webb's Wainscot, and show the extremes in the dark markings, the lower more uniform one had a beautiful pink dusting to the wings.  A Notable B species found mainly in reed-beds especially along the coast from Yorkshire and East Anglia, Kent along to Cornwall, North Somerset and South Wales.
Webb's Wainscot

Webb's Wainscot
A successful month with a handful of new species seen.