Welcome to my world..............

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

2011 and all that...

The first update for some time, for which I apologise, mainly due to the fact that I have not done any trapping since the warm spell in early October.  In addition, there were other very time-consuming events, including trying to replace the old boiler....no, not a reference to any attempts to change my marital status, but more to vast amounts of cash spent on a temperamental heating system that defies all attempts to burst into life as and when I need the heat!  The boiler has now been replaced (thanks Mother!) just in time for this unseasonal mild weather......hoorah!

So, forgive my indulgence, but time for a bit of a look back on the year so far.  Moth trapping has been the most successful year yet in Yorkshire, with 10,290 moths of 429 species for the year, considerably more than the totals achieved in the previous 5 years, but still only just similar numbers to my annual Dorset garden year-list.  This was obviously assisted by spending 45 nights out and about in the county from late February to early October, an increase of 10 nights on the previous two years. 

Other than a few days trapping in Ireland and a brief foray to Dorset, the highlights for me in Yorkshire were as follows:

Of the scarcer micros, the rare but strikingly pied Ethmia quadrillella at Kilburn on 2nd June; four Epinotia demarniana from three sites in the Pilmoor area 12th June to 10th July; singles of Eucosmomorpha albersana and Cydia coniferana at Kilburn on 2nd June; four of the reed-dwelling Calamotropha paludella at Staveley 2nd and 13th August; five Phlyctaenia perlucidalis at Staveley on 26th June and 3rd July.

A Poplar Lutestring at Kilburn on 11th May, the most westerly of about ten previous records in Yorkshire; single Birch Mocha in Pilmoor area on 7th June and 14th July; singles of the beautiful Clouded Magpie at Kilburn on  25th June, and by day near Scawton on 6th June.  Brindled Beauty is a scarce moth in Yorkshire, so six in a wood near Helmsley on 22nd April was a record count; Red-necked Footman consolidated its arrival in the County with three at Kilburn on 2nd June; unprecedented numbers of Four-dotted Footman with a maximum of 103 at Sessay wood on 2nd July.

Targeting Aspen in the spring produced a Lead-coloured Drab at Pilmoor on 21st March; a total of 15 Angle-striped Sallow from five sites, unusually including Brimham Rocks, 2nd July to the 4th September; Mere Wainscot recorded from two sites at Pilmoor/Sessay, the first here since first recorded in 1968, and the most northern records of a patchy distribution in the UK.

Speculative trapping on Dallowgill Moor in less than ideal weather produced a Haworth's Minor on 1st October;   Autumn trapping at Staveley produced some good reed-bed species including a Crescent on 2nd and 13th August, two Brown-veined Wainscot on 13th August, and a Blackneck on 3rd July; an Anomalous at Brimham on 2nd September was new for the site.

As far as birding went, no real surprises due very little effort, although had some extremely enjoyable birding in Ireland on the beautiful west coast.  In the totally meaningless quest for new species it was actually a bumper year, with a couple of lifers and several good British and Irish ticks: Stejneger’s Scoter, Black Scoter, Terek Sandpiper, White-throated Robin, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Pallid Harrier and Greater Yellowlegs. The long-staying Northumbrian Yellowlegs was particularly good to see, as it is nearly 30 years since seeing good numbers in the USA and Canada, and my only previous attempt for a British one was the long-distance dip at Great Yarmouth 35 years ago!

What 2012 holds is full of uncertainty…..as Pessi-mystic Meg says "we're doomed!"

Monday, 17 October 2011

That's it for the trapping year then..

A cool clear evening at Pilmoor, dark before 1900, and very few moths.  Three traps out for about 3 hours with only 14 moths making the effort, nine of which were November Moth agg.. As my only trapping is spending time out at night at sites away from home, this sort of return does not warrant the effort.  

I suppose there is leaf-mines which might bring a bit of relief before the really grim months set in.  Roll on April!

I think the next few months entries are going to have to rely on photographic effort for content...unless of course there is an unseasonal heatwave and an influx of migrants....

Sunday, 9 October 2011

A funny old day.....

Up early to watch the rugby, and then a drive down to Elvington airfield just south-east of York, to attend the AGM of the Yorkshire branch of Butterfly Conservation.  The pleasant cross-country route, took in a Red Kite lumbering across the road near Ouseburn.  On entering the meeting room in one of the wartime nissen huts at Elvington, I was greeted rather loudly by Charlie Fletcher, the County recorder, saying that he was pleased to see me tickling genitalia these days…I am sure there was a pause in the hubbub of conversation in the room…..

After a number of interesting presentations later, there was the photographic competition, roughly 100 photos, most were extremely good, and I was very chuffed to be called out and pick up a bottle of wine for third place.  This was swiftly followed by one of my tickets coming up in the raffle and winning a tin of Quality Street for the kids.
Swallowtail, Corfu 2011

There was another meeting at the airfield, this one was an MG Owners club rally.  Great to see a handful of Midgets, MGB's and GT's, and some of the awful pretend newer MG's.  One thing that was missing was the MGBGT V8, probably the best car I have ever owned, and the only car I actually sold for a profit.  There was an ordinary GT there which was the same pale lemon yellow colour as my old car, recalling the colour of a Teddy Boys sock.  At one time, I owned the V8 and a Midget, and my Brother-in-law had a Midget,and when visited by Pog when he had his red MGB,we had a rally of our own outside my parents house.

The drive home was accompanied on the Radio with the Radio 2 highlight of the week, Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the 70’s, and even better heavily featured Pink Floyd.  Brilliant.

A late afternoon request to sort the horse out, which usually means it’s hissing down, I actually managed to get to the yard, walk out and fed the boy, change his rug, and get back to the stable within an almost biblical parting of the stratocumulus, and managed to avoid the rain….Things may actually be looking up!

My other entries were as follows:
Eastern Bath White, Turkey 2009
Clouded Border, North Yorkshire 2011
Hungarian Glider,Hungary 2008

Wood White, Hungary 2008

Monday, 3 October 2011

The most effective trapping method

Having read a number of articles on trapping methods and different bulbs, I decided to look at my own data to see which is the most effective type of trap and bulb.  I added up the number of trap events and moths caught using each type of trap/bulb for the years 2009-2011, and came up with an average number of moths per trapping session for each trap.  The figures were remarkably consistent each year.

Trap method                               Events/total moths/average per event
Double Gladiator 2 x 22w actinic       28        660        23.6
40w actinic Robinson                       47      2562        54.5
160w MVBT over a sheet                 67       7593      113.3
125w MV Robinson                        104     13131      126.3

To give some background on the types of traps, the two actinic traps tended to be used more in the off peak seasons, so the numbers might be artificially lower, but even when used in peak the numbers are relatively similar.  

Double Gladiator - 2 circular 22w bulbs, a Paul Batty creation, and most useful when trapping in the garden. Used the least, and tended to be used off season which may reduce the number of moths caught.  Due to being a translucent plastic box, it tends to attract a fair number of moths to the outside walls.

40w actinic Robinson - an upright bulb within plastic vanes, on a home-made Robinson type trap.  This runs from a car battery, and again tended to be used off-peak when it did not warrant staying out overnight. so can be left unattended with a solar switch for the night.  Having a flat top, should not be used in heavy dew, as the moisture collects unwary moths.

I only bought the 160MVBT during 2009, a mercury vapour bulb with a tungsten element added, and used more frequently in 2010, and by 2011 it was used the same number of times as the 125w Robinson.  One of the advantages of the 160MVBT is the fact that it does not require a heavy ballast and control, and plugs directly into the power source, with the disadvantage that it runs even hotter than the 125MV. Of course,  when used suspended over a sheet it requires a flat sheltered location for the sheet.

The 125w Robinson is a standard ALS trap, used by many trappers around the country, and out-performed all of the other methods.  Having said that, the 160MVBT and sheet performs only 10% less effectively than the Robinson, but has the advantage of the catch being visible throughout the night, and would be more useful at a trapping event attended by others.
Photo by Ken Noble

For a proper scientific comparison, I should have 160MVBT on a Robinson and a 125MV suspended over a sheet, but I am happy with the results I achieve, but may consider experimenting further next year..

Although the effectiveness of the various traps are noted above, it should be noted that when a combination of the different methods are used, it can be quite noticeable the different species attracted to the traps.  The different wavelengths of ultraviolet light obviously affect which species are attracted.  I think the mixed combination of bulbs and traps allows greater flexibility to access different habitats at the same site, and also attracts a greater diversity of species.

All the equipment was purchased from Paul Batty http://www.pwbelg.clara.net/mercury/ or Jon Clifton of Anglian Lepidoptera Supplies http://www.angleps.com/.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Catch up, from five days trapping...

The warm weather continues, with the warmest end to September, and October day since records began, with temperatures hovering just under 30 degrees C.  So following on from the first night at Brimham, I trapped at my regular sites at Kilburn woods, Pilmoor and Silton Forest on successive nights, and then a speculative trap on the moorland at Dallowgill last night.

28 Sep - Kilburn woods - 54 moths of 19 species, the highlight being 11 Merveille du Jour, one of the jewels of the autumn traps.
Merveille du Jour

Pale November Moth, conf. by gen . det.
29 Sep - Pilmoor woods - 97 moths of 24 species, the highlights being site records of two Feathered Thorn, a Turnip, Black Rustic and a Large Wainscot. 
Feathered Thorn

Sallow, flavescens form
Large Wainscot
30 Sep - Silton Forest - 100 moths of 21 species, the highlights being singles of Feathered Thorn, Mottled Umber, Autumnal Rustic and Black Rustic, five Merveille du Jour and a Brindled Green. 
Mottled Umber
Brindled Green

1 Oct - Dallowgill Moor - six moths of six species.....although still mild, +18 still at 2300, there was a breeze which was difficult to avoid on the open moorland.  The Robinson trap which was sited in a small hollow actually had nothing in it after 3 hours, while the light over a sheet on the more open site, struggling to attract the meagre six moths.  However, they did include Pale Eggar and a very worn Haworth's Minor, the latter a moorland species I only caught up with in Ireland in August, and a new moth for the 10k square.
Pale Eggar

Haworth's Minor (not the best shot but it escaped shortly after!)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Brimham Rocks

With a period of unseasonably warm temperatures,  and with newly granted permission to trap in the restricted areas of Brimham, I gave it a go last night.  I ran three traps among the rocks about 100m east of the Information centre, packing up about 2 in the morning due a slight breeze picking up and not too many moths.
Brimham Rocks
Of about 50 moths trapped of just 15 species, there was most definitely an autumnal flavour, with my first epirrita moth of the winter, and three Frosted Orange.
Autumnal Moth

Autumnal Rustic

Red-line Quaker

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Yes it is a Svensson's!

I had a go at my first gen.det. today on the Copper Underwing featured in my post of 17th September on:

All of the external features had suggested a Svensson's rather than the regular Copper Underwing, and this was confirmed by a detailed dissection of the genitalia.  It was a male, and the features clearly matched those in the photos in British and Irish moths: an illustrated guide to selected difficult species (covering the use of genitalia characters and other features) by Townsend, Clifton and Goodey. 

I had a go in preparing a couple of other macromoths just for practice, and can honestly say I am more than pleased with the microscope I purchased.  It is all very well doing these bigger ones, but I can see doing the little jobbies as a bit of a challenge.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Another try for Devon Carpets

A brief respite in this weeks weather, so set up three traps in Kilburn woods in the area where I have caught Devon Carpet before, about 100m away from where I trapped last week.  No luck with the carpets, and the numbers were generally low.  The bright moon was evident up to around midnight with cloud quickly increasing, but even by 0300 with a temperature of +11, it was obvious that the summer numbers were now but a distant memory.
As an interesting aside, on Calderdale Moths blog, there is interesting habitat shot from Hardcastle Crags, the other Yorkshire Devon Carpet site, and an excellent photo of one of the moths.  There is only a small patch of this type of habitat in Kilburn woods, and perhaps a more targeted siting of the traps may be more effective. 

14 Ypsolopha parenthesella, a Blastobasis adustella, Acleris emargana, Epinotia ramella, two Red-green Carpet, two Common Marbled Carpet, a Pine Carpet, a very worn Double-striped Pug, two Canary-shouldered Thorn, a Large Yellow Underwing, Brown-spot Pinion, four Pink-barred Sallow, Dark Arches, Small Wainscot, two Rosy Rustic and a Frosted Orange.

at 22mm wingspan, very worn, but considered to be Double-striped Pug

Pine Carpet

Brown-spot Pinion

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The first night mothing for a week.

With such a poor week weather-wise, the chance of a warm night and no rain was too good to miss.  Kilburn woods was the choice, with the chance of a Devon Carpet for the third year running.  Managed over 100 moths of 31 species, a Vine's Rustic probably the only highlight, and the first Frosted Orange of the year, but unfortunately no Devon Carpets.
Frosted Orange

Pink-barred Sallow and Centre-barred Sallow

In addition, a Copper Underwing which showed all of the features one would expect of Svensson's Copper Underwing.  Not only was it drab (Svensson's used to be known as Drab Copper Underwing), the black and white checkering on the sides of the abodomen was subdued, the palps were dark with pale tips, and the copper on the underwing was extensive and up as far as the base of the wing.  Why aren't they all this easy?
Svensson's Copper Underwing - topside - drab and lacking contrast.
Svensson's Copper Underwing - showing dark palps with pale tips

Svensson's Copper Underwing - underside, lack of contrast with black and white checkering on sides of abdomen, and large extent of copper on underwing.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

A new bird ....

One of the benefits (the only?) of being part of the great unwashed, is that a one-day bird that turns up less than an hour away from home is worth a go for as soon as you hear about it.  So, within an hour of notification, there we are on the A19, off to see the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper on Teesside.  What a cracker it was, close views, performing well, showing off all the distinctive features.  
There were two big plusses here.  The first is that there has been one close to my Mothers house in Ireland for over a week, arriving with loads of American waders the week after I was there....and secondly, it was one of Pog's VIT's...one he had seen in the 1970's at Frodsham, and was a blocker for me.

Great photos of the bird on Surfbirds website 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A date with some Swedish birds....

Just going through some old photos, and came across some birds of prey photographed on a two-day visit to Falsterbo in southern Sweden in early October 2006.  I had been in Copenhagen on a work assignment and took an extra couple of days to cross the bridge into Sweden, and drove down to Falsterbo, in the south-west corner of the country.
Falsterbo peninsula, with the bridge in the background connecting Sweden to Denmark
What a place.  Sand dunes and slacks almost surrounded by a turbulent sea, wisps of waders skirting the shoreline, the iconic lighthouse, interesting copses and bushy areas for migrant passerines, and the nearby heathy open area which was best for watching thousands of migrating raptors.

There has been a Bird Observatory at Falsterbo since 1947 and over a million birds have been ringed there.  Follow link to see more about the Obs http://www.falsterbofagelstation.se/index_e.html 

And now for some of those birds of prey, starting with the most numerous, which were Sparrowhawks, which were passing over in their hundreds.  

Smaller numbers of Common Buzzard, Red Kite, Kestrel and Osprey, a few Rough-legged Buzzards and a good record of Spotted Eagle.

A great place, and would love to spend a bit more time there at peak migration time.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

I've got one Ear.....

....and yes Andy before you say anything it is a Large one.  Having caught an Ear agg. in south-west Ireland, I collected the specimen to bring back home for the Yorkshire county moth Recorder to do a gen.det. (genitalia dissection) on it.  Charlie had requested Yorkshire specimens to be sent to him to get a better idea of which Ear species are here in the county - Yorkshire has all four British species.  So, after 10 minutes preparation the genitalia were exposed to show a male Large Ear; a new site record according to the Moths of Ireland.  A couple of other specimens sent through the post turned out to be another Large Ear, and the other a male Crinan Ear.  I attach a photo of the live moth out of interest.
Large Ear

A touch of Autumn....

As it is now September, a visit to Brimham Rocks was on the cards, to get some of those autumnal moorland species; and not a bad night it was, with a new moth for me, an Anomalous, and a first Yorkshire record for me of Vine's Rustic.  A total of 218 moths of 42 species, the highlights being a Welsh Wave, three Barred Chestnut, 18 Neglected Rustic, 13 Heath Rustic, four Golden-rod Brindle, two Angle-striped Sallow, a Vine's Rustic and an Anomalous. 
Pine Carpet

Welsh Wave

Neglected Rustic

Golden-rod Brindle

Flounced Chestnut

Vine's Rustic

Saturday, 27 August 2011

What a cracking place...to be sure

I have just returned from a great week away visiting parts of south-west Ireland, names of places I have heard of but could not pin down on a map, and those that conjure up visions of hordes of seabirds battling by rocky headlands.  Day One was the long drive from Yorkshire to Holyhead, highspeed ferry to Dublin (actually quite good for seabirds), and then a drive to the west-coast on the Dingle peninsula.

Heading south through the amazing Killarny National Park, heading for Mizen Head in the extreme south-west, in the hope of getting some seabird passage in the stiff breeze.  Of course on arrival, the wind eased, and rain dampened an attempt at moth-trapping in the nearby reed-bed, with only two moths trapped.  All day sea-watching off Mizen Head brought thousands of Manx, Gannets, Kittiwakes, the odd Arctic Skua but no large shearwaters.  Still a great place, with Choughs calling and flying around the whole time.  The nearby beach and shallow reedy pool was good for waders, and I could just imagine the number of yank waders that must have made first land-fall here...but not today.
Chough, Mizen Head

The next night was spent trapping at the head of a small rocky ravine surrounded by moorland at Oughtminnee on the north side of Mizen, and a successful night with some interesting moths.  A couple of featureless grey 'things' defying identification, now turn out to be Sweet Gale Moth, a goody no less.

Dark Spectacle

Sweet Gale Moth

Scarce Footman

Straw Underwing
A leisurely drive to Rosscarbery, where the fantastic estuary could easily be seen from the road, and loads of waders were scrutinised for rarities, but even the numerous common ones were a pleasure.  That night, I trapped on the sand-dunes at Castlefreke Warren, and added While-line Dart to the trip list.
White-line Dart
The renowned Ballycotton was signposted off the main drag east, and a pleasant walk around the area produced hundreds of adult Six-spot Burnets, with at least a thousand larval cases among the rough grass.
Six-spot Burnet

Following the coast road to the east, I ended up at a place called Fennor Bog south of Waterford, and although it started off as a calm and clear night, I was woken up just before midnight by rain spotting on the window, and by the time I got out to the traps, it was thrashing down, and I managed to get a cover on the Robinson trap, but not quick enough to save the bulb from blowing on the one suspended over the sheet.  I left the MV running, despite the rain, and ended up with a reasonable haul the next morning.
Haworth's Minor

Round-winged Muslin 
 Next morning a pleasant drive east again, over the ferry to Ballyhack, and down to Hook Head, and then up the coast to Wellingtonbridge.