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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)

Monday, 17 June 2019

A few insect offerings from Sun Beck

Following yet another potential nights moth trapping thwarted by heavy rain I made use of the morning sun to have a walk around Sun Beck wood, Brafferton.  My quest for putting in the effort to see  species other than birds and moths really paid off and several new insects were noted.  

There were dozens of these bright yellow sawflies, but this one allowed close approach, enough to identify it as Turnip Sawfly. 
Athalia rosae (Turnip Sawfly)

Chrysopilus cristatus
A rather subdued wasp that was initially lying on its side in a buttercup eventually dragged itself to a more photogenic pose.  
Odynerus spinipes (Spiny Mason Wasp)
Several beetles were seen including the diminutive yellow and black 14-Spot Ladybird, and the dark form of .a click beetle Denticollis linearis.

14-Spot Ladybird

Denticollis linearis
There were at least 15 small shieldbugs which I did not recognise, assuming they were early instars of a more common species.  On checking the photos on return it was plain to see they were all adult Woundwort Shieldbugs, another new species for me and right at the northern edge of their range.
Eysarcoris venustissimus (Woundwort Shieldbug)
A very small insect with intricately patterned wings made identification rather difficult.  Having initially offered it for identification on the Diptera forums I was quickly dispatched by the resident experts to look at Hemiptera.  A peruse in that direction it was clear that it was actually a lacehopper, probably Cixius nervosus.

Cixius nervosus
It was inevitable that several moths were seen, including a Nemaphora degeerella which eventually settled, and the diminutive Micropterix aruncella, a moth I have only seen twice before.  Other moths seen were a Celypha lacunana and a Silver-ground Carpet.
Micropterix aruncella

Nemaphora degeerella
Celypha lacunana
As a footnote, while looking through photos from previous years for any unidentified species threw up a bug from 2015 that with a quick search proved to be a Tree Damsel Bug, a southern species at the northern edge of its range.
Himacerus apterus (Tree Damsel Bug)

Monday, 10 June 2019

A rare moth

Perhaps the highlight of Sunday's visit to Ashberry Pastures was a longhorn micro-moth found low down in vegetation.  Its small size drew my attention and I carefully potted it to photograph it in less windy conditions.  It soon became apparent that it was Adela croesella a scarce moth in Yorkshire, similar to the more common Nemophora degeerella.  It has been accepted from the photos by the County Moth Recorder Harry Beaumont.

What a great place!

On Saturday 8th June I attended a Wild Flower Society botanical walk at Ashberry Pastures near Helmsbury in VC62.  The forecast was for rain which thankfully held off until midday, however this did not affect the pleasure of being in such fantastic habitat.  A small group of hardy botanists ambled through the meadows and many interesting plants were identified.  I enjoyed the visit so much that I returned the following day prompted by a sunny start although the breeze did make photography challenging.  At least 80 flowering plants were identified and some of the highlights were:
Early Marsh Orchid

Fool's Water-cress


Marsh Valarian

Hairy Shieldbug
In the lanes around the area were Stone Bramble and Baneberry and nearby at Reivaulx was the stunning Dusky Cranesbill.
Stone Bramble

Dusky Cranesbill

Thursday, 30 May 2019

The last few days

Following the successful visit to Lancashire at the end of last week I stayed a bit more local for the early part of this week.  Several speculative visits to interesting habitat for plants produced the surprise of the week.  A look at a grassy bank with plenty of Kidney Vetch produced at least two small dark blue butterflies which size-wise indicated Small Blue.  I was then thrown when photographing the underside of one of them: it was white with black spots which I took to be indicative of Holly Blue.  Bearing in mind it is 15 years since I have seen Small Blue in Dorset I had forgotten that they had dark uppersides and white undersides with black spots.  On checking it was clear that I had in fact seen two male Small Blues at what turns out to be one of two sites in Yorkshire but the locations are not commonly known.
male Small Blue, Yorkshire

Small Blue to 2014 - Courtesy of Butterfly Conservation
Kidney Vetch
 A walk around at Greenhow produced several interesting sightings, including a very good candidate for Mountain Pansy.
Mountain Pansy
I then visited Old Glebe fields near Leyburn looking for Burnt-tip Orchid, no luck on this occasion but good to see so many Green-winged Orchids even if they were past their best, and a few Twayblades, and several Water Avens. 
Greater Twayblade
Water Avens
On Wednesday I went looking for Argent & Sable moths at Bishop's Wood near Selby.  I eventually had at least seven in flight and eventually one perched on White Campion, even if it didn't pose properly!  
Argent & Sable, Bishop's Wood
Another speculative visit to interesting habitat in VC64 produced another surprise: Pasque Flower.  This is a plant I have seen before in Gloucestershire I think but never realised they occurred this far north.  In addition there were a small number of Fragrant Orchids coming into flower and at least 150 Chimney Sweeper moths, a species I had recorded in Dorset well before I was interested in moth recording and somehow hadn't made it on to my list.
Chimney Sweeper

Cocksfoot Moth

Fragrant Orchid
A fantastic weeks recording with c.70 new species including four new moths.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Three new moths and loads of plants

Two days in Lancashire, the first on Thursday for a botany walk at Warton Crag, and evening trapping at Gait Barrows, followed on Friday by some instruction on finding Barred Tooth-striped larvae.  First of all the three new moths which were all at Gait Barrows: neither of the pyralids were on my radar but proved a welcome surprise, three Anania funebris and a single Pyrausta cingulata which evaded the camera.
Anania funebris
On Friday, three of us joined Paul from Butterfly Conservation who proceeded to give background on the Barred Tooth-striped moth for which this area is a stronghold.  He went on to give the distribution and apparent habitat requirements and survey methods before taking us to suitable areas nearby.  The preferred foodplant here is young ash saplings especially on woodland edge and adjacent to mature trees,   There seemed to be plenty of feeding signs and frass but the larvae were few and far between, possibly moved well down into cover or predated?  Fortunately two larvae were already staked out and a speculative search produced three more.  The tiny caterpillars not much more than 10-15mm were green in colour with a yellow lateral stripe and had a distinctive posture with its rear pair of legs grasping and the body head up at anything between 30-75 degrees, especially when disturbed.
Barred Tooth-striped larvae, note the feeding signs and posture
The botany walk at Warton Crag was organised by the Wild Flower Society and attended by about 15 eager botanists.  The walk started in the quarry area, up through the woodland to the top of the quarry.  There were numerous plants in flower, some so small that at times most of the group were on their knees or prostrate.  I managed 70 odd species noted of which over 40 were new to me and probably the scarcest plant Squinancywort is one I have seen before (at Berry Head I think, many years ago),  On the walk back down the sun came out waking up several Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries .
Orange-tip, female having just laid an orange coloured egg

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary
On leaving the group at Warton I went to Arnside nearby to see a roadside Star-of-Bethlehem flower.
In preparation for the meeting on Friday I went to Gait Barrows and had a pleasent evening walk on the 'limestone trail'.  Close to the beginning of the trail I found Spindle in flower and some Herb Paris that was just over.  
limestone pavement

Herb Paris

Dingy Skippers
The commonest grassland butterfly was Dingy Skipper and these two played hard to get....

Thursday night was spent moth trapping in the main carpark and adjacent track and a total of 73 moths of 28 species.  Nothing really of note but Triple Lines and Coronet were good to see, the first since moving north and scarce east of the Pennines. 

A great couple of days with some fantastic scenary and habitat, nearly 50 new plants in total, three new moths, and several more moths re-aquainted with.