A diary of my mothing activity covering highlights and photos from my moth trapping activities. Mainly Norfolk (UK), occasionally beyond. I may mention other wildlife sightings here, especially insects, but for birds see my birding diary.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Poor mothing but always something to look at

The last week hasn't been a good one for moths.  They don't like snow and Arctic conditions, apparently.

Last Friday night scraped the bottom of the barrel with Brindled Pug and Early Grey, but a smallish slug on the bottom of the moth trap aroused my curiosity.  Turns out it's a Netted Slug, but the biggest surprise is that this is supposed to be one of our commonest slugs yet it didn't look familiar to me at all.  The first time I've identified one anyway.

Netted Slug, North Elmham, 22nd April

On Saturday morning in the Brecks some early sunshine got me a nice Common Oak Purple Dyseriocrania subpurpurella.

Common Oak Purple Dyseriocrania subpurpurella, Hockham Heath, 23rd April

I also caught this Brown Lacewing which provided me with my first opportunity to try out my newly-acquired key to Lacewings.  It was Hemerobius humulinus, the first time I've identified a Brown Lacewing to species level.

Brown Lacewing Hemerobius humulinus, Hockham Heath, 23rd April

The Snails key also got its first use, although it wasn't the first time I've identified Brown-lipped and White-lipped Snails.  Indeed in this case the key sent me in the wrong direction as the Brown-lipped Snail showed a substantial and completely unobscured umbilicus.  Bad snail.

Some fungi caused me problems, as always.  I think this one might be Birch Polypore...

Birch Polypore?, near Thompson Water, 23rd April

...but these white blobs on the side of a tree in a swamp made me wonder if there was a species related to King Alfreds Cakes, only white.  Well if there is I can't find it in my books, and King Alfred's Cakes aren't supposed to be white even when they're young, so I've no idea what they were.  Maybe they weren't even fungi?  Ah, as I type this I've had an idea... slime mould maybe.  Yes, that looks likely, perhaps Enteridium lycoperdon?

slime mould, perhaps Enteridium lycoperdon, Cranberry Rough, 23rd April

As a very novice botanist, Forget-me-nots are always a challenging group to identify.  Hopefully they get easier with experience but I still struggle.  I think these were Wood Forget-me-nots.

Wood Forget-me-not, Cranberry Rough, 23rd April

This Brown Hare tried to hide from me in the rain.

Brown Hare, Bodney, 23rd April

When I drew up beside it it soon changed its mind and ran away instead.

Brown Hare, Bodney, 23rd April

Another brief spell of sunshine in the garden after I got home produced what I assume was a Feathered Bright Incurvaria masculella in the Wysteria.  It didn't stop long enough for me to get a good enough look to be 100% sure, but it's by far the most likely moth that looks anything like that.  One insect that did pause long enough for a close examination was the hoverfly Eristalis arbustorum - the first time I've identified this common species.

Eristalis arbustorum, North Elmham, 23rd April

In the trap overnight there were just 2 Hebrew Characters but after Saturday the weather deteriorated even more and it felt more like January than late April.  The moth catches shifted from being dreadful to non-existent.  Three nights in a row without a single moth and for at least two of those not a single insect - not even a fly!  Hate to think what effect this is having on insectivorous birds, especially resident ones that have already started breeding.

One moth (and one fly) in the trap on Wednesday night - a new one for the year too, Muslin Moth.

Muslin Moth, North Elmham, 27th April

Also on Wednesday I had my first opportunity to use another new key, the one on Woodlice - this is a Common Rough Woodlouse Porcellio scaber.

Common Rough Woodlouse Porcellio scaber, North Elmham, 27th April

Thursday night saw another (or perhaps the same) Muslin Moth and a Hebrew Character.

Friday, 22 April 2016


2 Hebrew Characters were the only new moths on Sunday night but Monday was a little better with 3 Common Flat-bodies Agonopterix heracliana, March Moth, Shoulder Stripe, Brindled Pug, Clouded Drab, Hebrew Character and 3 Early Greys. In addition Many-plumed Moth Alucita hexadactyla and  Yellow-barred Brindle were both new for the year.

Many-plumed Moth Alucita hexadactyla, North Elmham, 18th April

Yellow-barred Brindle, North Elmham, 18th April

Next day I photographed this Zebra Spider in my study.  I don't normally like spiders but these dinky little ones are oddly cute.

cute little Zebra Spider, North Elmham, 19th April

Sadly I can't say the same about this horrible thing, which I think may be Tegenaria gigantea, though I'm not clear if there are other similar species that need ruling out.  Proper scared of these!

gross scary Spider (possibly Tegenaria gigantea?), North Elmham, 19th April

Only 2 moths on Tuesday night - Clouded Drab and Early Grey.  On Wednesday I had the day off and headed up to Burnham Overy for some birding.  Little non-avian interest - a Peacock butterfly was the only Lepidoptera (oh, and Brown-tail larvae).  This Stoat disappeared down a rabbit burrow emerging from a different hole.

Stoat, Burnham Overy, 20th April

I've caught what I presumed to be the same Red Chestnut on a number of occasions recently, albeit sometimes with 2-3 nights between trappings.  I've assumed it was the same because it seemed to have the same distinctive pattern of wear - like someone had stuck there thumb across the middled of it and rubbed all its scales off from a big patch in the middle.  Caught it again on Wednesday night, or aother similarly worn individual.  Other than that just 2 Hebrew Characters.

On Thursday I found a Buffish Mining Bee Andrena nigroaenea in the garden - the first time I've positively identified this species, thanks to Richard Lewington's new book.

Thursday night was another poor night for moths but I'm always excited to see a Streamer and this was my first of the year.  Otherwise just 2 Hebrew Characters and an Early Grey.

Streamer, North Elmham, 21st April

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Possible Polecat

Thursday night produced Shoulder Stripe, Early Thorn, 3 Small Quakers, 2 Common Quakers, 6 Hebrew Characters and Early Grey.  A paltry total but better than the next few nights.  There was also a Red Chestnut, but the same distinctively worn individual that I'd trapped on Monday and Tuesday nights (and I trapped it again on Sunday night).

Shoulder Stripe, North Elmham, 14th April

Non-avian highlight on Friday was a Chinese Water Deer at Choseley in my lunch break.  The moth trap was dire with just Common Quaker and 2 Hebrew Characters.

Birding the patch on Saturday produced little non-avian animal/invert interest so I resorted to photographing some fungi in the hope that I might be able to identify some of it, not that I often succeed in that.  For some reason I thought this bracket fungus was going to be more interesting than Turkeytail, but in the end I think it might just be that.  (Update: thanks again to James for commenting - apparently I need to see the underside, but could be Turkeytail or Yellowing Curtain Crust).

possible Turkeytail, Bittering, 16th April

This one hanging off a Birch didn't look like anything I remembered seeing before.  I think it's Yellow Brain, though there is at least one other similar species.  (Update: James agrees - either this or Tremella aurantia - need to see what it's feeding on as they have different host fungi, but on this example that might be tricky - the branch overhangs water so I can't get any nearer or a different angle).

probable Yellow Brain, Bittering, 16th April

Not sure about the next, probably one of the Waxcaps?  (Update: James says no, which I'm quite relieved about in a way as I've identified Waxcaps before and didn't think this was like them.  Looking at the books later I thought some of the Waxcaps looked similar while the other similar-lloking fungi weren't grassland species.  Anyway James is the man and he suggests Galerina sp.  Yep, I can see that now.)

possible Waxcap sp., Bittering, 16th April

I think the next one is Jelly Ear.  It was on a fallen branch at the base of a Copper Beech tree.  (Update: yes... James says I'm right.  Hoorah!)

Jelly Ear, Bittering, 16th April

There were no moths at all on Saturday night despite the trap being out all night.  Sunday wasn't much better with 2 Hebrew Characters.  Earlier on Sunday evening I had a look round Lolly Moor in the hope that some moths might be flying in the evening sunshine.  They weren't.  Some more fungi though including this Bracket fungus that I can't put a name to.  Doesn't help that I can't remember what tree it was on.  (Update: thanks again to James who says Blushing Bracket... and that the tree was therefore probably Willow).

Blushing Bracket, Lolly Moor, 17th April

On Sunday morning I noticed a dead animal on the B1145 just east of Billingford.  It seemed to resemble a Polecat, though it might have been a lookalike Ferret.  Polecats are very difficult to separate from some Ferrets (which are basically domesticated Polecats I think).  I returned later in the day in the hope of taking photos but there was no sign of it any more.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Wood Mouse and Woodlouse (and a nice beetle and some moths)

The Wood Mouse was running in and out of the shed for ages on Saturday again, in the rain.  Seems to like the rain.

Wood Mouse, North Elmham, 9th April

Not much on Saturday night (3 March Moths, 2 Small Quakers, Common Quaker, Clouded Drab and 2 Hebrew Characters) but Sunday night was better with Red Chestnut new for the year.

Red Chestnut, North Elmham, 10th April

Some better totals of a couple of the commoner species too: March Moth, Shoulder Stripe, 8 Small Quakers, 5 Common Quakers, Clouded Drab, 14 Hebrew Characters, 3 Early Greys and Chestnut.

Early Thorn was new for the year at home on Monday night.  Also 3 March Moths, Shoulder Stripe, Double-striped Pug, Oak Beauty, Red Chestnut, 5 Common Quakers, 2 Clouded Drabs, 9 Hebrew Characters, 2 Early Greys and Chestnut.

Early Thorn, North Elmham, 11th April

Fewer moths on Tuesday night, though another common moth new for the year at home: Engrailed.  Also March Moth, Red Chestnut, 5 Hebrew Characters and Early Grey.  I think the Red Chestnut was the same individual as I trapped on Monday night as it was distinctively worn, but Sunday's looked different.

Engrailed, North Elmham, 12th April

On Wednesday a Cereal Leaf Beetle Oulema melanopus/rufocyanea agg. appeared on my study windowsill.  Lovely beetle!

Cereal Leaf Beetle Oulema melanopus or Oulema rufocyanea, North Elmham, 13th April

Not much in the moth trap last nigtht: Early Thorn, 2 Small Quakers, Twin-spotted Quaker, 5 Hebrew Characters and Early Grey.

Twin-spotted Quaker, North Elmham, 13th April

I had a look round the local patch before work this morning and found 2 Common Oak Purples Dyseriocrania subpurpurella there.  Also this unidentified small larva (sawfly sp.?).

unidentified larva, near Bittering, 14th April

Other things crawling down tree trunks included this Tree Slug.

Tree Slug, near Bittering, 14th April

I'd thought the following Woodlouse might be interesting.  Not when photographing it, but looking it up when I got home.  The information I found on the net suggested that I could rule out the common Porcellio scaber leading me to speculate that it might be either Porcellio spinicornis or Trachelipus rathkei, although neither seemed particularly likely.  Well James has had a look and he advises me that it is in fact Common Rough Woodlouse Porcellio scaber after all.  Ah well, I shall have to look a bit harder to find one of the scarcer ones, and buy myself a decent key.

Common Rough Woodlouse Porcellio scaber, near Bittering, 14th April

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Alderford Common

A relatively warm Friday evening with cloud cover promised for most of the first part of the evening, so a good night to head out somewhere with a light.  Dave is keen to see Small Eggar and we failed to find recently where I'd seen one before at Creaking Gate Lake so he was keen to try his luck at Alderford Common this time, another site the species is known from and where there is plenty of suitable habitat.

We were disapppointed to find that the temperature had plummeted between leaving home and arriving on site - a heavy rain shower had recently passed through and I think it must have cooled things down a bit.  We set up anyway and things got off to a very slow start indeed.  After a while 1-2 moths had flown past the light but nothing had come in and I was starting to wonder if we should cut our losses and head home.  But we stuck it out and suddenly for no apparent reason it got livelier.  In the end it proved a worthwhile trip, although no Small Eggars for Dave.

The best of the macros was a Red Chestnut, followed by Water Carpet.

Red Chestnut, Alderford Common, 8th April

Also 2 March Moths, 3 Shoulder Stripes, 5 Brindled Pugs, Engrailed, 3 Small Quakers, 12 Common Quakers, 9 Clouded Drabs, 5 Twin-spotted Quakers, 2 Hebrew Characters and 2 Early Greys.  Counts are minimums - probably the numbers of the more numerous species were really quite a bit higher.

Shoulder Stripe, Alderford Common, 8th April

Clouded Drab, Alderford Common, 8th April

But as is so often the way it was the micros that provided the most excitement, despite there only being 3 species.  They included Dave's first and my second ever Dawn Flat-body Semioscopis steinkellneriana.

Dawn Flat-body Semioscopis steinkellneriana, Alderford Common, 8th April

Two Caloptilia looked like good candidates for elongella but on dissection provided to be Red Birch Slenders Caloptilia betulicola - a scarcer species and new to both of us.

Red Birch Slender Caloptilia betulicola (male, gen det), Alderford Common, 8th April

Red Birch Slender Caloptilia betulicola (female, gen det), Alderford Common, 8th April

The other micros were at least 4 March Tubics Diurnea fagella.

A few moths at home too: March Tubic Diurnea fagella, Common Plume Emmelina monodactyla, 2 March Moths, Shoulder Stripe, Oak Beauty, Small Quaker, Common Quaker and 4 Hebrew Characters.

Oak Beauty, North Elmham, 8th April

A Springtail and Gorse Weevils

Springtails are among the most abundant of all insects, apparently.  A whole order of insects that are all around us and most of us don't even know it.  A couple of nature-people I've mentioned them to hadn't even heard of them and I was no more than vaguely aware of them.  But they say there are around 100,000 in every cubic meter of topsoil!

Anyway, on Thursday evening I came across an online key for mosses and went into the garden to find some moss to try it out with.  I found three species of moss in the garden but the key, or rather my application of it, was a total failure.  In the end I think I managed to identify Bicoloured Bryum Bryum dichotomum from the paving slabs (having fallen off the roof I think) using other online sources but the ones growing in the lawn remain a mystery.

Bicoloured Bryum Bryum dichotomum (I think), North Elmham, 7th April

However, while looking at the moss I noticed a beetle poke its head out from the moss briefly before disappearing back into it.  In trying to knock it out so that I could see it properly (which I never did) I knocked out a few very tiny insects.  I think one was a (different) Rove Beetle but that scarpered leaving a couple of jumpy things which I identified as Springtails.  Absolutely no idea what species of Springtail.

Springtail, North Elmham, 7th April

Edit 21st April: 
Having obtained a key to Springtail families I've narrowed this down to Isotomidae.  That narrows it down to 112 species!  It looks like various online examples of Isotomurus plumosus and may well be that common species, but for all I know the other 111 might look like this too!  I've also discovered that the latest thinking says that Springtails aren't insects at all but in a class of their own.

Also found a Varied Carpet Beetle in the bathroom, my first this year.  Odd how I always find these in the bathroom, the one upstairs room that doesn't have a carpet.  Maybe I find them because they're busy looking for carpets and the ones in the other rooms are tucked away out of sight in the carpets and breeding.  No obvious sign of damage though, here or in my last house where I saw several every year.

The moth trap didn't deliver very much on Thursday night: 2 Small Quakers, 2 Clouded Drabs and Hebrew Character.

Friday lunchtime was warm(ish) and sunny(ish) so I had a wander round Syderstone Common.  Couldn't find any moths but 1 Brimstone butterfly.  I found a couple of tiny Weevils on Gorse flowers which in the field I thought looked greenish like Phyllobius species.  But on closer inspection later on the one I retained was more black-and-white with only a slight hint of green, and the structure was wrong for Phyllobius.  My first attempts at identifying it didn't get very far but googling "Gorse Weevil" did the job - it was a Gorse Weevil Exapion ulicis, the first time I've seen this (probably very common) species.

Gorse Weevil Exapion ulicis, Syderstone Common, 9th April