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.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Fantastic moths in the Brecks

The run of poor nights for moths last week finished with Muslin Moth and Hebrew Character on Friday night and Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana, 2 Hebrew Characters and Early Grey on Saturday night. On Saturday I'd failed to find any moths on the patch during the day, despite a handful of butterflies (Orange-tips, Brimstone and Peacocks) and other insects like Dark-edged Bee Fly and Buff-tailed Bumblebee (also a Stoat).

Buff-tailed Bumblebee, Bittering, 30th April

Sunday night looked better - not brilliant, but the best night for a while and the best for a few days to come.  So Dave and I took the opportunity to try out mothing at Cranberry Rough in the Brecks.  Turned out to be excellent!  We started off in the afternoon at Santon Street, an NWT site Dave's obtained permission to trap at.  This was largely a reckie as we didn't know the site at all.  I think it will be good, though we didn't manage to record any moths this afternoon (but my first caddisfly of the year which gave me a chance to use my new Handbook on Trichoptera (caddisflies) - it was Brachycentrus subnubilus - and also the green Lacewing Chrysoperla carnea).  In the car park opposite we found Common Green Shieldbug and Parent Bug - the latter a new species for me.

Parent Bug, Santon Downham, 1st May

Common Green Shieldbug, Santon Downham, 1st May

Our chosen location for trapping was Cranberry Rough.  I'd been there recently during the day and reckoned it could be good, and so it proved.  It wasn't perfect weather and it followed a run of cold nights, so we didn't expect huge amounts.  But our low expectations just contributed to how pleased we were when we found a good variety of moths coming to our lights including several species we don't see all that often.  And that was before the really exciting ones turned up.  We used 3 lights - my MV over a sheet, an Actinic and a UVB bulb powered by a car battery.

Among the first moths in was the first of 5 Lunar Marbled Browns, a species I'd only seen once before.

Lunar Marbled Brown, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Also in early were the first few of 6 Water Carpets, a couple of Frosted Greens, 5 Pine Beauties and 3 Early Tooth-stripeds, another species I don't see every year. 

Frosted Green, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Pine Beauty, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Early Tooth-striped, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Micros included a few Common Oak Purples Dyseriocrania subpurpurella and a Common Birch Bell Epinotia immundana

Common Oak Purple Dyseriocrania subpurpurella, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Common Birch Bell Epinotia immundana, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

At Dave's actinic we found the first of 2 Dawn Flat-bodies Semioscopis steinkellneriana, Tufted Button Acleris cristana and what was very probably an Early Purple Eriocrania semipurpurella.  The latter keyed out to semipurpurella fine but is considered safest to gen det to confirm.  Unfortunately I had a bit of an accident with it which rendered that impossible.

Dawn Flat-body Semioscopis steinkellneriana, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

I think it was the actinic that produced another good moth, Red-letter Flat-body Agonopterix ocellana.  Though not particularly scarce this was a new moth for me, so I was very pleased to see one at long last.  Dave's actinic hardly gave off enough light to be able to see the moths with - we needed to use a torch too - but it proved worth having with us.

Red-letter Flat-body Agonopterix ocellana, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Back at my MV we added Streamer, Spruce Carpet, an Oak-tree Pug among numerous Brindled Pugs, a Swallow Prominent, Great Prominent, a Red Chestnut, Angle Shades and Nut-tree Tussock

Spruce Carpet, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Oak-tree Pug, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Swallow Prominent, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Great Prominent, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Red Chestnut, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Then in came something odd which neither of us recognised.  A distinctive moth - we knew it was something different right away, but what?  It had its wings held wide, almost Carpet-like, but I had a feeling it wasn't holding them the way it should, and that made me wonder if it was a moth we'd mentioned earlier on as we passed some Broom but which neither of us had seen before.  I checked my app and yep, that's exactly what it was, a Broom-tip

Broom-tip, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

And then it duly hitched its wings up like its supposed to and actually looked like they do in the books.  Fantastic!  Not a common moth by any means - indeed a Nationally Scarce species and a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority species, and not recorded in Norfolk every year.

Broom-tip, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Finally we headed up to Dave's UVB light.  Only a few moths in here, including a second Red Chestnut, another Swallow Prominent and a Pebble Hook-tip

Pebble Hook-tip, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Then as we turned over an eggtray from the bottom of the trap there staring us in our faces was an absolutely fantastic female Emperor Moth!  Male Emperor Moths fly during the day and can be attracted to pheremone lures (as we did last year) but females fly at night, and I have never seen one before.  In many ways this was more exciting than even the Broom-tip, such a fantastic beast it was!

Emperor, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

We realised it had laid some eggs which we tried to knock off into some Hawthorn.  They were stuck rigid on the cardboard so we tore off the cardboard round them and left the whole lot in the Hawthorn.

A peculiar looking spider or mite in one of the egg trays held our curiosity, until we realised it was a tick.  A quick Google search confirmed our fears - it was a Deer Tick.  I've always known that walking around in the Brecks carries a high risk of an encounter with a Deer Tick but never actually seen one before (so a tick in more ways than one).  At least we saw it in an eggtray and not attached to our legs, but it made us feel itchy and uncomfortable even so!  I checked myself and my clothing carefully when I got home, although  the reality is that we were no more (or less) at risk because we'd seen one than if we hadn't.  Apparently they look even uglier when they're feeding on you.

 Deer Tick, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Common Earwig, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Other moths not so far mentioned included Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana, Red Twin-spot Carpet, 2 Double-striped Pugs, 3 Common Quakers, Clouded Drab, 3 Hebrew Characters, 2 Early Greys and 3 Chestnuts.  Also another green Lacewing Chrysoperla carnea.

Chrysoperla carnea, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Plenty of caddisflies too, allowing me a chance to practice their ID.  I'd recommend the handbook - based on the first few I've tried it makes their ID quite easy compared to a lot of groups - very well laid out and simple to follow.  You need a  microscope (maybe you could manage with a good lens, but it won't be so easy) but you don't need to do any complicated dissections or anything.  From tonight I identified 3 species: Grammotaulius nigropunctatus, Limnephilus auricula and Limnephilus griseus.

Grammotaulius nigropunctatus, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Limnephilus auricula, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Limnephilus griseus, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Beetles were represented by Black Sexton Beetle, Orange Ladybird and two that I'd not identified before, though both looked familiar: Dalopius marginatus and Cantharis decipiens.

Dalopius marginatus, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Cantharis decipiens, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Black Sexton Beetle, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Orange Ladybird, Cranberry Rough, 1st May

Given how well we managed in the Brecks I had hopes of a good range in the home moth trap too.  Well there were more than there have been lately, but not hordes.  If we hadn't had one already that night Red-letter Flat-body Agonopterix ocellana would have been a lifer - as it was just new for the house.  Amazing how often that's happened - seeing a moth for the first time when moth-trapping away from home and then coming back to find one at home too.  Not surprising in a way as the conditions for their emergence are the same at different sites, but as the glaring holes in my moth list get fewer it will surely stop happening soon.

Red-letter Flat-body Agonopterix ocellana, North Elmham, 1st May

A rarer moth was this Streaked Flat-body Depressaria chaerophylli.  It's only the 20th record for Norfolk so quite scarce.  New for the house of course, though I did have one in my final year at Bawdeswell.

Streaked Flat-body Depressaria chaerophylli (female, gen det), North Elmham, 1st May

First for the year for the garden were Powdered Quaker and Nut-tree Tussock.  Also Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana, Streamer, Common Quaker, 2 Hebrew Characters and Early Grey.

Powdered Quaker, North Elmham, 1st May

Also Black Sexton Beetle and two more Caddisflies, Glyphotaelius pellucidus and Limnephilus auricula.

Glyphotaelius pellucidus (male above, female below), North Elmham, 1st May - unusual among caddisflies in being sexually dimorphic

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