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, 2 June 2016

An oasis of wildlife in a new development

I'd never been to Queen's Hill before.  I'd heard a fair bit about it, largely thanks to the impressive variety of moths that Matthew Casey and friends have found there, but I only knew it as a new housing estate on the outskirts of Norwich.  After trying for Clearwings at New Costessey on Saturday afternoon Dave and I tried our luck at Queen's Hill.  Dave had been here before and among other things had seen Small Yellow Underwings, a striking macro moth that I'd never seen, so being in the area it seemed like a good opportunity to see what all the fuss was about.

We arrived to find a bank of wildflower-rich grassland surrounding a 'storm pond' with scrub surround.  It looked good and we were soon kicking up more Dichrorampha than we could shake a stick at.  In no time I'd found this marvellous Small Yellow Underwing, the first of two.

Small Yellow Underwing, Queen's Hill, 28th May

The various Dichrorampha had little or no dorsal blotch, though some seemed to have enough of a blotch in combination with narrow wings to identify them as Sharp-winged Drill Dichrorampha acuminatana.  I retained four that showed either a faint dorsal blotch or no dorsal blotch, suspecting that some might prove to be plumbana.  That's supposed to be a scarce species and there are only 8 records in the Norfolk Moths database for the last 20 years, though I suspect they're just poorly recorded as I've recorded them at 3 sites in the last couple of years and suspected them elsewhere without proof.  The good news was that two of the four I retained did indeed prove to be Lead-coloured Drill Dichrorampha plumbana.  The better news was that one of the others was Silver-lined Drill Dichrorampha plumbagana, a species only showing in the database as having been recorded 11 times in Norfolk, only once before in VC27, and a new species for me.  And the even better news was that the other one proved to be Obsucre Drill Dichrorampha aeratana, another lifer for me and with just 6 records showing in the database.

 Lead-coloured Drills Dichrorampha plumbana (males, gen det), Queen's Hill, 28th May

Silver-lined Drill Dichrorampha plumbagana (male, gen det), Queen's Hill, 28th May

Obscure Drill Dichrorampha aeratana (male, gen det), Queen's Hill, 28th May

Yes, I know what you're saying - they all look the same.  Well I can safely say that I would not have correctly and confidently identified those four moths without examining their genitalia!  Just goes to show the value of dissecting a selection of moths for the purposes of ID and in doing so helping to show the value of a piece of fantastic habitat.  All 4 feed on Ox-eye Daisies of which there were plenty present.

Two Plume Moths were found - the first a Triangle Plume Platyptilia gonodactyla and the second a Breckland Plume Combrugghia distans.  I had been surprised to learn that the latter were present in the area as I didn't realise their range extended this far east away from the Brecks.

Triangle Plume Platyptilia gonodactyla, Queen's Hill, 28th May

Breckland Plume Crombrugghia distans (male, gen det), Queen's Hill, 28th May

Other things in this patch included this Brown Argus and a single Bee Orchid.

Brown Argus, Queen's Hill, 28th May

Bee Orchid, Queen's Hill, 28th May

I was surprised at first to find a Dark Gorse Piercer Grapholita internana as I hadn't noticed any Gorse, but there was at least one bush at the top of the slope above where I found it.  But there was no gorse in the other meadow where I caught another Grapholita, and that one proved to be a Vetch Piercer Grapholita jungiella, only the third time I've recorded that species.

Dark Gorse Piercer Grapholita internana, Queen's Hill, 28th May

Vetch Piercer Grapholita jungiella, Queen's Hill, 28th May

The scrub turned up a few goodies too including a Thistle Bell Epiblema scutulana and, found among the leaves of its foodplant, a Colt's-foot Bell Epiblema sticticana.  That's another species that's supposed to be scarce but seems to be fairly easy to find where its foodplant is abundant.

Colt's-foot Bell Epiblema sticticana (male, gen det), Queen's Hill, 28th May

A highlight from my perspective was finding my first ever Golden Pygmy Stigmella aurella flying around some bramble.  In the identification process I was initially thrown by the fact that the base of the wings were entirely dark and only looked golden when they reflected the light at certain angles, but I got there eventually.  Not sure if the genitalia are diagnostic in females (though the large bulla seminalis, if I've identified the part correctly, doesn't seem to be present in at least some other Stigmella species?), but in any case it keyed here using the Kleine Vlinders key with each choice being a straightforward one once I realised the golden reflections were real and the wing measurements were referring to wingspan not forewing length.  Like several Stigmella species this one is extremely common with leaf-mines apparently easy to find, but the adult insect is very much more rarely encountered.

Golden Pygmy Stigmella aurella (female), Queen's Hill, 28th May

The willows at the back of the scrub provided a White-triangle Slender Caloptilia stigmatella, a species I don't find very often.

White-triangle Slender Caloptilia stigmatella, Queen's Hill, 28th May

Other moths I've not yet mentioned were 4 Cocksfoot Moths Glyphipterix simpliciella, Yarrow Conch Aethes smeathmanniana, Hook-streaked Grass-Veneer Crambus lathoniellus and Silver-ground Carpet.  A Scorpion Fly proved to be a female Panorpa germanica and Bugs included Dock Bug, a group of about half a dozen Hairy Shieldbugs and this nymph (I think) which I haven't yet been able to put a name to.

unidentified bug (I think?), Queen's Hill, 28th May

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