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, 31 March 2017

A new beetle, ichneumon and sawfly but little moth excitement

I haven't done any updates for a few days, largely because there hasn't been much to say - until last night.  More of that later, but here's a catch-up first of what's turned up in the trap since last Monday.  The highlights were 2 Ruddy Flat-bodies Agonopterix subpropinquella (23rd and 26th), my third and fourth ever and new for the year and a Lead-coloured Drab (27th).

Ruddy Flat-body Agonopterix subpropinquella, North Elmham, 23rd March

Ruddy Flat-body Agonopterix subpropinquella, North Elmham, 26th March

Lead-coloured Drab, North Elmham, 27th March

Here are the details of what I trapped each night:

  • Last Monday 20th - 2 Common Quaker, 5 Hebrew Characters and a Chestnut.

  • Tuesday 21st - March Moth, 2 Dotted Borders, 2 Common Quakers, 4 Hebrew Characters and 2 Early Greys.

  • Wednesday 22nd - 2 Early Thorns, Oak Beauty, 3 Clouded Drabs, Twin-spotted Quaker, 6 Hebrew Characters and Early Grey.

  • Thursday 23rd - Ruddy Flat-body Agonopterix subpropinquella, Common Quaker, 10 Hebrew Characters and Early Grey.  Also a Varied Carpet Beetle in the house.

  • Friday 24th - Oak Beauty, Dotted Border, Small Quaker, Common Quaker, 4 Clouded Drabs, 2 Hebrew Characters and Early Grey.  Also a Badger along the B1145 not far from Worthing.

  • Saturday 25th - 6 March Moths, Brindled Pug (new for the year here), 5 Small Quakers, Common Quaker, Clouded Drab and 11 Hebrew Characters.  Also 8 Brimstone butteflies seen at 7 sites during the day and, at Alderford Common, I identified the sawfly Ametastegia glabrata for the first time and had flight-only views of my first Bee Fly of the year (presumably Dark-edged Bee Fly but I didn't confirm).

Agonopterix subpropinquella, Alderford Common, 25th March

  • Sunday 26th - Ruddy Flat-body Agonopterix subpropinquella, March Moth, Oak Beauty, 7 Small Quakers, 4 Common Quakers, Clouded Drab, 10 Hebrew Characters and 4 Early Greys.  Also a Red Fox on the local patch.

  • Monday 27th - Early Thorn, Oak Beauty, Small Quaker, Lead-coloured Drab, 3 Common Quakers, 4 Clouded Drabs, Twin-spotted Quaker and 8 Hebrew Characters.

  • Tuesday 28th - Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana, Common Plume Emmelina monodactyla, 2 Early Thorns, Oak Beauty, 2 Small Quakers, 2 Common Quakers, 2 Clouded Drabs, Twin-spotted Quaker, 2 Hebrew Characters and Early Grey. Also the ichneumid wasp Ophion scutellaris, the first time I have identified this species.

Ophion scutellaris, North Elmham, 28th March

  • Wednesday 29th - 3 Common Flat-bodies Agonopterix heracliana, Dotted Border, 2 Small Quakers, 5 Common Quakers, 2 Clouded Drabs, 2 Twin-spotted Quakers, 3 Hebrew Characters and 3 Early Greys.  Also Common Earwig new for the year as were 3 Black Sexton Beetles.

Black Sexton Beetle, North Elmham, 29th March

Yesterday at Burnham Overy I saw my first Buff-tailed Bumblebee of the year.

 Buff-tailed Bumblebee, Burnham Overy, 30th March

In the evening I didn't have time to go far and set up moth-trapping properly (except in the garden of course) which is a shame as it was a good night.  I did have just enough time to wander round a couple of local sites with Dave looking for moths in torchlight.  It was pretty unsuccessful really - Shoulder Stripe at Creaking Gate Lake and March Tubic Diurnea fagella at Honeypot Wood, plus a few moths that we failed to catch and identify.  Lacewings were in evidence, all those that were identified being Chrysoperla carnea.

Chrysoperla carnea (male), Honeypot Wood, 30th March

The one thing that made the effort worthwhile was a new beetle species for me, Dromius quadrimaculatus.

Dromius quadrimaculatus, Bittering, 30th March

After that inauspicious start to the evening I was very pleased with the contents of my moth trap this morning... but I'll save that for another post.

Dave brought me a couple of moths that Andrew Duff had collected from Woodbastwick on 27th March.  One which he thought I'd be particularly interested in was an Agonopterix sp.  Its pattern resembled Agonopterix heracliana but could also be ciliella but the overall colour was extraordinary - strong pinkish tones especially along the sides of the forewings.  Agonopterix heracliana can show a few pink scales but I have never seen anything remotely close to this before. Anyway, I did the business and it proved to be a female Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana.  So not an unusual species but definitely an unusual appearance.

Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana (female, gen det), collected Woodbastwick by Andrew Duff, 27th March

Scarce Alder Slender Caloptilia falconipennella (female, gen det), collected Woodbastwick by Andrew Duff, 27th March

Monday, 20 March 2017

Thompson Water moths & inverts

On Saturday night the forecast looked interesting for moths - mild and cloudy but with the likelihood of a little light rain later on.  Dave and I headed down to Thompson Water, thinking that if the rain came to pass we would just use our headtorches, but if it remained dry the traps were in the car.  As it turned out the rain started before we'd left home, much more than the forecast had suggested, and it didn't let up when we arrived.  We decided to press on anyway, with headtorches of course, and quickly found a couple of Water Carpets, followed by 2 Hebrew Characters.  A wander through the woodland towards Thompson Common produced no less than 34 March Tubics Diurnea fagella and we eventually added 3 Engrailed and best of all, a Mottled Grey.  There were lots of Common Toads enjoying the puddles - I counted 33 but I'm sure I wouldn't have had to try very hard to reach a much higher number.

Mottled Grey, Thompson Water, 18th March

At home Early Thorn and, at long last, Common Quaker were added to the garden year list.

Early Thorn, North Elmham, 18th March

Common Quaker, North Elmham, 18th March

Other moths at home were Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana, Shoulder Stripe, Oak Beauty, 2 Dotted Borders, 3 Small Quakers, 3 Clouded Drabs and 4 Hebrew Characters.

On Sunday night the forecast was similar - mild and cloudy - except this time no rain was forecast.  We decided to try Thompson Water again, this time hopefully being able to put the traps out.  Ominously, and contrary to the forecast, it was raining as we headed there again and still raining when we arrived, albeit much lighter than yesterday - just a light drizzle really.  We put Dave's battery-operated trap up somewhere sheltered and then decided that the drizzle had become so light now that we would risk the others too.

We found another 7 Mottled Greys, some of which were quite worn and we pondered for a while whether they really were Mottled Greys or Early Tooth-striped.  Eventually we settled on the former but then I found one which I really wasn't convinced by - surely this one was an Early Tooth-striped?  I retained it to check and was later able to confirm that it was indeed a female Early Tooth-striped.

Early Tooth-striped, Thompson Water, 19th March

Other moths were about 20 March Tubics Diurnea fagella, 6 Winter Shades Tortricodes alternella, 4 March Moths, 4 Water Carpets, 4 Brindled Pugs, Early Thorn, 8 Oak Beauties, 4 Engraileds, Red Chestnut, 7 Common Quakers, 2 Clouded Drabs, 2 Hebrew Characters and 2 Chestnuts.

Red Chestnut, Thompson Water, 19th March

Three beetles all proved to be species I hadn't identified before: Mud-dweller Ilybius ater, Nebria brevicollis and Silpha atrata.  Actually I had seen the Silpha before but without access to decent reference material I had misidentified it as a different Silpha species.

Mud-dweller Ilybius ater, Thompson Water, 19th March

Nebria brevicollis, Thompson Water, 19th March

Silpha atrata, Thompson Water, 19th March

When I retained a smaller creature I thought it might be a rove beetle, having a long flexible abdomen apparently not covered by elytra.  But under the lens it didn't look like a beetle at all, lacking any elytra but being covered in long hairs.  A really strange thing that I couldn't even identify to order at first.  Springtails (Collembola) came to mind but I dismissed that thought as at about 4mm long it was several times bigger than springtails I'd seen before, but when I looked at it under the microscope and saw its furcula (tail-like appendages folded beneath the body that are used for jumping) I realised it was a springtail after all.  Turns out it was Orchesella villosa - sometimes called Hairy Springtail but I don't think that name is always reserved for this species as opposed to others in the family.  According to the maps at NBN Gateway there aren't any records in Norfolk, but I suspect that has more to do with the lack of Collembola records in their database than it being remotely unusual.

Orchesella villosa, Thompson Water, 19th March

Other things of note included Birch Catkin Bug Kleidocerys resedae, Common Shiny Woodlouse Oniscus asellus and some White-legged Snake Millipedes Tachypodoiulus niger.

Birch Catkin Bug Kleidocerys resedae, Thompson Water, 19th March

Common Toads were not in such evidence as on Saturday but a few could still be found in the puddles.

Common Toads, Thompson Water, 19th March

At home 2 Twin-spotted Quakers were new for the garden year list.  There were also March Tubic Diurnea fagella, Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana, Common Plume Emmelina monodactyla, Early Thorn, 2 Common Quakers, 2 Clouded Drabs, 5 Hebrew Characters, Early Grey and Chestnut.

Twin-spotted Quaker, North Elmham, 19th March

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Two Tubics

I found this lovely Sulphur Tubic Esperia sulphurella in my dining room on Wednesday - my first this year.

Sulphur Tubic Esperia sulphurella, North Elmham, 15th March

That night another new 'Tubic' for the year turned up, a March Tubic Diurnea fagella.

March Tubic Diurnea fagella, North Elmham, 15th March

There was also Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana, March Moth, 2 Clouded Drabs, 3 Hebrew Characters and Early Grey.

On Thursday night there were 3 Small Quakers, my first here this year. Also March Tubic Diurnea fagella, 2 March Moths, Clouded Drab and 4 Hebrew Characters.

Small Quaker, North Elmham, 16th March

Last night's moths were March Tubic Diurnea fagella, Dotted Border, Small Quaker, 2 Clouded Drabs and 4 Hebrew Characters. There was also the ichneumon Ophion obscuratus.

That flea beetle I mentioned I'd caught in the Brecks last Saturday but hadn't identified it when I posted about that trip... well eventually I did tentatively identify it.  The result was quite interesting though, perhaps a bit too interesting for my first example of this group of beetles, so I got in touch with Martin Collier, county recorder for beetles, for confirmation.  He had doubts about my ID and after getting a second opinion from Steve Lane who is an expert in the genus, confirmed that it was in fact a much more expected species, Longitarsus melanocephalus.  Thanks to both Martin and Steve.  A new one for me, even if not as unusual as what I first keyed it out as.

Longitarsus melanocephalus, Norfolk Brecks, 11th March

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Harvest Mouse in the garden!

After the excitement in the Brecks on Saturday I managed 18 moths of 8 species at home, easily the best night this year so far.  Among them were 4 new for the year here including a Lead-coloured Drab (and a Clouded Drab for comparison), Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla and Early Grey.

The Lead-coloured Drab looked quite reddish-brown at some angles and as such I nearly overlooked it as a Clouded Drab. The rounded wing apex should have given it away but it was only when I noticed its very feathered antennae that the penny dropped.

Lead-coloured Drab, North Elmham, 11th March

Clouded Drab, North Elmham, 11th March

Lead-coloured Drab (left) and Clouded Drab (right), North Elmham, 11th March

Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla, North Elmham, 11th March

Early Grey, North Elmham, 11th March

The other moths were 2 Common Flat-bodies Agonopterix heracliana, 4 Dotted Borders, 6 Hebrew Characters and 2 Chestnuts.

Also that night was a Pea-leaf Weevil Sitona lineatus, my first at home.

Pea-leaf Weevil Sitona lineatus, North Elmham, 11th March

On Sunday afternoon I was looking out of the kitchen window when a movement caught my eye.  It was a mouse, but not just any old mouse, it was a lovely yellowish-buff colour and it was tiny!  Fortunately my camera wasn't far away and I hastily ran off some shots before it scuppered.  The colour prompted thoughts of Harvest Mouse, a species which I never expected to bump into in my garden, but I wasn't sure if the tail was long enough.  The only mouse I've seen here before was Wood Mouse and it clearly wasn't like previous examples of that, being smaller, a different colour, and having nice clearly demarcated border between the yellowish fur on the upperside and the clean white fur beneath.  Some features fitted Yellow-necked Mouse but that's supposed to be even bigger than Wood Mouse and as far as I can tell it's too early in the year for a young one.  Harvest Mouse is supposed to have smaller ears than Wood and Yellow-necked Mice and at first I wondered if they were small enough, but after looking at some photos of all three species (and House Mouse) I decided it had to be Harvest Mouse, my first ever in the wild.  I hadn't been expecting a mammalian lifer in my garden - what a fabulous surprise!

Harvest Mouse, North Elmham, 12th March

In the evening I decided to give Beetley Common by headtorch a go.  It was disappointing for moths with just 2 Water Carpets and a Rusty Oak Button Acleris ferrugana, but it wasn't a complete waste of time.

Rusty Oak Button Acleris ferrugana (male, gen det), Beetley Common, 12th March

Water Carpet, Beetley Common, 12th March

I checked one woodlouse that I thought might be different (from the usual Common Rough Woodlice) and indeed this time it was, Common Striped Woodlouse Philoscia muscorum.

Common Striped Woodlouse Philoscia muscorum, Beetley Common, 12th March

The only two beetles I found by searching tree trunks both proved to be Olibrus corticalis, a new species for me.  I picked one of them up with some moss and an even tinier beetle fell out of the moss.  At first I didn't think I was going to get an ID as I struggled to key it out to family even but eventually I sorted it - it was another new one for me, Cortinicara gibbosa.

Olibrus corticalis, Beetley Common, 12th March

Cortinicara gibbosa, Beetley Common, 12th March

Also my first Lacewing of the year, presumably Chrysoperla carnea but as it was female I can't elminate the highly unlikely pallida.

The trap at home produced 14 moths of 7 species, so not quite as good as Saturday night.  Among them was my first Maple Slender Caloptilia semifascia of the year.

Maple Slender Caloptilia semifascia, North Elmham, 12th March

The others were Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana, March Moth, Shoulder Stripe, 4 Dotted Borders, 5 Hebrew Characters and Chestnut.

Monday's trap produced 3 Common Flat-bodies Agonopterix heracliana, March Moth, Shoulder Stripe, Oak Beauty, 4 Dotted Borders, Clouded Drab and 4 Hebrew Characters.

My first Peacock butterfly of the year was at Burnham Overy yesterday morning.

Last night there wasn't so much (or else it flew off or got eaten by the birds before I got to it - I was a little after first light this morning) - March Moth, 2 Shoulder Stripes, 2 Dotted Borders and 5 Hebrew Characters.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Barred Tooth-striped

On Saturday evening Dave and I headed to the Brecks for our first proper moth-trapping session.  One moth we hoped to see, but didn't really expect to see, was Barred Tooth-striped.  They mainly occur in southern chalk downs with isolated populations in Cumbria and the Norfolk/Suffolk Brecks.  A "Nationally Scarce A" species the sites where it has been recorded in Norfolk are kept confidential, so Dave and I didn't have much clue as to where to look for it.

We set up and quickly attracted the first of 9 Yellow Horneds to the sheet.

Yellow Horned, Norfolk Brecks, 11th March

They were nice, but otherwise it was pretty slow to start with.  We notched up a couple of Chestnuts and 3 Common Quakers along with 2 Common Flat-bodies Agonopterix heracliana.  I went for a walk with the headtorch which failed to add any moths but I did find a Common Pill Woodlouse Armadillidium vulgare.  I've seen Pill Woodlice before, and in all likelihood they were this species, but this is the first one I've seen since owning the key so being able to positively identify it to species level.

Common Pill Woodlouse Armadillidium vulgare, Norfolk Brecks, 11th March

We added Winter Shades Tortricodes alternella and more surprisingly, a Diamond-back Moth Plutella xylostella.  The latter is a migrant species and with the southerly airflow coming up from Africa I guess this one was fresh in - quite a few migrant moths have been recorded in the SW of England but not so many this far up and east.

Diamond-back Moth Plutella xylostella, Norfolk Brecks, 11th March

Winter Shades Tortricodes alternella, Norfolk Brecks, 11th March

This Twin-spotted Quaker was one of those where the twin spots are reddish not black...

Twin-spotted Quaker, Norfolk Brecks, 11th March

If I've remembered the order correctly the first geometer to arrive at the sheet was one of 2 Engraileds.  The next one settled on the sheet quickly where its identity was immediately obvious, and excitement levels for the evening suddenly went up a few notches - it was a Barred Tooth-striped!  I'm not honestly quite sure why site details for this species are kept confidential - I understand there's a risk of collectors taking too many when there's a rare and beautiful species involved, but nationally this one occurs in a few areas and although we thought it was pretty impressive it's not like a Bedstraw Hawkmoth or something like that!  Still, I'm happy to go along with the established practice of not naming the site, which is why all the photos on this page don't have full location details in their captions.

Barred Tooth-striped, Norfolk Brecks, 11th March

One of the next moths turned out to be the first of 5 Mottled Greys.  This is quite a thinly-distributed species in Norfolk, though seems to be a bit commoner in the Brecks.  These were not quite new for me as I'd seen one in Scotland, but new for me in Norfolk.

Mottled Greys, Norfolk Brecks, 11th March

We were then joined by Keith - nice to meet him at last.  We also picked up Tufted Button Acleris cristana, Water Carpet, 2 Small Quakers and Clouded Drab.

Tufted Button Acleris cristana, Norfolk Brecks, 11th March

Water Carpet, Norfolk Brecks, 11th March

A couple of quite splendid ground beetles showed differening colours and at first we thought we could make out differences in the way the elytra (wing cases) were sculpted so suspected we might have two different species.  On closer examination later I believe both were in fact Violet Ground Beetles Carabis violaceus.

Violet Ground Beetles Carabis violaceus, Norfolk Brecks, 11th March

There was another much tinier beetle which I am struggling to resolve at the moment.  It appears to be one of the Flea Beetles but I need to do some more work on it before I can fully identify it. I'll report back on it if I manage an ID...