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.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Heliozela sericella

My first Cinnabar of the year was at Burnham Overy on Thursday, closely followed by one at home that night.

Cinnabar, Burnham Overy, 20th April

There were also some Brown-tail caterpillars though I didn't notice if the sea buckthorn clump was infested with them like it is most years - I think I would have noticed if there had been as many as there often are.

Brown-tail larvae, Burnham Overy, 20th April

I caught a Hazel Slender Parornix devoniella in the garden on Friday afternoon, my first this year, and another new moth for the year was on the trap when I went out to look in the evening, Oak-tree Pug.  Other moths that night were Shoulder Stripe, Brindled Pug, 2 Brindled Beauties, Cinnabar and 9 Hebrew Characters. Also another Ophion obscuratus.

Hazel Slender (female, gen det), North Elmham, 21st April

Oak-tree Pug (male, gen det), North Elmham, 21st April

I had a good morning's birding in the Broads on Saturday which included my first Large White butterfly of the year and Green Tiger Beetles, along with what I think was my first Early Wintercress (aka Middle-flowered Wintercress).  After this I headed back to my local patches pausing for a bit at Honeypot Wood on the way.  There was a sunny sheltered edge that was heaving with insect-life.  There were tonnes of hoverflies, the majority of which I'm afraid I ignored (there's a limit to how many different insects I can take home to identify!), although I did manage to identify Leucozona lucorum from a photo.  I also ignored the bees and most of the flies, though among the latter were lots (easily 20) of Dark-edged Bee-flies.   Butterflies included Orange-tips, Peacock, Red Admiral and Speckled Wood.

It was along here that I found numerous tiny moths flying around which I did not recognise.  They recalled Feathered Bright Incurvaria masculella in their pattern, but in case there was any doubt that these were much smaller I accidentally netted a male Incurvaria maculella while I was trying to catch one of the smaller moths - it dwarfed them.  They were also consistently paler grey and I new they had to be something different.  A quick text to Dave came back with the suggestion of Heliozela, a genus in an entire family that has somehow escaped my attention thus far despite not being especially unusual (though the majority of records are mines not adults).  He was bang on the money: they proved to be Oak Satin Lifts Heliozela sericiella - at least 20 of them.  Their restless habits and shiny scales made them a nightmare to photograph - here are my best efforts.

Oak Satin Lifts Heliozela sericella (males, gen det), Honeypot Wood, 22nd April

I thought this Phyllonorycter might be kleemanella as the third dorsal and costal strigilae didn't meet but its genitalia rule that out - thus it must be another Red Hazel midget Phyllonorycter nicellii.

Red Hazel Midget Phyllonorycter nicellii (male, gen det), Honeypot Wood, 22nd April

Other moths there included Plain Gold Micropterix calthella, Large Long-horn Nematopogon swammerdamella and Common Nettle-tap Anthophila fabriciana.

Some beetles on Dandelions eventually proved to be Byturus ochraceus, a species I had not identified before although the resources I used to identify them allowed me to confirm an individual I had previously photographed and left at Byturus sp.

Byturus ochraceus, Honeypot Wood, 22nd April

Another beetle was a lifer, the weevil Barynotus moerens.  There were also two Pollen Beetles Meligethes sp. but I was unable to get a positive ID to species level on these two (they were most likely aeneus but I wasn't convinced they were both the same species).

Barynotus moerens, Honeypot Wood, 22nd April

I did retain one fly that I thought might be distinctive enough to identify with my limited resources, but alas it is not so, at least not with confidence.  At first I thought it was going to be one of the Chlorops species but in the end I think it was probably the Yellow Swarming Fly Thaumatomyia notata.  Any correction/confirmation would be welcome.

possible Thaumatomyia notata, Honeypot Wood, 22nd April

Now joined by Dave we headed to the patch where one site produced Hawthorn Slender Parornix anglicella, 2 White-bodied Midgets Phyllonorycter joannisi, 100 Horse Chestnut Leaf-miners Cameraria ohridella and Least Black Arches.  I recorded joannisi on Norway Maple trunks here in the excellent Phyllonorycter year of 2014 but hadn't been able to find them since so good to know this attractive and relatively scarce species is still around.  Although the large numbers of Horse Chestnut Leaf-miners were not themselves of much interest, perhaps the ease with which they were found on tree trunks may indicate it will be another reasonably good year for finding leaf-miner adults?  Let's hope so...

White-bodied Midget Phyllonorycter joannisi, Bittering, 22nd April

We found quite a few Whiteflies (Aleyrodidae) here too, though I have no idea how to identify them to species level.

Not much variety in the moth trap that night - 2 Muslin Moths and 19 Hebrew Characters.  Also another Ophion obscuratus (ichneumon wasp).

Next day I found a Small Purple and Gold (aka Mint Moth) Pyrausta aurata on the patio doors, my first this year.

Small Purple and Gold Pyrausta aurata, North Elmham, 23rd April

There were more moths in the trap that night than I expected given the cool temperatures: 3 Brindled Beauties, Lesser Swallow Prominent, 2 Muslin Moths, 12 Hebrew Characters and another Mullein. The Prominent was new for the year.

Lesser Swallow Prominent, North Elmham, 23rd April

With Arctic conditions now pushing firmly into the county I wasn't surprised to find just 1 Muslin Moth and 5 Hebrew Characters (and 2 Common Earwigs) in the trap last night.

I found this Tawny Mining Bee in the garden today - technically a new species for me though I'm sure I've seen them in the past before I was keeping records of such things.

Tawny Mining Bee Andrena fulva, North Elmham, 25th April

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A visit from an Emperor

On Tuesday 11th Slender Groundhopper, Orange-tip butterfly and Common Green Shieldbug were all found in the garden during the day, all new for the year here.

Slender Groundhopper, North Elmham, 11th April

Common Green Shieldbug, North Elmham, 11th April

A Red Fox crossed the road in front of me in Hellesdon in the evening but there were very few moths in the trap overnight: Common Plume Emmelina monodactyla, Muslin Moth and 3 Hebrew Characters.

The Norfolk Moth Survey spring meeting took place on the evening of Wednesday 12th and Matthew Casey found this Garden Cosmet Mompha subbistrigella in the building.  At home there was just Muslin Moth and 5 Hebrew Characters, along with Black Sexton Beetle and the ichneumon wasp Ophion obscuratus.

Garden Cosmet Mompha subbistrigella, Mangreen Hall, 12th April

While eating lunch in the garden on Thursday 13th I saw a small moth flying and hand-caught it - turned out to be a Red Hazel Midget Phyllonorycter nicellii - my first ever!

Red Hazel Midget Phyllonorycter nicelli (male, gen det), North Elmham, 12th April

I'd bought an Emperor Moth lure at the Norfolk Moth Survey event and tried it out at home.  If I put it in the garden at the recommended height I wasn't going to be around long enough to see if it attracted any moths so instead I placed it by the window of my upstairs study.  I've never seen Emperor here and wasn't sure if they are anywhere close by, and I was placing the lure far too high, so I wasn't really expecting a result.  I glimpsed something flash by a couple of times but wasn't sure what I'd seen then after a bit longer a superb Emperor Moth appeared.  It vanished immediately but it or another soon returned.  I still failed to get a photo but lovely to see and great to get it on the house list.

That evening there were only 4 moths in the moth trap: Little Dwarf Elachista canapennella, 2 Hebrew Characters and Early Grey.  The Elachista was new for the year.  Also a Common Earwig and another Ophion obscuratus.

Little Dwarf Elachista canapennella (male, gen det), North Elmham, 13th April

Butterflies seen at Barton Broad on Good Friday included Orange-tips, Brimstones, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshells.  Also my first Dark-edged Bee-fly for the year.  That evening there was just one moth in the trap, a Hebrew Character, plus a Shoulder Stripe on the outside of the trap.  Saturday night was only slightly better with 5 Hebrew Characters, Early Grey and my first Angle Shades here this year.

Angle Shades, North Elmham, 15th April

On Easter Sunday night Powdered Quaker was new for the night.  Others were Muslin Moth, Common Quaker and 12 Hebrew Characters.

Powdered Quaker, North Elmham, 16th April

Next day Dave pointed out this Ashy Mining Bee at Bittering and I found a new species of hoverfly in the garden, Melanostoma scalare.

Ashy Mining Bee, Bittering, 17th April

Melanostoma scalare, North Elmham, 17th April

The moth trap that night produced just Muslin Moth, 3 Hebrew Characters, Early Grey and this Silpha atrata.

Silpha atrata, North Elmham, 17th April

There wasn't a single moth in the trap on the night of 18th April - unusual to get a nil return this late into the season. Next day a Large Red Dameslfly was taking advantage of the sunshine in the garden, a Stoat was seen at Ryburgh.  The moth trap only contained three species but one of those was a Mullein, new for the year and only my fourth ever.  Also 9 Hebrew Characters, Early Grey, Common Earwig and Black Sexton Beetle.

Mullein, North Elmham, 19th April

As usual there are lots of Early Purple Orchids growing along the roadside verge at Rawhall Wood.

Early Purple Orchid, Rawhall Wood, 19th April

Friday, 21 April 2017

Foulden Common

My first night back after my trip to Cornwall was a poor one for moths with just Yellow-barred Brindle, Early Thorn and 2 Hebrew Characters.  The first of those was a new species for the year.

Yellow-barred Brindle, North Elmham, 8th April

There was also this tiny juvenile Common Earwig and, in the house, another Varied Carpet Beetle.

Common Earwig, North Elmham, 8th April

Sunshine the next day produced Brimstone butterflies at a couple of places and in the evening I headed off to have a look round Foulden Common.  This is a site I've never visited before but have heard it mentioned a few times in the context of mothing.  The exposed parts of the west side of the common were too breezy to be any good but I caught Brown Birch Slender Parornix betulae and Double-striped Pug here, along with the green and brown lacewings Chrysoperla canea and Hemerobius humulinus.

Brown Birch Slender Paronix betulae (male, gen det), Foulden Common, 9th April

Hemerobius humulinus, Foulden Common, 9th April

The eastern side was more sheltered and I netted another Double-striped Pug and an Early Purple Eriocrania semipurpurella.  The latter are quite hard to identify with certainty and although I had probably seen it before I hadn't managed to confirm any of the previous ones, so good to get one I was happy with at last.

Early Purple Eriocrania semipurpurella (female, gen det), Foulden Common, 9th April

Actually "gen det" simplifies it a bit too much - the ID was done through a combination of the hindwing scale width, the size and separaton of the sensoria (basically holes) on the bottom of the abdomen and a tiny little bit of its genitalia.

This leafhopper was a very common species, Empoasca vitis.

Empoasca vitis, Foulden Common, 9th April

As it got dark I decided conditions weren't good enough to bother setting up the MV light but did another quick circuit of the common with a headtorch.  This confirmed my suspicion that conditions were not good as all I added were Water Carpet and Early Thorn.  Oh, and a few click-beetles flying around which all looked the same and the one I retained for checking proved to be Dalopius marginatus.

Dalopius marginatus, Foulden Common, 9th April

Not many moths at home either, although 3 different micros made for a change.  These were Streaked Flat-body Depressaria chaerophylli (new for the year and a species I've only seen twice before) Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana and another new one for the year, Narrow-winged Grey Eudonia angustea.  Macros consisted of Shoulder Stripe, 2 Streamers and 3 Hebrew Characters.

Streaked Flat-body Depressaria chaerophylli (female, gen det), North Elmham, 9th April

Other insects in the trap were a Black Sexton Beetle and a new hoverfly species for me, Platycheirus albimanus.  Most examples of this genus (which I'd never encountered before) are characterised by the modifications on the front tarsi which you can see in the image below (the yellow feet sticking out behind the eyes).

Platycheirus albimanus, North Elmham, 9th April

The following night another Streaked Flat-body Depressaria chaerophylli was the highlight.  Muslin Moth was new for the year and there were also Streamer, Early Thorn, Oak Beauty and 2 Hebrew Characters. A German Wasp was also new for the year.

Streaked Flat-body Depressaria chaerophylli (male, gen det), North Elmham, 10th April

Muslin Moth, North Elmham, 10th April

German Wasp, North Elmham, 10th April

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Cornish mothing

I spent a week in Cornwall at the beginning of this month and hoped to pick up on a few different moths and other inverts.  Well, the weather had other ideas - virtually every night was clear and cold and the ones that were slightly less so were too windy.  I set up the trap in the garden of where we were staying every night but by and large the catches were very similar to what I catch at home on an average night at this time of year.
  • Saturday 1st: 2 March Moths, 5 Water Carpets, Double-striped Pug, 2 Early Thorns, Oak Beauty, 5 Common Quakers, 13 Hebrew Characters and Dark Chestnut;
  • Sunday 2nd: 2 March Moths, Streamer, Water Carpet, Green Carpet, Early Thorn, 2 Dotted Borders, 5 Common Quakers, 2 Twin-spotted Quakers, 12 Hebrew Characters and Angle Shades;
  • Monday 3rd: March Moth, Early Thorn, 3 Common Quakers and 11 Hebrew Characters;
  • Tuesday 4th: Common Plume Emmelina monodactyla, 2 March Moths, Streamer, Early Thorn, Red Chestnut, 3 Common Quakers and 11 Hebrew Characters;
  • Wednesday 5th: 4 March Moths, Brindled Pug, 2 Dotted Borders, Small Quaker, 6 Common Quakers, 5 Hebrew Characters, Pale Pinion, 4 Early Greys and Angle Shades;
  • Thursday 6th: March Moth, Garden Carpet, Dotted Border, 2 Common Quakers and 5 Hebrew Characters;
  • Friday 7th: Narrow-winged Grey Eudonia angustea, Water Carpet, Green Carpet, Early Thorn, Common Quaker, 4 Hebrew Characters and Angle Shades.

Streamer, Cury, 2nd April

So, the moths in the trap were a disappointment, but fortunately there were a few things worth seeing during the week.

Four caddisflies turned up in the moth trap where we were staying, including single Stenophylax sp. on Tuesday and Friday.  I'd never seen either species of Stenophylax before but according to the book Stenophylax permistus flies from April (rarely March) whereas the scarcer S. vibex flies from May, so this being early April I imagined both would be permistus.  Well both were males and the genitalia of Tuesday's confirmed Stenophylax permistus, but the genitalia of Friday's looked different - the apex of the claspers were clearly separate from segment 9 - which indicated Stenophylex vibex.  There are images of the genitalia for both species on the German website and comparing both insects to the lateral and dorsal views of each species seemed to confirm my identifications for both insects.  Furthermore it is reported that unlike permistus, vibex shows a second distinct pale area on the wing (although this may not be a reliable feature) - and my apparent vibex did indeed show two clear pale areas on the wing, whereas the permistus didn't.  So I assume I had one of each, and that either the vibex was exceptionally early or else the flight times given in the book aren't reliable for southern Cornwall.

Stenophylex permistus (male), Cury, 4th April

apparent Stenophylex vibex (male), Cury, 7th April

The other two caddisflies caught in the trap where we were staying were both Limnephilus auricula on Friday.  This is probably the commonest species I get at home, though I've not had any caddis yet this year at home.

Limnephilus auricula (male), Cury, 7th April

Elsewhere I spent a bit of time most mornings looking for seabirds off Lizard Point and also saw 4 Common Dolphins on Wednesday and at least one Harbour Porpoise on Friday.

I picked up a few interesting insects out and about including my first Green-veined White, Red Admiral, Comma and Sepckled Woods of the year and 5 Double-striped Pugs flying at dusk on Goonhilly Downs

Comma, Heligan, 5th April

A load of bees attending holes in a bank at the Lost Gardens of Heligan were, I think, Ashy Mining Bees, the first time I've identified this species.

Ashy Mining Bees Andrena cineraria, Heligan, 5th April

A Painted Lady at Dodmans Point was my earliest ever in the UK - by quite a long way.

Painted Lady, Dodman Point, 5th April

Also at Dodman Point I found this beetle, my first identified example of Opatrum sabulosum.

Opatrum sabulosum, Dodman Point, 5th April

Goonhilly Downs in the sunshine on Thursday produced Narrow-winged Pug.

Narrow-winged Pug, Goonhilly Downs, 6th April

Goonhilly Earth Station, 6th April

Nearby I netted 3 Heather Tortrixes Argyrotaenia ljungiana and my first new moth of the trip, Ling Tubic Amphisbatis incongruella.  The latter as been recorded recently from Dersingham Bog in Norfolk and had I stayed at home I'd have probably been looking for it there this week.

Ling Tubic Amphisbatis incongruella (male, gen det), Croft Pascoe, 6th April

 Heather Tortrix Argyrotaenia ljungiana, Croft Pascoe, 6th April

In the evening I had a look round Lizard Point, finding this Green Tiger Beetle at Caerthillian.

Green Tiger Beetle, Caerthillian, 6th April

A number of Moth Flies (Psychodidae) were near the point and I retained one in order to attempt to identify it.  Not tried these before and am by no means confident about the result, but I think its Psychoda surcoufi.

Psychoda surcoufi, Lizard Point, 6th April

I caught one of 2-3 moths seen along the clifftop footpath by the lighthouse and it was evidently an Agonopterix sp.  It was pretty worn so its identity was not immediately obvious, although had I been in the know the round wing tip should have clinched it even without being able to see the markings.  As it was I resorted to checking it under the microscope...  it proved to be a species not recorded in Norfolk so not one I had on my radar - Rolling Carrot Flat-body Agonopterix rotunda.

Rolling Carrot Flat-body Agonopterix rotunda (male, gen det), Lizard Point, 6th April

There was also a Green Carpet as it got dark and then I headed off inland a bit.  The forecast had promised cloud but this hadn't materialised and temperatures were dropping.  Even so it looked as good as any other night so I had a quick look at a couple of sites with my headtorch - if that proved good I would set up properly somewhere.  A Water Carpet at Brays Cot was followed by 3 Water Carpets, Narrow-winged Pug and Early Thorn at Gwendraeth Valley and an Early Thorn at Croft Pascoe.  But as any hint of cloud disappeared and the temperature fell further any moths became hard to find and it clearly wasn't going to be worth setting up the MV light.

My first dragonfly of the year was this Large Red Damselfly along the path from Kynance to Lizard next morning.  Sadly I failed to find any of the Vagrant Emperors that had been seen on the peninsula.

Large Red Damselfly, between Kynance and Lizard, 7th April

In the evening I returned to Lizard Point to see if there were any more moths flying in the evening sunshine.  I found another moth new to me, although this one should be reasonably easy to find in Norfolk with a bit of effort in suitable habitat: Coastal Flat-body Agonopterix yeatiana.

Coastal Flat-body Agonopterix yeatiana (female, gen det), Lizard Point, 7th April

An Elachista looked interesting and eventually proved to be another non-Norfolk species I'd not seen before: Field Dwarf Elachista consortella.

Field Dwarf Elachista consortella (male, gen det), Lizard Point, 7th April

A walk round Lizard Point looking for migrant birds on my last morning wasn't especially successful for birds but I did spot a caddisfly flying above a stream.  I netted it and checked it at home later and it turned out to be a new species for me: Yellow Spotted Sedge Philopotamus montanus.  This is a common species in the South West, Wales, the North and Scotland but I don't think it occurs anywhere near Norfolk.

Yellow Spotted Sedge Philopotamus montanus (male), Lizard Point, 8th April