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, 23 February 2018

Some new beetles

Antoher relatively good night on 18th February produced 2 new moths for the year: Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana and Rusty Oak Button Acleris ferrugana. There were also March Moth, 2 Dotted Borders, Early Moth, Hebrew Character and 5 Chestnuts.

Rusty Oak Button Acleris ferrugana (male, gen det), North Elmham, 18th February

Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana (male, gen det), North Elmham, 18th February

The following night brought March Moth, 2 Pale Brindled Beauties, Hebrew Character, 4 Chestnuts and a Minotaur Beetle.

Minotaur Beetle, North Elmham, 19th February

There were only 2 moths on 20th but these included my first Satellite of the year (along with a March Moth).

Satellite, North Elmham, 20th February

A tiny beetle in one of the egg-trays turned out to be Bembidion obtusum, a new one for me.

Bembidion obtusum, North Elmham, 20th February

There were no moths in the trap last night but a Dotted Border on one of the windows.

I've also been looking at some more beetles I retained over last summer but couldn't resolve at the time.  This has produced a couple of new (for me) species taken at Warham Greens on 16th June: Amara apricaria and Curtonotus convexiusculus.  The two were rather similar-looking medium-sized ground beetles but one (the Curtonatus) was distinctly larger than the other and there were several differences under the microscope.  The Curtonatus is a coastal species.

Amara apricaria, Warham Greens, 16th June 2017

Curtonatus convexiusculus, Warham Greens, 16th June 2017

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Springtail and spring moths

A few nights with no moths came to an end with a Chestnut on 8th February.  The following day I identified a spider in the house as Amaurobius similis (I'm still working on the assumption that the similar fenestralis wouldn't be indoors but I'm not quite sure I've interpreted that correctly).

Amaurobius similis, North Elmham, 9th February

That night a Winter Moth was my latest ever and first February record.

Winter Moth, North Elmham, 9th February

Also in the trap was a Springtail.  I don't have a key for Springtail species identification but as far as I can tell from googling this one was Orchesella cincta (a very common species).  I think I've seen one before but I can't find any reference to it in my notes so I'm counting it as a first.  Springtails are supposed to be the most abundant creatures just about everywhere, but being tiny and living in the soil most of us are completely unaware of their existence.  They don't normally come to light - on the contrary - but I've seen at least 3 of the larger species when moth trapping now.  I don't recall seeing any actually inside the trap before though and it makes you wonder how it got there - did it jump in, or did it somehow get dropped in?

Orchesella cincta, North Elmham, 9th February

There were 2 Chestnuts the following night, the last moths for a couple of nights.  A 2-spot Ladybird woke up from hibernation in my study on 12th which reminded me I'd not put down any of the Harlequins that were doing likewise yet this year.

There were 2 moths on each of 13th, 14th and 15th: Early Moth and Chestnut, Dotted Border and Chestnut and Early Moth and Chestnut.

Nothing on 16th but the night of 17th February was the best night of the year so far in terms of numbers and variety with 8 moths of 4 species: March Moth, Pale Brindled Beauty, Hebrew Character and 5 Chestnuts. The March Moth was new for the year and the 5 Chestnuts was a record count for here.  Not bad for a frosty night!

March Moth, North Elmham, 17th February

I'm beginning to work through a few beetles I retained earlier last year but couldn't key them out successfully at the time.  Having practised a bit more over the course of last year I think I'm hoping I'll be able to name some of them now.  Certainly it's starting off that way.  The first I've re-examined was a Cabbage Flea Beetle Phyllotreta cruciferae, one of at least 6 similar beetles at Hills and Holes on 7th May and a new species for me.

Cabbage Leaf Beetle Phyllotreta cruciferae, Hills and Holes, 7th May 2017

The second and third were both species I'd identified before without resorting to keys, but for some reaons I'd hit a barrier when I looked at them in the spring.  Both were from 11th May, one a Tabacco-coloured Longhorn Beetle Alosterna tabacicolor from Thursford Wood and the other a Common Grammoptera Grammoptera ruficornis, one of 30 seen at Brancaster.

Tobacco-coloured LonghornBeetle Alosterna tabacicolor, Thursford Wood, 11th May 2017

Common Grammoptera Grammoptera ruficornis, Broad Lane, Brancaster, 11th May 2017

The next one eventually proved to be Luperus longicornis, another new species for me this time from Holt Lowes on 13th June.

Luperus longicornis, Holt Lowes, 13th June 2017

Sunday, 18 February 2018

2018 off the blocks

The year got off to a slow start without any moths until a Mottled Umber on 5th January.  The beetles got off the ground slightly quicker though, with a Minotaur Beetle on 4th January.

Minotaur Beetle, North Elmham, 4th January 2018

I think this spider is a Walnut Orb Weaver Nuctenea umbratica - I understand the marks on the underside of the abdomen are distinctive though I'm still not entirely clear if they're diagnostic.  However unlike the last one I had at home I could see the top side of this one a bit too, and that seems to support the ID of umbratica.

Walnut Orb Weaver Nuctenea umbratica, North Elmham, 6th January

Next up for the moths was an Early Moth on 6th - presumably recently emerged although it already looked like it had been through the wars.

Early Moth, North Elmham, 6th January

After a couple of blank nights there was Winter Moth (and another Mottled Umber) on 9th and Pale Brindled Beauty (and another Winter Moth) on 10th.

Pale Brindled Beauty, North Elmham, 10th January

I'm not sure how unusual it really is but a Common Wasp in my study the next day seemed quite unseasonal to me.

Common Wasp, North Elmham, 11th January

There was another Pale Brindled Beauty that night and an Early Moth the following night.  Then a run of blanks before another Pale Brindled Beauty on 18th.  22nd January was the first night of the year with 3 species of moth: Early Moth, Pale Brindled Beauty and my first Chestnut of the year.

The following night was even better - 4 species and 6 moths: Dotted Border new for the year along with Pale Brindled Beauty, Early Moth and 3 Chestnuts.  It wasn't just moths either - there was a Great Diving Beetle Dytiscus marginalis and my first bug of the year, Tarnished Plant Bug Lygus rugulipennis.

Dotted Border, North Elmham, 23rd January

Great Diving Beetle Dytiscus marginalis, North Elmham, 23rd January

Tarnished Plant Bug Lygus rugulipennis, North Elmham, 23rd January

It eased off again after this with Pale Brindled Beauty and Chestnut on 24th, another Chestnut on 25th and then a nil return. 

My first micro of the year on 27th, a Viburnum Button Acleris schalleriana.  Also Pale Brindled Beauty, Early Moth and 3 Chestnuts.

Viburnum Button Acleris schalleriana (female, gen det), North Elmham, 27th January

A nice surprise the following night was an Oak Beauty, about a week earlier than my previous earliest.  Also Early Moth and 2 Chestnuts.

Oak Beauty, North Elmham, 24th January

There were more Early Moths on 31st January and 2nd February and 3rd February, and on the 2nd also a Hebrew Character, a real surprise as it's more than 3 weeks earlier than my previous earliest record.

Hebrew Character, North Elmham, 2nd February

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Southern Bell, the last new moth of the year

My last night moth-trapping before I went away for the first 3 weeks or so of November proved to be a good finale to the season.  The main highlight was a tortrix that I didn't immediately recognise.  It soon proved to be a Southern Bell Crocidosema plebejana, a relatively new arrival to Britain that has only been recorded in Norfolk about 5 times previously.  A lifer for me and my last new moth at home this year (bringing my garden moth list up to 786).

Southern Bell  Crocidosema plebejana (female, gen det), North Elmham, 31st October

I would miss the main flight period for December Moth (which, despite its name, is November) so it was good to get my first for the year in just before I went away.

December Moth, North Elmham, 31st October

I resumed trapping at home after an excellent trip to Oman on 21st November, catching a single Sprawler.  No moths the next night but a caddisfly: Limnephilus lunatus.  The following night there were 3 moths: a December Moth, a November Moth agg. and a Sprawler.  That was it until 2nd December when this Winter Moth turned up.

Winter Moth, North Elmham, 2nd December

Over the next few days there were 2 December Moths and 3 Winter Moths on 3rd, December Moth on 4th, 2 December Moths, Winter Moth and Mottled Umber on 5th and Mottled Umber on 6th.  Then there was another lull in activity broken only by single Mottled Umbers on 10th and 12th.

The lull ended on the night of 20th December when 3 species of moth and 1 caddisfly appeared, including my first ever December Pale Brindled Beauty.  This species normally appears in January and February but there are quite a few records in December - not here until now though.  The others were 2 Winter Moth, Mottled Umber and Limnephilus lunatus.

Pale Brindled Beauty, North Elmham, 20th December

Next day there was less variety but December Moth, a record count of 5 Mottled Umbers and my second record of Micropterna sequax (caddisfly).

Micropterna sequax (male), North Elmham, 21st December

The following night there was Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana, December Moth, Winter Moth and a Dark Chestnut.

Dark Chestnut, North Elmham, 22nd December

There were no moths the following night but a Minotaur Beetle in the bottom of the trap was my first here this year.

Minotaur Beetle, North Elmham, 23rd December

The year ended with Common Plume Emmelina monodactyla and Chestnut on 30th and a single Chestnut on New Year's Eve.

I ended up with a total of 578 species of moth in my garden in 2017 (291 micros, 287 macros) - quite a long way short of 2016 (when I recorded 627 species), confirming what we all knew, which was that it was quite a poor year.  If you take away the 7 species I only recorded in 2017 by using clearwing lures (which I didn't use in 2016) it was 56 species (9%) down on 2016.

Among the 578 were 66 that were new for the garden.  I only need another 14 needed to bring the garden list up to 800, surely within reach for 2018, before the end of my 4th year here maybe...?  I only had 60 new moths for Norfolk in 2017 - I don't have comparable data for previous years but this must be a long way down on any previous year since I started mothing seriously.  No surprise there of course - the more you see the harder it is to find new species (unless you go twitching moths which I have no plans to start doing).

It was a good year for me personally in getting to grips with other groups though.  In the garden I recorded 8 species of mayfly, 37 bugs (21 heteropteran & 16 homopteran), 2 barklice 15 lacewings, 48 beetles and 39 caddisflies.  Among them were two firsts for Norfolk, both Waxflies (which come under lacewings), Coniopteryx esbenpeterseni and Semidalis pseudouncinata.