Sericomya silentis. Arne, Dorset.
In the nearby fields of Arne Farm there was a herd of about
forty Sika Deer. They were very easy to view as they seemed to have little fear
of humans as compared to the Roe Deer that we are more used to seeing.
12th May 2009
We had attempted to light trap in some birch woodland at the
edge of the moor the previous night, but this was unsuccessful as it was 0oC
at 10pm when it started to get dark. As it was so late we decided to set up camp
where we were.
Another cold night. It was again -4oC in the
morning and this time the tents were covered in frost. So while I took
photographs Roger started packing up camp. He then went off to release the moths
we had just photographed while I wiped down the tents as they dried out in the
sun. Roger found the Redstart was still singing at the top of the same tree, so
it was probably nesting there.
When Roger returned we watched a Stoat cross a rabbit
warren in the adjacent field. It dived down several holes, but each time it
reappeared in just a few seconds. A couple of rabbits came up and sat by there
burrows, but the Stoat ignored them and crossed the field, finally disappearing
into some scrub.
We then decided to have a look on Cairngorm for the
Broad-bordered White Underwing. It was early in its flight period, but we would
not be back again until it was over, so we thought it worth a try.
This rare moth is only found above 650 metres, which happens
to be the height just above the base station of the Furnicular Railway. As there
is a road up to this point this was an ideal place to start.
We walked vague tracks through the areas of its
foodplants Bearberry and Crowberry rather than the more obvious trails, but did
not find the moth. In a few hours we were in sight of the Grouse Station, which
is the upper station for the railway. We decide to carry on despite the fact
that we were not seeing any moths. Just above the station we saw two Ptarmigan
still partly in their white winter plumage.
When we reached the summit we came across some birders who
were watching a couple of Snow Buntings. We then walked across to the
weather station where we saw a beautiful female Dotterel. Roger went back
to tell the birders so that they could see it.
Red Squirrel. Inshriach, Highlands.
Later we visited another area of moorland to the north of
Aviemore. Here we found all of the moth species we had seen the day before, plus
many others. Roger searched along the fence posts for Small Dark Yellow
Underwing and found several Glaucous Shears, including a
melanistic specimen. As on the moor the previous day, Incurvaria pectinea
were abundant on almost every mature birch that we looked at. We also saw a
couple of Emperor Moth, a Broom-tip, about twelve Beautiful Yellow Underwing
and after a days searching; two Small Dark Yellow Underwing. Green
Hairstreak were common and we also recorded a single Painted Lady.
At the edge of the moor was a small mixed woodland. On the
edge of a clearing a male Redstart was singing. Further into the conifers
Roger spotted a Crested Tit. We looked for more but only saw the one.
Glaucous Shears Papestra biren was a
species that was new to us. This is a moorland species that is rare in the
south-west of England where we live. It does have a wide distribution, and can
be locally common in Wales, the Midlands, northern England, Scotland and
Ireland. In the day it is most usually found resting on fence posts and rocks,
although it can be caught using a light trap.
The larvae feed on a variety of moorland plants including
Heather, Bilberry, Bog Myrtle and Sallow.
Glaucous Shears. Speyside.
species that was new to us was the Broom-tip
Chesias rufata. Again this is a very rare species where Roger and
I live as its larvae feed on Broom which grows in acid areas, not the neutral to
calcareous soils of most of the Bristol area. This moth is found in southern
England, but mainly in the central south and south-east, although there are
scattered sites further west, and in Wales and northern England. It may be more
common on the moorland in Scotland. The adults can be found from April until
10th May 2009
After setting out too early in the morning, Roger and I
arrived at Newtonmoore in the Highlands at about 3.00pm. We had seen that the
weather forecast was sunny for about four days, so after the previous year of
cancelling our Scottish trips due to rain, we had decided to go whenever we got
Within the first 200 metres of walking across the moor
we had already seen about the same amount of insects, including Common Heath,
Netted Mountain Moth, a single Glaucous Shears and a variety of micro-moths. One of the most
striking micro's that we found was Olethreutes mygindiana. This
species is common on both of the moors that we visited during this trip. Its
larvae feed on Bearberry and Cowberry.
Olethreutes mygindiana normally flies from mid May to
early June. It is found on moors and heaths in hill and mountain districts in
northern England, north Wales and Scotland. It is also found in parts of Ireland
including the Burren. It is easily disturbed if you walk through the heather, and
the males fly in the late afternoon on warm sunny days.
Despite visiting Speyside at the same time in 2008. This was
a new moth to us southerners. The season in 2009 seems to be nearly a fortnight
ahead of last year. Most of the Olethreutes mygindiana that we found were
already quite worn, with the red remaining only at the distal edge of the wings
and along the costa. This is a common problem with moorland species, after
flying amongst the heather for a few days they lose a lot of their scales.
Olethreutes mygindiana Speyside
3rd May 2009
My partner Carolyn and I took a trip over the Severn Bridge
to visit the Forest of Dean. The east end of the forest near Blakeney has
literally miles of Bluebell woods. The Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta
is a Biodiversity Action Plan species, not because of its rarity, but
because up to 50% of the worlds Bluebells are in Britain. Under the Wildlife and
Countryside 1981 it is illegal to intentionally uproot a wild plant or offer
them for sale.
Bluebell Wood. Near Blakeney, Forest of Dean
29th April 2009
Roger and I visited a woodland to the south-east of
Cirencester in Gloucestershire which turned out to be botanically diverse with
species such as Lily of the Valley, Angular Solomon's-seal and Toothwort, as
well as the more common Primroses, Cowslips and Bluebells.
Another less common species that we found was the Roman
Snail Helix pomatia. This species is the same as the one
eaten as Escargot in France, hence its other names of Edible Snail and Burgundy
Snail. It is known as the Roman Snail in Britain as it is thought to have been
introduced by the Romans when they brought it here as food. This theory is supported by
a lack of specimens in the fossil record previous to the Roman occupation.
The species is large as you can see from its size compared
with the 5p coin in the picture below. It lives in areas of chalk soil across
the south of England. It prefers sites such as woodland where the ground is soft enough for it to bury itself while
hibernating. At this time it seals the opening of its shell with a calcareous
layer called an epiphragm.
In England (not the rest of the UK) it is a protected species
under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, making it illegal to kill, injure,
collect or sell Roman Snails.
Roman Snail. Gloucestershire.
20th April 2009
While travelling down to Shapwick Heath in Somerset, Roger
and I saw a a dark furry body on the road at Shipham in the Mendips. After
walking back to have a look at it, we found it was a male Polecat Mustela
It is always difficult to be sure that the animal you have
found is not a polecat-coloured Ferret, and that is the case with the specimen
at Shipham as it was too badly decayed (it stunk) to take it and have it
confirmed. The main difference between the two is apparently the proportions of
the skull, but there are also other clues; polecats are darker with dark legs,
while Ferrets are paler and sometimes have a pale leg or foot.
are of conservation concern as they were persecuted by land owners until they
became rare and by the early twentieth century were restricted to central Wales.
They were at that time thought of as a pest that fed on domestic species such as
chickens. If they got in with poultry they could easily kill them, but studies
have shown that 87% of their diet is rabbits and the rest is mainly small
The Polecat has now increased its range right across
the Midlands and south at least as far as Somerset. Roger found a road kill in
North Somerset a couple of years ago that was confirmed as a Polecat by the
Vincent Wildlife Trust.
Polecat - male. Shipham, Somerset.
16th April 2009
On Monday morning (13th April) I found a Scarlet Tiger
Callimorpha dominula larva, low down on the rear wall of the house. I
have had the adults come to light on a couple of occasions, but never realised
that they were breeding in the garden. I took it in the house for a photograph
and put a Meadowsweet and a Bramble leaf in the container. The caterpillar was
very lethargic and did not eat, so I thought it was either parasitized or near a
skin change. It turned out to be the latter and it has been feeding on the
Bramble (but not the Meadowsweet) since yesterday.
This species was rare in the Bristol region, but has become
increasingly more common over the last twenty years. The larvae commonly feed on
Comfrey as well as a variety of other herbs. I have
found them at night in the Avon Gorge, feeding on young Wych Elm.
The adults fly in June and July. Although they will come to light, the brightly coloured moths
also fly during the day in sunshine.
Scarlet Tiger - final instar larva. Stoke Bishop,
6th April 2009
While visiting a wood at Bishop's Knoll in Bristol, Roger
found a Land Hopper Arcitalitrus sp. in detritus on the top
of an old wall.
There are two species of these crustaceans known to be at
large in Britain, Arcitalitrus sylvaticus (Haswell, 1879) and Arcitalitrus dorrieni (Hunt, 1925).
Which one this is, is unknown, as searching for information in British books on
these alien species drew a blank. They originate from Australia where they are
also known as Lawn Hoppers.
They look a lot like the marine
Sand Hoppers that you may find hiding under sea weed on the beach, but they are
terrestrial. Most of the references to them on the internet appears to be on
gardening forums, where people are asking what they are, and whether they will
damage their plants.
They feed on dead leaves and other
detritus and are found mainly in the south of Britain, especially in South-west
England and South Wales. Arcitalitrus dorrieni is also widespread in
The females lay up to about 60 or 70 eggs. Juveniles
appear throughout the summer, but especially in August and September.
Land Hopper Arcitalitrus sp. Bishop's Knoll,
3rd April 2009
As the weather was forecasted as clear blue skies with a
slight breeze, Roger and I decided to travel up to Conwy Bay in North
Wales to try and photograph the Belted Beauty Lycia zonaria. There
are two subspecies of this moth in Britain, the rare (Nationally Notable A) atlantica
which is found in the west of Scotland, and the even rarer (RDB3) britannica
which is now known from only three sites in England and one in North Wales.
Unfortunately, although mild (16oC at the site),
there was a thin layer of cloud above us, so that when we saw the sun, it was
The site is not very inspiring. It consists of an eroded
coastal path that has been badly polluted by dog walkers, who seem to think that they only
have to clean up after their pets when they are on a pavement or in the local
The moths are probably breeding in the private land adjacent
to the path, which
consists of low grassland with a variety of clovers, Bird's-foot Trefoil
(thought to be the main food plant at this site), Ribwort Plantain and other
By 4.00pm, after nearly two hours of searching along the
fence we had more or less given up any hope of finding the moth. We discussed
whether we would return to the site in a week or so, or search elsewhere for it.
It was then that the sun came out for a short spell and we
found our first specimen, and then another, and finally a third, giving us a
total of two females and one male.
Belted Beauty - male. Conwy Bay, North Wales
Belted Beauty - female. Conwy Bay, North Wales
21st March 2009
Roger has run a moth trap in his central Bristol garden a
couple of times in the last week, but so far has only had two species - Early
Grey and Hebrew Character.
Perhaps more interesting is the micro-moth he found in his
kitchen this morning, which was the tineid Psychoides filicivora.
This species has a wing length of around 5mm. The larva feeds on the
sporangia on the underside of the leaves of various ferns. It hides under a
spinning of the sporangia. The moth was first discovered in Britain in 1909 and is
thought to have been imported with ferns. They are continuously brooded
throughout the warmer months of the year and fly around the food plant during
Psychoides filicivora Bristol
19th March 2009
After several days of clear skies and warm sunny weather (but
cold nights) we decided that it was time to get out and see what insects were
about. In the early afternoon we visited Shapwick Heath on the Somerset Levels.
We saw many queen Buff-tailed Bumblebees Bombus terrestris and an
occasional Bombus lappidarius and quite a few specimens of the
hoverfly Eristalis pertinax.
None of the birch at Shapwick was in leaf, but we did see
several Orange Underwings Archiearis parthenias. The first were flying around the tops of the
birches (which is their foodplant) about ten to fifteen metres above the ground,
only occasionally flying lower and landing in the tops of birch saplings about
four and a half metres high. Later one was seen flying amongst the birch at
another Shapwick site. This one was only about three metres above the ground. We
have found in the past that they fly lower and even land on the ground during
the later part of the afternoon.
Orange Underwing Shapwick Heath, Somerset
25th February 2009
After a cold spell in early February we were finally getting some spring
weather, so we decided to look for Tortricodes alternella. This is a
common oak feeding species that is under recorded because it flies so early in
the year. It is a small moth with a wing length of about 10mm.
We trapped (using a portable 25W UV light) in Sneyd Park, Bristol. The
temperature was 8oC which was warm enough to prompt a small bat to be
out hunting, probably one of the Pipistrelle species. There was also a
Tawny Owl calling from the surrounding woodland.
We ran the light from only 6pm (dusk) until 7.30pm, and luckily, although we
only caught two moths and a few mosquitoes, the moths were Tortricodes
alternella. These tortrix moths, (also known as the Winter Shade by those
who like English names for their micros), came in at about 6.45pm.
Tortricodes alternella Sneyd Park, Bristol.