Travel Notes

As we travel widely during the summer looking for insects to photograph, Roger Edmondson and I have decided to put a record of our more interesting finds on this website. New entries are not always entered in date order so please check for changes by clicking on 'What's new' on  the home page.

18th July 2015

This evening I went dusking and also sugared some trees in a local wood with a cider and demerara sugar mix. Although not a particularly warm night I still managed to record about twenty species including two newly emerged Old Lady Moma maura at the sugar.

I was home by 11.3O pm, which to me seems quite a productive way of mothing and still getting a good nights sleep.

Old Lady Mormo maura  Copyright Martin Evans

Old Lady Mormo maura

From looking at the moth forums on the internet it is apparent that apart from a few specialist moth recorders looking for leaf miners or other early stages of micro-moths, most people now seem to depend almost entirely on ultra violet moth traps to find their moths.

This is unfortunate as many moths are as easily recorded and sometimes more easily recorded by other methods. Roger and I have recorded many 'good' species this year by searching at dusk (and later) with just a net and a head torch. Amongst these have been Dingy Mocha, Morris's Wainscot and Ruddy Carpet.

Ruddy Carpet Catarhoe rubidata    Copyright Martin Evans

Ruddy Carpet Catarhoe rubidata

Many moths can be found in daylight, as about a third of the Lepidoptera on the British list are either day flying or are easily disturbed in the day, and these not only include the well known species such as the burnet moths, Silver Y, Emperor Moth and Burnet Companion, but also species such as the crimson underwings which have a late afternoon flight around the tree tops, the Broom Moth which flies in the early evening in the north (and has also been recorded nectaring at flowers in hot sunshine), and the Pebble Hook-tip of which Roger and I recorded several, flying up and down a ride in Kent at 7.00 am in the morning.

Sugaring and wine ropes are not used as much as they could be as these methods are probably the easiest way to record moths such as the Gothic, Old Lady, Double Dart, Red Underwing, Light Crimson Underwing, Dark Crimson Underwing and many others.

Other advantages to these recording methods are that you do not have to carry loads of equipment to the mothing site and that they can be used in some urban areas where using a light is impractical or likely to attract unwanted attention.

3rd June 2015

At the end of May, my partner Carolyn and I spent a week in Speyside in the Highlands of Scotland. We stayed in the gardeners cottage at Inshriach Alpine Nursery which is about four miles from Aviemore.

It is an ideal place to stay if you are interested in wildlife as the planted gardens at the nursery attract a variety of wildlife including Red Squirrels, Badgers and a variety of birds.

The other attraction at the site is a cake shop and tea room serving a variety of delicious cakes. The cake shop, known as the Potting Shed, has large picture windows all along one side, where you can sit and watch the birds and Red Squirrels at a multitude of peanut feeders while eating your cake.

There was also a feeder just outside of the window of the cottage in which we stayed. This feeder had either Red Squirrels or Great Spotted Woodpeckers on it for at least 50% of the daylight hours. During the rest of the time it attracted tits and finches including Siskins.

Red Squirrels  Copyright Martin Evans

Red Squirrels at the cottage peanut feeder

We also saw a pair of Roe Deer on most days, feeding in the marsh next to the cottage. From dusk onward and throughout the night, Snipe could be heard displaying, with the wind blowing through their vibrating tail feathers.

Unfortunately we chose a rather cool, wet and windy period for our holiday, and although we did manage to go for some walks and Carolyn did some paintings, the moth trapping was poor. Although it  was cloudy most days, it seemed to clear most nights at dusk so that the temperature dropped.

We took an early evening trip up to Cairngorm Mountain on the 3rd June. We walked from the lower furnicular railway station up to the snow line.

By the station we were rewarded with sightings of about six Ring Ouzel. I have seen them there before, but not that many. This was perhaps due to the time of day, as there was hardly anybody about, because the restuarant and the railway were closed for the day.

We only saw a couple of moths, as there was a fairly strong breeze. One of them was a newly emerged Satyr Pug Eupithecia satyrata. It was probably the most perfect one I had seen there, as they quickly get damaged when they are blown about in the heather.

Satyr Pug  Copyright Martin Evans

Satyr Pug Eupithecia satyrata

This northern moorland form of Satyr Pug is more strongly marked than the moths found in southern England. It feeds on the flowers of Heather, Cross-leaved Heath and many other moorland plants. The moth we found had a forewing length of 10mm.

We heard, then later saw some Red Grouse on the walk, and as we reached the snow line we disturbed two Ptarmigan. One of these flew up into the snow, but the other flew on to the path and then ran under the snow fence.

Carolyn slowly walked up the path and managed to get within ten feet of the bird. She took a series of about twenty pictures through the fence, using the compact camera that she always carries in her pocket. She also made a short video before it finally flew away.

I did not have a camera with me, which proves the saying that "the best camera is the one you have with you".

Ptarmigan  Copyright Carolyn Lamb


Ptarmigan  Copyright Carolyn Lamb

Ptarmigan - alert.

Ptarmigan  Copyright Carolyn Lamb

Ptarmigan - just before it flew off.

Ptarmigan are found above the tree line on mountains. In Scotland in the summer this often means up near the peaks. They can be told from Red Grouse in flight by their white wing tips. In the winter they are white all over, except for the black tail and black eye stripe of the male. They feed on shoots and buds although the young feed on insects.

On the way back down the path we spotted a Dipper in the burn. We also saw a large bird of prey as we got into the car, unfortunately not a Golden Eagle, but a Buzzard. We were not disappointed as we had already seen a bird that evening that a lot of birders would be excited to see at such close proximity.

11th May 2015

Throughout this spring those of you who follow the moth forums will have seen comments about what a poor spring it has been, with people catching very few moths of only two or three species, and that it seems to be a 'late season'.

I would like to propose a theory suggesting that this is inaccurate. Like those on the moth forums I have been getting very few moths in the garden, but I do not think that you can judge the moth season by the numbers that are recorded in a garden trap, unless you happen to live right on the edge of some ancient woodland or similar rich habitat.

Throughout the spring Roger and I have trapped twice a week away from home in ancient woodland, sheltered downland, and scrubby sheltered heathland, and we have recorded much larger amounts of species.

In a wood in Gloucestershire on 11th May we recorded 44 species and the week before on the edge of heathland in Dorset we recorded 31 species. Even back in late March and early April we were getting around 18 to 20 species using two 20w actinic traps. These were turned on for only an average of three hours during an evening.

My theory is that on the cold nights that we have had during this spring, moths do not fly very far, although they have emerged as normal. They just don't fly far enough for people to record them in their gardens.

I will go further in suggesting that the warm day time temperatures during April even pushed the emergence of some moths forward, as we have recorded several species much earlier than their 'normal' flight period.

On 16th April we recorded Shaded Pug in a sheltered downland valley in Dorset. This is a species that should be flying in June and July. We also recorded the first two Flame Shoulder of the year and also an Oak-tree Pug on the same night. These moths normally start there flight period at the beginning of May.

A trip on 11th May searching for Poplar Kitten in a Gloucestershire woodland brought us another surprising early emergence. This was of four specimens of Poplar Lutestring Tethea or, which usually starts its flight period in late May or early June and carries on through July and sometimes early August.

The three subspecies of Poplar Lutestring are found locally throughout Britain and Ireland. The Scottish and Irish subspecies have a shorter flight period from early June until about mid July. The larvae of all the subspecies feed on Aspen and poplars.

Tethea or or is the moth in the picture below found locally throughout southern England and Wales except the west country where it is rare with only one site in Gloucestershire and only a couple in each of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. Its stronghold is towards the south-east. It is also very local in northern England.

Tethea or scotica is often a more greyish moth with darker markings. It is found locally in Scotland including the Hebrides.

Tethea or hibernica is the Irish subspecies which has colour and markings somewhere between the other two subspecies. It is found very locally in the north of Ireland and central Northern Ireland.

Poplar Lutestring   Tethea or or   Copyright Martin Evans

Poplar Lutestring Tethea or or

The only species that is likely to be confused with Poplar Lutestring is the Figure of Eighty which has a similar flight period and the larvae also feed on Aspen and poplars. It is common and has a wide distribution in southern England and Wales although it is local in west Wales and Cornwall. Its distribution thinly stretches to northern-east  England and the eastern borders of southern Scotland. It is also found on the Isle of Man.

The Poplar Lutestring differs from that species in that the white markings do not form a proper '80'. There are usually about four 'lutestring' bars across the base of the wing rather than two, and the outer bar is angled away from the base of the wing rather than towards it.

Figure of Eighty  Tethea ocularis    Copyright Martin Evans

Figure of Eighty Tethea ocularis

11th March 2015

Finally spring appears to have started. At the end of last week a couple of mild evenings meant that several species of  moth were attracted to the ultra violet light in the garden, and at the beginning of this week the frogs spawned in the garden pond.

As moth trapping was now showing results, Roger and I took a trip over to the Wye Valley in South Wales. We were not after any particular moth, but hoped that the ancient woodland there would provide us with a variety of spring species.

We were not disappointed, as although there was a continuous fine drizzle all evening, we managed to attract fourteen species of moth and three shieldbugs to a 125w MV trap and another trap with twin 20w UV compact fluorescents.

The most common visitors to the traps were Common Quaker and Oak Beauty, both with seven specimens present. The other species were mostly single moths of Agonopterix occelana, 2x Acleris ferrugana/ notana, Acleris cristana,  Shoulder Stripe, Brindled Pug, 6x March Moth, Dotted Border, Engrailed, 4x Chestnut, Early Grey, Hebrew Character and Twin-spotted Quaker

The bugs were Birch Shieldbug, Hawthorn Shieldbug and Troilus luridus.

Oak Beauty Biston strataria  Wye Valley

Like its close relative the well known Peppered Moth, the Oak Beauty is a common moth in Britain as far north as southern Scotland. It is also found in many parts of coastal Ireland. It flies from February until April.

The grey-brown, twig-like larva not only feeds on oaks as its name suggests, but also on  other deciduous trees such as Hazel, elm, Aspen and Alder.

The moth in the picture had a forewing length of 22mm.

Troilus luridus  Wye Valley

Although still common, of the three shieldbugs that were caught Troilus luridus is perhaps the least frequently seen. It has a wide distribution in England and Wales as far as northern England. It is also found throughout most of Ireland.

It is a woodland species, where despite the larva being a vegetarian in its early instars, it soon becomes carnivorous on the larvae of moths and beetles.

The Forest Bug Pentatoma rufipes is superficially similar, but lacks the yellow bands on the antennae, has orange not mottled brown legs, and has a pale tip to the triangular scutellum.

The bug in the picture had a total length of 12mm.




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