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.

19th June 2011

This trip was to the Suffolk breckland to look for Marbled Clover which on this occasion we did not find. Despite this failure it was an enjoyable trip, as many parts of the Brecks were looking beautiful with the Common Poppy Papaver rhoeas and Viper's Bugloss Echium vulgare in flower.

Suffolk breckland flowers    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Suffolk breckland flowers

Viper's Bugloss Echium vulgare    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Viper's Bugloss Echium vulgare

We also saw Stone Curlew at two sites, as well as a Hummingbird Hawk-moth feeding at Viper's Bugloss in two different places.

It was while trying to photograph a Hummingbird Hawk-moth feeding that we suddenly realised that there were two at the same plant. It would have made an amazing photograph if I had been fast enough to capture it, especially when we realised that one of them was not in fact a Hummingbird Hawk-moth, but a Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth Hemaris fuciformis.

Unfortunately after many attempts at chasing it from plant to plant the picture below was the best of the bunch.

It was good to be able to compare the two moths, as the Hummingbird Hawk-moth was much faster. We could usually follow the Broad-bordered quite easily, but the Hummingbird Hawk would sometimes move so fast that it seemed to disappear. We could not even tell in which direction it had flown. With that speed of flight, it is not surprising that they are frequent migrants.

Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth Hemaris fuciformis   Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth - Suffolk Brecks

The Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth is a widely distributed, but local resident species, found mainly in the south and midlands of England, and Wales. The larvae feed on Honeysuckle and bedstraws.

The Hummingbird Hawk-moth is a regular immigrant species, often arriving in such numbers as to be considered common. The larvae feed on bedstraws and may survive to produce a second flight of adults in the autumn.

10th to 12th June 2011

Burren, County Clare, west coast of  Ireland. This trip started from Bristol at 11.30pm in the evening of the 9th June as we had to catch the ferry from Pembroke at 2.45am. The weather forecast for the Burren was not very good (showers and a strong breeze), but once the ferry was booked we had liitle choice but to go, and we already knew that trips to the Burren have a reputation for being wet.

The ferry took four hours to get to Rosslare and by the time we had travelled across Ireland and stopped for some breakfast it was the middle of the day.

When you first arrive in the Burren area you are amazed by the amount of limestone pavement and rocky fields. The area stretches from east of the Burren National Park across to the coast in the west, a distance of over twenty miles. The habitat from a distance looks devoid of life, but when you walk on it you soon realise that plant life is abundant.

Looking east from near Tulla in the east of the Burren    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Looking east from near Tulla in the east of the Burren

We started exploring on the east side at Lough Bunny where we almost immediately found Transparent Burnet moths. I had photographed them on the Isle of Mull, but these were the Irish subspecies (although they look the same). In Scotland they are local and rare, but on the Burren they turned out to be the most common moth during our trip. They were present on nearly every area of natural grassland and limestone pavement. We probably saw thousands.

Before the trip I had not realised how many hills there were in this area and that these also consisted of large areas of limestone pavement. On the top of some of these there were areas of grassy moorland with heaths and heather. We found that the greatest diversity of moths was on the lower slopes of the hills, although there were species such as Grass Rivulet higher up.

Looking north towards Galway from Faunarooska (Ed Derreen)    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Looking north towards Galway from Faunarooska (Ed Derreen)

The most abundant species of plant in flower at the time of our trip was Bloody Cranesbill. Like the Transparent Burnets it was almost everywhere in the limestone areas.

Bloody Cranesbill Geranium sanguineum    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Bloody Cranesbill Geranium sanguineum - on pavement near Dereen East.

A normally rare species that we found was Spring Gentian Gentiana verna. This is the most attractive of the gentians found in Britain and Ireland. The Burren and Teesdale in north-east England are its strongholds. We found them growing singly or in small clusters on the coastal sand dunes and on the lower slopes of some of the hills.

Spring Gentian Gentiana verna    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Spring Gentian Gentiana verna - Burren.

Looking across the bay to Galway from near Dereen East    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Looking across the bay to Galway from near Dereen East.

Due to the nightly rain we never used the moth trap that we took with us, so our searches for moths took place in the day. Our target species were Least Minor and Pyrausta sanguinalis. We found a single specimen of each and photographed them on the first day of our trip. They were on a hillside on the east side of the Burren where we also saw Wood White butterfly, dozens of Pyrausta purpuralis, about twenty Anania funebris, and a Bordered Pearl Paratalanta pandalis (micro-moths). This took the pressure off of our searching, although we did hope to find another specimen of Pyrausta sanguinalis as the one we had photographed was worn.

We searched along the coast, where we disturbed Aethes piercei from the grass on about ten occasions. They were often worn and in this state were hardly recognisable. As you can see from the picture below we also found good specimens.

It is a large torticoid moth (forewing up to 11mm) which is found locally throughout the British Isles and Ireland, and is common on the Burren coast. It is thought by many authorities to be a large ecotype of Aethes hartmanniana which is found mainly in southern England. The larvae of Aethes piercei feed in the root of Devil's-bit Scabious. The larvae of the smaller Aethes hartmanniana (forewing up to 8mm) are thought to feed on Small Scabious and Field Scabious. The adults of both fly in June and July.

Aethes piercei    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Aethes piercei - Burren coast

Another species that we found on the coast was Merrifieldia tridactyla. This plume is a rarity found mainly in Cornwall and the Burren. It is often confused with Merrifieldia leucodactyla which is a commoner species that can be separated by comparison of the antennae. Both moths feed on Wild Thyme.

Eventually we found another Pyrausta sanguinalis, but we were quickly disappointed as it flew up and disappeared across the limestone pavement, never to be seen again despite another hour of searching.

On our last day of the visit we went back to where we had found the original Pyrausta sanguinalis. We left the car by the road and had walked  up the slope of the hill about two hundred metres across the pavement, when I heard voices back on the road. I could only partially see the car, but saw two men walk quickly up to it then jump into a black Audi hatchback, slam the doors and speed off.

I spoke to Roger on the walkie talkies and we rushed back to the car (rushing is not that fast on limestone pavement). We were relieved to find that the car windows were not smashed and the doors and boot were still closed.

At first we thought everything was OK, then Roger noticed the trim from the bottom of one of the front doors was missing. When we looked at the door on the other side, the trim on that was gone as well. They had apparently stolen it from Rogers Audi to replace theirs. Replacing it back in Bristol cost 75, but the garage mechanic said that it was unlikely that they had got the old trim off without breaking it, so they had damaged the car for no reason.

It was understandable that Roger did not want to leave his car again, so he sat in it while I went back up the slope to the area where we had found the first Pyrausta sanguinalis. Our luck had returned. I found a moth almost instantly sitting on a leaf. It was a good specimen, so we had our photograph!

The moth is widely distributed across the Burren, but apart from that is rare. It is found on the coast in Northern Ireland and a site on the Isle of Man, but it is thought to be extinct in all of its old sand dune habitats along the coast in the north of Wales, north-west England and Ayreshire in Scotland. This small day-flying moth has a forewing length of 6.5 to 8mm. It flies in June and at some sites has a partial second brood in August. The larvae feed within a silken gallery amongst the flowers of Thyme.

Pyrausta sanguinalis    Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Pyrausta sanguinalis - Burren.

When I got back to the car Roger said that a black Audi had driven past with what he thought was a young woman driving and two men in the back. It appears that they had returned for more, so he had done the right thing staying with the car.

As the forecast was for even more rain, we decided to rebook our ferry back for the next morning instead of staying for another day. That night we stayed in a camp site near Rosslare and visited a pub for a couple of pints of Guinness, which as the rumour says, does seem to taste better in Ireland.

7th June 2011

Back in April of this year Roger and I visited the Avon Gorge to look for Antispila metallella, which is a small (3.5 to 4mm forewing) moth found on Dogwood. This moth normally flies in May, but as the season was early we thought it worth checking to see if it was already on the wing.

We were surprised to find that not only was Antispila metallella flying, but so was Antispila treitschkiella which is a smaller, darker species (2.5 to 3mm forewing), that is supposed to fly in June and July. As I had photographed Antispila treitschkiella in 2010, we concentrated on getting pictures of Antispila metallella. Luckily as with the other species last year, I managed to get pictures of a female laying her eggs under the edge of a Dogwood leaf.

I decided to put the sprig of Dogwood where the female had oviposited in a small pot of water to see if the mine developed. In late May a small blister mine appeared at the edge near the tip of the leaf. This quickly enlarged, but as I was away for several days the next thing I knew was that the mine had expanded to cover the whole of the outer half of the leaf.

After some prompting from Roger (well I was busy!), I took a backlit photograph which showed the fully grown larva inside of the mine. This was on the 5th June.

The next morning there was a hole in the leaf, the cut out section was on the table below and the larva had disappeared. After a while I noticed the cut out section move and realised that the larva had sealed the edges of the leaf cut-out to form a case.

The next interesting stage of this story is in the discovery of how the larva moved. It would stretch forward, bite the substrate with its jaws and arch itself to pull the case forward. This was repeated while it wandered about looking for somewhere to hide and pupate.

I put the larva in a pot with some fresh moss and today there are a few droppings and a moulted skin by the entrance to the case. A series of pictures following these events can be seen below.

Antispila metallella female ovipositing on underside of Dogwood leaf  Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Antispila metallella female ovipositing on underside of Dogwood leaf

 

Antispila metallella - mine backlit to show fully fed larva   Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Antispila metallella - mine backlit to show fully fed larva

 

Antispila metallella - recently exited mine   Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Antispila metallella - recently exited mine

 

Antispila metallella larva - stretches forward   Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Antispila metallella larva - stretches forward

 

Antispila metallella larva - bites the substrate   Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Antispila metallella larva - bites the substrate

 

Antispila metallella larva - bends to pull itself forward   Copyright Martin Evans@WGUK

Antispila metallella larva - bends to pull itself forward

 

 
 

  

 

 

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