Archive for the 'Moths' Category

1st May 2011, Sunday

Why did so many caterpillars cross the road?

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For the last few days there have been exceptional numbers of enormous (up to 60mm) hairy caterpillars crossing the private road along the Beach Reserve. These are unprecedented numbers of the Pale Grass Eggar Lasiocampa trifolii subsp. flava known only from shingle beaches in Kent and East Sussex. The larva feeds on a variety of grasses and plants including broom, creeping willow, heather and bramble. This glut of caterpillars is being enjoyed by Rooks and Cuckoos.
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20th April 2011, Wednesday

Rye Harbour Moths (and a beetle)

Still not great numbers of moths, despite the warm weather (about 15 of six species this morning), but the still a steady trickle of ‘reserve rarities’. This morning it was a Brindled Beauty (Lycia hirtaria) another common species which has rarely been recorded on the reserve, with the last record in 1999. This particular individual is male as can be told by the feathered antennae which are used to detect chemical scents released by the female.
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Brindled Beauty
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19th April 2011, Tuesday

An exceptionally early Campion

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My thermometer read 16°C at 8 a.m. today!  Even so, I was surprised to find this Campion in my moth trap, only my second ever here at Rye and 3–4 weeks early. The bar chart on the ‘Hantsmoths’ website shows only one out of 123 Hampshire records before the last week of April. It’s a beautiful moth, with subtle mauve tints in the crosslines and veins. As befits its name, the larval foodplants are the seeds of campion and ragged-robin.

11th April 2011, Monday

Rye Harbour Moths

Still relatively few moths in the Lime Kiln trap at the moment, though there have been one or two species which, while not what you would call uncommon, are unusual for the reserve. This has included a couple of March Tubic (Diurnea fagella) an early micro with wingless females (one of which was also found on the reserve recently), Blossom Underwing, a species which is at least a partial migrant, and Oak Nycteoline, a macro moth which looks very like some micros (certainly fooled me – I spent a couple of days looking in the micro section of the ‘Big Book of Moths’ before the penny dropped). All of these species have occurred only a handfull of times here, with the last at least 10 years ago.
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Blossom Underwing
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26th March 2011, Saturday

Light Orange Underwing

I was out on my first walk of the year in Brede High Wood, when I spotted some small day flying Lepidoptera. Patrick Roper and Martyn Parslow had mentioned seeing some small leps flying about in 2010, but both had been unable to get close enough to one to make an identification. I had with me, my first ever butterfly net. It was the first time I had taken it on a walk with me. It is a folding pocket net. So I then spent the next 2 hours on the same path walking up and down trying to catch one of the moths, and solve the mystery. A number of dog walkers passed by avoiding me, and to them, perhaps my odd behaviour. After seeing four moths, I finally managed to catch the fifth one. I have learnt that it is Notable B, day-flying Light Orange Underwing moth (Archiearis notha) It seems that this is the first one to be recorded in Sussex for 26 years. A few people have requested to see the pictures and they may well one day turn up in a moth book.
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Dave Monk by e-mail

22nd March 2011, Tuesday

Rye Harbour Moths (at last!)

With the steady improvement in the weather of late I have bitten the bullet and started to run the moth trap at Lime Kiln Cottage. The catch has been typical for this time of year at Rye Harbour, with small numbers of Common Quaker, Hebrew Character and Clouded Drab making up the bulk, and this morning I also had an Early Grey and a slightly early Powdered Quaker. The highlight however has been one of my favourite moths, an Oak Beauty, a more or less annual catch at Rye Harbour in the last few years (though only as singletons).
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Oak Beauty
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10th March 2011, Thursday

Oak Beauty steals the show

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All day this fresh Oak Beauty has been resting on the wall above my moth trap in Rye. I get one or two of these every spring but they’re still rather special. It’s quite large, over 3 cm across, and the strongly feathered antennae show this one’s a male. As the name implies, it’s a species of mature broadleaved woods, especially oak, and not really a garden moth at all – I think mine come from the wooded cliff-line above Military Road. There were just 11 other moths – 6 Common Quaker, 3 Small Quaker and 2 Hebrew Character, a typical March catch.

16th December 2010, Thursday

Not just birds

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With all this bird news coming out, I thought I’d be thoroughly perverse and post a photo of a male Scarce Umber moth trapped here in Rye last night. Checking my records, I was surprised to find this was new for the garden – in December!  It’s really a woodland species and not particularly scarce in SE England. Similar species are Mottled Umber, Dotted Border and Feathered Thorn, all of which have turned up several times in my trap. I know this is a male because the females have vestigial wings and cannot fly.

3rd November 2010, Wednesday

Rye Harbour Moths

The unseasonally warm weather over the last few days has encouraged me to break the moth trap out again, and I have not been disappointed, with several species turning up. The commonest have been Large Wainscot and Satellite, with a few Red-line Quaker and Narrow-winged Grey and the occasional Blair’s Shoulder-knot. The highlight however was The Sprawler on the 31st October. This species gets it’s name from the behaviour of it’s caterpillar, which throws its head back when threatened, and despite being a common species nationally it has never been recorded on the reserve before.
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The Sprawler

23rd September 2010, Thursday

Not one but two

Clifden Nonpareil
It’s been a rather quiet few weeks for moth trapping, but the appearance of Clifden Nonpareils on consecutive nights of the 10th and 11th September near Staplecross was exceptional. There has been some speculation that maybe a small breeding population has recently become established in this area as such records are becoming annual, although the last confirmed breeding record for Britain was back in 1964. We can only hope. Sorry for the late posting of this record – better late than never.