Sunday, 7 April 2019

Woodland Wonders

Firhill Covert, Worlingham

With only our second trip to these lovely private woods, we were hoping for better conditions.  Although it was cloudy and calm, the temperature had barely reached double figures during the day and was only 9 degrees when we arrived.

The 2 Robinson's traps were situated along a ride in the Birch Wood with the Wemlite traps and base camp in the mixed woodland area.

Birch Wood

Base Camp Under Gloomy Skies

We were all set up with 3 mercury vapour lights, 2 Wemlites and a 7 watt LED well before darkness.  Sitting at base camp having our first cup of coffee, all we could do was wait for the moths to arrive.... Now were weren't expecting some kind of biblical swarm of moths. Realistically, we couldn't even expect a steady stream of moths considering the run of cold, windy weather we'd been getting recently.  However, we were expecting something to arrive soon after dark..... but nothing came!  At 8:05pm we decided that waiting for the moths was not the best idea as it was too cold and damp to just sit there.  We decided to head for the Birch wood to check on the two Robinson's traps; it was, at last, dark and there should be moths, surely?

As we wandered down the hill towards the traps, I spotted a semi-mature Birch Tree with gloriously white patches of bark, glowing in the light of our head-torches.  As I began to say "A logiana would be nice on that tree" I spotted something.  Surely not? With fewer than 150 records of Acleris logiana in Suffolk, finding one was always going to be a case of either hours of painstaking searches or complete luck... Well tonight it was all about the luck!  There, about 2 metres above the ground was our first ever Acleris logiana!  It was beautifully camouflaged against the bark and I really wanted a photo of it in situ.  I ran back to base camp to grab my phone and ring flash and I managed to get a few phone snaps before the light spooked it and it flew off.  

Acleris logiana

It's not often we start the night with the best moth but it was obvious that we were not likely to beat that!  A round of the traps produced several Common Quakers and a Chestnut.  We also checked every suitable-looking Birch tree hoping to find more Acleris logiana  but without success.  We did find a couple of species of bagworm on an old Oak Tree.  These case-baring caterpillars graze to lichen-covered bark of many mature trees in the are but are massively under-recorded due to their size and camouflage.

Luffia lapidella

Narycia duplicella
The home-made Wemlite traps were, by now, beginning to catch moths; a Twin-spotted Quaker and several more Common Quakers were added to the list.

Twin-spotted Quaker

Common Quaker and a photo-bombing centipede


The mercury vapour bulbs were the biggest draw for moths and several more species were added quite quickly including an Early Thorn and a lovely Red Chestnut

Red Chestnut

Early Thorn  

We were slowly but steadily building up a reasonable list of species for the evening but it was cold and there were times when it seemed like the flow of moths was drying up.  We started packing up the Wemlite traps first, then the Robinson's traps.Here are some more from our final round of the traps:

Early Grey

Another Chestnut

Diving Beetle

Double-striped Pug

Clouded Drab

Nicely marked Common Quaker

Vapourer Moth Eggs - Found near a trap

There was one moth that we had been hoping to see this evening: the Frosted Green.  Although seldom abundant, we were quietly confident that some would turn up tonight but with all but one trap packed away, we'd given up hope of seeing one here...but then again, the night had started with a massive stroke of luck so maybe there was still a chance?

While Peter was sorting out reels and equipment, I picked up the LED trap and brought it back to base camp to check it.  I could see moths inside which was a surprise as it hadn't caught anything up to 10pm when I'd last checked it.  Inside there was a Clouded Drab, Common Quaker and, would you believe it?.... our target moth for the night: Frosted Green!

Frosted Green

So all-in-all, a highly satisfactory session with a real feel of quality over quantity although 14 species is a decent number for a cold night in early Spring.

Acleris logiana 1
Common Quaker 51
Twin spotted Quaker 1
Chestnut 3
Luffia 2
Narycia duplicella 2
Red Chestnut 1
Early Grey 2
Hebrew Character 5
Early Thorn 1
Double striped Pug 1
Clouded Drab 6
Vapourer eggs
Frosted Green 1
78 moths of 14 species

Down on the Farm

Hundred River Farm 28.3.19

With so few opportunities to get out into the field we popped over to the farm for a couple of hours.  Unfortunately the weather forecast was inaccurate and instead of a part cloudy evening,  the sky was crystal clear and it felt colder that the 7°C on the thermometer.  We enjoyed the night time spectacle of a star-filled sky with a super-bright pass of the International Space Station. 

Moths were few and far between but all records for a site are important,  especially in the colder months when a lot of people don't record moths at all.  

Peter arrived at the farm early and set up. He also found and potted a few moths before I arrived. First up was an Agonopterix alstromeriana from one of the buildings

Agonopterix alstromeriana

We only did 2 rounds of trap-checking as the temperature was falling away quickly and by 8.30pm it was already down to 5 degrees celcius.  Here are some photos of the moths we caught that night at the farm:

Oak Beauty - One of 9 recorded

Oak Beauty

Clouded Drab

Twin-spotted Quaker

Hebrew Character

Hebrew Character

Diurnea fagella

Small Quaker

Small Quaker

Common Quaker

Small Quakers - Having a very good year
Brindled Pug

On the way back home we called by the Frostenden lay-by which often has a nice selection of moths to the lights there. The only new moth for the night was an Early Grey

Early Grey

The list....


Brindled Pug 1 
Small Quaker 20 
Diurnea fagella 3 
Agonopterix alstromeriana 1 
Oak Beauty 9 
Common Quaker 23 
Hebrew Character 2 
Clouded Drab 1 


Emmelina monodactyla 4 
Early Grey 1 
Large Yellow Underwing 1 larvae 
D. fagella 1 
Clouded Drab 1 
Hebrew Character 1

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Dunwich Forest Part 2

Dunwich 22.3.19

This was the trip that both of us were most looking forward to;  having not been to this part of Dunwich Forest for a couple of years I hadn't realised its potential for moth trapping.  Peter, on the other hand, had visited the area recently and told me tales of wide forest rides, edged with broad bands of deciduous trees and fiery Gorse in full flower.  Peter had likened the habitat to that found at Orlestone Forest in Kent; one of the best mothing locations in the country.  

After a much warmer-than-average February, the recent weather had returned to seasonal normality with cold winds and storms.  Waiting for a chance to get a mothing session at this new location was frustrating to say the least but luckily the weather forecasters suggested that we were to have several decent nights in a row and Friday night was free for both of us to get out into the field.  Although we were enjoying some superb conditions with decent catches on our own gardens, Friday night couldn't come quickly enough for either of us.

We met at Kessingland and drove down to Dunwich in convoy with both cars laden with traps and kit ready to get the maximum out of what we were hoping would be a decent night.  We arrived at the site at 17:15 with plenty of time to work out where we were going place the traps. 

Forest Ride, Dunwich 

Since our last trip out we had added 2 new traps to the kit list... a lovely new MV Robinson's trap from Watkins and Doncaster and a home made trap fitted with a new 7 watt LED from Paul Batty.  With very positive reviews from other moth recorders we were very keen to see some results for ourselves.  LED light is not as bright as the other bulbs we use so it was important to get the location right for its first trial run.  We placed it out of sight in a band of mixed deciduous trees behind the Gorse visible to the right of the above picture.

New 7W LED

We were all set up and ready for moths much too early so I scouted round for some early stages.  I found Coptotriche marginea and Stigmella aurella on Bramble, Ectoedemia heringella on Holm Oak and Phyllonorycter messaniella on Beech.  Peter picked up a male Diurnea fagella on one tree trunk and I found some Luffia lapidella and a Psyche casta on another.  

Not long after dusk we started seeing moths.  A few more Diurnea fagella were seen at the traps but Pine Beauty was the first macro species to arrive with half a dozen descending on the new MV Robinson's trap within a few minutes.  

Pine Beauty
Another Beauty

We recorded a very impressive 22 Pine Beauty on the night and it was one of a few species found in all 6 trap locations.
One of the target species for the night was Water Carpet, a moth that I have only seen at a couple of sites before.  We didn't have long to wait for the first of 7 to arrive.  They showed a remarkable variation in size with the smallest and largest having us second-guessing ourselves for a few minutes....

Water Carpet

The Orthosias were represented by good numbers of Common and Small Quakers, Clouded Drab and Hebrew Character but only a single Twin-spotted Quaker was recorded on the night.  It wasn't obvious as it dropped onto the white sheet at base camp... it didn't have the marks that give the species their name.  Its size and shape were the giveaway.

The spotless Twin-spotted Quaker

This is a more typical example of one that I caught in my garden trap on the same night:

Twin-spotted Quaker showing its spots - garden trap

Another lovely moth to arrive at base camp was this superb Satellite, the colour of which neither of us had seen before.  This is an over-wintering species which survives by hiding in leaf litter on the forest floor.


Although Peter had already trapped Early Thorn at home this week, it was a new species for 2019 for me.  We had 2 of them on the night, both to MV light.

Early Thorn

Amazingly, one of the commonest moths of the night was the spectacular Oak Beauty which was attracted to all the light sources including the new LED trap. Here are a couple of Oak Beauty photos from Dunwich:

Oak Beauty

From the largest moths of the night to the smallest... other than Diurnea fagella, micro moths were rather thin on the ground at Dunwich on Friday night but we did see a few nice ones.  We recorded 3 Agonopterix ocellana including this nicely marked individual:

Agonopterix ocellana

While we were trapping, a friendly couple from a nearby house came to see what we were up to.  We gave them a brief explanation of what we were doing and we were able to show them many of the moths we had recorded that evening.  Not everyone understands the importance of recording moths and we have, in the past, encountered individuals with a rather less sympathetic attitude to what we do.  They were also able to give us an insight into the number of moths that they see in the summer months in this area; really exciting times ahead we think!  One of the less spectacular moths that came to the white sheet while we were talking with them was the tiny but intricate Alucita hexadactyla.  Unfortunately i didn't manage a photo of that individual but here's one I took earlier in the year:

Alucita hexadactyla

We recorded 2 species of Pug on Friday; Double-striped and Brindled.  The latter was new for the year for both of us but one we were expecting.  There were a couple of nice examples of both including this lovely Brindled Pug:

Brindled Pug

Clouded Drabs are variable moth, common at this time of year in most habitats including gardens.  We recorded 10 on Friday night including this one with slightly odd markings. 

Clouded Drab 

A new moth for me was Shoulder Stripe.  Although Peter had found a couple in Frostenden recently which I we able to photograph,  these were the first ones that I had recorded myself.  Superb moths! 

Shoulder Striped

Shoulder Striped

And finally,  the commonest moth of the night, Diurnea fagella.  With 47 individuals it overtook Common Quaker on the night.  It's a really nice little moth,  quite variable and usually quite easy to photograph... always a bonus! 

Diurnea fagella 

We were packed up by around 10pm as the near full moon peeked out from behind the clouds and the moths inevitably slowed up.  A fantastic taster session at this fantastic new site. We are really looking forward to returning in a few weeks time.  

Here's the list from Friday night:

Stimella aurella - mines
Coptotriche marginea - mines
Phyllonorycter messaniella - vacated mine
Ectoedemia heringella - mines
Yellow Horned 11
Pine Beauty 22
Diurnea fagella 47
Agonopterix heracliana 1
Emmelina monodactyla 2
Water Carpet 7
Early Thorn 2
Common Quaker 43
Acleris ferrugana/notana 1
Chestnut 7
Hebrew Character 7
Luffia ferchaultella 2
Clouded Drab 10
Psyche casta 1
Brindled Pug 9
Double striped Pug 6
Small Quaker 22
Oak Beauty 15
Agonopterix ocellana 3
Satellite 1
Twin spot Quaker 1
Oak Nycteoline 1
Ypsolopha ustella 1
Shoulder Striped 6
Engrailed 9
Alucita hexadactyla 1