Tuesday 11 June 2019

Westleton and Dunwich

Forest and Heath 9.6.19

I had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast all week... having missed out on a trip the previous weekend due to family commitments we were eager to make the most of promising conditions this time around. 

As forcast, Sunday's weather was rather lovely and a real contrast to the dismal conditions of the day before.  Myself and Peter,  along with my wife and kids, decided to head for a favourite spot of mine; Westleton Common.  With a soundtrack of purring Turtle Doves and the occasional melancolic warblings of a half-hearted Nightingale,  we strolled around the Common looking for some mothy delights.  The kids seemed to enjoy the area anyway but the sight of a sandy hill to run up filled them with delight! 

Westleton Common 

Armed with a net each,  Peter,  my son Nathan and myself searched the Common one section at a time in search of some heathland specialities.  On the target list were Cydia ulicetana,  Grapholita internana and Pempelia palumbella, all of which I had seen there before but would be new for Peter.  There was no sign of any Grapholita internana around any of the Gorse however there were still plenty of Cydia ulicetana albeit rather worn. Nathan was getting rather handy with the net and was catching or spotting all sorts.  First off Nathan spotted a smart Cinnabar which didn't need netting as it was instantly recognisable. We also found a Painted Lady, Red Admiral and Green Hairstreak. 

After a lovely walk and just as we were starting to think about heading to the pub for lunch,  Nathan called "Butterfly!". I turned around to see our first ever Cream-spot Tiger flying towards me.  It landed in a gorse bush near by and I was able to carefully net it so that we could all have a good look.  Great spot Nathan! 

Cream-spot Tiger 

The list of what we saw at Westleton Common:

Painted Lady
Green Hairstreak
Cydia ulicetana x9
Pempelia palumbella
Yellow shell x2
Scoparia ambigualis 
Pempelia genistella
Cydia spendana
Latticed heath
Cream-spot Tiger

Dunwich Forest 

So onto the main event... the forecast had been for a sunny day, clouding over in the evening with a small chance of rain. That forecast had been the same all week.  So far so good as we drove to our usual spot in the forest at around 8.45pm. Then to my horror,  it started to rain... a quick check of BBC weather and the small chance of early rain was now 96%. Not a great start! 

Luckily the rain didn't get going but the increased threat meant that we didn't put out all the traps and we also kept the cables simple.  Fishing umbrella over one generator and a camping chair over the other! 

Darkness fell and with the temperature holding up at 15° C with a gentle breeze it looked very promising.  Predictably the first moth to base camp was a Common Swift followed soon after by a moth that sends to have been on the wing for months already... Scalloped Hook-tip.

Scalloped Hook-tip 

With conditions so good,  it wasn't long before moths were arriving thick and fast to the sheet at base camp. It wasn't long before we had our first new moths of the night.  Cream Wave appeared rally and continued to arrive all night; some were very worn and almost white but some were perfect and showed all the features well. 

Cream Wave

Other early arrivals came in the form of Pebble and Oak Hook-tips and another new moth for me; Brindled White-spot. 

Oak Hook-tip

Pebble Hook-tip 

Brindled White-spot 

Then came the first surprise of the night... after having seen our first only a few hours before on a warm and sunny Westleton Common, another Cream-spot Tiger dropped onto the sheet!  We had joked saying we'd probably end up catching 10 before the end of the session.... 

Not surprisingly,  it took us a long time to do a round of the traps; each trap held several new species as well as moths flying in and around the traps constantly.  Amazingly each trap had at least 1 or 2 more Cream-spot Tigers inside and catching 10 looked like a possibility! 

Monday 20 May 2019

Dunwich and Reydon Woods 18.5.19

Dunwich Woods 15.5.19

After a 3 week lull in field trips due to inclement weather, we were back at our usual spot for what we hoped would be an excellent night of mothing.  The previous night had been superb in my back garden with a huge increase to 88 moths of 32 species arriving to my 2 garden traps.  Unfortunately the sky had cleared during the afternoon and the temperature as we were setting up was already down to 11 degrees centigrade.  With a full moon rising tonight we hoped that the thin layer of cloud would mask the bright beacon in the sky for as long as possible.

The sunny afternoon had, at least, meant that we had already clocked up 5 or 6 new species of moth in a pleasant stroll around nearby Reydon Woods.  Within half an hour we had found several Hysterophora maculosana, Eana incanana larvae and some Coleophora luterea  which were all new moths for us this week. 

Hysterophora maculosana

Eana incanana larva

Coleophora luterea

We stopped for a lunch break and my wife produced a superb picnic while we enjoyed listening to buzzards calling, bees buzzing and my children shouting MOTH! every so often.  We added a couple more Coleophera luterea, an Esperia sulphurella and a Nematopogon schwarziellus all thanks to the eagle-eyed boys.

Nematapogogn schwarziellus

The warm afternoon sunshine brought out dozens of Micropterix calthella which were feeding on Buttercups in all the woodland clearings.  Again, this was a new species for both Peter and myself.

Micropterix calthella

So, back to the main event.  Cooler conditions meant we had to go all-out to maximise our chances of a good night.  We set up 3 MVs, 3 Wemlites and a 7 watt LED. The MVs were out in the open rides whereas the Wemlites and LED were placed under the trees which are now in full, lush leaf...

Sunday 28 April 2019

Windy Woods

Dunwich 26.4.19

After a couple of weeks without a trip out (mainly because Peter had to have major surgery!) we were super excited to get back out into the field again at the first opportunity.

We had been closely monitoring the weather forecast throughout the week to see which night would be the most suitable for trapping.  The temperature and rain predictions looked best for Friday night but the wind was going to be a concern.  Storm Hannah was already battering the West of the country and it had been blustery for a while here.  Despite the wind predictions, the rain wasn't due until the early hours so we decided that it was on for Friday.

Due to Peter's recent illness (thankfully, now recovered!) we went in one car;  although my car is a large 7 seater, it's amazing how much kit we have for a mothing session!  We decided to cut down on the smaller traps because of the lack of space in the car, especially as we were slightly worried about the weather; a quick pack up might be necessary if the weather turned against us.

We were all set up shortly after 8pm with two Robinson's MVs, one Wemlite and one 7 watt LED along with our MV tripod and white sheet at base camp.  We even got the beating tray out and searched the Gorse but in the windy conditions we drew a blank.

As usual, when everything is set up and the lights are on, we sit down, have a cup of coffee and wait for the moths to arrive... The sky was mainly clear but clouds came and went throughout the final couple of hours of light but the temperature was holding up at around 11 degrees and the forest was offering a bit of shelter.  Finally it got dark and it was just a case of waiting to see what would arrive.

Half an hour after dark, we were still waiting for the first moth to arrive.  It's always slightly nerve-wracking waiting in the dark for the first moths; would the wind stop them flying? Would the rain come early? Will the temperature drop away?  We've known the weather turn from warm and sunny to icy cold within an hour... 

Luckily the moths did start to arrive but not until after 9pm.  As usual, at this time of year, the first moths to arrive were Water Carpets followed soon after by an Early Grey.  Once the moths started to come in, it wasn't long before we had our first new moth on the list; a pair of stunning Scalloped Hook-tips arrived almost together.

Scalloped Hook-tip

A rather tatty Lunar Marbled Brown was next in but it wasn't long before a star moth dropped in... I was sitting down enjoying a rest when I noticed a small Tortrid moth drop onto the sheet.  Although I knew it was a new moth for me, I couldn't put a name to it immediately.  Then Peter mentioned that he'd seen a picture of one on Facebook recently and then I remembered seeing the same... Luckily mobile internet works fine in the woods so I was able to have a quick look at a recent post by Ben Sale in Hertfordshire.  There was our moth; Gravitarmata margarotana - The Pine Cone Tortrix.

Gravitarmata margarotana 

This is a relatively new moth to Britain having only been recorded since 2011 and until now was thought to only be a migrant to Suffolk.  Within an hour we had 4 of these stunning little moths proving that it has established a colony here at Dunwich.  In more favorable conditions I suspect we would've seen quite a few more of them.

A round of the traps produced some of the usual suspects such as Pine Beauty, Common Quaker and some Pugs but back at base camp we didn't have long to wait until the next great moth graced the white sheet... Another relatively new moth to these parts is the Dotted Chestnut.  Now fully established towards the south of Suffolk, it is still very local across much of the country although it has been spreading quickly.  Like its relatives, the Dotted Chestnut hibernates as an adult so this moth is now getting on a bit but it was still an exciting find for both of us; we've been eagerly awaiting its appearance closer to home for some time.

Dotted Chestnut

Pine Beauty has been on the wing for some time now; we caught one on our first Dunwich field trip way back in February!  With 28 Pine Beauty by the end of the night, it was the most numerous moth of the session but we never get tire of seeing them....such stunning moths!

Pine Beauty

We had 3 species of Carpet in the session, Water, Red-green and Grey Pine.  Grey Pine Carpet is a highly variable species and all 5 of the ones we caught were different.

Grey Pine Carpets in different forms

The Notodontids, or Prominents were well represented on the night.  All such beauties in their own way but the one we both really hoped for this time was the magnificent Great Prominent and we were not dissapointed!

Great Prominent

Great Prominent

We recorded 9 Great Prominent on the night but I suspect they would've kept coming on a longer session as they are late flyers.  Other Prominents recorded were Swallow, Lesser Swallow and Pebble Prominent.

Swallow Prominent

Lesser Swallow Prominent

Pebble Prominent

Another round of the traps produced more new moths for us including Capua vulgana and Syndemis musculana at the MVs.  With the cool, windy conditions, micro moths were few and far between so it was nice to pick up these good-looking moths.

Capua vulgana

Syndemis musculana

The wind was really starting to pick up by midnight but with new moths still appearing at the traps and at base camp all the time, we didn't want to pack up just yet... The white sheet at base camp was blowing around a fair bit and as I was trying to secure it I spotted a very pale moth buzzing around the tripod light.  I'd managed to nab an Angle Shades and another Swallow prominent but my hands were full and I only managed a quick glimpse of a pristine White Ermine before it flew off into the darkness.  

We packed up the small traps earlier than usual and then did a final round of the Robinson's MVs as it looked like the weather was closing in and we were beginning to feel the cold.  As we were packing up the first of them we were pleasantly surprised to find this very late Oak Beauty and our first Brindled Beauty of the year.

Oak Beauty 

Brindled Beauty

There were a couple of interesting Pugs around the trap too.  Most were Brindled Pug but there was also a Double-striped and what turned out to be our first Oak-tree Pug of the year.

Oak-tree Pug
Onward to the last trap to pack up... Straight away I spotted a micro moth on the collar which I recognised but couldn't immediately put a name to it.  I tubed it and popped it in my pocket while we added the last moths to the list.  However, just as we were sorting through the last of the egg trays, it started to rain. Disaster! with 100 metres of cable to reel in plus the exposed bulb on the tripod stand still on, there was no time to lose... I legged it back to base camp and turned off the MV on the tripod plunging the woods into complete darkness!  Well, we're old pros at packing up now and the rain held off just enough to avoid soaking everything. So with everything thrown into the car and a final check around, we were on our way home with smiles of satisfaction on our faces.  

And about that mystery last moth of the night? It was the fabulously named Semioscopis steinkellneriana... 

Semioscopis steinkellneriana

We finished the session having recorded a highly respectable 121 moths of 31 species, 7 of which were new moths for us.  It was also our highest species count of the year so far.  Considering the wind and cooler temperatures, we went home very happy indeed. 

Here are some some of the other moths we saw during the session:

Brindled Pug

Brown Silver-line

Lunar Marbled Brown

Pebble Hook-tip

Water Carpet

Early Grey

Frosted Green
Red-green Carpet

The List

Water Carpet 5
Early Grey 2
Scalloped Hook Tip 2
Lunar Marbled Brown 2
Common Quaker 20
Dotted Chestnut 1
Pine Beauty 28
Hebrew Character 2
Brindled Pug 8
Swallow Prominent 7
Clouded Drab 2
Grey Pine Carpet 5
Great Prominent 9
Lesser Swallow Prominent 4
Red-green Carpet 1
Pebble Prominent 1
White Ermine 1
Pebble Hook tip 1
Frosted Green 5
Double-striped Pug 1
Brown Silver Lines 1
Angle Shades 1
Oak Beauty 1
Brindled Beauty 1
Oak Tree Pug 1

Gravitarmata margarotana 4
Capua vulgana 1
Syndemis musculana 1
Ypsolopha ustella 1
Semioscopis steinkellneriana 1
Dyseriocrania subpurpurella 1

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