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

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Mothing with Gareth and Hannah

Calm Between the Storms 15.3.19

No sooner had Storm Gareth battered the UK than Storm Hannah was heading our way.  
The last few weeks have seen many cold, still nights or milder, windy nights.  Neither of these conditions work out very well in the garden, especially at this time of year.

The 15th March was a very mild day with highs of 17.2 degrees centigrade but Storm Gareth was still blowing through so it was a very windy day.  The overnight forecast, though, looked quite promising; staying mild with the wind dropping to a light breeze until the early hours when Storm Hannah was due to arrive.  The traps went on!

I ran my 60 watt actinic Skinner trap along with my 40 watt Wemlite/Blacklight combo with the intention of turning off the latter before bed as it has more delicate bulbs which can blow in wet and windy weather.  Peter was running his 60 watt actinic Skinner too.

Moths began to arrive soon after dark but nothing out of the ordinary.  It was still windy at 8pm but Common Quakers and a few Common Plumes were the first to arrive.  An inspection of the traps around 9pm had me running back to the house for tubes; two or three micros were fluttering around both traps.... mental note: NEVER check the traps without some pots handy!  By the time I returned with pots there was no sign of any of the moths I'd seen so I began to search.  I carefully poked around the egg trays in the Wemlite trap and an Agonopterix-type moth popped out and landed on the outside of the trap.  I quickly potted it and carried on searching.  Within a couple of minutes I managed to pot three more micros including more Agonopterix moths and a Light-brown Apple Moth, Epiphyas postvittana.  On closer inspection I was delighted to find that I had three different species of Agonopterix; ocellana, alstromeriana and heracliana.  Both Agonopterix ocellana and A. alstromeriana are new species for my garden!  This A. ocellana photo is one of my stock photos as the one I caught on this occasion wouldn't stay still!

Agonopterix ocellana

Agonopterix alstromeriana

Another small moth appeared around the Skinner but not a micro this time; a pristine Double-striped Pug was our first Pug species of 2019 and a species with a very long flight period;  they are on the wing from March until at least October.

Double-striped Pug

A good start to the night saw 7 species arrive before I went to bed.  Most moths had arrived at the 60W watt actinic and with heavy rain forecast, I turned off the Wemlite combo trap to safeguard the bulbs. 

By 6am the overnight rain had stopped and I eagerly went out to check the trap to see if any more new species had arrived.  In the event there was nothing else to add to the year list but the numbers were exceptionally good for March.  For example, in 2018 I caught a total of 66 moths in the whole of March.  So far, March 2019 has produced over 150 moths with a very pleasing 51 moths on this particular evening.  The larger catch totals this year are partly due to the high numbers of Common Quaker which seems to be having a good year across the country.  I have recorded 100 Common Quakers in my garden this year and together we have recorded around 250 between our garden traps and field trips.  There have been some really nice variations of the Common Quaker this year:

An Early Grey was, as always, nice to see.  Its a species that normally gets going in April for me so seeing them in March is a treat.  They are a variable species and look really smart when fresh.

Early Grey

Clouded Drab first appeared in my garden on 25th February and having not seen one since, I was pleased to see 2 in the trap this time.

Clouded Drab

So 72 moths of 13 species between our 2 garden traps was easily our best result of the year so far.  As conditions had been good, Peter decided to check out the A12 toilet block that can be very productive for moths attracted to the lights.  He found 6 species including March Moth, Dotted Border and Small Quaker but the highlights were 2 pristine Shoulder Stripe and a Diurnea fagella, both new for the year and new for the site.

Shoulder Stripe

Diurnea fagella

We have now recorded more than 60 species so far this year including early stages; easily our best start to a year ever.  A short period of cold weather is due this week but then temperatures are set to rise again making a field trip at the weekend rather tempting!

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Hotting Up!

Update 12.3.19

After a very good start to 2019 there can be no complaints about the moths we have been finding.  However, with the weather turning cold and rather windy again, the moths have slowed down considerably.  There is just a glimmer of things to come, though, with increasing numbers in the trap this week.

Orthosias are among the early arrivals and there has been a steady increase in numbers over the last week or so.  The night of the 8th March I had several Common Quakers in my home trap and Orthosias began turning up at other locations such as the A12 toilet block and outside lights.  On 11th March I had 17 moths including 7 Common Quaker, 7 Hebrew Character and Early Greys.  There was even a March Moth in my trap; a rather infrequent visitor to my garden.

Orthosia Selection 

Numbers are on the increase at Hundred River Farm too; last week the total catch comprised just 4 Common Quakers but by 11th there was a respectable 44 moths of 3 species.  The best of the catch were 26 Small Quaker.   Until then I'd only seen 3 so far in 2019!

Some of the moths at Hundred River Farm 

A surprise find was a female Dotted Border found in the A12 toilet block on the way home from the Suffolk Moth Group indoor meeting on the 9th March. With 5 male Dotted Borders also in and around the toilet block it is likely that the female was brought in by a flying male whilst in cop.

Female Dotted Border 

Both Peter and myself have caught Grey Shoulder-knots this week; always a pleasure to see these very smart-looking moths. 

Grey Shoulder-knot

So we're only in the first third of March and we have recorded 56 species of moth including early stages. A great start to the year!  We just need to get Storm Gareth out of the way and return to some more settled weather and we'll be back on track. 

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Suffolk Moth Group Annual Indoor Meeting

Here at last!

After missing out on last year's meeting because of other commitments, I have been really looking forward to this year's annual indoor meeting in Bucklesham.  

On the agenda were talks by Graham Geen about moths in Breckland and Neil Sherman about mothing at home and abroad.  There were also presentations from other members about their mothing exploits.  I even managed to squeeze in a mini presentation  about the moths in my garden in 2018.  Here are just a few of the moths that I spoke about.

True Lover's Knot

Bordered Beauty

Clancy's Rustic

Crimson Speckled


A Migrant Medley

Dewick's Plusia

Golden Twin-spot

Before the meeting, Neil had put on display a selection of very interesting moths which he had caught and or reared recently including Barred Tooth-striped, Dotted Chestnut and Black-spotted Chestnut which were all new moths for both myself and Peter.  At the end of the meeting I was delighted to be able to photograph them.

Barred Tooth-striped

Dotted Chestnut

Black-spotted Chestnut

The meal at the local pub was also a big hit with everyone and an afternoon break of coffee and homemade flapjacks and cookies went down a treat.  All-in-all a great day and I'm already looking forward to next year's meeting!

By way of a bonus, on the way home to Lowestoft, we called by the toilet block by the A12 to search for moths and had a surprise find.... a female Dotted Border on the wall! 

Dotted Border - A  flightless female

Monday, 4 March 2019

New site! Worlingham Woods, Firhill Covert

Worlingham Woods - 2.3.19

When Butterflies of Britain boss, Lindsey Moore, told me that she had secured Worlingham Woods for her education groups,  I didn't even try to contain my excitement!  The 29 acre site is situated on the outskirts of the town between the Beccles Road and the River Waveney.  The surrounding countryside is a rich mosaic of mixed deciduous woodland,  farmland,  scrub and marshland.  The semi-natural wood has quite a diverse range of trees from young Birch to mature Oak with lines of Lime, stands of Sycamore and occasional Pine.  The undisturbed nature of this wood means it has a greater potential for wildlife and as for moths; we just really want to know!
As Lindsey, Steve and the rest of the BoB Team were keen to get started on the wood, they arranged a work party to begin the process of removing unhealthy and dangerous trees from the top section of the wood.  It seemed like a good opportunity for Peter to recce the site and decide on a good location for our first mothing session.  

At 4.30pm we arrived on site full of anticipation.  Again, my eldest son Nathan joined us and helped us deploy the usual 6 light trap setup.  Base camp was set next to the toilet block which is a luxury compared with most of the sites we trap at.  A set of 3 traps were situated along a ride in Birch woodland with others near mature Chestnut and mixed younger trees.  Lindsey and Steve's 4 children plus Ellie and her clan joined us just as the lights were switched on.  The waiting had begun....

Base Camp

Lindsey and Steve took me on a quick tour of the top end of the wood while they set camera traps to get a glimpse of other wildlife in the wood.  As darkness fell we saw our first moths flying and managed to net a couple of Chestnuts as we made our way back to base.  In our absence more Chestnuts and a Common Quaker arrived to the sheet and were potted and shown the group.  As it was the first time moth trapping for most of the group we decided to do an early round of the traps at 6.30pm.  Along the way we spotted the first of several Dotted Borders and lots more Chestnuts and Common Quakers.  At the first trap we had the first of the special moth of the night; one that we recorded only 24 hours before... a Yellow Horned.

Yellow Horned - Head on to show the 'horns'
Yellow Horned 

More good moths continued to arrive and as this is a new site, every species recorded is important.  Pale Brindled Beauty seems to be having a good year and a few were seen this evening even though the flight season for them was coming to an end.  Common Quakers continued to pour in as the numbers of Chestnut eased off.  Then the best moth of the night so far dropped dropped in while the kids were toasting marshmallows at base camp... a stunning Oak Beauty which was one of our targets for the session.

Oak Beauty

By the end of the night we had 3 of these stunning moths which were real crowd pleasers.  They are quite variable in colour and pattern; here's another one from Worlingham.

Another Beauty

The Quakers are part of the Orthosia family of moths and are found mainly in early Spring.  Common Quaker, as the name suggests can be very numerous in good habitat like this.  The final total of Common Quaker was 76 with some beautifully marked specimens like this one. 

Common Quaker

One member of the Orthosia family we have not seen much of yet this year is the Small Quaker.  With only one specimen the night before in Dunwich Forest we were hoping for more this evening but again,  we caught only one. 

Small Quaker

Time for the final round out traps as the wind was picking up and the marshmallow supply was dwindling so we started packing up the traps and adding the contents to the list.  Good numbers of March Moth,  Yellow Horned and Dotted Border were found with yet more of the abundant Common Quakers. A few micros were potted for further attention including what turned out to be an Agonopterix ocellana, with the curious common name of Red-letter Flat-body. 

Agonopterix ocellana 

Lindsey and Steve ran their trap on this evening.  It's an excellent trap with a combination of actinic and synergetic bulbs available from Paul Batty.  A combination of different light certainly seems to attract different moths and a previous field trip with this trap produced remarkable numbers of micro moths.

The 62 watt trap from Paul Batty

We were keen,  therefore,  to see what it would attract here at Worlingham this early in the year when not as many micros are flying.  A good range of moths was present when we went though its contents an egg tray at a time. Yellow Horned,  March Moth,  Chestnut Dotted Border and Common Quaker were all there.  Then I turned over the last tray and there, hiding at the bottom was the moth of the night and a completely new moth for me and Peter,  a Small Brindled Beauty. What a stunner! 

Star Moth! Small Brindled Beauty 

Look at those Antennae! 

Another View 

So a very satisfactory end to the night with a couple of new moths for 2019 and this fabulous Small Brindled Beauty was the best moth of the year so far.

Here are some more of Lindsey's photos from the evening:

I think a great time was had by all and we look forward to the next mothing session at this fantastic site but after back-to-back nights in the field, we are going to have a bit of a break to catch up on sleep!

Final stats for the night:

Firhill Covert, Worlingham 2-3-19

Chestnut 45
Dotted Border 9
Agonopterix ocellana 2
Agonopterix sp. 1
Yellow Horned 12
Acleris agg 2
Common Quaker 76
March Moth 15
Pale Brindled Beauty 1
Oak Beauty 5
Small Brindled Beauty 1
Small Quaker 1