Monday 15 June 2020

First For Suffolk

Westleton Heath 13.6.2020

The weather in early June had been a continuation of April with warm sunny days and cool, clear nights.  With the country having been in the grip of COVID lockdown for months, moth trapping in my Lowestoft garden had been frustrating to say the least! By the second week of the month, temperatures started to hold up around double figures and the species counts began to rise steadily; things were starting to look up.  With lockdown restrictions being relaxed, the chance to get back out into the field for the first time since March was very appealing.  After a good catch at home the night before, we decided to head out on the 13th June.

Peter Follett and I have been trapping together for a few years now and we have a short list of sites where we trap regularly but on this occasion we decided to try somewhere new.  We picked a spot a few kilometers from one of our usual spots, right on the edge of Westleton Heath and Dunwich Forest.  We travelled light and only took one 125w MV Robinson trap and a couple of our homemade traps fitted with LEDs and 20w Wemlite bulbs. 

Dusk at Westleton 

After setting up shortly before dusk, there was just enough light to check the area for leaf mines and larval feeding signs to get the list going.  Cydia conicolana emergence holes and the feeding signs of Broad-bordered Bee Hawk were particularly pleasing.  As it got dark, the lights went on and the moths began to arrive.  At first it appeared that the MV was going to perform best; lots of Brown Silver-line, Brimstone, Double-striped Pug and a couple of Fox Moth arrived early around the trap.  However, the temperature dipped lower than I had hoped under clear skies.  The arrival of moths slowed down although I was pleased to spot a Grass Emerald in a Gorse bush by torch light; a new moth for both of us.  It was too cool to sit outside so we sat, socially distanced, in our own cars chatting through open windows and drinking coffee before doing the final round of the traps and packing up.  The most numerous moth of the night was True Lover’s Knot with 67 but only a few other species reached double figures; Brown Silver-line, Neofaculta ericetella and Scoparia basistrigalis. 

Feeding signs of Broad-bordered Bee Hawk 

Pot shot of the Grass Emerald 

Fox Moth

We packed up The MV and one of the 20w Wemlite traps first, leaving the ‘Ark’ trap until last.  This duel-funnel trap was fitted with 7w LED and 20w Wemlite lamps powered by a motorcycle battery.  Having been situated near the heath, the trap was mainly full of True Lover’s Knot and Neofaculta ericetella but there were plenty of moths of interest such as Clouded Buff, Cream-spot Tiger and Grass Wave.

True Lover's Knot

Grass Wave

By the time we going through the last few egg trays it was really quite cold and damp and the main objective was to pack up quickly.  We motored on through the last few egg trays, potting up anything that we were not sure of in order to identify later.  A small moth similar in size to a Marbled White-spot caught our eyes but neither of us could immediately put a name to it.  It looked like it should have been obvious, but tiredness had kicked in and the coffee was wearing off!  Peter said, “just tube it” and so into a pot it went for later scrutiny.  We packed up and headed home around 1am, pleased with a decent list of around 80 species including a few to check. 

When I got home, I quickly checked my garden traps but another cool, clear night meant reduced numbers on the previous few nights and a slightly disappointing end to the night… or was it?  As I sorted out the potted moths from the field trip, I remembered the odd noctuid from the last trap.  I flicked through a book and was surprised that I could not immediately match it to anything obvious.  Luckily, my wife had woken up and had joined me at the kitchen table to help with my mystery moth.  Having excluded all the commoner moths we decided that it had to be a Pretty Marbled Deltote deceptoria, however a quick glance at the Suffolk Moths website showed no records or photos.  

Mystery moth on the Kitchen Table 

Knowing how new the website was, I assumed that any previous records had yet to be uploaded but I pinged a photo across to Neil Sherman, the county moth recorder, to verify my identification.  At 4am, Neil responded with “well done, it’s new to Suffolk!”.  Only after a few hours sleep and a bit of research did I find out what a great record it was; there had only been 20 previous records for Britain! 

Pretty Marbled,  the first record for Suffolk