Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Back in action

Hello all and apologies for the interruption in service while I carried out my sponsored row from Oxford to London.  Thanks ever so much to everyone who has supported me and here are some pics. More can be found on the funding web page gogetfunding.com/rowing-down-the-river.

Back at home, I ran the moth trap last night and found one novelty, this attractive and quite large micro, Hypsopygia glaucinalis, perching on the classiest egg box (Burford Browns are lovely, with rich orangey-yellow yolks). The moth has been here before on several occasions, always at this time of the year. It's a pleasure to welcome it again.

There've been some complaints on the excellent Upper Thames Moths blog about Large Yellow Underwings being scarce this year. That isn't the case with me. Not only are they abundant but last night's were more willing than usual to show their yellow petticoats which give the moths their name but are normally unseen.

Mind you, the last one didn't have much choice in the matter since he or she was definitely dead. As were the hornet being shoved around by a red and black Burying Beetle, and some kind of moth, wasp or bee shown in a spider's larder in these two rather gruesome pictures which end my thoughts for today.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Jam today

In case you need reminding, this is what happens to a cream tea on a sunny afternoon in England. It wasn't ours, fortunately. The cafe was sensibly using one table for leftovers as a very effective decoy. Not that I mind wasps, usually, and I find the range of variety of deterrents against them fascinating, ranging from sweet-water jars on the Ashmolean rooftop to a fake wasp's nest, like a black balloon, called the Waspinator.  None are wholly effective but the battle is interesting for spectators.

Things putter along quietly at the moth trap, meanwhile. Here's a Brimstone moth forming a nice colour contrast with my specimen-examining deckchair, below is that nice little moth a Lime-speck Pug (all the nicer for being distinctice unlike most of its Puggish brethren) and below that, another Brimstone with an Oak Hooktip, considerately snoozing on the transparent (though much-battered) cowl so that I can photograph them from above and below.

I did get a bit excited about this, however: a very curious extrusion from the little hole at the bottom of an eggbox cone. As you can see, the mystery proved to be sadly unmysterious. I am not suffering from the shortage of Large Yellow Underwings reported elsewhere.

What else? A nice Copper Underwing about to take off from my fingers, and the oversized Wax moth micro with its distinctive shape. and ME, about to set off on my marathon row from Oxford to London to raise money for this.  No more trapping for a week at least. Wish me luck!

Sunday, 2 September 2018

In focus

Pride of place this morning goes to a ladybird, not on its own merits pretty though it is, but because my iPad Mini came good for once with focus and colouring. I keep debating with myself and Penny about getting a new camera or perhaps an up-to-date iPhone. The camera quality of the latter is extraordinary. But for now, I plan to economise.  Anyway, thank the Lord for ladybirds, even if like this one they tend increasingly to be the American Harlequin sort which is dominating our native species, much as happened with squirrels.

Talking of mammals, here is a sad sight but one with interesting colouring. I am assuming that it is a shrew or mouse of some kind but whether the zebra effect is unusual, I do not know. I Googled the Mammal Society and via their website emailed the Oxfordshire county mammal recorder and now await news.

The top moth in my next picture is the pretty but familiar micro Pyrausta purpuralis, a species which surprisingly has never acquired a familiar English name in spite of its distinctive appearance and vivid colouring. The large micro below it is meanwhile more interesting than I thought. At first glance, I assumed that it was that regular visitor the Garden Pebble but a post and picture on the brilliant Upper Thames Moths blog by Richard Ellis shows me that it is a European Corn-borer, not the nicest of names but only locally common and new to my garden list. Apparently they are having a good year.

Still in microland, the distinctive paper-dart moth beside the Setaceous Hebrew Character in the picture below evades my ID skills for the time being but I will persevere. The second, very poor quality pictures, show it from either side.

Three old favourites next: the sweet little Spectacled Moth with its false giglamps, a Burnished Brass form aurea and a blurry pic of a Snout moth, showing the reason for its name.

 And to finish up with, here's a pretty Clouded Border which disdained the trap, preferring the lawn; and the beautiful creamy-brown form of the Large Yellow Underwing. There has been some concern on the Upper Thames Moths blog about LYU numbers but there are plenty here.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Dowager moth

The Old Lady moth has a particular place in my affections because the first I ever saw was browsing on rum and treacle which my cousin and I had smeared on trees at an uncle's rectory in Suffolk. Full of excitement, we ran into the house shouting: "We've caught an old lady!" There was brief consternation because two real elderly ladies from his previous parish were also staying at the time.

Sadly, my aunt has just died at a venerable age and her funeral was held yesterday. This morning, I was investigating the eggboxes gingerly, because three hornets were snoozing on the wall by the trap, and Lo! There was the only the third Old Lady to visit me since  we moved to live near Oxford; the last came almost exactly a year ago, on 2nd September last year.

I persuaded this one to move on to my finger and thence to a white rose but the process disquieted her and, as you can see from the second picture, she was soon exercising her wings to summon up enough energy for take-off. Shortly after I took the third photo, she was up and away, fluttering in her gloomy Victorian robes into the safety of a buddleia bush.

Other interesting visitors over the last few nights include this exciting-looking beetle, above, the Oak Hooktip below and the two Sallows, nicely showing the difference between the Centre-barred Sallow at the bottom and the Barred Sallow at the top.

Finally, I felt a tickle on my leg in the kitchen yesterday afternoon which I assumed to be a fly. When I felt down with my fingers, however, the tickler proved to be soft and squashy - the caterpillar, ID as yet unknown, shown in the picture below.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Pillow talk

I was having breakfast the other day when I looked up and saw on our sun umbrella (not much in use just now) the unmistakable grey unilateral triangle of a resting Red Underwing. This beautiful moth lifts the trapper's heart at the end of the summer, a time when much else in the eggboxes is small, brown and - to me at least - not very exciting.

Red Undwrings have visited the actual trap but they have a liking for sun umbrellas. The first I saw in this part of the world, back in August 2009 when we were down from Leeds for  weekend, was on a pub umbrella at Radcot Bridge. It was spotted by Penny who was also struck by the toning of its pink underwing with the brewery's branding colour (bottom left, above).

The underwing is your best hope of a photo which explains why the moth has its name. It stubbornly refuses to show its bright scarlet top petticoat when at rest and you have to be very quick to snatch a photo of it if and when you irritate the moth into giving you a quick flash. I tickled this one three times, in the manner of my granddaughter enticing a moth on to her finger, and each time it flew away, circled the umbrella and then came back to roost in the folds of material again. Its final resting place was too high for me to reach, so I left it in peace and went back to my kipper.

Earlier in the morning I had found this strange moth on my pillow, one with markings unlike anything in the Moth Bible. I wondered if it was something foreign or an aberration but on close inspection, I think that the effect of being squashed by me - which sadly may be what happened if it had snuggled on to my pyjamas when I was inspecting the trap - produced what appears to be wing scale loss, more or less identical on each wing. So I think it was a Carpet moth of some kind, but a Carpet Hoovered clean.

The orange and yellow Sallow moths are a sign of Autumn in the offing and they have come a little early this year. Here are a couple of Centre-barred Sallows, one in the trap and the other dozing nearby.  Two pictures also of one of my favourite small moths the Green Carpet, the top one from above and the bottom one from below, through the trap's transparent cowl on which it had found rest. I like it largely because green is not that common a colour in UK moths; so it's nice to follow the pictures with two of Light Emeralds, again one in the trap and the other close by, in our Romneyia poppy which has yet to give us any of its massive, floppy fried egg flowers this year because we didn't cut back its old wood last winter.

A quintet of grey and brown visitors here which I will identify for certain later because I need to go out and check this morning's trap shortly; but I am pretty sure that the top two are Flounced Rustics, bottom right a Square-spot Rustic, bottom middle a Lychnis and bottom left a White-point.

Next - sorry, I hope that I am not going on too long - here are two examples of that very multitudinous visitor the Mother of Pearl micro in an unusual resting position, showing the pointy forewing tips, photos which also illustrate how digital photography can change colours depending on the amount of light. Sadly this moth is in an unusual position because it has died although the lovely iridescence which gives the species its name is still evident. The photo bottom right shows a living example which was also in the trap, resting in the normal pose.

Three moths outside the trap now: the lovely, striking yellow of a Brimstone, a sleek Swallow Prominent and one I need to ID.  And finally three Carpets pretending to be butterflies and, in solitary glory, a little Common Plume.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Old familiars and a new arrival

When you have run a light trap for ten years it is easy to get blase about common moths and regular arrivals. But then something about them catches your attention and you re-experience the thrill when you saw them for the first time.

The two Angle Shades, above, are a case in point. This is a very familiar rooster in the eggboxes and one of the commonest moths in requests I get from friends to identify a species they've found at their lighted window or snoozing in the curtains. Yet what a wonderful creature it is! That rakish shape, caused by the very unusual folding of the wings like umbrellas when the moth is at rest, is one of the wonders of the UK moth world.

By chance, I had the opportunity to photograph the Angle Shades in a different position, with its wings outstretched above,  and then with its spotted body from underneath, below, as there was a dead specimen in the trap along with the two live ones. Maybe it was the victim of a hornet which was hidden below an eggbox and gave me a sting - extremely small because I whipped my kind away and the hornet was drowsy, but a warning nevertheless.

The trap had some other delightful creatures inside; best of all was a new micro visitor, the Small China-mark, which completes a very attractive family for me.

Here she is - the female has the streaky brown and white forewings while the male goes for a very smart pure white with a single black dot. This distinction also applies in the Ringed China-mark but not in the best of them all, the Beautiful China-mark, shown third below with the final member of the family, the Brown China-mark featuring in my final picture for today.

And again, closer
Beautiful (to put it mildly)
and Brown