Monday, 15 June 2015

Charge of the Heavy Brigade

Wee-ay! The moths have arrived en masse. Actually it was the night before last, a lovely warm one, but I had to beetle off to Leeds yesterday. I just had time to show my granddaughter the pick of the bunch, a majestic Privet Hawk which had her satisfactorily bug-eyed, but everything had to wait until last night and this morning.

And this morning there are fresh treasures, though the night was much cooler. But they will have to wait until the next post.

My top picture shows the Privet Hawk beside one of seven Elephant Hawks in the trap and a bedraggled Puss Moth which, like me, is clearly getting on a bit. The second picture shows a typical eggbox and its heaving population. In my last post, I published a similar photograph but of tiny flies. Now it's moths.

The Hearts and Darts are approaching treble figures and there was an almost equally large arrival of the various, highly-confusing Minors, whose distinctions require dissection to establish, as Trent points out in a comment on my last post. That's not one of my remaining skills.

But here's a big welcome to a nice newcomer to my list of garden moths: an immigrant called the Bordered Straw which has been turning up in good numbers in this region, on what seem to have been a series of mothy package tours from France.  I was also pleased to find this little chap, below, which I think is a Small Dotted Buff. Not new for me, but a rare visitor here. Or could it be a Round-winged Muslin, which would be new? Update: Hooray, it is the latter, according to the supreme guru of Upper Thames Moths, Dave Wilton. He reckons the subsequent one, which looks as though it's in its nightie, is a rain-damaged Treble Lines. Another expert on the blog, Marc Botham, suggests a rain-battered Clouded-shouldered Brindle and a third wonders if it's a washed-out Rustic Shoulder-knot. Insoluable, I guess, other the consensus that it's old and has spent too long out in the rain.

Another one I'm not certain about is this rather delicate creature, below. Is it a Light Arches? The moth below it is certainly a Dark Arches, a very common visitor in June and July but this one has the distinction of being this year's first of the brood.

My first Willow Beauty of the year, pic below, arrived too, one of a large and graceful group of moths named 'Beauty', a beauty rather of the refined, older lady sort in my opinion, but beautiful nonetheless.

Let's welcome, too, the first appearance in 2015 of the fine Ghost Moth, whose females have this orange and pink livery like one of those pineapple and raspberry Trebor chews, while the males (less frequently seen at light) are a ghostly white.

And a big hand for the first Burnished Brass, or rather this pair of them, each showing-off a different reflection of their metallic wing scales. I love that sheen. Update: do read Trent's extremely interesting comment on this moth below. He reminds me that the two moths shown here are fortuitously the two different forms of Burnished Brass, juncta, shown first below, where the two patches of 'brass' are joined by a strip of varying width (this is quite a thin one), and aurea, where they are separate. Research has found other differences between the two which suggest that they could be considered different species. But change is as slow in the moth world as elsewhere in the UK and the proposed transformation of juncta into a glorious new, distinct moth called the Cryptic Burnished Brass is not yet complete, 50 years after it was first proposed.

We had the dramatically-shaped Angle Shades last week. Now here, below, is it's relative the Small Angle Shades. That's followed a pug moth, infuriating tribe for those like me with ID problems. A faded Mottled Pug is my best guess.

I've self-indulgently included two pictures of Scorched Wings, partly because I like their unique pattern so much, but also because it is the favourite moth of the teenage daughter of one of my recent, kind commentors. Talking of youth, while I was in Leeds, my granddaughter, her Mum and Dad and Penny took a potter along the canal and met a little girl holding a 'butterfly' on a plant stem.

Here it is in the picture below, courtesy of P. It's actually a moth but the butterfly confusion is entirely understandable. Brightly-coloured and day-flying, the Scarlet Tiger moth is really an honorary butterfly, albeit one that hurtles rather than flutters around. I hope that today's sun brings out some more for me to see.


Trent Duval said...

Hi Martin,
Nice catch, some beauties there.
Your first Burnished Brass is Diachrysia chrysitis f. juncta
The second is Diachrysis chrysitis f. aurea.
form juncta has a broken "saddle" whereas aurea has a complete "saddle".
There has been a buzz in the past that the two may be split as separate species.
To make matters worse, there may be another BB species, a sort of inbetweeny, with the centre band joined with a skinny bridge.
It's enough to brass you off.
Maybe one of your readers is up to speed on the latest BB status developements.

Martin Wainwright said...

Thanks so much Trent - fascinating. I've updated. They discussed it briefly on Upper Thames Moths last summer and the view seemed to be that the Cryptic BB hadn't quite yet earned its place yet. But apparently it has in other European countries. Brassing off, as you suggest.

all warmest wishes


Helen Ackerman said...

Hi Martin
I love your pictures of the scorched wing, I think it was my mum that commented to you about it before. She's obsessed about your blog at the moment and find all the moths that you find really interesting because you get a lot better hauls than we get up here. It's incredible how many different types you've found and the pictures to go with them, it's a really good inspiration that someone can be so interested in these beautiful creatures and help others who are interested to identifie from your pictures.
Helen x

Martin Wainwright said...

Hi Helen and many thanks for your comment. I'm glad you approved the Scorched Wing pics; I agree with you that it's an outstanding moth. I find the effect of its colouring very interesting because, like a Bridget Riley op-art picture, it seems to disorientate my eyes (and my camera's focus). Yes, we're very lucky in our moths down here though when I ran the light trap in Leeds - until Spring 2013 - I used to get excellent moths too. Having a mercury vapour bulb is the key, but they are too bright to use in built-up areas unless you can find a nook with no direct line of sight to anyone's windows. Apparently you can get 'dark' versions but I've never seen one.

As I mentioned to your Mum - and all warmest wishes to her too - it's great that you are interested in and enthusiastic about moths and have in turn interested some of your friends. That's partly because moths are so interesting and full of lessons for us (with much still to be understood), but also because curiosity and enthusiasm are such good and attractive things for anyone to have. I hope that you prosper in all that you do. One of the greatest pieces of progress in my lifetime has been the breaking down of barriers to women in so many fields - though, as with our knowledge of moths, there is still much for your generation to do.

I'm sorry my IDs are rather erratic btw and I always much appreciate commentors who put me right

Happy mothing!