Friday, 2 October 2015

Autumn colours


The nights are longer and the mornings darker, but keeping the moth lamp burning into the autumn brings a rich reward. This morning, for example, saw these three interesting and beautiful overnight visitors. A welcome start to the day.

The Green-brindled Crescent, subject of my first two pictures, is a straightforwardly lovely moth with a marvellous mixture of greens, greys, browns and pinks which any dress designer would envy. It comes in two main forms, one greenish the other browny, but has all manner of subtle variations in between.

My second arrival, above, is a familiar friend, Blair's Shoulder-knot, but I have learned more about it while checking my finds with that excellent web page Hants Moths Flying Tonight. Because this referred to the insect as Blair's Shoulder-knot or Stone Pinion, I did a little more Googling to discover the origins of this alternative which was new to me.  

I have often referred in the past to the eminent Dr Blair, a retired entomologist from the Natural History Museum in London who lived on the Isle of Wight and discovered no fewer than three species new to England there which all now carry his name. Blair's Shoulder-knot, Blair's Wainscot and Blair's Mocha all made landfall in the UK on the island after setting out from continental Europe on probes north. What I didn't know was that Dr Blair modestly described the Shoulder-knot as 'Stone Pinion' in his original report of the find in 1951.

Although it acknowledged the moth's similarities with the Pale and Tawny Pinion - the first an occasional visitor here too - the name didn't catch on and others insisted that the moth should acknowledge Blair. It has since spread rapidly, almost certainly because of the huge - and in all other respects depressing - surge in popularity for its foodplant, cypress. If only the caterpillars could dispose of all those Leyland cypress hedges.

Finally, here's that delightful Autumn regular, the Frosted Orange. As the newsletter of South Wales Butterfly Conservation (one of my Googling finds) says: 'Those observers who keep trapping well into Autumn are often rewarded not only with the chance to see Blair's Shoulder-knot, but also some of the most beautifully-marked species found in Great Britain.'  The writer adds sagely that many Autumn moths are considered rarer than they probably are, simply because so many people have called it a day for the year's trapping.


Countryside Tales said...

I trap year round. It amazes me that there are still species flying in sub zero temperatures. I have has moths visiting in -5 probably because they can warm themselves by vibrating their wings.

Martin Wainwright said...

Hi there - nice to hear from you. Yes, it's really impressive how the cold doesn't deter them. You'd be very pleased to be in Berkshire at the moment. Clifden Nonpareils are positively flooding in - as per the Upper Thames Moths blog

all warmest and apols for delay. Grandchildren mania.


Countryside Tales said...

I'm waiting on an MDJ or two but haven't been able to get the trap out much in the last fortnight. It was mid Oct when they started turning up here last year, so keeping fingers crossed. Another Clifden would make me smile but I'm not expecting it, although if Berkshire is flooded with them perhaps they might over-spill into Hampshire! Hope all's well. Best, CT.