Monday, 21 September 2020

Nonpareil Land

I am thinking of opening a small theme park after my ninth Clifden Nonpareil arrived last night. It was the first not to enter the trap; I spotted its distinctive triangle on the nearby house wall which I always check before inspecting the eggboxes. It was sleepy enough to allow me to get a reasonable view of its marvellous hindwings in the photo below, and I watched it take two rather groggy flights to nearby and accessible refuges before I hid it deep in a bush away from inquisitive birds.

In the trap itself, there were at least two dozen Black Rustics and lots of other Autumnal regulars as well as the nice fresh pair of Angle Shades, below. I've updated my composite of the various Sallows which I used in yesterday's post to include the plain Sallow, one of which arrived last night. So that makes five, so far.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition

The title of this post occurred to me when I turned over a rather battered eggbox to reveal the sight in my top picture. There is something tremendously sinister about Black Rustics, those classic moths of early Autumn in the UK.  Here they are, apparently interrogating a poor old Large Yellow Underwing. 

No particular excitements in the trap this morning but there was another fresh Large Ranunculus, shown above with a zoom in on its gently varied wing pattern. It was also nice to have four of Autumn's bright orange and yellow Sallows all in one go - from top left clockwise: Centre-barred, Pink-barred (new for this year), Orange and Barred.

Burnished Brasses are very populous on current guest lists but it was slightly unusual to have a trio of the form aurea where the two metallic strips are wholly separated by the brown one. In the commoner (for me at least) form juncta, they are joined by a crossbar, forming an H.

Finally in the moth department, I am pretty sure that this is a Lesser Yellow Underwing, below.  Update: but now, it's more interesting than that - a Brown-spot Pinion which is new to me for this year.  Many thanks to Edward in Comments. And then below that, evidence of why they are so many Daddy Long-legs, or Crane Flies, in the eggboxes at the moment. I posted a similar picture about six weeks ago.  One of them got stuck in an eggbox cone and was waving this solitary leg in distress. I successfully tapped it out.

Out and about, I meanwhile came across these lovely spiders' webs and a dull but lively dragonfly. Update - a common Darter - many thanks, as always, to Conehead in Comments. The Indian Summer is very welcome amid the renewed virus concern.

Friday, 18 September 2020

This makes it eight, a year on

Tonight I celebrate the first anniversary of my first-ever Clifden Nonpareil, a moth which for most of my life, I thought that I would never see. This morning's eggboxes brought me my eighth this year. No matter that iRecord's antiquated robot keeps telling that they haven't been recorded within ten kilometres of my home, the success of this glorious creature just goes on and on. The post before mine on the Upper Thames Moths blog today announced the arrival of a specimen in Tackley, a couple of miles North of here. And so on it goes.

Today's moth has actually left our village, after a brief photo session here which produced my second photo. I was due to see a friend with a general interest in natural history this morning, three miles south-west in Wolvercote, so I popped the Nonpareil in a cosy box and swathed it in a blanket in my bike panniers. I didn't feel that I was being irresponsible (there is an understandable downer on releasing moths in unexpected places which may not suit them), because another Upper Thames Moths contributor recorded the moth in Wolvercote last year and in 2018. And who wouldn't feel at home in that lovely Morning Glory shown at the top of the post?

Another interesting visitor and new for this year is this Large Ranunculus, above and below, a moth with beautiful chips of honey-brown scattered among the varied greys of its wings. It had chose a suitable wall near the trap to sleep on, where its camouflage worked to best advantage. This is an only locally common moth but has a wide and varied diet as a caterpillar before it pupates underground in an unusually strong cartoon. Its name is the scientific one for buttercup, so it may be considered the older and fatter sister of the heroine of Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore.

Finally, the experts on the UTM blog, including Martin Townsend the co-author of the Moth Bible, say that my poor, battered hero yesterday was a victim of wasp or hornet attack. Luckily, this happens rarely in the trap even though wasps and hornets get in there. Usually, they seem to fall asleep. But Dave Wilton picked up on the little micro in the background which I hadn't noticed but show blown-up below, and suggests that it could be Cameraria ohridella, the Horse-chestnut Leaf-miner, which was first recorded in the UK only in 2002 but has spread rapidly. We have plenty of conker trees round here but the blurred focus may make a definite ID impossible.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

A plucky moth

This poor little creature looks to me like a moth which suffered problems in the chrysalis or in hatching but it was indomitable in spite of its severely damaged state. It might have been a victim of a predator but in that case, it is hard to see how it would have survived. Its antennae were bristling and alert and it was able to move nimbly from one eggbox to another. How it got into the trap is a bit of a mystery, though. I'll post the pictures on the Upper Thames Moths blog to see if there are any expert opinions on the matter.

My second composite photo shows how the lawn around the trap is always dotted with Light Emeralds- and, often, Brimstone moths as well, though not today. I got up a little earlier than usual to beat the birds and see if there were more moths in the area, but I found no more than usual, which is a weight off my mind.

The bulbholder and transparent cowl of the trap were also dotted with moths, a Willow Beauty and a very faded Green Carpet in the picture on the left and a nice fresh Snout, below, from on top and underneath.

Next we have a Ruby Tiger, a moth which I haven't seen for a week or two, a couple of Sallows in the two different patterns and what I am fairly sure is a Copper Underwing - as you know, I am disastrously poor at ID-ing this kind of moth.

Away from moths, my older son (and Dad of the entomological granddaughter) took these excellent pictures of a Rosemary Beetle - which he rightly rechristens the Suffragette Beetle with its purple and green - and a second mysterious bug. Any ID of it would be much appreciated.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Tucked away


Amid the excitements of the twin Clifden Nonpareils yesterday, there was the further mystery of this quite substantial moth tucked snugly into an eggbox cone. Its drabness led me to suspect a third Old Lady of the year and I was right. Here it is aftrer waking up, below.

In the new arrivals department, we have that scrambled egg of a moth, the Sallow, joining the Centre-barred Sallow and Orange Sallow in my visitors this year from this colourful clan. And their relative the Frosted Orange, shown playing heads and tails in my picture.

Given that I had company to examine the trap, it was handy to have this example of the effect of life's wear and tear on a moth - a nice fresh Willow Beauty on the cowl contrasted with its battered older relative on the eggbox. 

Here too is a Dusky Thorn, as correctly identified yesterday by Edward; and to round things off another nice example for my visitors: the Lime-speck Pug, one of the 'bird poo moths', dozing on the lamp's rainshield alongside a real bird poo.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Blue, blue and more blue

There are still four nights to go until the first anniversary of my first-ever Clifden Nonpreil which was the realisation of a wistful boyhood dream. In the last 11 nights, I have had SEVEN, with a pair sleeping quietly in the eggboxes this morning.  I have been publicising this extraordinary phenomenon locally and inviting neighbours to come and have a look, so I didn't get round to taking photographs until 9.30am instead of the usual 7am or so. On this lovely sunny days, the moths were getting warm and both took off - a most impressive sight - before I could persuade them to show the full extent of their lovely blue-banded underwings. 

Significantly, one of them (on the left in the top picture and the right in the second one) was a mint condition specimen, so hatching from chrysalises is almost certainly still going on and I have no doubt myself that the moth is breeding nearby.  I hope this situation is known about more widely and expertly; every time I report a Nonpareil to iRecord, I get the automatic 'Record Cleaner' email - not a challenge to authenticity but signalling that there are no records within ten kilometres.  So what? Well, it appears that anyone searching for Clifden Nonpareil records in Oxfordshire would not find them, nor others which have been on the Upper Thames Moths blog as part of this extraordinary phenomenon.  That would be a shame, and I am seeking reassurance that anyone researching the subject would find the full extent of the revival via other databases, including the UTM blog and this one. Otherwise we risk unneccessary further gloom over species decline - not to play that problem down, but the data needs to be comprehensive, so far as possible, and accurate.  Meanwhile, here is the fresh Nonpareil again, closer too but - sorry - without the blue. Other moths tomorrow.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Misty morning

The sun is up now and the mist burned off but it really was a Keatsian Autumn morning today. We get lovely Scots mist with being near a river and a canal. I remember Oxford from student days as a misty city, especially in the Michaelmas term.

My photographs and news are appropriately on the arty (possibly) side as the moths were standard fare albeit very beautiful as always. My weakness for Brimstones continues as you can see. I keep trying to find new ways of getting their delicate loveliness across.

Penny spotted the spider's web and I had an enjoyable time trying to get it into some sort of focus. I sometimes wonder about getting an actual camera but I doubt I will. The iPhone has its limitations and can produce some odd and unrealistic colours. But essentially, it's amazing.  Specially compared with my childhood Brownie 127, much as I loved that.  Now for some more moths; first, a couple of tortrix micro regulars,  a Light Brown Apple moth, Epiphyas postvittana, and a male Large Fruit-tree Tortrix, Archips podana, with a second picture of it for scale.

Next we have a fresh and fine-looking Rosy Rustic, followed by a Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing pretending with its damage-forked wing tails to be an Angle Shades. 

Then a common enough moth but one which I haven't seen in the trap for quite a while, a Shuttle-shape Dart, possibly a third generation specimen after this generally warm year. After that, the third, brownish form of the Lunar Underwing, then a Black Rustic which was actually almost invisible against the interior wall of the trap's black plastic bowl (the iPhone playing light tricks again), and then to add a brighter range of colours, an Orange Sallow and an August or September Thorn protected in its perch on my pea netting. Update: actually a Dusky Thorn - thanks as ever to Edward in Comments.

Finally, here's another everyday but beautifully coloured and patterned regular on the transparent cowl of the trap, a Common Marbled Carpet.