Friday, 25 July 2014

Mainly moths

When I first started running a moth trap in the garden in 2005 one of the species in Lewington that I dreamed of trapping was Tree-lichen Beauty. Well nearly ten years on I have finally succeeded! This stunning emerald green moth was trapped overnight on the 19th and was the moth highlight of the year so far for me, although it was probably not the rarest moth in the trap! Whilst sorting through the micro's I came across one that I was unfamiliar with. In itself this is not unusual as I am definitely a novice in this area, so I took a few pictures for later examination and got on with sifting through the trap. On later examination I identified the micro in question as Acleris umbrana (Dark-streaked Button) that is listed as rare in the micro book, so I hastily took some better pictures and checked the various county and national websites to be certain, before contacting the ever reliable Paul Chapman who was able to confirm I was not hallucinating. As far as I have been able to establish this is a genuinely rare moth in Sussex with only four records prior to 2010 per Pratt (although Derek Lee at Bracklesham has trapped 3 this year and there will almost certainly be other records I am unaware of). A couple of the recent records in Kent and Sussex have been speculated as being of immigrant origin, a theory which the Bracklesham individuals would appear to support, however the Levels hold a significant amount of Blackthorn which is the primary food plant for this species so it is possible that there is a local population - I may need to get mobile...
The past week has been absolute quality on the moth front all round with new species for the garden and year lists each time the trap has been in operation. Numbers and highlights as follow:
13th July - 39 macro's of 18 species included new for the year Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Marbled Beauty, Marbled Green, and White-spotted Pug. 39 micro's of 10 species included the purple and gold Pyrasta aurata.
15th July - 61 macro's of 30 species included new for the year Black Arches, Dark Sword-grass, Garden Tiger, Small Emerald, Spectacle, V-Pug, and Phoenix, the last named also being a new moth for the garden. 18 micro's of 9 species included new for the year Alucita hexadactyla (Twenty-plume moth) and Catoptria falsella.

17th July - 86 macro's of 27 species included Common Pug. 54 micro's of 14 species included a couple of the larger reed dwelling species Donacaula forficella and Donacaula mucronella as well as Acrobasis suavella, Agriphila tristella, Oegoconia caradjai (probable), and Spilonota ocellana (Bud moth).

19th July - 148 macro's of 37 species included the afore-mentioned Tree-lichen Beauty as well as a couple of other new moths for the garden in the shape of Chevron and Peacock. Garden year ticks were Common Emerald, Dun-bar, Silver-Y, and Yellow-tail. 49 micro's of 14 species included Acleris umbrana, Blastobasis adjustella, Cataclysta lemnata (Small China-mark), Mompha propinquella, and Oegoconia quadripuncta.

 21st July - 137 macro's of 28 species included new for the year Gold-spot and Least Yellow Underwing. 93 micro's of 17 species included Apodia bifractella, Emmelina monodactyla (Common Plume), Pammere fasciana, Pleuroptya ruralis (Mother of Pearl), Rhyaconia pinicolana (a cream and orange stunner), and Yponomeuta evonymella (Bird-cherry Ermine).
23rd July - 141 macro's of 30 species included new for the year Blood-vein, Cloaked minor, Knot Grass, Oak Eggar (a female), and Rosy Footman. 38 micro's of 10 species included 2 Amblyptilia acanthadactyla (Beautiful Plume).

At the time of writing the garden moth list for the year stands at 140 macro species and 53 micro species from an overall catch of 2004 individuals over 54 nights. This represents the most intensive trapping I have done in the garden since 2005 so it will be interesting to do some comparisons at the end of the year. Elsewhere of note was a Pine Hawkmoth roosting on the wall at my workplace in St Leonards on the 24th.
Out on the levels a Brown Hare remains an enjoyable summer resident and I undertook an hour or so of fishing on the evening of the 19th to see what species I could add to the Pan patch list - The answer was, unsurprisingly perhaps, Roach and Rudd, I also saw a Common Carp of double figure proportions cruising the dykes along New Bridge road.
On the bird front it has been very quiet over the past week with no obvious passage species. Dragons though remain in abundance with a good afternoon on the 17th recording 9+ Brown Hawker, 2 Southern Hawker, Emperor, Black-tailed Skimmer, Ruddy Darter, and the usual resident damsels.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Dog days - Are you sure?

Birders often refer to the days at the height of summer as dog days with the implication that there is not a lot going on. Think again! So, there is a bit of a lull, generally speaking, in bird movements, however there is shedloads going on elsewhere in the animal kingdom. The past week has seen me alternating between the home patch and Ashdown Forest, for a variety of reasons, and very enjoyable it has been too.
Starting with Dragons which are in full swing at the moment. Due to the weather and times of my visits sightings on the levels were fairly quiet with the larger hawkers not seen at all. Damsels remain present in large numbers with all the regular species seen and my first Common Darter was seen on Hankham Level in the form of an emerging individual. However it was two afternoon visits to Old Lodge that saw the best dragonfly activity with a total of sixteen species on the wing. Top of the pops was a Downy Emerald on the 12th with the other species recorded as follows: Emperor, Southern Hawker, Brown Hawker, Golden-ringed, Four-spotted Chaser, Broad-bodied Chaser, Keeled Skimmer, Common Darter, Emerald Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, Azure Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Beautiful Demoiselle, Large Red Damselfly, and last, but by no means least my personal favourite Small Red Damselfly.

The two weekend visits were my second and third of the week to Ashdown as the evening of the 8th was the evening I chose to go Nightjaring with old friends Nigel Driver and Gary Howard. As is invariably typical for pre-arranged trips out the weather was probably the worst of the week with overcast conditions and periodic heavy rain not ideal, however a walk around Old Lodge produced Redstarts and Woodlark before moving over to The Pines, where a roding Woodcock was the precursor to first a female Nightjar, and then quality views of a male perched, churring, and in flight at close range periodically hovering over the path just above us. The evening was rounded off very nicely, thankyou, with a pint of Harveys' at The Hatch. Woodlark were also seen well on the 13th with close views of a family party, and a Hobby was watched hawking insects over the car park on the same date.
Back on the levels the birding highlights were few and far between with the best being a single Greenshank, 6 Teal, female Marsh Harrier, and 3 Raven on Sundays WEBS count.
The moth highlight of the week was the Brussels Lace, pictured left, trapped on the night of the 10th which was a new species for me. Another new species was the Dark Spectacle trapped on the night of the 8th which is pictured below. Numbers and new species for the year were as follow:
6th July: 32 macro's of 13 species included Dot Moth and Peppered Moth new for the year. 8 micro's of 5 species.
8th July: 39 macro's of 18 species included new for the year Common Carpet, Hoary Footman, and L-album Wainscot. 24 micro's of 4 species.
10th July: 33 macro's of 17 species included new for the year Sycamore. 31 micro's of 10 species included new for me Pyralis farinalis (Meal moth).
Finally on to mammals and plants. Foxes were seen on Down Level throughout the week with at least one particularly boisterous cub and Brown Hare was also present on Saturday. The final picture of the week has to be the Flowering Rush which was in bloom on Down Level on Saturday - absolutely stunning!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Hundred up, Pedal Power, True Blue, and return passage

The hundredth species of macro for the garden this year was on the outside of the trap on the morning of the 4th July in the form of a Miller, which, I can reveal with the assistance of my new moth spreadsheet, to be only the 5th record of this species for the garden. This was quickly followed by the 6th record on the inside of the trap.
Due to the weather, and the fact that I very rarely run the trap on successive nights in order to give the moths a chance to do moth stuff, trapping only took place on the nights of the 1st and 3rd with the latter proving to be the best night of the year so far:
1st July: 35 macro's of 14 species including new for the year Dark/Grey Dagger, Scarce Footman, and Single-dotted Wave. 11 micro's of 4 species. For any non-mothers Scarce Footman is superficially similar to Common Footman, but to use birding terminology, has a characteristic jizz, with the forewings curled around the body as opposed to wings which are held flat over the body in Common Footman. The pictures below are of Scarce Footman on the left and a Common Footman from last month on the right.

3rd July: 67 macro's of 22 species including new for the year: Miller, Lesser Yellow Underwing, and Smoky Wainscot, a photo of which is also included on the right to illustrate its distinctive smoky hindwing. There were also 27 micro's of 8 species including a couple of new ones for me in the form of the thankfully straightforward Anasia coronata, and the slightly less staightforward Cnephasia stephensiana (Grey Tortrix). Most attractive micro of the week though has to be the Cataclysta lemnata (Small China-mark) which were on the wing on Hankham and Down Levels this weekend - a picture of a male is below.
Without a doubt the best way to get around the levels at this time of year (and the greenest bar walking) is by bike. This allows a lot more of the area to be covered as well as providing useful exercise so Friday and Saturday saw pedal power put to good use with rides out to Hankham Level and then working my way back to the main patch and on to home. Hankham Level is my old WEBS haunt and has some lovely corners so I spent some time there looking for dragons despite it being windy all weekend (and wet as well first thing Saturday and Sunday). Red-eyed Damselfly were very numerous hunting from their water lily helipads and my first Small Red-eyed Damselfly were also seen with 2 just south of the bridge on Friday. Both red-eyes were frustratingly out of camera range but were easily scoped while resting so I hope to get some pics for future posts. Ruddy Darter was new for the year hunting from its reed perches.

On Saturday the weather was so much cooler that most insect activity was restricted however given the numbers of damselflies in the grass I was able to spend some time photographing Blue-tailed Damselflies and managed to get pictures of most of the female colour forms.

In addition the other three blue damselflies were all seen over the course of the morning with Variable damselflies still very much in evidence along with the "bluer" Commons and Azures. The only hawkers seen over the weekend were a Brown Hawker on Down Level on Friday afternoon and a female Emperor on White Dyke on Saturday morning.
One of the pleasures in covering a local patch is that  things are constantly on the move, so no sooner does it feel like one season has arrived than you start to get a feel for the next. It was therefore no surprise to find the first waders on return passage at the weekend. The Black-tailed Godwit and Greenshank pictured left were on Down Level on Sunday, the Greenshank being present since Friday when there was also a summer plumaged Dunlin. On the breeding front the Redshank have been successful with at least one fully fledged young and the Lapwing have also managed to successfully breed though I don't know the total numbers, in addition a Mallard second brood, also on Down contained 7 ducklings. Various other residents included Kingfisher at Rickney pumping station and Bullfinches piping around the lanes. Swallows already seem to be gathering into groups ready for departure, with 16 assorted adults and juveniles on the wires at Rickney on Saturday. On the mammal front Brown Hare on Down Level and a Fox cub at the Hailsham end of White Dyke added a bit of variety to a late Sunday afternoon visit.

Finally, botany is definitely not one of my stronger suits, however, as with most things, I am trying to make a bit more of an effort this year, so it was pleasing to see Water Betony at Hankham Level on Saturday as this was a flower I had not noticed before. This is somewhat surprising given that it is nearly as tall as me and possesses striking deep red and yellow flowers. White water lily and Yellow water lily were both also in flower on Hankham.