Saturday, 3 July 2010


The warm and sticky end to Friday 2nd, was just too good an opportunity to let pass for some moth trapping at the country park. The Gardner and the Skinner traps were both set up and ran between 10pm and 4am. Having risen to check the trap at 3.30am before it got light and before the crows started to look for their breakfast, there was the minor inconvenience of a short, sharp shower to deal with early on. The Skinner trap in the picture above has a plastic rain guard above the bulb but the Gardner trap has a 150w halogen bulb and two actinic bulbs that could easily shatter if they got too wet. Not wanting to switch the bulbs off before I had checked the moths, I quickly fetched a parasol to hold over the trap while the rain briefly pelted down for several minutes.

The conditions had been perfect for all sorts of insect activity throughout the night. Crane flies, small water beetles, lacewings, caddisflies, mosquitoes - of course, hundreds of grass moths as well as many other micro moths. Even the pipistrelle bats enjoyed the moth-trapping session with at least five bats performing acrobatics above one of the traps as they hawked after the incoming moths.

After a couple of hours of checking and removing the traps, around 500 individuals of 65 macro-moth species made it a very worthwhile session. Watching me examine one of the traps was one of the fox cubs that was relaxed enough to lie down on the grass only 20 metres from me just before daybreak.

The big hawkmoths always catch the eye with four species seen being the ones in the photo above. The top left is eyed hawkmoth with poplar hawkmoth below it while to the right is the lime hawkmoth in its camouflage outfit and an elephant hawk below. Ten hawkmoth individuals at the traps was a good tally for the night.

It was a good night for the eyed hawkmoth with four seen in and around the traps. This one in the photo above was found resting on the grass a few metres short of the trap with its hindwings open and exposing the colourful eyes.
The first lime hawkmoth of the summer was almost the first moth at the traps, arriving just a few minutes after one had been switched on.

A new species for the park was this lilac beauty which had me thinking at first it was a kind of thorn moth or a hook-tip moth, until I spotted the way it held its wings when resting on the side of the trap. The leading edge of the wings seemed to have a crease along it, which was an unusual posture. The lilac beauty appears to be reasonably frequent across Essex, using privet, honeysuckle as well as lilac as foodplants. The moth has some lilac markings on the wings which have also helped give the moth its name.

The small rosy footman with its salmon-pink colouring is one of the prettiest moths close-up with the fine black markings on the wings. Only one or two turn up at the traps here each summer, although none were seen during a couple of recent summers. The larvae feed on lichens growing on the trunks and branches of trees.

Although the miller moth has been recorded here in previous years, it's not a regular visitor. The foodplant of the larvae include birch, alder, poplars and oak.

There were good double figure counts of buff arches, riband wave, barred straw, clouded silver, common footman, heart and club, heart and dart, the flame, common wainscot, shoulder-striped wainscot, dark arches, light arches, marbled minor and uncertain / rustic.

Other moths noted were bordered white, swallow-tailed, magpie, treble-brown spot, figure of 80, lime-speck pug, green pug, sallow kitten, maple prominent, coxcomb prominent, swallow prominent, yellow-tail, sand dart, shark, poplar grey, lunar-spotted pinion, dun-bar, bordered sallow, silver Y, peppered moth, shaded pug and green silver-lines.

On the bird-front, a sparrowhawk flew over the park earlier in the morning and there was a small group of 50 swifts passed over. To the north of the park about 70 sand martins were flying over fields, this being the start of the mid-summer sand martin-swarm that in one recent year, involved 1000 birds.
An adder was seen in the main area near the car park on Saturday morning.
Martin Cock saw two greenshank at Maydays Farmon Saturday.

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