Wednesday, 23 July 2014


I had company in the back garden in Firs Chase, West Mersea whilst checking the moth trap, with this robin taking a great interest in what had been caught during the night. There was plenty of moth activity during several nights trapping in the very warm and muggy conditions.

The young robin is in the middle of shedding his speckled brown feathers of a juvenile, while the red-breast of an adult bird begins to develop. It didn't seem to have any fear of humans and was either very cheeky or very hungry, swooping just in front of me to snatch a moth from the trap to have for his breakfast.

Around seventy macro species of moth were recorded over four nights between 16th and 19th, with up to 200 individuals on some nights. A big thunderstorm passed over the trap at 3.30am on Saturday morning which curtailed that session as the rain poured down and lightning flashed repeatedly around.

It was nice to find this neatly marked black arches in the trap - the first time I've noted one on the Island. It's mainly a woodland moth and is reasonably widespread on the neighbouring mainland.

 Another new species for the Island was this small ranunculus, a species that has been increasing across Essex in recent years. It used to be a scarce moth in the county and is listed as a red data book species in Essex.

I was first told to look out for this moth turning up on Mersea several years ago, but surprisingly this first record was in West Mersea and not at the country park. One of its foodplants in prickly lettuce which is found on the seawalls and beach at the park.

The small tree-lichen beauty has become a regular visitor to the traps in recent summers. The muggy nights of Friday and Saturday saw five of these moths in the traps. A single one was also noted on Thursday night.

Each of the tree-lichen beauties had a slightly different colour pattern on the wings. This one shows a pale green band across the wings. They are well camouflaged on the leaves and even more so on the bark of a tree

The first dark spectacle on the Island was found in the Firs Chase trap during Thursday night's session. The head and the base to the wings show a much paler colour than is found on the more commonly seen cousin, the spectacle moth.

It was nice to catch this vapourer, the first one in the trap for many years, despite it being fairly widespread. The unusual looking caterpillars with colourful bristles and tufts are occasionally found.

The common buff-tip moth still looks more twig-like than moth-like even after seeing lots of them during the season. Not found any of the large feeding masses of caterpillars on trees or bushes this summer yet.

Other moths of note at Firs Chase included marbled beauty, ground lackey, oak eggar, privet hawkmoth, poplar hawkmoth, elephant hawkmoth, least carpet, scorched carpet, small blood-vein, swallow-tailed, iron prominent, swallow prominent, pebble prominent, maple prominent, white satin, lunar-spotted pinion, poplar grey, sycamore, ruby tiger, least yellow underwing, nutmeg,oak hook-tip and bulrush wainscot.
One of the tiniest of moths found were at least ten diamond-back moths on Friday and Saturday nights.

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