It’s dormouse week!

Time to celebrate 30 years of the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme: https://ptes.org/campaigns/dormice/surveying-and-monitoring-hazel-dormice/national-dormouse-monitoring-programme-ndmp/

Dormoused hazel nuts

Time to take a walk and go nut-hunting for hazel nuts opened by dormice. And please record them here: https://ptes.org/campaigns/dormice/surveying-and-monitoring-hazel-dormice/national-dormouse-database-ndd/

And time to consider and think about the fact that numbers of the hazel dormice have declined by 52% since 1995.

Torpid dormouse

We still have them in Cornwall and in several of our project parishes. This week and next, a few of us will be checking dormouse nest boxes (under license) and will report on what we find.

Dormouse and nest box

Moths to look out for in September

MOTHS TO LOOK OUT FOR IN SEPTEMBER 2020.

Large Yellow Underwing

More experienced ‘moth-ers’ will wonder why I have put in this most abundant and ubiquitous moth. But I find it’s one of the most frequently asked questions about wild-life. Such as “I got quite a jump. I was weeding and this big brown thing scuttled off like a mouse. I could have sworn I saw a flash of yellowy-orange…”

Yes! This was a Large Yellow Underwing (known as a short-cut as ‘pronuba’ by moth-ers, as that is its specific name, Noctua pronuba).

As the pictures show, its upper wings are very variable and the lower wing is rarely seen except briefly in flight.

It has a long season, from June till October, peaking in late August so it may completely dominate the catch in a light trap at that time. It can also be seen nectaring at dusk of a variety of nectar-rich flowers like Buddleia, as well as being disturbed by day.

Its caterpillar, a bulky rather grub-like greenish brown, feeds on a wide variety of plants.


Just two variations of Large Yellow Underwing

Treble Bar

This is a distinctive moth, more often disturbed by day although it will occasionally come to light. Described in the books as ‘common’ I would interpret that as ‘widespread’. I scarcely ever see it but it can be seen in open heathy grassland  in June, but here in the south it has a second, September generation.

Its caterpillar feeds on St Johns-wort.

Frosted Orange

A real sign of impending autumn, this moth will come to light or will settle on the vegetation nearby. Like a dollop of marmalade, it is another of the golden autumn-leaf coloured moths that we see as the leaves start to change colour.

It can be seen in a wide variety of habitats in the countryside.

The caterpillar is hardly ever to be seen as it feeds and pupates inside the  lower stem of robust plants such as thistle, foxglove, hemp agrimony.

 

Moths to look out for in August

MAGPIE MOTH 

This is a very distinctive moth with black and a few yellow spots on a white background. It has a single generation in the summer and will come to light or can be seen resting flat on foliage during the day. It’s about the size of a Gatekeeper. Its larval foodplants are many hedgerow shrubs and fruit bushes.

It is a common resident, widespread, and undergoing an expansion of its range in northern Scotland.

SMALL MAGPIE

This moth, in spite of its name and black and white pattern, is no relative of the previous moth. It’s nearly half the size of the Magpie and is a member of the Crambiidae or Grass Moth family. These are ‘Micros’ although the Small Magpie is one of the larger Micros.

The ‘micros’ are so named not so much for their size but  for their position in the taxonomic ordering of moths and butterflies; they are more primitive in the structure of the adults, some of whom do not even have mouthparts.

You can see from the pictures these two moths shouldn’t be confused.

The Small Magpie is also single brooded and can be seen at light and disturbed from foliage any time between May and September.

Its caterpillar feeds inside the folded up leaf of nettles, Woundwort and Mint. It is common and widespread.

COMMON RUSTIC

This species is extremely variable. Four of its forms are shown here.

To complicate matters further, it was decided in 1983 that in fact it was two distinct species but identifiable only by ‘gen.det.’ (genitalia dissection). This second species, the Lesser Common Rustic, is equally variable! The species therefore, unless gen.det. is performed by an expert, is now recorded as Common Rustic agg. (agg. being short for ‘aggregated or combined species)

Both species are single-brooded in July and August, will come to light and can also be seen feeding on flowers.

Because the Lesser Common Rustic is much less identified as a true species, the knowledge of its distribution is still very incomplete. The distribution map shows the occurrence of the aggregate species as common and widespread.

The caterpillars of both species feed in grassland.

Nightjarring

Nightjarring

Perhaps it was my new hearing aids, or were the nightjars particularly vocal the other evening?

Last Thursday was a suitable evening and we met a friend who had never heard them; a few LAPWG members also turned up. We kept an acceptable distance apart as we strolled up the track at the local site. The air was still, chilly enough to keep the midges and mozzies away, and the sky was clear, and lit by a glowing red horizon to the west.

As twilight deepened we heard short bursts of churring and then it was more prolonged, ventriloquial , in two tones. It was quite unmistakeable. It was difficult to tell how many there were, but certainly two or three. At intervals we saw the bird, with narrow wings and long tail rather cuckoo-like, flying across the track or a clearing. In flight they give a two-note brief call, repeated several times. As the stars came out, dominated by the bright light of Jupiter fairly low to the SE, it became too dark to see and we retreated after another of the summer highspots.

The Big Butterfly Count starts on Friday July 17th

The website has changed slightly this year and it is hosted by Butterfly Conservation at: https://bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org/about

Painted Lady. Gill Nicholls

It’s an important survey for us to carry out because it demonstrates changes in numbers within butterfly species from year to year. Weather data is collected later to see if there is any correlation with ‘good’ years and ‘bad’ years. And important to use the same locations to compare over the years.

You can do as many surveys as you like. There is an app or you can use a notebook and upload the most representative counts at the end of the survey period which is August 9th.

Humming-bird Hawk and other delights!

No pictures but in our sheltered valley today, we had our first Humming-bird Hawk moth, plus Golden-ringed dragonfly; a Hawker perhaps Southern; Beautiful Demoiselles and quite a decent number of butterflies including: meadow Brown, Ringlet, Comma, Large White, Red Admiral, large Skippers and a Silver-washed Fritillary.

And the Long-tailed Tits are back!

Purple Hairstreak butterflies

This is from Gill & Kate who took the photos.

Purple Hairstreak (male)

There were dozens of butterflies, including loads of Commas which Kate was photographing when Gill noticed a small grey thing flitting up under the oaks and wondered if this was a Purple Hairstreak. A little further on, Kate found this and knew it was different. Sadly damaged, perhaps by a bird but this was their first ever real-life sighting.

Purple Hairstreak underwings but damaged