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

 

Brilliant record from Rosie but what is it…?

Newer photo of the mystery bird

In their garden, Rosie caught sight of what she first thought was a pink Magpie and I can see why. But I thought it was a Rosy Starling, the colours and pattern matched and they are reported from further west. BUT, as Simon pointed out with some more photos, the beak and legs don’t match and it is looking more and more like a Magpie or something. I will send on to our more experienced birders. Photos R & S Richardson 

Rosy Starling
Rosy Starling

Fledglings everywhere…

Cannot believe the numbers of fledgling birds around at the moment. Blackbirds from 2 or 3 broods; 8+ Blue Tits, Great Tits, Marsh & Coal Tits are back with their young, Bullfinch, Chaffinch and a Chiffchaff. One Song Thrush which looked huge but the prize for the most noise goes to the three young Siskins who scream at dad to be fed.

House Martin numbers feeding above have more than doubled so maybe the first broods are out. Only sad report was from Simon H (Stara Woods) who is losing all their nests to a Magpie which has even taken the Swallows from inside the stable.