Wednesday, 29 November 2017

November 12th-26th

Stigmella myrtillella- further discoveries

Intrigued by Sam findings on Stigmella myrtelliella in an earlier post on the blog dated the 1st November.
I thought I would have a go at a few sites that I remembered from my butterfly days which had its food plant, Bilberry.
Sam mentioned in the post that it was difficult to find but I like a challenge and decided to have a go.

November 12th
My first port of call was at Ninewells Wood not too far away from the first sighting ever made way back in 1973 at Cleddon Bog. Along the way I decided to make leaf mine observations on other plants and trees to make the visit worth while just in case I could not find it.
Looking over a more sheltered spot for around 15 minutes I struggled to find any evidence at all before I started to feel spots of rain. With a dark cloud looming and approaching quickly I thought I would jump back in the car and gather my thoughts over a cup of coffee.
The shower passed bringing some small hail with it, so it was just as well I had got in the car.
The biggest issues today I soon discovered were the lack of leaves on plants, frost shrivelled or water stained leaves that had turned brown deceiving the eye and mines of a possible fly that was getting in there, so a bit of needle in a haystack situation.
Next I then wondered up a track that I had never been before and my mind was diverted away from Bilberry to Birch and a few Oaks and Beech. They brought forward some interesting mines of Stigmella luteella, confusella and sakhalinella on Birch with Stigmella atricapitella on Oak, so least I had come away with something on my trip.
Reverting back to Bilberry and beginning to give up on its presence here I changed tack deciding to concentrate on more open ground. It was a good move for within 20 minutes I discovered a group of three leaves together within a few feet near to an isolated Oak. These were definitely Stigmella myrtellella I was sure, so a brilliant result. Further wonderings for another 30 minutes produced nothing until the very last opportunity where another single mine was found quite some distance from the initial find, this time at a more sheltered spot.

November 19th
Broad Meend which is connected to Cleddon Bog was the next port of call on the 12th but this would have to wait until the next week-end before time was available for a search.
It was a cool day much like the week before with bright sunshine, minus the gusty winds.
The much calmer day allowed me to scour the heath without any weather interuptions.
Looking at plants today however seemed much more difficult here with less of the greenness in the leaf after another week of weathering. Leaves were browned once again making selection difficult to process from a distance and even when something positive turned up it was still difficult to determine unless close up photography was used. After some lengthy looking, I came up with nothing of interest. Again I scoured near to trees in protected areas but this proved unproductive after 30 minutes.
Once again I decided to move to more open ground as the week before and once again this proved to be the right call for I found two mines after some very intense searching over the course of some 35 minutes in sunshine which was lowering towards the horizon.
This I believe might the right way forward for this elusive miner by looking at more open heathland in the future and something I will be bearing in mind in future searches.

November 26th
I conducted another search in a different area today but was unsuccessful. The season for these Bilberry mines is closed more or less I reckon. Finding mines over the previous weeks must have been at the very edge of availability for this season, so very timely indeed and very rewarding.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

A few October butterflies

I don't go out like I used to looking for butterflies which is a shame, instead most of my efforts go into finding moths or evidence of them.
This October however, I could not help but see butterflies mainly in the form of the Red Admiral.
Impressive high numbers of the butterfly were around virtually everywhere I went whether I was looking for them or not. As Martin Anthoney mentioned in the newsletter many were on Ivy and indeed I often found them feeding on ivy blossom competing with flies, bees and numerous other insects that just love the nectar this time of year.

The butterfly has had a good year overall in 2017 with some individuals managing to overwinter successfully due to a milder season. This had reportedly helped numbers when the new influx arrived from the continent allowing successful breeding and numbers to grow to high levels.
It used to be the case where you would only expect them to arrive through the summer months. So is it possible that maybe the butterfly is slowly adapting along with the slightly milder phase in climate at present.
Lets hope so because they made for a colourful Autumn in amongst the hedgerows etc. 

I actually saw 36 individuals without really looking for them in October. A total of 14 were happily feeding on Ivy blossom that adorned the perimeter wall at St. Mary the Virgin church in Magor.

The same day I saw a couple of Small Tortoiseshell's on thistles not too far away. This butterfly is suppose to be in decline although I'm not entirely sure why. I did see it on occasion this year but I was not seriously looking. A few years ago when I seriously surveyed for butterflies it appeared quite regularly, even common in some areas I visited. 

Monday, 13 November 2017

23rd October

Fryth Wood, Howick

Just a mere 146 years between sightings.

A last minute decision to chose this location to moth trap was a to be an inspiring revelation.
I had already found a immigrant Gem 9 days previous which I was very pleased about, but I had heard a Vestal's had been sighted in various counties. I was hoping but felt a wood was not ideal.
My ideal location had to be aborted because the remnants of storm 'Brian' was still passing through.
A keen west-south-westerly was still blowing in exposed areas this evening bringing a few spots of rain on occasion in breezes.
Luckily my usual spot in this wood was sufficient enough to thwart most of the stronger breezes which tended to brush over the tops of trees leaving the lower ground levels protected and much calmer compared, however a few gusts did spiral downwards.
I did not hope for anything unusual to come to the trap, not in this wood, just the possibility of perhaps a new species to the site that I had missed on previous visits.
The breeze was a concern but moths still arrived which put me in a positive frame of mind.
Things went quiet so I had a coffee and a short wander only to come back to find a Red Admiral butterfly perched upon an egg box looking at me from inside the moth trap.
An unusual situation indeed and a first ever for this to happen to me on a night time trap.

It would be the first of three highlights within the next 30 minutes though as things got busier.
Next a small moth came to the light and kept flirting back and forth. I wondered if it was an out of season Small fan-footed Wave, for I sometimes get extra generations of moths in favourable conditions here in the south-east of the county. A temporary pause by the moth allowed me capture it revealing a very nice Vestal, and a new location for it.
The best was to come not too long afterwards as another butterfly came to the trap, or so it appeared.
It looked like a Marbled White butterfly as it's wings flapped around the upright, actinic tube light.
Excitement poured over me, this looked very unusual, unfamiliar, even visually exotic on this blustery mild evening.
I managed to capture it quite easily with no fuss and in one of those moments that I can't explain I spoke under my breath and said a Crimson Speckled. Why I said this I don't know for I'd never seen one but it most have logged somewhere in the grey matter after looking at pictures in my book and online.
The moth settled down and upon checking my book it had to be a Crimson Speckled.

A stunning moth with beautiful markings which derives from the Mediterranean countries and north Africa.
So how had it got here. I can only think storm Brian had collected it with the strong warm southerly winds that had originated right back into the African continent shown on weather maps a few days previously.
Further investigations found that somebody had found one before in the county in Monmouth in 1871, a mere 146 years ago as confirmed by Martin Anthoney.
He said he had always wanted to have seen one and I can see why. I'm extremely lucky to have seen it myself and probably this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity to have seen it here.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Stigmella myrtilella - a very elusive miner

I have been half-heartedly searching for mines of Stigmella myrtilella on Bilberry for years, but never found any.  Then someone posted a photo of one Twitter with a comment along the lines of "I searched 1000 plants today and finally found a mine".  During a day's fieldwork NVC mapping the edge of Waun Afon today, I scanned across loads of patches of Bilberry without seeing any mines.  Eventually I thought some additional shelter from Molinia plants might provide suitable conditions, so I checked the first such patch and found a mine immediately.  Despite a lot more checking I failed to see another - these are clearly exceedingly elusive moths!  There is one previous county record: from Cleddon Bog in 1973.