Days 22 – 46: 7 April – 30 April
In my spare time I run the Sussex Moth Group’s website and the day to day business of doing that is maintaining the sightings (or trapping reports) page. At times I can find myself feeling more than a little envious when rare and exciting species turn up in other people’s traps (as they invariably do) but for the most part, I find it to be a fascinating insight into what’s going on in the world of moths around Sussex. However, it is beginning to look like this year isn’t turning into a bumper moth year at least not a bumper spring anyway, reports are generally of low numbers of moths being recorded across the county. Whether things are just slow to get started, or the mild wet winter that we’ve just experienced had the detrimental effect that we feared it might on our invertebrate populations, is still to be seen but if things do carry on this way I suspect that there won’t be a plentiful supply of caterpillars to sustain the offspring of our breeding birds this spring. Hopefully this impression is wrong, as part of the reason for low numbers of moths being reported is, I suspect, the very below-par night-time weather we’ve been having. While the days have been gloriously sunny and warm, the nights have been cool and clear and not really conducive to good mothing. Oh, and now it’s started raining! I haven’t been able to get the trap out since Sunday night :(
I don’t intend to sound pessimistic, I’m sure things will get better and I’ve had a look back through my records and it would actually appear that this year is actually pretty average, at least when it comes to the number of species I’ve recorded. So far this year the number of species recorded stands at 50 (my record is in 2009, when by 30 April I had seen 64 species). Among the 50 however is something new to the list, on 8 April I am very happy to report that recorded my first ever Spindle Smudge, a so-called micro, with a striking but rather odd resting posture.
This time of year is the transition period when species like Early Grey and Clouded Drab which first turn up in late winter are still on the wing and species such as Knot Grass and Shuttle-shaped Dart, which we will see throughout the summer, start to appear. Now is also the start of the season of the “charismatic mega-fauna” of the moth world – the hawk-moths. Not much to report so far, just a single Poplar Hawk-moth on 22 April, but I am confident that more members of this spectacular family of moths will be appearing soon. It’s also the season of “the prominents”, again not too many of these yet but some extremely attractive ones nevertheless. The Swallow and Lesser Swallow Prominents are particularly attractive, sleek dark and pale markings reminiscent of their namesake - presumably where the name comes from, or could it be that they first appear at around the same time of year – or both?
While on a daily exercise walk the other day I was about to step over a rotten branch from a Hazel bush that had fallen across the path, when I noticed, among the debris, was a piece of bark with a loosely woven cocoon that had been torn apart in the fall and lying next to it a shiny brown pupa. I took it home and now have it in a jar in the shed and am hoping something really exciting emerges from it – I suspect that it will actually be something very ordinary but whatever it is, it will be a surprise and exciting in its own way. I’ll keep you posted.
Lunar Marble Brown
Stats so far:
Trapping nights – 21
Moths recorded – 286
Species recorded - 50
Beautiful Plume, Brimstone Moth, Brindled Beauty, Brindled Pug, Chestnut, Clouded Drab, Common Birch Bell, Common Oak Purple, Common Plume, Common Pug, Common Quaker, Double-striped Pug, Early Grey, Early Thorn, Engrailed, Frosted Green, Garden Cosmet, Great Prominent, Grey Dagger*, Hebrew Character, House Groundling, Knot Grass, Least Black Arches, Lesser Swallow Prominent, Lichen Button, Light Brown Apple Moth, Lunar Marbled Brown, March Tubic, Muslin Moth, Muslin Moth, Nut-tree Tussock, Oak Beauty, Oak Nycteoline, Oak-tree Pug, Pale Tussock, Pebble Prominent, Poplar Hawk-moth, Purple Thorn, Puss Moth, Red Chestnut, Seraphim, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Small Quaker, Spindle Smudge, Spruce Carpet, Streamer, Swallow Prominent, Twin-spotted Quaker, Water Carpet, Waved Umber.
*Grey Dagger cannot be identified for certain without being dissected (the adults are virtually identical to Dark Dagger, Grey are more common though), a fate that didn’t befall this one…