Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Sixty-six

22 May 2020 | Posted in Michael Blencowe
Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Sixty-six

This weekend's Back Garden Bird Race will be Sunday 24 May (10-11).

All the information, rules, I.D guides, downloadable phone app and t-shirts are on the Bird Race website here

Day Sixty-six

Well, last week's moth trap was a complete disaster. There were no moths but an awful lot of Cockchafers / Maybugs. Still, I made a nice little May Bug Movie (here) which was used a lot on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media and has apparently been viewed 10,000 times. Hopefully that's the only time I go viral during this pandemic.

This week the night-time temperatures have increased so I fired up the ol' moth trap last night. 


I woke up this morning at 5:30 and went out and looked through the trap, noting down the species from the survey to send to the Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre. It wasn't a bad night...not great mind you...but not bad either.  I photographed some of my favourites for you.

We already have a Brimstone butterfly but this distinctive yellow little moth is a Brimstone Moth. They must have been running out of names. We also have a Peacock Butterfly and a Peacock Moth. And, now I think of it, a Peacock bird.


I love green moths and the Green Carpet is a beauty. It's a beauty that fades pretty fast though. The first Green carpets you see are always a lovely shade of gree but this colour seems to fade very quickly and can become very washed out. There are a few moths called 'carpets' - they're named after the fancy patterned carpets that were all the rage back in the Victorian era.


There was another Green Carpet in the trap which was already starting to fade.


I had quite a few carpets in the trap last night including Sandy Carpet


...Broken-barred Carpet


...Red-green Carpet


and Silver-ground Carpet


This is a Flame Shoulder . It's a great name and, to be honest, I think it sort of over-sells it a bit. I mean it does have pale 'shoulders' but...'flames'. I'm not so sure.


There is something unique about this moth though. It has a strange habit of sneaking into the ears of moth trappers. Over the years whenever a moth trapper has a moth stuck in their ear (a very rare occurence) it's always been the same species...a Flame Shoulder. An old moth trapping friend Mike had a moth stuck in his ear once. He had to go to hospital to have it removed - which they did with specialist equipment. They discarded the moth in the bin and he had to dig it out was a Flame Shoulder. We should call it the 'Ear Moth' (except that there's already a moth called an Ear Moth which, to my knowledge, has never flown into anybody's ear).

You can divide the 2500 (or so) moths in the UK into two arbitary groups. There's the micro-moths (the small ones) and the macro moths (the big ones). In reality it's not that simple as some of the micro moths are bigger than the macro moths and some of the macro moths are smaller than the micros moths. Here's a micro moth the Small Magpie. One of our biggest small moths. If you see what I mean. 


I can still remember finding my first Scorched Wing in woods near Lewes. I was amazed by its cryptic camouflage then - and I still am now.


...and I love the way they stick their abdomen up in the air


There are a number of 'footmen' moths in Sussex - so called because their long wings are held wrapped around their body like the cloaks worn by footmen on carriages. This is an Orange Footman.


These two moths illustrate the point that, when identifying moths, it's all about the pattern - not the colour. They are both the same species, the (very variable) Common Marbled Carpet.



Love this little moth - the Green Oak Tortrix


The Muslin Moth was the only moth I had in the trap last Friday morning - there were a few of them in there this morning.


Check out it's feathered antennae - used to detect the pheremones of a female moth.


The Silver-Y is a migrant moth which arrives in big numbers each year from the continent. They just rise up, hook onto the airstream and whizz over to the UK. You can see the upside-down silver 'y' mark on its wing that gives the moth its name. 


Check out this monster! Always great to see the first hawkmoth of the year - a Poplar Hawkmoth. The are certainly popular when I run moth trapping events and they usually end up on some child's nose. The Poplar Hawkmoth has a clever camouflage trick. It moves it's hindwings forward and its forewings backward to create a very un-moth like posture.




I have a soft spot for the 'prominent' moths. They just sort of lie there and keep there heads down but they are fascinating. Here's the Pebble Prominent which has one of my favourite scientific names - Notodonta ziczac


The Pale Prominent looks like a piece of splintered wood. Incredible camouflage. It's hard to tell which end is which.


I mean. What's going on here? Amazing. 


And here's the daddy of 'em all - the Great Prominent


From head-on the Spectacle looks like it is wearing glasses. Kinda reminds me a bit of Gok Wan.


Cor - look at this little beauty! The male White Ermine is the Cruella de Vil of the moth world. Stunning. 



A few species of moths have hooked tips to their wings and so are imaginatively called hook-tips. Here's the Pebble Hook-tip


A lovely pale green Light Emerald


My favourite moth in the trap this morning was this Alder Moth. I think they're one of the UKs most beautiful moths.


and we'll finish with a Clouded Border - simple yet stunning (sorry it's upside-down but it was on my dressing gown).



  • Mary:

    22 May 2020 09:11:00

    Fabulous, what a round-up! Was that a typical moth-trap hall or a particularly good night?

    Michael: Thanks Mary - it was still a below average night. It was a bit too windy!
  • Tessa Pawsey:

    22 May 2020 09:49:00

    Magical, thank you. And thank you for all the diary entries which are so interesting and inspiring. it is very good to be reminded that we have such great natural things surrounding us all the time without having to go very far.

  • Robin Harris:

    22 May 2020 10:34:00

    Great stuff, Michael. Surely your pics and commentary will convince any reader of the wonderful world that darkness hides. Sorry my 40w Actinic doesn’t rival your MV yet this year! But I did trap a Peacock (moth) a couple of nights ago and the Maybugs just keep on coming.

  • Ginny-Vic:

    22 May 2020 12:56:00

    Wow! I have never seen so many moths and I didn’t realise how pretty they are. How did you get them all to stay so still while you photographed them all? I’ve only really seen brown ones that flap really fast. I’m sorry but you really lost me with micro and macro bit. Maybe Gok could use the colours and patterns for fabric inspiration! I think some of the patterns would make lovely ideas for material!

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