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Saturday, 15 June 2019

Burry Port puzzles

Several probable Tawny Shears caterpillars appeared in campion seed heads collected at Burry Port earlier this this week. I have a greater level of uncertainly about the host plant than I do the larvae, which I'm suspecting is a hybrid between Bladder Campion and Sea Campion. There is a large population of this species/hybrid at the old Grillo Works site, where I discovered another green noctuid larva, but needs to grow a bit before an id can be considered...

A break in the clouds...

This wet June is starting to remind me of the very wet summer of 2012, whereas most of us would prefer the hot summer (and excellent migrant year) of 2006. Yesterday (14/6), when there was a sunny interlude to the grey skies, I made a visit to two sites in extreme south-east Carmarthenshire, both in the Bynea/Loughor Bridge area. The first (planned) visit was to an area of brownfield/saltmarsh and the second (unplanned) site was at the nearby Morfa Berwig LNR, on my way back home.
The brownfield site was inspected when the dark clouds had returned, the wind had picked up and when I was expecting rain at any moment but, apart from a few spots, it did n`t transpire. Consequently, hardly any lepidoptera were on the wing - indeed, the botanical interest won the moths on this occasion with two bushes of sweet briar Rosa rubiginosa (smelling of apples) and a strong colony of ploughman`s spikenard Inula conyza, the latter a plant not without its own good `moth potential`.
          Above: a brief deviation into botany - sweet briar with Glamorgan across the estuary.

                                                 Above: Homoeosoma sinuella.

A single Homoeosoma sinuella - a pyralid of dry habitats that feeds on plantains - was flushed and caught; it`s a moth that I associate with our coastal sandy grasslands and evidently the well-drained slag soils at Bynea are to its liking. A Nemophora degeerella, looking quite tropical with its colourful wings, was spotted resting on a pathside leaf.

                                          Above: the longhorn moth, Nemophora degeerella.

Morfa Berwig, easily visited along the main coast road, was called at almost on a whim, and I was glad that I did so, as several records of interest were made. Ox-eye daisies had what seems to be Dichrorampha alpinana resting and flitting around in the now-emerged sunshine; there is the extremely similar D. petiverella which feeds on tansy, sneezewort and yarrow which is also a possibility (though tansy is absent from this site), so alpinana cannot be an absolutely definite record.
           Above: yesterday`s possible Dichrorampha alpinana, caught resting on ox-eye daisy.

Various other common day-flying moths were recorded and Glyphipterix forsterella was later seen in some quantity around patches of Carex remota alongside a broad drainage ditch within willow carr. Carex remota may well have been the host plant of my woodland forsterella seen very recently at Stradey Woods.
Leaf-miners provided other records of interest with Epermenia chaerophyllella, found on hogweed and Oidaematophorus lithodactyla on fleabane.

Above: caterpillar and feeding damage of Epermenia chaerophyllea under a hogweed leaf. Other plants nearby had more substantial damage (abundant holes etc) of black sawfly larvae, so be aware of that possibility too.

 Above: the characteristic damage done by the plume moth Oidaematophorus lithodactyla on fleabane.
Above: as a final photo, a shot of one of the larger pills or drainage ditches at Morfa Berwig; wet carr, flower-rich brownfield and scrub are other habitats found at this LNR.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Clouded Buff

Despite the rain, I put the Actinic out last night, under cover in our open fronted summer house beside the wood. Had a decent catch of 29 species. After the awful cold, wet nights it was a real pleasure to go out and find, amongst the usual suspects, a Miller, Dusky Brocade,Willow Beauties, Green Silver-lines, Double Line, (all First this Year) and best of all, 2 Clouded Buff.

Rain and even more rain...

The inclement weather has stopped trapping activities and severely curtailed any daytime mothing. There was a short respite yesterday afternoon (12/6), when I undertook an unsuccessful search of some Azaleas in a local woodland garden for any evidence of Caloptilia azaleela.
I also briefly visited a nearby scrubbed-over rhos pasture site, mainly to look at birch leaf-mines. At the latter site there was what seems to be Stigmella lapponica and also spinnings of Anania crocealis in the terminal shoots of fleabane Pulicaria dysentrica, a frequent grey-leaved plant of damp habitats.

                                             Above: the presumed Stigmella lapponica.
Above: caterpillar of the crambid Anania crocealis. Look out for seemingly swollen terminal shoots (which are actually the leaves spun together) and open carefully to reveal the caterpillar. The above photo is a bit out-of-focus but it shows the colour etc of the caterpillar.

Postscript: I`ve just checked a Glyphipterix that I caught on Carex pendula within Stradey Woods and it`s G. forsterella, with a silver dot in the black apical spot on the wing. I would not have been surprised to catch forsterella at (eg) WWT Penclacwydd or at Ffrwd Fen, as I had the (perhaps wrong) impression that it was solely a wetland species rather than occurring in woodland. The only other sedge present was a small amount of C. remota.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Back to moths (mostly)

I have not trapped for what seems to be ages with the unsuitable night conditions discouraging me. Yesterday (10/6), I did at least manage to to do a two-hour slot of daytime mothing, visiting the Ashpits Pond area (just east of Burry Port) and a short visit to Stradey Woods where I followed a path through a very young plantation above Cwmbach hamlet. A few records of mostly common adult moths and leaf-mines were made at both sites.

At Ashpits Pond, a stand of spindle is, without fail, annually feasted upon by colonial caterpillars of  spindle ermine Yponomeuta cagnalla.

                               Above: one of the spindle bushes and some of the caterpillars.

The micro-moth genus Mompha is associated with various willowherbs, each exploiting different species or different parts of the plants. Yesterday, I noticed some mines of Mompha raschkiella in leaves of rosebay willowherb (photo below). Left-click on pic to enlarge.

Later, at Stradey Woods, a mine in a birch leaf intrigued me, with its reddish hue alerting me to the possibility of Eriocrania sparmanella (one that I have n`t had yet). I`m not sure about the identification of this mine, as it was at an early stage, but it suggested some of the characteristics of sparmanella - a linear mine near the centre of the leaf becoming a blotch, long coils of frass etc. Furthermore, it is getting late for many of the springtime Eriocrania mines on birch (ie they have `gone over` and are vacated), whilst E. salopiella has already been around for a good month or so. Photos below:

Postscript re Eriocrania above: I`ve just noticed the photos on p 74 in Ben Smart`s `Micro-moth Field Tips` my top photo with the sparmanella one in the book.
Second Postscript: I now think that it`s E. salopiella - look at the pic immediately above - you can clearly see the lateral projections on the side of the head.

Finally - and accounting for the `mostly` in the title - a non-moth record of interest. We are all familiar with that harbinger of spring, the bee-fly Bombylius major, a species that can be seen in woodland, some gardens or other flower-rich sites from mid-March to early May. Less well-known is its more rural cousin Bombylius canescens, typically found in more open situations than major.
It is later in flight, smaller and lacks the black wing markings of its congener. Whilst on my moth search yesterday, one conveniently alighted on a grass stem in front of me but, less convenient was the automatic focusing  set-up on my camera, resulting in an inability to focus on the bee-fly. Fortunately, the well-behaved insect allowed me to place my hand behind it, giving what would have been a good photo, except for `yours truly`s` digits in the background!

Above: Bombylius canescens - keep a look-out for it. I used to see it on flower-rich rhos pastures (and other habitats), when I was more widely botanising in Carmarthenshire a couple of decades ago.
Waiting for some decent trapping weather...

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Garden moth trap (probably) cancelled tonight...

Earlier today (9/6) I had considered putting out the garden trap tonight, but with the forecast for clear skies and then only partly cloudy with a northerly wind, I`ve decided that it probably would n`t be worth the effort.

About a half-hour ago, when I was laying out the egg cartons within the traps, I noticed a longhorn (beetle rather than moth) on the wall.
It was Strangalia quadrifasciata (or that`s what it was called about thirty or so years ago when I was actively recording them); it`s fairly uncommon and local in Carmarthenshire and always nice to see.

Hopefully, I`ll have some moths to report in my next blog!

Friday, 7 June 2019

A disorganised day...

Yesterday (Thurs, 6/6), I had planned to have an all-day visit to search for marsh frits at some sites in the Gwendraeth Valley, but it was not to be. Firstly, the showers in the morning were both heavier and more prolonged than forecast and, secondly, I had to return to sort out various matters by mid-afternoon. Consequently, in the midday period that was available, I was only able to re-visit the nice bog on the northern flank of Mynydd Sylen and search some adjacent fields but, unfortunately, no marsh frits were spotted.
I was, however, able to survey the bog in warm, sunny conditions (readers may recall that my recent visit was in cold, windy and overcast weather). New moth species were few - and they included a fresh campion flying by daylight and demonstrating its pinky tinge when netted; this species is probably utilising  ragged robin at this site as a larval food-plant. Three species of crambid grass-moths were seen - Chrysoteuchia culmella, Crambus pascuella (not uliginosellus, unfortunately) and C. lathoniellus. The very scarce bogland hoverfly Microdon myrmicae was also seen.

Above: Crambus lathoniellus and, below, C. pascuella. If the latter had been C. uliginosus, it would have (among other differences) the white stripe nearer to the costa (front edge of the forewing)

I actually then got to the Mynydd Cerrig area, hoping to do some whistle-stop checks of some pasture sites, but I bumped into someone I knew and the quarter-hour chat ate too much into my time and it had to be `Home, James`. I did, however, spot a solitary Nemophora degeerella and collected a couple of leaf mines. Today, was too wet for anything!