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Thursday, 22 August 2013

Any excuse to avoid weeding!

I was planning to tackle some serious weeding this afternoon, once my brain had recovered after collecting the traps at dawn, but seeing how hot it was, I decided to go for a walk instead. Of course, I needed a bona fide excuse which was that I`d check a locality for roosting red underwings or old lady moths. `Science` (moth recording) comes before `recreation` (weeding)!
The target site was Penrhyngwyn, Machynys (on the coast south of Llanelli), a natural shingle spit of ample biodiversity interest. Past general recording by myself has shown it to hold several invertebrates of note, such as some specialist rare millipedes and centipedes, but moth recording there has been minimal and mostly diurnal.
These days, you have walk along the coastal path to reach the site, a good 30mins+ from the nearest car parking point. En route some small beaches will be past and I was pleasantly surprised to see many common blues and various vanessid butterflies were nectaring on the strandline flowers, particularly the cruciferous sea rocket. Sadly, no graylings were noted, a species that I would have expected in the past in such areas; I was on the look out too, for clouded yellows, but none were seen. My impression of the value of such rough areas for biodiversity and lepidoptera was nevertheless reinforced. A general photo, with the new housing in the background, is given below.
Along the same coastal path, common toadflax hosts the toadflax pug (the caterpillars can be seen, in season), as can the caterpillars of the chamomile shark, this time on scentless mayweed. I used to regularly also catch six-belted clearwings by sweeping birds-foot trefoil in the same general area and one brief trapping session (a rare occasion when I stayed with the trap) here about 10+ years ago, resulted in the capture of a white colon - a quite rare Carmarthenshire coastal species. This general coastal area could do with more trapping!
In the late 1980s, before the housing and golf course developments in the area, it was possible to drive reasonably close to the Penrhyngwyn shingle spit and on the one occasion that I trapped overnight, caught a large ranunculus, which made me happy as a novice moth`er. In daytime, yellow belles can be seen on the shingle grassland and examination of old army shooting butts in the last few years has yielded both an old lady and a red underwing - but not, alas, today.

A photo of the rest/roosting site (the old shooting butts) of these two rather spectacular moths is shown above, as is a photograph (middle pic) of the shingle spit itself; note the natural inner part comprised of sandstone pebbles and younger outer accretions of slag from an early copperworks. Perhaps the most spectacular lepidopteran that has been recorded here though, is the monarch butterfly seen by birdwatchers one autumn - there are a handful of other coastal sightings such as another autumn individual at Burry Port.


  1. This could very well be my regular mothing patch next year as we are in the process of selling Troserch Farm and moving down to Machynys seafront.

  2. 2014 will be a bumper year for CJ then! Right on the sea, with good habitat too. Excellent.....I was wondering if I had any contacts down there!

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