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Friday, 27 June 2014

Morfa Bychan, Pendine

On the night of Weds 25th June I went down, accompanied by Chris Manley, to Morfa Bychan, located about a mile or so west of the village of Pendine. Chris, as many of you may know, is the author of the excellent British Moths and Butterflies which has photographs of some 1420 species, with the bulk of the superb photographs taken by himself. Incidentally, he tells me that a new edition will appear next year with an additional c 700 micros included (with the butterfly and caterpillar photos left out) - I very much look forward to its appearance.
We had a good night, with Chris recording over 80 species and myself about 60...we`ll be liaising shortly to see which species overlap and what the actual final tally was, but I`m sure that we`ve `upped` the species score for SN20! I was impressed with how meticulous and organised Chris was, going back-and fore with his three traps, on or near the eastern end of the shingle ridge. I had three actinics out - one quite high on the acidic boulder scree at the Ragwen Point cliffs, one on more `ordinary` wet grassland, minor marsh and scrub woodland at the rear of the shingle, and the third atop a huge block of breccia-like periglacial `head` deposit itself below the tall limestone cliffs of Gilman Point.
Morfa Bychan (`little saltmarsh`, which once occurred behind the shingle ridge) lies between two headlands - Gilman Point (Carboniferous Limestone) and Ragwen Point (acidic quartzites and grits).

Above: looking west from the Iron Age fort on top of Gilman Point to the tip of Ragwen Point (note scree slopes with heather etc). Tenby and Caldy Island in distance. (Photo taken on an earlier visit).

Above: looking in the opposite direction, from the top of Ragwen Point (note Bronze Age chambered tomb in foreground) towards Gilman Point, with Pendine Sands in distance.

Above: taken on a recent day-visit (when thrift clearwing was successfully searched for), this view from the edge of Ragwen Point shows the shingle beach and with the limestone headland of Gilman Point in the distance. One of the traps was placed under the noticeable cliff-slump.

I have trapped on two previous occasions at Morfa Bychan. The first was on 29th June 2009, when I had a lot of scarce or rare Carmarthenshire moths: Devonshire wainscot, l-album wainscot, *toadflax pug, *small blood-vein, beautiful yellow underwing, *thyme pug, marbled coronet, *annulet, mullein wave, Haworth`s pug and the pyralid *Mecyna asinalis.
I also trapped there on 14th August 2009 when, amongst the haul were crescent darts, hoary footmen, *northern rustic and others.
Those marked with an asterisk (*) were also recorded this week, but strangely no marbled coronets or l-album wainscots were seen - perhaps they were `over` in this advanced, warm summer? Photos of some of the species seen follow below:

                               Above: thyme pug. A rare (but probably under-recorded) species in Carms.
                              Above: small blood-vein, a very local coastal species in the county.
Above: occupying the small area of sandy grassland at the eastern edge of the shingle ridge - a sand dart.
Above: a battered and worn fern (a new moth for me). A local moth associated with Clematis vitalba (which grows on the cliffs nearby). Note pointed forewings and `belted` appearance of hind wings.
Above: Out for a meal? The meal moth Pyralis farina is usually associated with indoor-stored foodstuffs. Another new moth for me.

My usual moth trapping technique is to leave the traps out overnight and return early the next morning (which is what I did on my previous visits to this site), but on this occasion we trapped from about 10.30 to c1.00am. Quite possibly, we would have caught more species had we stayed later, but tiredness (and the thought of an hour`s drive home) resulted in the 1.00am finish. I blocked up the entrances to my three traps, to take the moths home to inspect, but the lids do not sit perfectly tight on two of them, and the bumping of the car along tracks, plus the general movement as I drove home, resulted in some escapes. It was unsettling to have some moths flying around in the car (though I opened the windows on several occasions, and out some flew) and it was also amazing to see so many moths in the headlights as I drove home. It seemed that all `Mothdom` was partying on the rural roads of Carmarthenshire! The moths were later released at Burry Port, but the technique of taking moths home in bulk is not to be recommended. It also had the negative impact of making some moths badly worn and not photogenic.

    Above: `Houdini the drinker` - this big lump somehow escaped and buzzed me all the way home!

It was an useful trapping session, with other minor highlights such as pretty true lover`s knots on the heathy headland at Ragwen Point sharing the same trap as a privet hawk-moth (wild privet grows nearby). The trap on the non-cliff habitat behind the shingle ridge had a bonus in a very good variety of more commonplace species, all adding to the species list for the area and the underworked 10km square of SN20. Chris Manley also had several interesting species not mentioned in the above account.
Some photos of micros will appear in my next blog.

Footnote: I thought that I`d had mullein wave amongst the catch when I looked on Weds night, but on checking my photo (thanks Chris!) it was not! So apologies for any confusion. The 2009 mullein wave was det/checked and photo`d by Jon Baker, so it does occur there!


  1. Is it possible that your Mullein Wave is actually Single-dotted Wave?

  2. Will check and change - sorry - rushing (will also change text too!)

  3. I`ve just checked in case I took a photo of the `mullein wave` but have none. This error I suspect goes back to an in the field error on Weds night, rather than me using the wrong photo...there should be no problem re i/d of these two spp - tiredness/`senior moment` or just plain stupid!
    Barry Stewart will `wind me up` about this!

  4. Why is it that a car parked after dark with its headlights on attracts far fewer moths than one that is moving?

  5. A parked car with headlights on can attract moths, but is not a good plan. In Jon's first year of mothing, the two of us trapped one evening in Oxfordshire. On our way home we saw loads of moths in the headlights so parked up, tucked a sheet into the bumper, and had lots of moths coming in. Half an hour later we tried to leave and found the car battery was flat, so we were stuck down a lane in rural oxon in the small hours with no phone or way home...

  6. That is one of life`s great mysteries Steve!