Gypsy Moth – Friend or Foe? Moths of Kings Cross

After being frustrated by dead end internet searches looking for descriptions or photos that might-just-a-little-bit look like the tiny mostly brown moth I had in the pot in front of me, I finally decided it was time to properly delve in to the world of micro moths and went ahead and purchased this book. Btu3FEhCEAICuWrIt was definitely worth it. The introduction in itself is a great read and that’s before you get in to the delightfully extensive descriptions of flight periods, larval food plants, conservation status, similar species etc. I also really like the ‘at a glance’ guide to the different families of micro moths, very useful for a novice like me. A bargain at £21!

I’ve only had it a few days but it came in handy last night when I set up a moth trap demonstration at the London Wildlife Trusts Camley Street Natural Park, a small nature reserve in the heart of King Cross (I’m currently in the second month of an internship here). Admittedly a few ‘small brown jobs’ did evade me, mostly due to lack of time as we had to pack up in time for the last tube home. But at this point each successful micro moth ID is a triumph for me 😉

The biggest challenge was a Cydia splendanasimilar to a couple of other Cydia species but distinguishable with the help of a borrowed hand lens (I really must carry mine around more often!). This lovely Epiblema foenella and Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla were more discernible (apologises for badly lit photos).

Epiblema foenella

Epiblema foenella

Beautiful Plume

Beautiful Plume

In the two hours the trap was out we also saw an abundance of Light Brown Apple moths and a few Crambid moths that looked good for Crambus perlella but I didn’t get a chance to examine them more closely. Macro moths included a Brimstone

Brimstone Moth

Brimstone Moth

a Setaceous Hebrew Character

Setaceous Hebrew Character

a couple of Tree-lichen Beauties

tree-lichen beauty 3

Tree-lichen Beauty

and this controversial Gyspsy Moth that took a liking to Marco, another LWT intern.

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Gypsy Moth

Cute right? (the moth 😉 ). Well, although the English form that became extinct in the early 1900’s was fairly inoffensive feeding mainly on bog-myrtle and creeping willow, the populations that have established in a few locations in Southern England are thought to have been accidentally introduced from mainland Europe where the caterpillar has a ferocious appetite and is a major defoliant of a wide range of deciduous trees and shrubs. Although it is suggested that these populations are unlikely to cause serve defoliation in the UK considering our climate, because of it’s potential pest status it was subjected to an eradication campaign led by Defra after it was first discovered in Northeast London 1995 and any sightings should be reported to them.

It’s difficult to look at this large attractive moth and think of it as a menace or even a small threat -to me it is just another species adding to the biodiversity of Camley Street. But of course there is a bigger picture to think of and I will report this sighting – not sure if anything will come of it but if strange men turn up dressed head to toe in fumigation gear in the next few days I will be in trouble 😉

Pembrokeshire Coastal Walk Video + a Few Moths

Last week I got back from a fantastic hiking/camping/bird watching holiday around the Pembrokeshire coastline. We started off in Manorbier and ended up in Martin’s Haven where we had the chance to visit the beautiful Skomer Island – bird paradise! Here is a video my boyfriend made of the trip – finally found a way for him to enjoy bird watching too!!! 😉

I’ve got lots of photos and saw lots of fantastic birds, I will write a recap post  sometime this week but today I just wanted to share a few moths I came across in Pembrokeshire (campsite toilets are moth magnets!) and a few from some recent trapping in my garden. When I say recent some of my garden moth photos were taken over a month ago, just finding the time to go through them properly!

I started really looking forward to my early morning trip to the campsite toilets to see what I would discover, not sure all of the other campers were as keen though 😉 I particularly love the funky looking snout and the lackey with reminds me of my weakness for little fluffy ginger kittens…. Although I’m sure my cat would gobble this fella up in a instance if she got the chance!! I’m not 100% on the pug ID, I’m pretty sure but I know there are a few Eupithecia species that are quite similar so feel free to question it!

Buff arches (2)

Buff Arches

Buff arches cut

Untitled

Wormwood Pug

wormwood pug (2)

Snout

The Snout

Lackey

The Lackey

Lackey (2)

Buff ermine (2)

Buff Ermine

Buff ermineAnd a few from my garden…. Again feel free to correct me!

Codling Moth

Codling Moth

Bee Moth

Bee Moth, male

Willow Beauty

Willow Beauty

Endotricha flammealis

Heart and Dart

Heart and Dart

Treble Brown Spot

Treble Brown Spot

Marbled Orchard Tortrix

Marbled Orchard Tortrix

Common Carpet

Common Carpet

Enjoying getting my head around a few micros!

Also I spotted lots of day flying Mother Shipton and Burnet companion moths on my home from work a few weeks ago, along with some large skippers. I discovered a detour which takes me through a fantastic little bit of acid grassland which is much more exciting then my usual walk alongside a busy road!

Mother Shipton

Mother Shipton

Large Skipper

Large Skipper

 

 

And the prize for the cutest fledgling goes to….

This chocolate coloured ball of fluffy joy!IMG_1715A Long-tailed tit fledgling, ringed today at Bedfont Lakes. Gorgeous!

We we’re also joined by clouds of damselflies this morning in the sunshine, a group I am currently getting to grips with (luckily my ringing trainer is also a dragonfly and damselfly enthusiast!) and we noted common blue, azure blue and blue-tailed damselflies. The common and azure blues are difficult to tell apart from a distance but if you manage to get close (or take a photo before you camera battery dies because you forgot to charge it, which is what happened to me this morning….) look at the start of the abdomen just behind the thorax, the common blue has a mushroom shaped black marking whereas as the azure is ‘U’shaped. I will try to get good comparison photos over the next week, and one of a blue-tailed.

Also, the first of my two Lesser Yellow Underwings emerged yesterday! Lovely to see a freshly emerged specimen when the markings are so clear. IMG_1665

 

A Cetti’s Warbler, a Pair of Fox Cubs and a Mystery Caterpillar

Bird ringing at Bedfont Lakes was canceled Sunday due to the weather, but luckily we managed to rescheduled for yesterday morning which turned out to be a beautiful one! The highlight was this lovely Cetti’s warbler which we heard calling shortly upon arrival and didn’t have to wait long before it turned up in one of our nets. IMG_1313Interestingly this species only has 10 tail feathers, as opposed to the usual 12. I wonder why that is?

I’ve never got a chance to see this species so up close before, in fact my usual encounter is nothing more than a fleeting glimpse! It has a very distinctive shape, rather like an over-sized wren and the thin, long eye stripe is subtle but pretty.

We got a good number of birds including quite a few blackbirds, greenfinches, chiffchaffs, a couple of wren and this BEAST of a jay which left one of the ringers with a very large bruise on their wrist and a bloody finger…… Check out that hooked bill!!IMG_1316I love the the markings on it’s head and slight purple tinge I’ve never really noticed before.IMG_1317A couple of very vocal and curious fox cubs also made an appearance, they looked quite young and a bit bedraggled, hope their mum was near by! IMG_1321Afterwards I went to Adrian Hall garden centre in Feltham for lunch with a couple of the ringers and we were treated to a pair of peregrines, one with food in it’s talons, calling to each other overhead whilst we ate our lunch in the outside area of the cafe! What an unexpected treat.

In other news, I found a couple of caterpillars whilst weeding the front garden the other day and after searching the internet in vain I posted a photo on twitter and was kindly given an ID – they are the larva of the Lesser Yellow Underwing moth!

IMG_1211 IMG_1212I’ve never reared caterpillars before so I decided this was a good opportunity and these guys are currently in a old tupperware box (with added air holes) in a high up place (where the cats can’t get at them!) in my front room. As far as I can figure they eat quite a broad range of plants so feeding them shouldn’t be a problem, but I might add a centimeter of soil and some twigs to make them feel more at home.

Lastly, I’ve done a couple of garden moth trapping sessions recently and just wanted to share this beauty with you.

The Streamer, Anticlea derivata

The Streamer, Anticlea derivata

 

Getting Up Early to Go For a Run and Being Distracted By Moths….

Perhaps emptying the moth trap AND going for a run before leaving my house at 8.30 yesterday morning was a bit ambitious? I’ll have to get up earlier next time 😉

Obviously the moths won, in truth I wasn’t expecting to get much (or anything, if last weeks attempt was anything to go on), so I was pleasantly surprised to immediately spot a few micros sitting around the light and just inside the trap a Hebrew Character.

Hebrew Character, Orthosia gothica

Hebrew Character, Orthosia gothica

And then, much to my excitement, a couple of plume moths!

Emmelina monodactyla

Emmelina monodactyla

Amblyptilia acanthadactyla

Amblyptilia acanthadactyla

Amblyptilia acanthadactyla

Amblyptilia acanthadactyla

How cool are they?! I’m pretty new to this mothing business, in fact this will be my first spring having only constructed my homemade moth trap at the end of last summer. Although common species, these are my first plume moths so I was pretty chuffed.

The trap also delivered a couple of other micros for me to scratch my head over.

IMG_0968

Eriocrania subpurpurella

IMG_1054

Scopariinae sp. I think, haven’t worked out which one yet… Any suggestions?

It’s my birthday next week, so perhaps I will have to get this micro-moth guide as a present to myself 😉 Ha, if only!

Apologise for poor photos – low light levels and I haven’t worked out how to get good close up shots with my camera…. Or perhaps I need macro lens! Any one got any good tips on ‘moth photography’? The green recycling box background (which I made my trap out of) isn’t the best but I am terrible at coaxing the little guys on to a piece of paper without them flying away…..

My Little Place of Calm, a Bold Little Grebe and a Few Garden Moths

Hi all!

For those of you that read my last post I mentioned I that I am joining the reserve volunteer team at London Wetland Centre – turns out there was some confusion and I actually start this Friday not last! So I will have to contain my eagerness for a another few days. Particularly excited to read that this morning a Bittern has been sighted at the reserve, which will no doubt be a frequent occurrence over the colder months!

In this post I wanted to share a few photos from one of my favourite places; Kempton Nature Reserve. And share a few recent moths from my home-made garden trap.

I’ve taken to visiting this beautiful area of wetland in the evenings which has allowed me to see it, quite literally, in a whole new light.

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Sunset at Kempton Nature Reserve

I mean who could not feel at peace with this sort of view? Bliss.

And Friday night I was joined by this little guy.

Littel Grebe at Kempton NR

Little Grebe at Kempton NR

This Little Grebe came right up in front of the hide and I had the most enjoyable time watching him dive, following the air bubbles and guessing where he was going to pop up next, and what he may have caught. They are always a delight!

I say ‘he’ but honestly I don’t know if this is a male or a female – can any one tell?

This encounter has spurred me to see if I can get my decent camera fixed! Going to find a local camera shop tomorrow.

Yesterday evening I saw a few Wigeon that were sat on the bank preening themselves; they seemed to still be moulting their eclipse plumage which you could see evidence of from the surrounding feathers.

I also came across this Knot Grass caterpillar having it’s dinner.

SAM_3699

Knot Grass Caterpillar

And this neat Fly Agaric fungus.

Fly Agaric

Fly Agaric

How fairytale-esque!

Now on to the moths.

Square-spot Rustic

Square-spot Rustic Xestia xanthographa – the one on the right was one that I caught last week and the one of the left a couple of weeks before that. After reading this great post I learnt that there can be huge variation within this species, as you can see with these two individuals. This caused me a bit of confusion!

Another moth that shows a wide range of variation in forewing colour and pattern is the Lesser Yellow Underwing Noctua comes.

SAM_3844

Lesser Yellow Underwing

Not making identifying these guys easy for me! But that’s all part of the fun 😉

I’ve also been getting lots of these little micros and have developed a bit of a soft spot for them.

Tachystola acroxantha

Tachystola acroxantha

They don’t have a common name and I can never remember the latin, Tachystola acroxantha, so I’ve taken to calling them ‘flame bottom’…… Can you see why? 😉

Green Elfcup Fungus and Colour Variations in the Lunar Underwing Moth

Hi all!

As some of you may know I have recently completed a MSc in Species Identification and Survey Skills. At the moment I am filling my spare time with habitat management based volunteer work – super excited to be starting at London Wetland Centre next week!

I also joined Natures Gym earlier this week for a couple of sessions thinning and removing scrub and clearing green waste at Crane Park. During the Monday session we came across this funky looking blue fungus:

SAM_3514

Green elfcup fungus Chlorociboria – either C. aeruginascens or C. aeruginosa; apparently microscopic examination is needed to tell the difference between these two species! Although C. aeruginosa is the rarer of the two.

It’s common to see blue stained wood caused by the mycelium of these species, but not so common to come across the fruiting body so this was a good find!  Can’t say we were looking out for it (or even knew what is was when we found it!) but still pretty cool!

Mycelium is the main part of a mushroom consisting of thread like tissue (called hyphae) that run underground or, as in this case, through dead wood; what we see on the surface is just the fruiting body!

Fascinating to think there’s a whole other world of life going on beneath our feet!

Anyway, I also wanted to share a few recent moths from the trap and look at the different colour variations of the Lunar underwing:

SAM_3379

Lunar Underwing

Lunar Underwing

Luner Underwing

As you can see individuals vary from light creamy yellows to dark orangey browns. The darker ones are particularly stunning as the pale veins and cross-lines contrast beautifully with the darker background.

I’ve been getting quite a few of these guys lately but the variation between individuals make it just as exciting as getting a different species!

I also wanted to share a few micro moths; Originally I found the thought of identifying micros a bit daunting but actually they are not too difficult and are just as stunning as the big guys! Must purchase this book!

Garden Rose Tortrix

Garden Rose Tortrix Acleris variegana

Light Brown Apple Moth

Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana 

Tachystola acroxantha

Tachystola acroxantha – this one doesn’t have a common name! Tiny but beautiful – love the flame orange tipped wings!