Sunday, 1 July 2018

Magnificent Moths

It's been a hot week here with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees C. For wildlife that has already had to endure a freezing winter this year it's a challenging time.

The local house martins have finally settled on their nests. They appear to be breeding very late this year but in large numbers- with the good weather set to continue it will hopefully be a good year for them.


House martins are such incredible fliers and it's so wonderful to watch them swooping around catching insects. They seem to enter their nests at incredible speeds too. It's not all plain-sailing for them though- when I was looking at the various nests under the eaves of houses I spotted a very odd looking house martin. 


This is actually a house sparrow so what is it doing in a martin nest? House sparrows will happily take over house martin nests(1). They will even sometimes attack the eggs and young house martins and harass the adults. The sparrows will even do this and choose not to use the nest themselves!

I was excited to spot this female stag beetle recently on the edge of a footpath. 



It's likely this individual was looking for somewhere to lay its eggs as that's why you usually see female stag beetles on the ground(2). Stag beetles spend much of their life underground, only emerging to breed in the summer. The adults will die off by the autumn.

The warm weather has seen lots of butterflies on the wing over the last few weeks. One of the most common species locally appears to be the meadow brown


The other species I've seen in large numbers is the large white


Both species appear to be doing well in the local area though I must say there appears to be less butterflies generally than in past years. 

The highlight of my week though has been spotting moths and I've seen some fantastic species.

Some are fairly plain looking but lovely in their own way. 


This species is riband wave, a species which is attracted to light. I found it on the edge of the window- I'd kept the light on in the hope of attracting some moths which clearly worked. There are several forms of this moth, part of it's natural variation, and this is the remutata form.


This is a similar species which I think is small fan-footed wave although there are quite a few 'wave' species which look alike. 

The next species is more impressive- a ghost moth which I found on a gate post whilst it was still light. 


Once they become adult moths, this species has no functioning mouthparts and therefore cannot feed(3). The males perform a swaying flight display at dusk which is presumably where the name comes from- I imagine it would be quite spooky. 

Another stunning moth I found was this white ermine moth


I found this individual on our shed after dusk which made it quite the challenge to take this photo. The pattern of the black spot varies greatly between individuals and this appears to have relatively few spots.

A find yesterday morning on a garden fence was this species:


This was a tricky species to identify but I think it's a sycamore moth. To a moth, wooden fence panels look like nooks and crannies in trees where they would normally rest up so in a suburban environment fences are actually a really good place to look for moths. 

As much as I'd love to have a moth trap, a torch and a keen eye is the next best thing! 


2: PTES: About stag beetles
3: Butterfly Conservation: Ghost Moth
4: Butterfly Conservation: White Ermine Moth

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