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Posts Tagged ‘Outdoors’

Between them the past two days have produced a crop of moths almost worth mentioning and one really tremendous find.

The weather has been calmer and warmer, in fact quite humid and the forecast out until the end of the month is good so I might yet extend my list of finds for the year and overall – quite a few moths from previous years still haven’t made their reappearance.

The pugs which were about in large numbers at one point reappeared with a double-striped pug (glymnoscelis rufifasciata) last night and another specimen which I couldn’t be certain about the night before. Unfortunately and as usual such a small moth is too difficult for me to photograph well, but last night’s visitor allowed itself to be potted up so that I could bring it to the field guide and have a good look.

There was a quite distinctively marked and pale micromoth in the bathroom which I also potted up but haven’t been able to ID. As is often the case the flash reflects off their scales, but without the flash the little light from the low energy light bulb simply isn’t enough for good photographs – I still haven’t replaced the tripod.

Unidentified micro

Unidentified micro

And by the way the diameter of the pot in which it is resting is 5cm. This next picture isn’t as clear but gives an indication of the shape of its head and mouth parts which may help me to identify it or at least place it in the correct family/sub-family.

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On both nights I’ve had what are probably Lesser Common Rustics (mesapamea didyma) which are just about as dull looking as they sound but also the Willow Beauty (peribatodes rhomboidaria) which particularly in the male with its big dark eyes and extravagent feathered antennae is quite lovely.

Willow Beauty (peribatodes rhomboidaria)

Willow Beauty (peribatodes rhomboidaria)

There have been Small Dusty Waves (idaea seriata) about, as well as an unidentifed probable tortrix and a tiny micro with peculiarly curly antennae. The green lacewings are still about but for the most part the flying insects in the bathroom after dark are just midges or micros or other things that will bite and nothing will induce me to develop an interest in them. Our relationships are strictly one way.

And that leaves just the find of the past couple of days, which was spotted making rapid progress in the mid-afternoon yesterday across the back paving. Since I haven’t seen an adult, ever, this was a complete surprise.

Privet Hawkmoth (sphinx ligustri) caterpillar

Privet Hawkmoth (sphinx ligustri) caterpillar

No mistaking however, the species. This creature should it successfully pupate and emerge next year will become a Privet Hawkmoth (sphinx ligustri) with a wingspan of up to 11 cm. The caterpillar is already enormous and so it is hard to imagine that it isn’t close to pupating.

Privet Hawkmoth caterpillar detail

Privet Hawkmoth caterpillar detail

Although I have no privet on the property I do have a large old lilac overhanging the paved area – and that is another prefered foodplant. I can only imagine that something shook it from its perch and it was certainly heading back in the direction of the lilac. I gently helped it on its way and have hopes that next year I might even see an adult, now I’ve had evidence that they are about.

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Not all moths are dark, heavy-bodied night flyers.

Yesterday I went out to have lunch with a friend with whom I am plotting something that will keep me out of mischief for a short while later in the year. She’s not well so I didn’t stay long and as the cloud cover had cleared I went over to the marina at Burnham to see what I might see.

Though not as sunny or warm as it might have been there were Common Blue Damselflies on the water and one darter dragonfly, the Broad-bodied Libellula (libellula depressa) I think: sadly they would not let me get close enough for good pictures. I found Gate-keepers, Essex Skippers and Meadow Browns in the grass above the marina as well as plenty of Large Whites and my first definite Red Admiral of the year; but the Adder warning signs have gone up and all the training I had as a child often going bush with my parents kicked in.

Gate-keeper (Pyronia tithonus)
Gate-keeper (Pyronia tithonus)

The Gatekeeper (also known as the Hedge Brown) is readily recognised – the twin white dots in the eye are the signature. They were about in large numbers. I spotted my first Green Shieldbug of the year, too:

Greeen Shieldbug
Greeen Shieldbug

The find of the day, though, was something else. I’ve never spotted a Six-spot Burnet before and wasn’t looking for them specifically but walking back along one of the paths above the marina I stumbled upon what I suspect is a colony.

First one, then another a couple of steps further on and then, perhaps a metre or so further still a pair engaged in ensuring the future of the species. This is a magnificent and unmissible moth. All four were in beautiful shape with brilliant red marks against a metallic black background.

Six-spot Burnet (zygaena filipendulae)
Six-spot Burnet (zygaena filipendulae)
Six-spot Burnet (zygaena filipendulae)

Six-spot Burnet (zygaena filipendulae)

I saved this over from yesterday because I rightly suspected that there would be absolutely nothing in the bathroom last night. The weather is, if anything less promising today. What happened to summer?

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Vile weather has returned, black clouds have gathered and thunder is rolling in the distance. Yesterday wasn’t much better and there was not a single moth in the bathroom last night. I didn’t expect much and so retired early with the book I’m reading a book.

I did spot another Grey Dagger (acronicta psi) on a fence panel; though as a species is hard to distinguish except with scalpel and microscope from the Dark Dagger the two have very different caterpillar forms and it is the Grey Dagger caterpillar I’ve found. There was also a pug which rested and which I photographed. I was very excited and sure I’d get an ID having been able to take the pics with natural light. Ha. Definitely a pug is the best I can do.

The strawberry patch looks rather tragic now, deflated and all ‘morning after the night before’ but if the sun is out that part of that garden stills smells delightfully of the few rotten fruit I left behind.

And then I spotted this on the old wall. Something singularly stupid or just foolishly optomistic has laid its eggs on  the paintwork. I guess whatever is developing inside has a chance of a future but there’s a reason why insects lay their eggs on the foodstuff their larvae will feed on, the books don’t reference ‘paint’ as a foodstuff of any lepidoptera larvae.

Mystery green eggs

Mystery green eggs

No reference I have at home crosses by egg colour, a google search revealed only large number of references to Dr Seuss and Ham and an image of  Stink-bug eggs. I’ll keep an eye on these, but hold out little hope of establishing what they were meant to become.

Out in the ‘olive grove’ all are now in bloom to some extent and the first of those little cream coloured petals are turning brown; when they fall away and reveal what lies behind I will hopefully get my first glimpse of my first olives. Expect a slightly hysterically gleeful post on that subject.

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I spent part of yesterday clearing a patch of particularly unkempt ground beyond the kitchen garden which I am planning to extend with, among other things, the asparagus bed. Clearing involved forking up the most entrenched nettle I’ve ever had the misfortune to work on. I was clearing dense webs of nettle root system inches deep, with some of older parts of the system wooded and gnarled by the years. Only stung once though.

I worked and listened to the early part of the tennis match; not much sun about and few insects. I found another specimen of the rather preposterous ‘Big Thigh Bug’ which looks like it is dressed to play Prince Charming in the Christmas pantomime, and was won over by Andy Roddick’s early gusto and self-belief.

I saw a few butterflies, mostly skippers and whites and one possible Red Admiral which would be the first for year.

Of moths just three and all small and new. I say new but these are micro moths and I’ve seen and photographed many I’ve been unable to ID and therefore have no means of keeping records for. One I’m almost certain is homoeosoma sinuellawhich doesn’t look particularly ‘yellowish’ in the photographs I took but did have a definite yellow background hue ‘in person’.

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homoeosoma sinuella

The other two I’ve not yet pinned down. The first of them is by some distance the larger. It was resting on the ground in the shelter of a small clump of weed:

Unidentified micro. Pyralid?

Unidentified micro. Pyralid?

The other, much smaller and more nondescript was resting on ivy:

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The weather was a bit iffy all day and descended into an approximation of cold and blustery so there were almost no moths in the bathroom last night. The Bee Moth of the previous evening (or yes, possibly a new one) was still around and a Dotted Fan-foot too. Other than that micros I may or may not have photographed previously and certainly cannot ID.

When I woke this morning it was still nasty, the sun came out for a while but has now gone again. This is all my fault. At least I didn’t get the pool going; if I’d done that it would probably already be snowing!

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Over the past week I’ve spotted quite a number of moths at rest during the daytime and I believe they deserve their moment in the spot light even if they might not enjoy it too much. I’m free to do this because last night’s moth visitors were all either repeat callers such as the Clay, Bright-line Brown-eye, Common Emerald etc or new but very tiny and unidentifiable micros.

Apart from eudonia mercurella and the Currant Pug (eupithecia assimilata) they include –

 

 A ‘just for the record’ post that provided an opportunity to work with posting a gallery set of pics for the first time. Bear with me.

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Before closing the book on the month of June 2009 and just a little late in the day here is June’s winner of Icky Thing of the Month.

I found it on ivy over a run down tomb at Burnham cemetary (see I went here…)

It is about an inch long and looks just like the sort of thing a toddler would not be able to resist eating. It was actually lying flat against the leaf when I spotted it; even while I was scrambling for the camera it brought itself up on the two (?) suckers (?) very slowly and steadily and stood there, on end while I photographed, before slowly lowering itself down again.

Absolutely not a clue what this might be

Absolutely not a clue what this might be

Unbelievable, except that I saw it with my own eyes. Even more amazing than the ladybird with patches in the shape of Australia.

Prosaic postscript: I’m told this is, or will be, a ladybird; and I will come back if there is any advance.

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I had an odd day today; I couldn’t tell you when last I got to wander. I had to spend time in Burnham (look it up) and with a bit of time to spare I wandered here:

St Mary's churchyard, Burnham on Crouch

St Mary's churchyard, Burnham on Crouch

This isn’t the sort of photograph I normally take but there was something spell binding about the way the light was falling. Amazingly, I’ve almost captured it in this picture.

I’m a bit of a sucker for old grave yards. This one has been closed for a long time. The most recent dated stone I found was 1912. The oldest readable stones carried dates in the late 1700s. As the church dates back to the 14th century and succeeded an earlier church there presumably are far older but now unmarked graves in these grounds.

I can’t say I saw any ghosts, but the grounds were thick with a swarm of Garden Grass-veneer moths. Other life on show:

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A charming and lovely coloured bug that vanished before I could get a better shot.

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The longer I look at this the more sure I am the larger upper colour mark on the left is a map of Australia (complete with lopsided Tasmania) with a mirror image on the right.

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This looked more like a shrimp than an insect.

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So after leaving here (above)  I headed towards the river and passed here (below) which is the nature reserve on the outskirts of the town. The view is across the wide shallow river valley roughly in the direction of Southend-on-Sea.

Crouch valley, Essex

Crouch valley, Essex

I would imagine any week now the Adder Warning signs will go up here; notwithstanding the warmth there was no evidence today.

There were a few white butterflies, what might have been examples of the Ringlet but mostly Essex Skippers:

Essex Skipper (thymelicus lineola)

Essex Skipper (thymelicus lineola)

It got hot and I was concerned for the chocolate in my bag so I headed down towards the river. Before the many river I passed a stagnant pool remnant of a tributary.

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 Sadly the many many dragonflies and damselflies enjoying themselves would not pose, but this guy did (thought the pic is not as good as I’d hoped).

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And with that, I really am caught up.

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