03 April, 2014

Crème de la crème

I was lucky enough to be invited to a moth-trapping session organised last night at Monkwood (a WT reserve located north of Worcester) during some very favourable weather conditions. In total, eight 125w MV skinner traps were wired up between the six of us and spread out along footpaths in the northern section of the reserve, underneath a cover of blackthorn and oak.

A Black-tailed Godwit called as it flew over in the gloom, and various Tawny Owls were vocal throughout the night, but whilst the birds were nice, the moths were better. Things got off to a fine start when the very first moth I plucked out of a trap turned out to be a Blossom Underwing; a moth restricted in its breeding range to ancient oak woodland, and a species that I've only previously been able to appreciate through photos on the interweb. Four more entered various traps throughout the night, making a welcome change to the usual Orthosia that typically dominate early season catches...

The crème de la crème of early-season noctuids, one of five Blossom Underwing caught.

The same Blossom Underwing, putting a Common Quaker to shame.

Mixed in with the usual Quakers and Chestnuts was a single example of Dark Chestnut as well small numbers of Twin-spotted Quaker, Early Tooth-stripe, Frosted Green, Pine Beauty and Shoulder-stripe. Five beautifully fresh Purple Thorn in one trap indicated a recent emergence, but the adrenaline was soon pumping again when an egg box was turned over to reveal a single White-markedthe first modern record for Monkwood of this uncommon species, and a completely unexpected bonus for the night... 

The crème de la crème of early-season noctuids... oh wait, I already said that for the Blossom Underwing didn't I? So much quality in one night... I just can't decide between them.

Surprisingly low numbers of micros were recorded, with the highlights being adults of both Semioscopis avellanella and Semioscopis steinkellneriana, giving a nice opportunity to compare the two species up close, and a few probable Eriocrania sangii which were mixed in with the usual E. subpurpurella. All the above moths were caught in just the three traps that I kept an eye on, with insect activity getting so busy that I didn't find much of a chance to take a peak into the other five traps. I'll try and see if I can get a full species list together, but in the meantime the killer question needs to be answered:

... Blossom Underwing or White-marked... which is better?

Early Thorn was one of the more numerous species to enter the traps.

Extracting Blossom Underwing no. 5 from the same trap that would turn up the White-marked half an hour later. Moth-trapping at its finest! 

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