Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Random highlights

A few odds-and-sods from the last few days around the garden. Firstly this species of fruit fly Tephritis neesii, which is proving to be quite common around the garden meadow. A quick look at its requirements shows why, it lays its eggs on the capitulum of Leucanthemum species. With Oxeye Daisy L. vulgare dominating the meadow, there is plenty of foodplant for these flies to go at.

Tephritis neesii

This Cabbage Stem Weevil Ceutorhynchus pallidactyllus was yet another discover on the outside wall of the house. This has probably come from a Brassica crop in a nearby garden.

Ceutorhynchus pallidactyllus

Finally, this nymph of the bug Harpocera thoracica. This will turn into a rather attractive Mirid bug, and one I will look out for later in the year.

Harpocera thoracica

Mining Bees

There have been several solitary bees around the garden recently, particularly around the new bank. One which caught my area had a red abdomen and white hairs on the face. After a few attempts I managed to catch one and have a closer look.

This fabulous insect is the Red-girdled Mining Bee Andrena labiata. This is not a particularly common species, it is described on the BWARS website as being a local species mainly confined to sandy soils inland and occuring up to North Wales and Yorkshire. It is particularly associated with speedwells (Veronica sp.), which are abundant in parts of the garden.

After release, the bee posed on a bit of grass and allowed this picture.

Red-girdled Mining Bee Andrena labiata

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Muslin Moth to Common Lizard

A nice a relaxing start to the morning going through the mothtrap before work. It was a reasonable haul of 28 moths of ten species. This included a reappearance of the recently mentioned Brindled Beauty Lycia hirtaria, and a couple of new species for the year.

The first of these was the wonderfully furry Muslin Moth Diaphora mendica. This species is sexually dimorphic, the males (such as this one) being a wonderfully soft brown colour and the females being white. Curiously, I have only ever caught males in the garden, though these are one of my absolutes favourites among the spring moths.

Muslin Moth Diaphora mendica

Another new species for the year was this Broom Moth Ceramica pisi, making a slightly early appearance for the year. This moth will be around until the beginning of August, and occurs in reasonable numbers. The yellowish patch where the forewings meet is a really good pointer to this species.As the name suggests, the larvae feed on Broom Cytisus scoparius, but also use Bracken Pteridium aquilinum and a range of other trees and plants.

Broom Moth Ceramica pisi

I managed to get out in the garden in my lunch break, and I noticed this insect crawling along the front wall underneath some forget-me-not (Myosotis sp.). Funnily enough this is a Forget-me-not Shieldbug Sehirus luctuosus, an unobtrusive and probably very overlooked bug.

Forget-me-not Shieldbug Sehirus luctuosus

The day was finished off nicely by this Common Lizard Zootoca vivipara basking in the sunshine on the wall at the rear of the garden.

Common Lizard Zootoca vivipara

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Thrill of the Chase

Work commitments to me to Cannock Chase today, on a site visit to look around some of the heathland restoration areas. This gave a bit of opportunity for some beetling, as we looked at the ongoing restoration work, and little green things kept crawling across the path!

One of these beetles was this Green Tiger Beetle Cicindella campestris. I think this is a wonderful insect, but one that often catches people out. If you look at the pictures in an identification guide you expect this to be quite a large insect, with its beautiful architecture. When you see it you realise it is quite tiny, only coming in at 15mm long. It is not a common species, but is very characteristic of heathland.

Green Tiger Beetle Cicindella campestris

Green Tiger Beetle Cicindella campestris

The other beetle was this ground beetle Poecilus cupreus. Thanks to Mark Gurney, who saw my picture, questioned my original identification and got this to the right family. Narrowing it down to a Poecilus, I was able to get it to species level. The ground beetles are a very difficult group with many similar species, and a lot more practice is needed!

Poecilus cupreus

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Ring Ouzels

Following my sighting of a Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus on 10 April there has been a period of poor weather, and I have not been able to get back up Batch Valley to see if more birds have arrived. This afternoon was more benign, and I ventured up to the slopes below the Jinlye, a regular place for this species over the last three years. I met with good success, with at least seven birds on the hillside.

Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus

This species nested on the Long Mynd until 2003, when the last breeding attempt was recorded. A lone male held territory without success in the following year, and since then we have had to be satisfied with birds on passage to breeding grounds further north.

Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus

Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus

Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus

Fine Young Cannibal

The moth trap this morning held a long-awaited first record for the garden. along with a more familiar species. The familiar moth was this Grey Shoulder-knot Lithophane ornitopus. The Lithophane moths have a sinister side, as their caterpillars have a tendency towards cannibalism, which can cause a nasty surprise for those trying to rear them!

Grey Shoulder-knot Lithophane ornitopus

The new species for the garden was this male Brindled Beauty Lycia hirtaria. This is one of the spring moths that has avoided my garden previously, so I was very pleased to finally record this beautiful moth.

Thursday, 16 April 2015


In my blog of a few days ago, I mentioned that it was a surprise that I had not recorded Powdered Quaker Orthosia gracilis in my Batch Valley Garden. It was somewhat inevitable that the next time the trap went out there would be one in the trap. I have may have used my predictive superpowers, but very welcome it was too!

Powdered Quaker Orthosia gracilis

A moth which certainly has occurred in the garden on many occasions is the Early Thorn Selenia dentaria. Always holding its wings tightly closed above the body, this is a very distinctive species and probably one of the favourite moths of many a moth trapper.

Early Thorn Selenia dentaria

From a regularly occurring moth, to a much less frequent species. My second Dyseriocrania subpurpurella was a nice discovery this morning. This pretty little golden-scaled moth is found around Oak (Quercus), where the mines create distinctive blotches on the leaves. It is a diurnal species, and can often be seen flitting around oak trees at dusk. It will come to light, but if I paid more attention to the garden oak tree itself I may record this species more regularly.

Dyseriocrania subpurpurella

There is a frequent pattern with moth trapping for me. I run the trap, get up in the morning, pot up moths, go through the trap and then pack away. I will then often find the most interesting moth of the morning is something I have missed, hiding in the lawn a few metres from the trap. I will only see it on my final sweep of the area, often nearly stepping on it. This happened again today with this Acleris literana, a new species for the garden. This is another species of Oak, and if you think it looks a bit tatty, then give it a break. These moths emerge in late summer and then overwinter as adults before reappearing in the spring, so this individual is several months old.

Acleris literana

Monday, 13 April 2015

Palmate Newt

This evening was spent on a site visit to an area of Batch Valley where the local community is planning a tree planting scheme to recreate woodland, something I am likely to blog about in the future.

We were there to look at the stream and pool that flow through the site, to see if anything can be done to enhance the wetland habitats. We had a few ideas, and through a bit of fishing around we found this Palmate Newt Lissotriton helveticus.

Palmate Newt Lissotriton helveticus

This is the smallest British amphibian, and gains its names from the webs on the feet of the male newt. A good identification pointer is the short spine that sticks out from the end of the tail, as can be seen in this individual.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Lonesome Pine

Graham and I ran our moth traps in a garden to the east of the Ludlow road last night. The haul was not particularly large, but the homeowners were interested in what we found. This included two new species of macro moth for me, one of which was a new species for Graham (a rarity in itself).

The star of the show was this Pine Beauty Panolis flammea, of which it will not be a surprise that it is associated with Scot's Pine Pinus sylvestris. This species has quite a short flight season, being found in March and April. It is quite a common species, but only where the foodplant is found.

Pine Beauty Panolis flammea

The other new moth for me was this Powdered Quaker Orthosia gracilis. This species uses Sallow (Salix sp.) which is not particularly common in Batch Valley. Even so, it is a surprise that I have not recorded them before at home, perhaps that will change this spring.

Friday, 10 April 2015


The first passage Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus of the year was back in Batch Valley today. I found this male in scrub along the path up to the Jinlye.

Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Full Stream

This Streamer Anticlea derivata was a nice surprise this morning. Though it evaded the trap itself, I eventually found it resting on the garden furniture. This attractive species likes hedgerows and woodland, with Dog Rose Rosa canina being the larval foodplant.

The Streamer Anticlea derivata

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Flying without wings

I had a real treat today, when I found this female Diurnea fagella crawling up the outside wall of the house. You would be forgiven for thinking that this moth is newly emerged, or is somehow damaged causing its wings to be stunted. In fact this is one of several moths that occur in the winter and early spring that have flightless females. The female will crawl up the trunk of a deciduous tree, and release pheromones to attract males to mate with it.

Diurnea fagella female

How this moth managed to find its way to the house, and then mistake it for a tree is a bit of a mystery. I suspected that it had not come far, and the likelihood was that it would want to be using the Sessile Oak Queruc petraea just over the fence. I returned it to this tree and it quickly melted into the background, with its fabulous camouflage. Can you see it?

Diurnea fagella female