Saturday, 19 August 2017

Pugs

Double-striped Pug, Gymnoscelis rufifasciata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 2 August 2017.
Double-striped Pug, Gymnoscelis rufifasciata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 2 August 2017.
Pugs are a group of small moths, most of them in the tribe Eupitheciini of the family Geometridae, that mostly look very similar to each other.  When thinking of how to describe and identify them, the phrase "stare until your eyes drop out of your head" came to mind.  Because mostly, the differences are very subtle, but can often be quite distinct if you can become aware of them.

This Double-striped Pug is one of the easiest, particularly when fresh.  Though please note, it has many more than two stripes.

Foxglove Pug, Eupithecia pulchellata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 29 June 2017.
Foxglove Pug, Eupithecia pulchellata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 29 June 2017.
In fact this Foxglove Pug is sometimes mistaken for it for that reason.

There's a saying that goes something like "If you hear hoofbeats, expect horses, not zebras."  (A variation of Occam's Razor.)  Well, that works fine if I am hearing "clip-clop" sounds from outside my house.  But if I were on the Serengeti, I would have to re-cast that saying completely.  Also, back to the world of moths, if you see only what you expect to see, you can miss some interesting rarities.

And since I moved house, I don't even know what I should expect to see.  I have seen three pugs here that never turned up at Hayes.

Freyer's Pug, Eupithecia intricata subsp. arceuthata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 2 June 2017.
Freyer's Pug, Eupithecia intricata subsp. arceuthata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 2 June 2017.
Freyer's Pug, with elongated wing spots (many pugs have these) and rows of fine lines on the wings.

Haworth's Pug, Eupithecia haworthiata. Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 17 July 2017.
Haworth's Pug, Eupithecia haworthiata. Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 17 July 2017.
Haworth's Pug, with an orange body.

Currant Pug, Eupithecia assimilata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 13 August 2017.
Currant Pug, Eupithecia assimilata.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 13 August 2017.
And a Currant Pug, with much bigger dark wing spots and a more chestnut coloration than many pugs (and there are many pugs).

OK, those were easy, really.  Here are some I have encountered over the last few years.

Common Pug, Eupithecia vulgata.  Hayes, 1 June 2016.
Common Pug, Eupithecia vulgata.  Hayes, 1 June 2016.
 Common Pug.  We are encouraged to learn this one because it is "easy" ...

Mottled Pug, Eupithecia exiguata. Hayes, 28 May 2012.
Mottled Pug, Eupithecia exiguata. Hayes, 28 May 2012.
Mottled Pug.  I find this hard to distinguish from the next one:

Brindled Pug, Eupithecia abbreviata. Hayes, 25 May 2012.
Brindled Pug, Eupithecia abbreviata. Hayes, 25 May 2012.
The Brindled Pug.  I really hope I ave those last three right, because I am not very confident in identifying them, so if anyone thinks I am mistaken, please say.

At this point I will just add in this one:

Unidentified melanic pug, Eupithecia species.  Hayes on 5 August 2012.
Unidentified melanic pug, Eupithecia species.  Hayes on 5 August 2012.
Some species have melanic forms, dark-winged with no identifying features, though the wing outline gives a clue in some cases.  Most of these need to be dissected for a proper identification.

Next time: more pugs, all of them easier to identify than those last four.



Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Trees (that were) In The Knoll

Fallen Horse-chestnut in The Knoll, Hayes.  8 June 2017.
Fallen Horse-chestnut in The Knoll, Hayes.  8 June 2017.
Making occasional trips back to Hayes while selling my old house there.  So while there, I have been looking in on The Knoll, my nearest local park, to see how it is getting on.

Here's what I saw early in June.  This is a Horse-chestnut tree that I knew was full of debilitating fungus.  Shown here: Two Weak Horse-chestnuts. It's the tree on the left in the first photo, also shown near the bottom of that post.

Fallen Horse-chestnut in The Knoll, Hayes.  8 June 2017.
Fallen Horse-chestnut in The Knoll, Hayes.  8 June 2017.
Here's a close-up of the torn trunk.  All of the wood is weak.  The colour shows that the lignin has gone, eaten by the fungus.  This is called white rot, and is known to be caused by (among others) the Dryad's Saddle fungus that was growing on the tree and fruiting so profusely.

So what about the other fungus-infested Horse-chestnut, which was under notice of being monolithed?

Horse-chestnut stump in The Knoll, Hayes.  25 July 2017.
Horse-chestnut stump in The Knoll, Hayes.  25 July 2017.
The next time I visited The Knoll, this was it.  This severe treatment is probably just as well.  The Ganoderma that riddled this tree also causes white rot, and so does the Oyster Mushroom that was also growing on it.  And the Silverleaf fungus I saw on it last year is also a serious tree-killer.

Horse-chestnut stump in The Knoll, Hayes.  25 July 2017.
Horse-chestnut stump in The Knoll, Hayes.  25 July 2017.
The fallen tree had also been tidied up, as had the branch of the tree further on that had been knocked off when the Horse-chestnut fell.

This park has a continuing issue with fungus infections in trees.  A big beech fell in 2013; here's an article I wrote for the Orpington Field Club website: The Giant Polypore and its Consequences.  White rot again.  It's not that the park management don't pay attention. It's that they seem to take action just a bit too late! That they have previously got there in time is shown by this monolithed oak tree further down the slope.

Monolithed oak tree in The Knoll, Hayes, 25 July 2017.
Monolithed oak tree in The Knoll, Hayes, 25 July 2017.
That has clearly never blown over.  Also, a fence has recently been built around a veteran pollarded oak nearer the top of the park, probably because people have sometimes set fires in the hollow core of the tree.

Fence around pollarded veteran oak in The Knoll, Hayes, 25 July 2017.
Fence around pollarded veteran oak in The Knoll, Hayes, 25 July 2017.
I don't think it's very effective, though.  The school tie on the fence is probably an indication of the cause of that missing paling, which has left a stretch of wire which could easily be climbed over. 

This tree still looks strong, but it has an infection of Laetiporus sulphureus, Chicken of the Woods, which is a tasty edible fungus but which causes a brown cubical rot which can be just as weakening as white rot.  I have photos .. here's one from 2012 ..

Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, on a veteran oak in The Knoll Hayes.  25 September 2012.
Chicken of the Woods, Laetiporus sulphureus, on a veteran oak in The Knoll Hayes.  25 September 2012.
You can see the brown rot showing where the burnt areas have broken off.  With luck it will only have affected the centre wood, helping to hollow out the tree and leaving the strong outer wood whole.  Trees like this can remain strong and resilient.  But what with this park's history, I think the locals(*) will have to keep an eye on this one ....

(*) Not me any more.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

More Thorns

Purple Thorn, Selenia tetralunaria.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 20 July 2017.
Purple Thorn, Selenia tetralunaria.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 20 July 2017.
Thorns are STILL my favourite moths for looks.  They are gorgeous.  I've seen four species here in Crowborough, of which this Purple Thorn just makes the top of my chart.

Canary-shouldered Thorn, Ennomos alniaria. Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 22 July 2017.
Canary-shouldered Thorn, Ennomos alniaria. Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 22 July 2017.
Most people think this Canary-shouldered Thorn is the cutest.  They are indeed pretty, but they don't have the moody colour tones of the Purple.

Thorn caterpillars in general live in trees, and I am seeing quite a few tree eaters in my garden.

Dusky Thorn, Ennomos fuscantaria.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 22 July 2017.
Dusky Thorn, Ennomos fuscantaria.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 22 July 2017.
The Dusky Thorn is less glamorous than the other thorns, and can look a little bruised.

Early Thorn, Selenia dentaria.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 3 and 8 July 2017.
Early Thorn, Selenia dentaria.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 3 and 8 July 2017.
Early Thorns come in two waves, two separate generations.  These are second generation specimens.  As you can see, there's a range of colour tones between different individuals, but they can be told from the other thorns by the way they hold their wings tight together, like butterflies.


Sunday, 23 July 2017

New Moths

Green Arches, Anaplectoides prasina.  Crowborough, 24 June 2017.
Green Arches, Anaplectoides prasina.  Crowborough, 24 June 2017.
I have been seeing a lot of new moths in my garden in Crowborough, some that I didn't see in my Hayes garden, some that I have never seen anywhere before.  Here are some of those that are quite new to me.

This Green Arches is excellent!  It's a woodland species and a Noctuid, and there are not many green Noctuids.

Ypsolopha scabrella.  Crowborough, 10 July 2017.
Ypsolopha scabrella.  Crowborough, 10 July 2017.
Ypsolopha scabrella is a micromoth, according to the rather arbitrary division of moths into micro and macro.  Its profile and especially those scale tufts on its back make it easy to identify.  Apples and hawthorns are the preferred food of its larvae, and there's no shortage of those.

Pebble Prominent, Notodonta ziczac.  Crowborough, 17 July 2017.
Pebble Prominent, Notodonta ziczac.  Crowborough, 17 July 2017.
Pretty Pebble Prominent, with the rather wonderful scientific name Notodonta ziczac, is another new one for me.  It's not scarce, but a lot of moths are quite local in their habits and don't cover the whole of an area.

Yellow-tail, Euproctis similis.  Crowborough, 20 July 2017.
Yellow-tail, Euproctis similis.  Crowborough, 20 July 2017.
Again, the Yellow-tail isn't scarce, I just haven't come across it before.  This one is a male, and doesn't have a yellow tip to its abdomen like the females.

Silver Hook, Deltote uncula.  Crowborough, 20 July 2017.
Silver Hook, Deltote uncula.  Crowborough, 20 July 2017.
This Silver Hook, however, is rather scarce and hasn't been recorded close to Crowborough in the past, at least according to the records I have seen.  The UKMoths site says: "Occupying marshes, fens and acid bogs, this species has a scattered distribution over much of Britain, but is largely absent from most of central England."  Well, I do not live in a marsh, fen or acid bog, but on the other hand, nor do I live in a wood and I see plenty of woodland species.  Perhaps the recent rainstorms have moved a few individuals from their home territories.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Colourful Verges

Bird's-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus.  Chapell Green, Crowborough, 3 June 2017.
Bird's-foot Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus.  Chapell Green, Crowborough, 3 June 2017.
Walking around Crowborough in June and July I have seen many colourful flowers in the roadside verges and garden borders.  Most are common in the wild, like this Bird's-foot Trefoil.  Many are actually garden escapes.   They all brighten the roadside.  Here are some of the wildlings.

Fox and Cubs, Pilosella aurantica.  Gordon Road, Crowborough, 3 June 2017.
Fox and Cubs, Pilosella aurantica.  Gordon Road, Crowborough, 3 June 2017.
This vivid Fox-and-Cubs is plentiful.  I enjoy it partly because I only saw a few specimens back in Hayes.   Now, this even comes up in my lawn. 

Green Alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervirens. Whitehill Road, Crowborough, 10 June 2017.
Green Alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervirens. Whitehill Road, Crowborough, 10 June 2017.
The blue-flowered and very vigorous Green Alkanet is quite scarce here, whereas it was everywhere in Hayes.

Great Willowherb, Epilobium hirsutum.  Goldsmith's Recreation Ground car park, Crowborough, 8 July 2017.
Great Willowherb, Epilobium hirsutum.  Goldsmith's Recreation Ground car park, 8 July 2017.
Great Willowherb needs a bit more space, and is happy here in the rough ground beside a car park. 

Common Mallow, Malva sylvestris.  Outside Crowborough library, 8 July 2017.
Common Mallow, Malva sylvestris.  Outside Crowborough library, 8 July 2017.
Common Mallow has lesser requirements, and has sprouted here in an untended patch of concrete paving outside the library.

Tufted Vetch, Vicia cracca.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 7 July 2017.
Tufted Vetch, Vicia cracca.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 7 July 2017.
Tufted Vetch likes a less busy spot.  Here it is scrambling through the long grass and brambles under a half-wild roadside hedgerow.

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium.   Luxford Lane, Crowborough,13 June 2017.
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium.   Luxford Lane, Crowborough,13 June 2017.
Yarrow is scattered in the short grass everywhere.  You can see some of its leaves among the Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers at the top of this post.  This plant is in my own lawn.  There are yellow and red flowered varieties of this plant in the garden centres at this time of year, and it's easy to see where they would thrive.

Also in this shot are the tiny yellow flowers of Lesser Trefoil, sometimes regarded as a garden pest.  Here, it is vigorous at the start of the year but is now dying back, at the end of its growth cycle and probably hastened on its way by fungal infections, of which I have seen a lot.  But it will be back next year.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Eyed Hawk-moth

Eyed Hawk-moth, Smerinthus ocellata.   Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 3 July 2017.
Eyed Hawk-moth, Smerinthus ocellata.   Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 3 July 2017.
This is an Eyed Hawk-moth.  It's quite a large moth and has the sculptural wing shape when at rest that is typical of most of the hawk-moths.  The colour scheme is elegant and sober. But why, you might ask, is it called "eyed?"

Eyed Hawk-moth, Smerinthus ocellata.   Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 3 July 2017.
Eyed Hawk-moth, Smerinthus ocellata.   Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 3 July 2017.
... Because, when it's disturbed, it does this!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Two Hawk-moths

Elephant Hawk-moth, Deilephila elpenor.  Crowborough, 14 June 2017.
Elephant Hawk-moth, Deilephila elpenor.  Crowborough, 14 June 2017.
I've had two hawk-moths in my Crowborough light trap so far.  Not the biggest of the English species, but still rather spectacular.  This Elephant Hawk-moth has a wingspan of up to 6 cm. and is probably the most colourful of our moth species.  Its colour scheme lacks taste, though.

Before the days of light traps, moths were known as much or more from their caterpillars as from their adult forms.  The caterpillar of this hawk-moth has an extendable head that looks rather like a snout or even an elephant's trunk, hence the English name; and also, the species name elpenor, which comes from one of Odysseus' companions who was turned into a pig by Circe.

Poplar Hawk-moth, Laothoe populi. Crowborough, 21 June 2017.
Poplar Hawk-moth, Laothoe populi. Crowborough, 21 June 2017.
The Poplar Hawkmoth is even bigger, with a wingspan of up to 9 cm, and it's fun to take photos that make it look like Mothra.  They are quite docile and can be held in the hand (but they have hooks on their feet so might not be easy to dislodge from their preferred position). 

Poplar Hawk-moth, Laothoe populi. Crowborough, 26 June 2017.
Poplar Hawk-moth, Laothoe populi. Crowborough, 26 June 2017.
Here is one on an egg box.  The wing shape is quite distinctive and there's nomistaking it for any other species.  The colouring is much more subtle than that of the Elephant Hawk-moth. 

I have had Pine, Lime and Privet Hawk-moths in my Hayes garden trap, and Small Elephant Hawk-moths at West Wickham, so maybe I'll see some more Hawk-moths here too.

Their family name is Sphingidae, from the word Sphinx.  I thought that derived from the Greek for "strangler," but according to Wiktionary it might instead come from Egyptian for "living image," which sounds more complimentary, not to say reverent.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Prey

Small Fan-foot, Herminia grisealis. On the wall near my garden light trap in Crowborough.
Small Fan-foot, Herminia grisealis. On the wall near my garden light trap in Crowborough.
Just a brief post.  In this hot weather I looked out at my light trap in the middle of the night, to photograph the moths I could see on the wall, in case any of them flew away before the morning.  And that's what I thought this Small Fan-foot had done.

Remains of Small Fan-foot, Herminia grisealis. On the wall near my garden light trap in Crowborough.
Remains of Small Fan-foot, Herminia grisealis. On the wall near my garden light trap in Crowborough.
But after clearing the trap in the morning I looked all around carefully, and I saw what looked like a small moth high above.  On looking at the photo, I can see that it used to be a Small Fan-foot .. no doubt the very same one, which has had an unfortunate encounter with a spider in the night.  (Fortunate for the spider, of course.)

Friday, 16 June 2017

Garden Birds

Jackdaw, Corvus monedula, in my garden in Crowborough. 15 June 2017.
Jackdaw, Corvus monedula, in my garden in Crowborough. 15 June 2017.
So, I have been lounging on my sofa with a longish lens in my camera (200mm with a 1.4x extender) taking shots of birds through my window.  There are several familiar species.  A few are missing, so far at least.  This one, the Western Jackdaw, never appeared in my old garden so it was a surprise to see two of them eyeing up my lawn.

House Sparrows, Passer domesticus, in my back garden in Crowborough.  15 June 2017.
House Sparrows, Passer domesticus, in my back garden in Crowborough.  15 June 2017.
House Sparrows used to be very common but are now less so, and are another species I didn't see in my Hayes garden, so I am pleased that a little flock of them like my sunflower heart feeder.  The one in flight is a male.

House Sparrows, Passer domesticus, in my back garden in Crowborough.  Male feeding young.  15 June 2017.
House Sparrows, Passer domesticus, in my back garden in Crowborough.  Male feeding young.  15 June 2017.
He was taking the sunflower seed hearts to feed this young one on my back fence.

Young Bluetits seem more capable of finding their own food.

Young Bluetit, Cyanistes caeruleus, in my back garden in Crowborough.  15 June 2017.
Young Bluetit, Cyanistes caeruleus, in my back garden in Crowborough.  15 June 2017.
Tits like peanuts, which they take to a safe spot to eat bit by bit.  I saw a Great Tit earlier, but didn't get a photo.  No Coal Tits as yet, though.

Another of the crow family has also appeared.

Magpie, Pica pica, over my back fence in Crowborough.  15 June 2017.
Magpie, Pica pica, over my back fence in Crowborough.  15 June 2017.
A Magpie.  And there are two of the dove family:

Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto, on my back fence in Crowborough.  15 June 2017.
Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto, on my back fence in Crowborough.  15 June 2017.
A Collared Dove, and several Wood Pigeons:

Wood Pigeon; Columba palumbus, on my back lawn in Crowborough.  15 June 2017.
Wood Pigeon, Columba palumbus, on my back lawn in Crowborough.  15 June 2017.
Several birds like to investigate the lawn when it has just been mown.  The Wood Pigeons stroll around as though they own the place.  Most of the birds are more cautious.

I have seen (but not photographed) a pair of blackbirds, and there are sometimes a few starlings:

Common starling, Sturnus vulgaris, on my back lawn in Crowborough.  15 June 2017.
Common starling, Sturnus vulgaris, on my back lawn in Crowborough.  15 June 2017.
Starlings usually work over the lawn in groups, looking for grubs such as leatherjackets - which are cranefly grubs that eat grass roots, so the starlings are a good thing.  I suspect I won't have much slug or snail trouble, either, given the high general level of bird activity here.

It's not just birds that like the garden:

Cat on my back fence in Crowborough.  15 June 2017.
Cat on my back fence in Crowborough.  15 June 2017.
But I think this visitor likes the birds rather than the lawn.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Crowborough! Moths!

Alder Kitten, Furcula bicuspis.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 28 May 2017.
Alder Kitten, Furcula bicuspis.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 28 May 2017.
I have moved house!  I now live in Crowborough, East Sussex.  It's more countrified than Hayes, but the size of the local community is similar.

So, I started moth trapping immediately.  These are some of the lovely things I got on my first night.  First, an Alder Kitten, one of the moths you can point to if people think moths are dowdy.  It lives in wooded areas in the south of England, and the larvae feed on Birch as well as Alder.  I am not as close to the woods here as I was in Hayes, but they are only a mile away and that must be within the flight capacity of this Kitten.

Notocelia cynosbatella.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 28 May 2017.
Notocelia cynosbatella.  Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 28 May 2017.
This Notocelia cynosbatella is a much smaller moth, one of a very large family, the Tortricidae.  Some of these are hard to tell apart, but the orange whiskers make this one very easy to identify.

It's common throughout Britain, and the larvae feed on roses.

Peppered Moth, Biston betularia forma carbonaria. Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 28 May 2017.
Peppered Moth, Biston betularia forma carbonaria. Luxford Lane, Crowborough, 28 May 2017.
I have to include this very smart black moth.  It's the dark form of the Peppered Moth, much quoted as an example of industrial melanism, that is, darker forms surviving better in soot-coloured parts of the country.  The common explanation is that darker forms are better camouflaged from predators in industrialised areas, but no-one has yet provided direct proof of this attractive theory.  Rather than tell the whole story here, may I point you to the Wikipedia article on industrial melanism, which gives a fair precis.

I see lots of the typical peppered form, but hardly any of these pretty creatures.