Category Archives: lepidoptera

Shed Hibernator

Here on the reserve we have several old World War II buildings, in various states of decay, some so perilously close to collapse we are absolutely not to go into them under any circumstances.

So I was having a nose through that one, a concrete shell we used to use as a fencing post storage but during the war was a massive searchlight post. Moving aside some mouldy cardboard I spotted several spiders and insects hibernating, including some lepidoptera! hooray!

This Herald moth is absolutely stunning! I don’t think I’ve seen one before.

Nearby were these two small tortoishell (cheers Sean for IDing, go #teammoth):

I look forward to seeing them in the Spring!

I was in the vicinity as I searched for a badger sett in the dunes. I had heard rumour there was one, and seen tracks here, so I spent a good twenty minutes following reasonably fresh badger tracks – always a fun thing to do! Badger prints are broad, with the toes in a row, and with clear claw marks:

There’s plenty of rabbit holes and digging in the dunes, but the entrance to a badger sett is a more sideways “D” shaped – rabbit burrows are taller than they are wide. And badgers tend to keep their sett entrances clean and tidy, while rabbits like a big mess.

Another nice sign of an active badger sett, rather than a big rabbit hole, is nice clear badger footprints leading straight out of it! (on the right of the picture)

Moths &c

It was a muggy, warm night last night and this morning, so I was hoping to get something other than November moths in the 150w Robinson trap I put out before bed last night.

Well I did!

Two lovely Feathered thorn, Colotois pennaria, in the trap this morning, alongside a dozen or so November Moths (another aggregate species, could be one of four species but IDing is difficult without dissection!), this red-green carpet:

and… two of these wonderful Hawthorn shieldbugs, Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale:

an Orange ladybird:

Orange ladybirds were, until 1987, used as indicator species of ancient woodland. Then the ladybirds discovered sycamore, and more recently Ash, trees, and their numbers are increasing.


Back in the UK, I got the moth trap out but forgot my moth book (it’s in Northumberland) and it turns out the camera on my new phone is nowhere near as good as the old one. So just a few pictures of 3 NFS – New For Sarah:

One of the November Moths, a collection of four moths that are notoriously difficult to differentiate:

A lovely Feathered thorn:

And the stunning Angle shades:

None of these are particularly uncommon, but they are all very nice to see. Next month I start a new job on the Cumbrian coast so will be interesting to see what I get!


This morning the moth trap had a couple of aggregate species. These are two or more macromoth species which are impossible to differentiate without dissecting the genitals. As I don’t had a microscope and a tiny pair of tweezers, there’s no way of telling which is which so they just get recorded as “agg”.

This could be a Grey Dagger or a Dark Dagger

And this could be a Common Marbled Carpet or a Dark Marbled Carpet

Elsewhere in the moth trap – AAA WASP AAAAAA

Mother of Pearl, which is technically a Micro Moth despite being bigger than a lot of Macro moths. It had me confused for a long time as it looks a bit like a Wave of some type, and I only have a macro moth book. Luckily the #TeamMoth experts on twitter saved the day!

This was another confusing one, he has his wings drawn up next to his body while my moth book only showed it with wings flat. A lovely Buff Arches

A couple of Slender Brindles


And these two Lesser Broad-Bordered Yellow Underwing having a chat

Full list 14/08/2015:
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing 33
Large Yellow Underwing 13
Dark Arches 4
Common or Dark Marbled Carpet 1
Brimstone Moth 1
Slender Brindle 2
Dun-bar 3
Riband Wave 3
Sallow 1
Antler Moth 1
Scalloped Oak 2
Small Fan-footed Wave 1
Dotted Clay 1
Grey or Dark Dagger 1
Buff Arches 1
Mother of Pearl 1

Hotel Lepidoptera

I call the moth trap the “moth hotel” because people assume trapping them means I’m going to kill them, when in fact, they just have somewhere to sleep for the night. Then my housemate started singing Hotel Lepidoptera..

More nice moths this morning – a Light emerald and a Swallow-tailed hanging out together

And this, which was either a Common marbled carpet or a Dark marbled carpet. I’d have to see the underside of the wings to check…

But rather than risk me damaging him, he obligingly lifted them up for me to have a look! Dark marbled carpet, as the middle line has a big kink in it:

The full list:

Mottled beauty;
Light Emerald;
Dark Marbled Carpet;
The Fan-foot;
July High-flyer;
Lesser Yellow Underwing;
Swallow-tailed Moth.

All moths at the minute, I’ve had very little on my cameratrap although I did see a roe and faun run along our lane yesterday!


I put the moth trap out last night next to the lovely purple buddleia, instead of the nettle patch, and was rewarded with some gorgeous new species in the moth hotel this morning:

Swallow tailed
Swallow-tailed moth, which usually have eye-spots on the tips of the wings to confuse predators, who peck at those rather than the moth’s actual face. This one has raggedly tails, suggesting the eye-spots have indeed been pecked.

A lovely Scalloped oak

Brimstone moth, I’ve had these before, a very bright and striking moth

This one was interesting – is it a Treble-bar or a Lesser Treble-Bar? Both species are very similar in appearance. Many similar-looking moth species can only be separated reliably by close inspection of other body parts under a microscope. Fortunately, these two can be separated by the shape of the male’s abdomen –

And a careful inspection showed I have a male, with a narrow, pointy abdomen, so this is a Treble-bar moth!

As well as these, I got a handful each of the familiar Light Emeralds and Mottled Beautys, all looking a bit worn out as they approach the end of their season. Different moth species emerge from pupae at different times of the year, and most only stick around for a month or two. One of the (many) wonderful things about moth-trapping is seeing how the composition of species regularly caught changes throughout the year.


I don’t normally ID micromoths, because I have enough trouble as it is with macromoths and they are big and bright and there’s only about 900 species, unlike micros, which are tiny, grey, need a microscope to identify correctly, and there’s thousands of species.

But some in the moth trap this morning looked lovely, so I got the internet to ID them for me:

 Lozotaenia forsterana
Lozotaenia forsterana

Eudonia lacustrata
Eudonia lacustrata

Also had a few of the usual – Light Emerald, Mottled Beauty and The Ghost, of which I always seem to only get females, no males – wonder what that is about?

The Ghost

Ben Macdui

I thought I’d take advantage of the weather and go climb Ben Macdui, the second highest hill in the UK after Ben Nevis. Also, thinking about it, also the second highest hill I’ve ever climbed, after Mount Olympos in Greece, which is more than twice the height!

For various reasons, I reached the car park at Linn of Dee way later than planned, so after a couple of hours walking through hot, muggy Glen Lui, I decided to camp on the shoulder of Sron Riach.

Camp.. in my new tent! A Wild Country Zephyros 2. Although quick and easy to put up in the rain, I struggled to get it really taut, so it would be a nightmare in a wind. The inside is very spacious, it’s a 2 person tent, but very light at 1.8kg.

Anyway, the other interesting thing is that I saw a Black Mountain Moth! They are spread throughout Europe, but only found above 600m.


The next morning broke with a beautiful, clear dawn. I set off at 6ish to the summit of Ben Macdui, spotting a Ptarmigan on the way.

It was a long walk down, particularly the walk along Glen Derry, which was just a bit knackering. I couldn’t get my rucksack to sit right and as a result developed a very sore shoulder muscle on the descent, still with about 12 miles to go. Luckily the views were stunning and more than made up for it.

The weather really was perfect, but I think my next walk won’t have such an epic walk in, at least not until I’m feeling fitter and have remembered how to work my backpack.

If you’re really interested, I have uploaded this walk to ViewRanger, where you can have a look and download the gpx.