Moths provide great spectacle

This weekend saw the BBC Summer Of Wildlife event take place at Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire. An exciting and varied array of activities were offered and with newly fledged Marsh Harriers taking to the skies, guided walks throughout Saturday and Sunday, bird ringing, pond dipping, bug hunts, Barn Owl photography demonstations and Otter spotting to name just a few, the weekend saw lots of smiling faces make their way around the site.

Large Emerald Geometra papilionaria Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire July 2013

Normally, the moth trappers spend their time hidden away from public view in the depths of Tophill, but this weekend we ventured out into the public domain… and cunningly positioned a trolley with a moth trap in front of the new toilet block so everyone had to walk past. Numerous Poplar Hawk-moth Laothoe populi, Elephant Hawk-moth Deilephila porcellus, Garden Tiger Arctia caja, Peach Blossom Thyatira batis, Swallow Prominent Pheosia tremula, Burnished Brass Diachrysia chrysitis, Spectacle Abrostola triplasia and Large Emerald Geometra papilionaria wowed the majority of visitors to the stand, while the tiny, but incredibly attractive micros Carcina quercana and Acleris forsskaleana sparked interest and provided a fantastic size comparison alongside the much larger macro moth species. Hopefully, this public outing with the trap and the contents inside allowing people to get up close and personal with the moths ignited an interest and inspired folk to buy a trap and have a go at home. Check out the official Tophill Low website for news from the week and the fantastic weekend.

Carcina quercana Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire July 2013

The Miller Acronicta leporina Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire July 2013

Away from the public eye, cloudy overnight skies and warm temperatures ensured plenty of moths were attracted to light, with over 1230 individuals of over 136 species recorded. The Miller Acronicta leporina trapped on Friday night was only the fourth at Tophill Low. Previous records concerned one in 1995 and two in 2006.

The recent good run of Short-cloaked Moth Nola cucullatella continued with two trapped at the weekend – the fifth and sixth individuals recorded on site since it first appeared just two summers ago.

A good number of micro moths were trapped – Mompha propinquella, Mompha ochraceella, Athes cnicana and Hedya salicella pictured below.

Mompha propinquella Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire July 2013

Mompha ochraceella Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire July 2013

Athes cnicana Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire July 2013

Hedya salicella Tophill Low NR, East Yorkshire July 2013

Two Crossbill Loxia curvirostra west on Saturday were the visible migration highlight of the weekend. A juvenile Water Rail Rallus aquaticus showed well at the southern end of the site whilst waiting to be entertained by the Marsh Harrriers Circus aeruginosus, and a Little Gull Larus minutus and Marsh Tit Parus palustris (still a site scarcity) provided the rest of the interesting birding records.

Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanea continue to emerge in number with another 32 exuviae collected. However, with the sun failing to break through the cloud for any length of time, very little activity was noted at water, but Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum, Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella, Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans, Emerald Damselfly Lestes sponsa, Southern Hawker A. cyanea, Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata and Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum were all recorded in small numbers.

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