Posts Tagged ‘butterfly conservation’

A milestone & …. congratulations?

January 27, 2014

This post sees us reach a milestone, and to be honest one I thought would be much further along the line.  You would be forgiven for not knowing that today’s post is our 100th blog post!  The only reason I know is because the software allocates a number!

Since we started we’ve had mixed reactions, from the “unscientific” and “waste of time” to “very helpful, thanks”, “interesting and useful”, “that was a bit cautious” or “keep on campaigning”.  I understand that we’ve even been ‘tweeted’, now that is definitely Forum in the 21st Century!  Our subscribers and the number of hits increase so do we deduce at least passing interest?

If you will indulge me a little I will begin by reviewing why we started the blog.  It was envisaged that it would deliver a quick, not quite instant win for the Executive to let people, that is to say the general public or people with an interest in Thorne and Hatfield Moors and the wider ‘Humberhead Levels’ area know about events or issues which had either a natural history or environmental conservation aspect to them.

We invite and accept images and short accounts of interesting natural history finds.  We are happy to consider acting as a Public Information Service by publicising events from like-minded organisations or groups within the broad description above.  We would like to take this opportunity also to thank those people who share their stunning images with us, likewise our network who feed through useful data follow appeals for information, your endeavours and observations are appreciated.

So, today four items are offered as being of potential interest, to our lepidopterist readers at any rate perhaps?

I decided to treat myself to a paper (yes, I’m of  the generation who love paper) copy of the new “Checklist of the Lepidoptera of the British Isles”.  As Butterfly Conservation explain below the checklist published at the end of last year completely overhauls the out-dated Bradley list and brings us into line with the current European classification of moths and butterflies.

RES Handbook: Checklist of the Lepidoptera of the British Isles is the result of a huge amount of work led by David Agassiz, Stella Beavan and Bob Heckford. The new checklist will be adopted by Butterfly Conservation and the National Moth Recording Scheme. However, there will undoubtedly be months or even years of transition from the ‘old’ to the new checklist as the field guides and species dictionaries used in recording software and websites are updated. There is no need to worry about the new names or checklist. For now, it is fine to continue to record the way you have been and we will be happy to receive datasets and moth records using the ‘old names’ and numbering systems as the new ones become familiar.

My copy duly arrived, but sadly had to be returned because of a binding issue but the replacement arrived equally promptly and examination of the ‘Checklist’ revealed substantive changes, groan …. but in fairness I suppose I can see where they are coming from and the case for consistency etc.  But no longer is it going to be easy to jot down 1884 for good old Abraxas grossulariata!  The declining Magpie (moth) has now evolved to 70.205!  Not quite the same ring to it?

Butterfly Conservation are also announcing the plan for the publication of their A Macro-moth Atlas for Britain and Ireland in 2018

The production of a full, hardcopy atlas of the larger moths has always been the intention of Butterfly Conservation, but the timescale was dependent upon the progress of the NMRS. Due to the success of the scheme we now plan to work towards the publication of an atlas of macro-moths in Britain and Ireland towards the end of 2018, in collaboration with MothsIreland. It will be based on records up to the end of 2016, providing moth recorders across the land with three more full years of fieldwork towards the planned Atlas.

There is a substantial amount of work to be done between now and the end of 2016; the historical baseline of the NMRS needs to be improved and targeted recording of under-recorded squares is another challenge. However, we hope that making this announcement now will stimulate further recording effort and encourage County Moth Recorders, local moth groups and moth recorders themselves to redouble their efforts to achieve the best possible coverage of the country.

To find out what squares are under-recorded in your area or indeed other areas please contact the relevant County Moth Recorder in the first instance. In due course we will be producing a list of under-recorded 10km squares based on the NMRS database. However, this may not be 100% accurate as there may be records that we have not yet received from the County Moth Recorder network.

If the ‘Provisional’ version which appeared in 2010 and was based on around 11 million records was anything to go by, then the 2018 ‘Atlas’ is set to be a significant landmark and operational achievement!

That reminds me, National Moth Night this year is 3 – 5 July 2014 and the theme is Woodland Moths.  The Moth Night website explains the rationale behind the choice as being Woodlands are constantly in the news with respect to the recent introduction of fungal diseases like Chalara or ash dieback caused by Chalara fraxinea and sudden oak death by Phytophthora ramorum. These diseases along with other issues, for example the lack of woodland management, increase the pressure on our already threatened woodland moths. Moth Night 2014 will help to raise awareness of how important our woodlands are for British moths.

So, why did we post these items today, why did we consider them of interest?  Many of our network are interested in or are keen lepidopterists, so if they’ve not already done so then they might consider purchasing a copy of the new ‘Checklist’ but maybe more importantly by disseminating the ‘Macro Atlas’ item we may prompt people to assist in the data provision for the project.  It might see more northern records incorporated into print and what better feeling than seeing that dot on a map of the UK that evidences a first and it being your record?  Setting the ‘twitcher’ emotion aside, contributing to data sets provides the academics and researchers with the evidence to identify gains, losses and trends associated with climate change.  Let’s face it, where would the ‘professionals’ be without the amateur naturalist, without the astonishing number of hours contributed by ‘citizen science’?  I wonder, does  anyone know if that has been assessed in terms of eco-sytem services?

For the latest edition of BCs E-moth Moths Count Update (January 2014) click here.

What will our next post be about I wonder?  There are many topical items at the moment which are having serious impact upon our natural environment, sadly too the environment also seems to be low on the mainstream political agenda.  Floods, the planning system, statutory agencies evolution ….

Moth matters ….

September 15, 2013


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How many people (in the Humberhead Levels) can boast a garden moth list which has seven species of hawk-moth, so far this season?

Well, one contributor to the blog can and these latest images illustrate his most recent ‘tick’.


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Sphinx ligustri (L.) or named for one of its food plants, the Privet Hawk-moth (above) can be recorded in June and July.  It is also recorded from young woodland Ash saplings, lilac and guelder rose and occasionally holly and honeysuckle.   Overwintering underground as a pupa, sometimes to a depth of a foot or more!  The larval image at the top of this post, illustrates the quite stunning colouration and the distinctive ‘horn’ characteristic of hawk-moths.

Mimas tiliae (L.), another species named for its food plant is the Lime Hawk-moth illustrated below.   This species, a smaller one to the previous ‘giant’, is recorded from May to early July and larval food plants also include elms, downy and silver birch and alder.

130615 Lime Hawk Moth jh


The final image, is that of Laothoe populi (L.), Poplar Hawkmoth another relatively common species recorded locally.  This larvae illustrated here is about to pupate after which it will drop to the ground to overwinter, note the orientation by the ‘horn’.  Generally single brooded flying from May to July or early August.


0709 PK Pop hawk moth larvae m1


The British list contains some 26 species as having occurred in the UK (some of which are vagrants or adventives), so to get seven in a garden in a single season is, I offer, pretty good!  Factor in that that Skidmore (2006) listed eight species recorded from the Humberhead Levels (including one historic record), so that makes the local garden season an excellent vintage – can anyone better that?  Let me know, the only eligibility is the requirement that the data is from a Humberhead Levels garden, or other ‘regular patch’ ….

An excellent resource for aspiring lepidopterists is Butterfly Conservation’s website of the Moths Count project.  Although the project has concluded the website still offers useful advice for anyone wishing to further their interest in lepidoptera.  The legacy of the HLF funded project was the mammoth undertaking which delivered the Provisional Atlas of the UK’s Larger Moths (2010).  Other useful publications include “the state of britain’s larger moths” (2006) and the more recent edition of “The State of Britain’s Larger Moths 2013”. 

Butterfly Conservation are encouraging membership and are offering half price membership to anyone signing up by direct debit before 31 October 2013 (if you join after reading this, then please let them know it was through this blog).  BC make available a great deal of useful material, much of which is designed to encourage newcomers to the delights of lepidoptera and despite its name it also takes a very active interest in the moths!  Before anyone contacts me to tell me that the offer is out of date, quote MC5013 as that offer is until 31.10.13 and detailed in the Moths Count Newsletter 2013 I received a while back.

Images by John Hartley & Peter Kendall.

“Moffin” on the Moors

August 17, 2013

Another post after ‘moor’ time spent on Crowle Moors ….

Having made sure the ‘lucky wellies’ were packed and with fingers crossed I headed for Crowle Moors for the second time in a week where a group of hardy naturalists set up two pairs of traps in the hope of attracting Haworth’s Minor, an uncommon species, listed in “The Inventory” as being last recorded on Thorne Moors in 1990 and Hatfiield Moors in 1970.  We set up camp strategically based within a ‘light flight’ to the species foodplant, eriophorum spp. i.e. cotton grass.  It is described as a Local species, known from between 100 – 300 10km squares (based on W,T&L, 2003).

As dusk came, so too the nighjars who graced us with their presence.  At least three birds came to ‘investigate’ our lights and a little later there was a considerable amount of churring for about an hour or so until the evening cooled down and when later condensation was found on the trap boxes and perspex wings.  Clearly still vociferous males out partying late into the season.  The latest date for nightjar on the Humberhead peatlands is as far as I’m aware that of a weak flying juvenile bird I logged on Hatfield Moors on 14 September 1997, which is actually the latest date for the county (Yorkshire).

After the thoroughly enjoyable and not totally unexpected interlude, back to the moths ….  July Highflyers in good numbers and Drinkers by the score, a couple of Ruby Tigers and then at five minutes to ten, a small noctuid landed on top of the tripod net, and a sharp eyed ‘moth-er’ realising its potential jumped into action!  Despite a game of dodge ’ems and chasing charlie it was soon captured and yes, we had our target species!

Haworth's Minor 3

It was also an evening of Canary-shouldered Thorns with perhaps thirty visiting the traps, a common enough species but a ‘bright and cheery’ addition to the list.  Good numbers of Lesser Swallow Prominents and a couple of delightful probable second generation Birch Mocha.  Four species of underwings and a similar numbers of pug species, and a different looking, not quite right Purple Clay which actually turned out to be a Barred Chestnut!  The other good find was Angle-striped Sallow, listed in “The Inventory” for Thorne in 1982, so another good ‘tick’ for the evening.  A good reference source in terms of the status of UK moths is Butterfly Conservation’s The State of the UK Larger Moths 2013.  Also recorded were a couple of Chevron, a variable species with colour forms from yellow through to brown.

Chevron 1

So, an excellent evenings work, good company and the data adding to the catalogue which continues to build a picture of the species present on the peatlands.  All this to some special and evocative background ‘music’ of nighjars, long-eared and tawny owls.  Watch this space for ‘moor’ detail and images from the night.

Images by Matt Blissett.

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Mark Avery

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a new nature blog

I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

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