Saturday, 19 April 2014

Moth Post (and Gold Finches, Green Finches, Nuthatches, Blackbirds, Chaffinches, Robins & Great Tits for Good Measure)

The Moth Box was out in the garden last night, and although it was a tad parky (six degrees when I bought it in this morning) there were plenty of moths inside when I looked. 

Opening the moth box is always a bit like Christmas Morning: filled with anticipation and excitement, and there is usually at least one amazing moth inside that takes your breath away (or it does mine, at least!). For me, this morning it was this beautiful Lunar Marbled Brown, a moth I have never seen before. I'm not convinced the piccies do it justice, but hopefully they are good enough to give you some idea how beautiful it is.

It's a very neat, compact moth with beautiful cream, grey and brown markings (the sort posh paint manufacturers would love to be able to replicate). It is a member of the Notodontidae family, which includes the Prominents and Kittens. All these moths are stout, furry and thickset, most of the males have feathered antennae and will come to light, although they don't feed. The moth over-winters as a pupae and the foodplants for the caterpillars are oaks (pedunculate, sessile and turkish). It's common in deciduous woodlands in the south of England, but uncommon elsewhere and I am thrilled to have seen it.

There were a couple of other members of the same furry family in the box this morning.
A Pebble Prominent, common throughout the British Isles, over-wintering as a pupae and feeding on Sallow and Adler. He's been here before, but he is always welcome....

And the Big Daddy of that same furry family, the Great Prominent, who has not been here before so was doubly welcome. This moth flies in a single generation from April-June and inhabits old oakwoods. It is locally common in Hampshire (especially in the New Forest, which is not far from here) but less so in other parts of the UK, apart from the Lake District.

The next moth was like going from Goliath to David. Where the Great Prom is about 4cm in length, the tiny Acleris Literana measures about 5mm. It has one flying season, from July-May and the adult over winters. It is a common moth inhabiting oak woodland and gardens and it feeds on oaks. The green colour is very striking. I was pleased to use my latest Moth Bible (field guide to the micro moths of Great Britain and Ireland) to get info on this little moth. It was a crimble prezzie from M and is a fantastic reference book.

There were six Brindled Beauties in the box last night. Although this moth is locally common, it is one of the species of conservation concern under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan because it's numbers have dropped significantly. It flies March-May in many habitats and feeds on many deciduous trees and shrubs, but its largest populations are found in mature oak woodlands.

There were ten Hebrew Characters and one Common Quaker also in the box. Compared to twenty four common quakers the last time the box was out on March 27th, this shows how the species are changing as the season advances. Also in the box were two very pretty and dainty Powdered Quakers. They fly April-May and in the south of England like to feed on Sallow blossom. Plenty of that here....

All in all there were 30 moths in the box with a total of 6 new species, 5 of which were new for the garden and new to me entirely.

You'll see moths flying at night more regularly now, particularly if you are out and about driving. They all look nondescript and pale when caught in car headlights- it's only when you get close that you see how different they all are, and how amazing some of their colours and patterns are.

I'll finish with some shots of our garden birds, who have been kind to me in a photographic sense to make up for the Orange Tips who are still skimming over my head, sticking their tongues out and blowing raspberries as they fly over the hedges and out of the garden :-(

The Green Finches are back. Hooray! I knew they were around because I've been listening to them call, and for some reason both Mr and Mrs turned up on the feeder today...

Mr GF with accompanying Great Tit

Mrs GF with Mr Sparrow and one of our Nuthatches

The male blackbirds got too close and had a scuffle before this one decided he was too knackered to fight and wandered off to get some worms for his brood instead.....

The gold finches have decided that on balance I am not the most terrifying thing they've ever seen and deigned to allow me to photograph them while they were busy eating the nigers this morning....

Being subjected to a Gold Finch Good Hard Stare

We think the Great Tits are nesting in the middle of Sparrow Terrace (the Sparrows having turned their beaks up at it in favour of last year's nest in the eaves under the roof). There is nesting material in there for sure and I didn't want to disturb them by taking the roof off, so we'll have to wait till the end of summer to see what's been going on in there....

Mr Chaffinch is back and I realised this morning that he has the start of a Bumble Foot too, poor thing. Still, at least Bumble can empathise....

A Garden Bird Selection wouldn't be the same without our Robin, so here he/she is....

 And Finally, here is a pic of one of our Nuthatch Pair who have been pretending to be Guinea Pigs in the oak next door for the last few days. They make a Right Old Racket, but I do love them....

Hope you've enjoyed all the mothy people, and indeed the feathery ones too. I will try and get the moth box out once a week from now on, although I have a mountain of course work to get through for college as well as revision for a particularly nasty exam which is looming, so you may have to bear with me. Roll on June when term ends and life can settle down a bit again and I can spend as much time as I like outside with all the wild things.


CT x


  1. Oh oh furry moth time again...they are so lovely and well done on getting 6 new species. Great pics of the garden birds, we've also had some very healthy Greenfinches visiting this spring after a long absence.

    1. I did think of you when I opened the box and noted all the fur! Very pleased you've also got Green Finches :-)

  2. Wow, I love the faces on those moths, thanks for posting, its not very often ordinary folk get the chance to see them like this.
    Oh, I don't like the bumble foot, I looked it up and its horrid, poor little things. never heard of that before, look how you are educating

    1. Moths are amazing creatures when you get the chance to really study them so I'm so pleased you enjoyed seeing them close up :-)
      Yes, bumble foot- not nice :-( Blogs are a great way of picking up new info. Happy Easter to you and yours Briony x

  3. Surprisingly I really enjoyed your post on the different moths the box enticed. I'm really glad that I've stumbled upon your blog and I'm certainly looking forward to more from you.

    1. Thanks John :-)
      Moths are fascinating creatures when you get to know them - 2500 different species native in the UK alone....

  4. Great post, full of information, had looked at getting a Moth trap, but don't even know were to start. We had a few Hawk moths last year in the garden, and I thought then I would like to know more. We have a Chaffinch this year, common enough about but not realy a regular in the garden, singing all day...changes pitch when next doors cat is about...
    Made a Bug hotel to day, painted a sign in yellow so they know we're to go now...
    Amanda xx

    1. Try Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies 01263 862068. Jon is fab, very knowledgeable and hugely helpful- he'll be able to advise. I got both my Skinner and Robinson traps from him.

      Love the sound of your bug hotel (and yellow sign) :-)

  5. Got a good long look at an Orange Tip today, having had to rescue it from the greenhouse. There seem to be quite a few about.

    1. And none of them stopping long enough for a photo.....

  6. Such amazing photos, I didn't realise moths were quite so beautiful!!, love the furry ones. They seem very happy and content to just sit on the end of the pencil, I would of expected them to just fly off, they obviously don't!! See I have so much to learn!!
    And I was surprised at how many species there were, 2500 you say!!! Can I ask how you became interested in moths??
    Lovely photos of your garden birds too.
    Wishing you all Happy Easter.
    Love Linda O xxx

    1. Moths are still quite brown and stripey at this time of year; come June the bright pink and green ones will be turning up, as well as the Hawks which are HUGE and the Footmen which are small but rather pretty (rosie coloured)- you'll be amazed at how varied and colourful they are :-)
      Moths are generally snoozing during the daylight hours and most are therefore amenable to be gently moved for photographs. The busier ones can be calmed down by a spell in the fridge (sounds awful but it doesn't harm them as long as they are only there for a few hours). Likewise, they don't have lungs so can be safely left in a pot for a few hours while IDs are sought :-) My good friend Caroline at is to blame for my moth obsession- I saw one of her posts on the subject last year and got immediately hooked! So pleased you are enjoying them. Have a great Easter x

  7. This is just totally wonderful. I didn't know much about moths and now feel almost an expert. I am just amazed with how you captured them and the photos and history are just wonderful. I love to learn - my "birds" are coming in teams and raiding the feeder - Mama's are pregnant and nests are in the making. I love this time of year. You write a wonderful Blog and I am so happy to have met you. Happy Easter to you n yours - Lilly

    1. Thanks Lilly :-)

      So pleased your birds are all busy raising families too- it's the same here. Haven't seen any fledglings yet but it can't be long now. Have a wonderful Easter too :-)

  8. Its so lovely to read of the moths you are trapping CT and some great close up photos :) Its been quiet here moth-wise recently so its good to see the species you are trapping.

    Hope you are having a lovely Easter :)

  9. I'd had a gap of about three weeks so it's been lovely to get some new moths :-) Hoping to get the box out this week too. x

  10. Hi there belatedly - excellent moth, that LMB. You asked on my blog if I'd had one call and the answer is yes, both here in Oxford and in Leeds, where they are less frequent. Haven't tracked back to exact dates but it's always great to see them. All warm wishes as ever, M

    1. Hey Martin :-)

      Interesting about the LMBs. I had also read they were a more frequent Southern moth, which your experience bears out. CT :-)

  11. Hello again. I just had time to check and actually I've not had one during our first year in Oxford but they appear in a couple of blog entries for April 2011, first during an outing to Kilburn Woods in North Yorkshire where we found several and then a few weeks later a solitary specimen came to my trap in Leeds. All v best again M


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x