Thursday, 29 June 2017

North of the (Clouded) Border

As it's almost July, this is probably the last post I can justify from my Scottish trip at the start of the month, and in keeping with the lateness of the post, the theme is Scottish nightlife. I am a keen but not an assiduous moth-er though I do enjoy taking a portable trap (on long-term loan from my good friend and colleague, micro-moth-Doc Phil Sterling) on holiday to see what we can attract. As we favour rural locations on the north and west coasts for our family vacations, the potential usually seems greater than in our urban garden in Wareham (though I may return to that thesis in a later post). The Scottish trip was pretty good for moths, with some colourful, cryptic and impressive beasts coming to the light. A selection of some of the most colourful below:
Green Silver-lines - a stunner and much rarer north of the border. Not the most northerly mainland record looking at the distribution maps online - but not far off it either. 
The familiar Brimstone was notable for its abundance - up to 10 individuals on some nights
The attractive Clouded Border, purveyor of bad pun blog post titles
A rather glum looking Buff Ermine, relative of...
...the regal White Ermine
Flame Carpet
We saw several Small Phoenix over the course of the week - a very attractive moth
It was great to have time to study and photograph the moths over breakfast at leisure whilst having every last inch of flesh stripped from my itching bones by the hideously abundant swarms of West Highland Midge which plagued our sheltered, wooded, lochside garden. My skin was to the local midges what peanut butter and jam sandwiches were to the local Pine Martens: irresistible. My wife Claire by contrast never gets bitten - she claims due to being vegetarian, though I understand our respective blood types provide a more scientific explanation. A selection of some more cryptic species below:
Broom Moth - a dark and well marked example of this variable species
Knot Grass - very well camouflaged against the stone paving slabs of the house
A Pale-shouldered Brocade or two was in the trap most nights
One or two Scalloped Hazel were attracted to the light every evening
This Least Black Arches was photographed still in the trap
Small Angle Shades - note the golden yellow kidney mark
I resorted to bathing in 'Smidge', a local brand of insect repellent, and purchasing a midge-proof head-net to keep the wee sleekit beasties at bay. But when I peered through the window with it on it freaked out the children as I looked like a burglar. So that had to go. Finally from the Scottish nightlife collection, then, a few other impressive critters from the week's efforts:
This Poplar Hawkmoth was the only one of the trip
Poplar Hawkmoth posed on an oak leaf
A Peacock graced us on our final night
A Lunar Thorn with a beautifully scalloped edge to the hindwing
Nut-tree Tussock
This very smart Saxon was a first for me
It wasn't all nightlife on the Lepidoptera front in Scotland of course - quite a few day flying moths were encountered or disturbed from vegetation on our perambulations around the Highlands - more so in fact that butterflies, which were generally in pretty short supply. Most of these were Common Heath, though I flushed an Argent & Sable which sadly would not land to be photographed.
Common Heath doing what it says on the tin: being common on the heath
The delicate Little Emerald was numerous in the pine woodland of the Beinn Eighe NNR
Green Hairstreak at Bridge of Grudie

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