Monday 27 May 2019

Mothursday Night

The days in May suddenly seem to get incredibly very long as the number of evening ecology surveys peaks, yet there never seems to be enough hours in the day! 

On Thursday 16th we had our first moth trap session of the year, but a cold start to the month has meant very poor results in moth traps for surveyors everywhere. Jacob Everitt is the Senior Countrsyide Warden for Horsham District Council, and has been surveying moths here at Gatwick since 2013. This evening he left nothing to chance, bringing along 3 different types of moth trap.

We set up at the base of the River Mole environment (or noise) bund, which extends about 1km along the River Mole. The bund is a mix of scrub and seeded wildflower grassland, and is undisturbed due to the chainlink fence along the base and around the perimeter of Pond M. We set up three traps at the end closest to Brockley Wood.

As expected, things were very quiet, and so we played the patient game of not-looking-directly-at-the mercury-vapour-bulb, while waiting for the first of our lepidopteran light-addicts to show up.

Jake and his assistant Ian

As it got darker, the insect activity picked up around the lights, which initially were small flies and non-biting midges. On one of the checks at around 10pm, we swept a torch around the surrounding grassland and were surprised to see this big beauty quietly roosting in the grass...

Lime Hawkmoth

Soon there were a few moths bouncing around the light, and this lovely Pebble Prominent was again one of the larger species to show up.

Cardboard egg boxes inside the trap allow moths to safely perch or hide away 

At around 11pm it had cooled down to 9 degrees with no sign of anything else on the wing, so we decided to call it a night and count up our meagre catch.

The final list for the evening was a grand total of 8 species! Jake said this was actually a better result than most of his recent evenings.
  • Common Swift = 2
  • Green Carpet = 5
  • Lime Hawk-moth = 1
  • Pale Tussock = 2
  • Pebble Prominent = 1
  • Purple Bar = 1
  • Monopis weaverella = 1
  • Elchista argentella = 1

A few specimens which I photographed and released the next day...

Lime Hawk-moth (Mimas tiliae)

Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac), warming up for take off

Pale Tussock (Pterostoma palpina)

Moth faces are ridiculously underrated, I mean would you just look at this....

Pale Tussock, ready for its close-up

Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria)

A tiny Elchista argentella

This beautiful ground beetle was also spotted as it dashed past one of the traps....

Carabus nemoralis

We also recorded a large bat while standing on the top of the environment bund, hawking over Pond M; is it a Noctule, or a Serotine perhaps? (The static noise is from my Batbox Duet).

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