Photos by Gordon Redford. Above: a Crescent moth
If someone had asked me on the 31st July how I thought the past month had been for mothing at Linford Lakes Nature Reserve (LLNR) I would have replied by saying that, apart from a couple of highlights, it had not been especially great. It did not feel to me that it had been a good month. Now, having fed all the records into Mapmate, it is clear that my answer would have been incorrect. The facts are that July, 2020 has been the best July since recording regularly at LLNR began in 2011. The best not only in the numbers of moths attracted to the moth traps there but also in the numbers of species recorded.
4,746 moths was the July, 2020 total and this exceeded by some 400 moths the previous highest July figure of 4,339 in 2017. The 236 moth species recorded in 2020 also exceeded the previous highest July figure, also in 2017, of 200 species. 36 of the 236 species recorded in July, 2020 were new to July records and 15 species were new to the site. The other 21 new species to July but not new to the site had been recorded in other months. Good quality biological records are vital so that effective nature conservation decisions can be made and they can also confirm, and in my case, disprove a “feeling” that the month had not been that good. As alluded to above, there were some highlights and probably the brightest of these was the appearance on the 24th July of a Dark Crimson Underwing.
This is a moth on the move. The Atlas of Britain and Ireland’s Larger Moths states that it is ”A rare moth confined to the New Forest and a few woods in north Hampshire and south Wiltshire with signs of a recent increase in range”. The Buckinghamshire County Moth Recorder told me that it was only the 3rd record for Bucks in modern times with the other 2 being in the last 2 years. The caterpillars feed on Oak.
Highlights numbers 2 and 3 are also moths on the move. On 8th July 2 Dotted Fan-foots (or should it be feet?) were found in the trap.
The Atlas again has this moth expanding its range from the wetlands of East Anglia, Essex and the Thames Estuary westwards. The County Moth Recorder has this record as 25 km further north than any of the 40 or so records he has for the county. Let us hope that the moth takes to the wetlands of Milton Keynes.
Highlight number 3 is a Tree Lichen Beauty which appeared on 27th July. I have to say that I do so like those moths wearing green and it is good to have this one join the list. The green seems to wear pretty quickly so it is especially good to see a freshly emerged specimen.
After three 19th century records, there were no sightings in Britain until 1991. Immigration became more frequent and by the early 2000s, the moth was established in south-east England and it is now steadily spreading. The moth was not in the trap but on the wall behind it which is covered in lichen.
Having owned up to liking my greens, there now follow 2 moths that made appearances in July sporting some green. On 17th of the month on the last egg box to be checked I found this Large Emerald.
It was the third record for LLNR and was last seen in 2015. Caterpillars feed on Birches and some other trees too. Its legs are tucked away in the photograph but they are brown and white in colour.
The final “green” moth is one of a group of LLNR specialists in that their favoured habitat is wetland. It is the Cream-bordered Green Pea. It is about 10mm in length and rests with its wings at a steep angle.
It is resident at LLNR and 3 were recorded in July on 12th, 29th and 30th. Its caterpillars feed on the terminal shoots of sallows and willows. A good friend of mine once remarked that a name like Cream-bordered Green Pea sounds like something that should be on a menu rather than be that of a moth.
Another wetland specialist is the Crescent and there were 9 records for this month in July. The food plant of the caterpillars is Yellow Iris and Great Fen and other sedges and Bulrushes. It overwinters as an egg.