29 Jun 2011

Apley Castle Moth Night June 24th, 2011

Report from Paul Watts

What a wet night last Friday was!

I think the rain started around 6pm and looked as if it was here for the night but I picked Liz and her moth-trap up at 7pm as arranged and had a brief conversation with Sean at Apley Woods on the way and I have to admit I was all set for cancelling the event. Although moths do still fly on a wet night the numbers are usually much lower and I just felt it might be prudent to postpone to another date.

However, when we arrived I discovered that Tony & Andy were already there with a trap and looking for a suitable tree canopy to set up. I had a wander around myself looking to see if it was feasible. It was still raining when I bumped into 2 people and asked if they were here for the moth night. They said yes! I later found out they were father and son Mike and Charlie here for their first moth night. A few minutes later I met a small group of umbrellas and discovered another happy band of virgin moth-ers sheltering under them.

And still it rained.

Graham arrived with his Heath Trap and more people emerged from the trees as I wandered around so I eventually decided on setting up in what I call the arena area of Apley Woods where once the grand Georgian Manor House stood. This seemed to be an ideal place to set up the traps under the trees that skirt the arena, also giving us space to set up 2 gazebo’s for shelter.

Apley Castle Moth Night 240611 021

So that’s what we did. We set up a total of 5 traps running off 2 generators.

And the rain continued.

Within an hour we were ready to go and a brief under-the-canvas intro talk by yours truly led to us switching on the generators at around 9:15pm. Olly was on hand to bring a little extra heat to the evening with a much appreciated camp-fire just outside the gazebo’s.

Apley Castle Moth Night 240611 014

Apley Castle Moth Night 240611 009

It wasn’t long before the first moth appeared - an unexpected Light Emerald that popped into Tony’s trap. This later proved to be the 2nd most trapped moth of the night.

Apley Castle Moth Night 240611 029 

And still it rained!

On a night where I thought perhaps just 3 or 4 of us might have braved the atrocious weather I was very pleased to see around 20 souls congregating in the gazebos hoping for the rain to stop. So, all things considered an excellent turn-out. No doubt, had it not been for the rain, the numbers would have easily doubled.

But… d’you know what? It was an excellent night. We sat in the dry (apart from anyone who happened to position themselves under the 9” gap between the gazebos!) telling stories and chatting, with Tony, Liz, Graham and Keith bringing in the odd moth either trapped or found venturing out to see what the lights were all about. And still it rained.

And who was the strange hooded dude who arrived complete with a very suspect light sabre? Or was it just a very bright shining lollipop?

Apley Castle Moth Night 240611 003

Was it Graham I wonder?

Apley Castle Moth Night 240611 011

What made the night even better though was the food and drink supplied by The Friends of Apley Castle. Thanks guys for looking after us all so well.

The whole event was funded by Telford & Wrekin Council’s ‘£££’s 4 Projects’. So thanks go to all, not forgetting Sean Thomas, of course, for co-ordinating everything so well.

The Wrekin Forest Moth Night at Apley Castle is always one of the highlights of the moth calendar for us and they get better every time. You see so much change here with the careful and dedicated management of the woods, pools and meadow that it can only be a matter of time before it is recognised as a true wildlife haven and receives the designation it deserves. For all who work and volunteer at Apley Woods the increase in flora and fauna shows you’re doing something right! More power to your elbows, legs and backs!

And still it rained.

By midnight most people had drifted back home and then at around 12:15am the rain finally ceased (although it returned through the night)! Shortly after the witching hour the moths started to arrive in slightly higher numbers.

A lovely Peppered Moth dropped by

Peppered Moth Garden Moths 010610 002

along with one of my favourite micro-moths - Agapeta zoegana

Agapeta zoegana Apley Castle Moth Night 240611 extras 002

A couple of Snouts also made an appearance

The Snout

along with a Clouded Silver and a Brimstone Moth

Clouded Silver Garden Moths 230610 006       Brimstone

One of the traps at around midnight

Apley Castle Moth Night 240611 018

Around 1am Liz and I retired to our tents whilst Olly tended to the dying embers of the fire. As is always the case I find it very easy to sleep under canvas drifting off within a few minutes and waking around 6am to find Liz sitting by the stoked-up and rejuvenated fire. “What are you doing?” I asked. She replied “My tent was leaking so I’ve spent most of the night out here in front of the fire!”  I think you’d better invest in that new tent Liz - your beach tent is just not up to protecting you from anything other than the sun and we didn’t see a lot of that!

We opened up the four remaining traps and were surprised to find more than what we expected with a total, including Tony’s trap which ran till around midnight, of 114 individuals across 28 species. Numbers were obviously down from previous years at Apley (800 and 400 approx) but it was more than we hoped for so a good result and an excellent night spent in convivial company and topped off with an excellent breakfast of bacon, sausage and egg butties at Rosemary and David’s. All other trappers were off to Prees Heath early in the morning to watch the Silver-studded Blues emerging so it was just Olly and me who partook of this superb feast. Thanks again you two! You’re the best!

The Top 10 moths of the night were:

Heart and Dart        35   
Light Emerald        14   
Uncertain        14   
Large Yellow Underwing    9   
Garden Grass-veneer    6
Eudonia truncicolella    6
Scoparia ambigualis    5
Peppered Moth        3   
Double Square-spot    2   
Snout            2

If you’d like a copy of the full list of moths you can download it below and if you’d like to see pics and short info of the moths you can use the search field using either the Code Number or name at UK Moths

Click here for spreadsheet:-

Excel File of Moths trapped

Before I take my leave just a quick mention of Apley Woods’ new website which is looking superb at the moment and I know Sean and his team have loads of ideas to implement which can only make it glow even more. Take a look around - there’s lots to get involved with here!

Apley Woods Website
Paul Watts

28 Jun 2011

Prees Heath and Whixall Moss

Report by Keith Fowler

Liz, Graham and I travelled to Prees Heath to view Silver-studded-blue emergence, and to Whixall Moss to view  Large heath, Argent and Sable and White-faced darter. We only saw one of these targets but we had an enjoyable day!!

It was cool, damp and breezy as I collected Graham from home and Liz from Apley Park where she had spent a wet night moth trapping. At 8am we arrived at the Butterfly Conservation site, Prees Heath, where we met Stephen Lewis, the warden and about six others who had turned out for the guided walk.

Although the rain held off for most of the time we were there it remained cool and breezy which was bad news for emergent Silver-studded blues but good news for viewing the emerged blues as they were still roosting which made them very easy to view.

image image

Stephen pointed out several places where the moths were roosting. Eventually we got our eyes in and were able to locate them for ourselves.

After 90 minutes or so of searching for emergent butterflies we abandoned our search. So our first failure! It was not a wasted journey. We had the chance to get close to around 50 Silver-studded blues; we found other larvae – Mullein and Burnet; and saw very recently emerged Chaffinch chicks.

Failure number two occurred before we left Prees Heath when Stephen let Graham know that Argent and Sable were no longer flying at Whixall Moss. Also it had started to rain so we visited the local Transport café to decide our next move.

Refreshed by tea, coffee and excellent bacon sandwiches we travelled on to Whixall Moss, excellently navigated by Graham (apart from a rather dodgy short-cut).

There is quite a long walk to get from the car park to the moss along a well vegetated lane. At the start of the lane we were greeted by a couple of Swallows who posed for photographs. Here is one of them:


The lane yielded lots of butterflies, mainly Ringlets, and a few moths. I heard a Grasshopper warbler. As we watched the Ringlets one disappeared as it was grabbed in mid-air by a speeding swallow. We were in for a good session … or so we thought. When we got to the area of the moss it was blowing a gale. A passing bird-watcher told us that it was too windy for Hobbies and there was not much about. Such a gloomy forecast never deters the folk of WFV.

He was right, there was not much about, but, there was not ”nothing”. There was one blue damselfly but no dragonflies – so failure number three.

As we walked along Liz pounced and caught a Large heath – SUCCESS. Eventually we saw about half a dozen of these butterflies.


As we made our way back Liz pounced again and captured this moth


A Purple-bordered gold, a Nationally Scarce B moth (id confirmed by Tony Jacques).

After a late lunch by the canal we returned home … and the sun came out.

11 Jun 2011

Randlay Valley Moth Night June 10th, 2011

937 Agapeta hamana
937 Agapeta hamana

The second meeting of our moth nights run by the Wrekin Forest Volunteers Moth Group (affectionately known as The WuFuV MuGs (a tad difficult to work out I know and somewhat tenuous but once said a few times, it rolls off the tongue quite nicely)).

A cold (min 7 deg C at midnight when we packed up) but dry night, meant for few moths in the traps although a number of species were observed around dusk flying in the meadows. I potted up and ID’d the above micro Agapeta hamana along with over 20+ of one of the more common grass veneer micro’s;
Crambus lathoniellus

Crambus lathoniellus

As the sun started to set over the tree-line and with a plethora of song birds singing their evening lullabies Mark and Lydia obviously overcome with the ambience of the event  burst into a slow waltz, skittling a surprised Keith to the ground. You can see why Lydia is so attracted to Mark though; he has a light shining out the top of his head! Now where can I get one of those? Aha… I’ll ask new kid-on-the-block Paul Fallon - he has one too!

Randlay Valley Moth Night 090611 009

As dark slowly descended, our 4 traps and Keith’s infamous sheet and torch were completely underwhelmed with  moths! In fact there were very few, although there’s no telling how many would have been around after midnight. My guess is they were all waiting in the trees and grasses for us to leave! And where was Lizzie when we needed her?

Randlay Valley Moth Night 090611 007

I’m still working on the final count and ID’s but with the early evening observations and the traps-count there were over 80 moths including the first signs of yellow peril with a couple or so Large Yellow Underwings and a Peppered Moth made an appearance in my actinic trap too.

Peppered Moth Garden Moths 010610 002

We were also joined by a couple of other newcomers Jessica and Marianne who popped in on Graham’s invitation to see what we were doing and why we do it. They’ve been working with the Green Gym on various nature reserve projects including helping to build the new steps on the Randlay site, but this was their first moth night. Hope you weren’t put-off too much by the antics of some members of the crazy gang and hope to see you both at the next one at Apley Woods on Friday, June 24th.

Randlay Valley Moth Night 090611 010

Eleven of us appeared on the night including County Moth Recorder Tony Jacques who no matter how I try to surreptitiously take a photo or two always seems to spot me. Tony, by the way, despite his fame (a reserved celeb), always shies away from the limelight and hates having his photo taken. Whoops! There I go again. How do you rub things out here?

Randlay Valley Moth Night 090611 003 
 Randlay Valley Moth Night 090611 004

I’ll publish the final count of moths once I’ve collated everyone’s results: Keith, I have your ONE record, Les, still waiting confirmation of your THREE was it?, Graham I think had FOUR and Tony/Andy - are you submitting your usual 3 pages even though you didn’t have a trap? How do they do that?

Catch you all again soon

Paul Watts

9 Jun 2011

Grimpo Nature Notes from Pete Lambert June 2011

I have never been sunburnt this often in April in my whole life, even whilst working abroad. The driest April possibly since records began ended with a wet and windy welcome to May. I have tried a little harder to take note of the timings of things, our barn nesting swallows reappeared on 21st April, rebuilding their nest and bombing the sheltering laundry beneath with mud and droppings. On the 25th April my first St Marks flies droned along the lanes, [ punctual this year as they are said to appear on St. Marks day which is the 25th April!], legs hanging untidily beneath their black clumsy bodies and on the 28th April Maybugs or cockchafers loudly crashing into the backdoor.

Phenology is the study of naturally reoccurring events such as the flowering of plants and the appearance of migratory species. The murmurings are that this year the floral spring displays are at least two weeks early, certainly the bluebell in the woods and the hedgerow garlic mustard are beginning to go over all too soon. I felt that this year had been a good year for violets though a friend pointed out that with such good dry weather I had probably been outside more often than usual in April. Regardless of whether there were more or less this delightful low nodding blue flower was cherished on grassy verge and woodland path-side all the same.

An awkward path lead us up into the thick woods past brooding low yew trees beneath one of which was the carcass of a  badger cub just feet away from a very active sett. I was intrigued even turning over the corpse to reveal a burying beetle making the most of the opportunity. Badger cubs have a clandestine existence for their first year, spending a lot of time underground, virtually ignored by the adult members of the clan. Adult badgers never initiate play, it is always the cubs that provoke the grumpy grown ups. A third of all badger cubs do not survive longer than 3 months, many are sadly the victims of infanticide by females other than their mothers, the corpse being dragged to the surface. I can only guess that this was the fate of this youngster.

It is the fate of many other mammals also to be prey items in the diet of a successful predator. Whilst following the footpaths through a local Estate I was admiring the collection of stately ancient trees, big, gnarled, long limbed living monuments. Another Estate that I visited a few weeks before had been felling their ancient trees for firewood, shame on them, that’s what coppice and plantations are for.  Back to my walk, one of these trees had been rendered by time so it was hollow and pocked by holes, looking up I could see lots of twigs and stuff, and to my delight on the ground Barn Owl pellets. The pellets are the regurgitated remains of the owls meals, a matrix of fur, feathers or both which contains bone fragments. After soaking the pellet it can be teased apart to reveal the identity of the bone owners. I took home three pellets, in one the skull, jaws and limb bones of a Wood mouse or Yellow necked mouse , though more likely to be the first. The other pellets contained the bony remains of a House mouse and a Field vole. The jaw sizes are different, the teeth of the mice are vaguely similar to our molars but the vole teeth are distinct in being arranged as a zig-zag. Much can be learnt from the study of owl pellets, kestrels and other birds of prey leave them too, on the simplest level I now know that the three mammal species are found locally and even better I may even see a Barn owl with luck and good timing.

And finally the wildlife flyboat down by the canal is delivering again, a keen eyed friend has seen reed warblers, scimitar swifts, early damselflies, a Red Admiral and the pretty Common Blue butterflies. Keen-eared too he has heard a cuckoo in the Rednal area, I heard  mine in a wet wood on the Weald Moors north of Telford and I hope you will also share in this simple early summer pleasure.

Happy wildlife spotting!

Pete Lambert

If you would like to share your nature notes please email me on petewoodman@thewoods12.fsnet.co.uk , thanks.