Monday, 8 June 2015

A buff moth and other bits and bobs on the Isle of Wight

The last three days have been what I can only describe as pretty full on. Friday started with an early start and late finish on Friday. It continued with an early-ish start and a full day on Saturday and another full day on Sunday.

Friday 5th June - Today began with a 6am start in order to carry out a breeding bird survey on a nearby estate. The birds recorded during the survey were not particularly noteworthy, with Garden Warbler, Yellowhammer and Stock Dove the best species. The star was in fact a mammal, in the form of an adult Badger that was still out feeding in broad daylight. Earlier we had also found a dead badger cub, which was not such good news, and we did wonder whether the adult badger was searching for the cub, but can only speculate on that. Its fur was a bit ruffled but there was no obvious sign of injury, a shame to see that it had died at such an early age. After the survey I checked a Barn Owl box for any sign of breeding, it was full of pellets and some down feathers, but no chicks.

After the survey I headed back to the office until 3pm, and then a team of us headed off to the Isle of Wight ferry. We had been asked to help out with surveys to monitor the rare Reddish Buff moth, which now only occurs on the Isle of Wight. Rob, Ed, Megan and I packed our kit and set off to meet Jamie on the Island for what was likely to be a long night. We got to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trusts (HIWWT) Ningwood Nature Reserve at 8pm and set up ready for dusk. This reserve is one that I had not visited before and it was nice to be moth trapping whilst being serenaded by Common Nightingales and screeched at by a hunting Barn Owl. Unfortunately, the weather was not ideal, it was quite breezy and with a clear sky the temperature dropped fast, to a low of 5.2 centigrade by midnight. But it was worth the effort, as we recorded two male moths, one in a mercury vapour trap and one in an actinic.

Those of you that are into mothing will know that the Reddish Buff moth is not one of the most glamorous moth species, in fact it could be described as one of the dullest. But it is now an endangered, Red Data Book Species and protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Our work was covered under a Natural England licence and was part of a monitoring project to assess the success of the on-going conservation work. It was good to catch two, but further survey visits throughout its flight period will hopefully record more.

Reddish Buff Moth - Ningwood Common, Isle of Wight
As well as the Reddish Buff, we recorded 25 other species, the noteworthy ones being Bordered Straw, Dark Swordgrass, Silver Y, Orange Footman, White-pinion Spotted and Four-dotted Footman. We called it a night before 1am as the temperature had dropped too low by that point.

Saturday 6th June - Despite finishing at 1am we had left some traps running and so returned in the morning to check on our haul. As expected there was very little in the traps, the most noteworthy being another (or the same) Bordered Straw, Silver Y, Small Square Spot and a Mottled Beauty.

Bordered Straw - Ningwood Common, Isle of Wight

We had purposefully booked a later ferry home and spent the next hour wandering around the site looking for more Reddish Buff moths and other Lepidoptera. Obviously being daylight it was now the time of the butterfly but we did record Speckled Yellow, Mother Shipton and Straw Dot moths. Butterflies were not abundant, but what we did see were all quality species with Small Heath the commonest, followed by Grizzled Skipper, Common Blue and single Brimstone and Large Skipper. The Brimstone was in the throes of egg laying and would settle in to the vegetation between laying each one. Jamie and I did also get a glimpse of a fritillary that I thought was Glanville, but it was quickly lost from site in the windy conditions. I was convinced it was a Glanville but Jamie mentioned that Small Pearl-bordered had also previously been recorded on the site, so I guess it could have been one of those.

Small Heath - Ningwood Common, Isle of Wight
Large Skipper - Ningwood Common, Isle of Wight
Grizzled Skipper - Ningwood Common, Isle of Wight
Brimstone Butterfly (resting after egg-laying) - Ningwood Common, Isle of Wight
Brimstone Butterfly egg - Ningwood Common, Isle of Wight

Another of our target species for the trip was Glanville Fritillary so our next destination was Wheeler's Bay, near Ventnor. We stopped en-route at the Trust's offices at Bouldner to pick up some bits, and ticked off Red Squirrel, although I dipped on that, and then headed across the Island. By now the wind had really got up, but the sun was out and before long we had picked up our first Glanville Fritillaries. They were staying low sheltering in the vegetation but in the good light we were able to get some decent shots. The underwing of fritillaries can often be their best side, unfortunately where it was quite chilly whenever they landed they would always open their wings to bask so I didn't manage to get any shots.

Glanville Fritillary (Male) - Wheeler's Bay, Isle of Wight
Glanville Fritillary (male) - Wheeler's Bay, Isle of Wight
Glanville Fritillary (Female) - Wheeler's Bay, Isle of Wight

There were of course plenty of other bugs to see with Eurydema oratum being the most striking. There are several similar species of shieldbug like this but as I understand it the greyish coloured stripes down the sides of the wings are consistent in this species. Apparently this is a recent arrival to the UK, but is now established in  Dorset, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and other places along the south coast. It was first recorded in the UK in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, I would imagine where we saw it.

Eurydema ornatum - Wheeler's Bay, Isle of Wight

As we were concentrating on insects it was easy to overlook the vegetation. But nestled among the dog turds, which were appallingly numerous, were a few Bee Orchids. They were just starting to go over but those that hadn't been trampled were still looking good.

Bee Orchid - Wheeler's Bay, Ventnor, Isle of Wight

Finally, no visit to the Island would be complete without the obligatory Wall Lizard photo. As usual they were common along Wheeler's Bay and as it was a popular walking location they were quite used to people, albeit keeping a watchful eye as this individual.

Wall Lizard - Wheeler's Bay, Ventnor, Isle of Wight

Sunday 7th June - We were pretty exhausted after the exploits of Friday and Saturday but all had to work on Sunday. Rob and I at the HIWWTs Woodfair, so no wildlife watching for for us, although we did get to go through the moth trap, where the highlight for me was a Fox Moth. Ed at HIWWT Blashford Lakes reserve, where he is a reserves officer and Megan had to do an event in Dorset for Butterfly Conservation.

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