Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Report on Moth, Butterfly and Caterpillar Walk by Ben Smart

This was a joint meeting of the Lancs Moth Group, Butterfly Conservation and FoCM. It was held on the 23rd May, 2010 at Hardy Farm. Ben's report of the meeting is below:

13 attended the walk in baking hot conditions (27oC) looking at this area of the Mersey Valley, where over 600 moths have been recorded. The walk concentrated on those species feeding on birch and on those feeding on grassland, on grasses, vetches and other low-growing plants. Records were made of leaf-mines, larvae and their feeding signs as well as adult moths and butterflies.

Highlights included a beautiful freshly emerged Ruby Tiger (see photograph above), still drying its wings, good numbers of Mother Shipton and Small Yellow Underwing moths, and many caterpillars of Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet on vetch, a couple of which had already formed their cocoons on the surrounding grasses. Nine species of butterfly adults were found including the Small Copper, Common Blue and Holly Blue.
Unfortunately no butterfly caterpillars were seen, although the bright orange eggs of the Orange-tip butterfly, laid on Cuckoo-flower, were located.

Another nice find was the Coleophora albidella larval case on Goat willow (albidella), spotted by the eagle eyes of Dave Bishop, Chair of the Friends of Chorlton Meadows. After checking my records I realised that I had once had the adult of this species to light (see adult at http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?bf=532 ), but this was the first time I had seen the case of this species. The case is a dark, pistol-shaped structure coated with hairs from willow catkins and was found attached to the upper surface of a leaf doing a good impression of a bird dropping. Other Coleophora species were found on Creeping Thistle (Coleophora peribenanderi) and hawthorn (probably Coleophora spinella), as well as feeding signs of Coleophora serratella on birch.

Numerous Grapholita lunulana were seen. This moth is a fairly recent arrival to Lancashire but is certainly thriving on this site. Although small, it is a very distinctive species, dark in colour with a crescent shape across the forewings, hence the Latin name lunulana.

Another micro-moth seen in numbers was the Cock’s-foot Moth (Glyphipterix simpliciella). A swarm of these moths were seen flying around a clump of Cock’s foot Grass. Careful examination showed that the dried stems from last year were full of the pupal exuviae, and numerous exit holes from which the adults leave the stem once they have emerged.

A Common Frog and Willow Warblers were also recorded.
All this was followed by much needed refreshments in Jackson’s Boat.
This area has recently been threatened by development with proposals from the private landowner (recently purchased from the University of Manchester) to build a football stadium with turnstiles, fencing, 50ft high floodlights and seven football pitches, including artificial pitches. Fortunately this proposal was soundly rejected by the City Council Planning Committee and the developer withdrew his application - although this is unlikely to be the end of the matter.

The full Lepidoptera species list was:
Eriocrania salopiella – mines on birch
Eriocrania semipurpurella – mine on birch
Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet – larvae and cocoons
Aspilapterix tringipennella – adult
Phyllonorycter ulmifoliella – mine on birch
Glyphipterix simpliciella (Cock’s-foot Moth) – adult
Argyresthia retinella - feeding signs on birch
Coleophora serratella – feeding signs on birch
Coleophora spinella (prob) – larval case on hawthorn
Coleophora albidella – larval case on Goat Willow
Coleophora peribenanderi – larval case on Creeping Thistle
Elachista argentella – adult
Anacampsis blattariella – larva on birch
Aphelia paleana – adult and larva on Ribwort Plantain and vetches
Celypha lacunana – larva on Ribwort Plantain
Ancylis badiana – adult
Grapholita compositella – adult
Grapholita lunulana – adult
Grapholita jungiella – adult
Mother of Pearl (Pleuroptya ruralis) – larva on nettle
Green-veined White – adult
Large White – adult
Orange-tip - egg on Cuckoo Flower, and adult
Common Blue – adult
Holly Blue – adult
Small Copper – adult
Small Tortoiseshell – adult
Peacock – adult
Speckled Wood - adult
Winter Moth – larva on birch
Latticed Heath – adult
Mottled Umber – larva on oak
Ruby Tiger – adult
Sallow – larva
Dun-bar – larva on birch
Small Yellow Underwing – adult
Mother Shipton – adult

Lancs moth group is at: http://www.lancashiremoths.co.uk/
Information on proposed development of Hardy Farm can be found at http://savechorltonmeadows.wordpress.com/
Photos of all moths mentioned can be seen at: ukmoths: http://ukmoths.org.uk/

Ben Smart, May 2010

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