Thursday, 10 May 2012

Bring on the Butterflies!

I don't think I have ever seen so much Ladies' Smock (Cuckooflower - Cardamine pratensis) in flower on the farm as there is at the moment.  Some meadows have great patches of it.  If the weather were better, I would go out and take some photos, but at the moment the sun only seems to come out when I'm somewhere else.  We should be knee deep in Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines) butterflies, but the cool, wet weather seems to be holding them back.  I saw one (while it was sunny and I was somewhere else!) at the end of April, but haven't seen one here yet.  Ladies' Smock is their main larval food plant (LFP), but they also use Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and we have a fair amount of that around here as well.

I was berating myself yesterday for not doing any moth recording in a long time.  I have started to see increasing numbers of moths on my journeys back from teaching and generally numbers really start to increase in May each year as the weather gets warmer (hah!). It looks like we might have a dry night on Saturday.  I'll be on my own at the weekend, so the bright light won't disturb anyone else in the house, but I shall have to remember to set up the moth trap before I go out to the hafla. And then try to get up early the following morning (hmmm ...).

There was no National Moth Night last year, but it's on again this year (now simply renamed 'Moth Night').  Instead of a single day/night, it now spans 3 days; which I think is a big improvement, allowing for changes in the weather and perhaps recording in a couple of different locations.  This year it's 21st-23th June, see the website for more details.  Over the years I've noticed that it starts to rain here at midsummer - I hope we get at least one dry night for recording, otherwise I might have to put the moth trap in one of the barns, much to the disgust of the Barn Owls. They get quite vocal about it and sit on the roof, screeching the Barn Owl equivalent of 'Turn that %£##@^ light out'!

I need to get myself some more specimen pots before then.  And perhaps a nicer net with a telescopic handle.  I'm so out of practice that I shall need them to be able to study the moths to identify them properly.  Not only that, but a long-awaited Field Guide to Micromoths of GB and Ireland is due to be published on 31st May, so hopefully that will arrive in time as well.  I have high hopes of it.  The illustrations are by Richard Lewington, whose illustrations in the Field Guide to Moths are so good that you can put a moth in a specimen pot alongside the illustration and they look the same.  There's a special offer on until 31st August 2012.  I had an order form with British Wildlife magazine, but I think I might order online from the British Wildlife website.

I see from Butterfly Conservation that there is a 'Save Our Butterflies Week' from 19th to 27th May.  I'm already a member, but if I weren't I would definitely take the opportunity to join while there's a special offer on membership until the end of May.  Butterfly Conservation are interested in moths too, and should really be called Lepidoptera Conservation except that no-one would be able to get their tongues around it! The president is my hero, Sir David Attenborough. I'm rather too busy that week already, but I am looking forward to the Big Butterfly Count from 14th July to 5th August and shall make more of an effort this year.  It's such an easy way to record butterflies.  Who wants to join me for a butterfly count picnic?

1 comment:

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