Other than my garden, I moth-trap at two sites regularly and a few other sites on an occasional basis. The two regular sites are the Hawk Conservancy at Monxton where there is a wonderful meadow of wild flowers that was created from an arable field about ten years ago, and the Cholderton Estate which is run by Henry Edmunds as an organic farm. Henry has run a moth-trap here for more than 35 years and we have been assisting since 2008. The lack of pesticides and chemicals shows in the catches. Corn buntings thrive here and whilst watching one singing on 26 July I counted 350 Large Whites (there may have been Small Whites amongst them) and a Clouded Yellow over just one field of barley that had an understorey of charlock.
The sensitive treatment of hedges also has a hugely beneficial effect, you won’t see hedges flailed to waist height and two feet wide on this estate! On this subject I notice, and I quote here from Mark Avery’s excellent blog that:
“The NFU is lobbying hard to be able to cut hedgerows a month earlier than is currently allowed. This is being billed as an unfair restriction on farmers imposed because of EU legislation. I’m not quite sure about that – do any readers of this blog know whether that is actually true?
Is this the beginning of an assault on so-called red tape, and if it is, is it a well-chosen target?
You can’t cut your hedges until September, which rules out sending round the hedge trimmers straight after harvest (which is a convenient time) and you have to wait until September when the weather, and therefore the soil conditions, may be far less favourable.
Farmers have a point – although the lovely Guy Smith, vice-president of the NFU, is quoted as saying ‘The government must give farmers and contractors the opportunity to trim hedges at a time when it is convenient for them.‘ which is typically selfish and pushy of the NFU.”
I would have thought that with the public pouring so much money into farming we have a perfect right to demand that farmers do considerably more than most of them currently do to protect wildlife and that includes cutting hedges later not earlier. Prof Ian Newton FRS in his study of Bullfinches in the 1960’s showed that “The last young Bullfinches left their nests in late September or even in early October. Moreover, late-fledged Bullfinches accounted for a substantial proportion of Bullfinches fledged, and the most productive Bullfinch breeding seasons were those with the highest proportions of late-fledging birds.” It is hardly surprising then that at Cholderton the Bullfinch is still a common bird whereas nationally it has declined by 36% since 1967.
Our second moth-trapping session at Cholderton this year, on 4 June, produced 130 species including 80 Common Swift, 77 Orange Footman and 15 Scorched Wing. There was a single Obscure Wainscot and Red-necked Footman. At this time there was a large immigration of Diamond-backed moths and so it was no surprise to find 449 of them in the three traps.
The night before I had been trapping on Stockbridge Down with Catherine Hadler, the NT ranger for this wonderful grassland site with lots of valuable scrub. We had also seen Green Arches, Reddish Light Arches and, surprisingly 2 Common Fan-foot. I always associate these with old, often neglected, hazel coppice and I would never have expected to come across them on the down though its possible they may have wandered from the adjacent woodland
The rest of June was a wash-out I’m told but luckily we missed it as we were away watching butterflies in Cuba! In fact the first part of July wasn’t much to write home about either so it wasn’t until 16 July when we went to Isle of Wight for the weekend on the promise of slightly warmer nights that things got considerably better. Our friends Ian and Pat Merrifield live on the northern edge of Parkhurst Forest and have been trapping here for a few years now. I had phoned up a few days before and arranged to bring over an extra trap to add to his two on the Saturday night. We called in at tea-time for a welcome cuppa and to set up ready for Ian to turn them on later.
It was still 16⁰ when we drove back over first thing in the morning and the outside of the traps and large egg-trays that I put round them were covered in moths. Several Festoon and Clouded Magpie were visible around the first trap alone and there were lots of Brussels Lace and Buff Arches. Magpie Moth have become quite scarce in recent years but there were six here along with Bordered Beauty, Small Dotted Buff. Orange Moth, Lunar-spotted Pinion and 4-spotted Footman. I’d never managed to catch up with Muslin Footman before so very exciting to find a nice fresh one in one trap. It made a change also that there were lots of micros to pore over and photograph – Ypsolopha nemorella and Limnaecia phragmitella were things I had only seen a couple of times before.
It took us till after lunch to identify and photograph all the things that we wanted to. Its not often that I get over 150 species in a night so the total of 155 was especially pleasing for Ian as it added lots to his garden list! Acleris umbrana was probably the rarest find of the night. It seems to have become a little more common in recent years – this was just the second for the island as Ian had caught the first also in his garden on 7 Nov 2014. It is double-brooded and this is the first time that the first brood that flies in July/August has been reported in Hants/IoW.