Field trip to Polmaily Woods,
This field trip was arranged to discover how last Autumn's restorative habitat management exercise - trackside scrub bash - has fared and to search for the two species it was designed to benefit in the hope their numbers would be boosted. It was also decided we would meet mid-week. So, on Wednesday 1st June we ascended the forest track just west of Drumnadrochit. The weather forecast wasn't promising, however, we were delighted the Met Office had got it wrong because sheltered from the gusty wind and with prolonged warm sunny spells we very soon came across some moths - Clouded Border; Small Argent & Sable; Opsibotys fuscalis, Crambus lathoniellus; a fresh Tawny-barred Angle; Smokey Wave; Clouded Silver (& very silvery it was too) and Satyr Pug. I was extremely grateful for the shared knowledge of the group about our resident macro-moths, especially that offered by Margaret Currie & Tom Prescott. This was fun and by this time we'd also spotted five Speckled Wood butterflies too.
It was now that we observed our first target species - a fresh Dingy Skipper and then very shortly after a very faded Pearl-bordered Fritillary. However, it got better as we immediately netted an extremely fresh Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary allowing us to have a Pearl-bordered Fritillary v Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary master-class. We closely examined the undersides of the hindwings where Tom pointed out the differences ie black chevrons bordering the pearls, more white cells, bigger black dot and more contrast on the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary compared to browner chevrons bordering the pearls, only two white cells, smaller black dot and less contrast on the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary. Easy when you know how! And even easier when you have the two side-by-side!
We continued to identify more moths including Syndemis musculana; Small Purple Barred; Birch Mocha; Common White Wave; Brown Silver-line; Silver-ground Carpet; along with the micros Epinotia subocellana; Pammene fasciana; Ancylis unguicella and Ancylis geminana - plus Peacock; Common Blue & Green-veined White butterflies on the wing and a colony of Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars on a patch of stinging nettles in a south-facing field in which the local farmer allows his cattle to graze to encourage violets to flourish specifically for Pearl-bordered Fritillary. During lunch Tom brought to our attention a rolled-up Aspen leaf encasing an Anacampsis populella caterpillar and we also found Globe Flower in the sunny and sheltered glades. It was suggested that sometime later in the year we place a moth trap in this 40/50 Aspen copse.
Back at our cars we studied two mystery moths which have since been identified. One was a carpet; Cream Wave. The other turned out to be very rare indeed - Bordered Pearl, Paratalanta pandalis. It is only known from VC 96 in Scotland. Nowhere else and is therefore far rarer than either Pearl-bordered Fritillary or Dingy Skipper !!!
So, in conclusion, a very informative and enjoyable day. Thanks to those who came along for your companionship & wisdom. We all agreed that Dot and Ron have a very interesting transect.
And Finally… Why not join in this year’s scrub bashing at Polmaily to help Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Dingy Skipper and the Banded Pearl. For details see below:
Sat 17th Sept Polmaily, near Drumnadrochit. Butterfly work party
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