30 September 2014

Moth traps, bird ringing and fungus walk at Lagganbeg, Glen Euchar

Photos by Jan Hamilton and Carl Farmer.  Mouse over the photos for photo credits and other info.

Today's event was hosted by Rob Lightfoot, who regularly traps birds in his garden and rings them under BTO licence.  This gave us an opportunity to see and photograph common garden birds at close range.

Also three moth traps were set up overnight in various parts of the garden and surrounding area.  Clive Craik, who brought one of the traps, and identified all the moths in the morning, had left a thermometer in his trap to measure the minimum overnight temperature.  This was an amazingly mild 13, resulting in many more moths than might have been expected at this time of year.

We brought the traps into Rob's garage to open them, so conditions were not ideal for photography, but a lot better than they would have been outside in the rain.

Dasypolia templi   Agrochola helvola

The Brindled Ochre (left) was a good catch.  The NBN shows only 4 previous vice-county records of this species, which include one by Clive at Barcaldine and one from me at Taynuilt.  There were 3 Flounced Chestnuts (right), one in each trap, another species seldom recorded in our area.

Thera obeliscata   Xestia xanthographa, melanic

The most numerous species in the traps were Grey Pine Carpet (left) and the very similar Spruce Carpet, severely testing our ability to distinguish between them.  The figures for these two species in the table below are approximately correct but one or two borderline cases may have gone into the wrong column.  On the right is the night's most difficult moth, which turned out to be a melanic Square-spot Rustic.  A melanic is a black or very dark form of a moth, where all the normal markings are obscured.

Phlogophora meticulosa

Jan's fine photo of an Angle Shades, which regularly has one generation in May-Jun and another in Sep-Oct.  More surprising was a second-generation Small Angle Shades in the trap, a moth that normally has only one generation this far north.  Other unusual second-generation moths in the trap were The Flame, Flame Shoulder and Pinion-streaked Snout.  Clive, who has been trapping for over 30 years, says he never used to get species like these in the autumn.  Whether double-brooded ones are moving north due to climate change, or whether the existing population is changing its habits, would, I imagine, be difficult to determine.

Pedicia rivosa   Dichonia aprilina

Among other insects caught in the traps were a large number of wasps (of which the one I examined was a female Common Wasp, Vespula vulgaris), some of Rob's honey-bees, an earwig and this cranefly, easily identified by its wing pattern as Pedicia rivosa.

The earwig set off a discussion as to whether earwigs could fly.  On looking it up in my earwig book (ok, it's not just about earwigs) it says "Although this species can fly, it is extremely rarely seen to do so and is mainly active at night" (Marshall & Hayes 1988).  This refers to the Common Earwig, Forficula auricularia, which was the one in the trap and is the only earwig species known from Argyll, though the Lesser Earwig may also occur here and should be looked out for in compost and manure heaps.

The Merveille du Jour moth on the right was not caught at Lagganbeg but was brought along by Clive to show us, having caught it in his own trap at Barcaldine before he set out.  A striking sight against a plain background, it almost disappears on a lichen-covered twig.

Here are the night's totals at Lagganbeg.

Total caught Robinson trap Heath trap Skinner trap
Spruce Carpet 19 6 2 11
Grey Pine Carpet 15 5 4 6
Small Wainscot 10 2   8
Red-line Quaker 9 5   4
Green-brindled Crescent 8 4 1 3
Yellow-line Quaker 6 1 3 2
Common Marbled Carpet 5 2 1 2
Green Carpet 4 1 2 1
Chestnut 4 3 1  
Flounced Chestnut 3 1 1 1
Dark Marbled Carpet 3 1 2  
Red-green Carpet 3   1 2
Nettle Tap* 2 2    
Rosy Rustic 2 1   1
July Highflyer 2     2
Angle Shades 2   1 1
Pinion-streaked Snout 2 1   1
Square-spot Rustic 2 1 1  
Acleris laterana/comariana* 1     1
Acleris emargana/effractana* 1     1
Flame 1     1
Autumn Green Carpet 1     1
Brindled Ochre 1     1
Small Angle Shades 1 1    
Large Yellow Underwing 1     1
Flame Shoulder 1     1
Zelleria hepariella* 1 1    
Totals 110 38 20 52

* = micro-moths

While we were emptying the moth traps, the bird traps were filling up nicely...

Parus caeruleus, attaching leg-ring   Parus major

A Blue Tit watches its ring go on, while a Great Tit eyes its escape route.

Erithacus rubecula, checking wing to detemine age   Prunella modularis

Assessing the age of a Robin, and a Dunnock ready for release.

After all the birds and moths there was not a lot of time for our fungal walk but at least the rain had stopped.  We set off to investigate a couple of the numerous wooded gorges that are cut into the hillside on both sides of the glen.

Glen Euchar from Lagganbeg

Glen Euchar and Loch Scammadale from Lagganbeg

Mycena bulbosa

You can almost guarantee to find Mycena bulbosa in any thick clump of Soft Rush in damp open ground in September.  I got this one at the first attempt, and Jan was there to do it justice with the camera.  You have to plunge deep down into the dark dank core of the clump to find it.  It is extremely small.

Mycena leptocephala   Mycena filopes

In a gorge lined with ancient hazels, Rob found Mycena leptocephala (left) and Jan found Mycena filopes (right).

Complete list of identifiable macrofungi found, in order of appearance.

Armillaria ostoyae Dark Honey Fungus
Mycena bulbosa Rush Bonnet
Psilocybe semilanceata Liberty Cap
Panaeolus acuminatus Dewdrop Mottlegill
Stereum rugosum Bleeding Curtain Crust
Polyporus durus Bay Polypore
Paxillus involutus Brown Rollrim
Clavulina rugosa Wrinkled Club
Mycena leptocephala Nitrous Bonnet
Mycena filopes Iodine Bonnet
Entoloma conferendum Star Pinkgill
Hygrocybe miniata Vermilion Waxcap
Hygrocybe reidii Honey Waxcap
Clavulinopsis fusiformis Golden Spindles
Hygrocybe chlorophana Golden Waxcap
Laccaria proxima Scurfy Deceiver


Erica cinerea, flowers going over

Bell Heather expressing the transition from summer to autumn

  Polytrichum commune, ripe capsules

Ripe capsules of Haircap Moss

Vanessa atalanta   Owl carving

Red Admirals are having a bumper season.  Rob reported at least 14 in his garden yesterday, with no other butterfly species present.  Today in duller conditions there were just one or two there.

Thanks to Rob for hosting the event and providing tea and cake, and to Clive for bringing his trap and identifying the moths, and to everyone else who came for not being put off by the forecast of non-stop heavy rain.  In the end we stayed dry throughout.

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This project is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage

All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer except where stated.  Some photos on this page are Jan Hamilton.