Saturday, 24 May 2014

Bath Natural History Society Field Trip to Elm Farm, Burnett

Thursday 15 May 2014

Leaders:     Philippa Paget, Elisabeth Allen and Paul Wilkins

Fifteen Members made an early start at Elm Farm to open a moth trap put out the night before by Philippa and John Paget.

Despite being what should have been a pretty good night the moth numbers were unusually low for the time of year, with just thirty two individuals of nine species, although twenty-one male Muslin moths did make quite a spectacle when all placed on one egg carton before being released.

We were, however, rewarded with the beautiful and unusual little moth known as the Chinese Character, a very fresh and wonderfully marked Brindled Beauty as well as the aptly named Spectacle which sports what looks like a pair of spectacles or goggles on its thorax when viewed from the front. Also in the trap were Common Swift, Pale Pinion, Rustic Shoulder-knot, Flame Shoulder and Shuttle-shaped Dart. There were no micro moths in the trap but Philippa did produce an old peanut feeder which was 'infested' with pupal remains together with two adult micro moths which were later confirmed to the Cork Moth (Nemapogon cloacella) a very small moth belonging to the Tineidae family.

The original plan for the rest of the field trip was to search for Leaf Miners, but it was considered too early in the year for this to be very successful, although later in the morning we did find a couple of leaf mines on Hogweed growing in the woodland area which was later identified as a Diptera (fly) species called Phytomyza spondylii..  To compensate for this I brought along some photographs, both of adult leaf miners and the leaves they came from showing their typical 'mine' patterns. Also included were a couple of live specimens of Phyllonorycter harrisella and P. messaniella to illustrate their minute size of just 3 or 4mm long. 

Next, we set off in glorious sunshine to search along the hedgerows and track verges further away from the farmyard for whatever 'wildlife' we might find. Armed with a stout stick and an upturned white umbrella a couple of us 'beat' the branches of overhanging trees and shrubs in search of caterpillars and any other invertebrates, whilst others either searched the lower vegetation or just enjoyed the Butterflies and Damselflies flitting up and down the hedgerow, stopping now and again to bask in the warm sunshine.  These beautiful insects included both male and female butterflies of the Orange-tip, Brimstone, Green-veined White, Peacock, Comma and Speckled Wood along with the Common Blue Damselfly, Large Red Damselfly and the Beautiful Demoiselle. Later on a single Small Copper butterfly was seen in a recently cultivated field stopping now and then to bask momentarily on the warm stones that littered the surface.

It wasn't long before we had a number of caterpillars belonging to the Geometridae family of moths often referred to as 'loopers' or 'inchworms' after their mode of movement. After ‘beating’ a Silver Birch I was very excited to find what I first thought were two ‘Bagworms’ the larvae of a particular micro moth that creates a portable ‘case’ out of living or dead plant material to provide it with protection and camaflauge. However, after further research they proved to be another form of ‘case’-bearing moth larvae belonging to the Coleophoridae family called Coleophora serratella which also uses plant material to make a portable case.Also found by 'beating' were quite a few species of spiders including to or three different species of Crab Spider, a number of small bright green Weevils, Click Beetles, Scarlet Lily Beetle, Hawthorn Shield Bugs, Black and Red Frog-hoppers (Cercopis vulnerata) and numerous other invertebrates we were unable to identify beyond their family.

A number of accidentally disturbed or true day flying moths were also seen. Silver Ground Carpet, Burnet Companion, Mother Shipton, Angle Shades and micro moths such as the Nettle-tap, the tiny Cocksfoot Moth (Glyphipterix simpliciella), Elachista argentella and much to my delight, Phyllonorycter lantanella. Other invertebrates encountered on the walk included a number of species of hoverflies such as the Drone Fly and the Leucozona species, blue and green Lacewings, Harvestmen, Scorpion flies, Ichneumon flies and Parasitic Wasps.

Invertebrates were not the only wildlife to enjoy. Numerous native plants were in flower such as Wild Rose, Hawthorn, Guelder Rose, Spindle, Red Valerian, Common Mouse-ear, Cow Parsley, Herb Robert, Herb Bennet and Woodruff to name just a few. Raven, Barn Owl, Buzzard, Roe Deer, a number of Hares as well as a variety of farmland birds were also spotted.
493 Coleophora serratella

Paul Wilkins
Editor's note
493 Coleophora serratella
The larva feeds by inserting its head into small mines it creates on the leaves of birch (Betula), elm (Ulmus), alder (Alnus), or hazel (Corylus). Occasionally it is found feeding on other trees, or on herbaceous plants onto which it has accidentally fallen.
Pupation, June - early July, is in the larval case fixed to the upper surface of a leaf in a sunny situation. Sometimes pupation is on plants other than those fed on.

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