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Friday, 28 August 2015

A nice selection of moths from mid August

There are few benefits to chemo*, but I've found three. I'll tell you about two of them at the end, but pertinent to this post is that when you have a lot of time wallowing about feeling tired and lethargic, not feeling like being sociable on social networks or commenting on blogs, you have the opportunity to look through hundreds of moth photos to help with ID and learning. I've even looked back at my first few moths trapped, many of which I didn't post as they all looked the same to me and identified a worn out Iron Prominent! Course I'm still stuck on many of them and can't easily tell which family they belong to in order to cut down the hundreds of photos I have to go through, but in time it should all become a lot easier - and I used to think IDing blue butterflies and blue damselflies was hard!!!

These are all from the night of 18/19 August which was a fine clear night, and I was surprised by the variety of interesting moths. I haven't seen any hawkmoths since the very first time, but I don't want to find everything all at once anyway.

I'll start with this Tiger moth - I've seen one once before in my veg patch during the day and we had quite a photo session, but it was a surprise to find five of them in the trap that morning.  They are stunning, especially when they deign to open up their wings like this.

Garden Tiger (Arctia caja).

I said I was doing well with the family Lasiocampidae - well I had two more species this time! The Drinker below refused to stand still and would have flown off so I had to snap it quickly.

The Drinker (Euthrix potatoria).

The Drinker (Euthrix potatoria),
about ready to fly off.

This Pine-tree Lappet was the same; it was happily asleep until I had to disturb it for a few photos then it was ready to fly off at any moment, even though it looks like it is asleep here.  

Pine-tree Lappet (Dendrolimus pini).

I knew I'd seen the markings of this next one before, but I still had to trawl through loads of photos before I found it!

Figure of Eighty (Tethea ocularis).

I love this next one, the Lobster, but I'd rather see the caterpillar which is amazing, freaky, looks nothing like a caterpillar and looks rather like a ..... lobster! My white paper is looking a bit grubby here, well the moth had already had a trip up to the ceiling and been brought back for some photos, and sometimes you have to work fast with the flitty ones and there's no time to clean and tidy as you go. Although it did seem to fall asleep after its brief break for freedom. 

I am rarely putting them in specimen jars any more except for when collecting them from the walls and ceilings, and then if they are flitty I cover them in a towel and that quietens them down, rather than putting them in the fridge. How I'm dealing with them now is transferring from the moth trap to a big plastic box with egg boxes in it and covering with a towel which seems to keep them mostly happy and quiet. (Thanks for the tip, Countryside Tales). Then as I go through them inside I transfer the ones I've looked at to another big plastic storage box with another towel over it. I still lose some when I am getting them out of the moth trap, and a number head off to the ceiling indoors when I go through the plastic box - otherwise I'd go through the moths outside in natural light. But I don't want to risk a really special one flying away outside. 

Lobster moth (Stauropus fagi).

Lobster moth (Stauropus fagi).

I can't tell the difference between August and September Thorn moths, so the following is one or the other. I think.

Not sure but one of the Thorn moths (Ennomos sp).

Pretty sure this is the Poplar Kitten (Furcula bifida) -
they are adorable and very furry and sleepy.

One of the Wainscots but I can't tell which one.

If only more moths would open up their wings like the one below so you can see their underwings, it would make IDing for many of them so much easier. However I didn't need the underwings for this one!

Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac).

Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac).

Now for some Noctuid moths and I take back that they are all brown/grey and drab; many most certainly aren't! 

Setaceous Hebrew Character (Xestia c-nigrum).

A hint of green colour helps with ID. This is a Coronet (Craniophora ligustri).

Rosy Rustic (Hydraecia micacea).

As for the next one, well I spent ages trawling through photos only to discover it had been posted on several blogs just recently. In fact I was looking at a new (to me) blog, Caroline Gill's Wild and Wonderful and I thought - aha - that's that moth! Only to see in the caption a thank you to Ragged Robin for helping with ID - and yes, RR has posted one just recently too on her wildlife blog A Year In The Life Of My Wildlife Garden. I am now looking back on my mothy friends' moth posts over the last month or so as it's proving helpful!

Straw Underwing (Thalpophila matura).

The ID for the next one came from RR too - only somewhere I found a blog giving brilliant info on how to tell the difference between Copper Underwing and Svensson's Copper Underwing. I've lost the link already but UK Moths says the same thing "Svensson's has dark palps with pale tips, whereas Copper Underwing's palps are pale throughout." So I deduce having seen the photos of the difference on the lost link that this one is Svensson's, which is why I included the photo of it running up my wrist, as you can just see the pale tip.

Svensson's Copper Underwing (Amphipyra berbera).

Broad-barred White (Hecatera bicolorata).

And to finish, a couple of Geometrids. This first one's larvae feeds on lichen, which was something that amazed me when I learned there were moths whose babies did this! I'm going to have to go out with a magnifying glass and start inspecting my lichen laden trees. 

Brussels Lace (Cleorodes lichenaria).

I haven't been bothering with the tiny ones as being new to moth trapping it's all a bit overwhelming, but this one was too stunning to not take a photo of!

Lime-speck Pug (Eupithecia centaureata).

As usual, please tell me if there are any errors!

I shouldn't really be surprised that the larvae of many of the moths I've been catching feed on trees such as sallow (willow), poplar and oak, and also grasses. I have a heavily wooded garden as well as there being loads of trees all around the area, not to mention there is grass everywhere too, and it doesn't all go brown like my lawn on a slope. My orchard which is at the bottom of the hill beside the stream stays green in all but the worst of droughts, and there's plenty of wild grass and long vegetation on the banks of the barely trickling stream and even on the damp leaky side of my pond. The most important thing about this habitat is that it's not being chopped back at the wrong time of year by the council being tidy.

It's very interesting to learn more about the needs of these unknown to me before moths - we care about habitat and providing for the creatures that we see, but not so much the ones we normally don't, due to sheer ignorance! OK when I say we, I mean me..... :-)

* Benefits of Chemotherapy

1. It has knocked my menopausal hot flushes on the head! I was going crazy and seriously considering hormone replacement therapy, but although I get the chemo sweats sometimes, it's nothing like the horrible hot flushes. I hope they don't come back, but even if they do, at least it's one less horrid thing I've had to deal with during this time.

2. For about 20 years I've had an ugly but painless skin condition on one of my elbows called Granuloma Annulaire. I learned to live with it years ago after having various chunks of it chopped out by a dematologist in Geneva** - apparently way back then one of the treatments which sometimes worked (there is no real cure) was found whilst taking biopsies - cutting out a tiny bit of the skin could make it go away, or like for me, it changed the shape, broke up the ugly circles and for several years looked less severe. Some years it looks worse than others, often it nearly disappears in winter, just when you don't care as you are wearing long sleeves anyway, only for it to reappear in full force in the spring. It often appears on both elbows, or both knees or ankles etc so I considered myself lucky. Imagine my horror last year seeing it start to appear on my other elbow!

Well guess what. It's gone! I have rough skin on both elbows that may be due to the skin condition or more than likely the amount of time I have spent over the last six months lying down leaning on them. 

It may come back, but it was pretty surprising when I noticed it had gone! :-) 

** I used to live on the French border by Geneva - I didn't fly there for treatment from England or France! :-)

Saturday, 22 August 2015

More moths, baby Oak Eggar caterpillars and some good news

I have some great news to share which has nothing to do with moths, but just in case anyone looks in and thinks oh god, not moths and doesn't bother going any further..... well I was in the hospital Thurs and Fri having chemo no. 10 and Keith went down to see the Oncologist's secretary to get my appt times for nos. 11 and 12. Only to be told there wouldn't be a no. 12 and my last session would be 3rd and 4th September! Apparently this is due to me taking that break in July, and they didn't want to prolong my treatment beyond the date that I was due to finish.... that makes little sense to me but I guess he can see from my bloodwork and other tests that all seems well so I can stop a bit early. The other good news is that I don't have to have any more weekly jabs or daily pills for anaemia, as both my haemoglobin (and most other things to do with red blood cells) and my platelet count are back to normal again. I'm just left with white blood cells being low. So a HUGE hooray going on in this household, as that means only one more to go, and I can start to feel better two weeks earlier than envisaged, and that means with still possible good weather and chances of getting out for a few walks and trips to the coast etc. :-))))))))

Back to moths, I am behind as always but I put the moth trap out three times before the last but one chemo session - these are from 2nd, 3rd and 5th August. I'm just going to share the more interesting and groovy looking moths trapped, and a few of the more drab ones that I did manage to (or almost manage to) ID. Am I allowed to call moths drab? Well, a lot of them are! But for all those hard to ID browny grey jobs, there are some absolute stunners, like the chap or chappess below, of which there were three, two in the trap and one on the wall by the potting shed. 

It's interesting seeing how the temperature makes a difference to the amount of moths trapped, as one night the temp dipped to 8.8C on my outside windowsill and I caught the grand total of 11 moths. Usually when the night temps are around 14C+, I'm getting about 50. Also I seem to get more when I put the trap out in the open nearer the house, than under the lime trees near the more wooded part of the garden. I usually find a few moths on the stone walls of the house too when I place it not far from the house.

Gorgeous Leopard Moth (Zeuzera pyrina).

Leopard Moth close up showing the lovely irridescent
blue markings on the thorax and legs.

The same metallic blue is visible on the tip of the abdomen
but it was washed out a bit by using flash.

Despite the beauty of the moth above, this Lappett is my favourite catch of the ones I haven't yet shared. I seem to be doing OK with the family Lasiocampidae, but then I'm not surprised as I've found a fair few of their caterpillars in the garden over the last few years.

The Lappet (Gastropacha quercifolia) in its flapping wings prior to take off position!

A closer up showing that amazing snout like 'nose' and blue colour on the antennae.

The Lappet in its typical imitating a dead oak leaf position.
Yes it flew off and here it is on my beamed ceiling!

Now onto some drab ones but I have been finding quite a lot of them so I was interested to find out what they were.

Great Dart (Agrotis bigramma) - pretty sure of ID but could be wrong!
Link to a French site showing pictures of it.

Great Dart showing the white underwing.

And another picture of it.

Waved Umber (Menophra abruptaria).
There is a 2nd generation in France which flies until September.

Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura plecta).

The following I'm pretty sure are Pine Processionary moths. I'm not surprised to find them as I have their caterpillar nests in my pine trees. The first time I saw these fluffy nests in Greece I thought they were made by a spider! They have a bad rep because they are supposed to be a real pest of pine forests, but worse than that is the hairy caterpillar, which is something that you don't want to ever touch. Apparently they can shoot out highly toxic hairs if they are disturbed and these can cause nasty itchy skin complaints. Even worse if dogs sniff them out or try to eat them - I've heard tales of dogs having to have parts of their tongues removed due to this. So we are very wary of them. 

I've only seen a small procession of them once in our garden and I must say we carefully removed them and destroyed them, because they were in the vicinity of where we at the time fed the ducks, and ducks snuffle in the grass whilst feeding and drinking. You'll see from the photo a few down from here what a real procession of them looks like - where we saw them up in the Pyrenees mountains there were hundreds of these processions, some metres long, and lots of them squashed over the road as well. I was very glad I had my hiking boots on rather than sandals and we walked around careful not to tread on them and so we had no problem - but there were no signs anywhere to warn tourists about them!

Pine Processionary (Thaumetopoea pityocampa).

Pine Processionary showing what looks like some pine sap on wings.

Pine Processionary Moth caterpillars in a huge procession
up in the Pyrenees mountains 2010.

The next four photos feature two moths for whom I have managed to get ID down to either Common Rustic or Lesser Common Rustic. It's impossible for me to tell whether I have two different species or a different colour variation of the same species...and which one, as they both can have white markings, or not!

I know the big one is Mrs Oak Eggar!

Same moth as above.

Same moth as above.

Different moth, but is it the same species but with less pronounced white markings?

Going back a bit, the first time I put out the moth trap an Oak Eggar laid some eggs. I kept meaning to put them out in the garden, although I knew that wouldn't really help the eggs as I couldn't exactly glue them to a leaf. After some time I thought they were not viable and with one thing and another they got a bit forgotten and were still sitting on the kitchen table in a specimen pot. Well lo and behold very luckily I suddenly noticed movement in the pot and there were loads of tiny caterpillars! First I picked some bramble leaves for them and most immediately headed for the leaves, so the next day I was able to put those leaves out wedged in amongst other bramble leaves so they could move off amongst the plant and get fresh leaves. For those remaining in the pot I picked a few oak leaves and they seemed to prefer them to bramble. I finally had a bright idea of how to fix the oak leaves up in the tree..... as you will see further down.  

(I am a bit confused as some sites say Oak Eggar larvae don't eat oak leaves, and some do....)

Taken with macro lens but more distant.

A bit closer up taken with my macro lens - I'm glad I took the trouble
to look at them up close as they are very cute and incredibly hairy!

I found some little pegs and pegged those leaves onto the oak leaves on the tree!

As usual, if I've got any ID wrong, please let me know! :-)

I put the trap out again on the 19th and caught a nice selection this time with moths with more pronounced markings, so I'm in the process of trying to ID them. Some I've managed thanks to Hants Moths 'Flying Tonight' but I'm sure I'll be asking for your help with some of them - as I have all the continental ones this side of the channel to contend with too and some of them could be 'foreign' ones. Aaarrggh! Fun though. :-) 

By the way, the garden is looking a lot happier after that rain we had, plus a shower on Thursday morning. We are due what might be a lot of rain for about three or four days starting tonight, so the less watering we have to do the better and the grass should green up even more, and hopefully it'll be enough to give the deeper rooted shrubs a good boost! This morning seems like the last of the sun so I am going to get out and take some more photos and enjoy the sun, as I'm surprisingly feeling OK for the moment. I'm just waiting for the nurse to come to unhook me from my diffuser and take out my needle and I'll be free - for 48 hours I have to carry this diffuser around with me in a bum bag (fanny pack to my American friends) and whilst it's not really a big deal, I am always glad to be shot of it! 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

My poor drought ridden garden, warts and all

These are the only photos I took last week during my after chemo week. I wasn't very inspired to take photos really and only took these for my records, never meaning to post them - if I had I'd have used my dslr for better photos, but you get the picture. 

It's been a dryish spring and dry summer looking back, it's just that you don't really notice how little rainfall is falling say during April and May, unless it's actually hot and the soil starts to really dry out. It wasn't hot back then so I didn't notice, but I do keep a record of every mm of rain that falls in my garden and whilst we had a very good amount of rain mid June, it was the only rain in June. But when I dug up spuds two weeks later they were completely dried out! I've had the worst case of scab with the later varieties of spuds that I've ever seen, but they have not been watered at all for obvious reasons. Normally I set up a seep hose along the top of the ridges after having earthed them up twice, but this year that was impossible. Never mind, after peeling the spuds will be fine.

So here are a few photos after my garden gave up the ghost during the hot days earlier last week - I got to the point I didn't want to go outside any more as it was too depressing for me to see my precious plants drooping or turning black or crispy. :-(

But happy news, we had 17mm rain over two days; that's but a drop in the ocean compared to what we really need to benefit trees and deeper rooted plants, but for now the garden looks a lot happier, and I have 7,000 litres of stored water so I will start hosepiping again today to try to keep them from drooping and scorching again, as the weather is due to be in the high 20s and low 30s again later this week.

The grass is always worst out in the open here, in the distance by
the chicken sheds it stays green much longer which I can only assume
is more depth of soil at the top of the slope. Shade helps too.

My pathetic Buddleia - it is always sad and droopy during summer
and only flowers for about a week and never has butterflies on it.
This year it is the worst I've ever seen it.

Even most of the weeds have died off here
(although they are only in hibernation and will be back in the spring).

However Wild Carrot aka Queen Anne's Lace loves this time as it
must have a deep tap root and this is its hour of glory,
likewise the low growing Knapweed in the lawn. Did you know you can
mow Knapweed and it will happily bloom low down in the lawn?

About a seven year old Forsythia which droops all summer long too.

The driest I've ever seen the field at the bottom of my garden - the cows are
moved around over several fields so never stay in one field for more than about a week.

Silver Birch have shallow roots so always turn orange and drop their leaves
during any dry spell. The Poplars round here are all turning yellow too.

Now a few warts and all pics of my veg patch - even though the last post contained photos of flowers only, a few people mentioned how beautiful my garden was. No! It was only the flowers, the veg patch is a complete mess now and so is some of the garden which needs a lot of pruning and hacking back and general tidying. But the flowers have perked up after the rain (this was before). And the flowering plants here have been watered about once a week, otherwise they would be dead; as it is, many annuals are very stunted.

Spuds in the foreground but taken over by self seeding flowers
and one of my 'wildflower' strips by the fence
with more flower beds in the garden beyond.

The Pollinator Meadow became way too overgrown and I couldn't cope
with it any more but there are a few areas with flowers still and
the Mirabilis (bottom right) has started blooming. Might attract some
night feeding moths as the flowers are heavily scented and open at night.

Mess yes! Foreground are strawbs that need taking out but are
swamped with bindweed, the middle patch is where we took out the
spring brassicas but what was left were self seeded Heartsease Violas,
now going over, and to the right are the Sunflowers in the next photo.
Some veggies in the furthest plot.

I've never had such drooping Sunflowers before, and it's surprising because these
are self seeded which usually makes them tougher. But maybe the problem is that
there are too many of them in a smallish space.

No problems with the courgettes, apart from a few lower leaves with
mildew, but that's normal. They are veg so they get watered regularly.

Round the garage side of the house where the aspragus grows.
There's a bit of grass still growing but the wildflowers are
happy - Hawkbit (yellow flower/fluffy seedheads)
which the insects love, and wild poppies.

My poor Forest Pansy has turned all autumnal. We have watered
but really can't do more than a watering can or equivalent per week.

Wildflower lawn - a few days after the rain and this area is greener
because it's down the bottom of the slope and to the left is
the new sand filter bed area which we have had to water, and around
the dahlias it's quite shaded and always stays green!

Finally apropos of absolutely nothing, here's an interesting wasp
which is the only insect photo I took during this time!

I got out of the house for the first time in 10 days yesterday (for a hospital appt unfortunately, nothing interesting!) and was struck by how autumnal the trees look during our journey. This is the effects of dryness - it's about six weeks too early for autumn colours to start! 

I have not read anyone's blogs for more than a week due to chemo side effects which I am only just crawling out of - I'll try to catch up but excuse me if I don't comment on all your posts! I do look at blog posts via my Feedly feed, even if I only have time/energy to look at the photos. :-)

I'll be doing a health update soon which I'll keep separate as I've a lot to talk about as it's near the six months since surgery mark now! Hard to believe.