Not Just Any Duck

Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) are often taken for granted, but I hadn’t seen one for quite sometime. So when I came across several males and females on the local canal they were a pure delight to see as they paddled across the still waters with autumn reflections.

The Unknown

I came across this green, wavering cushion which is around 25 mm (1 in) in diameter in my birdbath. The water is crystal clear, but here was this thing quite happily growing there. I don’t know what it is. It might be an alga of some kind, or it could be be something from outer space which hitched a ride on a meteorite. Just hope I don’t get any ‘pod people’ growing in the flowerbeds …

Kentish Snail

x3 images. Double click to enlarge.

The Kentish Snail (Monacha (Monacha) cantiana) is one of the commonest snails I notice on my walks along the edge of local woodland.

The shell has a lovely mottled appearance, which can vary. It is one that can be found in gardens, too, but I have not seen any here in my own.

Netted Slug

Gardeners probably won’t like this one. The Netted Slug (Deroceras (Deroceras) reticulatum) is very much hated as a pest as it eats the leaves of many various plants and crops, including seedlings.

It also goes by the names as the Field Slug or Grey Field Slug.

Pergamasus

Pergamasus sp

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Pergamasus sp

I just really like some names of species (or in this case the genus) so I used it as the title for this post.

Pergamasus are verocious predatory mites of soil and leaf-litter. And unfortunately not much more info is forthcoming.

Pergamasus sp.

Here are three individuals I discovered .. yep, under that plant pot.

Say “Hi!” To Pudibunda

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About a month ago my neighbour calls round (he hit 80 this year and is as fit as a fiddle), and in the palm of his hand he had this little critter. He wondered what it was (he really has an interest in wildlife), and he thought it had fell from a bush he had cut back. I identified it as the larva for the moth the Pale Tussock (Calliteara pudibunda).

Later he came around again with another he had found on his apple tree. They feed on a large variety of deciduous trees and shrubs, and I was quite amazed to discover, like paint, they come in a variety colours, from yellow, green, to orange, pink and red. Don’t think they do any shades of blue though.

Below is the familar adult, which I have featured before, which is also quite an odd yet interesting character. Who would have thought that, that would turn into that, eh?

In case you was wondering, the caterpillars where put back safe and sound to continue their feedathon.

Over 250 Moths Over 16 Years

x16 photos. Double click to enlarge

Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum
Hummingbird Hawk-moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) – taken August 2005

It was when I purchased my first digital camera back in 2005, a Sony Cybershot compact camera, that my love for nature and the side of the natural world, that is not always often seen but is always there to be found, became rekindled. My interest in moths – ‘moth mania’ I call it – began from a young age when I used to stay up a little at night with my older brother Steve, looking out for these nocturnal insects. In those days I used to paint and draw them, especially those with vivid patterns and colours like the Garden Tiger, which has sadly declined over the years since, and I have not yet seen one here to photograph.

Red Underwing (Catocala nupta) – taken August 2006
Scorched Wing Plagodis dolabraria
Scorched Wing Plagodis dolabraria – taken June 2007

So since 2005, I have photographed over 250 (and still counting with lots of past images still to go through and positively identify) species of moth and have uploaded them to this site. 250 is small fraction of the 2,500 or more species of moth to be found throughout Britain. Not all are attracted to light. Some are attracted to feromones or sugar. Some are day-fying moths, and some are rare and localised to different areas of the country.

The Vapourer (Orgyia antiqua) – taken September 2008
Common Marbled Carpet (Dysstroma truncata) – taken May 2009

Oddly enough, in the year 2010 I apparently did not take one single moth photo, but a year later moth mania hit me again and I photographed over 150 different species of moth!

Yellow-tail Euproctis similis
Yellow-tail (Euproctis similis) – taken July 2011
Shaded Broad-bar (Scotopteryx chenopodiata) – taken October 2012
Scarce Silver-lines Bena bicolorana
Scarce Silver-lines (Bena bicolorana) – taken July 2013

After buying different compact cameras over the years, it was in 2014 I purchased my first DSLR camera the Nikon D3200.

Hebrew Character Orthosia gothica
Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) – taken March 2014
Common Yellow Conch Agapeta hamana
Common Yellow Conch (Agapeta hamana) – taken July 2015
Riband Wave (Idaea aversata f. remutata)
Riband Wave (Idaea aversata) – taken July 2016

2016 was the year I upgraded my camera to the Nikon D7200 (which I still use to this day) , and in 2017 it was another year the moth mania got to me. It was a very bountiful year for moths.

Garden Rose Tortrix Acleris variegana
Garden Rose Tortrix (Acleris variegana) – taken September 2017

The thing with moths is that they can be seen all year round, even during the winter months where most other insects are hibernating.

Sycamore Piercer Pammene aurita
Sycamore Piercer (Pammene aurita) – taken June 2018
Elephant Hawkmoth Deilephila elpenor
Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila elpenor) -taken July 2019
Azalea Leaf Miner Caloptilia azaleella
Azalea Leaf Miner (Caloptilia azaleella) – taken May 2020
Common White Wave (Cabera pusaria) – taken July 2021

Spotlight on The Grey Dagger Acronicta psi

There are two very similar ‘dagger’ species in Britain, the Grey Dagger (Acronicta psi) and the Dark Dagger (Acronicta tridens). The adults cannot be accurately identified visually without genital dissection and microscopic scrutiny – but I don’t like to harm them so this adult would be recorded as an aggregate species Acronicta psi/tridens. The adult is readily attracted to light, and is seen in June and August in most habitats, including woodland, hedgerows and gardens. Sadly its numbers have significantly decreased in recent decades.

The caterpillar is quite an odd thing, and on first discovery I thought it had been parasitised! But the long and prounced ‘hump’ or fleshy projection is one of its defining characteristics and which visually separtes it from the Dark Dagger (Acronicta tridens) which has a shorter ‘hump’. A visually striking moth larva with long hairs and a yellow or white dorsal strip. The orange side patches offer quite a contrast in colouration. It feeds on a large range of broad-leaved trees and shrubs, and overwinters as a pupa amongst bark, in rotten wood or in the ground.

What Lies Under A Piece of Bark

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Lifting a piece of bark in a garden border, the last thing I expected to find was a delightful Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris).

It remained where it was, frozen to the spot. I hadn’t got my camera, so I gently placed the bark back and went into the house to get my equipment. Thankfully, when I got back and lifted the bark a second time, he was still there.

It is the first time I have seen a Smooth Newt here, in fact, surpisingly, the first time since I was a boy back home in the 1970s., so this was quite an exciting find for me.

I found him at the opposite end of the garden to where my pond is located, but after their spring mating sessions in ponds they live the rest of the year away from water, hiding under rocks and logs in woodland, hedgerows or gardens, venturing out only at night to hunt inveretbrates.

The Smooth Newt is one of three native species to be found in the UK, and it is the commonest and the most frequently encountered of them all.

A blob of Red Jelly


Well not quite – it is an Oribatid mite found in soil under a clay flower pot. They are also called Beetle Mites or Moss Mites. The order Oribatida has species which range from 0.2 mm long to 1.4 mm (1/128 in to around 1/16 in) long … and this is somewhere inbetween.

These very small mites occur in soil and humus, and occasionally on tree trunks and foliage. They are mostly harmless and play a role in breaking down organic matter. Amongst the most numerous soil arthropods, these mites are important in the development of soil fertility.

This one is so well polished you can almost see my reflection in it.


Oribatida sp.

Oribatida sp


999 Species


I have now recorded 999 species on this website, from plants to animals, fungi and even a cyanobacterium. I have stopped short of making this post ‘1000’ as the 999th species convinced me to use it as a marker milestone. Not surprising it happens to be an invertebrate, an arthropod, and an insect at that.


Attactagenus plumbeus is a member of the Curculionidae family which make up the weevils. What is so special about this species apart from its own uniqueness is is scarcity. Data gleamed from the NBN Atlas shows only 96 records between 1990 and 2020, and 151 records in total from 1890. The British nature conservation status is Nationally Notable B (species found in between 31 and 100 hectads – 10 km x 10 km square), making it nationally scarce. There are only 4 records for 2020, and 1 of these is mine. Native to Britain, not surprisingly it is very localised with a few scattered records across England and Wales, except the south-east of England, and is absent from Scotland and Ireland. It feeds on plants from the Fabaceae family, including species of vetch and broom, and is found in fields and meadows where the host plants can be found.


Attactagenus plumbeus
Attactagenus plumbeus is quite an attractive beetle. The length is between 5-9 mm (around 5/16 in).

Attactagenus plumbeus
Discovered in a local field back in May 2020.

Not Sure About This Guy?


Around teatime today around a dozen Goldfinches flocked around my bird feeder, something I have never seen before, as I normally get 2 or 3 of them visit. This young one decided to have a look at my pond and came face-to-stony-face with this fellow. In the end it must have thought all was okay and decided to have a brief swim.


Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

Caught Napping


Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) – I caught this one intially taking a few sips of water from my birdbath. I was looking through my patio window, and thought to myself I bet I won’t have time to swap over lenses, will I? I had my macro lens on, and I half expected the bird to fly, but it didn’t. So I swapped over the lenses and took a few shots through the glass. My lens is only 300 mm max, so I needed to get closer, which meant opening the patio door. The bird is surely to fly now! I was slow and quiet, and the bird was still there, perched on the edge of the birdbath, apparently taking a nap? I managed to get within a few feet of it before it finally realised I was there and flew to the back fence.


Greenfinch Chloris chloris

Greenfinch Chloris chloris

Snake Drama


Grass Snake (Natrix helvetica) – Strolling along the canal, the light ever changing as slate grey clouds block the sun, threatening rain again, and seeing me with my camera, a friendly fisherman calls out, “There’s a frog being eaten by a snake over there!” I pass under a nearby canal bridge built during the Industrial Revolution and I see a stirring in the canal water on the opposie bank. And low and behold there is a snake gripping a frog around the throat. I would never have thought that my first encounter with a Grass Snake would be so dramatic. They also hunt and eat fish.


Grass Snake Natrix helvetica

Grass Snake Natrix helvetica

Please double-click images for a closer look.


Waving At Mr Brown


Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) – Heatwave here, so out early this morning in the fields, and it is butterfly heaven out there. I had an interesting encounter with this male Meadow Brown butterfly I found feeding on a thistle. 9 times out of 10 I encounter them with their wings folded, but this one had them open for me. As I went to take the shot it shut them. Open again, focusing, shut again and missed again. This went on for a short while, so I decide to wave at it, thinking it would either fly off or flash its wings open to ward me off. It flashed, then closed. Still no shot. I waved again, virtually in its face, another flash, shut again. This went on and on, until finally …. fully open. It may not be as pretty or as fanciful as some of the butterflies out there, but still beautiful in its own special way. Note the darker ‘sex brands’ on the forewings and the faint orange flush.


Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina male

Double-click image for a closer look.


For further interest visit the ‘Butterflies’ page.


Small Copper


Lycaena phlaeas – One of my favourite of the small butterflies, but one I see much too infrequently here. But thankfully, according to Butterfly Conservation, its priority is low and it is not threatened here in Britain or across Europe as a whole. I came across this one in a local field settled on Oxeye Daisy.


Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas

Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas

Double-click images for a closer look.


For further interest visit the ‘Butterflies’ page.


Venturing Onto Land


Common Frog (Rana temporaria) – At 12 mm(1/2 in) long, I just about spotted this little froglet in the garden pond. How quickly it has grown. I spied its younger siblings still with their tails, feeding on algae beneath the water, but this one will now be carniverous as it ventures out onto land for the first time.


Common Frog Rana temporaria froglet

Double-click image for a closer look.


A Bold Young Blackbird


Blackbird (Turdus merula) – This beautiful young blackbird visited my pond this afternoon as I was watering the garden, and was so bold it stayed a while and allowed me to get quite close. Good job, too, because I only had my macro lens fitted. The last day of May and the last photos of May with a lovely bold young Blackbird to make you smile.


Blackbird Turdus merula

© Peter Hillman ♦ 31st May 2020 ♦ Rear garden, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200


Common Red-legged Robberfly


Dioctria rufipes – I came across several of these beastly robberflies whilst strolling down by the river. It was quite a slow flier, but as can be seen in the image, it did not stop this one from snatching a bite to eat. Once they knew I was around they did not stick around, so I count myself lucky this one was otherwise distracted which allowed me to get this shot in. Double-click on image to enlarge.


Common Red-legged Robberfly Dioctria rufipes

© Peter Hillman ♦ 25th May 2020 ♦ Local riverbank, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200


Garlic Mustard


Alliaria petiolata – You know when spring is near when you see these large green leaves start to appear on woodland margins or in hedgerows, amongst other places. It soon grows and the clusters of small white flowers soon show. If the large leaves are crushed they will give off a distinct smell of garlic. The whole plant is known for its medicinal properties, as well as for flavouring foods. Garlic Mustard is a foodplant for the Orange-tip butterfly. The caterpillars feed on the elongate seedpods. It is also an important food source for other butterflies as well as moth larvae, and other insects.


Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata

Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata

© Peter Hillman ♦ April & May 2020 ♦ Local woodland margin, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200


You may find my Page of Life of interest, which allows easy access to all species of flora and fauna featured on this site, and might be considered a useful reference.


Wainscot Smudge


Ypsolopha scabrella – Quite an extraordinary looking little moth with distinctive raised tufts which can be seen when the moth is at rest.


Wainscot Smudge Ypsolopha scabrella


Wainscot Smudge Ypsolopha scabrella


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 20th July 2017
Place: Attracted to moth trap, rear garden, Staffordshire


 

White Campion


Silene latifolia – This is one of my favourite wild flowers, and it is always a pleasure to see on my walks. According to fossil records it was introduced to Britain during the Bronze Age. It flowers between May and October across much of Britain, except the far north and west.


White Campion Silene latifolia


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 7th July 2019
Place: Local woodland ride, Staffordshire


 

Garden Rose Tortrix


Acleris variegana – An extremely variable micro-moth species in patterning and colouration. A melanic form also occurs. Like other similar species of Tortrix, it mimics bird-droppings to evade predation. The larvae feed on the leaves of a variety of trees and shrubs, including roses, brambles, hawthorns, cherries and apples.


Garden Rose Tortrix Acleris variegana


Garden Rose Tortrix Acleris variegana


Garden Rose Tortrix Acleris variegana


Garden Rose Tortrix Acleris variegana


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 23rd, 24th & 30th September 2017
Place: Attracted to moth trap, rear garden, Staffordshire


 

Old Lady


Mormo maura – You know when this one pays a visit because it is fairly large with a wingspan of up to 65mm (2 1/2in). Not one of the brightest of moths, but it has an interesting, fine-lined pattern.


Old Lady Mormo maura


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 26th August 2017
Place: Attracted to moth trap, rear garden, Staffordshire


 

Ash-bark Knot-horn


Euzophera pinguis – Quite an unmistakable micro-moth with distinctive zig-zag markings. The larvae feed under the living bark of ash, which if becoming infested may kill the tree. This is a localised species in England.


Ash-bark Knot-horn Euzophera pinguis


Ash-bark Knot-horn Euzophera pinguis


Ash-bark Knot-horn Euzophera pinguis


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 20th July 2017
Place: Attracted to moth trap, rear garden, Staffordshire


 

Common Plume


Emmelina monodactyla – An odd-looking moth which often rests with its wings rolled tightly up. It is quite a weak flier, and will only travel a short distance before settling down again.


Common Plume Emmelina monodactyla


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 8th July 2017
Place: Attracted to moth trap, rear garden, Staffordshire


 

Iron Prominent


Notodonta dromedarius – A moth which looks like it is suffering from oxidation with its distinct red rusty markings. One of the easier of the night lepidoptera to photograph. They are fairly calm and will remain still for a long time.


Iron Prominent Notodonta dromedarius


Iron Prominent Notodonta dromedarius


Iron Prominent Notodonta dromedarius


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 20th July 2017
Place: Attracted to moth trap, rear garden, Staffordshire


 

The Drinker


Euthrix potatoria – An unusual moth. This is the female of the species. The name comes from the habit of the caterpillar which apparently has a preference for drinking drops of dew.


The Drinker Euthrix potatoria


The Drinker Euthrix potatoria


The Drinker Euthrix potatoria


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38
Date taken: 26th June 2011
Place: Attracted to moth trap, rear garden, Staffordshire


 

Maiden’s Blush


Cyclophora punctaria – A finely detailed and beautifully coloured moth from the family Geometridae.


Maiden's Blush Cyclophora punctaria


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 20th July 2017
Place: Attracted to moth trap, rear garden, Staffordshire


 

Lunar Underwing


Omphaloscelis lunosa – There is a dark ‘crescent moon’ marking on the pale underwing of this moth which gives it its name.


Lunar Underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa


Lunar Underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa


Lunar Underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa


Lunar Underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 23rd, 24th & 30th September 2017
Place: Attracted to moth trap, rear garden, Staffordshire


 

Barred Sallow


Tiliacea aurago – Although this is somewhat faded, it is quite an attractive moth with autumnal colours and a very diagnostic yellow or yellow-orange central band.


Barred Sallow Tiliacea aurago


Barred Sallow Tiliacea aurago


Barred Sallow Tiliacea aurago


Barred Sallow Tiliacea aurago


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 15th October 2017
Place: Attracted to moth trap, rear garden, Staffordshire


 

Scarlet Tiger


Callimorpha dominula – This is a wonderfully bright coloured day-flying moth.


Scarlet Tiger Callimorpha dominula


Scarlet Tiger Callimorpha dominula


Scarlet Tiger Callimorpha dominula


Scarlet Tiger Callimorpha dominula


I found the larva to the adult above feeding on Common Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) on a walk along a local woodland margin back in the spring of 2012.

Scarlet Tiger Callimorpha dominula caterpillar


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200 (2019) Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 (2012)
Date taken: 29th June 2019 (adult) 16th May 2012 (caterpillar)
Place: Attracted to moth trap, rear garden, Staffordshire (adult), local woodland margin, Staffordshire (caterpillar)


 

Heather Knot-horn


Pempelia palumbella – This is another rarity for my county, and only a few have been noted by the Staffordshire Ecological Record, most of these before 1995, the first in 1877. I really like the colours and patterns on this moth. It kind of reminds me of Inca art and design.


Heather Knot-horn Pempelia palumbella


Heather Knot-horn Pempelia palumbella


Heather Knot-horn Pempelia palumbella


Heather Knot-horn Pempelia palumbella


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 8th July 2017
Place: Attracted to moth trap, rear garden, Staffordshire


 

Small Emerald


Hemistola chrysoprasaria – This is rarely seen in my county, and there has only been but a handful of ecologically recorded sightings since the first one in 1967, this one being one of them. A beautiful green moth with distinctive pale crosslines.


Small Emerald Hemistola chrysoprasaria


Small Emerald Hemistola chrysoprasaria


Small Emerald Hemistola chrysoprasaria


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 8th July 2017
Place: Attracted to moth trap, rear garden, Staffordshire


 

Honeysuckle Moth


Ypsolopha dentella – If you grow honeysuckle in your garden the chances are you may have some of these. This is a chestnut-brown and cream to whitish patterned micro-moth with distinctive upturned wingtips. It has a forewing length of around 11mm ( almost half an inch).


Honeysuckle Moth Ypsolopha dentella


Honeysuckle Moth Ypsolopha dentella


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 20th July 2017
Place: Rear garden, Staffordshire


 

Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner


Cameraria ohridella – One can easily overlook this tiny micro-moth as it is only has a forewing length of up to 5mm (1/4in) long. The forewings have an attractive ginger ground colour with distinctive white cross-bands and dark-brown cross-lines. It was first recorded in the south of Britain in 2002 and has rapidly spread north and west across England and Wales where it is common.


Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner Cameraria ohridella


Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner Cameraria ohridella


Copyright: Peter Hillman
Camera used: Nikon D7200
Date taken: 20th July 2017
Place: Rear garden, Staffordshire