Thursday, 24 July 2014

Interesting times

I doubt that there has ever been such an interesting time to be a naturalist in the UK. It seems as if we are living through an unprecedented era of 'loss and gain'. Land use, climate change, edge of range - they all get the blame (or take the credit) for what we observe. Let's just take my back garden moths as an example of how things have evolved. I moved to my current home in August 1987, and, almost 27 years later, am still recording in it...

This is an area that shows up the changes the clearest. When I first put a moth trap out in the garden, I would record such species as Garden Tiger, Red Underwing and Golden Plusia with some regularity. I haven't seen any of the mentioned species for at least 15 years here in Banstead. But a whole cast of moths have moved in, that, back in 1987, were but foolish dreams: Small Ranunculus (first recorded in 2004), Toadflax Brocade (2009), Tree-lichen Beauty (2011), Jersey Tiger (2012), White-point (2013). I'm still waiting for a Cypress Carpet and it can't be long as they are all around me. There are other species that, whilst not being colonists from the 'coastal fringe or beyond' have lately become far more regular in the garden - such as The Coronet, Orange Footman, Dingy Footman, Hoary Footman and Buff Footman. Rather than local conditions being more favourable for them I get the impression that these are genuine range expansions. And the list of possible additions continues - all you have to do is read the latest addition of Atropos to realise that there are plenty of species colonising the southern and south-eastern coasts of England and, once they have a firm base, might be heading north!

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