Tuesday, 21 January 2020
Mining for information
Yesterday morning saw another visit to the banks of the River Mole, between Mickleham and Westhumble. Bird-wise it was very quiet, no flocks, little singing or calling, all-in-all hard work. Even the expected Little Egrets were lethargic, all nine huddled up roosting in a farmyard tree. Thankfully the moths came to the rescue.
Armed with my copy of 'Langmaid, Palmer and Young', and thanks to a tip-off from Seth and Skev, I approached a Holm Oak in the knowledge that I should be able to find the feeding/mining signs of several species of moth. And so it proved. The top photograph shows clearly the larval mines created by the micro Ectoedemia heringella - the thin, dark meandering scribbles. There were also signs of feeding by two other species, Stigmella suberivora and Phyllonorycter messaniella. Bouyed by such success I then visited a wooded bank (within Norbury Park) that is clothed in Hart's-tongue Fern. The image below would suggest that Psychoides verhuella has been feeding on the fronds, although I couldn't possibly rule out Psychoides filicivora. According to my 'Smaller Moths of Surrey' the former species has been recorded in this area, but not the latter, which has only been found in the north of the county. I'm not competent enough to tell the difference. There are two websites that are excellent for checking any leaf mine against to try and discover which moth (or fly) has created them. Here are the links:
I did find one adult moth, and a species that I do not see all that often nowadays - an Early Moth (below), found resting in the A24 underpass at Burford Bridge. According to the newly published 'Atlas of Larger Moths', it has declined 47% in distribution and 90% in abundance since 1970. Long gone are the days when I used to find up to 20 of them huddled together at Banstead Station during the winter.