Monday, 29 September 2014

Halcombe Farm, Piddinghoe - final fieldtrip of the season

Cochylis molliculana (the Ox-tongue Conch) is a relatively new species in Sussex - we saw two on the night

Last Friday night was my final field-trip of the season. My good friend Dave Harris has been carrying out daytime surveys for a few years at Halcombe Farm, which is an area of chalk grassland on the north eastern edge of Peacehaven, close to Piddinghoe. The farm is less active now than it was in the past, but it is clearly an historical area and the 17th-century farmhouse, one of several historic buildings in the area, is testament to this.

Valley Road, which runs eastwards from north Peacehaven until it meets the C7 Lewes to Newhaven road, traces the line of one of the many dry valleys which cut through the Sussex chalk downs. The alluvial silts which line these valleys provide a narrow ribbon of lower pH habitat for some species which are not otherwise present on the chalk. The Common Heath (Ematurga atomaria) moth is a good example. When Dave approached me with an opportunity to run some light traps on the private land there, I was really happy to accept his offer.

Three of us - Dave, my mate Jim McHugh and I - arrived at 7pm and we received a friendly welcome from the landowner Colin Appleton and his son Paul. We selected an elevated spot on the northern bank of the dry valley and carried the gear up to a convenient plateau (it is best to avoid valley bottoms in September because the cold air collects and stills the moths). The equipment we used was a 125W mercury vapour light and twin 30W actinic light, both set on Robinson traps.

We ran the traps from 7.45pm until half past midnight. Tawny and Barn owls made their presence known and, as the sky cleared, the expected fog rolled in. We ate chocolate, enjoyed good conversation, stood with the bright light to our backs and made glorious Brocken Spectres against the sky. We also saw some good moth species.

There were more moths than expected - double the number that we saw the previous week just to the south at the Valley Ponds in Newhaven. Thirty nine species and 122 moths made up the list as follows:

Barred Sallow (Xanthia aurago)
Diamond-back Moth (Plutella xylostella)  1
Long-horned flat-body (Carcina quercana)  4
Parsnip Moth (Depressaria heraclei)  3
Ruddy Flat-body (Agonopterix subpropinquella)  1
London Dowd (Blastobasis lacticolella)  1
Ox-tongue Conch (Cochylis molliculana)  2
Carnation Tortrix (Cacoecimorpha pronubana)  1
Privet Twist (Clepsis consimilana)  3
Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana)  3
Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla)  1
Common Marbled Carpet (Chloroclysta truncata)  1
Pretty Chalk Carpet (Melanthia procellata)  1
Lesser Treble-bar (Aplocera efformata)  1
Brimstone Moth (Opisthograptis luteolata)  9
Canary-shouldered Thorn (Ennomos alniaria)  2
Dusky Thorn (Ennomos fuscantaria)  4
Willow Beauty (Peribatodes rhomboidaria)  7
Light Emerald (Campaea margaritata)  3
Shuttle-shaped Dart (Agrotis puta)  2
Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba)  5
Lesser Yellow Underwing (Noctua comes)  3
Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (Noctua fimbriata) 1
Small Square-spot (Diarsia rubi)  1
Setaceous Hebrew Character (Xestia c-nigrum)  10
Square-spot Rustic (Xestia xanthographa)  16
Clay (Mythimna ferrago)  1
White-point (Mythimna albipuncta)  1
Common Wainscot (Mythimna pallens)  5
L-album Wainscot (Mythimna l-album)  1
Green-brindled Crescent (Allophyes oxyacanthae)  1
Brick (Agrochola circellaris)  1
Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa)  9
Barred Sallow (Xanthia aurago)  1
Marbled Green (Cryphia muralis)  1
Flounced Rustic (Luperina testacea)  1
Rosy Rustic (Hydraecia micacea)  1
Frosted Orange (Gortyna flavago)  2
Straw Dot (Rivula sericealis)  3
Snout (Hypena proboscidalis)  8

Other insects seen:
Orange Ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata)  1
Tarnished Plantbug (Lygus rugulipennis)  1
Red-legged Shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes)  1

Cacoecimorpha pronubana - the Carnation Tortrix

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