Glasgow & SW Scotland Butterflies

Glasgow & SW Scotland Branch Website

April 23, 2011

The Return of the Comma

Filed under: Butterflies — Andrew Masterman @ 8:36 am

Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation is asking the public to help track the expansion of the Comma butterfly in Scotland.

The Comma butterfly is making a comeback in Scotland. The distinctive orange and brown butterfly has ragged wing edges and a white comma-shaped marking on its underwings, making it easy to identify.

Comma on Buddliea in Motherwell in 2008  Credit: Louise Collins

Comma on Buddliea in Motherwell in 2008 Credit: Louise Collins

It can be found in gardens and woodlands from April through to September, as it hibernates overwinter as an adult butterfly and has two broods a year.

 Commas have been spotted as far north as Aberdeenshire to date and it seems to be spreading faster up the east coast than the west, where it is as far north as Motherwell. Last year, the discovery of Comma caterpillars feeding on elm in Bridge of Allan, confirmed that the Comma is successfully breeding in the central belt.

Sightings can be returned on special Comma postcards or online by going to
www.butterfly-conservation.org/scottishcommasurvey

Postcard for recording Comma sightings in 2011

Postcard for recording Comma sightings in 2011

Contacts
Alex Hogg, Community Participation Officer, Butterfly Conservation Scotland
ahogg@butterfly-conservation.org
Tel: 01786 447753

Paul Kirkland, Director, Butterfly Conservation Scotland,
pkirkland@butterfly-conservation.org
Tel: 01786 447753 Mobile: 07770 732825

April 13, 2011

Kentish Glory Surveys at Loch Rannoch in 2012

Filed under: Butterflies — Andrew Masterman @ 3:01 pm
LIGHT TRAPPING 2012: three nights of light trapping for Kentish Glory at Loch Rannoch have been organised for Thur 3 May, Fri 4 May and Sat 5 May with myself and two other volunteers currently attending. As there are a number of sites to check out around Loch Rannoch and some around Loch Tummel, more volunteers, preferably with light traps are required. However, volunteers without light traps can do daytime searches for adult Kentish Glory and egg batches and searches for Netted Mountain Moth and Small Dark Yellow Underwing are alternative daytime activities. If you would like to get involved, please email andrewmasterman@hotmail.com
 
Kentish Glory is classified as Nationally Scarce A being only found in Scotland in the Rannoch area, south Aberdeenshire, on Speyside and on the Morayshire coast.
Distribution of Kentish Glory in Scotland.
Distribution of Kentish Glory in Scotland.
 
Kentish Glory is a  large and spectacular  moth with a very attractive combination of white and chocolate brown markings and the sexes show marked sexual dimorphism with females being much larger than the males
Pair of Kentish Glory.  Credit John Knowler
Pair of Kentish Glory. Credit John Knowler
The larval foodplant of Kentish Glory is Silver Birch although Downy Birch and Alder are sometimes used (Waring et al., 2003). Alder feeding larvae in Britain have been found in the Rannoch area and in Glen Tanar on Deeside (Heath and Emmett, 1983a) although, on the continent, Alder is one of a list of species Kentish Glory larvae may feed on (Pelham-Clinton, 1982; Shaw, 1989). In 1982, Pelham-Clinton stated, “it would be interesting to know whether the Kentish Glory ever fed on Birch at Rannoch” which suggests he was unaware of the 1966 Kentish Glory record by the late Michael Majerus at North Rannoch which is an area of Birch scrub.  Shaw (1989) later reported that he beat two Kentish Glory larvae from Silver Birch about 1 km north-west of Tummel Bridge in July 1988 and some other more recent records are also from areas of birch scrub. So there is now firm evidence that Kentish Glory in the Rannoch area does use Silver Birch and there have been no records of Alder-feeding larvae since 1939 (Pelham-Clinton, 1982). But surveyors who look for Kentish Glory in the Rannoch area should be aware that Alder may be used as a larval foodplant.
The habitat of Kentish Glory is lightly wooded moorland where the birch scrub is no more than 1 - 3m tall as shown in the photograph below:
Kentish Glory habitat at Drumcroy Hill
Kentish Glory habitat at Drumcroy Hill
Butterfly Conservation commissioned survey work in 2010 on rare moths in the Rannoch area  as part of the Moths Count project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and many other partner organisations. The results for Kentish Glory are discussed below.
Three historical sites, Killiekrankie, Tummel Bridge and North Rannoch were visited during the daytime on three occasions (North Rannoch only once) when adults were searched for and also egg batches which are quite conspicuous. Unfortunately, neither adults nor eggs were found at any of these three historical sites.
Kentish Glory eggs on birch.  Credit:  John Knowler
Kentish Glory eggs on birch. Credit: John Knowler
 
However, on Drumcroy hill a few km west of the Tummel Bridge site and about 1 km away from one of the 1939 larval records from Alder, six large brown moths were seen in flight in the vicinity of NN724618 in which there was a lot of birch scrub 1-3m high. As none were seen at rest, they can only be designated as probable sightings but two were seen fairly close-up and the characteristic prominent white cross-lines were seen. But both Fox Moth and Emperor moth are large brown moths which fly during May in the same habitat as Kentish Glory so caution is appropriate when the moths are only seen in flight.
The map below shows Drumcroy Hill and the probable sightings of Kentish Glory in 2010 together with a shaded area which denotes a large area with patches of birch scrub 1-3 m high. Permission to use light traps has been granted by the landowner so light trapping here is planned during early May 2011. As this is a large area to cover, any volunteers who would like bring along their light traps to help out would be greatly appreciated.
Kentish Glory at Drumcroy Hill
Kentish Glory at Drumcroy Hill
 
There are also three large areas with suitable habitat around Loch Rannoch which also need to be searched for Kentish Glory but permission for light trapping has only been granted for one of these, the Finnart area at the SW corner of Loch Rannoch. These three other areas are shown on the map below and daytime searches for adults and eggs could be done.
Kentish Glory habitat around Loch Rannoch
Kentish Glory habitat around Loch Rannoch
It is quite possible that Kentish Glory is present in quite a number of 1 km squares around Lochs Rannoch and  Tummel but records are few and far between. As a consequence, there have been concerns that Kentish Glory may be in decline in the Rannoch area but these concerns are probably unfounded.
The flight period of Kentish Glory is late April to mid-May. Kentish Glory is not an easy species to record and the Rannoch area is rather remote so under-recording is the most likely cause of the lack of records. It is very encouraging that some old serendipitous records of Kentish Glory being  found resting on building walls, presumably having been attracted by light overnight, have surfaced in 2011 for new 1 km squares: Killiekrankie NN915600 from 1987; Tummel Bridge NN810598 in 1996 & NN770589 in 2000.  This strongly suggests that Kentish Glory is alive and well in the Rannoch area and is possibly quite widespread. But this hypothesis needs testing via more recording in 2011, preferably using light traps as daytime searches are less efficient. If you would like to get involved in recording Kentish Glory in the Rannoch area in late April/early May 2011, please email andrewmasterman@hotmail.com  
Accommodation options in the area include budget rooms at the MacDonald Loch Rannoch Hotel from £68 mid-week or there are some wild camping spots around Loch Rannoch or on the south side of Loch Tummel and there is the Kilvrecht Forestry Commission campsite on the south side of Loch Rannoch which has toilets but no showers/hot water for £6 per person per night - no lights in the toilets too so you need a head torch!
Current plans for trapping are Easter Sunday/Monday and the following weekend 30 Apr/ 1May.
 
 
REFERENCES
Heath, J. and Emmett, A. M. 1983a. The moths and butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland. Vol 7(2). Harley Books.
Pelham-Clinton, E. C 1982. The Kentish Glory Moth, Endromis versicolara (L.) at Rannoch. Entomologists Record and Journal of Variation, 94, 215-216.
Shaw, M. R. 1989. The Kentish Glory Moth, Endromis versicolara (L.) (Lep: Endromidae), at Rannoch. Entomologists Record and Journal of Variation, 101, 45-46.
Waring, P.,Townsend, M. and Lewington, R. 2003. Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland. British Wildlife Publishing.

March 11, 2011

Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey 2011

Filed under: Butterflies — Andrew Masterman @ 7:20 pm

“We are delighted to inform you that we have decided to continue the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey (WCBS) again in 2011.  Once again this will be a collaborative project with BTO and CEH.   We would like to thank everyone who took part last year and especially the WCBS Champions who helped promote the survey within the Branches.  

The survey had another successful year in 2010 with nearly 700 squares sampled. We hope you will continue to survey the same squares in the same way as last year. Our priority is to re-survey these squares for at least the next 2 years so that we can determine trends in the wider countryside and see whether they differ from transect trends. We also welcome new participants either to help re-survey old squares, or to survey new ones for the first time.  New surveyors will be allocated randomly selected 1-km squares in their Branch area.  The squares need to be surveyed in July and August by two visits at least ten days apart.

Anyone interested in taking part in the WCBS in Glasgow and South West Scotland in the coming season should contact Jo Davis jo.davis60@btinternet.com (the Branch Champion) for further information.”

You can read more about WCBS on the UK BMS website.

February 27, 2011

Light Trapping for Rannoch Sprawler at Loch Rannoch in 2012

Filed under: Moths — Andrew Masterman @ 1:14 pm
UPDATE 2012: Further survey work is planned for the weekend of 23-25 March 2012 to search for Rannoch Sprawler along the south-east quadrant of Loch Rannoch and to do some further survey work on the north side further away from the road and behind the MacDonald Loch Rannoch Hotel. If you would like to get involved, please email andrewmasterman@hotmail.com
 
RESULTS 2012: A total of 77 Rannoch Sprawler were obtained in 2012 during four nights trapping. The map below shows the trapping results for 2011.
In 2011, the result of the four nights light trapping at 19 different points was a total of 33 Rannoch Sprawler which were caught in seven different 1 km squares five of which were new.

In 2012, the result of four nights trapping at 29 different points was a total of 77 Rannoch Sprawler in eight different 1 km squares four of which were new.
 
These results show that Rannoch Sprawler occurs in at least 12 different 1 km squares at Loch Rannoch and sometimes occurs in large numbers. These are very positive results.
 
 
The first British specimen of Rannoch Sprawler was taken at Rannoch in the spring of 1854 and it is currently known from four different areas of Scotland: the Rannoch area; near Braemar; on Speyside; and in Glens Affric and Moriston.
Distribution of Rannoch Sprawler in Scotland
Distribution of Rannoch Sprawler in Scotland
The Rannoch Spawler is a large and impressive noctuid which occurs in two forms: a grey Speyside form and a reddy Rannoch form.
Grey Speyside form of Rannoch Sprawler on left and red Rannoch form on right. Credit John Knowler.
Grey Speyside form of Rannoch Sprawler on left and red Rannoch form on right. Credit John Knowler.
Butterfly Conservation commissioned survey work in 2010 on rare moths in the Rannoch area as part of the Moths Count project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and many other partner organisations. The results for Rannoch Sprawler are presented below.
The flight period of the Rannoch Sprawler is from March to mid-April when it can be caught using light traps or you can search for adults on the south side of the trunks of large birch trees during the day. Waring & Townsend Moths Field Guide suggests it can take as long as six hours to find one Rannoch Sprawler using this daytime search method. Daytime searches for Rannoch Sprawler on the south sides of the trunks of large birch trees were unsuccessful in 2010. While some distinguished Scottish Lepidopterists have been heard to lament the loss of traditional Lepidoptera methods such as searching the trunks of trees for moths during the daytime, there is such a thing as being a Luddite! In the case of Rannoch Sprawler, using a light trap is a much more efficient method than daytime searches of birch trunks and therefore the author is using this method in 2011 to confirm that Rannoch Sprawler is present in the areas of suitable habitat which were identified in 2010.
The habitat of the Rannoch Sprawler is mature open birch woodland with large trees. Waring & Townsend suggest that both downy and silver birch are used and that downy birch is used at Rannoch. However, the surveys in 2010 revealed that silver birch and not downy birch occurs at the sites of the historical records. The photos below show such silver birch habitat on the north side of Loch Rannoch and a close-up of the trunk of one silver birch tree which has large crevices and knobbly bits at the bottom.
Birch Woodland occupied by Rannoch Sprawler on north side of Loch Rannoch
Birch Woodland occupied by Rannoch Sprawler on north side of Loch Rannoch
Close-up of Silver birch trunk in woodland occupied by Rannoch Sprawler
Close-up of Silver birch trunk in woodland occupied by Rannoch Sprawler
The map below shows the areas around Loch Rannoch which were identified as containing suitable habitat for Rannoch Sprawler in 2010 plus the sparse historical Rannoch Sprawler records. The areas of apparently suitable habitat are large and light trapping across these areas is required in 2011 to confirm that Rannoch Sprawer is present. Click here for a Word document file containing this map which can be printed out and taken into the field.
Distribution of Rannoch Sprawler records around Loch Rannoch and areas of habitat.
Distribution of Rannoch Sprawler records around Loch Rannoch and areas of habitat.
Permission to use light traps in the shaded areas on the north side of Loch Rannoch has been obtained so there is an opportunity here to catch a very rare and spectacular moth if you have not already had the priviledge of recording this large majestic noctuid! If anyone is keen to bag the red ‘Rannoch’ form of the Rannoch Sprawler during the latter half of March when I plan to trap there over 2 or 3 nights, please email andrewmasterman@hotmail.com .
You can get a budget room for £43 a night for a mid-week stay at the Loch Rannoch Hotel , Kinloch Rannoch if you book online, or there are very scenic wild camping spots at the east end of Loch Rannoch at Kinloch Rannoch.
RESULTS Posted 1 April 2011
Trapping took place on the nights of 21, 22, 23 & 28 March 2011. Heath traps were placed at a total of 19 different points and Rannoch Spawler found at 12( 63%) of these random sites within suitable habitat. A total of 33 Rannoch Sprawler were caught in seven different 1 km squares, five of which were new 1 km squares for Rannoch Sprawler.
Eight and nine individual Rannoch Sprawler were caught in two traps on the 28 March 2011 suggesting that Rannoch Sprawler is very numerous at these sites around Loch Rannoch. However, the two squares above Kinloch Rannoch, NN6559 & NN6659 had both Silver & Downy Birch whereas the squares further west were dominated by Silver Birch. The habitat in these two squares seemed less good with fewer old Silver Birch trees and this was confirmed by the absence of Rannoch Sprawler at four trapping sites in NN6559 and at one of the trapping sites in NN6659. But overall, there is certainly large areas of suitable habitat for Rannoch Sprawler as well as large populations of the moth which is shown by the large trap totals at some sites.
Many thanks to Greg & Andy Fitchett for trapping over two nights with four Heath Traps and to Stan Campbell for attending.
Results of trapping for Rannoch Sprawler in 2011
Three Rannoch Sprawler caught in a Heath trap & placed on a Birch trunk
Three Rannoch Sprawler caught in a Heath trap & placed on a Birch trunk
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