27 September 2013

Another poor mothing session

Had the actinic running for a couple of hours last night (26th), but again it was cold with clear skies and exceptionally quiet, with only:

1-2 Red Underwing Catocala nupta
1 Setaceous Hebrew Character Xestia c-nigrum
1 Light Emerald Campaea margaritata
1 Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba
1 The Snout Hypena proboscidalis
1 Small Blood-vein Scopula imitaria
4 Willow Beauty Peribatodes rhomboidaria
1 White-shouldered House-moth Endrosis sarcitrella

Also, 1 Speckled Bush-cricket Leptophyes punctatissima came in.

Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba

23 September 2013

Mothing amounting to nothing

Put the moth trap on at home yesterday evening (22nd) for a couple of hours, but hardly any moths came in at all! No doubt the fairly clear skies, almost full moon, and cool temperature had something to do with it, but still a very poor haul:

1 Light Emerald Campaea margaritata
1 Square-spot Rustic Xestia xanthographa
1 Gold Triangle Hypsopygia costalis
1 Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana

Gold Triangle Hypsopygia costalis

Square-spot Rustic Xestia xanthographa. Amazing how variable these are!

However, on on Friday (20th) I had great views of a female Brown Hairstreak Thecla betulae at Old Moat Garden Centre in Horton Lane, Epsom - an excellent birthday surprise!

22 September 2013

Three SSSIs threatened by Heathrow third runway south-west option

A little over three years since the present coalition government stated in their manifesto1 that "we will cancel the third runway at Heathrow", they are already wavering from their "joint ambitions for a low carbon and eco-friendly economy", and once again considering a third runway at Heathrow as a possible means of increasing UK hub airport capacity and economic growth.

On 17 July 2013, Heathrow submitted a proposal to the Airports Commission outlining three options for expansion (for a third and even a forth runway). Much has appeared in the press about how each of the proposed options will affect local communities, but almost nothing has been mentioned about the impact on the natural environment, and that the three proposals threaten seven Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

One of the options - a third runway and terminal built to the south-west of Heathrow, and Heathrow's preferred choice - would devastate my local patch, Staines Moor, which would completely disappear under the concrete and a new reservoir. Three SSSIs would be affected - Staines Moor SSSI (comprising Staines Moor, part of Stanwell Moor, King George VI Reservoir, Staines Reservoirs, Poyle Meadow and Shortwood Common) and Wraysbury & Hythe End Gravel Pits SSSI, would both be largely wiped out, and part of a third, Wraysbury Reservoir SSSI, would also be lost. In addition, Stanwell Moor, including Stanwell Moor Village, would vanish, and other local communities greatly affected.

Staines Moor and Stanwell Moor are both important sites for biodiversity in the lower Colne valley. The ancient alluvial meadows of Staines Moor, a very rare habitat in Greater London, are the largest in Surrey, and have changed little over the last 1,000 years. Staines Moor is one of the very few places in Britain that has not been ploughed, which has allowed 180 year old anthills of the Yellow Meadow Ant Lasius flavus, Britain's oldest, to form4.

Staines Moor also has a rich flora with over 300 plant species, including the nationally scarce Small water-pepper Polygonum minus, and Brown Galingale Cyperus fuscus (found in only two other sites in Britain), and several species uncommon in Surrey including: Brown Sedge Carex disticha, Southern Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa, Marsh Stitchwort Stellaria palustris, Strawberry Clover Trifolium fragiferum, Marsh Arrowgrass Triglochin palustris, Meadow Rue Thalictrum flavum, Upright Chickweed Moenchia erecta and Water Crowfoot Ranunculus peltatus. This plant diversity supports 22 species of butterfly and over 60 species of mollusc.

An incredible 190 bird species have been recorded at Staines Moor3. Five species on the IUCN red list breed: Northern Lapwing, Cuckoo, Skylark, Song Thrush, and Linnet3, and the Moor is an important feeding ground for a sixth red listed species, Starling, that breeds in good numbers at nearby Stanwell Moor Village. Together with Stanwell Moor, Staines Moor is the last breeding site for Redshank in the lower Colne valley, and both moors are also important for passage migrants such as Yellow Wagtail, Ring Ouzel, Whinchat and Northern Wheatear, as well as winter visitors such as Short-eared Owl, Water Pipit and various wildfowl.

Registered commoners have been grazing cattle and horses on Staines Moor since at least 1065, creating a highly diverse neutral
grassland habitat, rare in Greater London, supporting a wealth of plant and invertebrate life, as well as threatened breeding birds,
and visitors such as Yellow Wagtail - a recent addition to the IUCN red list5.

Staines Moor and Stanwell Moor are the last breeding sites in the lower Colne Valley for the amber listed Redshank

Short-eared Owls frequently overwinter on both Staines and Stanwell Moors, and Barn Owl and Little Owls are resident

King George VI and Staines Reservoirs are nationally important for wintering wildfowl, supporting over one per cent of the total British wintering populations of Tufted Duck, Pochard, Goosander and Northern Shoveler4 (the later also occurring in internationally significant numbers), and are also important feeding and resting sites for migrant waders. Wraysbury & Hythe End Gravel Pits SSSI supports important numbers of Gadwall, and in winter, Goosander, and Wraysbury Reservoir SSSI is also important for wintering wildfowl as well as Great Crested Grebe.

In addition to supporting a nationally scarce flora and fauna, Staines Moor SSSI also provides flood protection, particularly for Staines-upon-Thames, and is a valuable resource for local communities as well as for commoners for grazing cattle and horses.

Of course, Heathrow have not overlooked the three SSSIs on the land required for the south-west option. This is simply yet another case of a business selfishly lobbying for it's own interests regardless of any environmental degradation that may arise. SSSIs in England and Wales are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, but experience shows that national and local governments have simply ignored SSSI status in the past to green light developments (just look at Twyford Down SSSI in the early 1990s as an example), and I have very little confidence that the legal protection of these SSSIs alone is enough to block this proposal.

Worryingly, the coalition is now pushing to introduce Biodiversity Offsetting in the UK, a fundamentally flawed concept that simply enables developers to build over areas important for nature more easily, by offering alternative sites as compensation. In their green paper published early this month2, DEFRA state that an offset for an SSSI must provide "the same type of habitat as close as possible to the Site of Special Scientific Interest that would be harmed". In the case of Staines Moor, it is impossible to mitigate for the destruction of this irreplaceable, complex and highly biodiverse ecosystem, and it is an unsustainable and single-minded economy that continues to destroy such places.


1 The Coalition (2010) Our Programme for Government. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/78977/coalition_programme_for_government.pdf (Accessed: 17 September 2013).
2 Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (2013) Biodiversity Offsetting in England. Available at: https://consult.defra.gov.uk/biodiversity/biodiversity_offsetting (Accessed: 22 September 2013).
3 Dingain, L. (2013) The Avian History of Staines Moor. Lond. Bird Rep. 76: 222-234.
4 Natural England (1984) Staines Moor SSSI Citation. Available at: http://www.sssi.naturalengland.org.uk/citation/citation_photo/1001792.pdf (Accessed: 20 September 2013).
5 Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2009) Birds of Conservation Concern. Availabe at: http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/BoCC_tcm9-217852.pdf (Accessed: 17 September 2013).

6 September 2013

Late summer garden moth trap session

Ran the moth trap last night (5th) from 20:45 until 02:30 this morning. Conditions were less favourable than the last session, with a light W breeze, quite warm earlier on but becoming very cool late evening, mainly clear but clouding over with some light rain in the early hours. Caught nothing unusual, but some nice common moths though, including:

1 Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba
5 Lesser Yellow Underwing Noctua comes
6 Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing Noctua janthe
3 Setaceous Hebrew Character Xestia c-nigrum
1 Oak Hook-tip Watsonalla binaria
4 Brimstone Moth Opisthograptis luteolata
2 Straw Dot Rivula sericealis
1 Marbled Beauty Cryphia domestica
4 Small Dusty Wave Idaea seriata
2 Riband Wave Idaea aversata (1 typical form and 1 ab. remutata)
1 Small Blood-vein Scopula imitaria
4 Yellow Shell Camptogramma bilineata
2 Maiden's Blush Cyclophora punctaria
1+ Cypress Pug Eupithecia phoeniceata
3 Double-striped Pug Gymnoscelis rufifasciata
4 Willow Beauty Peribatodes rhomboidaria
5 Flounced Rustic Luperina testacea
6 Vine's Rustic Hoplodrina ambigua
13 Square-spot Rustic Xestia xanthographa
4 Pale Mottled Willow Paradrina clavipalpis
2 Heart & Dart Agrotis exclamationis
2 Shuttle-shaped Dart Agrotis puta

Also, 1 Probable Svensson's Copper Underwing Amphipyra berbera, and 1 Red Underwing Catocala nupta was seen but avoided the trap.

Micros included:
1 Tachystola acroxantha
2+ Mother of Pearl Pleuroptya ruralis
1 White-shouldered House-moth Endrosis sarcitrella
1 Brown House-moth Hofmannophila pseudospretella
2 Elbow-stripe Grass-veneer Agriphila geniculea
7 Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana

Setaceous Hebrew Character Xestia c-nigrum

Heart & Dart Agrotis exclamationis

Double-striped Pug Gymnoscelis rufifasciata

Small Dusty Wave Idaea seriata

Vine's Rustic Hoplodrina ambigua

Probable Svensson's Copper Underwing Amphipyra berbera

Also found in the trap: 2 Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis (1 normal and 1 melanistic form) and an Ichneumon wasp, possibly Yellow Ophion Ophion luteus.

Ichneumon wasp sp.