Radford’s Flame Shoulder …

After yesterday’s success, with Palpita vitrealis, Gem and Dark Chestnut, I was looking forward to opening the trap this morning. A light drizzle of overnight rain looked promising too – so often the moths seem to settle better when they’ve been forced to avoid some rain – and sure enough it didn’t disappoint.

I’ll come to the other immigrants in a moment, all of which I carefully potted up as I went through the trap, but the star of the show was nearly missed as it had slipped into the gap between the sides of the trap. As I started packing away I saw a moth that was instantly familiar, and yet immediately, noticeably different …

Radford’s Flame Shoulder

This is Radford’s Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura leucogaster), a rare, though increasing, immigrant from southern Europe and a moth for which I’ve been on the look out for a few years now. It is very similar to its genus cousin Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura plecta) which is a common, resident moth flying earlier in the year – the image below is from 2016:

O. plecta – Flame Shoulder

Though similar I knew straight away that today’s was the rarer Radford’s: in addition to the late flight season, more elongate and the cream leading edges to the wings extending right up over the shoulders and meeting a creamier forehead (below, first two images Radford’s; third image Flame Shoulder for comparison):

Another nice feature is the extent of the black line through the kidney mark on the forewing which extends sharply, like a dagger, through Radford’s and stops more abruptly in O. plecta:

Plucking this from the edge of the trap as I was packing away was the icing on the cake of a good morning’s catch. As well as the Radford’s I had four Oak Rustic, another scarce moth that I’m lucky to have in the garden. I caught this previously, in 2018, so it’s not new for the garden but lovely nonetheless – like a slightly stocky Common Rustic:

Also on the list of migrants in the notebook were 4 x Palpita vitrealis (Jasmine Moth), c. 13 x Udea ferrugalis (Rusty Dot Pearl), 2 x Autographa gamma (Silver Y) and a single Cydalima perspectalis (Box-tree Moth), the last of these possibly a resident.

All these are lovely moths, but perhaps not comparable visually to the next one, my first two Merveille du Jour of the year. These are stunning, both in their own right on a blank background and in their more natural camouflage on the mossy bark of a tree:

Also in the trap one or two other moths of interest. This Brimstone Moth is very common, but it’s late in the year and given how fresh it looks I suspect might be a third generation:

Brimstone Moth – 3rd generation?

I caught my first Brimstone this year on 7th April. In early May I was catching 11 in a night with large, fresh specimens; then a lull with just the odd moth before a peak of 41 on 7th August, often smaller individuals of a second generation. After that it’s regular, but down to singles from early September onwards. To get a sense of the shape of this distribution over time I’ve combined all my records for the last three years below (331 individuals recorded across 73 different dates) into a time series.

You can see today’s moth on the very right hand side of the horizontal axis – surely a separate third generation?

Finally, a few other bits and bobs, including Scarce Umber (2) and a nice Oak Nycteoline:

A fabulous night then, with a lifer, long sought after and some other spectacular moths. Good evidence that Autumn is often a good month when the nights are still and damp with wind from the south.

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Budleigh Salterton resident; keen birder; moth-er.

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