Sunday 30 June 2013

A few good moths

Yesterday, there were 9 macro moths of 7 species in the light and bait traps with 2 new moths for the year, Mottled Rustic (Caradrina morpheus) and Pale beauty (Campaea perlata).  Today there were 10 macro moths of 8 species.  One I haven’t identified but 5 were new species for the year and 1 of the 5 was a completely new species for me.  The new species was a Rubida Looper Moth (Autographa rubidus).  Thanks to Gary Anweiler for confirming the ID.  The other 4 new species for the year were:

Barred Yellow (Eulithis propulsata)
Yellow-Headed Cutworm (Apamea amputatrix)
Yellow-dusted-Cream (Cabera erythemaria)
Unicorn Caterpillar Moth (Schizura unicornis)

The Unicorn caterpillar moth is one of my favourites and the image is the result of “focus stacking” 5 photographs.  I didn’t manage photographs of all of the new species but will hopefully add some of them to a future blog.

Untitled_PanoramaA1KsigAutographa (2)AutographaUntitled_Panorama1Untitled_Panorama1KYHC

Friday 28 June 2013

A funny day for moths and Weaselhead area recovery?

I say funny because it started off quite poorly and ended up with a moth that I’ve only seen once before in 2009 and another new species for the year that, although, strictly speaking is not a backyard moth, was picked up not far from where I live. 

They day started with 5 moths of 2 species in the light trap.  4 of them being Vancouver Darts (Agrotis vancouverensis) and the other a Ruddy Quaker (Protorthodes oviduca).  Nothing new there.  The bait trap appeared to be empty.  I then decide to risk a trip to the Weaselhead area of Glenmore reservoir to see what state it was in after the floods.  It wasn’t too bad but still very muddy and not unsurprisingly, there were clouds of mosquitoes that you could cut with a knife.  Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration but they were out in numbers in certain areas.  It was reassuring to know that at least one Calliope Hummingbird was still around and that the Cliff Swallows were re-building their nests under the main bridge to the southern part of the Weaselhead area.  However, there was no sigh of the Eastern Phoebe’s that had been nesting under the smaller wooden bridge.  Sadly, I’m certain that these are not the only nesting casualties.  I did manage a few quick shots of a White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis) and a Common Alpine (Erebia epipsodea) before I gave in to the mud and mosquitoes and beat a hasty retreat.

After getting home and washing off many layers of mosquito repellent, I checked the bait trap and was pleased find a Nevada Arches (Lacanobia nevadae).  This was the moth that I’ve recorded only once before on May 31st 2009.  I thought that was pretty much it for day and had just put my camera equipment away when my wife returned with a Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) in a soap box.  I consider myself very lucky to have a wife that would not only spot a moth while walking to the local shops but would actually buy a container to capture it in and the bring it back!!  It turned out to be a very good and unexpected photographic opportunity.  So many thanks to Jenny Smile!


Thursday 27 June 2013

Moth numbers drop again

Well, after the small moth bonanza on Tuesday I’ve only had 5 moths of 3 species yesterday and 5 moths of 3 species today.  I think the wind may have contributed to the low moth numbers.  However, there was one new backyard species for the year on each day.  Yesterday, it was a Stormy Arches (Polia nimbosa) and today it was a rather beaten up Apamea commoda.  The Apamea commoda was in the bait trap so perhaps I will start to see a few species from that source now.  I haven’t included a photograph of the A. commoda as I am sure I will get this moth again and hopefully in a better condition. 


Tuesday 25 June 2013

The moths return!

Today there was certainly a dramatic increase in moth numbers as compared to any previous day this year.  There were 19 moths of 16 species in the light trap this morning.  This included 9 new species for the year and 2 possibly 3 backyard species that I haven’t seen before.  The new species for the year were:

Pepper & Salt Geometer (Biston betularia cognataria)
Dark Metanema (Metanema determinata)
Sphinx vashti (Vashti sphinx)
Common Gluphisia (Gluphisia septentrionis)
Poplar Kitten (Furcula scolopendrina)
Impressed Dagger Moth (Acronicta impressa)
Trichordestra liquida (Trichordestra liquida)
Bristly Cutworm Moth (Lacinipolia renigera)
Bridled Arches (Lacinipolia lorea)

Impressed Dagger Moth (Acronicta impressa), Sphinx vashti (Vashti sphinx) and Poplar Kitten (Furcula scolopendrina) were the yard species that I haven’t recorded before.  Actually, from what I understand Furcula scolopendrina and f. occidentalis cannot be separated with 100% confidence without dissection and both species occur in my area.  However, after studying photographs etc. I’m  tentatively calling this one Furcula scolopendrina.  Thanks again to Gary Anweiler for confirming my Impressed Dagger Moth ID.  With regards to the Sphinx vashti (Vashti sphinx), I’ve seen this Sphinx moth many times in the Twin Butte area of southern Alberta, in fact this was my first Sphinx moth but it is the first time I have had one in my yard since I started backyard moth trapping in 2007.  One other note, I always struggle with the Trichordestra species but think this is Trichordestra liquida.  I’ve included 2 micro moth photographs but they cannot be identified to the species level without dissection. Thanks to Greg Pohl for the micro information and for placing one in the Alucita genus.

Acronicta impressaDark Metanema (Metanema determinata)Trichordestra liquidaUntitled_PanoramaSVLargeIMG_3643Untitled_PanoramaStraw1000Untitled_Panorama1KUntitled_Panorama1Untitled_Panorama1KAngleIMG_3579AAS800Untitled_PanoramaBS800Untitled_Panorama1KSP

Alucita spEupithecia sp

Monday 24 June 2013

A few moths as the weather settles down

Not too much yesterday but there was one noctuid in the light trap that was a new backyard species,  Melanchra pulverulenta.  Thanks to Gary Anweiler for confirming the ID.

This morning there were 8 moths of 3 species in the light trap which included one new moth for the year,  Papestra cristifera.  There was also another Morrison's Pero.  The rest were Vancouver darts (Agrotis vancouverensis) which are currently my most common backyard moth.  Excluding flies and mosquitos, the bait trap continues to be empty…

10294 Melanchra pulverulentaIMG_3554


Saturday 22 June 2013

Weather seems to be improving?

Well, I guess that anyone who has been watching the news, as it relates to Alberta and the current flooding, will not be surprised that I haven’t had a light trap out for several days.  We have been lucky and are not directly affected by the devastating Calgary floods.  Our thoughts are with those who have been forced to evacuate their homes and here’s hoping they are all able to return soon.

I am planning to put the moth trap out tonight, although, in light of the recent weather, I am not sure what to expect…


Wednesday 19 June 2013

Weather stops play again…

Well, it stopped me from putting out a light trap last night anyway.  Yesterday, there were 11 moths of 5 species in the trap so the numbers were on the increase.  However, there were no new species for the year.  The list was as follows:

Garden Arches Lacanobia radix    x2
Papestra Quadrata Papestra quadrata x1
Ruddy Quaker Moth Protorthodes oviduca x2
Vancouver Dart Agrotis vancouverensis x5
Purple-Lined Sallow Pyrrhia exprimens x1

One thing that I’ve only just realised is that Papestra quadrata appears to be a new backyard moth. I saw at least one last year in the Waterton area but I do appear to have any records of this species for my backyard.   That takes my backyard macro moth list to 260.

No photographs so I’ve included a couple of non moth photographs taken during the last month or so.

Calliope HummingbirdCinnamon Black Bear

Monday 17 June 2013

Moth numbers improving?

Slightly better last night with 8 moths of 5 species.  There were 2 new backyard moths for the year, what I believe is a rather worn Brown Bark Carpet Moth (Horisme intestinata) and only my third record of a Wheat Head Armyworm Moth (Dargida diffusa).



Sunday 16 June 2013

3 moths of 3 species and an aquatic insect

The number of moths remains low with just 3 moths 3 species last night and no new species for the year.  However, it did include another Gallium Sphinx Moth (Hyles gallii).  I started backyard mothing towards the end of 2007 and after looking through my database I find it interesting that I hadn’t seen a Gallium Sphinx until the 11th June 2012.  Since the initial sighting I’ve recorded Gallium Sphinx on another 5 occasions.  I’m wondering if they are becoming more common as the trees and plants of the area I live in mature.  I guess this is just one of many possible explanations.  Either way they are a welcome addition to my backyard.  Not much else to report, although I did photograph an interesting aquatic insect today which I believe is a Kayak pond skater (Limnoporus dissortis).  The water has enough surface tension to support them (their legs also repel water) so they skate around on it looking for other bugs to feed on.  Quite a bizarre sight…  The shadows they were casting on the stream bottom made for a curious image.


Saturday 15 June 2013

No Moths but a few Damselflies and Butterflies

It was too wet for a light trap last night but I did spend some time in the Weaselhead area of Glenmore reservoir this morning.  It’s tricky separating Northern and Boreal Bluets but after close inspection of the cerci on the male I believe it is a Northern Bluet - Enallagma annexum.  As I understand it, it’s impossible to tell the females of these two species apart without in inspection of the mesostigmal plates so while I suspect the other damselfly is a female Northern Bluet, I’m just calling it a nobo Bluet.  With regards to the Artic butterfly I’m calling it Macoun's Arctic - Oeneis macounii.  However, Chryxus Arctic - Oeneis chryxus is quite similar and while I’m leaning towards Macoun's I will seek confirmation.



Friday 14 June 2013

The moths continue to trickle in…

Just 3 moths of 3 species last night which included a new backyard moth for the year, a  Purple-lined Sallow (pyrrhia exprimens).  I guess the numbers will continue to be low until the weather settles down.  I did find a day flying moth at Glenmore reservoir, a Black-banded Orange Moth (Epelis truncataria).  The moth was slightly damaged and the rain had just started again but the photograph is good enough for an ID and a new moth for me.  I’d like to have another chance to photograph this one.


6321  Black-banded Orange (Epelis truncataria)

Thursday 13 June 2013

Focus Stacking and a few moths

There were 5 moths of 5 species in the light trap this morning.  The 2 new moths for the year were, Rosy Dart (Diarsia rosaria) and Alfalfa Looper (Autographa californica).  I’ve been playing around with focus stacking for sometime now.  This is the process of combining multiple images with different focus points.  It’s not always easy as any movement of the moth between shots can effect the results and I’ve only ever attempted it on macro moths using a tripod and camera release.  I normally combine just 2 photographs.  One focused on the head and one on the legs.  It seems to work fairly well and give a depth of field that would otherwise be unobtainable (certainly with my macro lens).  There can be some softness on the background around the edges of the moth but the moth itself generally looks ok.  Anyway, I went a little further today and the side shot of the Alfalfa Looper below is actually the result of 5 photographs each focused on slightly different parts of the moth.  I think it looks ok, although, there was a fair bit of leaf softness around the edges of the moth, some of which I have corrected.  It’s unlikely that I’ll use this many images very often but I thought it was an interesting experiment.  Incidentally, I use Photoshop CS5 to combine the images.  The other photographs are also the result of focus stacking but with just 2 shots each this time.


Wednesday 12 June 2013

Some moths at last…

Given the recent low moth numbers, I wasn’t very optimistic when I looked in the light trap this morning but was pleasantly surprised when I found 5 macro moths of 5 species and 2 micro moths of 2 species.  I haven’t identified the micros yet but there was a nice geometrid that I haven’t seen before, an American Barred Umber Moth (Plagodis pulveraria).  There was also a White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata) but I haven’t included a photograph as it was a little damaged.  Still, it is good to know that some Sphinx moths are in the neighbourhood…  With the new moth my backyard macro moth list is now 259 species. However, to date, the 2013 backyard species list is just 32.


Monday 10 June 2013

Backyard mothing still very poor

I spent the weekend in Lethbridge but due to storm warnings on Friday night I didn’t put the light trap out.  Of course, as it turned out, the weather was fine Confused smile.  I did put the trap out on Saturday night but there were just 3 moths of 1 species.  Namely, they were all Rustic Shoulder-knots (Apamea sordens).  Back in Calgary, the light trap was completely empty last night!  The weather doesn’t look that great tonight but I should have a trap out. Here’s hoping…

As there are so few moths about I’ve added a photograph of a Black-crowned Night-Heron from the weekend.  It was taken at Pakowki Lake in southern Alberta.