A thick slice of icing...
I was back in the steamy south of the Wilson Tract again early this week. My brother-in-law wanted to buy a few plants from my friends down there so it was a grand excuse for me to put down the paint brushes, shelve the Warbling-Finches I'm working on for the Bolivia guide and zone out a bit. The night wasn't perfect, was a bit clear and slightly chilly, but the moths were quite good. I ended up with 70-80 species, including a few I haven't sorted out yet.
I make no excuses for just showing the highlights but have tried really really hard to include a few common things, if for no other reason that they look nice! The moth above is Loxostege cereralis. It is in the Pyraustinae tribe of the Pyralidae. I kicked it out of the grass whilst chasing other day-flying moths. Just a small guy but beautifully marked with intricate black lines.I don't think I've seen this species so early in the season - usually I see them in late summer and fall. Nice, subtle pattern on this fairly common species.
Another Pyralid, and also kicked-up during the daytime along the edge of a woodland trail whilst, unsuccessfully, straining my ears listening for Cerulean Warblers. This is the attractive Diacme adipaloides, and again I usually see this one in the late summer and fall.
I attracted quite a number of geometrid moths during the hours of darkness. This is Anticlea vasiliata, the Variable Carpet. I had often wondered just why this species was called "variable" since all the ones I had seen looked pretty similar to one-another. Well, this flashy individual proved the point! I'd not seen one so ornately patterned before and was well pleased to obtain a nice series of photos.
I'm a huge fan of the prominents. But you all know this to be true from previous posts so I'll not go on about it! This crumpled-looking fellow is Clostera inclusa. All the Clostera species look similar to this. Wonderful lines and shading creating the crumpled leaf effect. Some are difficult to identify and you have to look closely at the shape of the bulge of the white pm line near the apex. This species is a little bit local and is replaced by the similar C. apicalis at some of my sites. In the UK this genus of moths are called "chocolate-tips", trust the Brits to bring chocolate into it! Good name though...
Another prominent, Gluphisia avimacula is fairly common in this early spring time slot. It usually flies just a little bit later the similar Gluphisia lintneri featured a couple of weeks ago. Likewise it is exceptionally hairy and has beautiful, though subtle, muted colors and markings. The sharply-defined buff spots on the fore wing are distinctive.
The wonderfully "bark-like" Morrisonia confusa, Confused Woodgrain. What a great moth! Just try finding one of these during the daytime - the complex pattern of fine lines and wood-like textures create great camouflage thus affording some protection from birds and the like. Whilst on one of my walks I sat and watched a Red-breasted Nuthatch go about its business for a few minutes. I observed it eek out five Gray Spring Moths from cavities in the bark of the trees it was inspecting. It was ruthless and very professional and I marveled at its ability to find the moths so easily. I played a little game with it and scanned slightly ahead of it hoping to spot a moth first - I failed!!
Some moths just don't care about camouflage - and this is one of them! The gaudy Psychomorpha epimenis or Grapevine Epimenis flies by day and can be quite common in places where grape vines - the larval host - are abundant. In Ontario it is restricted to the south but can be seen as far north as Toronto. They are easy to spot with their slow fluttery flight, visiting flowers or supping at puddles. It is, however, a tough critter to photograph. Anything that is black-and-white and so contrasting is difficult, but this one has metallic blue highlights just to compound matters. One has to bracket the exposures quite wildly. I failed to capture the essence of this one, unfortunately...
Another black-and-white day-flying beauty is Alypia octomaculata, the Eight-spotted Forester. I spotted this one sitting on the wall of one of the barns whilst we were picking out shrubs to buy. I rushed back for the net and luckily it was still there basking in the lovely sunlight. It's a beautiful and distinctive species, though it does have a few look-alike cousins. Gotta love those dayglow orange thighs - and it's not every day ones says that!
One moth that I never catch very often is this one, Crambodes talidiformis, the Verbina Moth. Is only small and has a distinctive resting posture with the wings tightly, almost rolled, closed. When fresh, like this one, the pattern of fine blackish lines is very eye-catching.
Another moth that appears thinly spread is this spotty devil, Platysenta vecors, or Dusky Groundling. I've caught it in a few places in southern Ontario but it seems nowhere common. The bold black claviform spot is a good feature but the whole mottled aspect is pretty unique. Nice moth this one.
So, I've saved the best two until last! I've long wanted to see this moth, Phoberia atomaris, the Common Oak Moth. As the name suggests the larval food plants are oaks but the moth seems very local and I had never encountered it before. It has a mostly southern distribution in Ontario and flies early in the season. I found it sitting on top of one of the traps, recognized what it was and quickly jarred it!
The best moth of the night was probably this rather modest micro, Acrolepipsis incertella. When blown-up on the computer screen it is actually rather attractive with the sharp white markings on the pleasant warm brown fore wing. It is very local in Ontario with only one other known site, on the Niagara peninsula. The larvae feed on catbrier.
So there you have it, another action-packed mothing adventure resulting in some interesting records and a few nice photos. maybe I'll find a use for some of them...