Tuesday, 2 May 2017

May 2nd Weeting Heath

Speckled Wood
I have returned to Weeting Heath to have one last shot in finding an emperor moth. The weather is an improvement than my previous visit last month. Though it is still cloudy with a slight breeze at least it was a little warmer than last time. The only thing is, we were still just a bit early for one to be active when we arrived this morning at about 11:30am. Apparently, according to one of the wardens, they tend to fly around between 1pm - 3pm. To kill some time, we visited the three hides.

From the West Hide, a group of birdwatchers were watching a distant patch of grass on the field very closely with their scopes. A stone-curlew was sitting there somewhere, but it was hiding so low in the grass that it was extremely difficult to spot through my binoculars. Every now and then, it would stick it's bill or it's head up, but even then, I just could not see it. I had more luck spotting the yellowhammers and other songbirds from the Woodland Hide than spotting a stone-curlew. At least they are more obliging and photogenic. Then, before lunch, we made a quick stop at the East Hide, seeing a pair of curlews.
Great Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Blue Tit

Me with an Emperor Moth
It was finally moth time. To attract them, I hung my pheromone lures up. One of the wardens also hung his lure up too nearby. This made it feel like a bit of a friendly competition between us. He has more experience with these moths than I have. I have never seen an emperor moth before and I don't even know if my lures even work or not. So it was rather nice to have someone on hand to provide as back up. We both sat and waited, watching our lures like patient fishermen hoping for a fish to bite, only this time it was a moth we were after not a fish.

Emperor Moth

Then, at 1:11pm, the first emperor flew over! It was fast flying like a large butterfly. It took a few failed attempts, but the warden managed to catch it in his net. He won this time round. He then placed it into a fridge for a few minutes so that it would be more calm for me to get some photos of it. While we waited, a second moth turned up and the warden caught that one too. He had won again!

Emperor moths are one of my major targets this year and it was a relief to finally see one at last. You can see why it is on my list. It is one of the UK's most impressive-looking moths and though it is suppose to be common and widespread, I have never managed to see one until now. They only have a short season in which they emerge during April and early May. The two we caught today are males with their bright orange lower wings. In fact only males are attracted to the pheromone lures as it imitates a female, which is larger and lacks the orange lower wings. These males fly by day sniffing out the ladies with those feathery antennae so that they can mate with them. You see, they don't feed while as an adult, they do all the feeding as a caterpillar, so they only have a few days to find a mate before their short life ends. After taking a few photos, this moth was released to continue its search.

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