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Moth Survey conducted on Balcarres Estate

Saturday 1 November 2014

Gold Swite moth

In the Spring of this year the Estate was approached by a Hamish Johnston, a resident of Colinsburgh and a keen butterfly and moth enthusiast, who wished to undertake a moth survey in various areas across the estate.  We are delighted that during the summer various unusual and rare species were found.  Hamish has written a full report which appears below:

"In April 2014 the Fife & Kinross branch of Butterfly Conservation started a 3 year project to improve knowledge of the number of different moth species in our area.

A Distribution Atlas of the UK’s larger moth species is due to be published by Butterfly Conservation in 2018.   It will provide distribution maps for all individual moth species, based on National Grid 10k squares, across the UK.

By sampling different wild and cultivated habitats in each 10k square, there is an opportunity to find additional species.   There are more day flying moths than butterflies, however, the best method to catch moths is by light-trapping overnight.   The moth trap has a 6 watt actinic light, which is suspended over a bucket and is powered by a 12 volt battery.   Moths caught are identified, photographed and then released unharmed.

Balcarres Estate is situated in National Grid square NO40, 178 different species of moths had been recorded in this area by April 2014.   With its richness and variety of habitats – (including broad leaf mature trees, pasture, field margins, hedgerows and undisturbed grassland) it seemed likely that species thus far undiscovered might be found.

In May 2014, the Estate kindly agreed to allow me to carry out moth surveys.

Initially we have been moth trapping at the pond, near the sawmill –which is a mixed habitat and includes nectar sources from the planting round the pond, plus mature native trees and shrubs including oak, beech, hornbeam, willow and bird cherry.   Each of these is a potential food plant for different moths.

We set up the moth trap 5 times June and October this year and identified 35 species in total.   Of particular interest and new to NO40 were 2 Gold Swift moths caught in the twilight on 18th June.  This moth has rarely been recorded before in Fife.   On the same night a Buff-Tip was attracted to the light trap, at rest with wings held almost vertical to the body this large moth closely resembles a broken birch twig.

On 3rd September a Svensson’s Copper Underwing was caught.  This was another excitement as it has only been found twice in Fife and is at virtually the furthest point north of its distribution.

A Bird Cherry Ermine moth was also caught on the same day, near to a Bird Cherry tree which had quite a number of larval webs in its branches.   Fortunately the moth does not have any detrimental effect to the tree.

As the moth trapping season draws to a close for the year, 3 new species have been identified for NO40 – Buff-Tip, Gold Spot and Svensson’s Copper Underwing, making 35 species identified for the Estate so far.

We aim to carry out further moth trapping in 2015, and to explore different locations and habitats.

We are very grateful to the Estate for their co-operation."

Hamish Johnston

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