Wildlife monitoring in 2016 – report by Martin Angel, Vice-Chairman of BCG

The photos are: 1. Diamond backed moth Putella xylostella 2. Vestal Rhodometra sacararia caught in the garden in September 3. Oecophorid micromoth Alabonia geoffrella caught in the garden at the end of May

It has been a busy year for monitoring. I have run the moth trap on 70 nights in the garden catching 4390 moths belonging to 368 species. Several were new records for the area; I was particularly pleased to catch my first vestal, which is a regular migrant species to Britain. Perhaps the most beautiful new species was Alabonia geoffrella – it has no common name. I first caught it by day in the old Churchyard, but a week later it later turned up in the garden. I have now recorded 694 species of moth in and around The Bourne. I trapped on 33 other nights, several associated with events. Along footpath 73, using the generator I trapped on three nights as a prelude to the Planning enquiry about the proposal to build a mini-estate on the Compton Fields – and in so doing nearly doubled the number of moth species we have recorded there to 255. I also ran a trapping session in a garden along Frensham Vale to supply evidence that was used to contest another unacceptable planning application. I ran three sessions in the Middle Bourne Lane Garden as preludes to the Farnham-in-Bloom judgement days. In June we ran a mini-bioblitz in the Old Churchyard that was timed to coincide with National Moth Night. We recorded 53 moths that night and then the following day we notched up 23 species of vertebrate (mostly birds identified by Paddy Lewin) and 45 other invertebrate species. Isobel Girvan – the botanist with SWT – once again took the time to help us identify the plants, identifying 112 species. Considering the Spring had persistently been cold, the results were not too bad. However, there was a shortage of pollinators, like hoverflies and bumblebees, and this shortage persisted throughout the summer. Let?s hope their populations bounce back next year.

I trapped on seven nights along the footpath that climbs up through Sablewood to Bourne Woods to help Bruce Callender, recording 224 species. The woodland there hosts a rather different moth fauna to that occurring in our garden, so although It is an awful sweat lugging the generator up the hill, the effort pays off.

The year’s most dramatic moth event occurred at the end of May when one of the largest immigrations of diamond-backed moths (Plutella xylostella) ever recorded took place. This little moth, a mere 7mm long, invaded the UK in vast numbers; from where? No one is very certain. The highest number I caught in a single night was 127 but other trappers in Surrey were reporting catches of many hundreds to over 1000 in a single night. The moth does breed in this country, and can be quite a serious agricultural pest because its larvae feed on Brassicas, causing considerable damage to crops of cabbages and sprouts. So was the sparsity of pollinators this year a consequence of agricultural spraying if crops in response to this unwelcome invasion from Europe?