Thursday, July 19, 2012

Perfect ending to a dismal day! 18.7.2012.

The day was wretched, almost from end to end. Rain, mist, persistent dampness even in clearer periods! All in all, a rank and dismal day! But never give up hope when it comes to natural history as there's always something around the corner that provides an uplift!

Today that event came in the form of a wholly unexpected  E-mail from Anne Reid of Dundee Naturalists reporting the finding of a couple of Forester moths on Islay! This species provokes a deal of interest as nowhere is it common nowadays, but, if you're lucky enough to encounter it, its spectacular colour shining in the sunlight is really something to behold.  A look at the recently published "Provisional Atlas of the UK's Larger Moths" ( Butterfly Conservation )  shows the map relating to the Forester (  Adscita statices  ) on Page 10  showing that it's widely distributed in England and Wales, but with far too many records relating to the pre-2000 period. Sadly agricultural intensification has meant that many colonies have been lost. In Scotland its distribution creeps in to the eastern part of the Solway and it is shown as being present in Argyll.

Now this is where things get interesting!!  Given its isolated presence this far north, and references to its occurrence on Jura, I've attempted to trace records within what is my Butterfly Conservation representative's " baliwick" of Islay, Jura and Colonsay.  Hard work for no return at the beginning, but then things began to change. A couple of records arose, with photographs, from Jura, but whose specific locations couldn't be determined. At least these indicated all was not lost.  Cold searching of areas on Jura have, so far, produced nothing, but I'm convinced they will.

More surprisingly then came a report from Islay in 2011, and another one in the same year not too far away from the same location. Now if you look at the above mentioned Atlas you'll notice no records have ever been reported from Islay itself so this was good news indeed. Further sessions of treading the sod on Jura have again not produced a thing this season ( it's only a matter of time and Jura is a big wilderness!! ). And then, the surprise E-mail!!

Anne Reid's sister, Janet , and her husband, Roger, had been on holiday to Islay and come across a couple of Forester moths, but not only that, they'd gained good photographs too, which they've kindly allowed me to reproduce. And would you believe it, their surname is Forster!!



Now amidst all this good news there is a further irony. All the Islay records so far have come from the Rinns on the western side of the island. Now guess where I live and which areas I repeatedly pass by when setting out to Jura, enjoying routine birdwatching, going for shopping and so on? Yes, you have it !!  But let's not labour the point, but take heart that,  at the appropriate time, there was a presence available to ensure the record wasn't lost!! I now have the specific locations and can commence to cold search in ever increasing circles to try and locate any other colonies. But, on this occasion , many thanks to Anne, Janet and Roger for your help. And should anybody reading this have hitherto undisclosed records lurking in notebooks, photographic files or whatever , please get in touch (jsa@ornquest.plus.com ) .  The search goes on and will do so for some time yet!!