A greenhorn lepidopterist at large in suburban London

Berrylands Station is on the London Waterloo to Hampton Court line between New Malden and Surbiton, a 25 minute train journey from central London. I became aware of its potential for attracting moths in late August 2008. The station is situated on an embankment with the Hogsmill Sewage Farm directly to the north and a typical mix of suburban houses and gardens to the south. The elevated aspect of the station and the comparative lack of domestic and street lighting in the immediate area mean that it acts like a huge moth trap, there are white-painted covered waiting areas and staircases on both platforms, these are illuminated at night and most of the moths are found in these areas. What follows is my attempt as a novice lepidopterist to record and catalogue all the macro moths I encounter on my daily commute to work along with the occasional "awayday" in search of other British lepidoptera .

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Mothing Year at Berrylands: 2009

Cypress Pug (Eupithecia phoeniceata) 11:08:2009

As 2009 was the first complete year of mothing at Berrylands Station I decided to cover the site as comprehensively as I could, arriving an hour before work on most days so that I could thoroughly investigate both platforms, waiting areas, staircases and the booking hall area; I had no idea what would constitute a good year list as I had never done anything like this before, but using Colin Plant's indispensable Larger Moths of the London Area as my guide I settled on a figure of between 60 and 70 species, in the event I recorded 102 species, way beyond my original estimate, with at least two very notable moths recorded along with the more expected species. The following account lists only the first dates for all macro moths recorded at the station during 2009, for a more comprehensive list have a look at the preceding post which lists first, last and peak count dates, this systematic list is an ongoing project and will be updated as and when new moths are noted.

February 3rd will be remembered as the morning after the heaviest snowfall in London for almost 20 years and finding a moth was the last thing on my mind, luckily my first Spring Usher had parked itself on the Londonbound staircase wall where I couldn't fail to see it, also in February a Dotted Border put in an appearance on the 21st and a very smart March Mothshowed up on the 26th. The first moths of March arrived on the 2nd, two orthosias that both appeared to be Common Quakers, closer inspection however revealed one of them to be slightly smaller and paler with noticeably rounded wingtips, I thought this might be a Small Quaker so I posted a photo on Back Garden Moths where my suspicion was confirmed; that was it for March until a well-marked Double-striped Pug turned up on the 30th followed by aHebrew Character on the 31st. A steady stream of moths appeared during April starting with an Early Grey on the 2nd and two Early Thorns on the 6th, an extremely dark orthosia on the 13th was identified as a Clouded Drab, a Pale Mottled Willow turned up on the 17th, aBrimstone Moth and a Spectacle on the 21st and the last moths of the month, a Red-green Carpet and an Angle Shades both put in an appearance on the 23rd. May was an excellent month with 17 new moths recorded, all but three of them in the last two weeks; a Yellow-barred Brindle on the 4th, a Common Swift on the 5th and a Figure of Eighty on the 11th followed by a Common Wave and a Muslin Moth on the 15th, a Common Marbled Carpet and a Waved Umber on the 18th, a Pale Tussock on the 21st, a White Ermine and a Knot Grass on the 23rd and a Green Carpet on the 24th; only two species of hawkmoth were recorded during the year, Poplar Hawkmoth and Lime Hawkmoth and they both turned up on the 25th along with a Small Dusty Wave; a Burnished Brass showed up on the 26th, a Silver Y on the 28th and the last moth of the month and the best of the year so far, a pristine Toadflax Brocade on the 29th. Thirty four species were recorded in June, double the number of the previous month, Light Emerald and Cinnabar on the 1st, Small Blood-vein,Garden Carpet, Bright-line Brown-eye and Snout on the 3rd, Willow Beauty, Straw Dot and a Riband Wave of the unbanded form remutata on the 4th; then there was nothing new until a Heart and Dart on the 8th, Common Emerald and Buff Ermine on the 10th,Uncertain on the 11th, Blotched Emerald, Flame Shoulder and Treble Lines on the 12th, then another barren period of three days until a Least Carpet two Barred Straws and aTreble Brown Spot on the 16th, a Single-dotted Wave on the 17th, a Varied Coronetand a Blue-Bordered Carpet of the nominate form rubiginata on the 18th and a Light Arches on the 19th, then nothing new until the 22nd when a Dwarf Cream Wave, a Freyer's Pug, a Brown Silver-line and a Common Footman were recorded; thereafter things slowed down a little with a Common White Wave and a Herald on the 23rd, a Scalloped Oak and a Flame on the 24th, a Clay and a Smoky Wainscot on the 25th with the best moth of the month, an Olive, arriving on the 30th. After the riches of June, July was a comparatively quiet month with only 12 new moths recorded, Small Emerald and Swallow-tailed Mothshowed up on the 1st, a Dun-bar and an Old Lady (flying like a bat up the Londonbound staircase) on the 3rd, a Marbled Beauty on the 6th and a Yellow-tail on the 8th; the next week was very slow with just a Scarce Silver-lines on the 14th followed by a Large Yellow Underwing on the 17th; a very nice Black Arches showed up on the 24th along with a Dingy Footman, which, in terms of rarity should have been the moth of the month but a Chocolate-tip on the 27th got that accolade because it looked so smart, the last moth of the month was aSvensson's Copper Underwing, also on the 27th. August was another pedestrian month with only 11 species recorded, a Red Underwing on the 3rd followed by a Yellow Shell on the 4th, then nothing until the 11th when arguably the moth of the year turned up in the shape of a pristine Cypress Pug; an Orange Swift and a Shuttle-shaped Dart appeared on the 14th with a Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing and a Garden Tiger on the 17th; the most problematic moth of the year turned up on the 19th, a Common Rustic agg. not specifically identifiable without dissection and a genitalia examination, not my thing at all; aSquare-spot Rustic appeared on the 25th, a Lime-speck Pug on the 26th and the last moth of the month, a Maiden's Blush on the 28th. A Flounced Rustic on the 3rd was the first of only ten new species for September, autumn has arrived and it will be a game of diminishing returns from here until the end of the year; a Lesser Yellow Underwing, the third noctuaspecies of the year, turned up on the 8th, then nothing until the only Copper Underwing of the year on the 16th followed by a Large Ranunculus on the 17th; nearly a week passed before a Beaded Chestnut turned up on the 23rd followed by a Mallow and a Cabbage Moth on the 24th, a Brindled Green and a Blair's Shoulder-knot on the 25th with aLunar Underwing the last moth of the month on the 28th. The rest of the year was very quiet with only three new moths recorded; a Lesser Treble-bar on October 6th, a Feathered Thorn on November 9th and an aptly named Winter Moth on November 17th.

I also managed to do some mothing at other stations on the Hampton Court line, notably Earlsfield and Raynes Park, none of these had the same combination of features that makes Berrylands so good. There were one or two surprises, but I only recorded five moths that were not found at Berrylands; a white-spotted Satellite was actually on the train to work on January 19th, and although the train stopped at Berrylands the moth did not alight there so technically it was not on the station, a Pale Brindled Beauty was at Raynes Park on February 26th, this is a species I fully expected to find at Berrylands and it surely won't be too long before I do; Raynes Park also delivered a somewhat tatty Pale Pinion on April 10th; a Miller was at Earlsfield on May 26th and a pristine Small Ranunculus was there on June 26th, a moth that has started to re-colonise after becoming extinct in Britain during 1951.
Small Ranunculus next to its illustration in Townsend, Waring and Lewington, I think this shows perfectly what a brilliant guide it is.

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