Au­tumn is a good time for in­sects, re­veals James Lowen

In au­tumn, James Lowen reck­ons, the last of the sum­mer wine is spiced with mi­grant in­sects

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents -

MOTH HAR­VEST MOON

A dis­turb­ing num­ber of moths in the fam­ily Noc­tu­idae are looka­likes. Such sim­i­lar­ity of ap­pear­ance can de­mor­alise the be­gin­ner. The Lu­nar Un­der­wing, a com­mon au­tumn catch in moth traps, is more benev­o­lent, as its ob­vi­ously pale lon­gi­tu­di­nal veins soon be­tray its iden­tity. To ap­pre­ci­ate this moth’s com­mon name, gently prise open the wings to re­veal the hind­wing, which ex­hibits an ob­vi­ous and di­ag­nos­tic dark ‘cres­cent moon’.

GRASSHOPPERS AND CRICKETS GREEN GI­ANT

Wan­der through rank grass­land or be­side reeds, south of a line from South Wales to the Wash, and you might bump into a Great Green Bush-cricket. This is such a hefty beast – the UK’S largest cricket or grasshop­per – that it can star­tle even the ex­pec­tant. This in­sect is pre­cisely what it says on the tin: huge and in­tensely ver­dant. Late af­ter­noon is the best time to find one, for this is when the male starts up his im­pres­sively far-car­ry­ing rat­tling ‘song’.

SEC­OND BROOD

SUM­MER’S SEC­OND BATCH OF SMALL HEATH IS STILL ON THE WING IN UK GRASSLANDS, BOBBING IN ITS CHAR­AC­TER­IS­TIC LOW, ER­RATIC FLIGHT

DRAGONFLY SOUTH­ERN MI­GRANT?

Au­tumn of­ten sees a flurry of Red-veined Darters, but were these at­trac­tive drag­on­flies born lo­cally or are they re­cent ar­rivals from the con­ti­nent? Sum­mer in­com­ers some­times breed, with the re­sult­ing young­sters dis­pers­ing widely – prob­a­bly head­ing south. Although this year hasn’t yet wit­nessed an in­flux of the mag­ni­tude of 2017 (when 36 counties gen­er­ated 90 sight­ings in early sum­mer alone), it is still worth check­ing warm, still wa­ters with bare or muddy mar­gins for this fine crea­ture; the sky-blue un­der­side to the eyes is dis­tinc­tive.

BUT­TER­FLY REFUELLING

Among my favourite au­tumn ex­pe­ri­ences is what I call Red Ad­mi­ral Day. This is when you visit the coast to find bushes teem­ing with these fiery but­ter­flies while yet more still power past you with­out halt­ing. The feed­ers are stock­ing up on nu­tri­tion prior to join­ing those that are al­ready air­borne. All beat a line south­wards to Europe, where they will over­win­ter.

FUN­GUS INK OR WIG?

Most fungi are known solely by a sci­en­tific name, which many find as off-putting as their iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is dif­fi­cult. Some, how­ever, are blessed with not one but two com­mon names. One such is the Lawyer’s Wig or Shaggy Inkcap. Both monikers are a nod to its dis­tinc­tive ap­pear­ance. What­ever you choose to call it, this is a com­mon au­tumn sight on unim­proved grass­land and lawns.

MOTH FLAMING FLUTTERER

Stroll through open wood­land or along scrubby hedgerows in au­tumn, and your eyes may chance upon a burnt-or­ange ‘leaf’ drift­ing weakly through the air. Fol­low it un­til it lands, when it trans­forms into a rather at­trac­tive moth. With im­pres­sively feath­ered an­ten­nae and white head­lights on the forewings, this is a male Vapourer Moth – a pleas­ingly com­mon sight by day. Don’t an­tic­i­pate see­ing the fe­male, how­ever: be­ing flight­less, she is al­most im­pos­si­ble to en­counter.

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