Saturday, July 28, 2012

Moth Week Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday - updated

Gretchen and I have been working hard -- when the weather allowed -- to get some good mothing in for Moth Week. Here are the results, Part One -- there's a lot to ID and do yet!

Observations re weather: We noticed that the humidity really affected the number of moths we got at the light/sheet setup as well as on the porch. It was terribly humid on Tuesday night and we got very few moths (under ten in a couple of hours, both at my place and at Gretchen's). We had rain on Wednesday and Friday, which meant no moths.

Observations re setup: We tried a black light as well as a super-clear white light, and we had mixed results. The black light was effective for some moths, but we had the bulb in a clamping utility light, uncovered, and we had several moths who merely touched the bulb and promptly died. That bulb was HOT. We then covered it with a large glass baking dish, which helped. We need to figure out a different set-up for that bulb. We ended up trying just the white light after that, and we got excellent results. We put up a white cloth (I took a tip from fellow moth-er and birder Joe Verica and bought a couple yards of white cotton, which was cheaper than a white sheet) in front of the lights and got great great photos.

Observations re camera/photography: Gretchen and I both have the same model of camera and G found that the best results were achieved when we set the camera on macro (I set mine on "object") and backed away about a foot, sometimes using the flash when lighting was dim (at the porch light). We got some great shots, some of which appear below.

Painted Lichen Moth with wings slightly open

Elegant Grass-veneer Moth Microcrambus elegans

(Left to right) Lesser Grapevine Looper (not Grapeleaf Looper -- my memory for these moth names is terrible!), Lesser Maple Spanworm, and Painted Lichen moths

Baltimore Snout Hypena baltimoralis

either a Locust or a Habilis Underwing - probably a Locust?

Here's the view of the underside of his wings -- isn't he amazing?
There's a little moth I can't ID behind him.

Dark-spotted Palthis Palthis angulatis

I believe this is a Pink-masked Pyralid Moth Aglossa disciferalis

Double-banded Grass-veneer Crambus agitatellus - I think!

Pepper-and-salt Geometer, I think. Biston betularia

Arched Hooktip Moth Drepana arctuata

Three-spotted Fillip Heterophleps triguttaria

False Crocus Geometer Xanthotype urticaria

Bilobed Looper Megalographa biloba

NOT a Packard's Wave Moth Cyclophora packardi, but a Sweetfern
Geometer Cyclophora pendulinaria

Mint-loving Pyrausta Pyrausta actionalis

Slant-lined Owlet Moth Macrochilo absorptalis

Wavy-lined Emerald Synchlora aerata
These are the moths about which I feel pretty confident on the IDs. If you have a correction, please leave it in the comments!

Tomorrow, I'll post the rest -- most of which I haven't yet identified, so I'll need some help on those. Moth ID is so much harder than bird ID, although I'm sure I felt the same level of difficulty when I was first beginning to bird as I do now, beginning to moth. I really like it, though, especially because the birding is a little slow right now. Fall migration is in the earliest stages now, with the first few sandpipers and shorebirds starting to come through. I've been super busy, finishing up at my current job and getting ready for our big move to Maine! (See the sidebar for the update on that)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rest in peace, my son-moon-and-stars

Sad news today: Niblet, my little son-moon-and-stars, has passed away. It was quick and seemed painless. Gretchen and I took him to the doctor to be cremated, and I will get his ashes back next week.

To everyone who loved him, he loved you right back and then some. Special Nib-kisses go out to all of you.

He will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Gearing up for Moth Week - UPDATED ALREADY! AGAIN!

AB and I got to house-sit at a place just outside of town, one where I first saw some great moths a few years ago and posted the results here. This year, the place didn't disappoint, and Gretchen was there to share in the goodies.

First, here are the pics with sometimes specific but often times general identifications of varying confidence levels:

This beautifully marked individual is some kind of ... um ... yeah, I have no idea. It's probably a common moth. Help? Some kind of cutworm or dart moth? The shape is right; I think the coloring and white glowy parts are simply enhanced by the flash. UPDATE: Thanks to the always reliable John Beetham of DC Birding Blog, I now know the first moth is The Wedgling (Galgula partita). I have noticed that some moths have cool common names like "The Wedgling" or "Once-married Underwing." Crazy, no?

Not a good sign that I blanked on the first one. Here's a better one:

I like the little fur coat this moth appears to be wearing, though the photo isn't so great. That fur coat and furry legs, along with the general shape, indicates that this moth is perhaps a Prominent moth belonging to the Notodontidae, but it might also be a Tussock moth (Lymantriinae). This moth ID business is tricky! So much for that one being better. One more try:

Ah, an easy ID:
I've seen this fellow before, a Banded Tussock Moth, or Halysidota tessellaris. Here's another photo:
I didn't really capture the green on his back, but it's there. This individual is either pale or just kind worn. Like birds and butterflies, moths get worn and their colors fade and wings fray. That's life in the air, I guess.

The next three photos are of the same strikingly white moth:
I would say that this is/might be a Geometridae of some sort, but I can't find a good match there. Perhaps a White Spring Moth Lomographa vestaliata?

Oy vey.
This little Crambid snout moth (family Crambidae) has lovely faint markings that are pretty invisible in this awful photo. At this point in the night, I'd seen about a zigillion of these little guys, all slightly different from one another, but all long and skinny and snouty. I was getting tired, and the mosquitoes were getting fat on my blood.

Generic brown/gray guy here is perhaps a... uh... yeah, I have no clue. I mean, these guys just all look alike.

Look at the cool patterning on this guy:

Sorry for the crap photo; every time I tried to focus on him, he would scoot along, walking really fast. Then he'd stop, I'd get the camera up to him and zoom! He's tiny, maybe a half-inch long. There are soooooooo many little moths out there, less than an inch long. My ID book (which is very scientific-y and, in my opinion, hard to use -- I think because birding fieldguides are so easy to use), Covell's Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (Virginia Museum of Natural History Special Publican Number 12) calls them "micros." This one was micro. UPDATE! Thanks to this wonderful site, I was able to ID this moth as a Cream-bordered Dichomeris (Dichomeris flavocostella).

This green beauty

is a Pandora Sphinx Moth, or Eumorpha pandoris. This is a definite on the ID!

This one held his wings up like this, like a butterfly, while I photographed him; he then took off, never to be seen again.
No clue what he is. He was small, maybe a half-inch.

This shapely individual appears to have laid eggs ??? on the surface next to him (her?):

Are those in fact little moth eggs? I believe this is a Prominent moth of some sort, based on the shape.

It was difficult to capture this moth's coloring, which was a slightly blue tinge, because he was up so high:
but you can see some of it on the trailing edges of his wings.

Now THIS guy is crazy:
I think this is a Grape Plume Moth (Geina periscelidactylus).

This slightly orange moth
is a Pale Enargia Enargia decolor (I think). Then again, it could be something else. Look at the subtle patterning on his wings. And again, he has a little wooly jacket.

Speaking of wooly jackets, look at this Snow Queen:
It's not really called a Snow Queen; I think it's a Virginia Tiger Moth? I didn't see her abdomen to see if it was striped like the Virginia Tiger Moth's is, and it doesn't have the tiny black spots that this one does. It's got to be some kind of tiger moth, no? John chips in and says it could be a Pink-legged Tiger Moth. I didn't see the legs, sad to say.

I like the way this moth has his antennae slicked back:
But I have no clue what it is. John, of course, does: Celery Leaftier, or Udea rubigalis. Natch. Does he eat celery?

Okay, by now, I'm bleary-eyed with the gray/brown/white-patterned moths....
John says a pyralid. I agree.

This little shimmery guy

has so many field marks: the little snout nose, the faint barring on the wings, the little glowing white specks on the trailing edges, and are those second-from-the-front legs GIGANTIC or what?John says some kind of pyralid, which helps narrow it down. Will need to look at more photos on the ID sights.

The four brown spots and the little dotted striping on this individual look like those of a Lesser Maple Spanworm Moth, or Speranza pustularia:
I googled "white moths," and this one stood out for the four brown spots and the faint striping on the forewings.

Now this guy, I've drawn a blank on. You would think that it'd be easy with those crazy-long antennae. Perhaps another crambid. Or not. Ah, John says this is a caddisfly! Not a moth at all! What, you ask, IS a caddisfly? Read about them here! Apparently, anglers know all about them.

I appreciate this gentleman's (or woman's) efforts to show me every bit of his/her delicate beauty:

but it helped me not in the identification. He's just so generically gray!

This little black fellow IS a moth, isn't he?
And my mothing group said this is also a caddisfly!

A rather worn Geometrid species:

Another little snout-nosed moth:
Man, that's a lot of moths! And that was just from the first night!

Gretchen found a neat moth group in facebook, called mothing and moth-watching. I've already gotten help on an ID there within a few minutes! I suppose it would be rude to post every moth I've got in my bag, though....

More moths to come!