63.002 Loxostege sticticalis
On Thursday 8th August 2019 I was on my usual lunchtime walk which runs along a country lane and comes to a dead end at an old basalt quarry located north of Carrickfergus in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. The lands are privately owned and I am extremely privileged to have permission from the landowner to walk there.
Within the quarry there is a naturally filled pond, which is a haven for various Damselflies & Dragonflies as well as other pond creatures including Frogs and Water Boatmen.
Because the quarry has not been worked for a number of years a wide variety of wildflowers are now in abundance including Colt’s-foot, Vetches, Plantains, Knapweed, Trefoils and Meadow Vetchling to name a few. These wildflowers not only provide nectar and pollen sources for the invertebrates but many of the plants are also important for the caterpillars of the butterfly and moth species found there.
I am a keen amateur nature photographer and I love visiting the location to photograph all the flora and fauna to be found there. Already this year I have discovered five species of moth, which I had never encountered before. Four species, Pyrausta purpuralis, Cydia nigricana, Capua vulgana and Lime Speck Pug Eupithecia centaureata were found within the quarry and a Vestal Rhodometra sacraria was seen on the lane leading up to it.
While I was in the quarry photographing Painted Lady butterflies which had arrived in their hundreds, I noticed something small fly past and land a few feet from me. Being of a curious nature, I went to investigate what it was. Luckily I was able to find it straight away and took a few photos as a record. I knew it was some type of moth but definitely not one I had ever seen before. I was very excited to find out what it was and couldn’t wait to get home after work to find out.
I posted the photos up onto Twitter asking for an ID and very quickly got a response back from UK Moth Identification saying that it was Loxostege sticticalis, a rare migrant species. As anything I see usually begins with the word ‘common’, I decided to seek further confirmation and posted the photos onto the MothsIreland Group on Facebook.
Eamonn O’Donnell replied saying that it certainly looked like one and my find was better than rare.
Turns out that this is the first ever confirmed sighting of a Loxostege sticticalis in Ireland. This is a scarce migrant to Britain from Europe but has become more frequent in recent years so perhaps we can expect more to start turning up here.
So glad I decided to follow it to where it landed and investigate what it was. You just never know what is going to turn up.