Category: Fauna

Dusky sallow

12 Jul 2024
I did a moth trapping overnight – the first time for quite a while since it has just been too wet and windy. It was quite a good catch but one surprising (alarming) feature was the appearance of five dusky sallows, usually thought of as an 'autumn' moth.


10 Jul 2024
25 curlews on the mown Oxley Dairy field – start of autumn passage?

Nature Note: Survival Scales

July is usually a quiet time for birds but it’s often the best month of the year to see butterflies, emerging to drink in nectar from the summer flowers.  This year, however, we’ve had such disturbed weather with these heavy rains and squally winds that many things have been knocked out of kilter.   Knocked out of the sky, too, in the case of butterflies, many of which are just venturing out for the first time in all their fragile beauty.  Imagine how vulnerable they are if caught in a downpour, with huge raindrops exploding on and around them like shells.  In fact, they dive for cover in a shower, just as we do.  They usually hide under nature’s own umbrellas, clinging to the underside of leaves and using the clever waterproofing on their scales, like the overlapping tiles on a roof, to shed stray droplets from those delicate wings. 

These scales are one of the distinguishing features of the larger grouping of both moths and butterflies called Lepidoptera, literally ‘winged with scales’.  The thousands of scales on a butterfly’s wing are a wonderful piece of micro-engineering.  They act as tiny reflectors, which bounce the light off to create those shining colours, and they are also subtly ridged to serve as gutters, funnelling moisture away to keep the insect dry.  

Photo: Jenny Desoutter

Butterflies have other ingenious survival tricks, too, and they need them.  Suffolk has suffered terrible losses in its butterfly populations over the last century.  The famous Suffolk entomologist, Claude Morley, writing in the 1920s, lamented even then that all we would soon see were ‘the plebs of the highways and hedges’, by which he meant the commoner kinds of whites, browns and blues. Since then many of these have gone from the county too, but one ‘pleb’ which is still just about surviving on Suffolk heathlands is Plebejus argus (‘small pleb with many eyes’), the silver-studded blue.  This species has evolved a very clever alliance with ants. By day, the young caterpillars are shepherded to ant’s nests for protection from predators like birds, emerging at night to feed on the heathers.  In return, the ants feast on the sugary secretions suppplied from glands on the caterpillars’ bodies.  ‘Win-win’ – a happy symbiosis.

Silver-studded blue. Photo: Jeremy Mynott.

The silver-studded blue is so named from the brilliant pinheads of iridescent scales on the underside of its wings.  I went to watch some of these little beauties recently on Hollesley Heath, fluttering about in a sunny spell.  The spectacle lasted just an hour.  The clouds closed in and the rains came again. But as the great Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore noted, ‘The butterfly counts not in months but moments, and has time enough’. 

Jeremy Mynott
8 July 2024

Mullein moth

20 Jun 2024
Juliet Johnson sent me this photo of a beautifully coloured caterpillar. It's so fat and bright that it must be in its final instar (stage) before pupating. It's the larva of a mullein moth – not surprising we have those here if you look at all the flowering verbascum on the commons, but this oe was feeding on figwort. Nice find.

barn owl

12 Jun 2024
A barn owl over Shingle Marshes this evening at 9pm. Very welcome since they have been rarer than usual this year.

Cream-spot Tigers

27 May 2024
Put out my moth trap before the rains came and was amazed to get a dozen Cream-Spot Tigers, a lovely moth but one I usually get in singles. They must all have just emerged. Later we will be getting Garden Tigers too, even more colourful if that' s possible.


23 May 2024
We are doing well with the resident stonechats this year. I think we may have three paris. Theeasiest to see are those by the tennis courts, often sitting uo nicely on a tall stem. The name? Their call is just like someone clicking two stones together.

Light-brown apple moth

24 May 2024
A late evening stroll reveals lots of tiny moths fluttering in the grasslands. They are usually known by experts by their scientific name Epiphyas postvittana but it's easier to remember the vernacular 'light-brown apple moth'. Only about a quarter of an inch long they are regarded as something of a pest by fruit growers but their gentle flutterings have a certain charm and mark the transition from day to night.

Short-eared owls

16 May 2024
These charismatic owls are winter migrants here from Scandinavia, usually arriving in October and leaving by March, but this yera two or three of them hung on into May, arousing much speculation whether they might even stay to nest somewhere like Orford Ness. The bird photographers seem never to be sated in getting better or closer images, but please don't enter private land.


15 May 2024
Silver-Y moths are summer immigrants here and there was a massive arrival on 15 May, over a hundred in our front garden alone and many thousands along the sea walls. Easyy to identy them by the striking 'Y' mark on the wing. Next day they had all dispersed.