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current posts

 
Thu 15th June 2006 10:27 by Mark Yeates
Chairman's Blog

Migrants and Highlights

With all this migrant activity at the moment, I do wonder which of our assumed resident species are unknowingly migrants too - or supplemented by migrants.  Whilst we all know that those Striped Hawk-moths about at the moment must be migrants, what's to say that examples of other species in our traps are not migrants too?

I have often thought that the Pine Hawk-moth is a case in point.  We have a scattering of odd and isolated records over the county - a pattern that is symptomatic of many well-known migrant species.  I guess that most species with a similar occurrence are likely to be migrant or perhaps highly dispersive species with a source some way off.  Yet this species is generally considered a fairly true resident.

At coastal locations where the local fauna is pretty well known, it is a lot easier to spot odd species and put these down as migrants.  For example, the Green Oak Tortrix Tortrix viridana turned up in my trap on Saturday last and also, it seems, in a few other locations down here - including Portland.  It continues to appear in small numbers over a wide area.  The 'status' of this moth isn't clearly defined anywhere that I know of.  Are all or some of these migrants? 

I suppose the only answer is to find evidence of breeding (i.e. early states) in the wild to confirm residency.  And again, to confirm this in subsequent years.  However, some species, like the Vestal Rhodometra sacraria and Gem Orthonama obstipata have native broods here most years that are from migrant adults but neither species seems able to survive the winter here.

I have been thinking too about how news of captures is best presented here.  It seems that the two extremes of 'just highlights' and 'list everything' have equal support.  Opposing arguments are that a full list can be tedious (particularly as they are getting longer with the season) and highlights can be too subjective.

When choosing species to highlight it is often difficult to decide what are of particular interest.  Migrants are an obvious choice for a mention as many enthusiasts have a particular interest in these and a period migrant activity often brings some exciting and 'once in a lifetime' records.  Yet, others aren't interested in migrants at all and focus on the scarcer resident species.  Also, beginners find everything interesting and new and have yet to find their particular aspect of the Lepidoptera to enthuse over.

Perhaps a good balance would be to have an introductory highlight list/message (with reasoning) and then a full list to follow (which can be skipped or scanned).

For me though, I'd like to get more of our recorders contributing in whatever form - particularly with photos, which add enormously to the impact of this sort of news.

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