26th September 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Rare butterfly sighting

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ANOTHER two-barred crossbill, a juvenile this time, appeared at Eshaness this week and was still around on the 4th. Common crossbills are still present with the largest flock of 16-18 reported from Eshaness on the 2nd. There have been several reports of pied flycatchers; there was also a male red-backed shrike at Grutness, a marsh harrier in the Dunrossness area, an adult cuckoo near Hillwell and a willow warbler on Noss. Small groups of knot and sanderling were moving through as well as a green sandpiper at Scatness and a ruff at Virkie, while a total of 13 great northern divers were observed in Quendale Bay.

Amanda Halcrow from Cun­ningsburgh had a surprise bird sighting recently when she walked past a long-eared owl – perched on the handlebars of a bicycle! Long-eared owls are usually late autumn migrants but there are occasional records of single birds during the summer. However, they are usually seen roosting in trees where their grey-brown plumage makes them difficult to see. When disturbed a long-eared owl adopts a very upright posture, often erecting the long ear tufts which give it its common name.

Not all migrants have feathers and there have been some interesting records of migrant butterflies and moths recently. A peacock butterfly was found by Gary Smith at Dunrossness on the 3rd and there were also records from Noss and from Terry Roger’s garden at Eswick, South Nesting. About the same size as a red admiral, the peacock butterfly is unmistakable with its four large blue-flecked eyespots on reddish-brown wings. The underside of the wings are greyish-black, providing camouflage when the butterfly is at rest with the wings held above the body. Suddenly opening the wings to reveal the eyespots startles potential predators, giving the butterfly a chance to escape. The larval food plant is stinging nettle but the adults are particularly attracted to the flowers of buddleia (where the peacock was feeding in Terry’s garden) and also thistle and clover.

Small tortoiseshells were also seen on Noss with up to five flying around on the morning of the 3rd. These are medium-sized red-brown butterflies with angular wings patterned in black, yellow and white. Blue spots, framed by black crescents, edge the wings. Like the peacock, the small tortoiseshell’s wings have blackish-brown under­sides for camouflage, and the larval food plant is also stinging nettle. On 26th July there was also a painted lady butterfly on Noss.

On 28th July Terry Rogers caught a bordered sallow moth, which was the first Shetland record of this species, and also a European corn borer, a pyralid moth, which was the second Shetland record (Terry caught one last year). On the 28th I caught a reed dagger moth which is the second Shetland record, the first being caught a few days previously at Scatness by Steve Minton.

There have been a few records of bedstraw hawkmoths with one in my trap on the 3rd. The hawk­moths are so called because of their strong, fast, manoeuvrable flight and large size. They have brightly coloured hind wings which are flashed to deter predators and long tongues which they use to extract nectar from flowers whilst hovering. The bedstraw hawkmoth has dark olive-green forewings with a creamy coloured stripe extending from near the base of the wing to the tip. The hind wings are a pinky red with black borders. The caterpillars feed on bedstraws, hence the common name. The bedstraw hawkmoth migrates from the Mediterranean regions and can travel as far as the Arctic circle. They are regularly recorded in Shetland.

Joyce Garden