Yesterday I joined Rhiannon Bevan and Clare Williams (Butterfly Conservation) on a hillside above Abertillery for what now seems to be an annual Silurian (Eriopygodes imbecilla) moth caterpillar search. What is probably the most wackiest event in the naturalist calendar goes like this:
- At approximately 2000hrs join like minded lepidopterists at a remote pull in high above Abertillery.
- Ascend hillside to a point between 450 - 500 metres above sea level, somewhere close to the Blaenau Gwent - Torfaen County Borough boundary.
- Locate a suitable habitat patch dominated by billberry.
- At 2100 hrs (just as the last red grouse completes its dusk calling) activate torch, drop down on to knees, and begin a hand search for a small caterpillar feeding within the vegetation.
- 2230 hrs descend hillside in pitch dark satisfied that the target species has been located.
However implausible this seems the survey methodology does actually produce results and on this occasion we were successful in locating two caterpillars complete with diagnostic diamond livery.
The Silurian is considered to be one of the rarest moths in the UK. This red data book species was first found by the late G.A. Neil Horton on the same hillside in 1972 and subsequently named after the Silures. Since then it's been searched for by both local and visiting lepidopterists on a regular basis. The most notable survey was conducted by Dr Paul Waring back in 2005/6, with the intrepid Dr.Waring sleeping overnight in his car whilst running light traps and searching for larvae.
Last night however wasn't all about the Silurian, we did find a couple of other interesting items. If you can help put a name to these it would be much appreciated.