After a successful insect survey training day in April, we were pleased to recruit a 6 new surveyors, all keen to contribute to the growing body of data being collected on insect life around Loch Leven.
With the insect survey transects being reasonably well covered in terms of volunteers, and with extra willing bodies keen to get involved with the project, we took the opportunity to spread our wings beyond the reserve boundary to Portmoak Moss.
Managed by the Woodland Trust, Portmoak Moss is a raised peatbog with a fantastic invertebrate diversity frequenting it’s ditches, and surrounding habitat. On a walk through of the 4 transects we did last week, we were lucky enough to stumble upon not one, but 3 Green Hairstreaks!
Delighted as we were, it seems that the habitat is well suited for this species, and I would expect them to be recorded regularly during the course of the early season. I recently learned that the Green Hairstreak, as with other related butterflies, has the ability to ‘sing’ as a pupa. It does this to attract the attention of ants, who upon discovering the excretion of a sugary coating, take the pupa to their nest below ground, thereby providing much needed security for the vulnerable pupa, whilst it awaits the appropriate time for emergence as an adult. You do indeed learn something new every day!
George Guthrie, our insect survey specialist, has been casually monitoring Portmoak as a local enthusiast for the last few years. He will be meeting surveyors every Wednesday to walk through these transects, in search of all sorts of things, including:
Green Hairstreaks, in amongst the heather
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries,
of which there is an excellent site on the Moss with plenty of Marsh Violets, the food plant of the caterpillar
…and an excellent diversity of dragonflies, including Four-spotted Chaser, Common Hawker, Black Darter and Large Red Damselfly.
George had collected an Emperor Moth caterpillar from Portmoak Moss last year, and allowed it to pupate. It remained in it’s metamorphosis stage throughout the winter, and as if by magic, emerged from it’s chrysalis the day before our walk-through of the transects. We were able to return the adult male Emperor Moth to the Moss, in the hope that he will now find a female to mate with.
In addition to all the insect life, we were also treated to relatively good views of Green Woodpecker, or a ‘big green parrot’, as some people have mistakenly reported! (apologies for picture quality- you can’t nail them every time….)
Many thanks to George for allowing us to use many of his fantastic pictures. Let’s hope for a fantastic season of insect surveying down there this year. On their first official survey today, they were delighted to see a Blaeberry Bumblebee- a first for George on this particular site!