Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Feeling a bit Firsty at Far Pasture . . .

Another visit to Far Pasture on the Monday 17th, this time to look for late dragons as the sun was shining nicely on a very mild autumn afternoon.
There wasn't a lot to report in truth and the undoubted star find of the day was one of the strangest, smallest (and rarest) creatures I've ever encountered.

While photographing a Darter on the top bar of the wooden gate just down from the sawmill entrance I noticed a tiny lump of lichen was moving slowly past the dragon. Intrigued I turned my attention to it, getting down to eye level and noting through the camera zoom it appeared to be an insect in a casing made from lichen and grains of earth, like a caddis fly larvae but on dry land. It was no more than 5mm long but as it waddled along at a painstakingly slow pace I was able to photograph it and put the photo on Twitter when I got home to see if it could be identified :

Dahlica lichenella ?
The dark head can be made out on the left, with three pairs of legs just behind as it shuffled
along the top of the gate. 
Lo and behold, it was eventually identified as a Lichen case-bearing Moth larvae, most likely Dahlica lichenella, one of three similar species found in the UK. It's an intriguing and elusive creature, hatching in March as a 1mm grub, growing to 5mm by late September, then overwintering as a pupae and emerging in the spring, when the adult moth lives for just a few hours of a single day, so little wonder they aren't recorded very often. In fact when verified this may be a first record not just for Gateshead, but for County Durham and the whole of the northeast region. Now there's a feather in the cap for my local patch :-)

Another first (but not quite so exciting) was this Ladybird, which I'd never seen the like of before. Turns out it's one of those invasive Harlequin Ladybirds which I've heard lots about but not seen. They only arrived in this country (from Asia) in 2004 but their expansion has been rapid. Generally larger than our native ladies they have voracious appetites for both aphids and our ladies larvae, which puts them in the pest bracket for the potential extinction of our native species, much like the grey squirrel has done for our reds. In winter they have the habit of finding quiet corners of a house to hibernate in their thousands, which I suppose is handy if we were wanting to wipe large numbers of them out :

Harlequin Ladybird
Harmonia axyridis
succinea type
And finally to confirm another first; apparently my Glossy Ibis sighting on the 16th (see previous post) was indeed a first confirmed record for Gateshead, so lets have another look at it :-)

Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
A first record for Gateshead

So three firsts in two days at my local patch, not bad going for a much-maligned site.

And should you like further information on the Lichen case-bearing moths, here's the link :


  1. Cheers George, might be worth mentioning the moth larvae to Brian if you see him, may be of interest to him.