Sunday, 22 November 2020

Radford's Flame Shoulder


If I look at the Sussex records or the Flying Tonight App, there are still a lot of moths around, that would be new for me and that I could hope to find in my trap. The so called November, December, and Winter moths should be about along with late year species like Mottled Umber, the Sprawler, Yellow Line Quaker, Spruce Carpet and Satellite. I put the trap out whenever I can but I am just not getting any of these species. My usual catch is a couple of Silver Ys and half a dozen Light Brown Apple Moths.

Then last night, some luck. Not the moths I was looking for but a Flame Shoulder sitting in the bottom of the trap along with the usual catch. I knew it was a bit late in the year for this species so that opened up the intriguing possibility of a Radford's Flame Shoulder.

The field guides say this is a rare migrant from the continent first recorded in this country in 1983 and with only 29 records prior to 2015. I think many more have been seen since then and I am aware of quite a few reports along the south coast this year. Still it was good to find a possible in the trap.

But was it a Radford's? The key ID features for the Radfords Flame Shoulder are given below the pictures. It seemed to tick some of the boxes but with my limited identification skills it was a difficult call.

Radford's Flame Shoulder - Ochropleura leucogaster

Radford's Flame Shoulder - Ochropleura leucogaster

Key criteria for the Radfords:-

Long winged compared to the Flame Shoulder  -  According to the Field Guide, on average it is only one millimeter longer. That's not something I can call looking at a single specimen although it did look a bit slimmer than my only picture of a FS.

Black streak extends beyond the kidney mark - Well yes, but not by much.

Kidney and oval marks smaller than a FS - Possible but not easy to call.

Dull brown ground cover - duller than what? it still seemed to be showing some red.

Sharp contrast between purple thorax and white patagia - I had let it go before I read this.

Clear white hindwing - I didn't see this and I still don't know how to see the hindwing on a moth without damaging the moth, which I am not prepared to do. It's going to make some future identifications difficult.

Flame along the costal edge extending well beyond the kidney mark - Yes 😀 but its only one good tick out of a possible seven.

In the end the strongest indicator was the date, with the end of November being well past the usual flight period for the Flame Shoulder.

On balance, I thought it probably was a Radford's but it is always with some trepidation that you load your identification onto the national recording system, in this case iRecord, and wait to see if some expert comes back to point out what an idiot you are. In this case I was spared that ignominy and I had another good moth to add to my garden list.

It's strange, given my previous doubts, how when I look at the pictures now, it seems so obvious that it is a RFS.

My only other new moth of late, a tiny spot on the kitchen window as it was getting dark a couple of days ago. I nearly ignored it but it turned out to be a Narrow-winged Grey. Common enough but a new one for me and they all count on the garden list.

Narrow-winged Grey - Eudonia angustea

Narrow-winged Grey - Eudonia angustea

It was good to get a bit of success but there is still a big list of winter moths that I need to look for. Roll on the next good mothing night.

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