I saw my first Northern Brown Argus of the year at the Long Ashes site today. Conditions weren’t ideal but it is nice to see them back. They are quite small butterflies and look almost silvery in flight. No such luck at Low-ox pasture possibly because it gradually clouded over as the day went on.
The common rock-rose is the food plant of several species of insect including the Northern Brown and day flying moths such as the Cistus Forester. There were twelve of the latter on Low-ox pasture today and a Mother Shipton, both not seeming to mind the cloudy conditions.
The Cistus Forester is difficult to distinguish from the other Forester moths but the presence of rock-rose is often a good indication of the species. I noticed the antennae were different on a number of pictures I took and Paul Millard, our resident butterfly expert, who is also very knowledgeable on moths, told me this was a distinction between the male and female. The males usually have larger and more elaborate antennae.
The Mother Shipton moth is interesting since its pattern is said to resemble a witches face, which is not obvious from the photo I took, but you can almost make it out in this picture, courtesy of butterfly conservation. Where rock-rose isn’t necessarily its food plant, it is commonly found in these sorts of flower-rich grasslands.