Wednesday, 30 April 2014

London Buses

The other day, Jac Crosbie sent in a picture of an emperor moth (here) which had landed on her doorstep.  Ritchie Dinnes, her father, not to be outdone, also found one on his doorstep.  An anonymous comment on Jac's moth said it was a female.  Please could someone explain how one can tell the difference.

Going one better, Ritchie sent this picture of a butterfly at the Glenborrodale RSPB reserve, with the comment, "Could it be a chequered skipper?" and, "See if you can match that, Jac!" - a risky challenge coming from a parent.

For  what it's worth, the Diary thinks it's a speckled wood.

A bit like London buses, unusual things tend to come in packs.  Kilchoan Early Bird recently sent in pictures (here) of what people seemed to think was probably a willow warbler but might have been a chiffchaff.  This cheerful little character has taken to perching on the power line that runs along the back of our house, and he's constantly singing a tune which steadily drops in note - so he's definitely not a chiffchaff.


  1. Hi Jon,
    Pictures of both male & female are available on Ukmoths site at , today's looks like a female.
    The females can attract males using their pheremones from some distance away, and in areas where their presence is uncertain, captive bred females are used to check whether males are present using this method, which is called assembling. I expect on a calmish day with SW winds, you might be able to attract quite a few with a captive female.
    Dave K.

  2. No doubts that it's a willow warbler.

  3. Barrie, The Saltings1 May 2014 at 13:18

    Hi Jon, You can tell the difference between female (Jac's picture) and male as the male has a yellowish background colour to the hind wings and feathery antennae. Also, males typically fly by day and females by night.

    Regarding your warbler it is a Willow Warbler, due to your excellent song description and also its pale legs - if it has pale legs its a willow warbler if it has dark legs it is probably a chiffchaff (but as ever there is some overlap just to confuse things, however as a general guide it should hold true!)

  4. Many thanks to all of you for the comments. I feel terribly ignorant but much appreciate the education I'm getting.

    I have heard chiffchaff so know what they sound like, but have yet to hear one on Ardnamurchan.


  5. Butterfly is a Speckled Wood, as you suggested, Jon. It is a week or two early for Chequered Skippers but I am up next week to see if there are any flying at Glas Drum near Loch Creran. I'll send you a picture if successful.