Posted by: lensweb | June 18, 2017

The Blooming Sidings


Toton railway yards were built in 1856 and were once described as the “biggest in Western Europe”, comprising 15 roads and incorporating 37 berths for locomotives. As freight business declined, the Old Bank and New Bank yards at Toton were closed and became derelict.  There was much dismay among local residents when woodland that had grown on the former sidings site was felled in 2009 after a change of ownership. There was a blooming of the sidings with so many wildflowers on the limestone ballast and powdery coal substrate that many insects were attracted. Butterflies recorded on the site include small heath, marbled white and green hairstreak. The Forestry Commission ordered replanting in 2010 but the regeneration of trees on the site was so rapid this was not necessary.


There is spreading scrub of  silver birch, willow, hawthorn, apple and broom and still a good variety of wildflowers. A bridle path runs through a bare central area of powdery coal.  This is the proposed site for a station hub serving Nottingham and Derby as part of the new HS2 high-speed rail network.


For the moth trapping, Skinner design moth traps were used, which consist of a wooden box with a central wooden crossbar housing a bulb holder and rain guard. Two large, angled pieces of clear Perspex have dual purposes, deflecting moths downwards, and allowing easy visual inspection to find moths which settle into the empty egg boxes which are placed in the box. Two different light sources were used, a 125W mercury vapour (MV) lamp which is very bright and will usually attract more moths and the much duller Actinic which is preferable if you want the nocturnal activities to remain low-key. The two different light sources can attract different moth species, geometers tending to favour the actinic, noctuids the MV lamp.

The mercury vapour lamp was placed next to a willow tree on a patch of birdsfoot trefoil on the level, close to the large central area of bare powdery coal.  The actinic was placed in a small grassland clearing on top of a low bank nearby, shielded by broom.



Toton Sidings South end SK 488344  16 June 2017 20.30pm  – 1.00am

Weather fine with extensive cloud cover

Temperature 20oC-16oC           Moon 3rd quarter, rising in the east at midnight

Agapeta zoegana Knapweed Conch 3
Agriphila straminella Pearl veneer 15
Agrotis exclamationis Heart & Dart 16
Agrotis puta Shuttle-shaped Dart 3
Alcis repandata Mottled Beauty 1
Anaplectoides prasina Green Arches 1
Apamea crenata Clouded bordered brindle 1
Apamea lithoxylaea Light Arches 2
Apamea monoglypha Dark Arches 4
Aphomia sociella Bee Moth 5
Archips podana Large fruit-tree tortrix 1
Axylia putris Flame 5
Biston betularia Peppered Moth 1
Cabera pusaria Common White Wave 1
Campaea margaritaria Light Emerald 2
Caradrina clavipalpis Pale mottled willow 1
Caradrina morpheus Mottled Rustic 3
Cidaria fulvata Barred Yellow 3
Cydia pomonella Codling moth 2
Deilephila elpenor Elephant Hawk-moth 10
Deltote pygarga Marbled white spot 1
Epirrhoe alternata Common Carpet 3
Hemithea aestivaria Common Emerald 2
Hoplodrina blanda Rustic 3
Hypena proboscidalis Snout 2
Idaea aversata Riband Wave 2
Laspeyria flexula Beautiful hook-tip 1
Lomographa temerata Clouded Silver 3
Lygephila pastinum Blackneck 1
Mythimna impura Smoky Wainscot 7
Noctua pronuba Large Yellow Underwing 4
Nola cucullatella Short-cloaked Moth 2
Ochropleura plecta Flame Shoulder 2
Opisthograptis luteolata Brimstone Moth 4
Rivula sericealis Straw Dot 4
Scopula imitaria Small Blood-vein 1
Thyatira batis Peach Blossom 1
Xanthorhoe montanata Silver-ground Carpet 1
Xestia c-nigrum Setaceous Hebrew Character 3
Xestia triangulum

Zeuzera pyrina

Double-square Spot

Leopard moth



Incidental species
Halyzia sedecimguttata Orange Ladybird 1
Conocephalus fuscus Long-winged Cone-head 1
Melolontha melolontha Common cockchafer 2




It seemed a fine evening for moth trapping, a lot of cockchafers were flying and a noctule bat was seen, but here was a slow start to the evening for moths, despite the fine weather. The first moths came in after 10pm, brimstone (as expected), silver ground carpet and a cinnabar moth. A moth with six large black spots on the white furry thorax, and with heavy black spotting on whitish wings. emerged from the ground next to the trap it was a leopard moth, whose larvae feed on the wood of a variety of deciduous trees.

By the end of the session  40 species of moths had been trapped and identified (we let the pugs go). The most frequent moth was the pearl veneer, described in UK moths as one of the plainer looking ‘grass moths’, and one of the most common. These small grass moths looked like flakes of pure gold in the light of the trap. The foodplants are various grasses, especially sheep’s fescue (Festuca ovina), where the larvae feed internally on the lower part of the stems.

The second most common moth was the heart and dart, a common species which flies from May to July. The larva feeds on various plants. This was closely followed by another general feeding strategist, the double square spot. The single generation flies in June and July, in wooded habitats.  The polyphagous caterpillars hibernate when quite small and feed in spring on various trees and shrubs.

The moths were in brand new condition, the colours of the peach blossom (which actually feeds on bramble), the common emerald (hawthorn), light emerald (various deciduous trees) and the knapweed conch (guess) were striking. At times we had to be careful where we trod as we were inundated with  large pink elephant hawkmoths . These are common moths whose larvae feed on rosebay willowherb.

According to UK moths (Ian Kimber) the blackneck Lygephila pastinum has only one generation, flying in June and July. Occupying woodland and marshy areas, it is locally common in the southern half of Britain, with only scattered occurrences further north. It had previously been seen on Toton Sidings as a day flying moth. It overwinters as a larva, which feeds mainly on tufted vetch (Vicia cracca): Beautiful Hook-tip Laspeyria flexula is largely single-brooded species, which flies from June to August, with a small second generation in September-October in more southerly parts. It lives in woodland, parks, gardens and orchards and the larvae feed on lichens which grow on the bark of a variety of deciduous and coniferous trees. It is locally distributed over the southern half of Britain.

Black neck and Beautiful hook-tip have LOCAL status ie records are localised or patchy. They have been assigned Nottinghamshire GRADE 3 (Sheila Wright 2014) which includes all Nationally Local species recorded from more than five 10Km squares in Nottinghamshire since 1990, together with all Nationally Common species recorded from five or fewer 10Km squares in Nottinghamshire since 1990.

All the other moths recorded have COMMON status ie are well distributed, common, ungraded.

The moth count from the actinic trap was very low, aside from the silver ground carpet and the marbled white spot, the majority of moths were trapped in or nearby the mercury lamp. In the daylight it became apparent the site chosen was not the best, a lot of cocksfoot grass with few nectaring plants, the lure of the sugar must be stronger than the lure of the actinic.


CONCLUSION: 40 species of moth were caught and identified, two of local status. The numbers were surprisingly low for what appears to be good habitat, but there was a good variety of species.

Marion Bryce and Derek Brumbill 17 June 2017


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