Friday, 3 June 2022

Moffs

Well, that all happened rather quickly...

It must have been all of two days ago, and a chat about garden wildlife had Sandra and me reminiscing about the early years living in Rickmansworth, Herts, and attempts to identify the moths which our on-all-night porch light pulled in. We bought what was probably the book back then - Bernard Skinner's Colour Identification Guide to Moths of the British Isles - and got pretty good at visualising the photos of pinned specimens as real live moths. We even kept a list. Our enthusiasm was a bit up and down, but for at least a year or two we kept at it. The porch light was eventually replaced with a PIR job, and the catch rate shrank accordingly. That hand-written list still resides in the back of Skinner...

Warning: there may be string, and possibly duplication!

I notice we revived the list after moving to Devon, but not for long. I also notice that most of the entries were written by Sandra, and a couple by one of the boys - it was definitely a family affair.

So anyway, I casually asked if we ought to get a proper moth trap. 'Yes', came the reply. As I say, that was two days ago. Last night...


Within hours, a Twitter enquiry yesterday morning re second-hand moth traps had me nipping over to Weymouth to collect the actinic trap pictured above. For a very modest sum I received not just the trap, but three spare tubes as well. Also, knowing that I was just starting out down this path to the Dark Side, the vendor very kindly threw in a pile of egg trays, a dozen little plastic specimen boxes and a well-thumbed copy of Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Waring, Townsend and Lewington. Wow! I was very touched by such generosity, which illustrates beautifully the positive side of Twitter.

Last night's catch was quite small, and got smaller still when we removed the lid this morning. Strewth! Is there a trick to getting them to stay put for a while? As there were only a couple which we recognised, virtually every moth needed potting. At the top of my new shopping list is 'round pots'. Collecting moths off an egg box is clearly a dark art, and I suspect round pots are involved somehow. 

Some which didn't get away...

Willow Beauty (I hope!)

As suspected, this is a 'micro': Bee Moth.

Common Pug

Also: Buff ErmineClouded Border, Clouded-bordered Brindle, Common Marbled Carpet, Red-green Carpet, and a few Heart and Darts. One little moth belonged to a group which can only be separated by surgical examination. We shan't be doing any of that, so 'Marbled Minor agg' is what we called it.

A few micros were given instant freedom. Their time will come, but it isn't now.

The Common Pug pictured above was the better-marked of two. Pugs are mostly hard, a fact I recall from previous dabbling, and we couldn't nail it. Enter Twitter again, and the excellent UK Moth Identification, overseen by Sean Foote. ID sorted.

I'm glad we didn't get anything scarce. That would have felt wrong. If (when?) a scarce one eventually comes along, chances are it will be after many, many hours of page-turning and furrowed brow. Judging by how long it took to process last night's catch, at least then we'll feel like it was earned!

In the next installment of this birding blog: Plants.

10 comments:

  1. Stick your nocmig kit next to the trap, it would be bound to pick up a Convolvulus Hawk whizzing by (followed by a thud as it enters the trap). Though could you separate it from a Death's Head Hawk if it bypassed the trap entirely? Aaarrgghh, gripped by a buzz, scrap that thought!

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    1. The nocmig mic is just a few feet from the trap. I look forward to posting sonograms of huge, rare hawkmoths. 😄

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  2. Gav's day, wake up, check moths and nocmig......... go to bed. Mind you, I have often considered moth trapping but I know my limitations for such dedications. I found a ruby tiger moth on my fishing bag the other day, a first for me and a real buzz seeing it.

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    1. The learning curve is daunting. And I'm not sure where I'll find the time. But...

      Better than DIY 😄

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  3. Gavin, you will find the small rectangular pots are more useful, as you can get the corner of the lid into the gaps in the eggtray's whilst holding the main part of the pot.

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    1. Ah, thanks John. I thought there must be some trick to it. And those rectangular pots are perfect for photography. 👍

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  4. I found a artist small paint brush come in handy to lift them out of the egg box if they stay still of course 😉 Martin

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  5. Hi Gav - great blog and really looking forward to reading about how you get on. Mothing is an endless source of interest and enjoyment for me. I'm still seeing plenty of new and fascinating stuff after 16 years 'in the business'. All the best. Matt

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    1. Thanks Matt. I do sometimes worry that I've started a bit late and have too much to learn, but we'll see...

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