Friday 22 July 2022


Scanning the plates in a moth field guide is like sifting a massive tin of sweeties. So many delicious temptations. One which has appealed since I first noticed it is Scallop Shell. Scallop Shell isn't one of those ludicrous pink and purple jobs from overseas, but nothing in the book has more zig-zag stripes. It looks gorgeous. And on Wednesday night I caught one. Not in the trap, but on the cabin wall, during a 'trap monitoring' session...

Scallop Shell, reluctantly posing on the moth plank...

...and on the deck, after storming out of the studio like a prima donna.

I am learning that some moths are very relaxed about photography (especially after a spell in the fridge) whereas others are very much not, and leg it at the slightest provocation. Scallop Shell falls into the second category.

A few more from Wednesday night...

I think I have the measure of Currant and Wormwood Pugs now. At least I hope so.

Another beautiful little Mocha. Like the two above, escaped from the studio with rapid ease.

Couldn't resist a few snaps of our second Rosy Minor.

A striking line of 'stitching' along the wing edges.

We seem to do well for pugs. I'm pleased about that, because I like them a lot.

Also known as Willow Ermine, there are several species which look very similar, but I am going to stick my neck out. That isn't shadow on the wing, but a smoky grey wash. Subtle, but along with the relatively large size of this one, a useful ID feature.

As alluded to in the last caption, there are many moth species which basically cannot be told apart by eye from one or more look-alikes. I find this quite frustrating, but can't do much about it. The glossy little micro in the next pic is a good example. It has a twin. However, on balance it is far more likely to be one than the other, so I'm having it. I expect this is not the purist's way, but hey-ho...

So Wednesday night was great. Some classy moths (including four new species) and a lot of excellent ID challenges. However, by now I was pretty knackered. Thankfully I was going to get Thursday night off. Sandra and I were babysitting our granddaughters over in Lyme Regis, so hopefully I was in for a proper night's sleep at last.

About an hour before we headed over, I thought to myself: 'Why not take the trap with us? It will be interesting to see what Baz and Abi might get in their garden. I can just switch it on and forget it until whenever the girls wake...'

Ah, so naive.

I switched it on, yes. But how could I just forget it? Of course I must trot out there and have a look occasionally. And a good thing too, because I caught another Scallop Shell! This one on the outside of the trap. Even so, just a handful of quick checks and I was in bed before midnight. But I couldn't resist setting the alarm for 6am...

The pre-bed checks hadn't been that promising. Very little activity generally and, apart from the Scallop Shell, no notable moths. But you never know...

Because I am a beginner, there are very few rare moths that I would instantly recognise for what they were. Death's Head Hawk-moth is one of course, but it is on a very, very short list. In by far the majority of cases I would probably know that I was looking at something I had not seen before, so would simply pot it up anyway. If it turned out to be a rarity, well, great, but any rarity buzz would very much be after the fact. However, about three egg trays in to this morning's catch, my blurry eyes alighted upon a moth that actually was on that very, very short list...

'Strewth! Is that what I think it is? Surely not?!'

At this point I enjoyed what can only be described as a mild dose of the shakes. I recognised it from those few and far-between moments when birding is good enough to provide one. Trouble is, the shakes are not helpful when it comes to potting a moth. On Tuesday morning I witnessed a very experienced and expert moth-er totally fumble the potting of a rarity, and then watched a Splendid Brocade disappear over the horizon. Thankfully though, no such disaster, and the moth was mine. I shut the trap, got the book out and checked my hunch, half expecting to be wrong. But I was not wrong.

Okay then, let's see what else we have.

Another couple of trays, and then...

'What?!! Another one??!!'

More shaking, more hairy moments with a plastic tube. Then, at 6.30am, this photo...

Orache Moth x2. A pukka mothy rarity.

Later, in more leisurely, and less fraught, fashion...

The brighter and fresher of the two

It is more than likely that this will never happen to me again, so forgive the mild self-indulgence, photo-wise. In real life, up close, this moth is even better than the photos suggest. All green moths are amazing, but Orache Moth is on a different level. Stunning is an over-used word, but exactly the right one here.

I'm not sure how many Dorset records of Orache Moth there have been, but I am probably right in thinking less than 20. Which gives a bit of context to two in the same trap.

Dwarf Cream Wave (new, but it wasn't my garden, so, er...)

Scallop Shell. I simply could not coax it any further on to the Hazel leaf. Next time I touched it...gone.

Clay (new, above)

Wormwood Pug. Always look at pugs.

Cydia splendana. About 8mm of beautifully intricate markings.

Shuttle-shaped Dart (new, but..etc...)

Two Orache Moths in one night, for a rank beginner, is just ridiculous. I fully appreciate that this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, but cannot avoid the feeling that the moths are doing a number on me...

Further, Gavin. Further. Onwards down the dark path...


  1. Absolutely brilliant Gav! One of my 'most wanted' species. Two in one trap is surely unprecedented!? I guess somewhere like Portland might have managed it, but it's a rare moth even there. It's now my chief target for the summer. Keep up the great work. What's next? All the best. Matt.

    1. Thanks Matt. It all feels rather undeserved, but I'm pleased that I at least appreciated what I'd got for a change! Also beginning to realise how fortunate I am to live where I do. Incidentally, there was an Orache Moth in Martin C's home trap on Thursday night as well, which was apparently fifth Portland record. Bit of a Dorset influx.

      Hopefully I shall keep plugging away, if the sleep deprivation doesn't finish me off!😄

  2. When will I tire of your moth madness? Never, I'm really enjoying the ride Gav, your enthusiasm and successes are inspiring, but the early mornings? Not for me.

    1. Thanks Dave, glad it's going down well. Yes, the early mornings are a killer...

  3. It seems you are entering the realms of 'life list' as opposed to 'garden list' 😯 This has happened to me... they now offer by about 50, mainly courtesy of a few trapping sessions at my local reserve. Slippery slope. Wonder if Orache might penetrate the depths of darkest Worcestershire?

    1. I nearly didn't take the trap to Lyme. Garden mothing is as far as I want to go with it right now, but I can see the attraction of taking a mobile trap to some local spots with different habitat. The listing side of things doesn't appeal, beyond pure curiosity anyway. I like to know that the garden has produced 'x' moths, but that's about it. Mind you, I say that now...