Saturday, 3 September 2022

Sleep Debt

As a way to add 'attraction' to the moth trap I hang an old bath towel on the garden cabin door. Not quite as proper mothy as a white sheet perhaps, but it seems to work. Before turning in last night I glanced out at it, and did the classic double-take. Because something enormous was clinging to it. As I had instantly guessed, our second Convolvulus Hawk-moth...

One very battered Convolvulus Hawk-moth.

There can't be many more nights left in such a beaten-up specimen, so I left it in situ, hoping it might wander off later. But this morning it was in the trap. I think I'll walk the old warrior down the road a bit before releasing it this evening; I wouldn't want to catch it again.

Some other moths from the last couple of nights...

Pale Eggar - a new one for the garden. So well-behaved it was almost comatose. Didn't need to bother with the fridge.

A small Green Carpet with slightly unusual markings.

One aspect of mothing that takes some getting used to is the variation in size and markings that some species exhibit. Normally this is acknowledged in the field guide, with a number of typical examples being illustrated. Other species, however, seem to vary little. These will have just one illustration and a note in the text to tell you how similar they all are. Green Carpet is one of those latter types. The trouble is, I have come to realise how easily you could write off a rarer moth as something common. So, unless a moth looks exactly like its illustration, I tend to worry. Thankfully there is usually a hint in the text, under the heading 'Similar species'. In the case of Green Carpet it said 'None'. Phew...

Regular Green Carpet on the left (exactly as per field guide); today's tiddler on the right.

Our second record of this nice little micro.

Easily the freshest, cleanest Red Twin-spot Carpet of the few we've caught. A lovely little thing, considerably smaller than a Common Blue butterfly. It stayed put for just one press of the shutter release. Glad I didn't muck it up.

Least Yellow Underwing. Another new one.

Angle Shades. A familiar moth to lots who don't really do moths, and this one is an absolutely pristine example. One of a few over the last week or so.

Dark Sword-grass. Our first (and so far, only) example of this immigrant.

Between 5 and 10 most nights recently.

A micro big enough to ID quite easily with the naked eye.

During August the trap was out on 30 nights. It caught between 13 and 166 moths per night, of between 13 and 47 species. The mean was 83/34. I suspect we would catch more with a 125W MV (mercury vapour) Robinson trap, but that would be a bit impractical for our situation. Also, as a beginner I am finding the catch rate manageable, and can usually have it done and dusted within an hour, sometimes a lot less. Then there is the nocmig recording to analyse, birding to think about - but mostly not do - and other, more mundane aspects of life to get on with. Hopefully, when the nights are a bit longer, I will get some sleep too...


  1. Great work on the moths Gav. I think last night when putting food out (Badgers and Foxes) I had one of those Convolvulus Hawk-moths fly past me. A low frequency zhzzzzum past my ear. I doubt many bats make that noise.

    1. Judging by the number featuring on Twitter it's a pretty good year for them. 😊