Friday 28 October 2022

Location, Location, Location

I understand that 2022 will go down in mothing history as a pretty good year* for immigrant species. Obviously I have no previous years of experience to compare it with, but mothy Twitter is all a-buzz with such talk. Especially right now. Why now? Well, Crimson Speckled is one reason. Recent days have seen warm winds from far, far away reaching these shores, carrying with them moths from southern Europe and even Africa. Apparently the 2022 Crimson Speckled tally is already more than twice that of any other year, ever. Naturally I have picked up on the vibe here, and wondered if I might be fortunate enough to encounter one. No. More than that. I have hoped for one. Which is totally unreasonable really. After all, I've only been mothing five minutes.

Still, if I look at my own collection of migrant moths so far, it is pretty amazing. Even I can see that. Another new species this week...

Palpita vitrealis (Olive-tree Pearl) is literally see-through, and its scientific name presumably derived from 'vitrus', the Latin word for glass.

That flimsy moths like this are carried here intact from hundreds of miles away - or thousands in some cases - I find astonishing. On Wednesday night there was clearly an arrival of White-point. I caught four here. My first since summer, and I don't think I ever caught more than one at a time. Two at the most.

One of the four White-point caught Wednesday night... a bonus Vestal.

Of course, I am well aware of the reason for our enviable collection of migrants moths.


With our little garden situated on the West Dorset coast just three miles from the sea, you could hardly ask for a better spot to put a moth trap.

Or could you?

This morning I took up an invitation to join a moth-trapping session at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens. More accurately, the traps were located in what I guess is the nursery yard. On the face of it an unprepossessing spot, with polytunnels and whatnot, situated on the seaward side of the Gardens, a few hundred yards up a grassy slope from the sea. Luke drove me over, where we joined Steve to empty the traps. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but, after such a blowy night, probably not that much if I'm honest. After all, before first light I had counted just 14 moths of 11 species in our garden trap. Sure, there had been some migrants: Vestal, Rusty-dot Pearl and two White-point. And a Blair's Mocha might have been, but was perhaps more likely from local stock. Anyway, considering how much the night's potential had been talked up, I was a bit disappointed. Was Abbotsbury going to be that much better?


In the very first trap was this...

Small Marbled - a rare immigrant.

It was still gloomy enough that I needed the light from Luke's head torch to get any sort of photo. A tiny moth, and new for me. A very good start. We pressed on, wading through Rush Veneers, White-points, Scarce Bordered Straws... Another new one for me: Delicate. My photo is appalling, so I shan't bother, but it was around this point that I realised I ought to reassess my expectations. As well as the migrants, local speciality, Oak Rustic, was plentiful. I brought one home to photograph properly...

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens have many evergreen oaks, food plant of Oak Rustic.

We opened up a small actinic trap which at the beginning of the month had bagged a Death's Head Hawk-moth, and found this...

The legendary Crimson Speckled.

Judging by the numerous colourful expressions prompted by its appearance, I think my companions were quite chuffed to catch this belter. What a stunning moth! As someone on Twitter aptly put it, Crimson Speckled looks like it's made from a shredded pack of playing cards. It is a decent size too; no need to squint to appreciate its beauty.

Steve kept a list of names and numbers. Forty-something species in the end, with immigrants including Small Marbled, Cosmopolitan, Golden Twin-spot, Radford's Flame Shoulder, Delicate, Vestal, Pearly Underwing, Convolvulus Hawk-moth, Turnip, Palpita vitrealis, Rusty-dot Pearl, Silver Y, Angle Shades, 25 White-point, 33 Scarce Bordered Straw and 60+ Rush Veneer. Astonishing! Along with the Crimson Speckled, the first five species in that list were all new for me.

Blown away, I was...

I hadn't been home long when a message came through from Luke. The Golden Twin-spot wasn't a Golden Twin-spot after all. Golden Twin-spot is a very scarce immigrant, and a real prize catch. But, it is possible to go one better. Our Golden Twin-spot was in fact a Tunbridge Wells Gem, a species resident in North Africa. Since the first record in 1870 it has occurred just 20-odd times in Britain. Its exoticness is hinted at by the caterpillar food plants, which include banana, tobacco and Canna Lily!


Tunbridge Wells Gem

And here is the Radford's Flame Shoulder...

Radford's Flame Shoulder. Another scarce immigrant.

So, what was my take-away lesson from today? That, yes, there are some good spots for moth trapping, and our garden in Bridport is likely in that category. And then there are ridiculously BRILLIANT spots for moth trapping...

Location, location, location.



  1. So, when are you moving house? ;o) As you know, it's the same with birds, unable to fish I met a mate near where we would dangle this time of year. Okay, it was Slimbridge but he lives a stone's throw from it and I had four new UK sightings including a Crested Panticole. It's a bit like living on a strict diet but having the odd trip to an 'All You Can Eat' buffet.

    1. Binge mothing. Yes, I could get into that! 😄

  2. Hi Gav - another great post and an incredible selection of moths. Not much trumps a Crimson Speckled but that Tunbridge Wells Gem is something else! Meant to say well done with that Blair's Wainscot too - very gripped by that but hopeful to get one, one day. Anything's possible when it comes to moths. All the best. Matt.

    1. Thanks Matt. For sure, the mothing has been a total blast so far. You're so right, it really does feel like anything is possible, especially in this current period of incredible immigration. What next, I wonder? 😄

  3. Utterly fantastic. Simple as that.