Tuesday 25 June 2024


As I type, it is uncomfortably warm outside. So, time to get something written here before heading out for a walk in the relative cool of evening...

With the first six months of 2024 almost done, it seems appropriate to have some sort of half-time summary.

The less said about birding, the better. Spring migration felt like a non-event, and the sort of weather that offers local seawatching promise never really happened. Admittedly my effort level was poor, but it wasn't like I was missing out on much; direness appeared to be the local norm.

The BTO published its annual Breeding Bird Survey Results, which hinted at why so many springtime outings are unrewarding, migrant-wise. If they ain't coming, we're not going to see them, are we? I'm pleased for Red Kites, I really am, but the ever-shrinking populations of what were formerly regular - even common - migrant species is depressing in the extreme. And though continental overshoots like Hoopoe, Woodchat, Bee-eater and Alpine Swift are always going to provide a moment of thrill, they are just pretty dots of colour on a horribly bleak picture.

Which brings me to moths. Unlike birding, where I have witnessed first-hand several decades-worth of decline, mothing is all shiny and new to me. No doubt long-time moth recorders who have single-site figures going back a while have likewise seen numbers nosedive, and maybe get as moany about moths as I do about birds. For me though, mothing provides a beguiling veneer of apparent wealth over what is, I am sure, a similarly impoverished reality. The sheer number of species, the variety of shapes and sizes... and I have barely scratched the surface. Yes, moths have been a nice distraction.

Another way to momentarily forget that so much of the local countryside is an ecological desert is to take a walk through the meadows at Cogden. I do not know when they were last farmed in any sense beyond light grazing, but the subsequent years have produced a little paradise...

A pastel-pink Pyramidal Orchid, with a couple of regular versions behind, plus a wealth of wildflowers that I cannot name.

A generous helping of Pyramidal Orchids on a bed of lushness.

Last Sunday, and a mint-fresh Marbled White. My first of the year.

Not a scale out of place. Perfection.

And a few pics from other recent visits...

A quartet of Cogden orchids. Clockwise from top left: Bee, Southern(?) Marsh, Pyramidal and Greater Butterfly.

Common Spotted Orchid, I think. Not so common at Cogden or West Bex; this one was at the latter.

Here it is in situ.

The rather exquisite Grass Vetchling.

Grass Vetchling again, with resting Common Blue.

Dark Bush Cricket nymph.

That last photo reminds me to mention another lovely aspect of the Cogden meadows: they are absolutely teeming with life. On Sunday I came across Roesel's Bush Cricket nymphs, countless moths - mostly Crambids but also the Four-spotted Straw Aethes tesserana, which seemingly is a decent record, and assorted others - as well as a good number of newly-emerged Marbled Whites. And when you crouch down for a closer look, an entomological cornucopia.

So, June moths. A couple of new species for the garden...

Lesser Wax Moth Achroia grisella. Only a couple of Bridport Area dots on the Living Record map.

Black-streaked Tortrix Epinotia signatana. Again, not especially common locally.

And of course there have been plenty of other moths of interest. The striking, the quirky, and one or two relatively scarce...

The very gorgeous Sallow Kitten, the only one so far this year. In 2023 we caught two.

The garden's third Large Tabby Aglossa pinguinalis. A local species that seems rather scarce in West Dorset.

The bizarre Dark-dotted Longhorn Nematopogon metaxella. We trapped nine last year, and three so far in 2024.

A pristine Freyer's Pug. We've had a few this year.

Our second Small White Wave, after one last year. Not many records locally, so presumably a moth at low density here.

Italian Bark Moth Metalampra italica, an attractive little micro.

Heart & Club x2 - common but variable

Pied Grey Eudonia delunella - one of the scarcer species in this ubiquitous group of look-alikes.

The pug-sized Small Seraphim. Seemingly not too common in the Bridport area. Our second, following one almost exactly a year ago.

The trap ticks over, but numbers are well down on last June. Still, it's generally worth a punt.

Finally, although I have seen and photographed dolphins a few times off the coast here, this is the first time I have managed a 'completely out of the water' shot...

Common Dolphin, airborne.

Saturday 1 June 2024

The Moth Odyssey

Two years. Almost to the day. On the evening of 2nd June 2022 I placed our newly-acquired, second-hand actinic trap on the patio, and switched it on. To suggest that such a modest action was like sailing out of a harbour in search of lands unknown would be stretching it, but the reality does feel like a bit of an odyssey...

Moth folk seem to like numbers, so here are some: the garden total - including aggregates (which count as one) - is currently 540, comprising 307 macros and 233 micros. I have no idea how that compares to what might be the national or county norm, but it seems like a lot to me. There have been scarcities, even one or two apparent rarities, and a ton of absolutely gorgeous common moths.

An odyssey would not be complete without its Sirens, and mothing has them. On way too many summer nights, the sweet song of a busy trap kept me outdoors till stupid o'clock, and I suffered the inevitable consequences. This year I shall be more sensible. Well, that's the plan.

2024 has begun slowly. Not just in terms of moth numbers/variety, but also effort/motivation. I decided early on that I would not be counting and listing this year. Life is too short, and there are other priorities for me right now. This low-key approach has meant far fewer nights out for the magic bucket, and that any moths caught have been carefully cherry-picked for garden ticks or photo-opps. Thus far we have added just four new species to the garden list, but a quick trawl through this year's moth snaps has revealed that I am still a sucker for just about any moth that flies. The remainder of this post is clear evidence of that...


I can't recall if the trap saw any action in January, but three nights in the first week of February produced a few moths...

A nice Chestnut.

Hebrew Character is beautifully marked.

Double-striped Pug. The first of many.

The year's first NFG (new for garden): Acleris umbrana (Dark-streaked Tortrix)

Dark Chestnut


Apart from that little flurry of activity in early February, I'm not sure whether the trap was out again until the end of March, but thankfully I wasn't too late for one of my spring favourites...

Oak Beauty - a big, furry stunner.


April efforts were equally sparse...

Brindled Beauty

Brindled Beauty again.

Our eldest granddaughter is quite captivated by moths. An interest I hope to cultivate. She has also declared her intention to be 'a birdwatcher'. I sense a project...


A lot more activity this month...

May 8th. Another favourite: Chinese Character

Common Marbled Carpet - there will be lots of these.

Muslin Moth

Iron Prominent

Scoparia ambigualis (Common Grey)

Puss Moth - another big, furry wonder

Caloptilia azaleella (Azalea Leaf-miner). Our garden continues to be a hot-spot for this species, with three already in 2024.

These bizarre little moths are almost other-worldly.

Quite recently I upgraded my phone. My new (though second-hand) Pixel 7 is quite a modest smartphone, but the camera is miles better than the one on my ancient Sony Xperia, and is responsible for both those Azalea Leaf-miner pics. I'm impressed.

Mottled Pug. Initially I thought this was new for the garden, but found out later that we caught three last year. A nicely marked, distinctive pug.

Flame Shoulder. Another common but striking moth. Radford's Flame Shoulder is welcome any time.

May 15th. Not a moth. Or is it? Dingy Skipper at Cogden.

The miniscule Cypress Tip Moth (Argyresthia cupressella) - 4.5mm of shiny restlessness. Another phone pic.

First Mocha of the year. Immaculate.

A very fresh Common Pug. Subtle, but intricately marked.

Foxglove Pug. Still waiting for its look-alike, the Toadflax Pug.

Least Black Arches. New for the garden, and no bigger than a ton of micros.

Another NFG: Syndemis musculana (Dark-barred Tortrix)

Somewhat paler than I remember, but I think this is Monopis laevigella, or Skin Moth. According to the Dorset Moths website it is 'commonly reared from Barn Owl pellets' in the county!

Blair's Mocha. By the end of May we'd caught a second. I am confident there will be many more.

Yellow-barred Brindle.

A pristine Freyer's Pug.

Bridport seems to be a no-fly zone for this species, so I wasn't expecting it. This nice addition to the garden list is Galium Carpet. The concave indentation in the leading edge of the forewing helps separate it from Common Carpet.

Notocelia trimaculana (Hawthorn Shoot Moth) is a pretty little tortrix.

Cabbage Moth. We've had a few of these. Another basically brown moth which is nevertheless beautifully marked.

A bit of a monster post, and well done if you've waded through all the moth pics to arrive here. In the absence of any need to list or count moths this year, I've decided to make a bit of an effort with pugs. We have so far trapped 22 species here, but it would be nice to add one or two more. In the meantime I shall try and become more familiar with the regulars. I like pugs. They are basically miniature gulls.