Moth evening - 8th June 2005
Berrydown Court - mothing, drizzling, batting and bouncing!
Several of the Ashen birdwatchers finished the evening off (read the birdwatch report here) with a visit to Berrydown Court - the idea, to watch what several moth traps would attract in from the surrounding garden and countryside.
A series of traps were placed in strategic positions about the garden and it was not long before these attracted both moths and observers in close; the latter sometimes struggling to leave their own trap of lemon drizzle cake, American style cookies, flapjacks, hot tea, coffee and chocolate! A bat detector soon proved worthwhile, the 45 kHz Pipistrelles also being attracted in, this time by the moths themselves!
The opportunity to look about the private gardens before dusk fell was much appreciated by all of the guests, the formal planting, architecture and work being carried out on the house, the newt-filled pond, sculptures, both present and those planned for the future, and the trampoline all being talking points.
With the falling darkness the real action started, though slowly due to the incredibly clear and star-filled sky, cooling temperature and low humidity - the exact opposite of what one might hope for on a mothing night, the only factor in our favour being the lack of wind.
Careful scrutiny of the traps, particularly the one where a white sheet had been spread around it to act as a landing strip for the insects, soon had those present gaining enthusiasm and wondering at the nocturnal beasties appearing. Cockchafers banged into everything as they plummeted earthwards, these bumbling bugs loitering once having been drawn in to the lights and allowing all to marvel at their feathered antennae and fearsome grip if handled.
Right: Cockchafer, Melolontha melolontha. Note the males' feathered antennae, these being used to help track down the females.
Wandering from trap to trap added two Tawny Owls calling and the opportunity to watch the moths coming in from out of the sky. Brimstone Moth could be picked out by its' luminous yellow colouration, Green Carpet by their weak and fluttering flight and the several Pug species by their lack of size but no lack of energy! A Lime Hawk-moth dropped to the sheet and was the highlight for many that did not stay into the small hours.
Left: Lime Hawk-moth Mimas tiliae (Picture, Mike Wall)
Clouded-bordered Brindle, Rustic Shoulder-knot, Pale Tussock, Common Marbled Carpet, Orange Footman, White and Buff Ermines were amongst others to appear early in the proceedings, their names causing almost as much interest as the moths themselves.
As the night drew on and those attending gradually slipped off towards bed, the mothing action built up, as is so often the case and a count of at least 49 species and 133 individuals was taken (view the detailed list of species here). Two species noted were the first records for the 10km square that was being trapped in: Nematopogon schwarziellus and Teleiodes luculella.
Right: Nematopogon schwarziellus (Picture, Mike wall). The individual found was the first for the SU54 10km square.
The last of the attending left at c.01:15 - these being lucky enough to see such sights as Privet and Elephant Hawk-moths, Scorched Wing, Angle Shades and several locals on top of each other, in pursuit of a moth that had escaped in the kitchen and been enticed to a strip light! Well that's their story and they're sticking to it!
Many thanks must go to those who arranged the access to Berrydown Court and catered so well for the attendees; the hospitality that was shown, the knowledge of the site that was shared and the tolerant attitude to the invasion making this an evening that will be remembered for a long time. These same thanks also go out to Mike Wall, the OBS moffer, who provided both the trapping equipment and expertise that enabled all those attending to go away having seen and learnt something new about the nocturnal world that far too few venture into.
Peter E. Hutchins