Light entertainment for moth-ers!

Some of the Glenkinnon moth watchers at one of the light traps.
Some of the Glenkinnon moth watchers at one of the light traps.
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When it comes to a choice of being tucked up in a cosy bed or being out in a drizzly, midge-infested forest, staring at a dazzling mercury vapour bulb, I’m sure most sensible souls would select the former. Not me!

Last Friday was National Moth Night and I had to get involved, being a bit of an amateur moth-er. The venue for a special demonstration was the forest car park at Glenkinnon near Caddonfoot and organiser Malcolm Lindsay of Galashiels, arranged for a 10pm start.

On arrival, it started to rain and the midges were meaning business, but at least it wasn’t, cold as the two light traps were set up - one in the car park and the other in a nearby meadow.

Soon the rain eased and the midges retired, fully fed for the night, and the first moths started to arrive.

The site is only a few miles from where I do my trapping in the back garden, so I wasn’t, expecting a lot of new ones to add to my personal list of almost 200 species, but I was wrong. Within the first hour we had caught Welsh Wave, Scorched Wing and Coronet - all new to me!

By way of a diversion from staring at the light, one of the assembled night people announced she had a bat detector, so we wandered off to the nearby road, where a row of street lights would help illuminate any flying bats picked up on the detector. Soon the machine was chattering away, converting the bats’ sonar location signals, which are normally too high pitched for our ears, into audible sounds which can be attributed to different species, according to frequency. We reckoned we had pipistrelle, Daubenton’s and possibly long-eared flying around. Fascinating stuff!

It was obvious it wasn’t going to be a spectacular night, with none of the big crowd pleasing hawkmoths putting in an appearance, so at around 1am, it was decided to pack up and see what may have flown into the traps unseen by the watchers. Several new ones were released and Malcolm reckoned that the evening’s tally would probably be 30-40 species – not bad for a relatively poor night.

If you would like to get involved with this fascinating group of creatures (all of which have descriptive English names) drop me an e-mail to corbie@homecall.co.uk and I will put you in touch with your local moth recorder.