Opened my eggbox to find a shark


As I write, there is a rumour that warmer weather is on the way ... and not before time. I can hardly remember such a prolonged period of cold easterly winds.

Most of the migrant birds seem to be here now at last, despite the weather. I caught up with the later arrivals last week on my patch including swift, whitethroat, sedge and garden warbler, and spotted flycatcher.

An Earlston reader contacted me by e-mail to say that she had heard a rare grasshopper warbler on a section of disused railway bank near the village.

As other Borders moth-ers have confirmed, the last few weeks have been absolutely dire for catching these night-time flyers.

I can honestly say that this has been the worst start to the spring season since I started trapping moths, with one notable exception.

The day before I went on holiday to Arran, I had the light trap on as part of the national Garden Moth Survey. It was so cold that normally I wouldn’t have bothered, but taking part in this survey means that it has to be done every week on a Friday night, regardless of the conditions.

Next morning, I delved into the egg boxes, which are put inside the trap to provide somewhere for the moths to hide until they can be identified and released, not looking to find much. As expected, there were only five moths. Four were quickly identified as common regular visitors but the fifth one had me scratching my head.

I searched through my moth guide and managed to narrow it down to two possibilities – both of which were extremely rare.

It was nothing spectacular to look at, being quite large, with its streaked wings held tightly to its body giving it an almost tubular shape. I took its picture before setting it free and, thanks to the wonders of computers sent the image up the line for the experts to prevaricate over.

I couldn’t wait for the result as my holiday beckoned. On my return I immediately checked my e-mail and was delighted to find that it had been positively identified as a Chamomile Shark and was a new record for Selkirkshire. Nice one!

I will be on duty at Hare Moss nature reserve near Ashkirk this Sunday, as part of the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s local reserves Open Day, so I hope to see some of you there.