Here’s the one that just got away

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I now know the feeling of missing a putt to win The Open by half an inch. When it comes to trapping moths, there are some you can do without, some which are of great interest and some you only dream about.

Falling into the last category is the Death’s Head Hawkmoth, a huge creature with a five-inch wingspan.

It only turns up occasionally in this country, being an irregular immigrant from warmer climes, and is usually seen on the south coast of England.

Not only does it have a skull on the back of its head, but it also squeaks. How cool is that!

One morning last week, I opened the back door to find a plastic box on the step containing what I thought at first was a dead bird.

On closer inspection, imagine my shock and amazement to see that it was in fact a recently deceased Death’s Head Hawkmoth.

With no indication as to where it had come from, I had to leave for work wondering who had left it and where it had originated.

When I got home, all was revealed. My neighbour had been tidying up her garden at the back of an outbuilding when she spotted the moth on the ground – obviously dead.

When I heard the exact location, I began to put things together.

The previous Friday I had my moth trap going for the last session of my weekly participation in the Garden Moth Survey, which runs from March until November.

I reckon the moth had been attracted by the light, but was too big to fly into the trap. That night there was a sharp frost which would have been too cold for the southerner to survive and it had probably keeled over in my neighbour’s garden.

Had it pegged out in my garden I could have claimed the record. As it was, it was found only around six feet from my property and a further 12 feet from my light trap.

According to those who monitor such things, there have been only a handful of records this year and those were mainly from Cornwall. How this one had managed so far north on its own, heaven knows, but the fact that I missed it by a whisker is hard to bear.

It is only the third record for the vice county of Selkirkshire, the last being in the 1960s when the late Arthur Smith had two sent to him by farmers.

Any way, here is its picture and it is an image which will haunt me for some considerable time!

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