Wildlife Gem is a first for Selkirkshire


I’m just back from a week on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, where, just my luck, the weather broke down after the glorious spell we’ve had.

However, we had good days as well as bad and the scenery there is better than anywhere – and so are the midges!

As usual, there was a Borders connection. The owner of the croft we stayed on used to farm at Kittyfield, near Gattonside.

Having got back on Saturday, I had missed my weekly Friday night moth trapping session as part of the nationwide Garden Moth Survey, but the rules allow for a three night option either side, so I set to that evening. Next morning, I had all the usual suspects for the time of year, mainly the various yellow underwing species, but on a polythene sheet, next to the trap, a wee brown one caught my eye.

At first I thought it was one of the pug species, which are nearly all brown and a nightmare to sort out. This one, however, had a conspicuous white dot on each wing, which I hadn’t seen before. I gently popped it into a jar and began leafing through my moth book. The only match I found was with one called simply the gem.

On checking my Borders list, I found that it had only been seen once before. I knew then that I was possibly onto a good one. I managed to take a couple of pictures and swiftly sent them down the line to my moth mentor Malcolm, who promptly got back with confirmation of my identification. It was a female gem and its only previous record was a male from Denholm in 2011. It was a new record for Selkirkshire!

It is a Continental migrant normally found in the south, so Malcolm thought that due to its fresh appearance, it may have bred here. Paradoxically, I realised that if I hadn’t gone on holiday, I would have missed it.

Going through my backlog of emails, I came on one from botanist Michael Braithwaite, who I have known for more years than I care to remember. He is the Botanical Recorder for Berwickshire and informed me that he is about to publish a new book on the plants of the county called A Short Flora of Berwickshire.

This hardback book to be published privately will be of 432 pages, liberally illustrated in full colour with photographs and distribution maps. English names for the wildflowers are shown alongside the Latin names throughout.

County Floras are not identification guides. They are aimed at enthusiasts who already have identification books and know a good number of the wildflowers. For such enthusiasts they are a must. Identification guides give only a little information on where wildflowers are to be found while a County Flora lays it all out.

The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland has arranged grant assistance, enabling the cover price for this limited edition book to be set at £20 plus £5 post and packing. A flyer with order form is available on the BSBI website under Berwickshire, or a cheque for £25 made out to M E Braithwaite may be sent to: Michael Braithwaite, Clarilaw Farmhouse, Hawick, Roxburghshire, TD9 8PT.