Monday, 18 April 2011

Bacon butties in the forest

Sorry for the silence for a while; it's been busy. But this weekend made up for that when I had a wonderful time with Yorkshire mothman Terry Box and his merry band. We went trapping overnight in Forestry Commission woodland between the 'Mousey' Thompson village of Kilburn, near Thirsk, and the beetling precipices of Whitestone cliffs.

You don't get much more remote than this in England (Scotland is a different matter), although Terry had the gate key so that we could drive along the foresters' excellent tracks. If moths notice such things, they will have got their own back over all those rude remarks about them being 'small and brown.' All four cars were the same silver-grey. "Goodness, aren't those humans boring..."

We had to go for over a mile, maybe nearly two, into the pleasantly mixed woodland while the sun set spectacularly over the plain of York. Once there, we set up eight - eight! - traps, using generators and batteries. Thence to the pub. The redoubtable Terry stayed all night in the spooky woods. The rest of us were back by 7am.

We found treasures which I'll add here when I get copies of the pics - I only had my 'phone camera, but got these interesting studies of human fauna, including (appropriately in the director's chair) the legendary Charlie Fletcher, a GP who is Yorkshire's county moth recorder, and Diane Bowes, ace photographer and bacon butty provider when we went back to inspect the traps on Sunday morning (evidence, left). The moths were relatively few in number after a cold night, but included some excellent novelties for me. I have never seen a Scarce Prominent before, nor a Pine Beauty, a lovely moth although its voracious caterpillars are considered a pest by foresters. There was also a beautiful Lunar Marbled Brown.

The other, human, characters in the group picture are, from left, Jill Warwick, a tremendous moth expert, Diane's partner Ian who is another excellent moth photographer, Terry and my Guardian colleague Iain Chambers, on the right with headphones, who was responsible for the whole thing. He had this excellent idea for a Radio 4 programme about moths in which more about our forestry antics will emerge. It goes out at 11-11.30am on Friday 6 May and I'll tell you more about that shortly. Meanwhile click my link in the first para to Terry's highly enjoyable blog.

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