Thursday, 2 June 2011

A wandering soul

The language of UK moths can sound surprisingly like that of the Home Office, particularly where migration is concerned. Transitory, occasional and wandering immigrants make up a large proportion of our regular species and here, below, is a notable example. I know it has the predictable look of the 'boring grey British moth' but it excited me because I had never seen its like before.


Needless to say, I failed to identify it but our county recorder Charlie Fletcher never fails and he emailed to say: "It's a Dark Swordgrass and you probably haven't had one of those, have you?" Indeed not, but I have rapidly learned a lot about it, as one of the most regular and sturdy migrants to our island. It figures on the 'ten most common' lists of all the coastal moth traps which ring the UK's shores; for example 190 were found at Spurn Point last year, 44 at Tynemouth and a bumper 377 at Portland in Dorset. It gets very much more scarce inland.

How do I know this erudite stuff? Thanks to a wonderful magazine called Atropos, published in Yorkshire's very own Meltham, near Holmfirth, and all about butterflies, moths and dragonflies. It has an excellent section online called 'Flight Arrivals', exactly like Leeds-Bradford airport's except that when you click on it, you get info about Dark Swordgrasses, Red Admirals and Hummingbird Hawk moths, rather than flights by Jet2 and other airlines. The level of amateur but expert knowledge and publication in the UK, in print as well as the infinite blogosphere, never ceases to amaze me.

To conclude; because the Dark Swordgrass is a bit grey, here's a common but nice and bright Brimstone moth which is calling at the moment; and another, brighter newcomer to my trap, the Small Fanfoot, below. Sorry it's a bit blurred; I find it hard to get the focus right when the black but shiny trap bowl forms the background