Well, this is something that's never happened before - and that's quite a claim after 12 years of running a light trap. I came out this morning, early, after a night of mixed weather and was startled to see that the top of my familiar black, cowled tub was no longer in place. The lamp, its bulbholder and rainshield had all gone.
I was more startled still, and very relieved, to see when I got a little nearer that the light was indeed still shining, albeit in a different place. This is a tremendous tribute to the sturdiness of mercury vapour moth trap bulbs, as well as to the soft landing place provided by young cow parsley.
I had hear gusts of wind in the night and one such had clearly found its way under the rainshield, normally such a trusty ally in bad weather, and hoicked it off. Luckily, the night was much less wet than windy and the eggboxes under the large help left where the bulb should have been were onoy a little damp.
My trap is a bit of a contraption after so much use and I may invest in a new cowl this year, as more and more Sellotape is pressed into use to seal gaps and cracked sections, as shown to the left. For all its wonkiness, however, it was able to provide shelter to my first macro moths of 2020, the couple of Common Quakers shown below. Much as I admire Quakers, partly after spending five happy years at a highly independent and unorthodox Quaker school from the age of seven to 13, I have to tell you that they gave their name to this species, and several of its relations such as the Small and Yellow-bordered Quaker moths, because they are plain and drab..
I thought that was it but this evening, when I decided to put the trap out again in a more sheltered spot, I noticed a slimmer, angular-looking moth actually on top of the bulb's rainshield. Here it is: a male March Moth, below, one of the few species named after a month which stays pretty loyal to that designation (unlike, for example, the August Thorn). It's one of the winter and early Spring moths whose female companions get a raw deal, as shown in the picture from the Moth Bible, right. They are basically designed to reproduce, crawling up a tree trunk and waiting for a male to come and do the business.
Meanwhile the Spring is springing into life with a beauty which helps to counter all the gloom about Coronavirus. Here's a cherry tree in our garden and some of the clouds of mis-named blackthorn along the Oxford Canal and all round our neighbouring fields.
I've been a bit tardy with the next moth, the only one I found in February when I didn't light the moth trap at all. This little guy was in our shed and fluttered off when I banged the door. He or she is probably Agonopterix heracliana but could have been the very closely related but rarer A. ciliella. You can only really tell by genital examination and I'm not up to that. Plus the moth is long gone.
Finally, we had an extra member of the congregation in church this morning: this Peacock butterfly which was swooping around and getting into a bit of a tizz at the windows. If you look at the third photo, you can see one reason why. Peacocks and their relatives Small Tortoiseshells often hibernate in houses and other buildings and can emerge prematurely in sunny or warm spells. This accounts, inter alia, for their regular appearance in theatres where they had been snoozing in the stage curtains and their emergence is accounted a good omen for the box office. There's no scientific link, but it's nice to think that you never know.