Saturday, 5 October 2013

Wonder of the Day and other moths (or the wonder of Twitter)

Last night, browsing through Twitter, my attention was grabbed by a tweet from @andymus1 suggesting that it would be a good night to try and catch a Merveille Du Jour. Splendidly named and beautiful in appearance this is a moth I've always wanted to see so following his advice out went the trap. Fortuitously I checked the Norfolk Moths website to see if they occur in my area (which they do) but noted their comment "Infamous for sitting just outside of the trap at dawn, rather than in it". Fortunately dawn at this time of year is at a relatively reasonable time so at 7am as the sun was rising I wandered out in to the back garden in my dressing gown and wellies and scanned the grass around the trap. My gaze was first caught by the bright crimson of a Garden Tiger, a moth more of high summer than mid-autumn:

Followed by the characteristically folded wings of two Angle Shades moths:

And then, almost unbelievably but unmistakeably, the mythical beast itself, a Merveille Du Jour (literally wonder of the day) perched in the grass by the trap just as Norfolk Moths said it would be. It is indeed a beautiful moth in the flesh, intricate black and white patterns on a lime-green background with black and white striped legs.

The trap itself had accumulated a good collection of Daddy Long-legs and caddis flies but also a selection of moths typical for the time of year, lots of Beaded Chestnuts, Large Wainscots, Lunar Underwing and Large Yellow Underwings but also this splendid Green-brindled Crescent:

And the grey but exquisitely patterned Blair's Shoulder-knot:

With others such as Pink-barred Sallow, Red-line Quaker and White-point I managed a total of 27 species of moths, not a bad haul for a Tweet.
As I was collecting the trap a single Brambling had flown over but this initial promise of migrants failed to deliver anything further. Hopeful for a patch Firecrest (there seemed to be a mini-invasion just a few miles away) I only managed to see 2 Green Sandpipers on the scrape. Bird experience of the day came from a Grey Heron which I spotted poised in stalking mode away from its usual favoured watery habitat. As I watched, intrigued to see what its quarry would be, it suddenly lunged forward and then lifted its head with a squirming mole in its beak. Constantly juggling the mole, it walked to the nearest dyke and dunked the unfortunate creature several times into the water although never for long enough to do anymore than rinse it. Eventually the mole went limp and was duly swallowed, a good but probably unusual meal for the Heron.

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