Twenty-five years ago I was playing cricket for Exeter St James at Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club. We’d been set a massive 268 to win by the hosts … and I was well set, making hay with the bowling, seeing the ball like a melon – well, cricket is designed for slightly overblown metaphors and similes. Nonetheless, at 87 not out, the target was well within sight and I felt a century, and victory, was there for the taking. Then disaster struck, as I was triggered by the home umpire. LBW, well forward, to a left arm bowler? Never!
It was with my teeth gritted therefore that I took my son to Budleigh last night to join the cricket club, determined to forget that day from my own past. Of course, it all panned out well. Sammy had a great time and we were both welcomed with open arms into the club. I even found old friends there, faces that I know I remembered, but couldn’t quite place.
So it was with the moths this morning. As always I looked around the boundaries of the trap, then opened it up, and there were friends I knew from recent days – Common Quaker, eight Hebrew Character and an Early Grey – so familiar I noted them swiftly, then passed on. But there were others I knew, though not so readily, from days gone by – not 25 years, of course, but from last year, where I got to know well over 250 new friends. The one that stood out amongst them was this one.
I couldn’t make sense of it for a while. Like the people at the cricket club, its face was familiar, but somehow out of context … until I realised that it was a very early Common Marbled Carpet. I say very early because, although I trapped it on 24 occasions in total, my first one last year was not until 19th May, almost a month later. Indeed, I looked on the Moths Counts Recording Scheme pages and the earliest record they seem to have there since 2000 is ‘week 18’, which equates to w/b 8th May. You can see this, and the nice bivoltine (two brood) breeding pattern, in the reporting rate diagrams taken from the species page:
It’s great to see this old friend again after our time apart. But it wasn’t on its own. I’d found it on the boundary edge, outside the clubhouse which sits under the MV light, and next to it was this wonderful Brimstone.
I trapped nearly 70 of them last year, on 24 separate occasions, with 10+ on some nights, so you wouldn’t expect it to come as a shock. But having sat out the dark nights of winter, it was a pleasant surprise to see it again and to be reminded how intensely bright and patterned it is. A real stunner, and sleepy enough to handle, as you can see.
Also looking great, sat watching from the boundary, was this Brindled Pug, again, a first for the year. All those years ago the umpire committed quickly and with conviction to his LBW id. I’ll be more cautious, and though I’m fairly confident, I’d be grateful for confirmation from any ‘off-field’ umpires looking at this – a kind of moth DRS.
It’s really smart and, with so many of the pugs looking tatty by the time they are trapped, it was wonderful to get such a fresh one to see the patterns clearly. In a recent post I had Oak-tree Pug and seeing these two almost alongside each other for comparison is helpful – note the zig-zag white lines near the wingtips on this brindled, and the black spot within, rather than on the inner edge, of the pale patch in the middle of the wing. Do I sound confident enough?
Less familiar, but a moth who I have come across recently, was this Small Quaker, more classically marked than my last one. It’s a subtle species, and one that always bears a close look.
So, old friends, reunited, but the best moth was a newcomer in the clubhouse. This was a moth I’d been hoping to sign up, but not yet managed – Streamer.
If you were designing moths from scratch, this one would be rejected for being too outlandish, surely? To the naked eye, it appears subtly patterned, but the camera manages to pick out all the shades of purple and grey; with even its hind wings looking stunning.
Perhaps it was the excitement of finding this beauty, trapped LBW (Lepidoptery Before Work), but somehow, the pain of not making my century and securing victory against our rivals has faded into history. In fact, 87 wasn’t such a bad score and, anyway, it’s being eclipsed by my current innings, counted in moths. A garden total of 249 not out … enough to know that I’ll soon knock off that 268.