Monday, 6 February 2012

2011 in Dernol

I started the year full of enthusiasm, determined to set the trap more often than my feeble efforts in previous years - and sadly failed to achieve it! However, there were some interesting results along the way.

I added 19 new 'firsts' - 18 macros and 1 micro - for my garden, taking my grand total there to 128 - not so 'grand' by some people's standards, but quite satisfying to be going on with. I had 11 Double Darts one night in July, which is apparently an unusual number in one session, so I assume that they like it round here. After having little success over the last few years, I also managed to photograph a micro before it escaped from the range of my camera - an Udea ferrugalis (Rusty-dot Pearl); I have very little ability to identify micros, and also have difficulty in keeping them still enough to photograph so that Peter Williams  can do his usual sterling service of identification. They don't seem to respond to a few hours in the fridge like their larger relations.

I'm pleased to say that my photography has improved quite considerably this year, and I've been putting the photographs to good use. I've lived where I do now for 24 years, and have been saddened at how much the local environment has been unwittingly damaged by farming practises, many of them of dubious value - hedgerows removed, trees cut down (one field had every tree, mostly silver / downy birch and rowan removed from its periphery and replaced with a wire fence and posts), fields 'improved' (a field that used to be full of orchids now has none), and every nettle plant on local verges and field edges sprayed with something that turns them brown and crisp within a day. The local farmers doing this, with one exception, are not deliberately doing harm, and have been quite interested in hearing about my interests in wildlife; the moth photos (particularly those of  the more spectacular ones, such as hawk moths, thorns, Puss Moths and the like) have been  useful as they have been quite amazed at what is out there that they don't know about, and at least nowadays they do actually leave my nearby nettle patches untouched - when I first asked one of them about not spraying them, and explained that it was because the butterfly caterpillars fed on them, he commented "You don't see so many of them these days"! It's no use people like me trying to lecture them on such matters, much better to engage their interest; a couple of them now regularly talk to me about such matters when our paths cross, a definite small step in the right direction.

On a similar theme, my partner Sue, an artist, was running a children's workshop at the Royal Welsh Show a few years ago, and had decided to use a theme of 'Butterflies' (nowadays she would do moths as well). In advance we made up and laminated some A4 printouts, each one featuring a species of butterfly that the children might have seen locally, along with illustrations of their caterpillars and food plants, which were hung on the wall of the marquee at the show. These proved popular with the children, and their parents too, and hopefully some, if they don't already do so, will think about the wild plants on their farms a little more. It's always good to take the opportunity of doing a little awareness raising at local events, and I recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity, time and inclination.

Sue has also used some of my moth photographs as inspiration for some new canvases and range of cards; only two so far, but with more to come. They are not meant to be accurate representations of the moths, but instead use them as a basis for an abstract design. If anyone wants to have a look they are on

With Peter's encouragement, I extended my trapping season last year, having previously stopped in late September, and was very pleasantly surprised at the numbers of moths I caught on the one occasion in November when I set the trap. Although they are a common species, it was the first time I had seen a December Moth, and I had 25 of them. This has encouraged me to set the trap every month this year to see what else is out there, though unfortunately both times I did so in January produced a disappointing grand total of 0!

In March I spent a day on the Vyrnwy Estate accompanied by the head RSPB warden, as part of the Woodland Trust's 'Ancient Tree Hunt' project (I'm responsible for verifying trees recorded by the public in Powys). He drove us around areas of the estate that I would not have gone to on foot, and when I mentioned my interest in moths, he revealed that he was also a keen 'trappist', and took me to see a row of old Downy Birch trees in which there were many Welsh Clearwing larvae exit holes. I hadn't seen these before, but was pleased to find out what to look for. I had also heard that this species was resident on a Radnor Wildlife Trust reserve, Gilfach Farm, near to where I live (I'm right on the Montgomery / Radnor border), so on a visit there to show some RWT volunteers how to measure and record trees, I was very pleased to find the same evidence on that site. Now that I know where they are locally, I intend to attempt to lure some adults and photograph them this year. Any advice on this (including if there is a reliable alternative to using pheromones) would be welcome.

Looking forward in 2012 to increasing my total of species caught in my garden, through my determination to set the trap more frequently. Hopefully I won't be repeating the first sentence of this post in January 2013!


  1. Seems like you've had a nice year. Let’s hope 2012 brings you many new moth species!

    With regards to Welsh Clearwings, I think lures are best chance of seeing them. Other than pheromones there aren't many ways of getting to see them. Searching the tree trunks right at the start of their flight season may be another way. Good luck with them anyway!

    Your wife is quite the artist, 2 lovely species portrayed there I must add.


  2. Hello Les,

    A very interesting insight as to what goes on down there in Dernol (our most southern moth recording site). You probably have the strongest colony of Double Dart currently found in the county, well worth monitoring on an ongoing basis.

    I'm pleased to hear that your first go at photographing a micro moth went well, perhaps you'll try doing some more this year and send the best ones in, for use on the web site.

    I hope 2012 is a good year mothing year for you.