Friday, 1 February 2019

"If you go down in a mine today, you're sure to have a surprise"

A couple of weeks back an old friend, Ian, who I used to do mine exploration with, paid me a visit  for the weekend.  It was an opportunity to investigate some local mine workings with a fellow experienced underground explorer.

We decided to look at some old levels marked on the OS map near Penybontfawr in the north of Montgomeryshire, to see how substantial the workings were. I had previously visited some of their locations but not ventured in, being on my own - so I already knew they were accessible.

After three of the levels proved to be short dead end drives we headed for the fourth site, lowest down the hill at about 200m altitude.

Upon entering this tunnel which was virtually dry, we found it, too was a blind, finishing after approximately 40m. At the end of the tunnel, Ian who was leading, spotted a hibernating bat low down on the tunnel wall, so we quickly decided to leave the tunnel again as I understand they are very sensitive to temperature disturbances when hibernating (please correct me if I am wrong!) . As I turned around, my head torch beam reflected off something jewel like on the tunnel wall. Closer inspection revealed a Herald moth (Scoliopteryx liatrix)! Then another and another. Looking further back towards the entrance we could see what turned out to be a "colony" of twenty eight moths spread out over the tunnel walls.

Interestingly, they were all located in a band of the tunnel about 2.5m long and were all on angles of rock facing into the tunnel, about 35m away from the entrance.

Once home , I checked the grid reference location to confirm that they are my first underground moth record for Montgomeryshire!

One poor specimen, which we nick-named "Santa" had a band of mildew formed around its head - wether this will affect it, or it is already dead, I do not know.

I have come across these moths in dark places before, such as behind stacked boards in a barn but did not imagine they would venture so far into somewhere like this for over-wintering.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Phil,

    Excellent post, I definitely think that these old mines are worth checking out in the winter months for our hibernating species- it's certainly a good record to start you off for the year.