Sunday, 23 November 2008

Extreme Mothing

To some people, the idea of mothing conjures up images of sultry summer evenings. Setting up traps in the hope of glamorous hawkmoths and exotic-sounding beauties such as Satin Lutestring. The whole mothing experience in November is rather different.

With half an eye on the weather forecast, last night was deemed to be mothing night for the month at the wonderful Perivale Wood. I rendezvoused at the wood with Andrew Culshaw and David Howdon wearing twenty-five jumpers and my new BirdGuides Beanie and was still cold. We inspected the temperature (2°C) - and set off on a round of (in my view insanely optimistic) sugaring. Sugaring involves dousing inanimate objects with a revolting mixture of Guinness, some ester that reminded me of bananas and molasses that has been stewed up until dark brown and sticky.We wandered round the wood anointing various tree trunks with gloop and "dusking". This marvellous word describes the art of swiping hopefully at fast-disappearing specks with a net whilst tripping over strategically placed tree roots. There was almost nothing on the wing, and instead we relied on finding moths roosting (which is a skill in itself - you need to "get your eye in").

Dusking in fact produced more moths than you might imagine in the conditions. We had a Feathered Thorn, several Winter Moths, Scarce and Mottled Umbers and a November moth. We popped them in pots for further inspection indoors - leaving our two MV (mercury vapour) skinners and one actinic heath trap running overnight. Break down this morning was scheduled for 07:30 (what luxury - this is the upside of mothing in the winter). We trooped around the circuit and yes, not one moth. Just snow.

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