Friday, 3 May 2013

Oxford Blues

Greetings fellow Moth'ers. I thought that I'd introduce myself: I'm Adam (known as Gnome in birding circles & @PMBirding on twitter) and I live in Oxford. I'm a keen birder (see my blogs Port Meadow Birding, Pendeen Birding and Gnome's Birding Diary) who last year turned to moths and butterflies by way of consolation during the boring summer months and now find that I actually really like them. The nice thing about the moths in particular is that one can do it from the comfort of ones own home without having to travel. It also has the same tricky ID challenges and the listing aspects that birding has. The disadvantage is that if one, like me, lives in a rather moth-poor area, then it can be really frustrating. I live near the centre of Oxford in a semi-detached house surrounded by lots of other houses with not much in the way of decent habitat nearby apart from my beloved Port Meadow which is my birding patch but which, as an area of grassland with flood water, isn't particularly good for moths either. Thus I'm left rather frustrated on reading of the great catches that other people get when I'm struggling to find much at all in the trap. There's someone less than a mile from me in Wolvercote whose house borders some much better habitat and he's consistently getting two or three times the numbers that I am. So I've not got much to work with but I do the best I can. 

One thing that I've found is the paucity of moths has forced me to start looking at micros, just to have something to ID and tick off. This is of course a whole new can of worms but I'm persevering with it. I've got a homemade "Heath-Robinson" trap with a 40W actinic bulb (see here for a write-up) which I put out at the back of the garden when conditions warrant it. This year I've been keeping a strict record of all my catches and have a princely year total of 11 to date plus 4 butterflies (Holly Blue, Large White, Brimstone & Peacock). The nicest looking moth so far this year has been a Streamer. The most interesting was probably a Caloptilia rufipennella (a county year tick no less), chiefly because it was rather hard to ID. In my ignorance I thought I knew what it was but I knew that I didn't know enough about the ID subtleties to be certain so in the end I sent the photos to Richard Lewington (I know his brother well) who agreed with my ID but also forwarded them to Phil Sterling (he of micro moth book fame) who also agreed. You can't really ask for a more concrete confirmation than that! Anyway, I'm fully expecting to languish down at the bottom of the Garden Moth score table for the whole year but at least this blog will give me a outlet for some periodic mothy blogging and it will be nice to follow how other people are getting on in their much better moth-rich gardens.

 Caloptilia rufipennell
The Streamer

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