Sunday, 8 April 2018

The Trappings of Success

I've had my light trap running most nights this past week or so. It's not exactly warm up here at the moment, but there's no frost and there's no wind either, so I guess it's about as decent as can be expected for early April this far north. Anyway, last night had that mystical 'sure feels good tonight' feeling and so I had the trap blazing away from slightly before dusk fell. I was still awake at 2am and could see several moths flitting around behind the curtains, illuminated by the trap bulbs. I caved in and had a peek...

Whaaaa??? That's not even a moth! 
This was one of those evil bastard Ophion things, the ones that rip your arms off and lay eggs into your still-bleeding stumps, thus sealing your fate to that of being eaten alive, hollowed out from within by the grubs of these evil least, that's how I see them. I knew a guy who was stung by one once, he said it was sharp and made him jump, which is all I need to know. My imagination can easily fill in the gaps (I bet he was eaten alive by the grubs...) 

However, there are several freaks academics out there who delight in these abominations. My online image piqued the interest of one such weirdo person who, upon realising that I had already secured a couple on pins (weighted down by strong chains, with garlic hung around their necks and silver bullets ready to deploy at the first twitch of an antennae...) asked for a barrage of images to firm up his suspected ID. Ok, well I can do that. As soon as I've put on my gauntlets, halberk and face shield. Always remember your PPE when dealing with ichneumons...

This shot shows the distance between the ocelli and the eyes. 
Lateral view of "T1", the bit that joins the tail to the body - apparently quite important regards ID
Hind coxa and tibia - another important ID feature apparently. Makes my own legs look positively ripped! 
Anyway, once I'd counted the antennal flagellomeres (there were 67) I whacked all of this up on Faceslap, then waited for the experts to cast their eyes across it all. I soon received the reply I was hoping for - Ophion scutellaris, dirt common everywhere at this time of year (along with Ophion obscurus with its big, bold creamy braces across the thorax) and yet entirely new for myself and for Skye! Gavin Broad runs the recording scheme for these beasts, tomorrow he's going to double-check for me that it is actually new for Skye. HBRG are going to love me when I do eventually submit my records...

Meanwhile, there were several moffy shadows flitting across the curtains; remember, my trap is situated on the inside window sill, which works quite well for me at the moment. Be a different matter once the midges start up. 

Probably the worst pic of an Early Grey that you'll see today
Hebrew Character - but a weird washed out form. Skye's beautifully odd is all I can say!
Red Sword Grass - GET IN!!!!! Brand new for me, I've never seen one of these before! 
Alright, confession time... so I wasn't sure if this was Sword Grass or Red Sword Grass, both options being new for me. It was a little after 6am when I found this bad boy in the trap. Remember that I didn't go to kip until at least 2:30am so I was tired (that's my excuse and by hell, I'm sticking to it...) You see how the hind foot is pale and the others aren't? Well, according to my copy of Waring & Townsend this is a diagnostic feature of Sword Grass, sweet! In a mad glee to share my amazing find with the rest of the world (Sword Grass is one frikkin good species up here!) I didn't pause to actually look at what I was seeing. Thankfully there's this fella, let's call him Nigel (which works well, seeing as that's his actual name) and Nigel is proper on the ball. Nigel instantly realised that the pale hind foot was, in fact, the end of an antenna poking out from beneath the moth's wings. He also knew that Sword Grass has pale middle and front legs (cheers Waring and Townsend, forgot that wee gem of info didn't we?) and therefore was able to correct my duff ID. My moff was, in fact, a Red Sword Grass. Fuckit, I'm making a right twat of myself on the FB group of late.

Also in the haul were a whole mob of Mottled Greys. I'm aware that I may be overlooking Early Tooth-striped amongst these, hence I photograph every moth attracted to the trap. Thus far I've yet to spot ETS amongst the Mottled Greys.  Best 'runner up' was this damn fine beast

Shoulder Stripe - a really rather decent moth on Skye
Seemingly only four records in the past 5 years up here, so quite the local gripper! 
Awful pic of an Acleris hyemana - new to my Skye list
Anyway, the immediate upshot to all of this was that I clearly need more literature and so only went and made a compulsive buy. Yeah, you know it...the new Townsend and Waring!! I managed to pick this up for under £25, so that's money well spent, in my eyes. 

Tonight is dedicated to Nigel. I've never even met the guy, but he's obviously a bit of an authority on moths. As such, I give you

And, because one track is never enough...

This lass completely blows my mind, her voice is sublime. I hope you're enjoying this current metal-free phase that I'm leading you through. Normal service will resume any day now, I'm sure of it :)

Also, just because it's an awesome track and you need it in your life....


  1. Stay well away from things that sting and bite, that's my advice.
    Glad to see your music taste is improving, Mazzy Star is a must although when waiting for a new album they really teach you what patience means!

  2. Jealous of the Sword Grass. Maybe one day I'll see one of them. Although right now I'm dreaming of wayward Camberwell Beauties.