moth trapTHIS IS the moth trap that I’ve been using. It’s built from a design that you can find in the Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies Beginners Guide to Moth Trapping, which is available as a PDF from the Anglian Lepidopterist Supplies website. It slots together so it’s easy to dismantle for storage.

blacklightI bought the black light UV bulb in September, intending to have the trap ready for the moths of early autumn but by Christmas I still hadn’t made a start on it so I’m grateful to my friend David Stubbs of Solway Dory who made this for me in his workshop.

He made one modification to the design which isn’t essential but which I’ve found helpful; the original design is apparently open to the ground so he added a plywood base that rests on batons of 1×1 inch timber glued around the bottom edges of the trap. This is useful on a summer morning when I need to move the trap into the shade to deal with later.

A further improvement that I have in mind: I’m checking in charity shops to see if I can find a suitable heatproof glass container, such as a large cafetière, to cover the bulb so that if there’s a shower during the night it will be protected.

I didn’t want to run the cable out of a window so I had an outdoor electrical socket with a circuit breaker fitted on the back wall of the house, which is a useful thing to have anyway.

Mercury Vapour or UV?

A couple of friends who’ve had experience of moth-trapping recommended that I start with a UV lamp rather than the more powerful mercury vapour. Apart from potentially annoying the neighbours in a back garden location like mine, the mercury vapour brings in so many moths from such a wide area that it can be daunting for the beginner to deal with quantity and variety of species caught.

My friend Tim Freed who does moth surveys sometimes runs three traps simultaneously but he stops up all night going from one to the other logging the catch.

I’m happier to be dealing with much smaller samples of the local moth population but I hope that I’ll be able to keep this up through the seasons and gradually get an impression of the bigger picture.

I’ve got a number of moth books but I think the essentials are Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Paul Waring and Martin Townsend and Field Guide to the Micro Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Phil Sterling and Mark Parsons. Both are illustrated by Richard Lewington.

Moths are so variable that its helpful to check out other books and to Google the species and conjure up dozens of images of it.

Pond-dipping the Movie

smooth newt
This smooth newt is a male; note the banner-like tail.

WE CAUGHT smooth newts, freshwater leeches and pond snails in one of the ponds at Hassacarr nature reserve, Dunnington Common, near York on this morning’s Wakefield Naturalists Society field meeting. This is only the second occasion on which I’ve tried out the possibilities of underwater movies using my Olympus μ Tough so using the iMovie app I’ve put together a few clips in this YouTube video.

Sketching the newt as it swam around the tank gives some impression of its movements but you can’t improve on the video clip in the way it shows the looping movement of the leech.

Tubular Water Dropwort

Seed-heads of tubular water-dropwort.
Seed-heads of tubular water-dropwort.

Tubular water-dropwortTubular Water-dropwort, Oenanthe fistulosa, grows around the edges of the largest pond. It one of the rarer species to be found on the reserve, declining as its wetland habitats disappear.

Around York, a city long famous for its flooding, wetlands is sometimes seen as prime real estate. Earlier this year one developer was frustrated that his plan to build an out of town department store was held up for several months because the resident population of great crested newts had to be relocated.

We found no great crested today at Dunnington but they are often found on pond-dipping days on the reserve.