Monday, 15 June 2015

On the mountain.

The Afon Cennen, that babbling brook that passes so scenically beneath Castell Carreg Cennen's stern gaze, begins its journey high up in the peat bogs of Y Mynydd Du to the north-east of the Tair Carn ridge. It plunges steeply down the northern scarp slope, but cannot be seen, for it flows beneath boulders in the massive ravine that it made at the end of the last ice age, perhaps 10,000 years ago. It was in that ravine that I determined to place my tiny actinic trap last night.


The last time I tried trapping here was in late March; it was quite warm in the valley, but I soon found that this was not the case up high. I sat with the trap as the wind increased and whistled up the ravine and the temperature dropped to near freezing. I packed up at midnight, having captured one moth (a Red Chestnut) and struggled back down the ravine and home to Cwmllwyd.

Last night, however, was rather more fruitful. I climbed up the mountain in daylight, setting up the trap at about 1400 feet, checked that the sensor was functioning and would light the trap at dusk and went home. This meant that I had to be up and away up the mountain again at dawn, easier this time without the weight of the kit. Was it worth it? Well, I hope you will agree that it was. 15 species put in an appearance and I think that some of these are worth showing below. 

 Narrow-winged Pug

Dark Brocade
Marbled Brown (it's a long way from the nearest oak woodland)!
Glaucous Shears

 Grey Mountain Carpet (it was very flighty, so I've put it in the fridge to calm down, when I hope for a better photo)

And this, not too common in Carmarthenshire - Grey Scalloped Bar!

Edit: here's a marginally better photo of a Grey Mountain Carpet, as promised above.

20 comments:

  1. Well well! - that is really a WONDERFUL set of records Steve, and showing what a bit of initiative can achieve by targeting good habitat away from home. Grey scalloped bar is - as I suspect you know - from your `slight understatement` with regard to its status in Carmarthenshire - completely new to the county! It`s not that easy these days to get a new macro onto the county list. This moth is also seemingly rare (or undetected) in the uplands of S Wales - so full marks to you! A fine supporting cast too.
    Give yourself a pat on the back and a congratulatory whisky from your (absent!) friends in the moth group.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A glass of whisky, you say? I've been teetotal for 50 years! A mention in the New Years Honours would have sufficed! I had three each of Grey Mountain Carpet and Grey Scalloped Bar, by the way and was off the hill and back home by 06:15, not bad going, I think. Many thanks for your kind comments, Ian.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The grey scalloped bar is Carms `Moth of the Year` so far!
    Given that migrants are still turning up elsewhere (eg more bordered straws in Glam), I`ll probably put the home traps out tonight and try to trap away from home on Tues night (which looks even better). `Strike while the iron`s hot`, I say.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The grey scalloped bar is Carms `Moth of the Year` so far!
    Given that migrants are still turning up elsewhere (eg more bordered straws in Glam), I`ll probably put the home traps out tonight and try to trap away from home on Tues night (which looks even better). `Strike while the iron`s hot`, I say.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've tracked down the reason for the really dreadful pictures shown above: the white balance was accidentally reset to the wrong value (must have been by me, of course). As the shots were both in JPEG and RAW, I can recover the pics, but I don't suppose that anyone else will be concerned unless this is needed for ID of the more uncommon species.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well done Steve, what a good effort on your part. Grey Scalloped Bar what a nice moth, I'll have your whiskey as you don't want yours!

    ReplyDelete
  7. You're welcome, Mel and thanks for your comments.

    ReplyDelete
  8. If you carry on like this you'll be in the New years Honours before long Steve! A great result, I'm almost as envious as Mel but she can have your whisky, I've been beertotal for almost 50 years (didn't touch a drop until my 18th birthday)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Whereas I, on the other hand, didn't touch a drop AFTER my 18th birthday! The only Honour that I would value would be the recognition by fellow Carms Moth Group participants that, from time to time, I am able to make a worthwhile contribution to the shared knowledge of the Group in exactly the same way as everyone else. After all, it's only luck when an unexpected moth decides to drop into a trap.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I wish I could say I was teetotal - some chance! However, I can honestly say that I have n`t touched whisky for over 50 years myself. I last drank the stuff in January 1975, at Durness in extreme NW Scotland, where I was mapping the geology of the area in the winter snow (no poncey H&S in those days). One night a couple of us went `out on the pop` - and whisky was the only drink available. Needless to say, we had far too much, got locked out (after being warned) by our strict Presbyterian landlady, and had to spend the night (freezing and snowing heavily) in the coal shed. I felt `more than rough` the next day and have avoided whisky ever since (but not beer!)....I thought this was a moth blog - though the word `bar` appears in the name of your star find!

    ReplyDelete
  11. All you men and no-one drinks whiskey, Laphroaig is my fav any one wants to know! Anyway back to Steve's moths and I think you more than add a contribution to the blog. Cheers :-)

    ReplyDelete
  12. That's excellent Steve. Trekking up a mountain has really paid off! Would you mind if I used the pic on our BC Wales facebook page (credited of course)? I won't be offended if you say no!

    ReplyDelete
  13. You're most welcome, George. I've sent a photo with the white balance improved to your Butterfly Conservation email address - please let me know if you have any problems with this.

    ReplyDelete
  14. An amazing record. Many thanks Steve.

    On the subject of Whisky, David Holyoak offered a bottle of whisky for whoever found Multi-fruited River-moss on a Welsh river other than the Teifi (or a glass of whisky if I found it). I duly discovered a colony on the Tywi at Nantgaredig, still the only non-Teifi population of this rare moss in Wales. I claimed my glass of whisky on the BBS Ireland meeting and really ought to have enjoyed it, but like the majority of Carms moth'ers did not.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great find Steve - shows the benefit of making the effort of trapping somewhere new! Unfortunately i was away this weekend so couldn't exploit the good mothing conditions.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks one and all for your comments - much appreciated.

    Sam: it is a mark of the highest professional respect to only be awarded one glass of whisky as a prize when everyone else would have received a whole bottle - so well done you. In the dim and distant past I used to drink the odd dram, but I gave it up at age 17 years on the day that I fell out of the train.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Steve, an earlier blog in which you suggest that moth trapping success is a matter of luck got me thinking: is this really so? Or is there an element of skill/expertise involved. I have often wondered this, but since I've never witnessed anyone else trap I simply don't know. Perhaps I will find out next month during Dave Grundy's micromoth course at FSC Orielton. I'm really hoping that the experience will improve my trapping technique!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Chris,I hope others in the group will consider your question, too, for I'm no expert and if you saw my antics when using a net, you would know that I'm not very skillful, either. It seems to me that knowledge is the key: knowledge which can be acquired from books (which species are likely to occur and where, as well as how to identify them), as well as local knowledge of possible sites where fairly constant effort can be guaranteed (very often, ones own garden). As, I'm sure, Ian would advocate, excursions to other sites from time to time add to ones knowledge and experience.

    What I think I'm saying is that I don't have to be expert to know what is likely to turn up in the alder grove at Cwmllwyd at any time, because I've trapped there over and over again and I've built up a picture of what to expect. If something unusual does turn up, the options as to what it could be become fewer over time, as my knowledge of the site continues to grow.

    I also have the benefit of that important safety net of knowing that there are members of Carms Moth Group out there who are willing to share their own knowledge when I need assistance from real experts. But, whatever ones level of expertise, you cannot make a spectacular rarity turn up on command - that remains a result of pure guesswork and a lot of luck.

    ReplyDelete
  19. GSB would be moth of the year in Glamorgan too - nice one Steve. As for luck, I'm a firm believer that you create your own. Getting out there and pushing boundaries is the way to generate it, just as you have done - well deserved.
    PS. whisky is horrible, but Guiness ...aaagh...

    ReplyDelete
  20. Steve, I couldn't agree more about how much the less experienced amongst us rely on the knowledge and expertise of our colleagues, none more so than myself, and this is apparent from the pleas for help in most of my blogs! This can't be helped, but I still feel that in all probability there's room for improvement in my trapping technique - type of trap, setting it up, positioning, timing etc - and, if so, refining it might lead to more moths being trapped which, in turn, should improve the chances that I'll come across a species that I haven't seen before. Of course luck is involved - a passing migrant visiting one's trap is more a matter of luck than skill - but in the case of your GSB you've made your own ' luck' , as Barry suggests, by trapping at a new location which, presumably, is a habitat of that species (the proof will be if you catch some more there in the future). In my book, your new record is not so much a matter of luck as initiative!

    ReplyDelete