A Morning Of Moths

One of the perks of my seasonal role here at Montrose Basin Visitor Centre is the people I meet and the wealth of knowledge they have regarding various topics and species. I feel very fortunate to be able to learn a little of their craft and hone my own ID skills, and, also, practical ones.

One example of this occurred two weeks ago when our local moth recorder, Paul, happened to be setting his traps for the evening. He graciously allowed my daughter and I to tag along the following morning, much to Brody’s initial dismay at the prospect of a sunrise alarm, to empty the traps and ID/count the various moth species. We arrived at 7ish with Paul already working hard to count the sleepy yet waking moths before they began to mobilise and take off. One of the first out the trap was this rather lovely Coxcomb Prominent, a relatively common moth that’ll feign death if handled!

Coxcomb Prominent

Next out of the trap was this Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing. Although it isn’t apparent when the wings are closed, as the name suggests, this moth has a beautiful egg yolk underwing with a broad brownish border. Broad Bordered Yellow Underwings are one of the many moth species to show sexual dimorphism with the males tending to be a darker brown.

Broad Bordered Yellow Underwing

Paul continued to work through the trap, carefully lifting and turning the egg cartons to identify and record the many species tucked into every nook. In total, 79 species were observed and recorded. Whilst we didn’t get any Hawk Moths (which are the jumbo jets of the moth world, and arguably the eye catchers), we did get to see some excellent specimens and learned about their habits, distribution and even their predators (I will never look at a robin the same).

This July Highflyer caught my attention due to its intricate wing design and colouring. These “macro” moths are widespread in the UK, preferring hedgerows and woodland margins. Their colours and patterns are highly variable and offer excellent camouflage from predators. According to Butterfly Conservation, there are around 900 macro moth species in the UK and these are (allegedly) easier to ID than the teensy micros.

July Highflyer

The highlight for me would have to be this incredibly cute Iron Prominent. Iron Prominent caterpillars are curious looking insects with several angular humps who feed largely on birch. This particular moth used my thumb as a runway to warm up before taking off.

Iron Prominent

Montrose Basin regularly hold additional events such as moth nights which are very popular and cater for all knowledge levels, and although the moth evenings may be drawing to a close by late autumn, daily we have new species of bird arriving, which will soon include huge numbers of pink-footed geese!

Our next moth night event is set for the end of September! Keep an eye on the events page and the Montrose Basin Facebook page for updates.

– Catriona Cooper, Montrose Basin Visitor Centre Seasonal Assistant

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One of the perks of my seasonal role here at Montrose Basin Visitor Centre is the people I meet and the wealth of knowledge they have regarding various topics and …

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