Volunteer Stephen Buckland has been identifying different species of moths at our Bankhead Moss and Fleecefaulds Meadow wildlife reserves in Fife, with 158 different species recorded on the meadow alone. Spotting new or rare species along with being out at night are just some of the reasons he enjoys being a moth recorder.
Most moths are nocturnal, so this involves being on the reserves at night. As most species are attracted by light, the most effective way to record moths is to set light traps. A light trap usually consists of a light above a box, with an opening that moths drop into. The trap is filled with empty egg cartons, which give moths plenty of places to hide and rest. As many moths do not enter the trap, further egg cartons are placed around the outside, and the trap is placed on a sheet. Many moths settle either on or under the sheet, and more land on the egg cartons. In good weather at the height of the season in July, a single trap may attract several hundred moths of 70 or more species. July 2023 offered little good weather, so numbers were generally lower! After tallying up the moths by species, and taking photos of the more interesting moths and those that are more challenging to identify, I release all moths alive, before leaving the reserve.
Being on the reserves at night, I encounter quite a lot of wildlife. At Fleecefaulds Meadow, one night a badger hurried past me, chuntering away, clearly unhappy about me invading its territory. On almost every visit, at some point during the night, a roe deer would spot me and bark loudly. A vixen could be heard calling on some visits. At dawn, brown hares could be seen at the bottom of the site. At Bankhead Moss, grasshopper warblers could be heard singing in the middle of the night in early summer, and a snipe was drumming on one visit.
I started my visits to Bankhead Moss in early April. Some sites are great for spring moths, and some are not. I soon discovered that Bankhead Moss is in the latter category! Two April visits yielded just six species, while one in early May added a further seven. By late May, things were looking up, and in total from April to mid-August, I recorded 131 species. These included the tiny micro-moth, Thyraylia nana. There are just three previous records of this species from Fife, all from last century and none verified by photo. Other notable ‘micros’ included Metzneria lappella (also recorded from Fleecefaulds and just one other site in Fife), Endothenia quadrimaculana, Mompha propinquella, Ypsolopha parenthesella and beautiful china-mark. Scarce ‘macros’ included red sword-grass, buff-tip, peach blossom, common lutestring, large emerald, Lempke’s gold spot, green arches, double lobed and suspected.
I had decided that Fleecefaulds Meadow also would not be productive in spring. When I did make my first night-time visit in mid-May, I recorded 26 species, so I may have been wrong in my assessment! By mid-August, I had recorded 158 species. Among the more interesting macros were powdered quaker, buff-tip, peach blossom, ghost moth, marbled coronet, beautiful carpet, pinion-streaked snout, gold spangle and a migrant, dark sword-grass. Scarce micros included Adela reaumurella, Grapholita janthinana (recorded from just four other sites in Fife), Metzneria lappella, Blastodacna hellerella, Zeiraphera isertana (recorded from just one other site in Fife), Aleimma loeflingiana (recorded from just two other sites in Fife) and Aethes rubigana.
Read more on why moths matter here.
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Volunteer Stephen Buckland has been identifying different species of moths at our Bankhead Moss and Fleecefaulds Meadow wildlife reserves in Fife, with 158 different species recorded on the meadow alone. …