James Lowen 


19 June 2017  Mick's magic

Yesterday saw the annual open day of a brilliant reserve in the Norfolk Broads. Friends staying the weekend were intrigued enough to visit so Family Lowen et al. spent the morning at Catfield Fen, a Butterfly Conservation protected area in which the RSPB plays a substantial helping hand. Last year, the Fen was spared an arid future when an appeal from a local farmer wishing to have his water-abstraction licence renewed was rejected. (A major success for RSPB and co, that.)​ The open day started with a quite stunning moth event that was deftly run by Mick Acourt, RSPB warden and legend in his own lifetime, and Greg Bond (Norfolk Butterfly Conservation rep).  

After another balmy, still evening, Mick brought along seven traps filled to the brim with moths. Pretty much every rare Broadland moth you can think of was in one, t'other or several. And those that somehow didn't make the roll call seemed to have been caught elsewhere and brought along my one of the 50-plus attendees. The combination was overwhelming. Unbelievable quality, unfeasible quantity. 


The only minor downside was that taking photos was not straightforward. Top priority was to record the moths; second on the list was to ensure that everyone got a good look at them. There was thus much passing of egg boxes, whilst special moths tend to be housed in a glass or plastic pot. Thus several of the shots below are not what I would normally post! And several of the moths were simply not in a position worth photographing. 

Other macro moths including a whole host of lesser goodies that were still thrilling enough for novices like me. Large Emerald (huge emerald, more like), Miller, Small Seraphim, Grey Arches, Minor Shoulderknot, Fen Wainscot, and Suspected (what a name!) were all new for me. Throw in lots of Lempcke's Gold-spots, Brown Scallop, Sallow Kitten (below), several Beautiful Hooktips, July Highflyers, and you get the drift. Astonishing stuff.

And then... there were the moths that others had brought to the event from their traps elsewhere. These included Olive Crescent from Ipswich (a species known only for a couple of British woodlands), V Moth from the Brecks, and Will's Marsh Carpet (and he later showed me the female Puss Moth below). From Strumpshaw, via Ben Lewis, came Rosy Wave (an astonishing record of a salt marsh species in the Yare valley!), Dentated Pug and Small Dotted Footman. My offerings were meagre in comparison, but nevertheless appreciated in some parts: a Golden Plusia and a Festoon.

With catches dripping in quality, what would be star moths in normal garden traps (such as the Lobster Moth above) were reduced to also-rans. Hawk-moths were for the kids. Buff-tips a sideline. That kind of thing. Completely dotty. Talking of which, let's have some of the stars. There were countless Dotted Fanfoots and Dotted Footman, both new for me and both rare Broadland specials. 

And then... there were the Swallowtails. But I think we've had quite enough for one blog. What an amazing morning, watching Mick Acourt wend magic. Thank you, Mick.

And then there's the micromoths. I can hardly conceive of how rare some of these tiny critters are. Most have very few Norfolk records. Some are known in Britain only from Norfolk. That kind of thing. A few are in the slideshow above. Others included Pseudopostega auritellaand Monochroa divisella, complemented by commoner fare such as Orthotaemia undulana and Anania perlucidalis. So rare and small that they are scientific-name only, most of these... 

There were also - here goes - innumerable Reed Leopards, several Water Ermine, a couple of Dentated Pugs, a handful of Silver Hook (including one sharing an egg carton with a Dotted Footman, a juxtaposition that epitomised the morning), Flame Wainscot, and Double Dart.