James Lowen 


2 September 2023 Tart's ticks

What an awful, derogatory expression "tart's ticks" is. Birding slang, it means a species that is easy to see, that everyone else has seen - everyone except you. And it is widely used, in North America as well as the UK. I have a couple of birding "tarts" that I've not yet seen in the UK: Western Subalpine Warbler (I've never travelled further for two hours for one, on the basis that I'll bump into one at some point) and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (never been in the UK when there's been a readily twitchable one), for example. Mothswise, September Thorn and Barred Hook-tip have always struck me as meeting the definition of "tarts". In Norfolk, both are rare - indeed, I know plenty of moth-ers locally who have not seen either. Elsewhere in the country, loads of moth-ers have seen them. September Thorn is widespread south of Lancashire (with pockets of presence further north). Barred Hook-tip is more of a southern moth, but does occur north to Cumbria and Yorkshire. My inability to catch one - even during the wide-ranging explorations of 2019, for Much Ado About Mothing - have long since frustrated me. In mid-August, finally put the annoyance to bed (as it were), when three nights trapping in a rural garden near decent oak- and beech woodland, just west of Malvern in Worcestershire, produced a single BH-T and stacks of September Thorns (all, as the book says, with their wings held at a steep angle).

Among 80 species recorded on the chilly/wet nights, the star of the show was actually a smart little micro. Agonopterix liturosa seems to be an uncommon thing (and not something that occurs in Norfolk). It lives locally I the West Midlands, although the website for the moths of that area suggests that mine may have been the first record in the region since 2021. Not a tart's tick that one.