James Lowen 


26 May 2017  Bed(straw) time

A very special evening, yesterday. At roughly the time when I am yearning to collapse onto a mattress, there to sleep for as many hours as my daughter decrees, Will Soar and I arrived on the North Norfolk coast. Our quest was Bedstraw Hawkmoth​, a colony of which breeds quietly at a routinely suppressed location (so please don't ask me for it). Mike McCarthy and I had failed to see this last summer - probably because we were working on 20-year-old gen. With information via James Emerson and John Furse on caterpillars seen last year, plus a day-time record from this year (so we knew they were on the wing), I was itching to succeed. A series of warm evenings this week were too good to ignore, so Will and I absconded from the weekly pub meet and took nets, torches and expectations.

On a high, we started wandering back... and found more decent moths. The highlight was indisputably a Flame Wainscot, a nationally scarce moth of open reed beds in East Anglia. But a Breckland Plume (also nationally scarce) wasn't bad either. Nor, for that matter, a Great Prominent.

Initial signs were not good. We couldn't find anything flowering - not willowherb (one of the caterpillar's food plants), not anything. We consoled ourselves by marvelling at Coastal Stiletto-flies (above). Then Will spotted something fly past quickly. I won't embarrass the poor lad by telling what he thought it was, but suffice to say he thought it was something other than a moth. Once he described it, we realised it was worthy of investigation and headed in its direction. We then came across a whole load of flowering honeysuckle winding its way around privet, next to a bed of willowherb. This combination seemed very promising, so we decided to wait... and within five minutes in came a Bedstraw Hawkmoth!  Between 21h10 and 22h15 (when we departed, things having gone a bit quiet), we had seven or more visits from at least two individuals (two being present simultaneously). GET IN!

Throw in various amphibians, mammals and some decent birds, and this was a very fine evening. One worthy of missing the pub.