Before dawn we made our first of what will doubtless be many visits this year to an A11 toilet block in the Brecks. Slightly disappointingly, we only found one moth. Even more disappointingly, I contrived to misidentify the Dotted Border as a Mottled Umber!
A 'kindness of moth-ers' is now firmly in the Lowen lexicon. But what, I find myself musing, should be the collective noun for a winter gathering of Herald moths...?
The response from the above Twitter request for help and advice on telling the tales of Britain's rare and remarkable moths has been simply amazing. Some 120 people have been in touch through various means - and I can see more emails in my inbox (as-yet unopened) so the thoughts keep on coming. The kindness being shown has been genuinely overwhelming. (I don't think you would get such an expression of helpfulness with birders.) If you are reading this and have contributed, THANK YOU! The book will be so much richer for this help. The welcome given to the book also suggests that this is very much a narrative that people want telling, which bodes very well indeed.
Will and I took advantage of our trip to do a bit of moth-ing. The day was bookended by light traps in my garden - prompted by the milder-than-late conditions. These were not very successful, with a single Light Brown Apple Moth before dawn then two Pale Brindled Beauty after dusk. But at this time of year, you take anything you can get.
After the Butterfly Conservation event, and after dusk, Will and I indulged in a treat. Will's Mum had counted six Heralds hibernating in a limestone tunnel in south Derbyshire. It was only half-an-hour or so off route, so we called in there and counted a 'meaning-of-life' 42 individuals, plus six Peacock (butterflies). A wonderful experience!
I have been wondering for some time what might constitute a suitable term for a collective of moth-ers. (This follows on from the suggestion, from a multi-award-winning travel journalist, that the equivalent for travel-writers might be a 'freeload'.) The past week's experiences suggest that a 'kindness' of moth-ers would be an apposite collective noun.
I experienced a similar sensation at the Butterfly Conservation Moth Recorders Meeting. Will and I drove over to Birmingham to join about 200 moth-ers at what proved to be an inspiring and informative event. I am not one for lectures or conferences, but every speaker was captivating. The intensity of joy for moths across the whole room took me aback, and was topped only by the strength of commitment being demonstrated by so many people to conserve those insects - from the pros at Butterfly Conservation (who I will be travelling to Wareham to talk to this week) to amateurs nationwide. And, following a generous plug by Butterfly Conservation CEO Julie Williams, loads of people came up to me to offer ideas, locations and stories for the book. A kindness of moth-ers, indeed.