This year marks the 200th anniversary of the presentation to science - i.e. the formal description - of a small, gorgeous animal that was discovered at Ranworth Broad (now a Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve) in Norfolk and, within the UK at least, still remains known only from that county plus three records in Suffolk. This is Ancylis paludana, a candidate Red Data Book fenland moth, whose caterpillars are dependent on Marsh Pea. (Its tight habitat needs and range have led Jim Wheeler to suggest that the moth take the rather lovely English name of Fen Roller.) Two years ago, during my research for Much Ado About Mothing, Will and I caught this species in the Bure Marshes - but only identified it subsequently when I realised that my photograph showed three tell-tale black dots towards the apex of the forewing, a characteristic that differentiates it from the equally lovely, but not quite so rare, Ancylis badiana. So when, last weekend - during a mothing session deep in the reedbed at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen with warden Ben Lewis, Matt Stainthorpe, Will and Sarah - we caught an Ancylis in a trap fortuitously set adjacent to Marsh Pea, thoughts swiftly went to paludana. As it happened, Ben was way ahead of the game: he knew that paludana occurred at Strumpshaw, so its presence wasn't a surprise. And sure enough, when we checked the apex, there were the diagnostic three black dots. Result.
It was a good night, mainly muggy and overcast, so we primarily sat by a 'tripod trap' and nabbed what came in, while making regular checks of the four other traps we had running. Ben's target was Fenn's Wainscot - an East Anglian speciality and Red Data Book species - for which there are (apparently unconfirmed) records for Strumpshaw Fen, but which he has never recorded here. I had only seen this species once previously, when Will caught one on the Bure Marshes, so would have been glad of a second. It wasn't to come, sadly, leading Ben to believe that Fenn's Wainscot is no longer in this part of the Yare valley (if it ever was). Nevertheless, succour was provided by a raft of other wainscots and similar seedbed dwellers: a fair few Reed Daggers were early on the scene, as were Webb's Wainscots. A single Bulrush Wainscot was complemented by three Twin-spotted including two large, confusing individuals that were presumably females.
A fresh Dentated Pug was a surprise: I think of this species as a June - early July creature, so catching one in mid-August was unexpected (if not without precedent, judging from the Norfolk Moths website). An Ethmia quadrilella was new for the reserve and for Ben; and very smart it was too. Two Gold Spots were glorious; I see more Lempke's than I do true Gold Spots, so they were particularly pleasing. A female Ghost Moth struck me as rather late. Plenty of Oblique Carpets were on the wing. An interesting Elachista looks promising for E. pomerana, a candidate Red Data Book micro moth which, in the UK, is another East Anglian specialty: known from the Fens, Broads and Minsmere in Suffolk. That could well turn out to be the best moth of the night, even accounting for the bicentenary of Ancylis paludana....