30 Days Wild - 13 Elephants and a Ghost

17th June - Sprowston, Norwich

I was introduced to the magical, mystical world of moths whilst turning up for a volunteering shift at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen well over a decade ago. The then warden was busy rummaging through the catch in a moth trap and I watched transfixed at he revealed a seemingly endless variety of sizes, shapes and colours. I just never knew. Hooked from that moment, which happily coincided with the publication of a new generation of superb reference books, I built my own moth trap and for a few years trapped away merrily, enjoying every second. The enthusiasm to get up at 4am every other day to shut down the trap and move it to a safe, cool place away from prying bird beaks has waned as I’ve gotten a bit older and lazier, but I feel a resurgence of mothing activity coming on once more. This reawakening has been fueled in part by running a trap at Ranworth Broad last summer where some new goodies were present, and also by the general infectious zest of my colleague at that location who regales me with tales of rarities trapped at Weeting Heath and thereabouts (thanks Allan).

I assisted said colleague in running a mothing event at Strumpshaw yesterday morning and in that regard things have turned full circle; eager, if knowledge deficient pupil to still seriously knowledge deficient teacher. To say I was rusty is to disparage oxidised metal. No matter, those gathered had a great time discovering what mothy delights awaited in the nest of old egg boxes used as a safe sheltering place. A couple from Lancashire particularly wanted to see a privet hawk moth, no problem sir someone just happened to have brought one along and here it is your delectation. Other, quite expert folk, were hoping to see a few fenland specialties and I think were happy with the catch. Less experienced folk were just pleased to be there and have the opportunity to photograph up close species they had never seen before. Just like me all those years ago.

Buff Tip

Barred Straw

Burnished Brass


Privet Hawk Moth
Galvanised by this success, I hauled my old trap out of the shed, dusted it down, de-spidered it, knocked a few nails in where parts had come adrift and set it up overnight once more. I even managed to stumble out of bed at 4am as of old to sort things out before the local family of great tits and those rotten robins and bloody blackbirds pilfered the catch. I do feel morally obliged to look after those tiny insects that I catch against their will. After breakfast I settled down to investigate what had turned up during the previous quite windy and cool night to be, as always, pleasantly surprised and delighted. Not only did thirteen elephant hawk moths decorate the scene, but a new moth for the garden in the form of a female ghost moth. Excellent stuff. What with gorgeously marked buff ermines, willow beauties, light arches, green silver lines and several middle barred minors I had a field day. I’m going to do this again!

The Home Set-up. Note the Essential Cuppa!

Willow Beauty

Middle-barred Minor

Green Silver Lines

Elephant Hawk Moth

Ghost Moth (Female)