Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Moffing Tales

Some of you may know I had a passion for moths in the nineties and some pretty fine catches too, I can recall some very exciting moments and given the lack of birds at the moment I'd thought I would share a couple with you.
The first good moth to be taken at the trap site on the downs east of Herne Bay was a Red-headed Chestnut in November 1995, this was plucked from the wall outside the trap as I came home from work and promptly put in the fridge for closer examination, I felt sure I had the genuine article and phoned local moth guru Tony Harman, I didn't know him at all really and likewise he'd probably not heard of me either, so it was no surprise that his tone on the phone was sceptical when I announced I had taken C. erythrocephala, in fact I think he suspected I was on some mind bending drugs as there had only been 2-3 records in the last century! He listened to my description and made arrangements to come over the next evening to have a look. He arrived on cue and I led him to the fridge and produced the moth, he took out his lens and began to grill the moth closely, that look on his face when, after what seemed like a decade, it sunk in that it was indeed the real deal is something I'll never forget, I'm almost sure his legs buckled with excitement and his hands began to tremble. It was the start of a good friendship that saw Tony become a regular visitor to the house over the coming two or three years.
This was followed in 1996 by the massive moth migration that began in June of that year, with a large arrival of Bordered Straws and two nights later a Striped Hawk Moth which even got a comment from Mr Solly when I telephoned the news to him, a simple one word answer "bastard" I seem to recall was the reply. Anyone who trapped in 1996 will testify it was immense and it just kept on coming, the Great Brocade started in August and I took ten plus and among them was an Angle-striped Sallow a Kent mega and as far as I know there hasn't been a Kent one since. Silver Barred, Ni Moth, Mere Wainscot, 20+ Convolvulus Hawks, 100 Bordered Straws, 14 Scarce Bordered Straws, Gems and multiple 1,000's of Silver Y which peaked on one night with over 2,000 around the trap, that was the only time I felt odd around the trap, the buzzing wings of thousands of moths around my head was so weird and became unbearable I had to go in feeling a little dizzy. I could go on about 1996 for ages but that gives a flavour of what a special year it was.
1997 started with arctic conditions and a slight thaw began to arrive in mid-January and in some moment of delusion I fired up the trap, next morning with snow on the ground and still a bitter chill, there was a Sword-grass, the first Kent record since 1968 and still the only one since then, bizarre record, where did that come from and it still baffles me to this day!
The next couple of years my enthusiasm waned as I lost the trap site and briefly I got some limited use of the site over the next couple of years and managed Plumed Fan-foot, Porters Rustic, Langmaids Yellow Underwing, Dewick's Plusia and a much wanted White-marked.
I do have to admit that I really enjoyed my moffing times but with the loss of such an important site it was never going to be the same, a bit like birding at Minsmere on tap then moving to Derby city centre, it was never going to be this good for me again. Well that is it, my brief encounter with the moffing world was enjoyable and fruitful.

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