Saturday, 14 September 2013

Castlehaven, Isle of Wight - Moth Trapping

This last weekend (5th - 8th September) was spent on the Isle of Wight hoping for a well-earned rest and some good birding and mothing. The main purpose of the visit was to go to The Bestival to soak up some of the atmosphere, enjoy a few beers and see a few bands…..but I won’t bore you with that. We arrived at our caravan at Castlehaven at around 20:30 on Thursday evening (5th September), so my first priority was to get my Robinson moth trap on. The weather during the day had been hot and sunny and the overnight temperatures were due to stay warm so I was hopeful of a good catch.

Jersey Tiger Euplagia quadripunctaria

I popped out to check on the trap before turning in, and it was buzzing. Moths were all over it, the side of the caravan and the nearby bushes. With so many moths around I daren’t open the trap and so spent my time looking around the outside. The first and most obvious species was Jersey tiger, a species I have not trapped in my garden before, but have seen at Titchfield Haven and previously on the European mainland. The other species recorded included green carpet, dingy footman, brimstone moth, oak hook tip and a single angle shades.

Male Four-spotted Footman Lithosia quadra

Female Four-spotted Footman

I woke early and ventured out to check the trap, armed with a handful of pots and a cup of tea. The trap was rammed and by the end I had recorded 343 moths of 66 species. The highlights were two Jersey tigers, 45 whitepoints, 37 setaceous hebrew characters, three four-spotted footman (2 males and 1 female), a cypress pug, six mullein waves, three dark swordgrass, one Webb’s wainscot, a very large dun-bar and a feathered gothic.

The temperature dropped during Friday, and subsequently the moth numbers dropped too. This time we set two traps, a 15w actinic and my 150w MV Robinson. Heavy overnight showers and a moderate south-westerly breeze were not welcome, but by mid morning the sun was out. The MV produced 66 moths of 25 species, with the highlights being crescent dart, a species I have not seen before and another Webb’s wainscot. Interestingly, the actinic trapped 53 moths of 25 species also, but the species mix was very different. It included a broad-bordered yellow underwing, one diamond back, two dark swordgrass, one rush veneer and a male four spotted footman.

Crescent Dart Agrotis trux lunigera

After the traps had been emptied we went for a stroll around St Catherines Point in search of birds. We were hoping for some migrants but a blackcap and whinchat was all that was on offer. At sea there wasn't much going on either, and despite prolonged scanning we only saw a few Balearic shearwaters, a dark phase arctic skua, a few fulmar and an adult Mediterranean gull.

The weather overnight on the 6th/7th was still cool and heavy overnight showers made mothing questionable, but undeterred we progressed. Both the MV and the actinic were again put on and we hoped for the best. The MV was again the most productive trap and produced 122 moths of 45 species. The highlights were cypress pug, pretty chalk carpet, single rush veneer and dark sworgrass, and an immaculate clifden nonpareil. This is a species that I have never seen before and found it difficult to contain my excitement at catching one.

Clifden nonpareil Catocala fraxini - This moth was immaculate and very fresh
it is hard to believe it could be in this condition after migrating from mainland Europe

Clifden nonpareil - The under wing on this moth is quite stunning.

Clifden nonpareil

Clifden nonpareil is an immigrant and transitory resident in the UK. It has one generation and is on the wing through mid-August to mid-October. The larvae feed mainly on aspen but in mainland Europe they have been recorded on other poplars.

By comparison the actinic produced 122 moths of 45 species. The highlights being one Jersey tiger, a gallium carpet, one rush veneer, 17 setaceous hebrew characters and 14 white-points.

Clifden nonpareil Underwing - in contrast to the previous moth, this individual
was very tatty suggesting that it was a different moth

We had a pre-dawn start on Monday morning in order to get back in time for work and therefore had to check the trap in the dark. We did not record the numbers of moths, just the number of species in the MV only. In total we recorded 22 species, the unquestionable highlight was another clifden nonpareil. This individual was not in the same condition as the previous nights moth, and therefore the presumption was that it was a different individual….amazing two in two nights!

Overall in the two traps, and despite the weather, we caught 674 moths of 80 species, including several migrants and a few species that I had not seen before.


  1. Trevor, just checking whether you will be passing the records on to the Hampshire Moth Recorder?

    1. Yes Simon, I submit my records to Tim annually and always have done!


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