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Great Weather, Great Moths - Part 3

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In early June this year I made a last minute decision to put out a couple of moth traps in the beautiful Breen Wood. This is a site that I regularly moth trap in, but plans to try another site failed at the last minute and with light fading it was a dash to Breen or head home. Thankfully I went with the former.

The temperature had been in the low twenties during the day but feel away over night, barely staying in double figures so I was overly excited as I traveled out the traps early on the Sunday morning. I gathered my gear from the car and headed off into the woods. In the rush the night before I placed a third spare trap in a completely new area, that I had never trapped before. As I worked through the moths around and inside the trap I delighted to find an Alder moth (below left), a species I had seen once before, but then it was high on a building wall so no usable images. Then I spotted another unusual looking dark moth, which instantly got the pulse racing. I quickly potted it for fear it would fly off before I could confirm its identity. This was a true rarity in Ireland a moth the dramatic name - The Saxon (Hyppa rectilinea) - below right and main image.

Alder Moth
The Saxon (Hyppa rectilinea)
 


I had more traps to process - egg tray by egg tray identify and record the species and numbers, to add to our knowledge and any changes in these valuable parts of our ecosystems. Trap 2 had more moths, but nothing as exciting as the first and then on to trap 3, located at my favourite site. Amazingly the first moth on the outer edge of the trap was another Saxon! I carefully worked through the rest of the trap to find a third of this species inside. Now I was starting to doubt myself. I took some images before packing up my traps and the three potted moths. Given the rarity I knew these would need to verified.

All the way home and over breakfast I was beginning to doubt myself and my identification. I checked the books and double checked and then sent images to several experts who all came back confirming my identification. One other Saxon has been seen in Co Antrim, a couple of years ago, but it was unclear what its status was - could it have blown in from somewhere. Now however finding three together at one site would strongly suggest there is a small resident population. Why would this be so strange? Because the only other known population is in Co Kerry just about as far from Breen as you can get in Ireland! Up to November 2015 there had only been 7 records involving 9 individuals, with records from only two 10km squares. This is why have got so involved in mothing, there is so much we still don't know or understand, and how can we really conserve when we don't know or understand what is actually out there!

Follow this link to the excellent Moths Ireland website see the distribution of The Saxon.
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