Clockwise from top left: 250W MV (lighthouse), 250W Metal Halide (eye cancer light), 80W actinic / 100W tungsten combo (newly repaired), 125W MV (x4 traps), 160W blended (choke-less alternative)
Having sorted the traps, the weather on Saturday was warm sunshine, almost cloudless, bone dry, blistering north-easterly. The weather yesterday (and today for that matter) is like a stuck record. In mothing terms, the weather is pants. However I have long held a theory that irrespective of the conditions, if you go to where the moths are you will catch something. With this in mind, I managed to tempt Adrian out on a foolhardy excursion to the best bit of woodland in VC55 - Pickworth Great Wood. This is a long way to go (right in the north-east of the county on the border with Lincs.) and if you are going that far you may aswell load up with as much as you can and make a real go of it by staying overnight. Some would suggest that doing this on a night when the conditions are pants is plain daft. They may be right.
A half-loaded Vectra estate - 8 traps, 3 gennies, 6 cable reels, 2 petrol cannisters, 2 x 250W choke assys, box of pots, net handle, loads of wasted space that could have been filled with more traps and cable if I had any and a tripod light/gear if Adrian wasn't taking his. The footwells and passenger seat are utilised for essentials like cameras and i-Pod, and non-essentials, like clothes, bedding, food and drink. All that remains to go into the back is a pasting table - you'll see later. Adrian's Discovery was simlarly loaded.
Having arrived at the trapping site, and before deploying kit, ensure you have selected a suitable base for the night and for collating and emptying the traps in the morning. Get on with the task in hand (put the lights on) and then get your bed sorted. Happily, the now empty Vectra is long enough to sleep in and a damned site warmer than a tent at this time of year.
Sit around a tripod light having a natter and potting the odd moth, and occasionally patrol the traps before topping up the gennies and getting some shut-eye. Set your alarm for dawn. ish. Now the hardest work of the whole venture. Gathering up the traps to a central point, reeling in the cables and bring back the gennies. If you've chosen the site well with decent tracks and rides, you will make this easier by packing up your bedding and using the again-empty car to transport everything back.
Gather the traps to a cool shady spot pending emptying. This is 9 of the 12 traps we ran in total last night.
After the hard work comes the prize - leisurely emptying lots of traps in the early morning light with nothing going on except the dawn chorus. Tawny Owls still calling this morning, Cuckoo singing in a cleared bit of the wood, Great Spotteds drumming and calling constantly, plus an array of common warblers, thrushes and tits.
This is what the pasting table is for - a very convenient trap emptying station with room for pots and cups of coffee.
Cups of coffee? Where do you get that in the middle of woodland. And what about some breakfast ....
After plenty of coffee (or tea as I had this morning), and some smashing bacon baps, the trap-emptying sadly comes to an end. No more anticipation of what could be lurking on the next egg box. Mind you, also no more chances of inadvertently putting your fingers on one of these ....
Massive queen Hornet with a Muslin Moth in the same cavity for comparison.
Now comes another chance to utilise your surroundings to best effect. If you are in woodland, there should be plenty of photographic props around. If you have used the Forestry woodyard as your base the opportunities are increased.
Lots of props
Make use of that table again. Might aswell fire up a gennie to power the macro light for the camera whilst I'm at it.
Prop in use
As for the catch - well, I'll summarise that later but suffice to say the theory held out. Just about. Definitely a night of quality over quantity, with some great moths (in a VC55 context) but few individuals vs the effort.
Here's a couple of flowers from the wood ..