Day 2 – Petrichor

TWT30DaysWild_countdown_02Torrential rain, memory loss and toddler tantrums. Not an auspicious start to the second day of our #30DaysWild, but as the saying goes, bad things come in threes. Once we had them behind us the day could only get better. With the mini farmers departing to spend time with relatives, the rain clouds rolling off into the distance and the garden beckoning I decided on a simple stroll around our ‘patch’; the wild, uncouth area that lies to the side of the farmhouse.

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Once upon a time it was a more formal affair, with carefully tended rose beds and well pruned shrubs. Nowadays, through years of benign neglect, it is a tangle of weeds. Until last June, I found it an eyesore, and started trying to tame it back into some semblance of a tidy space. But with the arrival of 30 days wild, I started to see it as something different. No longer was it a messy disgraceful space, but home to all manner of ‘mini beasts’ . It provides food for birds, bats and foxes. So this year I left it wild and let nature run its course. Today, with the scent of petrichor hanging over the patch I set off to see what creatures I could find.

I came across this Scorpion fly perched atop a bramble leaf . These curious insects earn their name from their long scorpion-like tail. They feed on dead insects, including those trapped in spiders webs. Like some spiders, the male needs to placate the female during mating with a ‘nuptial gift’, so she isn’t tempted to kill him.

Next up, some day flying moths. This male long horned, or Fairy, moth was sunning himself on a nettle leaf. This species has amazingly, bordering on ridiculously,  long ‘filiform’ antenna. In this chaps case they were at least 4 times the length of his body, with an apparent life force all of their own.

On a neighbouring clump of nettles I spotted a micro moth, which turned out to be the rather aptly named ‘Nettle Tap’ moth.img_6845

With all my crashing around in the path (even though I was desperately attempting to avoid being ungainly) I disturbed a Silver-ground carpet moth. This moth is nocturnal but easily disturbed from its daytime resting spots. The caterpillars of this species feed on Cleavers and Primroses, which are plentiful in the ‘patch’.
Not to be outdone, several species of butterfly were fluttering around the patch. Only this speckled wood alighted long enough for me to snap a quick photo.

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There were many, many more creatures flitting and skulking about the patch. I’m glad I bothered to let it stay wild. If we had mown the nettles, chopped all the brambles and pulled up the other assorted ‘weeds’ this little patch would be a whole lot poorer for it.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 4 (Al)Luring

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Todays activity…moth trapping. I used to live in a very rural part of Ireland and remember moths covering our kitchen window at night if we turned the indoor lights on. I haven’t seen anything like that since living in Wales, and can’t actually remember the last time I saw a moth . This seemed like the perfect chance to become reacquainted.

I knew that there were essentially 3 options:

  1. Ready made light trap.
  2. Home made light trap.
  3. Sugar solution.
  4. Rotten fruit

The first option turned out to be a bit too expensive for my ‘surving-on-maternity-pay’ budget. Fear of electrocution or a power tool related trip to A & E crossed ‘home made’ light traps of my list of options. We already have a ‘butterfly snack bar’ out, with fruit gently decomposing , so that left option 3.

Sugar lures seemed the safest, cheapest method of seeing Moths. Apparently there are various different tried and tested ‘recipes’available . The common denominator amongst them seems to be sugar (well Duh!) and beer, fortunately both things I consider to be ‘store cupboard essentials’.

My chosen recipe used approximately 250ml of stout, 500g brown sugar and 3 tbsp syrup. Other alternatives are treacle, and dark molasses sugar is the bees (or rather moths)knees. You can also try adding a drop of rum or vanilla essence to the mixture to make it even more tantalising.

In case you fancy giving it a go, this is what I did:

  • Put ingredients in pan and bring to boil, stirring continuously.
  • allow to simmer for 5 minutes before removing from heat.
  • Allow to cool, stirring occasionally.
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Sugary stouty syrupy goodness…it smelled divine!

 

The site I found the recipe on suggested pouring the mix into a coffee jar when cool, but I decided to work with it whilst it was still warm. I took the pan outside and selected a few logs (with ready made ‘handles’) to adorn, as well as an old gatepost at the side of the house. It was quite good fun!

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Then it was time to wait. I’m not very good at being patient, so it was a good thing that I had the usual bedtime struggle with the baby and toddler to distract me.

I decided not to get my hopes up. This might not be a very lucky night, and I might not attract any moths at all. Apparently some nights are naturally better than others (low wind, warm and humid conditions) but sometimes no moths will appear even if the night is deemed ideal.

At 10.30 pm I couldn’t wait any longer. I grabbed a torch, and some red acetate to act as a filter (Moths are less affected by red light). Guess what? Not one moth on any of the sugar lures. 2 woodlice were enjoying a snack but that was it.

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I did spot a few moths flitting about over head. One alighted on the wall long enough to get a photo, but I haven’t been able to identify it yet. DSC_0427.JPG

I think this may be one to revisit and try out another recipe. I did enjoy being out after dark though, something I haven’t been able to do since having my children. As a student in Edinburgh I used to venture up Arthurs seat in the dark so I could look down on the city lights .When I first moved to Wales I often went for runs on the beach once the sun had gone down, relishing the alone time and the crashing waves, cold sand beneath my toes . As kids in Ireland we would play out in the summer until we couldn’t see the ground in front of us. We would take torches and go out to see the Sika deer that came to graze at night in our fields, or watch bats or barn owls. On one occasion my sister and I set our alarms for 2 am to get up and watch  a meteor shower. I don’t think I would have thought to go out at night again if it wasn’t for the 3o days wild challenge.