YOU would be forgiven for thinking aliens had landed. Giant glowing orbs are not something you expect to find in the woods in the middle of the night.
Luckily I had bumped into Tom Tams earlier that evening and not only had he explained everything that would be going on, but invited me to come along too.
So when I walked into the woods later that night, – the kids shoehorned into bed, dogs fed and hens locked up – I was not surprised to see huge lights looming out of the dark. Tom had a generator running to power the set up and rather than an alien invasion, I was reminded of a scene from a music festival where the dancing and drinking would go on till late.
But Tom was not playing music and he was out only to attract moths. Drawn to the lights they would land on a table covered with a white sheet, resting and allowing him to identify and record them before they flew free.
It was fascinating to watch. As more and more months appeared out of the darkness Tom, who is the county recorder of moths, became increasingly animated. He began to dart round the table sometimes with large net in hand to capture those still in flight, twirling with a flourish till my thoughts of dancing seemed not so far off the mark.
A giant white moth with furry antenna landed on the table. ‘Pale Tussock” cried Tom and scribbled it down on his notepad. “Peppered Moth” he said with one look at the outstretched speckled wings of another. A regal looking month arrived in shades of brown which carried itself proudly when it settled and was studded with gold, “Beautiful Golden Y”, Tom whispered with hushed reverence. Then one that rested flat, pale white touched with delicate brown and gold: “Clouded Magpie”. As quickly as the moths arrived Tom plucked their names out of the air, never once faltering or forgetting. Evocative names tripped off his tongue with spell-binding ease. “Brimestone Moth, Early Thorn, Lunar Thorn, Clouded Silver, Flame Shoulder, Purple Clay…”His memory was outstanding. As time wore on Tom became quite literally covered in the moths that fascinated him so much. They clung to his clothes and perched on his chest like ornate broaches.
The exquisite beauty hidden in the darkness of the woods was amazing. I had no idea moths were so numerous or so varied. We don’t understand exactly why they have evolved in such stunning technicolour, Tom explained, possibly something to do with the colours showing up florescent in the dark.
Eventually I tired and with an early start ahead of me in the morning I made my excuses and left, leaving Tom dancing round the table, bejewelled with colourful moths to enjoy his kind of party late into the night.
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Mum in the Woods