First Irish record, 5th July 2021, Cian Merne & Gareth O’Donnell.
It was very unexpected, in so many ways.
Being based in West Cork, the opportunities to visit family in the North Dublin suburb of Bayside have been very sparse since March 2020. So when an opportunity for a trip to the capital looked likely for early July 2021, planning started in earnest, with a last minute “ah sure, I’ll bring a wee battery powered light trap with me with the over-night weather looking reasonable and a bit of an Easterly wind blowing for most of the night. Sure you never know…..”.
Well, we often think we do know, with declarations in our head like “it’s a bit too cold tonight to bother” and “there’s far too much street light pollution here”, or “sure there’s so little flying at this time of the year”. The street light issue was certainly a consideration in this instance in Bayside since the house that I would be based had a great big street light beaming directly down into the small back garden, a garden surrounded by a typical suburban Dublin habitat, or lack thereof. But, something in the greater universe forced the “Sure you never know…..” to win out.
Feeling more than a little daft, I traipsed out to the back garden, a little later than expected as I had not noticed dusk with all the light pollution, to deploy the small, 2 x 2 W LED, heath trap in the nearly-bright-as-day nightscape. I thought I heard the street light giggling at my naivety. The battery was connected, the light came on, and not even a small elevation of the overall brightness in the back garden could be noticed, not by me anyway. Off to bed, after a good catch-up with family that evening and lots more time to chat in the morning on the cards on account of the “won’t be much in the trap tomorrow” spiralling in my sleepy mind.
Meanwhile, down the road in Baldoyle, it was Garden Moth Scheme night and I put out my 40W actinic Skinner in its usual spot at the bottom of my garden against the shed wall. The next morning the thermometer had recorded a low of 12.7 deg C. Things looked OK, there was a Peppered Moth resting on the shed and a peep into the trap revealed numerous moths among the egg boxes. As I removed the first Perspex lid I spotted an unusual moth on it and quickly grabbed my camera. My cheap macro ringflash seemed to take an eternity to charge up but luckily I managed to get 2 shots before the moth flew. (Note to self, switch on the flash before opening the trap) I didn’t realize at the time that I had anything particularly interesting and proceeded to process the rest of the catch (28 species; pretty average for my suburban garden). Afterwards, I downloaded the photos and had a quick glance through the micro moth field guide but nothing jumped out at me. It was only later after breakfast when I got round to posting a photo of the mystery moth on the MothsIreland Facebook page that it became apparent that it was something special. As is often the case, once pointed in the right direction, another look in the field guide had me wondering how on earth I missed it first time around. It’s a pretty distinctive moth.
Back to Gareth:
After a relatively late breakfast, sure what was the hurry in opening a probably near-to-empty trap, I gathered my field guides, magnification loupes, small steel rule, my mammy and my partner Cindy to have a look inside. I had never opened up a trap with my mammy before, and was already preparing the “sometimes there can actually be loads of moths, honestly”. On approach to the trap, I noticed a few bits and bobs on and around the cone and close to the faint indigo-blue light, “…Oh goodie, some colourful stuff to look at and show to Mam”. The Brimstone received a good reception, as did the Peppered Moth, even with it being a bit worn. A Eudonia mercurella and a few other fairly unexciting micros needed to be dealt with without any ceremony to avoid Mam from worrying about my sanity.
All going well so, and then…..”Folks, I have NO idea what that is! Make sure that doesn’t fly off before I pot it…..please!”. Both Mam and Cindy appeared to sit up a tad more attentively with this call-to-arms. In what must be close to an involuntary action, a glass sample jar was in my hand with lid off, the egg box of specific interest carefully, but firmly in my other. My eyes out on stalks taking in everything possible in case…..”well, it looks happy where it is…” and other familiar famous last words and expressions speed through my mind. I just HOPE it doesn’t fly. Mam was excited, Cindy was excited, I was beside myself, and I still had no idea what I was looking at.
The moth was indeed happy to rest on the light-green, not too battered, egg box while I worked the photo-shoot like a pro at the side of a catwalk. There we go, that’s a nice bright, clear shot, good enough for some on MI fb to not make fun of the smudge in the photo that I was claiming might be a moth of note. Pot it in the ready glass sample jar. A reasonably quick look through the micros field guide, knowing at least that I should be looking among the Pyralidae, and BOOM, Euzophera pinguis looked very, very promising. Page 360 for the map and text, “oh my…”. June-Sept. FS looks good, FL of 11-13 mm looks good, wing pattern and shape look good, but the Ireland part of the map was very, very BLANK. Followed by a review of the MI maps list….. Mam seemed disappointed when I said “It’s not listed…..”, but a brief explanation helped raise her spirits once more, and lifted mine to a crescendo.
I need to post this on MI fb. How do I word this? Excitement very close to consuming me. I have never had a first-for-Ireland before. Maybe there has been one since the MI maps were last updated in 2015?……Oh dear, dare I hope……I’ll go low-key…….”Could this be Euzophera pinguis. North Dublin, last night. Eamonn O Donnell?”……..Ken Bond responded first and rapidly with a “Certainly looks like it. Not on the Irish list as far……” Well, as Ferdia says “I nearly fainted”. And to put the icing, on the icing, on the icing, on the cake, another comment is made by Cian Merne “Well, well, well! I had one last night too! Posted photos looking for confirmation of ID separately. I’m in Baldoyle, Co. Dublin”. Baldoyle, a mile or two from Bayside, where Cindy, my mammy and I sat all with very big smiles and bouncing with excitement.
Euzophera pinguis, 5th July 2021, joint first Irish record, Cian Merne with one individual to light and Gareth O’Donnell with one individual to light, both O 23, both first first Irish records. An Ash bark feeder and a fairly local species in G.B., with few, if any records in Scotland, few in Wales and many regions in England with no records, e.g. Cornwall and much of Devon. The most westerly record up to these Dublin records is on the Isle of Man (unconfirmed).
Sure you never know, sometimes the very unexpected does happen. Traps out folks…..
Gareth O’Donnell’s Bayside, Euzophera pinguis individual.
Cian Merne’s, Baldoyle, Euzophera pinguis individual.