July 2021 was mostly warm and sunny, a good month for moth trapping in south-west Donegal and a hot, dry, tropical weather system was being drawn up from the south-east between 15 –25 July. This was my 2nd summer of trapping and I set my Skinner 20W trap on the night of 23 July at the back of my house in Rosbeg, Co. Donegal where there is heathland and some willow trees.
My sister Amanda was due to visit the following day and I thought I would have any trapped moths more or less sorted by then. I duly unpacked it early the next morning with 21 species and 71 moths.
I had had several Double-square Spot Xestia triangulum already that month however, the specimen I was checking that morning was decidedly purple, shimmering and just had a different “jizz” about it.
As a relative novice with just Waring, Townsend & Lewington’s field guide the picture was a very good match for Triple-spotted Clay Xestia ditrapezium. Though it couldn’t be as it had not been recorded in Ireland since 1956 and that was in Dublin. Or could it be?
It went into the fridge for further inspection, and the photo and query went up onto MothsIreland Facebook page.
Amanda arrived and we both waited in anticipation for the expert’s view. Possibly, and probably not were the responses, but to freeze it anyhow for Ken Bond’s expert analysis.
Two nights later we took Amanda’s battery-operated Skinner 20W trap to Sheskinmore Nature Reserve for the first time with kind permission from NPWS. It is about 4km from the house. We found a suitable location at the edge of the machair, bordering a small wooded area.
On the twenty min walk back to the car we met a fellow moth enthusiast with his traps. It was Timothy McKillen who said he had been trapping in Sheskinmore for around ten years. We mentioned the possible Triple-Spotted Clay and he remarked that he had found a number of moths over the years which he thought matched the identification though they were not confirmed as they had not been not dissected. Encouraging and interesting news.
The following morning at 06.15am we opened the trap in Sheskinmore and found a very similar moth to the Rosbeg specimen, which also went in the freezer.
The 2 specimens were posted to Ken Bond.
Big excitement at 07.15am on 11 November. Ken Bond had confirmed that both specimens were indeed Triple-spotted Clay, Xestia ditrapezium. A possible small population of this native species.
Hidden in plain sight in Rosbeg Co. Donegal.
Triple-spotted Clay is local but widespread across England, Wales and western Scotland in open and damp broadleaved woodland.
© Valerie Pedlow