The Moths of Brixham 2021

The seeming value or dignity of an object doesn’t matter; it is the dignity of your relationship to the thing that matters. For a true contemplative, a gratuitously falling leaf will awaken awe and wonder just as much as a golden tabernacle in a cathedral.” Richard Rohr.

I’m very grateful to be able to affirm genuinely that I have this kind of relationship with Nature – always. I never tire of her wonders, which help to re-connect me to their Source.

To my Source.

And to myself.

I often like to photograph moths (like this Elephant Hawk-moth) from the light trap, on my hand – to have that direct contact – before releasing them.

Spending the last ten days in Brixham, Devon, enjoying seeing dolphins, seals, a plethora of birds, moths and butterflies, and incredible coastal landscapes, has been tonic for this soul that had been worn down by the wearisome stresses of work.

Coronet moth

Nature (as well as rest and family time) is a true healer of mind and spirit – a conduit of balm from the Creator of life.

We stayed here last year as well, near the wildlife haven that is Berry Head, and delighted in the moths that came to the light trap I set up in the garden – which I wrote about in The Moths of Brixham.

I also love to photograph moths head-on, for an alternative view. This Elephant Hawk-moth’s eyes and furry head appear almost rodent-like.

This year (2021), during a very similar period – 31st July to 4th Aug (actually about a week earlier than last year), the trap turned up some of the same species as in 2020.

Like this Jersey Tiger…

…this Swallow Prominent:

…and this Ruby Tiger:

But also many new ones, like these:

Herald Moth
Small Emerald
Four-spotted Footman (male)
Bird-cherry Ermine
Elderberry Pearl
Riband Wave

Of equal delight to the nocturnal visitors have been the moths we found out and about in the daytime, around Berry Head, including Jersey Tigers (again),

these gorgeous Magpie moths…

loads of Six-spot Burnets….

Six-spot Burnet moth

and this exquisite Carrot Seed moth:

The Carrot Seed moth (Sitochroa palealis) is one of the larger micro-moths, but still pretty tiny, as you can probably see from its relative size to the umbellifer in this picture. It’s been quite a rare species in the UK but, from what I’ve gathered, seems to have become fairly well established in the south-west in recent years.

Always so encouraging to hear of any insect species on the rise.

Six-spot Burnet at Berry Head

The following are most of the species attracted to the trap this time round (there were others unidentified):

  1. Bird-cherry Ermine
  2. Blood-vein
  3. Bright-line Brown-eye
  4. Brimstone
  5. Buff Ermine
  6. Common Footman
  7. Common Rustic
  8. Coronet
  9. Elephant Hawk-moth
  10. Four-spotted Footman
  11. Heart and Dart
  12. Herald
  13. Jersey Tiger
  14. July Highflyer
  15. Large Yellow Underwing
  16. Lunar Yellow Underwing
  17. Poplar Hawk-moth
  18. Riband Wave
  19. Ruby Tiger
  20. Shuttle-shaped dart
  21. Silver Y
  22. Small Emerald
  23. Swallow Prominent
  24. Yellow-tail

I leave you with a final pic of a Poplar Hawk….

….and a final quote, this time from the naturalist and conservationist John Muir, by way of a reminder of our therapeutic need to engage our senses with Nature:

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”

(All photos taken by me, but not copyright – i.e. feel free to use them, with my blessing!)


The Moths of Brixham

Many spiritual writers from past and present encourage us to see the holy in everyday moments, to be “alert to the sacred in our midst” (to quote Fr Gregory Boyle), as I was reading and thinking about on holiday this summer.

Swallowtailed 1
The celestial Swallow-tailed moth

We enjoyed 10 early-August days in a little bungalow in Brixham, Devon. On our arrival, a Jersey Tiger moth flew up from the hedgerow along the pathway to the house and landed on the front door, as if to welcome us in.

Jersey tiger 8
Jersey Tiger moth

Jersey Tigers are a bit of a speciality in this part of the world: my moths book describes these extraordinarily exotic looking insects as “quite numerous” in this area but generally quite scarce elsewhere in the country.

I’ve spotted one near here before, on a previous visit to Brixham, and also one on the Isle of Wight, and possibly somewhere else, which may have been France. So probably just the twice in the UK.

Jersey tiger 7
Jersey Tiger, head-on view

This was our first summer visit to Brixham with a light trap, so it was with quite a thrill of anticipation that I set it up on the shed roof on several nights during our stay.

Jersey Tiger 2

Jersey Tigers fly at night as well as on warm days (we saw quite a few while out and about during the day), and are attracted to light. Each night, between 2 and 6 of these utterly butterfly-like moths graced the trap with their bright orange hind wings and zebra-striped forewings.

Jersey tiger 1
Jersey Tiger in flight

As well as being some of the wildlife highlights of the holiday, encounters with Jersey Tigers were also sacred moments – divine expressions breaking out amongst the mundane, pointing to a brighter world.

…the Tiger moth at the front door serving as an angelic welcome party hinting at Joy that beckons us enter.

Jersey Tiger 4
Jersey Tiger, through the glass

Although the Jersey Tigers were a stunning and magical centrepiece of the holiday’s butterfly-and-moth-ing, there were numerous other lepidopteral species that fluttered and flapped their flightsome way into the trap (to be photographed and released unharmed the next day), such as these:

Canary Shouldered Thorn 1
Canary-shouldered Thorn, with its distinctive bright yellow thorax

Canary Shouldered Thorn
The brilliantly coloured Canary-shouldered Thorn

Devonshire Wainscot
Devonshire Wainscot (as the name suggests, a local species)

Iron Prominent
The intricately patterned Iron Prominent

Lackey moth

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing

Marbled Green
The handsome Marbled Green

Pebble prominent 2
Pebble Prominent (a beautiful, new species to me)


Peppered Moth

Ruby tiger
Ruby Tiger

Swallow prominent
Swallow Prominent


Willow Beauty
Willow Beauty


Like all winged beasts, messengers from heaven offering glimpses of eternity to us earthly creatures.

The total list of those identified were:

  1. Bright-line Brown-eye
  2. Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing
  3. Canary-shouldered Thorn
  4. Common Footman
  5. Common Rustic
  6. Common Wainscot
  7. Dark Arches
  8. Devonshire Wainscot
  9. Garden Carpet
  10. Heart and Dart
  11. Iron Prominent
  12. Jersey Tiger (of which there were 6 on the last night: 10/8/20)
  13. Knot Grass
  14. Lackey
  15. Large Yellow Underwing (many)
  16. Lesser Yellow Underwing
  17. Lunar Yellow Underwing
  18. Marbled Green
  19. Pebble Prominent
  20. Peppered Moth
  21. Ruby Tiger
  22. Silver Y
  23. Square-spot Rustic?
  24. Swallow Prominent
  25. Swallow-tailed moth
  26. White-point
  27. Willow Beauty

(and several other species not identified)

Swallowtailed 2
The cherubic Swallow-tailed moth

[PS: The title’s designed to be sung to the tune of the Clash classic The Guns of Brixton. As an old ex-punk, just my sense of humour reflecting the contrast between the quaint Devon fishing port and the South London Borough infamous for its riots in the ‘80s!]

(All photos taken by me, but not copyright – i.e. feel free to use them, with my blessing!)