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!)


Mystic moths

Having recently purchased a moth trap (a kind of box with an ultra-violet light sitting atop, that’s left outside overnight), I’ve been rediscovering the delights of moth trapping that I enjoyed as a child.

Even more wonderful is seeing my 8-year-old daughter share my enthusiasm as we open the trap in the morning (usually at the weekend) and photograph the moths, before releasing them into the garden.

A few days ago, we had our best catch yet: two Elephant Hawks, our first Poplar Hawk, our first two Buff-tips, a Large Yellow Underwing, and a number of others.

Poplar and elephant hawk
L-R: Elephant Hawk; Poplar Hawk

My excitement at discovering these incredible, colourful creatures in our urban back garden is matched only by my joy at seeing Hannah share that excitement.

Elephant hawk and buff tip
Elephant Hawk and Buff-tip (which disguises well as a stick)

It’s funny – we might think of wonder as something that’s experienced more acutely as children, when everything in the world is new. And that’s true. To an extent.

But wonder is also something that can grow in us, even as adults, through contemplation, meditation, prayer, gratitude, reading, and mindfulness, especially through spending time with nature.

Hawks and buff tip
Three of the most exciting moths of that night were found all bunched together

My relationship with, and wonder at, nature grows and deepens as I go on observing, photographing, and learning about the world around me. Nature informs my faith; my faith informs my love of nature. The two are inextricably entwined in my mind and soul.

What a privilege to share that sense of wonder with the next generation.

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



May bugs and June moths

My birthday’s in October, so having purchased a moth light trap with birthday money last year, the trap is only now beginning to come into its own.

After a few dull brown moths and the occasional slightly more interesting specimen during the earlier months of the year, it was with some excitement that we finally had our first hawk moth this week, in mid-June.

Elephant hawk 4
Elephant Hawk Moth

So I promptly enjoyed taking these pics before releasing it on to the honeysuckle at the bottom of our garden, where I hoped it might feed when dusk fell that evening.

Elephant hawk 3
Face to face with Nature

Such incredible colours Nature has given to these creatures.

Elephant hawk 2


Elephant hawk

Keeping the Elephant Hawk and a few other moths company in the trap that morning was a Cockchafer.

Not unusual for a Maybug, as it’s also known, to be attracted to light, but it’s a handsome hunk of a beetle, with these striking, fan-like antennae…


and I have to admit I’m rather proud of these two head-on pics in particular.

Cockchafer 1
Give us a wave!

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

Battle of Elephants

In my book, Coming Home for Good, I reminisced about some of the wildlife highlights of my childhood, as a budding young naturalist growing up in rural Sussex – including my excited discovery of Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars one day, on willowherb next to a secluded lake that I’d often visit. I delightedly took those 3 or 4 elephantine larvae home and reared them through to the gaudy pink and green adult moths before releasing them into the wild.

Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar – photo taken today

For my young mind, it was such an incredible and unique find, that ever since that day, whenever I see willowherb (which, as it’s very common, is a lot of the time!) I look out for these caterpillars, just in case I might find them again.

So, when I came across two Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars in Battle Great Wood today, for the first time in 40 years, with a chance to photograph them, I was filled with excitement.

I’d understand if, to you, these creatures simply look fascinating, strange, scary, ugly, beautiful, or whatever. To me, they’re certainly beautiful and fascinating, but they also provide a link to the happier elements of an often-unhappy childhood. And I was thrilled.

As mentioned in my last post, The Leaves of the Trees, there are many – and mounting – reasons to (re)connect with nature. Coming Home for Good is an autobiography about my reconnecting with God, myself, my father and my future – a homecoming of many kinds – and my ongoing and increasing love of nature is an important part of that continued homecoming, or self-discovery. Or reconnection with self.

But as explained further in About, aside from all those spiritual and psychological facets, I simply love nature for nature’s sake. So this blog is sometimes simply my nature journal and photo gallery. Hence the following notes and pics…

According to my moths book, Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars are usually found late-June to September, so these specimens in Great Wood are somewhat late, and no doubt close to pupation.

More timely was this female Brimstone – a species often found in Autumn.

However, I’ve hardly ever found a chance to photograph one, so this occasion was a rare and valued treat, as the butterfly soaked in the sun and shimmered brilliantly on the bracken.  

Purple Heather, growing through a fungus

I’ve never really explored this woodland before, but I’ll definitely be back to explore some more, as today Battle Great Wood was truly ‘Great’.

[All photos taken by me today (10/10/19) in Battle Great Wood, near Battle, East Sussex, UK, while Gorka, my ‘Heinz 57’ dog, waited for the most part patiently and sometimes sullenly…]