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Celebrating Moth Night

Staff from Cairngorms Connect and Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) celebrated Moth Night (8-10 July) with a mothing training session for partnership staff and the CNPA Kickstart Rangers.

Cairngorms Connect scientists use moth trapping to study moths across the Cairngorms, as part of the partnership’s 200-year vision to restore the area’s natural habitats, with funding from Endangered Landscape Programme. Different species of moths need different habitats and food sources, so by monitoring moth numbers and species, scientists can find out more about the ecological response to the restoration work within the project area.

To celebrate Moth Night 2021, we held an early morning event on Monday 12th July at the RSPB Loch Garten Nature Centre, Abernethy.  Staff from across the Cairngorms Connect partnership assisted in working through the night’s catch – a grand total of 336 moths across 27 species! Moths are typically nocturnal, and many species are attracted to the bright light within the moth trap left at the site overnight. In the morning the moths can be identified, recorded and then released.

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Image (above): Looking at the moths caught overnight in the moth trap. Credit: Pete Short

The training session was attended by members of the Cairngorms National Park Authority ranger team, including the Kickstart Rangers, and representatives from across the Cairngorms Connect partnership including Forestry and Land Scotland, and RSPB Scotland.

Scott Hastings, CNPA Kickstart Trainee Ranger said "I was fascinated by the moth trapping as I know very little about moths.  It was really interesting to see just how variable they are and to get a closer look at the different species was brilliant.  It was also good to meet other people from different organisations!”

51309063609_89c168a06b_oImage (above): Ellie Dimambro-Denson, Cairngorms Connect Monitoring Officer explains moth trapping to RSPB and CNPA staff. Credit: Pete Short

The most frequent species was ‘true lovers knot’ (accounting for 145 individuals), a heathland species that feeds on heather and is strongly attracted to light and so often appear in high numbers at light traps this time of year.

Other highlights included a ‘light knot grass’ and ‘dark tussock’ – both of which are localised, found in less than 300 10km squares across the UK and a ‘large emerald’, indicative of the presence of broadleaf trees such as downy and silver birch within the ancient pinewoods of RSPB Abernethy.

Ellie Dimambro-Denson, Cairngorms Connect Monitoring Officer, said “As moths are so species rich and diverse through different habitats, they are great indicator species. Monitoring moths, along with other guilds such as songbirds and vegetation across the Cairngorms Connect area can tell us a lot about how species are responding to the restoration work of Cairngorms Connect. For instance, one of the heathland areas we’ve been monitoring in Glenfeshie, Wildland Cairngorms, recently underwent some tree planting, including a mix of broadleaves, and we’ve already seen broadleaf associated species such as lesser swallow prominent and coxcomb prominent move in. July is often the best time of year for moth trapping when the highest numbers of species and individuals are on the wing and it was great to be able to share the magic of moth trapping with staff and volunteers from across the partnership.”

True Lover's KnotImage (above): True lovers knot. Credit: Pete Short. 

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