A Night Walk in the Adelaide Hills

Have you ever set a moth trap before?

Earlier this month I made a suggestion that the 1st of May should be Australian moth night as part of the CNC event. It is one of those things that I thought would always be interesting to do, but just never had time to even give it a go. However, I think we have all inadvertently set a moth trap before, be that at a BBQ, out camping or just leaving the front light on while out for the night.

Well, in 2020 I teamed up with Seamus Doherty and set out to the Measly lookout along the Mireen Track to see what we could find in a more natural area (practising social distancing of course). We didn’t really know what to expect, but we hoped that by positioning ourselves away from any nearby light pollution, we would have a better chance of success. The evening got off to a great start when we first stumbled upon a bird we both did not recognise, In hindsight, I think it was a Crescent Honeyeater (Phylidonyris pyrrhopterus). Unfortunately, however, I was tasked with photographing the individual so we will never know what it was for sure.

We continued our walk along Mireen track when we heard a sudden rustling in the bushes. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a wandering Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus). However, once again I had no luck with the iconic Instagram shot. I prefer not to disturb these lovely little creatures so I made my observation and we moved on. A short while later, we finally set up each our own individual moth traps and rigged up our lights in a manner the would make MacGyver proud just before the sun had set.

Not a lot of activity was happening so we decided to stop watching the sheets for a bit and begun looking around. The first thing we noticed was the huge number of shining eyes on the ground! On closer inspection, we found many spiders were coming out of their burrows and scurrying across the path. We also found some wonderful ants and beetles as well just wandering around.

After a while, we began to notice a number of moths and other small invertebrates appear on the sheets. Seamus Doherty had a large handheld torch pointed directly at a white sheet (1.5 x 1.5 m). Unfortunately, it was made of polyester which is apparently less effective than cotton. Luckily, I had a cotton blend white bed sheet with me and a very bright LED lamp. This appeared to be the most effective setup.

We had a number of moths come and rest on the sheets throughout the night and the photography was challenging but rewarding and I thought it would be nice to share some of our findings with you.

On the way back to the car, we were also fortunate enough to see a number of other animals including a kangaroo, a sleeping koala and a family of ringtail possums!

All in all, the night was a pretty good success for our first try. We encourage everyone to give it a shot, be that a trap set out in your backyard, in your local park, or out in the Adelaide Hills, you’re bound to find something great to photograph!

#Lepidoptera #mothnight #biodiversity #bioblitz #citynaturechallenge #citizenscience

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