Tonight I’m somewhere I’m not supposed to be, a county park/natural area in the middle of Clark County which closes at dusk. I tried to get permission to be here, and was directed to fill out a mess of paperwork. And then I never heard a word. So I’m just gonna do it anyway, since I would expect that, since I’m not having a party, building a fire, or leaving a bunch of garbage, the worst that could happen is they tell me to leave.
I call this place the Pristine Forest, because as soon as one gets away from the main road there is an amazing lack of non-native, invasive species of plants. No Himalayan blackberries, no ivy, no weedy Asteraceae, no scotch broom- just a forest filled with native conifers and native deciduous trees, salmonberry, thimbleberry, elderberry, osoberry, and several species of ferns. It is apparently a 2nd growth forest but it must’ve been cut a long time ago because there are Doug-fir and Western red-cedar that are over 4’ dbh. A couple creeks come together right below the plateau I’m on, and there are abundant willows and alders down there, as well as at least one Oregon ash and one cottonwood that I know of.
There is a meadow where I’ve often gone looking for butterflies and dragonflies, and whenever I thought about mothing here I always pictured setting up in it. But I feel like at least part of the reason last night was so successful (though it undoubtedly was mostly because it was very good, untrammeled habitat) was because I was not competing with ol’ Luna, which is fuller and rose earlier tonight, so I set up in an open part of the woods. And I had 2 moths come in while I was securing the 2nd sheet at about 9pm, which I take as a good sign, and I won’t get skunked tonight. I forgot to check the temp when I parked my van, but I hung my thermometer a few minutes ago and it now says it’s 66⁰, with a very light wind and clear skies.
9:44- So far I’ve been visited by a Nicrophorus carrion beetle with orange marks, a half dozen Herpetogramma abdominalis, a Udea profundalis, an uncountable number of tiny dipterids, and a fair number of mosquitoes. I did not think to throw deet into the bag I carried a half mile into this spot, and I somewhat regret that.
10:24- The joint is hopping now, with a few dozen moths dancing around the light and hanging out on the sidelines. It’s mostly the same species I found last night, although I can’t separate some of the Noctuids with busy patterns unless I’ve got comparison photos. That’s not at all surprising, since it’s similar habitat, and I may have to dig into the micros if I want to add to the tally tonight. There was an intriguing little crambid that I didn’t recognize at all, but it spooked and hasn’t returned. The temp has dropped to 62⁰, but it doesn’t seem to have slowed things down.
11:22- Still getting lots of action, but it’s still almost all things I saw last night, with a couple other acquaintances from earlier in the week. I did just find a Hypena bijugalis (Dimorphic Bomolocha Moth) , and there is another Hypena-ish moth that I don’t recognize. I went for a short walk to look for crawling insects on the trail, and to see how far away my light was visible. Turns out that the forest is open enough that I could see it for over a hundred yards in every direction, so I’m drawing from a good size area. The highlight of that walk came when I was watching a moth fluttering along in the glow of my headlamp, and a bat swooped in and snagged it not ten feet from my face!
Back home-1:15- I have commitments early tomorrow (technically today), so I had been planning to shut things down about midnight anyway, but the universe gave me an assist by having my light shut down at 12:02. I really hope it’s just that my battery went dead, but that remains to be seen. Things picked up a scosh near the end, diversity wise, and I may have as many as 10 new species, but I missed getting photographs of at least three interesting but unknown species. Between tonight and what I still have to identify from last night, I might be getting close to my goal of 100 species. (Update Sunday afternoon- I am up to 102 species!)
Moth tally update-
Mesapamea secalis ( Thank you Tomas Mustelin!)
From night 8, Saturday, July 29, 2023;
With these 21 additions I have reached my goal of 100 species in Clark County during Moth Week, and the count now stands at 102.