Marek's Muse

My name is Marek and I hail from Cheshire where I spent most of my youth playing football on the streets and wandering for miles across the local countryside unfettered and unafraid.

Now in retirement, like most of my generation, I look back at the disappearance of things I took for granted and expected to remain forever.

The fields and meadows teeming with wildlife we enjoyed then are now becoming, for the most part, confined to nature reserves and pictures in books sitting on the shelves of disappearing libraries.

A photograph of a fox semi-hidden among the tall grass and wildflowers

This process of change, which is what it is, will continue into subsequent generations with the youth seeing their own world for the first time with only a thought of how it was in their parents day.

My actual interest in moths came about when I was introduced to a relation through marriage for the first time during my younger brother’s brave fight against cancer.

I remember my brother telling me that I might find this person rather different from the sort of people I was used to talking to in that he was rather more ‘geekish and clever with not as keen an interest in beer’.

He explained that his interests were Campanology and Lepidoptery which was a shock to me as I wasn’t really sure what either meant.

Anyway not deterred I related to him the story of when me an my hiking buddy happened on a person acting rather oddly during one of our many walks across the South Downs.

At the time I was unfamiliar with Mill Hill as a nature reserve as it was just a small part of much longer trek.

The gentleman in question, it turns out, was a photographer whose objective was to capture an image containing 50 Adonis Blue butterflies within a single frame!

When he saw our disbelief he hurried to show us the picture from the previous year where he had managed 35 by spreading shrimp paste in a circle on the ground and waiting for the butterflies to find it.

Obviously he was not at all surprised by this as he did not bat an eyelid at my anecdote and when I had finished proceeded to give me chapter and verse of a the Adonis Blue from pupa to adult including its dependence of ants.

I was gobsmacked by his knowledge and expertise in a subject which I had never considered particularly interesting but he explained that his real passion was moths.

He made such an impression on me that after my brother’s funeral I decided to make a conscious effort to keep in contact with the thought that I could take pictures of moths and butterflies and send them to him for identification.

It was some days later before I could act on this.

A moth had settled on the bathroom wall and, like the true explorer I am, I hurried down stairs with a towel wrapped round me to find a camera for my first record which I sent off to my new mentor that day.

A close-up photo of a moth, the first of my endeavour

I did not have to wait long for a reply with a detailed identification of my moth arriving in the evening giving everything from foodplant to inside leg measurement of a 1689 – Mullein Wave – Scopula marginepunctata

Our correspondence continued but I was only able to send him a few examples I came across accidentally in the house, garden or on walks.

It was then that it suddenly ‘dawned’ on me that most moths were nocturnal and that if I wanted to continue to keep in touch I would need come up with an alternative plan of action, select from the categories on the right to see the different areas that needed to be tackled and explored.