BRILLIANT BATS & MARVELLOUS MOTHS
I pull up in the middle of nowhere, the headlights on my VW Beetle shine into the woods opposite. There's a chill in the August air as I approach the opening of Kinver Edge. I eagerly glance towards my naked wrist hoping to calculate the earliness of our arrival. I wait by the notice board, it reads, "Have you heard the Chiffchaff yet? They winter in the Mediterranean and are among the first migrant songbirds to arrive in spring. They pick insects from trees and also fly out to snap them up". I listen out for the Chiffchaffs, but I'm not here to see birds, instead I'm on the search for months and bats.
After a few moments I'm greeted by a young red-haired woman who wears a jam red fleeced jumper. Her sparkly smile makes me feel at ease, confirming I had the right date and time. The guide leads us along the dirt path around the cluster of trees. I can see a bright light, almost like a replica of the moon over a small bank. A picnic table is just in front and a group of visitors has huddled around the table.
"So you're the moth expert?" I ask a gentleman holding a collection of contained Moths.
"I wouldn't say expert", he responded, "more of an enthusiast".
I glance into the tubes of the caught moths, their names are scribbled on sticky labels. ‘Large yellow underwing’ and ‘Coxcomb prominent’ are written in handwritten ink. The moth catcher confidently waves goodbye as he leads us towards the young girl for our bat walk, he promises to catch more Moths as we leave. I press the switch on my black and white torch and begin the Bat walk around Kinver Edge. Our guide holds a bat detector up in the air as we take each step. I stumble across the raised tree stumps, past the leaning trees and through the squeaking kissing gate. The bat detector rumbles with a sound similar to a smoking shisha pipe or the noise of blowing bubbles in the bath.
The guide waves the detector to the tops of the trees and a black silhouette races past, then another flutter amongst the branches. They are quite small in size I thought to myself, I've never seen a bat in the wild before. Our guide tells us that the Rock houses are home to a rare bat called Lesser Horseshoe a few months of the year; these bats are dwindling in numbers.
We carry on our tour up the steep hill following the noise of the bat detector. When no bats are present the detector exudes the sound of Television static. But a bubble of the device and another shadow appears above. We reach the top of the hill and look to the view over Kinver. The silhouettes of houses and the lights from the windows pose a perfect view, almost like a city of lights.
The rest of our group have started the descent down the hill towards the man and his Moths. We quickly follow them passing the last of the bats flying above us. I've been lent the bat detector as I jog down the hill and I raise my arm above my head. The detector makes a sound, apparently bats use different noises for socialising and eating, I wonder which they are doing now.
The light from the moth trap can be seen for miles. I wander down the slope towards the light mimicking the journey of the Moth to its trap. The enthusiast catches the Moths as we watch from the bandstand, we're told not to look directly into the light. I ignore the health warning and as a result my vision is beclouded with black spots. Maiden's Blush, Brimstone, Small Rivulet's and Early Thorn moths are some of the insects contained in the pots. The children stand in amazement whilst helping to catch the Moths as they fly into the light.
Following the talk and the capturing of Moths, we decide to call it a night. I thank the Moth man and the Bat lady and we wander down the rocky path, back towards the car. My handheld torch is the only light to be seen as we edge further away from the Moth trap. The clock ticks over to 11 pm. Tonight under a starry sky I had the opportunity to experience two different types of flying creatures. I'm thankful for that.