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Birthday brings special moth find for volunteer

Last modified: 22 June 2010

Becky Elliot and Kerry Leslie

Image: The RSPB

They searched high…they searched low. They wondered if they’d ever find it!  However, two of the RSPB’s Coombes Valley nature reserve volunteers, Becky Elliott and Kerry Leslie, are now celebrating after finally catching sight of the nationally scarce Argent and Sable moth.   

The volunteers had already spent a good 30 hours searching for signs of the moth on the nature reserve, near Leek, with no luck.  Then came a special day, Becky’s 21st birthday, and they struck gold, seeing the delicate black and white Argent and Sable moth flittering from leaf to leaf.   

The moth, which flies during the day, is a priority species in the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan as it is  nationally scarce.  

Its larvae feed on birch tree saplings.  They are very fussy and don’t like birch any higher than 3m.  The lack of woodland management including less coppicing, is one of the reason for it’s decline.  However, thanks to several years of funding from DEFRA’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund which is managed by Staffordshire County Council, the team at Coombes Valley has been able to carry out coppicing work.  This involves cutting down an area of trees to create open space within the woodland.  The new tree shoots that came up created the perfect habitat for the Argent and Sable moth as well as other creatures like insects and butterflies.  

The moth sighting is a real biodiversity success story for the RSPB in Staffordshire, highlighting the importance of careful habitat management. 

 There is a wealth of wildlife to discover at the Coombes Valley nature reserve, with now being an especially colourful time to visit with all the insects, wildflowers and butterflies on show.

RSPB Assistant Warden Kerry Leslie says, “I  couldn’t believe it when I saw it! Luckily I managed to scramble over some brambles to take a photograph, which confirmed that it was the Argent and Sable moth and evidence that we’d seen it right here at Coombes Valley!” 

The reserve, having only one paid member of staff, relies on volunteers to carry out a range of tasks including greeting visitors, survey work and practical tasks. If you would like to get involved or find out more, please contact the team on: or (01538) 384017

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