I found a medium size moth on the wall a couple of days ago and decided I'd try and figure out exactly what it was. I was already aware that there are many more species of moth as there are butterfly - something like 2,000+ in the UK apparently.
I started off by taking some up-close and personal photos of my moth, which was about 25mm long head to wing tip. Then I pored through my large "Butterflies & Moths in Britain and Europe" book, recently acquired at a charity shop mainly to assist with butterfly identification. The only way to use this book when you have no idea what you're looking at is to flick through from cover to cover looking for a matching photograph. Then do the same again just in case you missed it. I was looking for a relatively dull, mottled brown beast with stripy legs, but I didn't find it.
I turned to the web and quickly found the rather excellent UK Moths website, complete with keyword search. Unfortunately "mottled brown" and "mottled grey" didn't quite do the trick, returning tens of results but none of the quite what I was after. Lots of moths fit this very vague description so it's a tough one to solve with a simple text search. The best match I could find was the Grey Chi, but I wasn't convinced as that's much more silvery and lacks the small orange markings, though I wondered if it could be put down to variability between individuals. So I turned to the site's creator Ian and fired off an image and description to the email address given (only to be used once all other avenues exhausted). He got back to me within a couple of days to reveal that it is in fact a Large Ranunculus - and yes I think he's bang on. This is a man who knows his moths!