Monday, 22 August 2016

Feeling blue

Blue has become a synonym for downbeat days but that's definitely not the case for me. It's always been my favourite colour, so today was a blue one in the best sense.

Firstly, our Morning Glories are coming into flower, perfect blue until lunchtime and then gradually developing the violet tinge and purple stripe as the afternoon goes on. And secondly, I had a gentle butterfly stroll along the edge of a neighbouring field and at last found a thoroughly co-operative Common Blue.

I collated four different pictures on Instagram - see top of the post - and here are some more of the butterfly, just above. What a lovely creature both on top and underneath. When they are flitting about they are, to coin a very hackneyed but accurate phrase, like little jewels.

Otherwise it has been an off spell for the moth trap thanks to wind and rain, and not a very happy one for our local wild life in general.  Pottering through a local spinney, I cam across this sad little dead shrew. And yet another bird strike on our upstairs windows claimed the life of this thrush.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Captain Beaky

Human features can be deceptive, for example when a face seen directly from in front looks well-proportioned but a sideways view reveals a prominent chin or nose. Ditto with insects. This fly or wasp above seems handsome enough, if you like such creatures. But look below: It's a Cyrano de Bergerac of the insect world.

What it is, is another matter. I'd be grateful if anyone can tell me, if only to add interest to the current quiet times in the moth trap. Wet and surprisingly blustery weather has coincided with the usual mild hiatus between summer and autumn moths. There are plenty of visitors in the eggboxes but only occasionally something out of the ordinary.

Above are a couple of Marbled Beauties, very pretty moths, and below a rather heavily-barred Carpet which I'm afraid I can't immediately identify.

Next a Bloodvein and a Green Carpet, both with attractive TV aerial antennae,

And a Coxcomb Prominent, one of several from the distinctively-shaped Prominent tribe which have been calling by all Summer.

Lastly, a very ordinary photo of a very ordinary Small Tortoiseshell; but for some reason, it's quite unusual to see butterflies in garden centres in spite of the vast nectar banquet on offer. This was one of the exceptions.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Small and dusty

A visit to London yesterday on grandchild duty brought me another new moth: the Small Dusty Wave, above, which was slumbering on an area wall in the comforting glow of a security lamp. Its midget size makes the pebbledash look like the boulder-strewn craters of the Moon.

The moth is like a grey version of the Small Fan-footed Wave, which does call here, and also easily mistakable for one of that infuriatingly hard-to-ID tribe, the Pug Moths. The Moth Bible warns of this risk and I can bear it out, having puzzled over several pages of Pug illustrations in a vain attempt to track it down. The clue to its real identity, for me at least, lies in the black dots in its hindwings. Lots of Pugs have a dot on the forewings, but none go in for one on the hind ones.

'Small and dusty'. incidentally, is a good description of the grandchildren after a lovely time yesterday at the fake beach in the Olympic Park, above, which is wonderfully well-used.

Back here in the trap this morning, there was one of the finest examples of an Orange Swift I have had the pleasure to see, above.  This is a hugely variable moth in both size and colouring - and pattern, with in this one. And that is quite apart from the fact that males and females each have their own different looks.

Other visitors included this matching pair of Willow Beauties, one inside the moth trap's cowl, the other outside. And the trap played host to yet another Poplar Hawk moth, below, followed by two Flounced Rustics and the engaging 'bull's horns' micro Pammene aurita.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Moses moth

No doubt you remember the story of Moses in the bulrushes. Had there been an entomologist involved in the Scriptures, he or she might have added a little colour about today's moth.
It's a Bulrush Wainscot, one that I haven't had here before although it's not uncommon, especially in places with plenty of bulrushes. We have fine clumps of them on the canal.

The Bulrush Wainscot is a chunky moth, much bigger than the Common Wainscot and its immediate relatives which are quite frequent guests here. It also has a fine dusting of spots and streaks.

The most interesting thing about it, however, is the way that its caterpillars burrow into a bulrush stem, bore along like a small Tube train and then make the stalk their home, a home provided with free food in the form of the walls and a snug place for pupating when the time comes. The excellent pictures below are from the Moth Bible

I'm minded to add a verse to the Bible - the real one, not the mothy version - to incorporate one of these in the Moses story; perhaps a talking one which could advise the floating baby when there was danger from Pharoah's men.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Angling in

It was nice to spend a bit of time this morning with an Angle Shades, one of the most distinctive of UK moths with its swept-back wings and steeply-raked V-shape on either side of its tail. As well as this fine silhouette, the moth has a very subtle mixture of colours on its wings, including delicate pink round the 'eyes' and a very delightful shade of green.

The moth's camouflage is very effective to the extent that it tends to rest openly by day, rather than undercover. Like an umbrella, it has the ability to furl and crease those fine wings which adds to the cunning of its defence against predators - a variety of slightly different ways to break up its mothy shape.

I have always imagined the Angle Shades to be a very nippy flyer, with its jet fighter appearance, and this morning I saw the proof. I coaxed the moth on to my finger where it warmed up over a period of about two minutes. The photographs below were taken well into this process when it was vibrating its wings prior to take off. Then, whoosh! It was up and away. To my alarm, my monitoring robin came streaking in over my shoulder and I thought that that was that. But no. The Angle Shades jinked right, the robin  veered left in confusion and the moth made a safe escape to a bush.

Also in the eggboxes: the Pebble Prominent below and a couple of Common Carpets which I include to show how colouring can differ, depending on the camera angle, background and light-and-shade.

The Brimstone moth is very common at the moment, along with Orange Swifts, and that's not only in the trap. Can you see all three Brimstones in the picture below, resting on a nearby shrub.

Finally, I couldn't resist going for a butterfly hunt in today's blissful sunshine. I got pictures of Common and Holly Blues, a Brimstone, a Meadow Brown and some sort of skipper. But this female Common Blue was the only one, of about 25, to be properly in focus.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Copper mine

A fine new moth for the year arrived last night - this Copper Underwing (or it may be a Svensson's Copper Underwing, a species so similar that people like me have no hope of telling them apart). It is a striking moth; as soon as I saw it in the eggboxes this morning I thought: 'Aha! Not seen one of those since late last summer'.

Getting it to show its copper-coloured underwing is something else again. The best I could do was lure it on to the edge of an eggbox and sneak up from behind. These moths are tremendously jittery and scurry about the eggboxes like frightened mice. They are strangely reluctant, however, to use their ultimate defence of takiong off and flying away.

Earlier in the day, I stalked and finally photographed this Holly Blue butterfly, a species which only opens its wings to reveal their darker blue colouring very rarely. Then it was back to moths with this Pale Prominent, weirdest of creatures, a Setaceous Hebrew Character and something whose identity I need to puzzle out.

Down the size scale, here are two slightly differing examples of one of my favourite micros, Pyrausta aurata, the Mint Moth, the second one fearlessly defending itself from s wasp.

And to finish up with, a smart Flame Shoulder and a lovely, glintingly metallic, Burnished Brass.