Saturday, 17 July 2010

Fag ash Lil

This is one of my favourite moths for the sheer weirdness of its colouring and shape. Rightly or wrongly, it always reminds me of a discarded cigarette butt, or maybe a cheroot. I can only guess that the bizarre shapes, patterns and colourings intimidate predators. I certainly wouldn't want to eat one (and I say that as a former muncher of caterpillars when I was a Quaker volunteer teacher in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia, a lifetime ago.

Crisp and crunchy, lightly fried, not dissimilar to Walker's crisps). My faithful companions Messrs Waring, Townsend and Lewington (Field Guide to the Moths of GB and Ireland, British Wildlife Press) also suggest that the moth resembles a broken birch twig, so there's another theory. Here are several pics and, oh, its name which I've forgotten to tell you in all my metaphors and similes. It's the Buff Tip.

A big Hurrah for Jax of the Yorkshire branch of Butterfly Conservation. She has identified my mystery moth, several posts below and reproduced here again, as a Clouded Brindle. I doesn't look anything like the one in WTL, at least not to me, so I feel reassured that I am not going blind quite yet. Mind you, last month brought me my bus pass, reduced train fares, bowel cancer test kit and application form for winter fuel allowance, so it is only a matter of time.

Finally, enthusiasm for entomology is spreading among my friends, notably the family of Chris Thomond, the best newspaper photographer working in the UK today and, more important, the most helpful and cheerful companion you could wish for at work. His equally bright offspring are always chasing moths round their house, at least so he implies. Here's the latest, a Light Emerald which took refuge at Thomondville after getting drenched by our St Swithin's rain. It's a distinguished picture this, being a Thomond original, like the one I ran last year of a Common Blue butterfly seen and snapped by David Sillitoe when we were working together in Nottinghamshire.

My Anglesey cousin Jenny also Facebooked me (yes, aren't I modern?) about this caterpillar which she found roaming round her house. Lucky her. It will turn into an Emperor Moth, one of our largest and finest. Jenny was planning to hatch it, but a friend preferred to let it return to the wild, where it will probably be devoured by a bird or meet some other premature end. Attitudes to wildlife can be a bit sentimental in my opinion. But maybe I'm influenced by a fascinating account of Fordlandia (by Greg Grandin, Icon Books), a birthday present from my mother-in-law Dilys, which tells the story of Henry Ford's disastrous rubber plantation on the Amazon. I've just read the bit where workers spend a day catching 250,000 rubbertree-eating caterpillars, dump them in a pile soaked with kerosene and...
Those were not the days, and anyway it was all pointless. Nature, as always, won in the end.

No comments: