Monday, 13 September 2010

Ermine spikes

Just when I was resigned to this being a caterpillar-free year, along came this White Ermine larva. At a surprising lick too. It was shimmying along some paving stones, proving in the process that movement is what always gives away the presence of wild animals. I learned that as a reluctant member of a school cadet force before I escaped into the drums and bugles, which none of the officious teachers were interested in - not even the bandmaster, who didn't regard the rattle of a side-drum as music. I was once used as an example of How Not to Hide in a Hedge. But it did all teach me how to creep about the countryside un-noticed. The other great rule is never to light fires during daylight. You can spot the thinnest thread of smoke from miles away. Here's a close-up of the catty's spikes - click on it to enlarge - and I've also posted 16 seconds of my new enthusiasm, film, just so's you can see how fast they go.

Caterpillars seem to coincide with Guardian readers' walks. Last year, Penny and I found legions of Peacock ones migrating across the path when we recce-ed the circular route from Richmond to Easby abbey. Yesterday, we had a brilliant time with 30 readers marching from Howtown to Patterdale (where we met Richard Theobald and Pat Johnson in the lovely St Patrick's churchyard, featured in previous posts. Richard explained that what P and I thought was a special way of improving wildflower meadows, by selective digging, was actually the unwanted contribution of badgers). The weather was lovely. A miracle, because Today has just announced with London-based relish that 'heavy rain is moving into Cumbria".

PS I should have posted a picture of what this caterpillar is going to turn into, and here it is. A classic ugly duckling into swan, unless you happen to like spikes. This is an adult White Ermine which came to the trap in June 2008, just two weeks after I first began this blog. A dapper little peer of the realm.

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