Monday, 2 May 2011

Hawkeye


Penny and I were watching a Sparrowhawk wheeling stylishly over our garden yesterday afternoon. This morning, the mothtrap had the year's first hawk moth. Far bigger than almost all other UK species, these still give me the thrill I first felt when I found Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars on rosebay willowherb along the verge of Leeds ring road - exactly where John Armitage, the kindly and learned natural history curator at the City Museum, had told my brother and me to look.

Our arrival is a Lime Hawk Moth and an interesting one - variety Brunnea which replaces the usual range of green colours on the wings with foxy brown. You can see how much larger it is than the 'standard' UK moth by comparing its size alongside a penny with a similar scale picture of a Common Quaker, also in the trap this morning (below left).

I've just looked back to previous years' blogs which confirm my suspicion that everything is early this year. The first hawkmoth of 2010 was a Poplar Hawk which arrived on 25 May. In 2009, they made their debut on May 31 (a Poplar again) and from 2004-8 I have no records of any earlier than the first week in June when both Poplar and Elephant Hawks appeared. There's a sense here in Leeds that the current spell of lovely weather, which has now lasted nearly a fortnight, has accelerated everything's in the natural world's emergence from a winter which included those dire temperatures in January, and especially December.

Here, below, is the Lime Hawk from the side, looking more like a lobster than a moth. This is the sort of picture which can give the heebie-jeebies to those unfamiliar with moths, but that's nothing a little study of the insects and their endless fascination won't put right. If only Osama bin Laden had gone in for such things, not to mention Hitler whose death was also announced, appropriately, on May Day.

7 comments:

Banished To A Pompous Land said...

Its true here too Martin that things are ahead again this year. Not so much as with you it seems but I know for sure that all my iris varieties have opened as of this morning and normally I wouldn't have expected the first until this week. I reckon a couple of weeks ahead. For the garden the weather has been marvellous, warm and showery. It's turned into mosquito hell earlier too though. I'm already getting bitten to death. These southern mozzies have a taste for pale tender northerners.

But I was looking at old Gloucester posts I did on the British Dragonfly Society news pages. I posted emergence dates every year as the species showed up and it seemed things then were moving up a week or two a year 2000-2004.

Earlier and a little more to the north. Pure coincidence I'm sure...

worm said...

Is there anything more exciting mothwise than a hawkmoth? And the Limes have such beautiful wings (and I have to admit Im a sucker for the beautiful bottle green camo of the more common version) Lucky you Martin

Bennyboymothman said...

Well done on an early Hawk! it seems that with all this mild and dry weather, everything is emerging early this year.
But we do need some rain desperately here! it hasn't rained for about 3 weeks now, this could affect the Summer and Autumn moths who are still needing the fresh shoots and leaves to survive.
A few years ago we had a really dry spring and the trees started dieing, particularly the mature Oaks, as a result the summer moth records were dire!

All the best.
Ben

Martin said...

Hi all - thanks v much. I was just listening to the cheery chortly director of RHS Wisley on the radio, from whom John Humphrys tried in vain to exact some useful tips. "Just enjoy the lovely weather and the flowers," he said, so I am obeying those instructions.

Yes, Worm, I love the 'proper' Lime Hawk and hope we get some this year. I haven't yet had time to Google for any explanation of the variety and what conditions may encourage it. The wings are amazing. Another thing I must research is whether jet plane designers take not of moth (and presumably bird) wings. Like a jumbo jet, hawk moths have big bodies to lug about.

Funny, isn't it, how we now wish for rain. I must admit to liking it dry, though I take your points, Ben. Apparently some's coming next week. It's seldom far away from our wet little island...

Iain Chambers said...

What an amazing moth... I must admit that final lobster-esque picture did slightly give me the creeps...
All power to your trap

Martin said...

Hey Iain!

Looking forward to the programme on Friday too. Thanks again for all your brilliant work making it. Producers rule OK...

all warm wishes

M

Anonymous said...

Hi there. I took a foto on my Blackberry yesterday in a local Car Park of what looks like a moth in the shape of a Vulcan Bomber with slightly frayed wings in camoflage colours of Brown diamonds and white background. Is Hawkeye your sign in or is that the name of this type of Moth? U can see it on my FaceBook page but atm my email to/from BBry is out of action.Look forward to your reply. DS of East Northants