Wednesday, 7 September 2011

High time we saw a moth

The butterfly invasion of this blog isn't over yet, but today is dedicated to my French holiday moths. Without a light trap, there were few of these, but the tally isn't that bad, considering. The Penny Trap, for example, which consisted of Mrs W cooking in a brightly-lit kitchen with the shutters open and wearing her very fine butterfly T-shirt, attracted this Small Elephant Hawk, a species I last saw in Leeds when I was 12 and John Armitage, the marvellous natural history curator at the City Museum, directed me to its caterpillars on willow herb growing along the ring road embankments in the Meanwood valley.

Penny also found this small white creature on the loo floor; but otherwise the haul is drawn from day-flying moths enjoying the clover-type crop which our neighbour M.Bortolin grew for his goats, as previously described. I've already shown you the star, the Crimson Speckled, but here are two more which are satisfactorily rare in the UK: the Pale Shoulder and the Marbled Clover, the latter well-named.

I didn't see any Burnet moths, but here's their faithful chum the Burnet Companion which was the most common moth in the field. Also a delicate Latticed Heath, which I remember mistaking over-excitedly for a Duke of Burgundy Fritillary at around the time of the Meanwood caterpillar forays. And thirdly, a shy Straw Belle, given away by its excellent, feathery antennae.

A mystery moth penultimately - even Charlie Fletcher, our omniscient county moth recorder who identified the Marbled Clover for me, isn't sure about this, or the white loo one. Any random French moth expert passing by would do me a kindly service by solving the riddle. Meanwhile I will Google patiently away. Update: Aha! Thanks to Richard in Comments, I now know that this is a micro, also found in the UK, called Pyrausta despicata. You can read more about it here. Many thanks, R.

And finally, a characteristically blurred picture of that whirring little non-stop flyer, the Hummingbird Hawk, in a garden in Bergerac. This isn't the worst photo of my holiday moths, mind. That honour goes to my non-existent picture of a lovely Jersey Tiger which I focussed-in on in our porch, but just as I pressed the camera button, it took off.


Cyren said...

OH WOW! I pink moth!!!! How adorable!!! And i also love the hummingbird hawk moth!!! Lovely!!! I would love to see them live one day.

MartinWainwright said...

Sure you'll get the chance Cyren Check out both the Elephant Hawks; they are equally good. In case you were wondering about the name - pink elephants being strictly for the drunk - it comes from their grey, eyed caterpillars which resemble jumbos' trunks.

The Hummingbird Hawk is lovely to watch but very hard to photograph as it never keeps still. It's actually larger than some South American humming birds.

The natural world, eh. Never short of interest

All warm wishes


Richard said...

The mystery moth is Pyrausta despicata.

MartinWainwright said...

Thanks very much Richard, much appreciated. If you're around for the next few days to keep an eye on my French identifications, I'd be ever so pleased. All warm wishes


PS You don't know what the little white one is, by any chance?

richard said...

I'm afraid I don't know what the little white one is. I only knew the P. despicata because I caught my first one this year.
Keep up the good work,