Monday, 10 September 2012

A glimpse of the elusive underwing

I routinely slag off the various sorts of 'yellow underwing' here, for the specious reason that they are so common. At times, indeed, the trap is almost overwhelmed by them - over 100 on occasion - so that their individual beauty gets forgotten amid exhaustion at the sheer number and the possibility that they may dull my senses to something smaller and rarer.

Their other disadvantage is that, when at rest, they very seldom show the vivid underwings which give them their name. I have managed to photograph and post a few glimpses over the years; and there was one rather dramatic image of a moth disappearing into a blackbird's beak. But here, above, is one which allowed me to get a closer look, albeit largely from behind. It couldn't object, because it was dead.

I couldn't re-arrange its wings because it must have perished when we were at the Paralympics in London and it had gone stiff, as in the American nickname for a corpse. When I was a boy collector, I used to get some sweet-smelling stuff called 'relaxing fluid' from our local chemist (who also supplied me with 'killing fluid', no questions asked). This softened the muscles and allowed you to 'set' the specimen; but those days have gone.

In the same, yellow, part of the spectrum, here's a nice arrival in the trap: a Centre-barred Sallow. The sudden, straight end to its patterning along the back is unusual compared with the subtler camouflage of many moths. Like dazzle-painting, I guess it breaks up the moths' shape and helps them escape blackbirds and other menaces by that means. And get on with doing the Guardian's quick crossword...

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