Saturday, 15 June 2013

Seeing a ghost

1.30pm pic

8am pic

I woke to the drip-drip of half-hearted rain and also the realisation that, although I put the trap out last night, Penny has gone to the Lakes for the family's annual Women's Walking Weekend and the camera has gone with her.

But up stepped my iPad Mini, a very welcome present from my dear departed Guardian colleagues, and so I can bring you the picture above of a fine-looking female Ghost Moth. It's not as good as the regular camera but pretty amazing how close these little tablet computers can get. Update: my first photo was actually a bit dark, so I just went out at 1.30pm to where I'd hidden the moth and it was still there. So we had another brief picture sesh before the rain came down again, and the pic at the top is the result.

For all their glamour, in matters of love the females Ghosts are the pursuers rather than the pursued. The males, which are white and more spectral, adopt a strange, swaying flight at dusk, each like a pendulum over a particular spot, while releasing a scent reminiscent of goat. My Moth Bible continues in one of its most lyrical passages:

This attracts the female which sometimes flies directly at the male and both fall to the ground. Mating pairs are conspicuous on low vegetation by torchlight.

Goodness. I attach a pic from the famous Oberon/Olivier Wuthering Heights in tribute. My moth was in a deep sleep but what she had been up to before, I cannot tell.

There were plenty of other, excellent things in the eggboxes which I'll check up on and describe later, but here below is one of them: our old friend, a Poplar Hawkmoth, looking like something out of Tolkien - beware, that small green elf or hobbit which you can see in the top left-hand corner. (Actually, there's no need. It's a Green Carpet and moths don't eat one another).

Since I spent the last two days in Manchester and Salford, I'll finish with a photographic souvenir of the rainy cities, although I saw no moths nor butterflies. I was at MediaCityUK, where the BBC runs its completely excellent northern operation (new press complaints body, please follow suit), and coincided with the start of a rally of powerful sports cars.

Alas for this one, which conked out. The sign on the AA van said something impressive like Special Operations Technical Team, the motoring world's equivalent of my brilliant experts whose comments on posts put me right on the identity of moths.


sarah meredith said...

Hi Martin - among the many delights of this post, the one that really grabbed my attention was the Women's Walking Weekend. I can't tell you how much I would love to have been born into a family where such a tradition exists. . .I am not going to blame my family, however - I just don't think it is an American kind of thing, though I wish it were! Hope Penny has a great weekend of walking and that you continue to have such plentiful and interesting moths! Check out my facebook page to see what Greg was up to this Father's Day weekend. Tomorrow - the day itself - though he doesn't know it, we are taking him to a speakeasy on the Lower East Side! Love to both, xxs

MartinWainwright said...

Sarah Hi! And MANY thanks for giving me a theme for today's post. I love the term 'speakeasy' - I see from Wikipedia that they're "so called because of the practice of speaking quietly about such a place in public, or when inside it, so as not to alert the police or neighbors." So Ssshhh..!

Have a great time! I'll check FB which I'm afraid I very seldom use.

Wiki also says they were called 'blind pigs' cos in prohibition people who lay on exhibitions of natural curiosities with a 'complimentary drink' thrown in. Is this so? If so, maybe we could start one themed on unusual moths.

P is keeping dry - see post - and I'm sure they'd love you to join them one year. I never enquire too closely; just tease them about their conservatism in always going to the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel in Great Langdale and therefore always climbing the same mountains. But they know best...

x to all M

PS How about a (wildly imaginative) Meredith masterpiece called The Women's Walking Weekend?

sarah meredith said...

Hi artin - I don't know about the blind pigs, though I am sure they used any excuse back then for a complimentary drink. The one we are going to - whose whereabouts my children know - is entered, I believe, through a phone booth at the back of a bar. Their specialty is, indeed, pig in the form of hotdogs with many different toppings. I will let you know - perhaps we can put it on the "must do" list when you and Penny come again to NYC. Meantime, I am, as they say, "totally down" with the idea of joining the walking women if they will have me as an honorary member! Meantime, I will ponder the painting idea. Happy Father's Day to you! xxs

sarah meredith said...

I mean, Martin - bad proof-reading on my part!