Friday, 7 June 2013

This time, it really IS a Common Swift. Or three

Here's an example of non-virtue being rewarded, although I admit to feeling sneakily pleased. A few posts ago, I misidentified a Pine Beauty as a Common Swift, which will come as no surprise to regular browsers. Well, last night a Common Swift really did come to the lamp. In fact three did.

In the process of photographing them, one was awoken and scrambled down on to the grass (top picture) which allowed me a picture of both of its wings spread out, rather than the usual resting position in which the moth clamps them tightly together (as in the second and third pictures, above). This has led to my Moth Bible's incomparable illustrator, Richard Lewington, choosing the Common Swift as one of a handful of moths shown from the side, rather than above - because the great value of the book is that it shows the insects as you tend to find them rather than 'set', with their wings spread out, as happens in academic collections of dead ones.

That was what misled me over the Pine Beauty, or so I maintain, because it is shown from above when in some ways, you could argue that its similar clamping habit merits a side picture. Whatever, the Swifts were double welcome because the one pictured immediately one is the less brightly patterned type which is a common variant from the norm.

As usual, there was a roll of Green Carpets and a Twin-spot Carpet as well as two Brimstones (one shown above), a Flame Shoulder and a Hebrew Character. Plus this newcomer, below, which I think is an Uncertain; I also hope that it is because of the very enjoyable name, which ranks with the Suspected as proof that I am not the only enthusiast who struggles with getting identification right.  (Update: 'struggle' is the word. You may have read Dave's cryptic comment which quite rightly follows the old Oxfam principle of 'Give a man a fish' being of less value than 'Teach a man to fish'. Well, I puzzled and puzzled but was still uncertain, but then another Dave, Dave Wilton of the excellent Upper Thames Butterfly Conservation - see top entry on Mothy Links above, left), came to the rescue. It's a Brown Rustic, which Waring, Townsend and Lewington humiliatingly describe as 'not usually a difficult moth to recognise'. Oh well...)

PS  I forgot to say that yesterday I heard my first cuckoo, or rather a pair of them calling to one another, as I biked home from Oxford along the canal.  This probably says more about my movements than the lateness or otherwise of the seasons this year, but the first call is famously associated more with Spring than with June (although officially Spring doesn't end nor Summer begin in most almanacs until 21 June, the longest day of the year).


David Shenton said...

Hi Martin,

Glad you got your Common Swift in the end.

Another comment from me on your last moth...key to ID of this one is the overall Brown coloration and the white spots along the costa, you were in the right area in the Amphipyrinae but have a look a bit earlier on the list...

MartinWainwright said...

Thanks so much Dave and I very much approve of this 'not making it too easy for me' approach!

You'll see from the updated post, however, that I was still baffled. But another Dave came to my rescue.

Thanks again. Still full of joy this morning at finding a magnificent Puss Moth.

all warm wishes