Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Admirable Pt 2

Apologies to the world's moth-lovers because those swanky butterflies have taken over the blog again today. But I think you'll be understanding because this particular example is one of the great treats of the UK's annual nature calendar.

The lovely topside. The name comes from 'admirable' rather than some butterfly-hunting seadog. Hence my headline today and yesterday (when I forgot to make this point)

It's our first Red Admiral, perhaps the loveliest and best-loved of the 60-odd species which are all that niggardly Nature has given this country in the way of butterflies. Extremely beautiful, it is also common as muck, unlike its White counterpart featured in yesterday's post. Everyone in the UK will see one at some stage in their lives, most of us every year.

You can also find their spiky black caterpillars on nettles in June and if you are particularly sharp-eyed, even one of their chrysalises - strange containers like Egyptian mummies in which the caterpillars transform into adult insects. The curious Batman-like shape at the bottom contains the head and curled-up antennae. One of our neighbours took me yesterday to see this one, whose occupant had only recently gone after cracking open the base and pushing the Batman cap to one side. It might even have been the Red Admiral which flew over to us. Many thanks to her for the photo.

They hatch at about the time that the equally common buddleia comes into bloom, with its swags of honey-scented purple flowers which Red Admirals, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and their immigrant relations, Painted Ladies, find irresistible. I knew they were about because they have a much swifter and more powerful way of flying than the Whites and Browns which have been here in great numbers for the last couple of months.

This year's debut is particularly well-timed because Friday sees the start of a BBC TV Springwatch special on garden butterflies and this grand Red Admiral, left, is being used as cover boy, or girl, in promotional material. Ours nearly had a tragically short life. It flew indoors early yesterday and we didn't discover it until the early afternoon, by which time it was starting to wilt. A bit of towel flicking and Guardian-flapping steered it back into the fresh air, and off it soared.

I will just add a mothy PS, because it's another example of the coincidences which have been a feature of my posts this summer. I ended the last one with a reference to pistachio nuts. Late last night, amid radio clamour about the Royal baby and with the trap packed away for fear of thunderstorms, this moth flew in through the kitchen window. Its resting place was...our emergency nibble stash of pistachios (the little hand belongs to a whirling Dervish on the bowl which Penny and I bought in Istanbul).

Initially I thought it was a Neglected Rustic, a name straight out of Thomas Hardy, but I'm opting instead for another coincidence: it's a Ruby Tiger, a moth whose caterpillar was featured here on 12 July and identified by expert Dave Shenton. If I'm wrong, I'm relying on Dave again to correct me.


David Shenton said...

No correction needed, Martin.

Had my first Ruby Tiger of the year last night on what was an incredibly stormy night: the lightning display in the early hours was the best I've seen in the UK.



MartinWainwright said...

Thanks very much Dave, as always. Initially I thought the wing shape was wrong but on closer inspection (something I am learning to do...) I can see that the forewings curve round where they've been folded over the body.

We missed the storms sadly but maybe today will be our turn. I love thunder and lightning

all v best