Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Contributors write...

The trap's been on loan for a couple of days to friends the far side of the canal. This isn't in any way comparable to the far side of the world, as in Patrick O'Brian's rumbustious novel, but their thatched cottage stands  much closer to the river than our house and has a lot more woodland on its doorstep.

They had a good harvest from the eggboxes, including the Burnished Brass, Poplar Hawk and Barred Straw shown above, but their visitors proved much the same as ours, as in this series of excellent pictures which they've kindly emailed. Their two young sons much enjoyed the experience and I'm delighted that they were rewarded by impressive and beautiful moths such as these Elephant Hawks on the left; one in the hand, the other on its eggbox, the moth trap's equivalent of the proverb's bush.

I'd like to do a bit more roving and trap-lending to see if and how moths differ within comparatively short distances. Thus far, the temporary conclusion is that they don't.

Meanwhile, a cousin in Islington sent me this nice picture of an Old Lady moth which spent part of a sunny afternoon on their fence and reminds me of a rum-and-treacling evening years ago when a cousin and I were staying with our uncle, a vicar in Suffolk. We found an Old Lady nectaring on the sticky, intoxicating mixture which you smear on tree trunks (no question of affording a light trap in those days) and rushed indoors shouting "We've caught an Old Lady!"

Since my uncle and aunt had two elderly ladies from a previous parish staying with them, this caused brief consternation.

Finally, a photograph to turn you green with envy, from another neighbour who has just got back from a fantastic couple of weeks in Peru. He and his wife were walking back from Lake Sandoval in the Tombopata reserve when they got this magnificent picture of two Green-banded Uranias mud-puddling. The picture could hardly be bettered as an explanation of this delightful word, which describes the habit of tropical butterflies of sipping up salts from mud or damp sand at the edge of rivers, lakes or pools. I have seen hundreds of yellow and white species mud-puddling in Indonesia, tilting their wings to cast as small a shadow as possible, and then flying up in a great cloud like confetti when I clapped my hands to disturb them.

Actually, writing that awakened my curiosity and I've just been in search of old photo albums among our books, which we have finally got out of storage (although getting them in order is going to be another marathon wet weather task). I'm afraid that cameras weren't the best in those distant days - the early 1980s - but here are some Graphion swallowtails mud-puddling in Sulawesi, above, followed by a second picture, below, whose beautiful handwritten caption speaks - quite interestingly - for itself.

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