Saturday, 16 August 2014

Canada calling

My sister and brother-in-law are staying with us on their way home to Bradford from a very enjoyable wedding in Canada (as opposed to Cana, though they had as much fun as if the water had been turned into wine). They enjoyed a week or so in the wilds of the Adirondacks in New Hampshire too, and have shown us photos of bear prints and a massive hawk moth caterpillar which make the moths of Oxfordshire look tame.

None the less, I was hoping that the latter would make an effort in honour of our visitors and they have done, although warmer weather is the more likely cause.  The eggboxes and the house wall near to the trap produced an interesting and colourful selection with some highlights shown here starting with the Swallow Prominent clinging to our stonework below.

Perversely, however, I have started with a bird rather than a moth, a couple of close-ups of the beautiful colouring of a juvenile goldfinch which sadly killed itself by flying into our windows. It's the first we've found this year which is something as last year we clocked up half a dozen. But a waste and a shame. In spite of their misbehaviour around the trap in the morning, I enjoy birds as much as anyone else and we have a good variety here. The robins and blackbirds have also been noticeably less of a nuisance with the trap since they fledged their young.

Penny is sleeping in and I don't want to disturb her so for now I am guessing that the brightly-coloured visitor above is a Lunar Thorn. You can see why. It may, however, be a Canary-shouldered or one of the other Thorns. I shall check when the sleeper wakes and update if necessary. Update: I have now done this and it's a C-s T.

I've featured the Sallow Kitten before but it's so delightfully patterned and coloured that here it is again, from the side and above, with another lustrous regular, the Gold Spot (or possibly Lempke's Gold Spot) shining below.

Next we have a Small Plume (I think) Update: no, on further reflection, I think it's a Triangle Plume or Platyptilia gonodactyla,  followed by a Poplar Hawk resting in an unusual manner because of a wing tear, and obligingly showing the russet glow which is normally hidden. This is thought to be a warning device to predators, revealed in a sudden movement by moths feeling themselves under threat. We went round a great little exhibition on Alfred Russel Wallace at the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock yesterday - excellent place - and this subject came up. Charles Darwin wrote to Wallace (his less well-known co-discoverer of evolution through natural selection) asking for his thoughts on the amazing colours and patterns of caterpillars which don't mate and have no need of fashion sense to attract the opposite sex. Wallace convinced him of the warning-to-predators alternative.

Poplar Hawks are enjoying an excellently long season, well into their fourth month here. By contrast, today's last moth, lurking in an eggbox cone, is a newcomer for the year: a Garden Pebble. This is one of the largest of the UK's micros, officially known as Evergestis forficalis.

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