Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Visiting time

Today is full of potential, because the great guru of the Upper Thames Moths blog, Dave Wilton, is coming here to collect a book. His garden in Buckinghamshire has produced marvellous records over recent years, thanks in part to its place in the southern English countryside but more to his patience and expertise in making IDs.

Needless to say, I am hoping to harness this to the remaining mysteries on the blog this season - not too many, I'm glad to say, thanks to the corps of Commentors who are pearls beyond price. There will also be some moths whose tattered condition prevents absolute detection; and indeed there are some species which cannot be decided without magnified examination or even dissection which are scientific steps too far for me.

Meanwhile the trap last night had a decent variety of visitors including another Buff-tip, a standard Peppered moth and a White Ermine providing a cheerfully light note amid the grey and brown inhabitants. A robin was sitting on top of the trap when I went out. I don't think they often venture inside but I did once get a surprise in Leeds when I lifted the lid and a very angry and panicky robin emerged. Initially, I thought I had caught the hawk moth of all time.

Talking of hawk moths, I've posted a picture of a Poplar Hawk which came this morning alongside a Common Swift, just to give a 'little and large' indication of the differing sizes of moths. I know that I am defficient in lending an idea of scale to my photographs and Penny has ticked me off for this. One contributor to the UTM blog includes a ruler in every picture but that is far beyond my powers. I rely on your knowledge of eggboxes to get the general idea - and in today's picture, I hope you can used the side of the box to see the considerable and impressive wingspan of the Poplar Hawk.

I think the Carpet shown is a Common Marbled but that is one of the questions which I will be putting to Dave. Update: it is.

Update: And now the visit has been and gone and was both a pleasure and very useful. To start with, Dave identified the Vine's Rustic, above, in last night's assembly and also commented on the fine colour and patterning of the Small Square Spot below.  For once, the fingers in the picture aren't mine. They're Dave's.

I genuinely think that his tuition as we went through the eggboxes will help me with the Nutmeggy, Rustic Shoulder-knotty type of moth. Here's hoping. And he finally cleared up the remaining uncertainties from visitors to the trap so far this year.  Very many thanks, Dave.  His visit was also enlightened by the unexpected arrival of  dog in the garden, followed shortly afterwards by its woman owner in pursuit. The dog was called Punch, so you can guess it's owner's name. She was very interested in the catch and luckily there was the handsome Poplar Hawk to show her (and Punch, who rolled over in excitement).


Sue said...

Martin - your blog is so wonderfully written and funny, and the photos are great too. My teenage daughter and I have only recently started to trap moths, and can only do it on the weekends when more relaxed mornings are possible, so we are a bit restricted if the weather isn't perfect. Last weekend was too cold for much moth activity, but the weekend before we had my daughter's number one - a scorched wing, and my number one the buff tip. Even her cool teenage friends have started sharing pictures they've taken of moths. It's an addictive hobby, and your blog is so encouraging. Thank you!

Martin Wainwright said...

Hi Sue - and family

What a very nice message to start the day with, specially as today is Penny and my arduous granddaughter day (which we also greatly love doing, needless to say). Funny to think that she'll be a teenager one day too.

I'm so pleased that you and your daughter are enthused by moths - and her friends; that's most impressive. Inevitably, the study of insects was as male-dominated as pretty much everything else for centuries, but there have been some outstanding women too. In recent times, Miriam Rothschild was one of them, and there were some excellent 19th and 20th century women explorers and butterfly or moth hunters, notably Margaret Fountaine and Mary de la Beche Nicholl. The story of the 16th century English butterfly enthusiast Eleanor Glanville (after whom the rare Glanville Fritillary butterfly is named) is well worth Googling too. After her death, her relatives tried to overthrow her will on the grounds that she was insane, and that hunting butterflies was proof of that.

I'm very approviung of your favourite moths. The Buff-tip is excellent and the Scorched Wing is really fascinating; I think its pattern disorientates the eye in manner of Op-art or the Dazzle camouflage used on warships. All this is worth Googling too. Finally, I'd just add that moth wing patterns ahve influenced textile and fashion designers, so cool teenagers can always use that in their defence if they encounter moth sceptics..
All warmest wishes to you both and thanks again for taking the trouble to comment. As you'll know from reading, I am a very hopeless ID-er and would always welcome your views, corrections etc