Saturday, 4 June 2016

Hawks more

An unusual view of the Eyed Hawk showing how its forewings have warning flashes of pink below as well as the 'eyes' on top

A vintage morning in the eggboxes today: no fewer than five different kinds of hawk moth were nestling among the mini-swarms of immigrant Diamond-back micros.

I was fairly sure yesterday evening that it would be a good catch overnight; for the first time since early May, the temperature was really warm. We could almost have had supper out of doors. But this did better than my best hopes.

The Pine Hawk gives me the greatest pleasure as it has only been here once before, last year when a much more battered specimen came to call. 'Battered' and 'Pine Hawk' are a word association as this species flies very fast and appears to have a pioneering spirit. It used to be confined to the South Coast but spread northwards from the mid-20th century, reaching Oxfordshire before the end of the 1940s and now recorded from Yorkshire and further north.

Mine this morning was already itching to be off and it flew away like a jet plane just after my third pic of it, above, getting ready for take-off, by whirring and warming its wings. Next in the pleasure stakes - and hawk moths really do bring out the small boy in grown men - was the Eyed Hawk. Tickle its nose and it promptly flashes its eyed hindwings and starts rocking too and fro, deterrent behaviour which has been recorded as seeing off predatory birds.

The refreshingly greeny Lime Hawk, above, is another favourite and it also has an adventurous spirit, albeit in on a more modest and localised scale than the Pine's. It is seen by day more often than the other hawks; indeed I recall our older son pointing one out on a wall in Jericho when he was a student here, more than a decade ago. Its caterpillars scale trees and the pupae have been found in leaf and twig detritus very nigh up among branches - and even in birdboxes, though presumably unoccupied ones. Otherwise the arrival of a Lime Hawk caterpillar would be like a five-course dinner coming to call, unless theie size, vivid colouring and tail horns deter birds like the Eyed Hawk's 'eyes'.

The Small Elephant Hawk is a wonderful blaze of colour; I'm sorry that one of my photos is so out of focus but perhaps it has the effect of a French Impressionist work. This is a very small hawk moth compared with the other arrivals, but more than compensates with its vivid palette.

Finally, a tatty old Poplar Hawk - above, meeting its Eyed cousin - completed the quintet. I can get a bit blaze about these because they are the UK's commonest hawk moths and often call on me. But they are fine insects with a resting position all of their own which sees the 'hind' wings project further forward than the 'fore' ones. The males also go in for the suggestive upward curl of their abdomen, a 'come hither' habit shared by male Eyeds, as below.


Anonymous said...

That is all.

Martin Wainwright said...

Yep it was a lovely morning (though I did get bitten by a Blandford Fly which may also have overnighted. Luckily I seem to be becoming immune. All v best M