Thursday, 1 June 2017

On its heft

I went beagling once and was interested in the way that the chase went in a circle round the group of hunters on their hilltop, rather than an erratic dash across the countryside as the quarry (which I'm glad to say escaped in my case) seeks refuge. In the same way, I long ago learned about the 'heafs' or 'hefts' of Herdwick sheep in the Lake District, which become completely loyal to 'their' patch f ground.

There is also the better-known example of birds, especially robins, whose males guard 'their' territory with comic ferocity - albeit not comic if you are another male robin straying on to the patch. So it is with looking for moths and butterflies; the best tactic when you spot something interesting but it flies off, is often to hang around patiently for a while. They very often return.

This was certainly the case with the little micro in my first two pictures, taken during a day of grandparenting down in east London. I was pleased to see it flitting round the small garden in exactly the same spot as I found it first last year. It is Pyrausta aurata, common enough to have a venacular name - the Mint Moth, given because of its attachment to herbs, especially mint and thyme. It is extremely small as you can see, I hope from the detail of the leaves, but a little gem when the eye or camera finally gets it into focus.

I mentioned in the last post the way that optical camouflage in moths can confuse the lens of both eye and camera in the particularly striking case of the Scorched Wing. I referred to the Peppered Moth having the same effect and here are two examples. Something about the patterning must cause the lens to shift its focus about as it tries to make sense of the mixture of black and white. Presumably this has the same effect on moths' great enemies, birds, even though their eyes are very different from ours. But I have always found that movement is the fatal giveaway for a moth resting anywhere near to a bird.

Thanks tio the grandchildren, one Peppered became unusually animated after its night's sleep and I was able to get my final picture, of a different posture. In this, the shading of the wing (I think) helps the lenses to calm down a bit. In any event, what a beautiful creature it is.

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