Monday, 5 June 2017

Stately moths (Part 1)

The moth trap has been on an excursion, an unusual turn of events but I couldn't resist adding it to a catalogue of pranks to celebrate the 90th birthday of a long-standing and characterful friend. Eleven of us were billeted in great comfort and grandeur at Cavendish Hall near Sudbury in Suffolk, one of the wonderful array of historic properties maintained as holiday lets by the matchless Landmark Trust.

This was rather a different set of surroundings than usual for my shining light and although there were plenty of familiar faces among the moths (which arrived in large numbers and posed dutifully on the nonagenarian's finger instead of my usual grandchildren's), there were novelties too. I was specially pleased to meet a Treble Brown Spot - second picture - a moth which never called in Leeds and has yet to do so in Oxford.

One of the Laura Ashley school of delicately pretty, pale teenies, it reveals its underwear in my third picture, just below,  taken as a gust of breeze caught it in mid-photo session on my hand. Unlike most of these small and frail moths, this experience didn't prompt it to flutter off and it returned to doze for some more photography.

The TBS is a cheering example of a moth whose numbers are on the rise; had I been to Suffolk before my birthday in May, I would have been informing you - courtesy of my much-loved 2003 first edition of the Moth Bible - that it was only thinly distributed in East Anglia. But the new, third edition which Penny gave me as a present, reveals that it is now fairly frequent there, and that the Rothamsted network of light traps has recorded a whopping 4,300 percent increase in its numbers between 1968 and 2007.

It was also excellent to see a Hummingbird Hawk moth nectaring on the mansion's terrace, though since my friend was in mid-reminisce, I felt that it would have been rude to leap up and stalk it - almost always a lengthy process with HBHs because, like Fidgety Phil, they will not stay still.  In terms of finger-sitting, the moths also came up trumps with a Poplar Hawk, a Pale Prominent and the plump female Ghost moth shown below.

I must add that the Elephant Hawk getting ready to take off from the Birthday King's finger is not a Suffolk native. In case of problems with the trap, I snuggled it away with some willow-herb leaves after it came to the trap here on Thursday night, before we left for the weekend. It survived the journey without harm and, after posing politely for a few minutes at Cavendish Hall, winged off into the night. I hope that it finds a nice East Anglian mate.

More from the mansion tomorrow.

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