I have often waxed lyrical about hawk moths on account of their two different virtues: splendour and majesty in size and appearance, and a sleepy willingness to perch docilely on my grandchildren's fingers. Leeds was abundant in Poplar, Eyed, Lime, Elephant and Small Elephant hawks; Oxfordshire has added the Hummingbird, Privet and Pine. Each has its special appeal: the Elephants are the prettiest and (needless to say) my granddaughter's favourite colour; the Privet is extremely mighty (the UK's largest resident moth by some distance) and the Hummingbird is fascinating and always on the move.
Except yesterday, when I spotted a triangular, moth-shaped morsel of grey on a chair in our greenhouse, looked closely and realised that it was a recumbent Hummingbird hawk. Last year, I found one dead in the greenhouse and I feared that this was a repeat. But gladly not. When I teased it with my finger, it responded weakly and by the time we parted, myself to tea and the moth to a nook in a honeysuckle bush, it had practised whirring its wings several times.
It was a lucky meeting, pushing my annual hawk 'regulars' up to seven while giving me a chance to take the static pics above of a moth which is continually in motion, hovering over flowers to nectar with its long tongue, or zipping between them, and consequently very hard for a clumsy photographer such as myself to record. Then this morning brought more excitement. As I approached the light trap, which I had left in a shady corner of the garden which I usually overlook, there was a tremendous whirring from inside.
Peeping through the battered but still largely transparent cowl, I realised that it was the last of my eight annuals, a Pine hawk, the only one of the tribe which cannot be relied on to doze in the trap. Moth books and websites frequently warn that Pine hawks are likely to be in a battered state when they visit traps. Like Fidgety Phil, they cannot keep still.
The species is one of the finest and most streamlined of the tribe, making up for its relatively plain colouring. As you can see, I took extra precautions to ensure a photograph, bring vegetable netting into play for all the world as if I were a fisherman. It worked, but after all my precautions, the moth finally agreed to behave while I took the other pictures.
Here they are, with the previously panic-stricken Pine proving most obliging and allowing views from all sides:
To conclude for today, I have some less exciting daggery grey moths from before our Scottish break still to identify. I haven't time just now but hope to sort them out later.