Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Familiar faces

Before bidding fond farewell to Portugal, where Penny and I have just had an excellent week, here are a couple of familiar and attractive mothy faces which we discovered there. The first, in my top three pictures, is that beautiful and beautifully-named moth the Peach Blossom. I might have missed it while checking out the swimming pool trap - see yesterday's post - because it was way out in the deep end, lying flat-out on the surface. Luckily my swim took me right past.

This is a common enough moth in the UK which I remember (on account of its striking appearance) from my schooldays and which visited us fairly regularly in Leeds. But I have had only one in the trap since moving to Oxfordshire in 2013, so the Portuguese encounter was a welcome one.

The second moth appeared to be familiar; I had it down as an Oak Eggar, a species which I also remember very well from schooldays when we found their caterpillars and hatched the adults from cocoons. Much the biggest of my swimming pool moths, it condescended to perch on my finger and so I took it into breakfast where it was a predictable hit with assorted children of various nationalities - exclamations of 'Papillon!' and 'Schmetterling!' joining those of 'Mariposa!' and 'Borboleta!'

When originally spotted - just above the pool's waterline
Rescued and posed with flower
Getting frisky and examining my flip-flops
Released on to a bush of similar flowers
Three days later, by chance, a large and lively moth was jinking about in front of the entrance of a local supermarket. On inspection, it turned out to be - I thought - a second male Oak Eggar; the female is larger and a fine caramel-y colour.

Our guys are the two second from bottom on the left-hand page - the male is on the right of the pair with the fine bushy antennae
Getting home and consulting the Moth Bible, however (above), I am sure that both moths were actually Grass Eggars, a different kettle of fish in the UK where they are classed as Nationally Scarce and pretty much confined to coastal sand dunes and cliffs. This habit has given their caterpillars an interestingly varied diet which includes Spiny Restharrow, False Oat-grass and Thrift. Think of them as the equivalents of human beings who like to dine out at Cambodian or Mongolian restaurants.

Finally from Portugal, this distinctive little scrap of a moth fell out of the rafters of a funky beach cafe at Vila Nova de Milfontes (pic left), while P and I were munching sardines. It is Eublemma candidana, a macro moth in spite of its midget size (those little squares are part of the tablecloth) which is unknown in the UK although it has relatives here. In France it goes under the magnificent name of L'Anthophile Superbe or The Superb Flower-lover.

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