Sunday, 29 October 2017


A solitary arrival three nights ago, the first time that this has been the case for a while. It's a handsome moth, though: the Sprawler, which always puts me in mind of heavy tweed suits as once worn by gents with pipes in Scottish fishing inns or London clubs.  As with so many moths, the pattern is delightful and the colours very satisfying however subdued.

Talking of colours and patterns, I've been interested in the reaction of the Upper Thames Moths blog's great and very helpful expert Dave Wilton to the highly distinctive Blair's Shoulder-knot which I described here the other day - the one with two white patches on its shoulders, suggestive of an ermine collar to a robe. He commented: 'I've not seen Blair's Shoulder-knot with such an obvious white thorax but that probably doesn't mean much'. I think this is right, in that moths within a particular species can be extremely varied in wing pattern and colouring with out differing in any other physical way. But to the amateur like me, such variations are fascinating.

This may date back to my schoolboy capture of an extremely unusual form of the Dark Green Fritillary, a lovely butterfly which has even made it to a Mongolian stamp. I noticed straight away the distinctive keymarks on its lower topwings and, still more, the shining segments of silver on the underwings. Sure enough, it was definitely different - so much so that at one time in the 19th century, it was reclassified as a separate species called the Queen of England Fritillary in guides such as the one shown below:

It was identified for me by the learned and very kindly head of natural history at Leeds City Museum, John Armitage, who initially assumed that it was a foreign butterfly which I must have found on holiday. It was indeed a holiday capture, but on Goonhilly Down in Cornwall (in exactly the same spot where the great entomologist Prof E B Ford caught one of the few Monarch butterflies - the famous migratory American species - to be found in the UK). 

The butterfly, shown above and below with the standard Dark Green Fritillary (below in the top pic, above in the bottom one, sorry for the confusion), is known as aberration Charlotta.  It's the top specimen in the cabinet which I keep from my long-ago collecting days.

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