Sunday, 4 November 2018

Warm spell

The weather in the UK is bouncing around more erratically than ever with icy days and nights followed by pleasant, mild spells, one of them under way at the moment. Penny and I are feeling particularly warm just now, having come in from a Mischief Night bonfire with added sparklers. It is interesting how even after a really cold snap which is slain our cosmos and brought all the walnut tree leaves down en masse, the sunshine can tempt out a Peacock - fluttering outside our dining room window at lunchtime, above and below.

The moth trap has attracted some nice visitors, too, notably this Sprawler below, in its fur coat. The moth supposedly gets its name from its caterpillar's habit of rearing up and then flopping back when alarmed. But I like to think of it as a clubbable gent of a moth, settling back in one of those leather armchairs with a cigar and a glass of something.

The Sprawler is a very active, jittery moth and this one scuttled about over the eggboxes for ages before deigning to hold still long enough for me to take an relatively unblurred picture. It never tried to take off, however, possibly through sleepiness and not yet having summoned up enough energy to use its wings. The way that moths have to do that, taking up to half-an-hour in the case of the Winter Moth on cold December and January nights, is shown by the Silver Y below. It was disturbed as I fumbled about with the eggboxes and is whirring its wings in the run-up to take-off, just in the way that aircraft used to do before releasing their brakes and heading down the runway.

More fur-coated gents now. There were six December Moths in the trap - first two pictures below - while on the lid, resembling the Sprawler but with a narrower, more rakish shape and more sharply curved trailing edges to its hindwings, there dozed a Blair's Shoulder-knot, increasingly also known as a Stone Pinion. It will be interesting to see if the latter name takes hold, leaving the famous Dr Blair (an entomologist who recorded new immigrant species on the Isle of Wight in the 1940s) with only the Blair's Mocha and Blair's Wainscot.

Other arrivals on quite a busy night included the Red-green Carpet below on the bulbholder's cone, a nice Feathered Thorn and a Yellow-line Quaker.

There was also the mystery (to me) moth below, already dead and possibly badly worn. I will enquire of the kindly gurus on the Upper Thames Moths blog. Update: in a Comment on my next post, Ben Sale interestingly suggests that this may not be a Brindled Green but the very similar, though much rarer, Sombre Brocade which is showing signs of spreading in the UK after first arriving in Guernesey in 2006. See my next post but one for more on this.

 Finally, we have been doing some hedgework and in the process found a lovely collection of birds' nests. The moss and dried-mud one is especially sweet, possibly the work of a chaffinch according to friends who know more about birds than me. I've always been led to believe that nests are not often re-used, so P and I felt justified in detaching these ones to show the grandchildren.  I guess that it's good in any event for each generation of birds to do their own building, to make sure that the skills do not die out.

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