Monday 31 December 2012

A wet but fascinating walk

Is Christmas safely over?
This post is abuse of the moths blog since no moths feature in it, but I wanted to share my picture of an inquisitive goose. It saw Penny, myself and Olly off from the very fine Sun Inn in the Washburn valley on a soggy walk to Beaver Dyke reservoir and John O'Gaunt's castle.

This is a lasso-shaped route round a little bit of Yorkshire which I have never explored before, although I have been to the Sun Inn many times. We all agreed that a return in warmer weather was essential, to check out the pretty upper valley of the Oak beck and solve the mystery of the Harrogate Waterworks metal hatch

This has separate bits labelled 'Mild Sulphur' and 'Strong Sulphur' - see second picture below - but my Googling has so far failed to ascertain why. I don't think that the town's famous sulphur springs spread this far so maybe the fresh Pennine water from Beaver Dyke, filtered through the local sandstone, is used to dilute the foul stuff at the actual spa. The search will go on.

We really want to explore the fragmentary but intriguing remains of John O'Gaunt's castle too, a place where King Edward I stayed and presumably gazed like us on the driving mediaeval rain. It was so wet and cold and the ground so sopping that we didn't even battle across to look at the noticeboard which you can maybe make out in the third picture on a stumpy wall to the left of the barn and below a shadowy wind turbine.

The weather looks a lot nicer in the picture than it was but, thank goodness, it stopped raining on the final leg back to the pub where a really nice Dad, who got engaged to his wife at the castle, gave us his table by the blazing fire.

Saturday 29 December 2012

Joys in store

It was so warm last night, in spite of our sopping Christmas weather, that I put the trap out for the first time in ages. Result? Nix, but then it had started getting wet again in the small hours which may have grounded any venturesome moths which had been on the wing earlier.

I can offer you this photo of another and very dramatic flyer, though: a Red Kite over our garden; only the second I've seen here, though they are advancing in all directions from their reintroduction centre at Harewood about six miles away. Some have been seen over the centre of Leeds where in mediaeval times they were familiar scavengers. Sorry it's rather a sketchy image; I cropped it from my original 'phone pic on which it was but a speck.

Also, for any moths which may be reading, look at your new overnight resting place in the coming year: a 'Bronte Brown' eggbox. I keep an informal tally of things named after the famous literary sisters, which ranges from sunbeds to ice cream.

The eggs weren't that brown, but half-a-dozen we got from the hens at Botton village near Danby on the edge of the North York Moors really are. They are a present from my lovely cousin Catherine who works there and came to our family party two days ago. As you can see, they are extra excellent because they were laid on The Day.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas from me and the moths

I briefly thought we had a Christmas miracle here. We were moving furniture to put up the Christmas tree in its usual place and under an armchair, we found a little Winter Moth in the take-off position.

Its body was arched, legs on the carpet and wings angled back, for all the world like a jet plane quivering on the back of an aircraft carrier. Given that Winter Moths can take half an hour to get going in cold conditions, I imagined that it was just nicely warmed up and ready to fly. But alas. No movement, and when I touched it gently with my finger, it toppled over. Long dead.

I have given it a posthumous Santa hat in one photo and a sprig of holly in the other, to wish you the merriest Christmas - from the Beyond, in the moth's case, and from the Here and Now in mine. And all the warmest wishes for the coming year.

Doesn't our carpet look nice in the second photo?  And aren't my Photoshop skills coming along? Watch out in April...

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Safe haven?

When you have a general clear-up and sort-out in the winter months, as we are doing, you are almost certain to come across a hibernating butterfly somewhere in the house. Sometimes it will be a Small Tortoiseshell but more commonly a Peacock. It will be very hard indeed to wake, so you can study it at leisure, although the wings are normally tightly-folded and the beautiful colours hidden.

The habit accounts for the sudden appearance of butterflies during warm winter spells which in turn has led to stories and legends of their significance. The opening run of a play, with the ideal hibernating place of the theatre curtains suddenly disturbed, is a well-known example, supposedly boding well for the show.

I don't want to try to be too scientific, for fear of spoiling such notions; but finding this Peacock in the picture, tucked deep inside a storage shelf, has set me wondering about predation, especially by mice - whose droppings were nearby as you can see - or spiders, which had built webs over the very front of the shelf. Sure enough, if you type 'hibernating butterflies' and 'predators' into Google, all manner of fascinating papers on this subject are to be found.

I have only just started reading them; and have yet to type 'spiders' in as well. But already I have learned that flicking the wings with a hissing sound, which Peacocks can do, may have evolved as a winter defence.  Happy research, if the subject interests you. What curiosity one slumbering insect can inspire...