Thursday, 30 October 2014

Exciting times

The current mild spell is bringing all sorts of exciting moths to the UK on southerly winds from the Continent and we have all been urged to light our lamps to see how far they are reaching inland. Rare treasures already recorded on the South coast include an Oleander Hawk moth and a Tunbridge Wells Gem - now there's a memorable name for a moth. It might mollify even the BBC's legendary protester against anything resembling progress, 'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells'.

Meanwhile, I've been asked to flag up a talk on Bonfire Night about the amazing Death's Head Hawk moths of Kirtlington which featured at exciting length on the blog last month - you can remind yourself here. Much has happened since, including the hatching of three adult moths and attempts to pair them. All will be revealed on 5 November at 7.45pm in St Mary's church, Kirtlington, near Oxford.

My fellow trapper Julian Howe from Bletchingdon, the next door village, will give a talk about the moth and the Moth Bible's co-author Martin Townsend, who safely bred the Death's Heads from the pupae discovered in Chris Powle's garden at Kirtlington, may also be there. At least one moth trap will be running, possibly two, and it all looks set to be an excellent event.

It's organised by Kirtlington Wildlife and Conservation Society together with Sustainable Kirtlington, of which Chris is a leading light. They'll be showing his film of the first Death's Head to hatch - see YouTube here - and photographs including those here, which he has kindly encouraged me to use on the blog.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Miranda has returned!

Happiness reigns in the Land of Wainwright because my faithful assistant Miranda has come back. As always it was Eagle-Eye Penny who found her, unaccountably hidden in a door pocket of our car. Why on earth did I take her out? I have been combing the house for her ever since we went on holiday in the first week of September.

Look closely and you can see how happy they both are to be reunited
Never mind, she is home. And I hope that this means that my pictures will be a little sharper and have a better chance of very close-up views. Actually, Christmas may see a step change in photography here if P and I carry out our unromantic but practical plan to give one another a really good digital camera. We'll see.

Meanwhile, a further reason for joy is that in the very sunny weather at the weekend, I saw three excellent butterflies: a Speckled Wood, a Small Tortoiseshell and - most satisfying of all - a lovely fresh Brimstone. The weather is most unusual at the moment; they are talking about C21 degrees over the weekend.  Bring it on!

Some moths meanwhile, if only to stay within the rules of the Trades Descriptions Act, so far as the title of this blog is concerned.  Who doesn't love the rakish Angle Shades?

Hats off to the Large Wainscot:

And how nice to see such a late specimen of the Common Marbled Carpet, an amazingly variable moth in terms of colour and patterning.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Brown and green

Years ago when I was a young reporter on the Bath Evening Chronicle, the Queen visited the city and to the consternation of our Fashion Editor turned out to be wearing a dress in blue and green.

"Blue and green should never be seen, unless there's something in between", she commented severely. As a trainee, I absorbed this into my store of life facts and have often repeated it since, usually to derision in view of my own dressing habits.

Whether it still applies or indeed ever did, I do not know; but certainly foxy, russet brown and green go very well in the coat of the Red-green Carpet. It's also a moth whose costume might appeal to women who live in fear of someone at the same party turning up in the same dress (which I did once see happen to the Queen, or very nearly). Red-green Carpets are very variable. Check out the two shown here from the trap last night. - and here's another couple of pictures of the one which chose, appropriately, one of my russety-coloured eggboxes: first from above, second from below.

Another Carpetty moth came calling too, but in a very battered condition - below. Is it a Common Marbled Carpet? Any ideas would be very welcome as always.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

This makes me very cross

We have been telling friends smugly about our Brassica Policy, to whit: allowing 'cabbage white' caterpillars free range in the summer because the crops would recover when autumn arrived and the butterflies' sex drive ebbed. This appeared to working, in that we've had several meals of crinkly cabbage and purple-sprouting broccoli. But now look what's happened - in my special Extra-Large picture above.

Zounds! The otherwise lovely, mild weather has brought forth yet another brood of the rapacious creatures, and I am too ill-organised to Hoover them all away. There's also the not-so-little matter of their many poos - though as you can see in my second picture, this is really just mildly recycled broccoli. Perhaps it would add a little zest to one of my (in)famous home-made and -grown vegetable soups.

Come dine with me! But it's time to go and inspect last night's arrival at the trap, which I have not forgotten, after yesterday's amnesia. I hope you have a lovely weekend and don't forget, UK readers, that we get an extra hour of sleep tonight. Hooray!

Friday, 24 October 2014



Most unusually, I forgot about the moth trap this morning and only realised at 11am that it was running with the light still blazing. Age.

Every cloud has a silver lining, however, and in this case it belongs to the elctricity company. The moths, too, may have slept more soundly with the mercury vapour bulb shining away above them.

There are still a goodly number, including Sprawlers, Blair's Shoulder-knots, Feathered Thorns and other such beauties among the various Chestnutty things which arouse my enthusiasm rather less. I also like the couple of micros pictured here: a Plume moth, one of the flying T-junction sign family, I think the familiar and well-named Common Plume, Emmelina monodactyla, and the Garden Rose Tortrix, Acleris variegana, in the second picture.

My third beast relates to yesterday's conundrum, happily solved in the Comments section yesterday by Countryside Tales. Here, with deft timing, is a lacewing which is not quite yet ready to go to bed until next Spring.

Thursday, 23 October 2014


My title for this post is a little harsh, but of all the places to hibernate, this unfortunate Small Tortoiseshell picked one of the worst. I'm not sure if its wings were actually stuck in the weird economy light-bulb but it wouldn't have enjoyed snuggling in their when the lights were on. They have been recently because we've had guests.

Talking of which, no doubt you know the joke about why Mrs Beebaw woke up to find her house full of aeroplanes? Why? Because she'd left the landing lights on, buddum-tish!

But back to insects. By coincidence, the trap's mighty bulb was topped this morning by the daring caddis fly above. I don't think it can have been there a little earlier, when the light was on. It would probably have melted.

Talking of which, a friend who operates a mercury vapour trap in a built-up area, where neighbours might understandably object to its lighthouse-like rays, has switched to a fine-sounding thing called a Black Bulb. This suppresses the light which humans can see but not the rays to which moths are tuned. He says that he doesn't get as many as before, but catches are decent all the same.

Talking of which - there, I've used the phrase three times which must bring good luck - there were plenty of good things in the eggboxes after a nicely mild night. Here are some of them. I hope to turn the lamp on again this evening.

My first Dark Chestnut of the year
A Beaded Chestnut, I think
Red-line Quaker
Remarkable that this lovely creature and the differently lovely one below are both Green-brindled Crescents

This one is the form cappucina, similarly named to the coffee I had in Kidlington this morning

And now three delicate November or Autumnal moths. I cannot tell them apart

Ah ha! Which moth is this? The Y looks golden but I think it's a Silver. Y, that is

And finally, what is this?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Peace and quiet

I once stayed in a Quaker B&B in the Lake District and much enjoyed it, although the well-meaning practice of befriending a solitary guest at breakfast wasn't specially welcome in my own case as, like Greta Garbo, I wanted to be alone.

This wasn't due to any dramatic emotional events in my life but simply because I needed a bit of time to check out my day's planned fell-walking on my maps and guide. Luckily the lost opportunity to do this didn't result in my getting lost.

Anyway, the eggboxes this morning triggered these reminiscences as they were exceptionally peaceful and scarcely populated, the only residents being a Red-line Quaker - top picture Update: sorry No, it's a Brick Moth - as is Richard in Comments for putting me right on this - and the November, or possibly Autumnal - Moth, shown at the bottom.

We were back late from London where we combined our usual grand-daughter doting with seeing the amazing poppies at the Tower of London (see little pics - amazing how the flowers pour from the castle wall), so I didn't put out the trap 'til almost midnight. By then it was pretty cold and I suspect that most sensible moths were abed.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Yoga wasp

Penny does yoga on Monday mornings so I have posted the picture above in her honour. Not that there is any resemblance, but the creature - an ichneuman wasp, is it? - has the slender suppleness which the gentle programme of exercises is said to bring.

I am beyond improvement in such matters but hope I retain some of the spirit of my second photo - my chirpy little moth-enemy the robin, which continues to take an unhealthy interest in my examination of the eggboxes in the morning.  We had a friend staying overnight and I was pleased to show him a Merveille du Jour and a Pink-barred Sallow. But for the rest, we have a brown study today and one which will tax my ID powers later on. Unless, that is, some kindly expert chances to pass by...

Update: And they have! TWO of them, to whom very many thanks, as ever. See Comments for the answer to the riddle these brownish brethren pose.

Friday, 17 October 2014

New, new, new and new

It's easy to think at this time of year that the moth season is over and that the worsening weather and darker mornings mean that the lamp should be packed away. Last night was an antidote to that. Lovely mild weather brought four newcomers for the year to nestle in the eggboxes and give me a surprise in the morning.

One of them was the Sprawler shown in the top picture, a moth whose name conjures up a fop from Downton Abbey sliding back in a large armchair with a glass of port in his hand. The authorities say that the name comes from the caterpillar of the species which has a habit of jerking back its head and front segments when alarmed. This isn't what I call sprawling, but there we are.

The second newcomer was the large Feathered Thorn above, a fine Autumn moth with excellent antennae; I'm sorry that the continuing absence of my little camera stand Miranda means that my focus isn't as hot as it should be.

Thirdly there were four November or possibly Autumnal moths, the modest and sober Jane Eyre-like ones just above, and finally a very richly coloured Red-green Carpet - sorry once more for the lack of definition in the pic below. Update: actually on checking, I find that R-g Cs of an earlier brood came to see me in the late Spring. Sorry, but the others are definitely first for 2014.