Monday, 25 November 2019

Feathery friends

The chance of new arrivals to the moth trap may be minimal now but there are still some excellent sights to be seen. Here for example are some of the fine antennae displayed by male December moths and a Feathered Thorn which defied the murk the night before last.

The Feathered Thorn  - in the four pictures below - actually gets its name from this feature. Antennae are wonderfully complex and apparently still work even after minor damage as in the example immediately below. As I've remarked before, they are one of the few things moths have which we humans don't, and one of which I am jealous.

Quite apart from the light trap, Winter and November moths have been coming to other lights in good numbers - one at the kitchen window, below, and another snoozing by the lamp over our front door.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

That's the lot

The final moth of the year arrived last night, undeterred by the chilly weather. Appropriately-named, the December moth is a fine and well-clad creature to round off the annual tally. It much resembles the sort of elderly lady wrapped in furs who was a commoner sight when I was young.

It came in force; there were nine in the eggboxes, along with the cappucino form of the Green-brindled Crescent and the Feathered Thorn below - both the latter getting to the end of their flight season just as the December moths begin theirs.

The lid of the trap meanwhile hosted a couple of Sprawlers directly opposite one another - can you see them in the first picture below? Like the December moth, the Sprawler is well-clad and furred for these chilly times.

We were behaving like moths ourselves last night, attracted by Oxford's outstanding annual light displays in the run-up to Christmas.  Here's a small selection of what we enjoyed:

Our favourites were the tricycle projectors which drove children ecstatic with images on streets and walls like the platypus above. They also did a butterfly but, as you can see from my final picture, it attracted so many kids that getting a clear photograph wasn't easy.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Nearly there

Nothing is certain in this life and that includes the world of UK moths - consider, for example, trhe wonderful return of the Clifden Nonpareil, even unto Thrupp this year. But I'm pretty safe to say that only one species, out of my annual regulars, remains to pay a visit before Christmas: the December moth.

In spite of their name, they are already about, just as the November moth regularly appears in October. Until last night, there was a second guest expected, the tweed-coated Sprawler. This morning there were two of these in the eggboxes. Pics above. The first is in tip-top condition, the second has clearly had a bad time in the recent wet weather. There is an olivey-brown form of the species called Fusca which was first found as recently as 1953, but although it has spread in Oxfordshire according to the Moth Bible, it has yet to call here.

They weren't sprawling; the name comes from an apparent habit of the caterpillar, but they rather resemble elderly folk in heavy overcoats who might well sprawl once back at home with their slippers in front of the fire. Why they fly at this time of the year, goodness knows, but their size and furriness are appropriate wear. As the Scandinavians famously say: "There is no such thing as bad weather; just inadequate clothing".

Last night's other visitors amounted to only two moths, a Black Rustic and a Beaded Chestnut, and three Caddis flies. So I will be lighting the lamp less frequently from now on. The weather is a deterrent too. I brought it in early two nights ago and founded only the Mottled Umber, above, clinging to the moist, transparent lid.

Other moths from the last week are below:

Red-green Carpet
Yellow-line Quaker
Beaded Chestnut
and again
Black Rustic
Beaded Chestnut in darker colourway
Um... (the same moth from below)
A very nice, big Large Wainscot
Seen here in a slightly wider context. Lovely moth!

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Jewel of the dank, cold nights

Thank goodness for the clocks going back! Not just for the cosy, extra hour's sleep but because of a return, however brief, to lighter mornings. I had almost given up trapping because of the gloom at morning teatime. Now I have the heart to go on a little longer.

Although this post starts with a small tribute to the moon, shining brightly by both night and day, the real current star is below: the lustrous Green-brindled Crescent. Its season coincides with that of another top green moth, the Merveille du Jour which I featured ecstatically a few posts ago.

The GBC has the distinction of two different but both attractive forms; the standard one which has plenty of green, and the browner f.cappucino which is brownish, as its name suggests. Look closely, though, and you will see that the cappucinos have their own dusting of iridescent green scales, caused by the reflection and refraction of light.

Here, as a reprise, is a further tribute to the MduJ, making friends with my appreciative and moth-minded granddaughter:

And here are some other recent arrivals: a couple of Sallows, a Mottled Umber and Snout in the quartet and then a Silver Y and a Red-green Carpet, a traffic light among moths.

Finally, for now, we have a couple of Yellow-line Quakers, a late Autumn species, and a quartet of November moths whose name explains everything.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Moths in odd places

I have been finding moths in unusual places. Here, for example, is one in a lovely sequence of metal reliefs on the hoods of open fires at my younger son and his partner's home in London. A moth, a bat and a dragon! What could be better-suited to the cosy world of leaping flames, full of pictures and drama in a child's eye, (and not just a child's), while all is dark and mysterious outside.

What sort of moth this is, I cannot say, and that adds more agreeable mystery to the subject. As does its interest in what appear to be blackberries. Or are they the fruity product of the artist's imagination?

Here's the bat, the most vivid of the trio to my mind, caught in full tilt, chasing a moth no doubt. And below is a nicely-painted Cinnabar moth on a ragwort leaf, decorating one of the colourful narrowboats which line the canal just down the road from our house.

It's so far the only lepidopterous craft I've seen in six years here. 'Dragonfly' by contrast is a very popular name and we've had assorted water beetles and like come pootling past.

In the house, it's spider and harvestman time while the trap has been attracting all sorts of creatures including, regularly, snails plus this rather large and malevolent-looking fly:

The moths meanwhile dwindle but still with some colourful arrivals. Here are a bright little  Gold Triangle micro, Hypsopygia costalis, its fellow-micro the Garden Rose Tortrix, Acleris variegana, and a couple of autumnal Sallows.