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.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Going Large

The rain is playing pop with moth studies at the moment and the darker mornings mess up my delicate attempts to balance trap photography with making early morning tea. I sense that I will soon be storing everything away and trying to get down to updating my so-called records, a task which looms larger with every year that goes by.

Here is a nice one, anyway, to enliven the procession of predictable Autumn arrivals: a Large Wainscot, which justifies its name. Here it is again, above and below, with its Common Wainscot cousin which has to be content with what you might call the standard size for everyday UK moths.

The weather is also taking its toll on those moths which continue bravely to fly, such as these somewhat battered yellow underwings, below. The second one is enjoying itself among some of the vast mound of apples which we turned into 21 gallons of apple juice (some of it due to morph into cider) at our village Apple Crush last week.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Hooray for the Marvel

The succession of Autumn moths continues but was much more numerous last night, when the weather turned noticeably warmer. There was that annual highlight too, the beautiful and beautifully-named Merveille du Jour.

I have been expecting it but this morning initially resigned myself to a longer wait. The eggboxes had some very agreeable residents but not the glorious, complicated green pattern of the Marvel. But having got used to checking the trap's surroundings in my quest for a Clifden Nonpareils (so gloriously realised a couple of weeks ago), I had a quick look round after I had re-packed the trap to keep its residents safe from robins and blackbirds.

And there it was!  Snoozing on a garden chair which I had very nearly sat on myself to conduct my search through the eggboxes. Luckily, I had put the mercury vapour bulb and bulbholder there instead, fortuitously in a way which had neither damaged nor disturbed the moth.

It was hard to get its colour right in that position, such are the complications of our generally miraculous iPhone cameras; but they came out nicely when I tempted it on to my lovely finger. And then I decanted it into a bush and took this final photo of its delicate grey underside.

In the trap meanwhile, there were about 100 moths including, below, Top Row from left: Barred Sallow,  Dark Chestnut, Beaded Chestnut. Middle Row: Silver Y,  Red-green Carpet, Sallow. Bottom Row: Plume of some kind, Dark Marbled Carpet and another Sallow of the more simply-patterned type.

Finally, there was also this very worn Carpet, possibly a Spruce?

Thursday, 3 October 2019

A hint of mauve

The Angle Shades is one of my favourites and, more widely, one of the UK's Top Moths, judging by the number of people who find one and send me a picture asking "what's this exciting thing?" There is nothing else in the moth world like its rakish shape, with the wings slightly furled, umbrella-style, when at rest.  I am also fond of it for another reason: the presence in the outer circle of its 'eyes' of a trace of blueish mauve.  As I have often remarked before, blues and purples are very rare in our moths. Along with the incomparable Clifden Nonpareil  and the lovely Eyed Hawk moth, the Angle Shades is in distinguished company.
Its relative, the Lesser Angle Shades, is as well. It lacks the marvellous jet-fighter shape but look at its actual blue.  I haven't had one of these in the trap for a while, but they pay a visit every now and then; this one called in June 2017.

The Angle Shades is also interesting as a moth which is both resident and an immigrant and can be recorded in any month of the year. That's certainly been the case here, much to my delight. Here's last night visitor in full:

Meanwhile, Autumn regulars like the many Lunar Underwings, such as the one in the picture immediately below, have been joined by newcomers for the year such as the glowing Beaded Chestnut, in the next photo down. 

Another warm splash of colour was provided by this Comma butterfly whose fascination with hawthorn was not disturbed by our ruthless scrumping of apples for the village pressing this coming Sunday. Although the weather is dismal, there are still Red Admirals around too.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019


Our granddaughter rushed in from school last week with news of an exciting insect on the wall by her front door. It seemed to her - a tremendous arachnophile - to be a flying spider. What joy!

In fact, as you will have recognised, it is that wonderfully and variously-named fly, the Daddy Longlegs - also known as the Jennyspinner, Gallinipper and Mosquito Hawk. And, much more boringly, as the Crane Fly, the 'correct' term whose origins I have yet to track down.

There are more than 300 types of Daddy Longlegs in the UK and the name is complicated overseas where Daddy Longlegs is often applied to wingless arachnid Harvesters. They are fascinating to look at, all spindly in every direction, and judging by the picture on the left in my composite above, they show every sign of continuing to flourish.

They are particularly active at the moment, emerging from their 'leatherjacket' stage as larvae during which they can do awful damage to noble lawns. On a weekend away in the Kentish Weald, we saw them everywhere, including below the engraved glass porcupine, the symbol of the Sidney family, in the cafe at their excellent stately home, Penshurst Place.

Back at the moth trap, the autumnal procession continues but in reduced numbers as the nights become colder. Below is a Wainscot, Common I think but I want to double-check those darker lines, along with a Black Rustic and  that shapely moth, Blair's Shoulder-knot.