Thursday, 25 February 2021

The coming of Spring

How lovely! Spring weather as early as this; and it has brought that nicely-named moth the Spring Usher to my light. Among the regular company at this time of year, it is attractively coloured and patterned too, though it would hardly stand out among the moths which will be winging their way here in the next few months. Update: whoops, my first bungle of the year, though luckily I am the one to discover and correct it. This is actually an Oak Beauty, a less interesting name but a more attractive moth. Sorry!

Look at how well its light colouring chimes with the stonework on our house. The stones differ slightly and the match would have been less exact if it had gone for one of the caramel-y ones which you can see on either side. Was this choice or chance? I have to say that I spotted its distinctive triangular shape immediately, so the camouflage was useless against humans. But birds' eyes work differently from ours.

Like many wintertime moths, it preferred to sleep outside the trap rather than go inside. The eggboxes are still only sparsely occupied but their residents in the last week included two species new for the year; a Dotted Border on the underneath of the transparent cowl and the curious little micro-moth Acleris Cristana. I call this the Lizard Moth because well-marked examples such as the one here (though you can get even brighter ones) look as though they have a lizard perching on their back.

This sequence of pictures shows the difficulty - for me at least - of photographing moths which initially choose to snooze on the trap's black plastic bowl. I got there in the end, even though the tiny moth escaped at one stage and moved to the shed window where it was even harder to photograph. When Penny saw these pictures she sapiently said: "Ah, you can tell which is the male and which is the female," her rationale being that the two moths on the right have their wings folded differently, just as men and women do with jackets (unaccountably to me; I must Google for the reason, is any). As it happens, the two moths are the same specimen so, although wrong, P has raised an interesting question: do individual moths fold their wings differently and if so why? Or is it random?

Cristana comes in more than 130 variations in the UK alone and is also very small - most unusually for me, I managed to get this one neatly alongside a ruler. These two things are among the reasons why micro-moths will never really get my attention or admiration.

Here in conclusion (at least so far as the moths are concerned) are some examples of my most frequent current caller, the Pale Brindled Beauty: a pair on the left and a single specimen from below and on top, above. Plus a Chestnut. Meanwhile I have interesting news from the sister world of butterflies. Yesterday, I saw my first Brimstone which is very early; and here is a Small Tortoiseshell hibernating in the bedroom where our one-year-old grandson will sleep with his Mum and Dad when such happy times are possible again. Like some especially wonderful moth, P and I are looking forward to getting to know him properly at last.


Edward Evans said...

Interesting point about wings etc. Something unfortunately I don't know the answer to! All this lockdown easing has come about fast hasn't it!

Hope you are well, we are, rates are still very high here, but I see they are lower in Oxfordshire. If we can, we hope to go to Herefordshire this summer, but with early lockdown easing who knows!

All the best


Martin Wainwright said...

Hi Edward - great to hear from you. I hope your holiday in Herefordshire comes off. What a beautiful county it is, along with Shropshire and all the Welsh border areas. All warmest, Martin