For the last seven months, we have had a silent guest in the shape of the Elephant Hawk moth chrysalis on the left, above. Its caterpillar was crawling recklessly across the lane outside the pub when we found it last September, the traditional time for such larvae to leave their rosebay willowherb feeding grounds in search of somewhere to pupate. The following day, it duly did and then lay undisturbed in our shed until two weeks ago.
Now it has flown, after drying out its wings and spending its first adult day sleepily on a honeysuckle. Since then, about 15 Elephant Hawks have visited the light trap and perhaps it was one of them. Although few will see it, the species and its close relative the Small Elephant (both named after their grey, trunk-like adult catties) are common round here.
So is the Privet Hawk, the UK's third largest moth after the Death's Head and Convolvulus Hawks, but I always find it exciting to see such a large overnighter in the trap. We didn't get them in Leeds in spite of the abundance of privet hedges against which my grandfather, a renowned horticulturalist, was a life long campaigner. He would have been pleased by the quality and range of front gardens today, although I can only imagine what he would say about Leyland cypress hedges.
We have had the usual happy coincidence of the grandchildren visiting at the start of the hawk moth season and the two get on very well together. Here are their hands, considerably more delicate than mine, bedecked with Eyed and Poplar Hawks which appear again below with a plump female Pale Tussock and a Common (but lovely) Swift.
Now is the high season for moths and they have been flooding in as you can see from the following composite pictures. I will caption them as best I can, by row, left to right. Corrections welcome as always.
Shears, Light Brocade, Willow Beauty, Heart and Dart, Coxcomb Prominent, Treble Lines, Flame and two more Light Brocades.
Green Carpets, Ingrailed Clay, unknown micro, Um, Cnephasia micro sp., Treble Brown Spot, Bloodvein, Bright-line Brown-eye and Whitepoint.
Flame, Silver-ground Carpet, Cinnabar, Garden Pebble micro, Common Wainscot, Buff Tip (the amazing twig-resembling moth), Hebrew Character, Flame Shoulder and a couple of Clouded-bordered Brindles with a Maybug or Cockchafer.
Light Brocade (again - they are everywhere), Hebrew Character (also very common now), faded Orange Footman, Angle Shades, Common Rustic, Silver Y, Willow Beauty, Bramble-shoot moth (I think) and Orange Footman.
Here's a pug of some kind, Figure of Eighty, Middle-barred Minor and Orange Footman.
Now for some favourite individuals - the Green Oak Tortrix micro above and the dear little Spectacle below. Did ever a moth earn its name?
Here's the smart Small Magpie micro - the actual Magpie moth has called here only once and below that the hairy-breeched Pale Tussock, the larger one a female and the darker one a male.
And finally for the moths, a contrast above between a Common Carpet (left) and a Silver-ground one and, below, a couple of decently green Light Emeralds, a species whose colour fades rapidly to an almost translucent white.
Among other beasties, here is a sinister-looking Sawfly, the final product of the caterpillar kindly ID-ed yesterday by Conehead, my all-knowledgeable adviser in Comments, followed by a bright little beetley bug of some kind which I initially mistook for a micro-moth.
I was also most intrigued by this midget visitor below when P and I were having tea and a hot cross bun in the garden. By Googling 'red and blue UK fly', I have come up with Ruby-tailed Wasp, very pretty but a nasty parasite if you are a bee. It is part of a group known as 'cuckoo wasps' because of their habit of injecting eggs into an unknowing, living host.
Equally beautiful and much more benign, here is a Common Blue butterfly encountered on a walk - common indeed but extremely lovely and agreeably willing to spread its azure wings, unlike the Holly Blue shown in the picture following. These are very common in our and many other gardens but they almost always rest with their wings tight shut. The underwing is a lovely powder blue, but the hidden topwings rival the Common Blue's and are all the more alluring for being so seldom seen.
Before I go, here is our rare Lizard Orchid which flowers every year on a local roadside, kindly protected from parking cars by two council bollards. Also some rabbits from a huge colony in the ruins of Wallingford castle and a baby grass snake drowned by the recent rain.