Wednesday 13 July 2022

A Hummer and London buses

 The wonderful Hummingbird Hawk moth comes to see us every Summer on blazing days like the current spell - and its calling on gardens ever-more widely around the British Isles. As I mentioned in my last post, my sister in Bradford beat me to spotting one this year and got a very good picture. We both remembered first seeing one on a family holiday near Tenby sixty - aaagh! - years ago.

 They are not easy to photograph but I managed these two shots and then took the little film below. As a friend says, the moths are tremendously industrious, no fluttering gently around like a butterfly for them.

  There have been good things happening in the wider world of my moths, where newcomers are pretty rare now that my light trap has been shining out here for ten years. Today was a London bus event when three arrived all in one go: the Brown-tail with its eponymous organ tufted just like a shaving brush, the Kent Black Arches which is neither black nor any longer confined to Kent and a Plume whose exact ID I await from the gurus on the Upper Thames Moths blog - or a kind contributor here if you nip in smartly.  It's the one in the second composite with lovely, delicate pale colouring and patterns. 

  The Brown-tail is bottom left, above, next to a Pebble Hook-tip and at an angle to a Yellow-tail, a related species which is very common here at the moment. The flying funeral envelope is a Box Bush moth whose caterpillars do indeed signal death, to any box hedge within reach.

  The mystery Plume is top right above and the Kent Black Arches bottom left. The other two are a neat Brown Plume and that intricately patterned moth the Phoenix.

Tuesday 5 July 2022

The big guys

Hi and apologies again for the relative paucity of blog posts this season which does not mean that I've not been getting lots of moths. They are all familiar after ten years here but none the less lovely for that.

I can never resist the big hawkmoths and the largest commonly seen in the UK, the Privent, arrived on cue two nights ago. Hawks are always sleepy in the morning, even when daylight has been around for ages by the time I stagger out to check on things. So arranging them artistically is never a problem, unlike with the smaller, delicate moths which often flutter off as son as I open the lid.

There are so many moths around at the moment - July is there high season - that I am compositing them. Can you spot the butterfly? It's one which has taken me all my 72 years to meet, which is perhaps a clue.  A friend who records butterflies locally told me that she had been early to a local meadow by an oak wood and found five Black Hairstreaks nectaring on brambles. Like the infuriatingly elusive Purple Emperor butterfly, they spend far too long in the upper branches of oaks and are a lot smaller, so there's no chance of spotting them high up.

I went the next day and saw ten species of butterfly including a pair of White Admirals but was just giving up and going home for breakfast when I spotted two Black Hairstreaks on bramble, very close to local houses and a car park. My photos are far from being the world's best, but here are a couple; one with a helpful arrow and the other one bigger-sized.

You can see the distinctive line of black spots which are handy for distinguishing the butterfly from the common White-letter Hairstreak.  So, hooray!

More of my many moths now, and a closer peep below at one of them, the Drinker, whose handsome caterpillars which look as if they are wearing blue velvet like Little Lord Fauntleroy we found at school.  They climb to the top of long grass to drink the dew in the evening, giving the species its name. The moth huddles down  to rest but is a lot more purposeful when getting ready to fly.

My younger sister took this excellent photo of a Humming Bird Hawk moth in her garden, nectaring with its long proboscis. My similar efforts are usually blurs. We tend to get them every Summer but she's never seen one before  in Bradford, where she lives.

Finally, a couple of non-moths, a hedgehog scuttling about near long grass by our house and a shrew which I am sure has fallen victim to Mittens, our neighbours' otherwise very sweet cat. 

And we'll end with the Privet Hawk again, ready to take off after prolonged wake-up efforts by yours truly.