Thursday 16 May 2024

Wings Wide Open

My naturalist great-niece has been out again spotting wildlife in east London and her eagle eyes noticed the small brown moth above, buzzing about on the pavement by a privet hedge along with a group of similar ones. She's only four but children are very clever these days and she sent me a clear and detailed WhatsApp voice message and the photo on the top left above. This presented me with an interesting poser.

I homed in on the moth to get the enlargement pic, top right, and started puzzling away. Was it a small macro like the rarish Orange Underwing or one of the few large micros which hold their wings open rather than folded over their backs? I checked my books and Googled and was none the wiser and so finally emailed the great Dave Wilton, webmaster of the invaluable Upper Thames Moths blog whose help has never failed me in 13 years. 

Fortunately for my self-esteem, I kept to my tradition of never asking him for an ID without at least hazarding a guess. Thank goodness. Here's our exchange:

My belated success was due to escaping from the trap of thinking that moths will always look the same as they do in the books. I touched on this in my last post with pictures of a Chinese Character with its wings spread open rather than tightly furled over its back. The latter is so overwhelmingly the case that the open-winged moth looked like an entirely different species.

You can see the same in the conventional picture of the Carnation Tortrix at the bottom left in my first photo above; and here is another example. I photographed this micro below which looks to me very different at first glance from the conventional paintings of it in the Micro Moth Bible.

I'm sorry that it is rather blurred but like the Chinese Character it was on the move - the only time when you can photograph these moths not in their usual resting position. Now here is how it looks in the micro Bible (I have to admit that I am not absolutely sure which one it is but I think Hedya nubiferana or the Marbled Orchard Tortrix.

Anyway, many thanks to little Connie for setting me this challenge. Meanwhile the moths are coming in faster than I can record them now that the weather is making the garden as enticing as this:

Here below we have, from top left:  Brown Silver-line, Light Brown Apple micro (Epiphyas postvittana), Pale Tussock, Flame Shoulder, Treble Lines, Common Quaker, Lychnis, Figure of Eighty and Buff-tip:

followed by two very pretty Clouded Silvers, a Green Carpet seen from above and below, a Sallow Kitten from above and from one side and a Willow Beauty from above and below, photos which again, I hope, show how alert you need to be to identifying moths when seen from different angles or with the wings in unusual positions. 

Finally, the moths are not the only types of wildlife attracted by the light of the trap or our plants. The Maybugs have come in great numbers, inept and clumsy like insect tanks, and we have an annoyingly hungry but handsome deer which will not keep away when we chase him out.  

Our other and less damaging pest has been moles whose hills have stopped since Penny gave the lawn a sprinkling of castor oil. The cat which we are looking after for the time being caught one on the surface the other day which was sad but gave us the chance of looking closely at its extraordinarily powerful and effective digging paws.

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