Wednesday, 25 February 2015
I'm afraid that my moth lethargy continues for the time being, with my trap bulb broken and rather a lot of other projects on the go. But Penny enlivened our cosy evening tonight with a cry of "Moth!" and there on the kitchen window - outside- was my very first record for 2015: a Dotted Border.
Here's its underside too. It clearly liked our kitchen since the first sighting was at 7pm, just before the latest dramas in the ever more frantic The Archers, and it's still here at 9pm, dozing away while we get ready for Wolf Hall.
By a happy coincidence, the Dotted Border was one of my first moths last year too, and features on the blog for this very Wednesday in February twelve months ago.
Monday, 16 February 2015
Hello for the first time in 2015 - and apologies for the inertia here. Life's been busy, the weather hardly conducive to mothy excitement and, most significant, my bulb went, possibly after sterling work as a Christmas bauble (see previous post).
I'm not in any hurry to get going, as it happens, with reports on the sterling Upper Thames Moths blog pretty sparse since Christmas, and the mornings only just beginning to get light enough to tempt me out of doors at the earlyish hour which trap inspection requires. However, I will get myself sorted to email Watkins & Doncaster for a new mercury vapour bulb and probably start operations in early March.
Meanwhile I was mulling over my situation and Holman Hunt's painting The Light of the World, which hangs just down the road in Keble College, Oxford, floated into my mind. Via the wonders of modern technology I have adjusted it to show how things feel here. I also adjusted the halo, since I do not deserve one of those.
Wednesday, 24 December 2014
Behold! It is enjoying a new, 12-day role as a Christmas bauble.
The container is the partly-built treehouse which Penny and I are making for our granddaughter; slowly, because that is how increasingly we do most things, but at a reasonable pace because it needs to be finished before she is old enough to an express an opinion like that demanding little girl who harasses her Dad about her treehouse in the TV ads.
With the help of our younger son Olly, we cut stars (and a moon; she is very keen on the moon) in old cardboard boxes from our move, blocked up the windows and Bingo! I hope you like the effect.
Whether any moths are attracted by this strange object, will be an interesting issue. I will report after Twelfth Night.
Meanwhile, I hope that you and yours have a very happy time.
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
We had some friends staying a year or so ago and when I took them their morning tea, they said: "We didn't know you had a lighthouse so nearby."
"Nor did we," I replied. "Where is it?" Could there really be such navigational aids on the Oxford Canal? When darkness fell that evening, we discovered the answer. Their bedroom on the other side of the house looked out over inky darkness which was lit up at eccentric intervals by a vivid flash. It was a neighbour's wonky security light.
I am not one to complain about bright lights at night, for obvious reasons (though luckily I can mask the trap so that nobody has a direct view of the bulb; at worst they get a rather beautiful, faeriland glow). But the curious structure in my top two pictures, which I have erected in the hope of enticing the unusually large number of rare immigrant moths which are around this autumn (see Daily Telegraph cutting. left), does look like a lighthouse. It's actually an enormous fishtank we inherited (does anyone want one because we don't?), stood on its end.
The weather has played pop with my first two nights of experimenting with this device and I have only attracted one arrival, below. It was definitely brown and so in spite of its vestigial if almost non-existent wing band, I am pretty sure it is my first Winter Moth.
These are the little fluttering creatures which get caught in your car's headlights between now and February when, on the whole, few other moths fly. The species is extremely interesting on account of its equivalent of blood having anti-freeze properties which explain its lonely ability to put up with the cold. Even so, it can take half-an-hour for a Winter Moth to 'warm up' enough to fly.
Thursday, 13 November 2014
That was at the weekend; and I've seen a dozen more Peacocks since then, but they were all ones either snoozing or disturbed from hibernation by me during our continuing, very long-term sorting out of all our post-move jumble. A more interesting entomological find during this task was the Large Elephant Hawk, above, which was rolled up in a vast piece of maroon fabric which we've had in store for a good few years. Maybe someone was doing some similar Autumn-cleaning at Blenheim.
Judging by its decaying condition, the beautiful moth been doing posthumous service for other members of the insect world. As the doggerel says: Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em. Little fleas have lesser fleas and so ad infinitum.
Thursday, 6 November 2014
For the first time this year, the eggboxes were empty yesterday morning following a night which saw temperatures fall almost to freezing point. Empty, that is, unless you count the sad little corpse of a lavishly-antennaed micro which I've placed on a penny in the picture in a rare attempt to give one of my photographs scale. I don't know what it is although I think it's been my way before; initially I thought one of the longhorns - Adelidae - but I don't think its antennae are quite that lavish. Here's its underside, in case a micro expert is calling by. An Acleris bergmanniana perchance? That would be my other bold guess. Update: Martin Townsend of the Moth Bible has kindly identified it as Carcina quercana for which I am very much obliged.
That was the case last night in Kirtlington, where Chris Powles, Martin Townsend and Julian Howe gave an excellent trio of talks with slides on the Great Death's Head Hawk Moth Discovery - see past references here and here. One result next year, I hope, is that I'll be lending my trap to users in both Kirtlington and nearby Bletchingdon to widen its growing tally of eggbox residents. Another nice feature of the evening was that all the animated chatter woke up a hibernating Peacock butterfly which swooped around above our heads and settled on the floor during a very welcome session of coffee, tea and shortbread before we slipped out into the cold and largely moth-less dark.
|A male Death's Head hatched from the Kirtlington finds. What better name for a moth?|
Wednesday, 5 November 2014
We cannot grumble. It has been a glorious season and the moths shown today - all arrivals within the last week - are exemplars of how long the season has gone on. The Sprawler is a special favourite; Leeds was too fizzy and active a place to have sprawlers. And although the Silver Y has been familiar to me since before my teens, that lustrous metallic gamma mark still fills me with excitement.
|A Sprawler, front, sprawling alongside that superficially similar old favourite, Blair's Shoulder-knot|
Tiny but tough, the Rusty-dot is an immigrant species, making its own way here from the Continent in the Autumn, abundant in southern England in some years and scarce in others. This year's warm weather and pleasant airstreams from the south have brought plenty of records, and now mine is one of them.
|Silver Y, albeit looking more golden to me|
|Straw Dot, one of many very late flyers in the Indian summer|
|Another pair: both Red-line Quakers, I think, though the wing shape seems slightly different and I stand to be corrected|
|An unusually grey form of the greenish version of the Green-brindled Crescent|
|And finally, today's tedious mystery: a not very striking micro which I have yet to pin down - Update: Martin Townsend of the Moth Bible goes for a faded Acleris variegana. Many thanks indeed.|
Sunday, 2 November 2014
Debates about carpets are probably most associated with young couples furnishing their first home. In my case, it's the issue of whether the delicate little visitor above and below is a Spruce or Juniper Carpet moth.
I'd assumed Spruce, as the commoner of the two, but the pattern seems to me to be more Junipery. I've asked my expert colleagues on the Upper Thames Moths blog but if anyone here can beat them to a definitive answer, I will reward them with a crayfish (when I catch one). Update: the award goes to Peter in Comments who opts for Juniper, subsequently confirmed by Martin Townsend of the Moth Bible.
The question got me thinking sideways about trees and the perhaps surprising fact that the Juniper is one of the UK's relatively few native species - 29 in all. As for the Spruce, I had thought that it was named after the famed plant collector and native of Yorkshire (born at Ganthorpe, near Castle Howard), Richard Spruce. But no. The word is a version of 'Prussian' because when they first arrived in Britain in the 17th century, they were thought to come from north Germany. "Whatever's that?" "S'Prusssian."
Saturday, 1 November 2014
And here they are together, a fine married couple and actually one of the commonest of current visitors to the trap. They are running second only to the Autumnal/November moths whose great variety is shown in the pictures below. I wonder if the pale one is a Pale November Moth. I must try it on my friends at Upper Thames Moths to see if they can tell from a photo.
Thursday, 30 October 2014
Meanwhile, I've been asked to flag up a talk on Bonfire Night about the amazing Death's Head Hawk moths of Kirtlington which featured at exciting length on the blog last month - you can remind yourself here. Much has happened since, including the hatching of three adult moths and attempts to pair them. All will be revealed on 5 November at 7.45pm in St Mary's church, Kirtlington, near Oxford.
My fellow trapper Julian Howe from Bletchingdon, the next door village, will give a talk about the moth and the Moth Bible's co-author Martin Townsend, who safely bred the Death's Heads from the pupae discovered in Chris Powle's garden at Kirtlington, may also be there. At least one moth trap will be running, possibly two, and it all looks set to be an excellent event.
It's organised by Kirtlington Wildlife and Conservation Society together with Sustainable Kirtlington, of which Chris is a leading light. They'll be showing his film of the first Death's Head to hatch - see YouTube here - and photographs including those here, which he has kindly encouraged me to use on the blog.
Wednesday, 29 October 2014
Happiness reigns in the Land of Wainwright because my faithful assistant Miranda has come back. As always it was Eagle-Eye Penny who found her, unaccountably hidden in a door pocket of our car. Why on earth did I take her out? I have been combing the house for her ever since we went on holiday in the first week of September.
|Look closely and you can see how happy they both are to be reunited|
Meanwhile, a further reason for joy is that in the very sunny weather at the weekend, I saw three excellent butterflies: a Speckled Wood, a Small Tortoiseshell and - most satisfying of all - a lovely fresh Brimstone. The weather is most unusual at the moment; they are talking about C21 degrees over the weekend. Bring it on!
Some moths meanwhile, if only to stay within the rules of the Trades Descriptions Act, so far as the title of this blog is concerned. Who doesn't love the rakish Angle Shades?
Hats off to the Large Wainscot:
And how nice to see such a late specimen of the Common Marbled Carpet, an amazingly variable moth in terms of colour and patterning.
Sunday, 26 October 2014
Years ago when I was a young reporter on the Bath Evening Chronicle, the Queen visited the city and to the consternation of our Fashion Editor turned out to be wearing a dress in blue and green.
"Blue and green should never be seen, unless there's something in between", she commented severely. As a trainee, I absorbed this into my store of life facts and have often repeated it since, usually to derision in view of my own dressing habits.
Whether it still applies or indeed ever did, I do not know; but certainly foxy, russet brown and green go very well in the coat of the Red-green Carpet. It's also a moth whose costume might appeal to women who live in fear of someone at the same party turning up in the same dress (which I did once see happen to the Queen, or very nearly). Red-green Carpets are very variable. Check out the two shown here from the trap last night. - and here's another couple of pictures of the one which chose, appropriately, one of my russety-coloured eggboxes: first from above, second from below.
Another Carpetty moth came calling too, but in a very battered condition - below. Is it a Common Marbled Carpet? Any ideas would be very welcome as always.