|Five of the visitors. The other two took off while I fumbled about|
The valiant little tailor in the fairy tale slew seven flies with one blow. I have now got seven Elephant Hawkmoths at one go, plus a tattered but still airworthy Poplar Hawk keeping them company in the eggbox.
This is more than double any tally I had in the trap in Leeds and takes me back to the early 1960s when my interest in wildlife was hugely encouraged by a marvellous mentor, John Armitage, who was curator of natural history at the city museum.
He had an unlimited sense of wonder at the natural world and infinite curiosity about it which he passed on to readers of his 'Hunting with a Camera' column in northern editions of the Daily Mirror. His empathy with children - his wife Mabel was one of our primary teachers and she had it too - was another virtue, and also handy in a practical way; he used us as collectors for the museum. One notable example was when he discovered that we were going on holiday near Tenby, the last foothold of a rare snail which had so far eluded him. We swam and sunbathed but also returned with a bag full of the snails. Five years ago when the museum collection was in storage and I was writing a piece for the Guardian about it, I met them again, neatly labelled in collecting boxes.
One final note on John: he was an excellent artist and in retirement enjoyed 'forging' postage stamps - reproducing them with meticulous accuracy on envelopes and then posting these to himself and Mabel. They always got through.
|This one was still sleepy enough to let me show the underwing. moths are coy about displaying these when at rest|
John encouraged my brother and me to search the lower leaves of Rosebay Willowherb on the Leeds ring road in Adel for Elephant Hawk caterpillars in August - a risky suggestion because children can be greatly disappointed by failure, but he knew his subject. We found half-a-dozen, reared them and hatched the stunning moths. Even that haul, however, didn't match last night's.
|Initially green, the mature grey colour and shape of the caterpillar explain the Elephant Hawk's name (though alcoholic references to pink eleephants might also apply to the adult)|
By coincidence, the grandchildren of our Privet Hawkmoth neighbour (see three posts back) had a similar experience some years ago which their Mum recounted to me in a post-Privet email earlier this week. Their mentor, Dawn, got them to photograph this Elephant Hawk cattie which they found in similar circumstances. Note that, like their Grandad but unlike sloppy me, they and Dawn also used a helpful ruler.
|The trap was full of other riches which I will describe later. For now, we're getting ready to welcome my 94-year-old mum-in-law who's coming to live with us. Will she too become a moths enthusiast..?|