It is a handy rule in life to find pleasure in small things, and here is an example. Ever since I started light-trapping in 2005, I have wanted to see a Magpie Moth in the eggboxes. This is a humble ambition since the moth is not uncommon; indeed, in some areas, including my schoolboy haunts, it reaches almost pest proportions, especially for those who grow currants. I have also read about it at length in the works of Sir Geoffrey Keynes, a famous surgeon and brother of Lord Keynes the economist, who was also an expert on moths.
It hasn't eluded me entirely. On just one occasion in Leeds, there was a Magpie in the trap but it fluttered away before I could heave myself and my camera into action. This proved to be an ill-advised move on the part of the moth; as it zig-zagged across the lawn, the robin which always watched me in the morning as I inspected the moths, streaked in like a Spitfire and...bye-bye, Magpie. Update: I mentioned this incident on the Upper Thames Moths blog and fellow-member Andy King made the interesting point that the Magpie's striking colouring is in part a warning to birds that it is at best distasteful to them and at worst, poisonous. Perhaps the robin learned a lesson, though if so, it wasn't a lasting one as the bird continued to try to snatch my catches when it could.
Now, at last, I have found one which consented to stay docilely and be photographed, so I can add another species to my record list. The Magpie is an extremely attractive creature with its op-art speckling enhanced by the yellow blotches. I have often thought of it when looking at the Small Magpie micro-moths which are very common here. How pleasant to be able to rest happily now, knowing that I can return whenever I like to these pictures of the real thing.
I've just had an encounter, too, with another favourite. We took our Estonian friends to Stonor Park, an ancient Catholic stronghold in an exquisitely beautiful Chiltern valley - above with classically English/Arcadian deer and cricket - and the sunshine which blessed us also attracted two Hummingbird Hawk moths to one of the garden's buddleias (which was all aflutter with butterflies - Red Admirals, Tortoiseshells and various Whites and Browns). The Hummingbird Hawks tended to keep to the high fronds and never rested for a moment, but I managed to get this one half-decent picture, below.
I was also delighted to get a close-up picture of that butterfly aristocrat the Silver-washed Fritillary. Two of these were swooping about in their magnificent, powerful style along the flower borders and one of them occasionally stopped for a rest. I was astonished to find how battered it was, like a wartime aircraft peppered with enemy fire and flak. Amazingly, this seemed to have no effect on its flying prowess.
Back at home, the eggboxes also yielded the visitors below:
|A Flounced Rustic, very elegantly patterned|
|Yellow-barred Brindle (though in truth, at least in freshly emerged examples such as this one, the 'yellow' is green, a rare and very appealing colour in UK moths).|
|One of those weirdly-shaped characters, the Pale Prominent, looking slightly less weird as it prepares to taxi down the garden table runway|
|A Common Plume with its rolled-up wings|
|The pretty micro Anania coronata, a welcome change from the innumerable Mother of Pearls amid whom it was snoozing|
|An Oblique Carpet, a comparatively rare visitor here|
|A pretty Brimstone Moth which met our young Estonian visitor's demands for something to yellow to go with her Canary-shouldered Thorn, Leonie.|
|And a delicate little Single-dotted Wave, that misnamed moth of many dots, looking as though it has just chewed a Big Smile-shaped hole in the eggbox before drifting off to sleep|