Christmas and ‘Bah Humbug’

A young family of reed warblers just outside the Ivy South Hide was one of the few indications of much bird life around at the moment.  Truth of the matter is that there’s plenty around but what with keeping their beaks firmly clamped and the amount of foliage around it’s sometimes quite difficult to latch on to anything in the trees.

In among the last few breeding common terns, the large numbers of coot and mute swan on Ivy Lake prompted me to take a quick shot of a line of swans on the water.  Totally unseasonally and quite by chance, I noticed when I  looked at the picture in more detail, that there were ‘seven swans a swimming’ – can Christmas be far away??

Seven Swans a Swimming!!

There are, as always, other distractions and the usually quite distant clump of amphibious bistort (Persicaria amphibia) growing towards the back of the settlement pond has this year been supplemented by a few plants growing closer to the path, so I was able to get  picture of this rather distinctive flower.

Amphibious Bistort – though some books list it as aquatic bistort

The moth trap offered a few nice surprises in the form of three of the larger species Privet, Poplar and Elephant Hawkmoth  present, not all in tip-top condition, but I’ll include the best which is this rather smart Polar Hawkmoth.

Poplar Hawkmoth

Many moths are named for the larval food plant, which is probably true for the Privet and Poplar Hawkmoths By extension one might imagine that the  voracious appetite of Elephant Hawkmoths could account for the shortage of large, grey, big-eared and tusked mammals on the reserve. In practice the  larva are found on various types of willow-herb but can also use fuchsias and Himalayan Balsam and they are really named from the’ snout’ that the caterpillars possess.

Another ‘smart’ looking moth was this rather neat Bordered Beauty, which allowed me one picture before it decided to whizz off.

Bordered Beauty

I’m only just starting to try to get to grips with micro-moths, generally, though not always, smaller than the more obvious macro-moths, but which can be equally colourful and strikingly marked. There are over 1600 micro-moths recorded in the U.K.  and  many of them pose identification challenges, even where they initially appear quite well-marked and distinctive.

Aethes rubigana – I think

Fortunately there are now some excellent field guides and on-line sites giving identification assistance. I’m hoping that I’ve got this right and that  this one is Aethes rubigana, but there are four or five other possibilities. It’s when trying to sort out the, sometimes minute, differences that you start to appreciate the finer points of the variations which indicate different species.   These subtle variations all point to the fact that sometime, maybe not so long ago, they had a common ancestor.   Many will be aware of the classic evolutionary model illustrated by Darwin’s Finches which evolved from common ancestors but diverged because they were physically separated on different Galapagos  islands.  In the case of some of these moths their ‘evolutionary islands’ were probably provided by their use of slightly different food plants.

I know that there are a few regular readers who appreciate seeing some of the moths so I’ll just add a couple of others that took my fancy

Purple Thorn in typical ‘open winged’ pose

The colourful Rosy Footman

After having dealt with the moth trap we decided to enlarge the car-park in front of the Centre – not by adding gravel, but by trimming back some of the vegetation around the edges.  I’ll finish with a rejoinder to the earlier comment I made about the festive season, summed up by this wonderful snail found on the brambles we cut back…..

Bah humbug!!

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