ELEPHANT HAWK-MOTH CATERPILLAR IN DORSET


Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

This fearsome creature was within an inch of being crushed by my heedless foot… but luckily it made a surprisingly agile lurch to one side just in time. I had no idea what it was, other than the largest caterpillar I have ever come across. Everyone else will know, of course, that it is the childhood form of what will become an elephant hawk-moth Deilephila elpenor. I haven’t knowingly seen one of those either.

These caterpillars have three ‘poses’. The first is the usual day-to-day one, as it goes about its business with its little snout – or ‘trunk’ – extended. Note the four prominent ‘eye’ markings behind the head. 

Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)At the threat of danger, the caterpillar assumes its ‘elephant’ pose, tucking away its snout and humping its front end so that the 4 ‘eyes’ glare intimidatingly. From the front, there is the hint of a mouth, with two sharp eyes above it.

Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

From above, the creature looks like a formidable, probably toxic adversary, to be given a wide berth.
Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)
The third pose is a so-called snake pose, whereby the caterpillar curves its body, and, as I found, continues to do so back and forth accompanied by alarmingly quick ‘head’ movements, as if squirming menacingly. I backed away, before bravely putting it on a laurel leaf to move into better light in order to inspect it further. At the back, there’s a backward-facing hook or spike – in common with most hawk-moth species I think.
Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

I haven’t investigated how the eyes are constructed, but the white parts are plainly holes rather than surface marking
Elephant Hawk-moth Caterpillar, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

I had to look up what the actual moth looks like, and courtesy of wiki I can reveal what everyone probably knows already – like this:

Elephant Hawk-moth wiki

 Had I wanted to straighten it out, the caterpillar would have been over 2 inches long. Quite wide, too. All-in-all an impressive beast.
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A BEE HOUSE IN DORSET


Bee House & denizens, Dorset

It took a year before there were many settlers in the new bee house. To begin with, there were just some transients; tiny bees that stationed themselves at the mouth of a hole, retreating from time to time to the depths. I’ve no idea what type of bee they were, but they didn’t leave any building works. And then there were a few wax caps to wonder about. 

The first resident occupied the penthouse.Bee House & denizens, Dorset

The box began to weather a bit during that first winter, and to fall apart slightly. That summer, we had mason bees in many of the holes, with around 60% occupancy – plus some waxed caps. The timber homes were clearly preferred to the bamboo sticks, and the first to fill up. Later, we noticed the first leaf cutters moving in, their green plugs slowly turning brown as the leaves withered.

Bee House & denizens, Dorset

This year, by the end of May, business was thriving. The house was weathered and had no doubt completely lost the heady scent of Garden Centre. The upper storey was more popular than the lower; maybe the horizontal stem of a cox apple tree growing against the old wall was a disincentive for potential downstairs dwellers.

Bee House & denizens, Dorset

Bee House & denizens, DorsetBee House & denizens, Dorset

Two months later, as July fades into August, there are a few changes, but overall the house is much the same. So far, there have been no leaf cutters. And no little ‘peeping’ bees either. I’m disgracefully uninformed about the types of bee to which we offer a home. We’ve replanted much of the garden to benefit honeys and bumbles – with a consequent increase in butterflies and hitherto unknown types of moth. The solitaries are still a bit of a mystery. Time I got a grip, I think. Still, the apples are looking very promising…

Bee House & denizens, DorsetBee House & denizens, Dorset

All photos: Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour

ROSY FOOTMAN: A MOTH, NOT A FLORID FLUNKEY


Rosy Footman Moth, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

Until last weekend I’d never heard of, let alone seen, a ROSY FOOTMAN. I’m beginning to discover and enjoy the ornate to downright bizarre names that moths tend to be given. They have this in common with fly-fishing flies – the previous day I had caught a plump wild brown trout on the River Frome with a ‘Tups Indispensable’*.

Rosy Footman Moth, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

High on an inside wall above a mirror, I saw a small pink item. On closer inspection, I could tell it was a moth, and one I had never seen before. I had to fetch a small stepladder to inspect it and (with some difficulty) to photograph it, . Meet a Rosy Footman.

Rosy Footman Moth, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

The Rosy Footman is apparently a moth of southern England, in particular the southern-most counties from Kent to Cornwall. They fly in July and August. With such very particular markings, they are unmistakeable, but clearly I’d failed to notice one ever before… I’m glad I have now.

Rosy Footman Moth, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

* For those concerned about these things, I use barbless hooks. I netted the fish, unhooked it still in the water and released it in about 30 seconds to fight another day. Or preferably to produce more wild stock.

PALE TUSSOCK MOTH, DORSET


 

Pale Tussock Moth, Dorset (Rolling Harbour)

Until a few days ago, I’m not sure I’d ever before seen a pale tussock moth Calliteara pudibunda that was on a wall inside our house. I took it outside and put it gently onto an old garden bench. 10 minutes later it was gone. As is so often the case I only had an iPhone with me at the time, so the photo above is a bit rough and ready. On the other hand, you get a good idea of the subtle and pretty colouring and marking of this moth – and as you see, it was intriguingly furry, with spotted legs.

P1150354.jpg

I flicked through a couple of slightly basic butterfly / moth books we have, but could find nothing like this creature. So I checked out the FB page of UK MOTHS to find a match. Sure enough, others had queried the ID of this species so I discovered the name easily enough. I don’t think it is particularly rare. There were also plenty of other fascinating and indeed extraordinary-looking moths that are apparently quite common in the UK. A FB page that’s well worth taking a look at.

The pale tussock is a moth of spring / early summer, and its appearance seems to be distinctive enough to avoid confusion with other moth species. The other feature, only deployed once I’d got it outside the house, are its feathery antennae (below).Pale Tussock Moth, Dorset (Rolling Harbour)

To make up for my rather poor photos, here is a really good one to make up for it, showing a pale tussock in all its glory…

Pale Tussock Moth (Kurt Kulac - wiki) Photo credit: Kurt Kulac / Wiki

TULIPS AT FORDE ABBEY, DORSET


Forde Abbey, Dorset

Forde Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery dating from the c12. Grade 1 listed, it is now privately owned. The gardens and parts of the house are open to the public, and in Michelin guide speak Forde undoubtedly Mérite le détour and is Vaut le Voyage. In spring, the gardens are filled with thousands of tulips. Here is a small collection.

Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips Forde Abbey, Dorset - Tulips

CLOSWORTH CHURCH, SOMERSET: A TOMB & A SUNDIAL


Closworth, a small village on the Somerset / Dorset border, has a fine church with c13 origins. The village itself is best known for its historical importance as a bell-foundry between the c16 and c18, originating with the Purdue family. Few traces of the foundry remain, but some notable bells survive from its earliest days, for example in Wells Cathedral.

A quick visit to the church revealed two items of interest for this blog: a fine early c17 tomb; and an agreeable but gnomon-less sundial of uncertain date.

TOMB OF WILLIAM COLLINS, 1609

HERE . LYETH . THE . BODIE .
OF . WILLIAM . COLLINS . THE .
SONNE . OF . ELLIS . COLLINS . WHO
DIED . THE . XXIX . OF . IAN
ANO . DOMI . 1609

The inscription on this lichened hamstone tomb is in leaded letters set into the stone and fixed. Not all have survived the intervening centuries. I have no idea how this was achieved, but presumably the lettering was first cut into the stone; and with the stone on a horizontal surface the lead was then added to fit the incisions, and pinned in place. The result is pleasingly rustic, with some ornamentation of the As and Hs. This type of inscription-work may not be particularly unusual, but seeing this ancient tomb dappled by sunlight on a spring day made it seem special. And I always enjoy ornamental dates.

Tomb 1609. All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Tomb 1609. All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Tomb 1609. All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset

 

SUNDIAL: ALL SANTS CHURCH, CLOSWORTH

We didn’t notice the sundial on the way into the churchyard. Our attention had been drawn to a tall memorial to the other side of the path. On the way out, it was of course obvious – as was the lack of a gnomon. Like the tomb and the gateposts, the pillar appears to be made from the local hamstone. There isn’t much information to be gleaned from the dial itself. There’s no maker’s mark (though sometimes those are hidden on the underside of the plate). At a guess, it is c19, but any comments would be welcome.

Sundial, All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Sundial, All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Sundial, All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset Sundial, All Saints Church Closworth, Somerset

POCHARD ON RADIPOLE LAKE, DORSET


Pochard, Radipole Lake, Dorset

A flash of sunlight across the lake, and suddenly assorted wildfowl emerged from the half-gloom and showed their true colours. This pochard was closest so I seized the moment…

Pochard, Radipole Lake, DorsetPochard, Radipole Lake, Dorset Pochard, Radipole Lake, DorsetPochard, Radipole Lake, Dorset

MEA MAXIMA CULPA

My attention levels to this blog have dropped from the insouciant to the negligent, and right down to the culpably neglectful. A prosecution for recklessly wasting precious space in the diminishing capacity of world’s supply of ether must surely be close. I have considered closing it down, but somewhere in the mix there are a few things that people obviously find interesting or useful; things I have researched and photographed in detail. Followers may be comparatively few, but the daily hit tally remain surprisingly high – whether I post anything or not. So for now, I’ll keep this running… But there’s only so much time in the day, and this blog is one project that takes a hit.

A DORSET SHEPHERD’S HUT: A LITTLE PIECE OF HISTORY


shepherds-hut-4-copy

Shepherd’s huts are very vogue. For the price of a small- to medium-sized car you could have your own bespoke hut. For rather less, you could build one from a kit. If you had the time and patience. Then you could go glamping, even if only in your own garden. Or you could search online for a ‘pre-loved hut’, with the reassurance that apparently almost no hut, however dead, defunct or derelict, is beyond restoration. Even if what you end up with is, to all intents and purposes a new hut with couple of original parts (de-rusted). 

shepherds-hut-1-copy

For as long as anyone living remembers – and it’s at least 65 years – the hut featured here has been in situ by a gate in one of our fields. There’s some evidence that it may even have been brought over from Ireland sometime after my wife’s grandparents came to Dorset a hundred years ago. I first met the hut more than 40 years ago, when its condition seemed to be much as it is now. Over the passing years, until this winter, it had gradually become entirely concealed. First, there was luxuriant undergrowth. By the end, there was luxuriant overgrowth as well: you could have walked straight past without knowing there was anything under the thick tangle of bramble, hawthorn, old man’s beard and the like. Recently the area was cleared of much of the vegetation, and the hut stands revealed.

shepherds-hut-3-copy

As far as I know, no one has been inside – or even tried to open the door – for decades. The family that farms the fields is into its 3rd generation of pastoral care. They haven’t needed the hut. A bit more clearing of undergrowth will be needed before we try to get in. It may prove interesting. During WWII some shepherd’s huts were used to house prisoners of war who had opted to work on the land in preference to captivity. In one I know of, their graffiti is still visible inside.

Shepherd's Hut, Dorset: wheel

On the hub of the wheel is the maker’s name: Pierce Wexford Ireland – the Irish link. The company was established in 1839 and continued in operation until 2002. At one time, Pierce was the largest manufacturer of engineering and agricultural machinery in Ireland. Pierce stoves are still made, though elsewhere.15507008_1-2

the-forgotten-labour-struggle

The enormous former Pierce foundry is now mainly occupied by a huge Tesco supermarket, their largest store outside Dublin. A memorial to the historic usage, made from machinery parts, is all that remains there of Pierce of Wexford. However, the name lives on, stamped on machinery and other manufactured items from the past. I find there is quite a trade in Ireland for Pierceiana, as no doubt it is known.

tesco_pierce-copy

surprise_3-copysurprise_2-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-ahr0cdovl21lzglhlmfkc2ltzy5jb20vnwnlzjvlmzizodc0zgqxztyxmmnlnjzmotzlzwyzndrly2nhzjczmtdjndzmode5zjeyyzq3mdu3ztiymdrizc5qcgd8fhx8fhwzotr4

We have no plans for the hut, apart from having a look inside to see what (if anything) is there. A rattery, maybe. Its work is done, and it can continue to watch over the fields for many more years to come.

shepherds-hut-2-copy

Credits: Pierce’s info & images from random online sources, in particular Emma Stafford (Observations from Daily Life), who hasn’t posted anything for 2 years and who I hope will not mind a credited use of the Pierce tractor seat & drain cover if she comes across this post; Photopol for the Tesco / statue image; National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (gateway); History Ireland Magazine (foundry image); and adverts.ie for the other Pierce items

JERSEY TIGER MOTHS IN FRANCE & ENGLAND


Jersey Tiger Moths  Euplagia quadripunctaria, are widely distributed throughout Europe. Once rare in Britain, they are now increasingly found in the South of England. Recently we spotted one in the eastern Pyrenees one evening. It wasn’t very close and I had only a small camera with me so the results aren’t startling. However, the photos give a fair idea of this very pretty moth. 

Jersey Tiger Moth, Ceret, FranceJersey Tiger Moth, Ceret, France

I knew at once what sort of moth this was, because we had found one – the only one I’ve ever seen before – in our garden in Dorset last year, and I to go through the usual online process to ID it.

jersey-tiger-moth-dorset-3-copy

A more professional photo… (Wiki)ecaille_chinee_-_euplagia_quadripunctaria_havre_begique_3

The Wrong Sort of Tiger Moth… “CHOCKS AWAY”tiger-moth-1-copy

DARCY WITH BUTTERCUPS


Darcy & Buttercups 3Darcy & Buttercups 2Darcy & Buttercups 1Darcy & Buttercups-1Darcy & Buttercups-2