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.

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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

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LIBRARY TREASURES FROM CAMBRIDGE


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During a recent stay in Cambridge for an academic hooley, Mrs RH visited the University Library. She came across this wonderful multi-locked portable chest (above), and the University’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible. There are only about 40 complete Bibles extant in the world, plus some that are incomplete. I am lucky enough to have seen 3 of them, all in the US (Bienecke Library, Yale; Morgan Library NYC and New York Public Library). However to my retrospective shame, I never once in 3 years of golden opportunities took the trouble to go to the University Library in Cambridge (probably all of 15 minutes walk from my College). Seeing the photograph below made me ponder on youthful time that could (un)arguably have been better spent…

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REMEMBER, REMEMBER…


A SMALL FIREWORK GALLERY

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CAIUS COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE: 6 SUNDIALS ON THE GATE OF HONOUR


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Gonville and Caius College is one of the oldest colleges of Cambridge University. It was founded in 1348 by Edmund Gonville, who has suffered the cruel fate of rarely being mentioned nowadays; the college is almost invariably referred to simply as ‘Caius’, after John Caius, the man who re-founded the college in 1557 at a time when it had fallen on hard times.

The college has 3 fine gates that represent the stages of academic life: matriculation, with entrance through the Gate of Humility; undergraduate life, with regular passage through the Gate of Virtue during a student’s career; and finally graduation,with students passing through the Gate of Honour to the Senate House to receive their degrees.

The lower part of the Gate of Honourcaius-college-cambridge-sundial-gate-of-honour5

The middle section of the Gate of Honourcaius-college-cambridge-sundial-gate-of-honour4

The handsome modern sundial was installed in 1963 as part of the 400th anniversary celebration of the college’s re-foundation by Caius. There are in fact 6 vertical sundials, arranged in 3 pairs placed round the hexagonal tower. They were designed by an astronomer and fellow Dr Message, and the Junior Bursar Dr Powell. The bronze dial faces are painted with vitreous enamel. Of the original set of sundials dating from 1557, only traces remained.

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There is something very satisfying about this set of dials. The symmetry, the proportions, the materials and the design all seem to work in harmony. Cambridge colleges have many sundials between them, many original and ancient. Of the modern dials, the Caius Gate of Honour is adorned by, arguably, the finest.** 

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** The principal sundial of my own college is dignified but… somewhat undistinguished in comparison!

Photo credit: All photos Mrs RH during a recent academic festivity

For further reading, track down a copy of “Cambridge Sundials” by Alexis Brookes and Margaret Stanier (available from the British Sundial Society). It can also be found as a downloadable pdf. There is an equivalent book by Margaret Stanier covering Oxford

CHINESE NEW YEAR AT CHISWICK HOUSE


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Chinese New Year was celebrated at Chiswick House with a spectacular display of large and colourful inflatable animals from around the world. The same display had previously been used at Longleat. We watched them being installed; and once the event had been opened, it was the perfect place to take children as night fell.

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SUMMER WHITES: BUTTERFLIES IN DORSET


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GREAT GREY OWL


I met this remarkable-looking bird at an owl sanctuary near Bodmin. I saw a sign to the place on my way back from Cornwall to Dorset, and diverted to investigate. I found a large, well-kept enterprise with plenty of birds, visitors and school parties. There was a very informative open-air display of several species that were explained in turn, and which visitors were in most cases permitted to stroke. A very worthwhile diversion that I’d recommend to anyone trekking along the A30 with a bit of time to spare. The place is called THE SCREECH OWL SANCTUARY.

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Many owl species can rotate their necks through 270º or more. This one managed a 180º rotation effortlessly, with its feet in identical positions.Great Grey Owl 5Great Grey Owl 2 Great Grey Owl 6