Sunday 22 August 2021

Convolvulus last!

I've been wanting to see a Convolvulus Hawk-moth for aaaaaages and I'll warn you now that this blog post will contain a lot of love and appreciation for that very beast of a Moth!

It's one of those that I've looked at in the books and thought: yes please! As a species, it's a migrant but not a rare visitor by any means, with many of these mini missiles cruising over the Channel to our little island every year. There's been the odd opportunity where I could've twitched one but have always declined. To me, this one deserved more than that and I really wanted to be able to add it do the garden list as a landmark 10th Hawk-moth species seen here.

Side note - if you're interested in what the other 9sp are, they are:

  1. - Privet
  2. - Eyed
  3. - Poplar
  4. - Pine
  5. - Lime
  6. - Elephant
  7. - Small Elephant
  8. - Hummingbird
  9. - Broad-bordered Bee

Leaving it to light trap and lady luck may have payed off eventually but it's no secret that Nicotiana 'Tobacco' plants are the way to go and known to be a favourite of the mighty Convolvulus so that would be the way to go. Jumping back a few years ago and a handful of Tobacco plants from the local nursery had peaked and died off long before the end of Summer - fail.

Following year - more of the same but introduced to the garden later and same - fail.

Last year, 2020 - time to sow my own Nicotianas from seed and get them flowering later into the year. No luck. Rubbish. To add salt to the wound, my wife was working barely 2 miles from home and after a long weekend, she returned to work, to colleagues showing her photos of a "massive Moth" that'd been on the outside wall for 3 days straight and guess what it was...yep. Convolvulus! Close but no cigar - fail.

2121 - right. Got this. The local nursery didn't have the colour mix plants we were after so had to settle for the white ones. Turned out to be a good move, they are triffids! Over 6ft tall, still flowering and a strong scent that fills the garden. That, along with a million of the different coloured ones which we'd sowed from seed, cared for like babies and painstakingly split into individual pots and fed regularly with Tomorite, the garden is as full as can be with amazing Nicotiana's. Looking like we've nailed it this year, I quietly thought to myself...

Fast forward to last night (21st Aug), the trap in our small garden was switched on at dusk and the optimistic forecast of Steve Nash (@MigrantMothUK on Twitter) was ringing in my ears as darkness claimed the sky.

2115hrs and I go outside to fetch something from the outhouse. A flash catches my eye as it darts from right to left beyond the back fence of our garden. Must've been a bird, I thought. Moments later and the UFO was patrolling up and down the side fence, up high and again, beyond our fence, out of reach and over the neighbours garden. "That ain't no bird!" I didn't realise how big the eyes were on these beasts and the shine it throws back from my headtorch is like it is equiped with two headlights. Wingspan wise, you could've been forgiven for thinking a big, female Privet Hawk-moth in flight but there was no mistaking the mahoosive body this thing had. I was awe-struck as it got closer and closer until it was right in front of us, 3ft away and 2ft off the ground, deciding which of the most pampered Tobacco plants in the world it was going to feed on. The proboscis was unbelievably long and seemed to be longer than the Moth itself, but I was too excited in that moment to gauge an accurate measurement!

Having already called for backup, my Wife was keeping eye while my Son ran for a net. They both knew what it meant to me and had also invested a lot of time to help Dad with his crazy Moth plans and there we were, all stood watching this impressive bohemeth of a Moth hover like a Hummingbird in front of flower heads. The pressure was now on that I didn't get out for a duck with the net... Swipe. Big pot. Secured. A Convolvulus Hawk-moth in my hand!

Now I know I've gone all gooey with the story of this Moth and I'll take the ribbing for that, but it is a little bit more than that. It's about Mothing as a whole. After 10+ years Mothing, 1000+ species seen, it still only takes one Moth to make the night and I still get that kid at Christmas excitement when seeing something new. That's why Mrs K says it's more than a hobby - it's my passion. I think she's right..

(alongside a Large Yellow Underwing for scale)

those eyes!

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