Friday, 10 October 2014

A Moth Truly Without Equal....The Clifden Nonpareil

Nature was extremely kind to me late last night, which is why you're getting a second post swift on the heels of yesterday's.

You may remember back in the summer I was lucky enough to have a Purple Emperor visit. Emps are the Holy Grail of butterflies; many people spend a lifetime looking and never find one. Well, the Moth World has a similar Holy Grail species, one that is considered enough of a rarity in these Isles for their appearance to provoke huge excitement among moth'ers. It is another species that enthusiasts spend lifetimes hoping to see, and I was over-joyed (small understatement there) when one turned up here in our back garden about 10pm last night.

The Clifden Nonpareil was first recorded in England in 1749 at Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire. It was then briefly recorded as a resident in the UK in the 1930s in the Norfolk Broads, and between 1935-1964 in Orlseton Forest near Hamstreet in Kent. This residency was probably the result of the climate warming sufficiently during these years for it to live and breed successfully here. 
In the fifties and sixties the climate cooled again and the moth became extinct as a resident. Since then, it has only been recorded as a reasonably rare migrant gracing the coastal counties of East and South East England in small numbers, most but not every Autumn. This suggests the main population source for UK migrants is Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Siberia, although it is found in Central Europe as far West as Spain. Its arrival is often associated with that of Camberwell Beauty butterflies (who also come from Scandinavia and can, in a good year, be found across the British Isles), Great Brocade moths (another East Coast migrant) and Barred Warblers.

To give you some idea of its rarity, it was seen in less than half the years between 1850-1935 and recent exceptional years have only numbered 19 in 1976 and 22 in 2006, so you can hardly call it numerous.

It is without equal in the UK because it is the only UK moth that contains the colour blue. It is this colour (a gorgeous soft smoky lilac) that gives the moth its other name of Blue Underwing. It is a moth I have long wanted to see, but didn't ever seriously expect to, so you will be able to imagine my surprise and pleasure (and to be honest slight shock and disbelief) when I went out to check the moth box last night and discovered this beautiful moth sitting calmly inside it.

I ran shrieking like a mad woman  walked sensibly and calmly back into the house to call M and fetch a pot for the moth and we brought him indoors for photos. He has a small amount of damage to his left wing, probably from a bird, but given the distance he's flown across the sea it seems remarkable that he's in as good a shape as he is. After we'd got the pics we wanted we let him go and he spent ages bumbling about outside the house near the light.






The Clifden is a big moth, one that rivals the Hawks for sheer size and impressiveness, but it is also a gentle soul and this one sat happily on my hand for ages having his picture taken. We had to take a piccy for J who is currently in France and sent it to her with the caption: 'I think this might have flown past you on its way' as it is likely that this moth has come across the sea from Continental Europe rather than Scandinavia, given that Hampshire is on the South rather than the East coast of the UK. 
They are fairly nondescript when their wings are closed, being of a dull grey/brown colour with a lighter grey zigzag pattern, but once they open their wings that soft lilac band is unmistakable and glorious.

It was a real honour to see him and I will treasure the memory, because it may be that, as with the Purple Emperor, I will never see another Clifden NP again in my lifetime.

Have a good weekend all,

CT :o)


28 comments:

  1. That's really mavellous, especially as when the wings are closed it is so dull looking. I remember when I lived at home, our house backed on to a very large cemetary and we used to get loads of large moths in the house, to my shame we used to bat at them but glad to say I now wouldn't dream of doing that.
    This was back in the late 50's early 60's and a lot has changed since then. We hardly see any moths here, only small one's attracted by the outside light but nothing as grand as this one.
    Thanks for showing
    Briony
    x

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    1. The last sixty years have been very tough on wildlife so I'm not surprised you aren't seeing many moths. It's a sad state of affairs, but I think things are slowly starting to change for the better.
      Glad you enjoyed seeing the CNP- I'm going to put the trap again later this week, It would be great to get another one! (Greedy, aren't I?) :o) x

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  2. Congratulations, how exciting for you! He certainly is a beaut :)

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  3. It is a beauty to be sure. What a score. What next in your garden? A wolverine?!
    Leanne xx

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    1. It wouldn't surprise me?
      What a lovely catch up I've just had. I do love visiting you here, CT
      Leanne xxx

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  4. Fantastic! Well done you! I am green with envy, appropriately with my Merveille du Jour arriving last night. Hope you get yours soon. I think there are more Clifden Ns around than we think because this is the second I've come across in a month - a regular trapper got one in Bucks. If everyone in the UK had a light trap, I wonder how many would be recorded. Anyway, great stuff! Warm wishes as ever. M

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    1. It's a good point about under-recording. A chap I know who lives not far from here had FIVE CNPs in his trap this week- it's what prompted me to try on Thurs. I'm very interested to know what the year's results will be as I suspect they are up. Between him, me and your local one we've already got almost the same number as the high year total of the 1990s!
      Finger's crossed for an MDJ here soon. I will faint, I think :o)

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  5. Fab, how exciting for you! I liked how you crossed out 'shrieking like a mad woman' out.

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    1. Yes, I was just a little bit excited :o) x

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  6. Wow congratulations on capturing such a rarity! I'm not surprised you were so excited! It is so lovely with the blue colouring. Sarah x

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    1. The blue is really beautiful, a proper dusky lilac. Very unexpected when the rest of the moth is rather plain, but then I suppose that's the point when you're trying to startle a potential predator. Nature is so clever. Hope the new house is going well x

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  7. Wow that's amazing, bet you were well chuffed. Will you be able to submit it some were so it's recorded on a data base for the uk ?
    Amanda x

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    1. Chuffed and then some. I submit all my moth (and any unusual flutter) records to the county recorder at the end of the year. It'll be very interesting to see what Hampshire has recorded in terms of CNPs for 2014 (as well as the UK). I suspect there are a few on the wing here at present. x

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  8. That's quite a big moth, looking at my own hand for comparison. Pretty too. Well done.

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  9. Hoorah and a huge congratulations! They really are big! I am so pleased for you, even though of course envy is oozing out of all my pores, but on this side of the channel I have more chance of seeing one than you do, so I am super duper doubly pleased you got to see one! :-)))))))))))

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    1. Thank you my dear- I knew you of all people would understand the excitement. REALLY hoping you get to see one in France before the year is out. x

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  10. How very exciting, I would have been jumping up and down with excitement and Hubby would have had no idea why! That's fantastic and thanks or sharing it with us. What a huge moth. I held out my hand to look as its size on your hand...wow.

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    1. I was leaping about like a woman possessed - even M was grinning broadly (although that could have been at me jumping about the place shrieking 'oh my God! oh my God!') :o)

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  11. Wow - what a great sighting - no wonder you were over the moon. Feeling very envious as I doubt they ever come this far North. But lovely to see the moth in your photos - its so big!!! :)

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    1. SO pleased. And also SO surprised- I really wasn't expecting it, even though I put the box out because I'd spent the day with a chap who'd trapped five of them a few miles away. You never know, if the climate keeps warming they may take up residency and move further North and inland :o)

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  12. Well here's to fabulous finds that have you shrieking with delight .lol
    Wow, he is a big one .

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    1. Indeedy! I must pop over and catch up with you- we've been rather busy here of late. Hope all is well with everyone x

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  13. How fantastic!!! It has definitely been your year for seeing rare things, from this lovely moth fellow, to the Purple Emperor and the Water Voles, all kinds of great things to see!!! Your moth really is a splendid one isn't it, so huge!! xx

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    1. I have been very lucky this year for sure. You are very sweet to be so nice about the moths, especially given that they are not perhaps your insect of choice :o) xx

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x