Hummingbird Hawk-moths in Kent

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 Adam Tilt 5 Comments


Ferry House Cottages, Kent

On Saturday I woke to the calls of several Red Legged Partridge beneath our bedroom window, quickly followed by my sister screeching at frequencies normally only discernible to dogs. Oh yes it was wedding day and for the next few hours the cottage became a swarming mass of women fussing over nothing in particular. I made the wise decision to remove myself from the theatre of conflict and took my camera to explore the flowerbeds outside. On our arrival the previous evening I'd spotted a swarm of Hummingbird Hawk-moths right next to the main door and it was to there I headed first. Unfortunately they were conspicuous by their absence but I did spot a Garden Spider sitting in the middle of its web.

Garden Spider, Kent

Moving to the opposite side of the cottage where temperatures were already racing into the mid twenties, I found a couple of Small Tortoiseshells and one of the elusive moths. Watching it move from flower to flower was absolutely fascinating as it hovered at each to feed for just a few seconds. This behaviour was however a nightmare to try and photograph with my camera positioning and autofocus taking almost exactly the same amount of time as for the moth to move on. Needless to say I got a lot of shots featuring nothing but empty flowers. In the end I had to try and anticipate where it was going next and managed to get a couple of passable shots.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Kent

Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Kent

To my surprise the moth then landed on one particular leaf and proceeded to sit completely still. Although the vivid colours of its flight plumage weren't visible, it did at least give me the opportunity to take some photographs of its upper wings.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Kent

The rest of the day was, as you'd expect, taken up with the wedding itself which couldn't have been any more perfect. The evening reception in particular will live me for a long time, partly due to the Irish jigs (once a student always a student) but mostly due to its fantastic position overlooking the Swale. I never did see that Osprey again though!

A full English breakfast on Sunday morning set us up nicely for another couple of hours down at Oare Marshes. This time we headed west along the sea wall to a copse that seemed to have been a hive of activity recently judging from local reports. On our way we got superb views of a Hobby hawking for insects near the west pool, plus a couple of passing Stock Doves. More Linnets and Starlings as well as doubles of Wheatear and Stonechat welcomed us to the copse itself where I was over the moon to spot a Turtle Dove perched in one of the trees. It only stayed for a few seconds before heading off high into the sky and over to the other side of the estuary. Another case of being in the right place at the right time!

With time ticking on and a long drive ahead of us we started to head back to the car, but not before picking out a single Whimbrel on the mud and yet more Stock Doves. I also got an opportunity to photograph another Common Darter, though this time a male.

Common Darter, Oare Marshes

Having seen so much in such a short amount of time consider Kent, and the Isle of Sheppey in particular, well and truly planted on my list of places to return to. Now how long until my next long weekend ............

5 comments:

  1. the hawk-moth looks so different when it is sitting vs. in flight. great spider, too!

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  2. I love the hummingbird hawk moth, and I have never seen one sitting still before, just marvelous. Thanks,

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  3. Adam, I wonder if your dragonfly might be a Ruddy Darter? All black legs and a waisted abdomen - you may able to zoom in on the frons on the original image too?

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  4. hi there - I remember seeing these moths as a kid! We don't have them in Australia!

    I have to say it would have taken me a long time to have picked this post as from Kent.

    Cheers -Stewart M - Australia

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  5. TexWisGirl - thanks. I was amazed it was the same moth to be honest.

    Gillian - cheers. First for me as well.

    Barry - you might be onto something there as I can't see any yellow on the legs. Thanks.

    Stewart - it looks nothing like Kent does it? I was very impressed.

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