Only last week my brother contacted me with news he had come across that enormous African Convolvulus Hawkmoths were being seen on the island of Great Britain in large numbers this year.
These moths are as large as small birds, and I have only seen one of these moths on two previous occasions. One was sent to me to identify and the second was flying in a rainstorm in the lights of the family car many years ago. I caught it when it landed on the bonnet. I released both to continue their adventures. But two days ago I found a dried-out dead one in a polytunnel and here is a video showing you just how big this moth is. And some can be much bigger – so keep your eyes open for these giants. Apparently they will happily feed on string soaked in red wine hung from the branches of trees or bushes. They also love nicotiana flowers.
There is a whole host of incredible wildlife in the Wicklow countryside at the moment, and often going unnoticed. Keep your eyes peeled. Here is a superb example which I found two days ago, the gigantic snake-like caterpillar of the Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor). Hawkmoths are the largest moths found in Ireland, and we are not short of them in Wicklow, although they are relatively rarely seen. Some, as I previously mentioned, can be as large as small birds. And their caterpillars are gigantic and often spectacular, such as this example.
When alarmed, or irritated, this caterpillar rears up as those going to strike. But if further irritated it will lie down and go through a series of frightening spasms, which make it look as though it has been mortally wounded, as though an electric shock was running through its body. It’s a harmless creature though, mostly feeding on Rosebay Willowherb, which most gardeners consider a weed, although it is a beautiful wild flower to we naturalists. Believe it or not, the moth is actually more spectacular than its caterpillar, but I have no photos of it yet. My To-Do List is ever-growing.
Well, I don’t want to distract anyone who’s strudying for their exams, but just in case that study takes place near the seashore, or with a good vantage point across the sea, you might spot one of these rare creatures. And it’s a predator too, specialising in herring and other small shoal fish. So what is this monster? It’s an Oarfish (Regalecus glesne), and it is every bit the sea serpent, or water dragon.
Oarfish are seen by trawler crews at this time of the year, and as far north as Norway where they pursue the herring shoals. So keep your binoculars and cameras handy. A truly amazing creature you might see while the sea is calm and clear. The nearest thing to a dragon that is known to science. I suspect it may even be the inspiration for the Chinese dragon.