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.
The thing I love most about Wicklow is that you never quite know what you’re going to find around the next corner. Yesterday I was passenger in my brother’s car and we were travelling along one of the myriad narrow lanes that crisscross Wicklow and we rounded a bend covered in jungle-like undergrowth and came across a rabbit sitting in the middle of the road. Fortunately we were only going along quite slowly, so the rabbit got to its feet and ran beneath a fence on the edge of a large open field of grass. I jumped out of the car and ran to the fence, and was surprised to find the rabbit waiting behind the gate, watching me with some fascination. I got to within two metres (roughly two yards) of it and got this photo:
Many narrow winding lanes deep in the Wicklow countryside (Wicklow is nearly all countryside) are quiet places where wild animals don’t feel threatened by people, because they’re not. I often see rabbits on this stretch of road, but never manage to get as close as I did yesterday. But the encounter made me wonder something – last year I was driving down the same lane and came across a small young rabbit, sandbathing in the middle of the road. I stopped my car and waited for the rabbit to move, and then, as I fumbled for my camera, the rabbit ran underneath my car. So now I had to get out of the car and look underneath it to make sure it wasn’t waiting there, so that I could drive off without driving over the little creature. It was gone, so I got back into my car and drove off.
So today I’m wondering if the rabbit I photographed yesterday is actually the same animal, but a year older. I don’t honestly know, but this rabbit has a wonderful cheeky personality. Here’s another photo I took just before it decided to bound away into the long grass of the field:
In some ways it is a great shame that November is the quietest month for tourists visiting Wicklow. November in particular gives us our most spectacular skies. Why they are so amazing in November is undoubtedly due to a combination of factors such as the angle of the autumn sun, atmospheric moisture and pressure, and the lie of the land, particularly the Wicklow Mountains and hill. Much more sholuld be made of this spectacle. There should be a cloud festival in November and buses bringing painters and photographers to the best vantage points. In this, the quietest month, we could truly celebrate nature in a way that no one does. Until that time the skies are left to the connoisseurs of light and cloud.