Well hello there!

Smerinthus ocellatus, since you ask

We’re just casual observers of things, as we amble along. I’m not sophisticated enough in the natural history side of things to even begin to attempt a Guardian Country Diary piece.

As we walked beside the River Ken in the direction of the Ken Bridge, and the Ken Bridge Hotel where we started our reconnoitring several months ago, we spied a couple bright butterflies, their startling yellow-orange wing tips immediately catching our eye. That’s our new observation for today then, we thought, and we resolved to google them on our return.

Thus satisfied (it’s fun to keep your eyes open to new things, isn’t it?) we ambled along. It was just far enough for the feeling of it in our ageing muscles, but not too far for our fragile knees and hamstrings to accommodate. Nevertheless we were indeed at the point of tiring when we made it back to the access path that leads across the pasture to the river from our little cottage. I often look down, not only to see where to place my errant left foot, but as a practice since childhood, to see what might be lying around, abandoned. So the large moth apparently staring at me suddenly appeared in my vision.

Commonly called the ‘eyed hawk moth’ it’s a member of a large and varied family of large moths with very intriguing characteristics. The humming bird hawkmoth, for example, is said to be the most commonly mistaken daytime moth in the UK; its behaviour really is that of a humming bird, but of course we have no such birds on these isles, and yes, I did spot one once, and thought, man, that’s a hummer! But today’s moth reminded me of nothing more than a winsome cat looking up from the ground.

But rather obviously, I wasn’t going to mistake this moth for a real cat. No, but it’s such fun to see an amazing creature like this, once in a while. And that was a lovely bit of joy, at the end of a delightful walk in the sunshine, as the lambs bleated for their mams, whose low calls of comfort signalled that sustenance was nearby.

Oh, and the orange-tipped butterflies? Well, said to be the first true, and unmistakable, indicators of spring, these butterflies pupate over winter, and only emerge as adults when the weather really is sufficiently warm. But then, we knew already that it really is springtime. The bluebells in the neighbouring woods, our little walk ambition for today, are also telling us so.

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