Wednesday, 5 July 2006

The Visitors

Hummingbird Hawk Moth – 3 Jul 06

Waiting for the bus, conveniently outside the house, we’re inspecting the shrubs that grow over the wall, debating how far they need to be trimmed back to prevent decapitation of passing pavement cyclists, and how high they need to be cut back off the ground to prevent dogs using the convenient cover as – well, a 'convenience' – when we notice something strange in the honeysuckle.

A hummingbird hawkmoth. Flashing subliminal terracotta red hindwings, soft beige and black-and-white-striped body, hovering beside the flowers, extending its long proboscis like a refuelling probe on a fighter aircraft connecting with the tanker, it moves with delicate precision.
Is this an indicator of warmer summers? We haven’t seen one here for over 20 years. We watch it working over the flowers, until it vanishes with speed somewhere over the garden wall, and the bus arrives.

Hedgehog – 4 Jul 06

Mum peers out of the back window, and whispers.
‘She’s here.’

It looks like someone has left an old coconut on the lawn. Snuffling about, minutely inspecting each blade of grass, each small patch of the lawn for the dried mealworms my mother leaves out. Heat and hard ground mean fewer worms and beetles, so every little helps. Almost every night she comes – Mrs Tiggywinkle in person - around 9.30 to 10 pm. Sometimes she lingers, but mostly she stays for about 20 minutes. Well, we don’t really know if she is really a ‘she’, but we make an educated guess. She’s small and neat, light brown fur edging a tidy bristle-cut hair-do, black-eyed and black-nosed. She has surprisingly long legs, moving with a rolling sailor’s gait. Trundling about like a small clockwork toy, leaving a trail through the grass, she disappears into the undergrowth of the flowerbeds, to reappear and cross the path before vanishing into the gathering darkness under the hawthorn tree at the bottom of the garden.

‘Think I’d better get some more mealworms,’ says Mum.


mackie said...

i never have seen a hummingbird hawkmoth - i didn't even know about them, they look amazing! (i checked on google :-P)

i have seen many hedghogs, though - we always had them in the garden, complete with a string of little ones when it was the season. we had one eating the cake we were storing under the covering tarp when we were camping out - that little thing was SO noisy! everybody was :shock: until we realsed what it was :-D

mad said...

They are VERY noisy... especially in the mating sason ;-).....

I was once terrified by a noise in the dark as I walked home to my college hall..swung round ready to take a swing at whoever was behind me.. and it turned out to be a hedgehog with a yoghurt pot stuck on it's head. Rescue ensued, naturally! (and I felt a right idiot!) :-P

Tats said...

I only just noticed the blog link on your profile - but I'm so glad I did!

There is something fascinating about hummingbird hawkmoths - precision is exactly the right word - seems so strange to have that much control when hovering. I could believe that this does mean warmer summers - I've mostly seen them in France before.

You're right about hedgehogs being noisy - if you're ever in Aberdeen University of a summer's evening, go up to the houses north of Zoology, and it's hot and cold running hedgehogs - and they are really loud. You can see where the "hedge-pig" idea came from. Poor hedgehog with the yoghurt pot!

Anonymous said...

What a wondrous creature. I am sure I've never seen one but am looking forward to telling the kids at school about them in Sept.
Your faithful hedgehog reminds me of a small brown rabbit thet used to come to visit us every evening. There was a wild currant bush just outside Kate's window and the bunny would hop up to it every evening one summer at about 7:00 pm, just as I was reading to Kate before she went to sleep.
It just stopped one day. I like to think it found a better bush.


Sue said...

Mad - I love your blog; I feel I learn things in the most aesthetic way!

GfM said...

Arrrgh, hedgehog with yoghurt pot on nose attacks human! :lol: It's wonderful that you guys seem to provide the environment so hedgehogs can live in your garden. A lot of gardens today are so very stylish that they are effectively far from nature and no wild animals can live there. Even tho I live in the city, we do have hedgehogs wandering around in the neighbourhood. A friend of mine even put a big sign up, to caution the car drivers (is this english?) :lol: