Priory Picture Post # 21

Having depressed you with a tale of duck desperation, duck derring-do, duck despair and duck death (see last post), I thought it would be fun to carry on in a similar vein.  Who needs good times and chuckles, anyhow?

A couple of weeks ago, Jim called me into the garden to look at a large moth.  Here it is:

It was particularly impressive; dusky grey, with black markings …

… and a flush of pink beneath the wings.  And it was really big – with a wingspan of about three feet (I’m kidding), with a wingspan of 70-80mm.  But it was only when the moth opened its wings, that I was able to identify it (later, using my Boy’s Big Bumper Book of Moths) as …

… an Eyed Hawk-moth (Smerinthus ocellata) – so-called for the vivid blue ‘eyes’ that it flashes at predators in the hope that they’ll be scared away.

I was surprised that this stunner hadn’t taken fright at my intruding lens and flown off.  But pleased too – I could continue snapping away.

The adult moths don’t eat at all (poor things – imagine) but the larvae feed on tree leaves, including willow and apple.  We’ve planted three apples in our garden orchard (do five trees constitute an orchard?  Actually, six trees – if you include the olive tree.  Do six trees constitute an orchard?) and perhaps it had been laying eggs on our apple trees.  I don’t mind; I was very taken with the S. ocellata – almost mammalian, I think, rather than insect-y.

It was only when I belly-crawled to the moth’s other side however, that I realised why it hadn’t flown away.

A spider had dug its Shelob-fangs deep into the moth’s thorax.

Rather like the fox taking the duckling, I couldn’t really blame the spider; besides I’m a big spider fan (how can you have read ‘Charlotte’s Web’ and not be?).  I was just saddened that the only Eyed Hawk-moth I have seen was in its death throes.

Yeah, I was just saddened.


Hmm, that’s a bit of a bum note to end a post on, isn’t it?  The death of a another lovely creature.   I should lighten the mood a little.  I need a random photo of something.  Something nice, pretty and calming, yes – that’s the ticket.  Like a, oh I don’t know – a horse, maybe.  Yes, a pretty horse on a hill – oh, oh … no wait, better still, a pretty horse grazing amongst some pretty buttercups.  That would work.  Hang on!  What’s this?  Good lord, what a coincidence.  I’ve just found a …

… a pretty photo of a pretty horse grazing on pretty buttercups.  What are the chances?  (No more death for a while – probably).

37 thoughts on “Priory Picture Post # 21

  1. Hi, I just discovered your blog and am a little late to this thread, but it’s kind of ironic that buttercups are toxic to grazers like horses (the poison ranunculin). The horse in your picture is, sadly, searching for anything BUT buttercups in its egregiously overgrazed meadow.


    • Hi Jackie, well …. live and learn. I didn’t know that. I would say that you’d be hard pressed to find a field or meadow or pasture in Sussex without buttercups, mind you. And we don’t know all the facts about how these horses are kept, fed and rotated onto other pasture – for all I know they were only there temporarily. Least there’s no ragwort though, eh? Dave


  2. David, David, David, the horse is EATING the buttercups, ie, he’s KILLING them. How very insensitive of you, after all my trauma of watching a butterfly death, I have to face this!
    I like spiders too, don’t even mind them in the house, and will only occasionally kill one – you’d know that here in the Land of Mysteries we have any number of killer types, including the infamous Redback, whose population has been reduced thanks to my campaign of turfing them out of my pot-plants by the back door. Mind you, on any casual evening I may inadvertently find myself draped in webbing of a worrying kind, and some moments later, feel a twitching little spate of legwork across my head, all in the interests of outdoor life.
    Long live death!


    • I can picture you, Faisal, in your nightshirt and nightcap, wielding a candlestick, wreathed in cobwebs and fighting off redbacks. I’m sure you give as good as you get. Why did you have to point out the killing of buttercups? As if life isn’t tough enough already. I shall worry now. D


  3. Great shots again, Dave! You tell a mean story, I think you’re a stand-up comedian in disguise, the humming bird hawk moth on my post yesterday was very alive and very difficult to photograph!


  4. Wow that’s cool… much more interesting than a horse 😛 When a friend and I were in africa we were watching lions at a waterhole when some giraffes came down. We could see the lions, they couldn’t and I couldn’t help a little bit of me hoping that we’d see a lion/giraffe take down. But also hoping the giraffes would get away because I’m not completely evil (only partly). The lions were young I think though and decided it wasn’t worth it. But the ‘nasty’ side of things is often the most fascinating (or maybe that’s just me…)


    • Partly evil is OK (I’m being polite). Giraffes can give a helluva of a kick, I believe, and aren’t an easy prey for a lion (says he like he’s an expert or something). Jealous that you saw such a scene. I should like to do a safari one day but I might just be rooting for the giraffes mind. D


  5. Oh, I was so thrilled about that unusual moth – until you showed the picture of the spider on it! What a horrible death, really, if you think about it. Perhaps the moth died of natural causes and the spider just found it. That makes me feel a bit better. And the horse does, too. 🙂


  6. Good God Man! My nerves are shot to shreds. Am going to need several expensive courses of therapy to get over that shocking end to what I thought was a ‘fluffy bunny’ kinda tale. You might just as well have bought an axe-weilding homocidal maniac in for good measure!
    Nice horse…but the damge is done! Bill in the post!


    • I looked at images of crab spiders but it doesn’t seem to look like one but who knows – I did wonder whether this spider had jumped (as some do) on to its prey. I’m afraid I don’t know enough about them to know for sure. Thanks for the link though. It had a picture of a broad-bodied chaser dragonfly which I’ve just photographed and spent quite some time trying to identify yesterday. (So very much to learn). And please only get paranoid if you see a crab spider the size of a cat! Dave


  7. A good day to be a photographer, a great day to be a spider, but a Really Bad Day to be an Eyed Hawk-Moth. I guess those beautiful blue eyes only help if it’s threatened from above, poor thing. What amazing antennae it has — I wonder what the “zig-zag stitching” on them accomplishes.

    Makes you wonder how many moths are screaming in anguish in that pretty field of buttercups, while the horse munches blithely on.


    • I wondered about those amazing intricate antennae too, Stacy – they are beautiful, really beautiful and I’m afraid I don’t know what they achieve. My BBBB of Moths doesn’t say. Oh dear, I shall never be able to look at a field of buttercups without imagining screams of anguish. Thanks for that! Dave


  8. Wow, you’ve got me sobbing into my salad. A stunning moth and how incredible to capture the spider meal. I wonder how it captured it, it’s so much bigger than the spider. Please no bunny massacres next, I don’t think I can take any more!!


  9. An ambitious spider! That meal is about five times as big as itself. What did it do with it? Wrap it up and transport it – or just leave it for second helpings later?


    • Hi Mr K, the spider disappeared shortly after my photos of it – perhaps to return after its venom had taken effect. The moth was gone when I returned half an hour later but I think a crow or seagull took it rather than the spider … but who knows? D


  10. I hope you won’t post any pictures of panthers or something like that coming to take your white horse, or I’m going to unfollow your blog. Anyway that little spider over a fatty moth was like seeing a duck hunting the fox…
    When I used to live in the mountains (it’s a long story) I had a light outside which attract loads of moths and some where really really big, bigger than a bat! I only remember a red and white ‘eye’ on the wings. I wish I knew what they where…


    • Gosh, that would be a turn-up wouldn’t it? A panther stalking East Sussex … though there are many reports/rumours of big cats living in the wild in S England. Don’t particularly want a puma or leopard at the Priory though. It would be terribly distracting. Dave


  11. Very David Attenborough like 🙂 Enjoyed the series of photos, in a natural world macabre sort of way! The moth did look massive on the first few pics, shame the spider got to it but that’s the way nature works. Fantastic shots as always, including the horse munching away!


  12. Oh boy, gardeners do see nature in the raw don’t they! Butterflies die a few days after laying their eggs don’t they, maybe moths are the same. If it hadn’t been for the spider you probably wouldn’t have seen the moth, never mind photographed it, so……. Lovely horse to finish with!


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