New beginnings don’t often happen in the first floor men’s toilets on the north corridor of the Harborne building. That is, as far as I know. It’s possible that some significant works of science have had their genesis within those windowless, cobwebbed walls, but somehow I doubt it. Tis not a place that anybody would chose to linger long.
Unless one happens to be a moth, apparently, for that is what I disturbed from the underside of a toilet roll holder on Monday morning, ushering in the moth year proper, in that it was the first decent sized, nicely patterned macro moth (i.e. larger ones – but not always!) I’d seen in 2014. Which means, of course, that I had to know what it was, and being a still inexperienced moth-er I knew this would also mean capturing it for later observation. I gave the moth, now motionless in the middle of the tiled floor, a quick but intense look. It was a beautiful, leaf-like mottled brown beast draped with tongues of glowing orange fire across the shoulders. “Wait there!” I cried, warning the poor startled creature with a wave of my index finger. “Just wait there a minute!”
Singing in the faux-dusk of LED streetlamps, two robins fling phrases back and forth. Each challenge in their musical duel is met with a rebuttal from the opposing bird, tauntingly similar in structure yet moving the duet on with new variations on the theme. This stream of sound, carrying gently through the descending drizzle, stops me in my tracks. I listen; the birds continue, the closest of them seemingly oblivious to my presence just a few meters from his song perch.
Galls on leaves, both as yet unidentified!
They say* that it’s been a mild winter so far, warm even. And whilst I suppose I can’t dispute that, it hasn’t been quite consistently warm enough to prevent the necessity of scraping the car in the frozen murk of 7am on a Monday morning. When I can’t feel my fingers and there is a fragile smear of ice crystals even on the inside of the windscreen, I almost sympathise with those scientific illiterates who are ready to dismiss the notion of global ‘warming’ at the first whiff of snow. “Mild winter?!”, I exclaim, shivering. “What mild winter?!”
Presuming that they lack the capacity even for unreasoned thought, the insects know better than I. For whilst the weather is, with some notable flood-related exceptions, for the most part a matter of inconvenience for us, for our invertebrate friends it is the difference between thriving and annihilation. This year they seem to be tending toward the former, provided most have been able to ride out the floods. In Reading, at least, even a few bumblebee colonies, grateful for the exotic winter blooms laid on for them by the university grounds staff, are keeping busy, even through the darkest months. The first speckled wood of spring was seen days ago, and I daresay other butterflies are emerging from their slumber in good numbers. Every passing moment of warm sunlight is snatched upon by small delicate flies, which leap out to join the jostling ranks of rival males in midwinter leks.