James Lowen 


2017 TOP TEN: #3

Getting tense now! For a reminder of previous entries, click on the links. 

#10. Best plant: "Roding Orchid"

#9. Garden Hawfinch

#8. Best twitch: White-winged Scoter

#7. Best place: Picos de Europa, northern Spain

#6. Best birding experience: Firecrest Day on Portland
#5. Top voyeuring: mating Hornet Moths

#4. Top cat(s). One week, two Lynx

... and now...

#3. Best detective work: Bedstraw Hawk-moth

In spring 2016, I very belatedly learnt that there was a well-established colony of Bedstraw Hawk-moths on the Norfolk coast. Two friends – Dougal McNeill and Mike McCarthy – had seen them 20-odd years previously. Dougal understood that the population persisted – but without publicity. I persuaded Mike to come with me for a mid-summer crack at them. We failed; neither site nor habitat felt right. Later that summer, a couple of friends found caterpillar at nearby locations. Fast-forward to May 2017, and another friend's wife had bumped into a Bedstraw Hawk-moth roosting by day a few hundred metres away from where the caterpillars had been climbing. Putting two and two together, but without much hope of success, Will Soar and I decided to give it a crack one warm May evening. Our approach was to head out shortly before dusk to roughly the area where the caterpillars had been found and look for suitable flowering plants where the adult Hawk-moths might nectar. Despite Will dismissing the first fly-by individual we found as a Cockchafer (amateur!), we succeeded, having magical views of at least two Bedstraw Hawk-moths nectaring. A brilliant evening!

If 2016 was my Clearwing Summer, 2017 was my Hawk-moth Year. Later in the summer, Will, Dave Andrews and I enjoyed a Spurge Hawk-moth at Landguard Point Bird Observatory in Suffolk. The autumn produced Death's Head and Striped Hawk-moths together at Portland Bill Bird Observatory. And the Norwich garden of local moth-trapper Ian Robinson was graced by another Bedstraw Hawk-moth - so let's finish with a picture of that. What a gorgeous creature.