28 Aug 2015
When the Hummingbird hawk-moth came to visit
While my garden has often played host to dear friends or visitors, I can think of very few visitors who were so unexpected, and who brought my family to a respectful and awe-filled silence, as a recent visit by a Hummingbird hawk-moth. No I hadn’t heard of them either.
In ‘Feral’, George Monbiot writes beautifully of those moments when nature unexpectedly takes your breath away, brings wonder into your life. I was sitting in my garden with my wife and son, and suddenly noticed what looked like a tiny hummingbird. It was flying from flower to flower, dipping in its probiscus, busy, busy, but oh so beautiful. We were all puzzled. “What on earth is that?” “Quick, take a photo!” “Where’s my phone?” That moment of tension between wanting to photograph something but not wanting to leave it in order to look for a camera in case in that time it disappears and you never see it again. It moved too fast for photographs, all I ended up with were lots of blurry images of our flowers. I did film it though, here it is:
It didn’t stay long, but the impression it created has. None of us knew what it was, but when I tweeted the video asking if anyone could tell me what it was, I soon found out. It is usually only found in warmer climes than Devon, and its Latin name is Macroglossum stellatarum. It’s a strong flyer though, and often travels northwards, although rarely survives the winter. I loved the fact, according to Wikipedia, that “it overwinters as an adult in a crevice among rocks, trees, and buildings. On very warm days it may emerge to feed in mid-winter”. I know a few teenagers like that.
That such a graceful, beautiful and exotic creature exists at all was a source of great wonder. That it chose to pop into my garden while I was having lunch was a very special moment. And this is from someone who still talks in excited tones about the last time hedgehogs paid a visit. Anything ever turned up in your garden that you might tell your grandchildren about?