10 Oct 2018

10 Oct 18 - Hummingbird Hawk Moth

One of the great advantages of living on the Dorset coast is I get to see Hummingbird Hawk Moths most years. Since moving to Dorset twenty two years ago, I've only missed seeing them in four years & during one of those years I was abroad for most of the year. Even better is many of those sightings have been in my garden, where individuals take advantage of the large amounts of the native Red Valerian growing in the garden. But despite these regular sightings, I've totally failed to get any photos until this autumn. This year started off in the usual way. A couple of visits to my garden, but the Hummingbird Hawk Moth had disappeared by the time I had grabbed the camera. To be fair, they work the same flowers in a route & if I had the patience, then I could have sat by the Red Valerian & waited for the next visit. But I've not got the patience to wait for another visit in twenty or thirty minutes. Whilst out Birding on the new St Aldhelms & neighbouring valleys patch this autumn, I bumped into a Hummingbird Hawk Moth feeding on a large group of Buddleia bushes in the Chapman's Pool valley. It was still moving around fairly quickly, but at least it wasn't quickly disappearing out of sight to visit other flowers.
Hummingbird Hawk Moth: Chapman's Pool (7 Sep 18)
Hummingbird Hawk Moth: They are great close up. Chapman's Pool (7 Sep 18)
These photos were taken with shutter speeds between 1/2000 and 1/5000 second. I've subsequently read that Hummingbird Hawk Moths beat their wings about fifty times a second. So, these shutter speeds should freeze the motion. However, the wing tips were still a bit blurred in most photos. This is a similar wing beat speed to Hummingbirds & yet I've had more success with photos of Hummingbirds in South America. Giant Hummingbird is the largest Hummingbird with about fifteen wing beats a second, whereas many of the smaller North American Hummingbirds (& presumably their Latin American cousins) have a similar wing beat speed to a Hummingbird Hawk Moth.
Hummingbird Hawk Moth: Chapman's Pool (7 Sep 18)
It was good to have managed to get some photos of a Hummingbird Hawk Moth in action. Even better a few weeks later, I was walking into the Worth Matravers church grounds as that can be a nice local migrant spot in the village at the top of the Winspit valley, when I spotted my first perched Hummingbird Hawk Moth. I grabbed a few quick photos. Unfortunately, it disappeared while I was checking the photos before trying to get some more photos with better camera settings. Still it was good after thirty five years to finally see a static Hummingbird Hawk Moth.
Hummingbird Hawk Moth: Worth Matravers church (10 Oct 18)