Well at first I was going to call this post “Little Brown Moth” as I couldn’t guess what kind it was. Have a look at my sketches below and then read about how I figured out what it was.
The last time I found a moth it was a fugitive hiding behind my kitchen door curtain, this one was very similar. He was inside my kitchen sliding door frame…just another ordinary little brown moth. I dismissed it as such and thought, well later I’ll look at him and maybe do a sketch. All I could find to hold him while I studied him (without hurting him) was an empty camera lens case; it’s extremely clear, round, flat and about 3″ across. I made sure not to close it so he could have air and tried to work quickly, I am mindful of his life in my hands and don’t want to stress him too much.Trying not to touch his wings I gently cupped my hand over him and could feel him fluttering inside my hand.
He did get away I’ll admit, then it was actually easy to hold the lid over him then put the bottom up to catch him from off the exhaust hood over my stove…with me perched on a chair!
"Common Looper Moth Studies"
The first two sketches are done from life using a quill pen and brown ink. The ink will run when wet so I used a waterbrush to gently touch it and ‘make’ it run; it turns a beautiful reddish brown when you wet it. (Pelican ink) I also noted the actual size, you can see it’s quite small so a magnifying glass was handy to help me see him.
The drawing on the bottom of the page (above) is done while looking at a photo I took of him. I put a very light sketch in pencil then used my permanent brown ink pen, to which I added some watercolors. This study is only 2″ tall, pretty small in my tiny sketch book.
Common Looper Moth study with notes
You can see from my notes, what was so interesting about this little brown moth is his profile! When I looked at him from the side I was surprised to find the bristles sticking up like a crown or furry coat. He also has a big ‘nose’ looking thing, I think that’s actually his tongue or mouth parts?
Common Looper Moth side view
Here are two photos I got of him as I released him outside; it was going dark so the lighting isn’t great. I think the best shots I’ve gotten of captured insects are when I am about to release them, outside on my screen porch in natural light. The photo below is blurry, SORRY! but the light was fading, I just wanted to show you his wing pattern.
Common Looper Moth top view
Now a few notes about how I identified him. After studying his form and the unusual profile this helped me, I took note of the whitish marks on his wings and the color of the ‘underwing’. I went to my “Nature Links” page and clicked on “Bug Guide.net”; this site is very helpful but sometimes can be difficult if you’re a beginner like me. I started with “Moths”, click on that, then they showed a silhouette box and that was most helpful. I clicked on the one that looked just like my bug, and from looking it up in my “Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America” I at least figured out that it’s some kind of Owlet Moth. Cool, well, now what? My field guide gave me no more help, but on the Bug Guide website I saw another website called “Moth Photographers Group”, (now a link on my Nature Links page!) and when I went to a page it recommended, I was able to really see so many moths and almost certainly identify mine. Then I copied the name and went back to “Bug Guide” and pasted it in the search box, oh wow!, lots of pictures came up now of MY MOTH! Yes, that’s it, an Autographa precationis!
A tip from me, on Bug Guide, if you find a page with pictures you want to look at, use your back button to return from looking at a photo or else it will bring up a whole new set of pictures, not sure why. Another tip, when you visit the Moth Photographers Group, to see pictures go to the “Plate Series” page for links to pictures, BUT I highly recommend starting with Bug Guide or your Field Guide to get an idea of the scientific name, it’s the only way to search on this site.
I hope you enjoyed discovering more about this not so plain little brown moth with me! What it teaches us, if you look at something much closer, with curiosity, you can discover new things you never knew were right under your nose!
I have just updated a few pages of my website. I have separated my Links page into two extensive pages, Nature Links and Art Links. Both feature links from all over the world and I am open to suggestions for more links please! I put them up for your convenience as a nature lover or artist; but also because they are favorites of mine and now I know it’ll be easy to find them!
The NEWS page is where you can find my current news, but it also has two pages to click at the top: Art Exhibits and News Articles. The Art Exhibits page will show you any upcoming shows I’m in and my past shows; as I update that page, many of the shows will be links to pictures and articles about that opening. The News Articles are links to news-clippings etc.
My LESSONS and PRESENTATIONS page has new pages linked to it also, Art and Nature Books is where you’ll find a list of books I use for Nature or Art study. When the page is finished there will be links for every section to pictures of the books for your convenience, though I seriously doubt I can fit every book on my shelves! The other new page there is My Art Supplies and Equipment, I will put pictures or blog posts about each listed area, painting, drawing, photography, books and some misc. pictures from around my studio or of me using the equipment in the field.
If you have any links to suggest then please pass them my way, and if you’d like to link to my website please do and let me know.
This morning while eating my oatmeal and sipping my coffee, I heard a strange rustling sound behind the curtain of my sliding door. Hmmm…..dare I look? Could it be a mouse? Err…um…ok, I’m not squeemish about mice so I pulled the curtain aside and a large brown moth came flying out! He was looking for a way out and followed the light, no pun intended. I had no idea what kind it was and in the “old days” I would have said, “yuch a moth!” But now I find it’s much more interesting to take a closer look and study things, understand them. I went to the barn to retrieve my butterfly net, despite the very wet grass and chilly fog.
Once I caught the little guy I put it carefully under my “Britta Waterfilter Jug”, probably first it’s been used in a long time! haha. It’s nice and clear. I grabbed my sketchbook and did some basic outline sketches, and looked at it with the magnifying glass and identified it as a “Large Yellow Underwing”. Then I took pictures with my tiny Olympus camera because it has a nice closeup feature. I started some of the basic patterns while looking at him, but really was able to add the real detail after printing out some pictures. By the way, at first I thought it was a “False Underwing”, as you can see from my crossed out note, but looking closer at his underwing you can see the extra orangy yellow band at the bottom, or in Butterfly wing language “the Margin”. It was interesting to study his legs as they had slender needle like ‘thorns’ on them.
He was at first a dull brown looking moth, but as you can see here, so beautiful when you study the patterns on his wings. After I had some pictures I let him go outside right away, don’t want to stress him. He flew around in my screen porch a bit and that’s when I got the best pictures, no plastic between us!
I’m adding this little sketch that I did yesterday. While looking over my parsley plants, checking for signs of Black Swallowtails, I noticed a tiny Damselfly flying around. It was only one inch long and though it was orangy colored, it was hard to notice at first. I tried to study its color, pattern and size and when I went back inside drew a small pencil sketch. Damselflies hold thier wings together and Dragonflies hold them out, so I knew it was a Damselfly. As soon as I opened my bug field guide to the Damselflies, there it was! A “Rambur’s Forktail”, the adults are a pale blue color. Here’s a link for photos: http://bugguide.net/index.php?q=search&keys=Rambur%27s+Forktail&search=Search
Today I went for another walk on Long Lane Farm with my 4 legged companion Ginger. Below I have a page from my sketchbook journal where I show a fun technique of using a frame as a design element. If you keep a few ‘frame’ templates in your field kit you can have some fun tracing them. Some template ideas could be a post it note, an index card, maybe the lens cap from your camera (I thought of this one while sitting and drawing today) and what I used here was a simple refrigerator magnet that has the center that pops out. I think if you take more time to play with this you can really do some nice designs!
Clockwise from the top left you can see a Daisey in the grass, then the male Oriole popping his head through the oak leaves at the top of a VERY high old oak. Above that a yellow wildflower that I think is ‘King Devil’ a type of Hawkweed, then ‘Fleabane’, the little pink flower underneath the Oriole. The bottom right is a very pretty wildflower that I found in the Maze..anyone help me with this one? (I have photos of these wildflowers coming up.) In the frame are ‘Common’ or ‘Tall Buttercups’ and around the frame I listed the names of birds I saw or heard today.
On the second page I just used the micron permanent pen and drew some grasses. On the right are ‘Soft Rushes’, their pliable stems are what would be used to weave mats or baskets and next to it some type of sedge. The rushes are more closely related to lilies than grasses, my field guide says and I know the stem is round. It’s neat to follow the stem to the top with your fingers and feel how absolutely perfect a point it comes to. The sketch next to it is of some type of sedge, honestly I can’t find it in my guide. They had a most interesting design in their growth, three leaves jutting out from the top in different directions and the clustered seed pods looking like spikey critters! It had a triangular stem which reminds me of the saying…”Sedges have edges”.
I snapped this shot as I was leaving the yard, just after his mom or dad had visited the hole. What a face! haha!
And here’s the pretty pink ‘Daisy Fleabane’, people used to hang it in their houses to keep away the fleas…not sure if it worked! I have a big clump of these sprouted up in my front flower bed and they are really pretty. Many people would have yanked it thinking ‘weed’, but well, it has lots of company with all the other weeds!
This is the mystery flower, can anyone help me identify it? I love the fine fuzz on it, as I look at a close up picture, it catches the sun. They were growing together in a patch in the middle of the Maze.
I think this is called King Devil a type of Hawkweed; I found it growing at ‘Aspen Hall’ a shady area along the lane just before the Maze. It has fine bristly hairs all over it and the flowers were all confined to just the top of one long stem. I had to move grasses to find the leaves, which were tucked low at ground level.
This white moth was interesting to study. I spotted him when Ginger and I were returning along ‘Oak Lane’, it was flitting eratically along the path, as butterflies do. I kept following it to try and get a picture and I’m sure it knew it was being followed. I thought about how strange it is for a WHITE butterfly to be amonst so much green! It stands out like a sore thumb, well I have a feeling this photo will teach you something. When it landed instead of staying on top of the leaf and closing it’s wings, it very quickly flipped under the leaf and laid it’s wings out. Now you’d think oh I’ll still see the white, but no, the green leaf reflected on it’s wings and it now looked green! How cool is that? If you ask questions as you stand and watch the bugs and critters around you, you’ll start to notice details you never thought of before.
Here is the gloriously beautiful male Baltimore Oriole! I love seeing them, such an intense orange and yellow breast set off by deep black like velvet! He’s way up in an oak tree looking down at me, can you tell? I love this picture of him. This was along Oak Lane and I ended up standing still here for quite a long time. I kept hearing several different birds give their warning chirp like they had babies near.
I’m glad I stood as long as I did, I caught sight of what I guessed was a female Oriole and studied where she disappeared to. Aha! They have a nest way up in the oak tree, hanging out over the path! It’s amazing that birds can actually weave a basket nest like this in the tree and it supports the eggs and adult, later all growing into heavier fledglings. If you look close you can just see the female through the leaves, leaning down into the nest to feed the babies.
I think this little green guy who came to visit me while I was eating and painting was really neat! I haven’t found him yet in my field guide, I think I need another bug guide to cross reference.
And last we have a very black, very shiney beetle…no I don’t think it’s this beetle but I’d love to hear some suggestions? Closest I’ve come is either a ‘Ground Beetle’, or ‘Red Legged Ham Beetle’ or a ‘Blue Milkweed Beetle’.
I hope you enjoyed the walk with me today, so much was seen and discovered in what looks just like an ordinary field and woodland edge. Take time to stand or sit still and just watch what the creatures around you do. And you’ll see so much more if you look a bit closer at the ground, grasses or flowers as there is always something living there.
Please post a comment if you like and if you may know what my bugs or flowers are, please lets have a stab at it!
Here’s the books I referenced after my hike today:
Reader's Digest Wildflowers Guide
Nat.Wildlife Fed. Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of N. America
The day was gorgeous, it was flying by too quickly while I worked inside, longing looks out over my field. Finally I grabbed my cameras, sun hat and rubber mud boots and said “That’s it! Let’s go for a walk Ginger!” Ginger goes nuts of course at the word ‘walk’; I feel relief already and a whole new energy coming in as we leave the yard behind. Sometimes it’s good to not plan, I’m an over planner. Having a field sketching kit ready to grab at a moments notice or your camera and extra battery ready is all you need.
Here I have my new favorite camera slung across my body, I find if you let the strap out all the way carrying it this way is less stress on your neck. I usually walk with the lens cover off, tucked into my back pocket. It’s ready to slip on if I go through brush or kneel down to investigate something where tall ‘stuff’ can scratch the lens. The camera is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28; I have an adapter on it so I can use that big Teleconversion Lens. Everything I shoot is hand-held so when I get clear shots I’m so happy, I just can’t set up a tripod while birding, bugging etc. but all the years of birdwatching comes in handy as I find it easy to spot and zoom on just the right area. The other little camera you see on my belt loop I find to be such a help and compliment to using the big lens, it’s an olympus FE 230 and I love it to peices! It’s great at taking super up close pictures and little movie clips. The movie clips on this blog are all mostly taken with it. (If you want to see all posts with clips, go to my Catagories list and click “Video Clips”) I took this pic by balancing the Olympus camera on a fence and used the timer…it’s a blast to take pics of yourself while out hiking. You are there in your element, why shouldn’t you remember that great big smile on your face?
Song Sparrow Male Watching Me
The first exciting thing was spotting this male Song Sparrow, he was constantly perched about the tops of these small bushes in the middle of my field, around 40 feet away. I took snap after snap of one of my favorite little sparrows, I can’t wait to do a painting of him.
Male Song Sparrow-warning call
I point out here, he was not singing but constantly giving that little “CHIP” call they do when disturbed. Being that I was nowhere near him, I thought maybe he had a nest over there. BUT…..
Song Sparrow Fledgling
Look what I saw as I turned to go…just down in the bushes right near me was a fledgling song sparrow! He was hot out of the nest I presume and sitting still as a statue. NOW I knew why the male Song Sparrow was calling. I carefully took slow steps all around the baby and took pictures, I had to move back a few steps in fact because of that long zoom lens I had. I also whipped out my little Olympus and took some snaps then after I was sure I had captured his mug for posterity from all angles, (picture me creeping around him step by step through heavy brush) I shot a short video clip of him (find it at the end of this post!).
Red Winged Black Bird Male
Moving on. A male Red Winged Blackbird was scolding from way up high in a seed laden tree as Ginger wandered beneath him, not noticing. Then I turned my attention to what was below in the grasses and shrubs. I didn’t need to go far today to find a myriad of wonders. When you go into a field next, just stand still and start to count the number of things you notice; bend down and move some grasses and see what bugs you surprise.
12 Spotted Skimmer Dragonfly
I love Dragonflies, did you know they’ve been around since the time of the dinosaurs? This is a female 12 Spotted Skimmer, each of it’s four wings has three spots, do the math and you get twelve! That’d be great for a math lesson…3×4=12. The female has yellow lines on her sides and black spots on the wings, the male has black and white spots and a pale blue abdomen. If I hadn’t caught a photo of her, I’d never have identified what it kind it was later. It was difficult to catch her though, she flew, landed and disappeared each time; I had to point at where I ‘thought’ she went and zoom in hoping to find her…well you can see I did.
Butterfly on a Daisey
I still need to identify this butterfly I think it’s a ….. What a perfect shot to show how the butterflies coloring and pattern help to protect it. He’s poised on a daisey to feed, notice the color of his back wings (‘hind wings’) match the color of the flower center. Then in his forwings you see little marks of white that make a stripey pattern, just like the petals! If you start to question why something behaves the way it does, or looks the way it does, you’ll find nature around you to be immensely more interesting! And if your and artist, studying these details even if you don’t paint them, helps in understanding your subject.
Here’s a what’s either a Yellow-collared Scape Moth or a Grapeleaf Skeletonizer. I’ve seen these around the yard over the years and never paid much attention to them. Now I look closer at everything since I’ve started Nature Sketching. I would never have known this was a moth, as I went back to study him further I found two species that look similar. Time to call in reinforcements on this ID!
Next we have the unromantic Spittlebug! I have to further investigate further to see if it’s a ‘Two Lined’ or a ‘Meadow’ Spittlebug. I learned this one when I was in girl scouts, away back when. Funny thing is, in England I found out they call it “Cukoo Spit” because it appears around the time the Cukoos come back in Spring! At the center of this mass of ‘spit’ bubbles is a larvae that surrounds itself like this while feeding. The adult feeds on the sap of grains and grasses.
I never would have seen this little guy if I wasn’t poking around in the grasses looking at Spittlebugs! For a grasshopper he’s handsome and trim..haha..if one can describe a grasshopper that way. If anyone knows what kind it is I’d love to know, I am not versed in grasshopper! I had a good look through my “Feild Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America” (National Wildlife Fed.) and couldn’t find one just like it. Notice the leaf next to him to the right, it’s dying off and looks as though there may be eggs laid underneath? Interesting to note the color, it changed to a Cadmium Yellow to a rosy pink (Alizarin Crimson would work nice here). There is new fresh life and at the same time decay supporting more life all around us. It’s just nature’s natural cycle.
Birdsfoot Trefoil - from above
Birdsfoot Trefoil - underside
I now turn my attention to the beautiful wildflowers in the grasses. This is Bird’s Foot Trefoil, leaves in threes (‘tre’) and named Bird’s Foot because the flowers form a cluster of five at the top, when they turn to seed pods it looks like a birds toes.
This is Daisy Fleabane, my “Readers Digest Guide to Wildflowers” says that it was once hung in houses to help rid them of fleas! Most people would look at these popping up in thier gardens as weeds, but there are really pretty. They grow with the blossoms in clusters at the top of a delicate stem. As I took this photo I was returning from my hike with Ginger down “Pasture Lane”, the grass is very long and it’s shady and right next to a ditch of water, a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes! They came up in clouds around me but I still nabbed this photo with my tiny Olympus camera…taking some bites on my arms! OUCH! One insect I don’t enjoy studying!
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