Battle of Elephants

In my book, Coming Home for Good, I reminisced about some of the wildlife highlights of my childhood, as a budding young naturalist growing up in rural Sussex – including my excited discovery of Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars one day, on willowherb next to a secluded lake that I’d often visit. I delightedly took those 3 or 4 elephantine larvae home and reared them through to the gaudy pink and green adult moths before releasing them into the wild.

Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar – photo taken today

For my young mind, it was such an incredible and unique find, that ever since that day, whenever I see willowherb (which, as it’s very common, is a lot of the time!) I look out for these caterpillars, just in case I might find them again.

So, when I came across two Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars in Battle Great Wood today, for the first time in 40 years, with a chance to photograph them, I was filled with excitement.

I’d understand if, to you, these creatures simply look fascinating, strange, scary, ugly, beautiful, or whatever. To me, they’re certainly beautiful and fascinating, but they also provide a link to the happier elements of an often-unhappy childhood. And I was thrilled.

As mentioned in my last post, The Leaves of the Trees, there are many – and mounting – reasons to (re)connect with nature. Coming Home for Good is an autobiography about my reconnecting with God, myself, my father and my future – a homecoming of many kinds – and my ongoing and increasing love of nature is an important part of that continued homecoming, or self-discovery. Or reconnection with self.

But as explained further in About, aside from all those spiritual and psychological facets, I simply love nature for nature’s sake. So this blog is sometimes simply my nature journal and photo gallery. Hence the following notes and pics…

According to my moths book, Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillars are usually found late-June to September, so these specimens in Great Wood are somewhat late, and no doubt close to pupation.

More timely was this female Brimstone – a species often found in Autumn.

However, I’ve hardly ever found a chance to photograph one, so this occasion was a rare and valued treat, as the butterfly soaked in the sun and shimmered brilliantly on the bracken.  

Purple Heather, growing through a fungus

I’ve never really explored this woodland before, but I’ll definitely be back to explore some more, as today Battle Great Wood was truly ‘Great’.

[All photos taken by me today (10/10/19) in Battle Great Wood, near Battle, East Sussex, UK, while Gorka, my ‘Heinz 57’ dog, waited for the most part patiently and sometimes sullenly…]


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