21st July 2005: Ashstead Common Woods, Surrey

A strange day with an unlikely combination of butterflies, of Ringlets, of Speckled Woods - of Holly Blues and Ringlets - both on the wing when the Ringlets should have perished. We saw one White Admiral by the pond on Ashstead Common and a very pale and dished specimen it was. We did however see two Silver Washed Fritillaries and one very faded one. Our first! As for the Purple Emperor not a sign. I even wondered whether the Purple Emperor had yet emerged, destroyed by the cold weather in late April and May. In fact, as we later found out, the butterfly had emerged but the numbers were very low. We may well have seen one circling high above Chessington Woods riding a thermal like a hawk. So good was their emergence a few years ago they have spread far and wide, one even seen on Wandsworth Common; so they may well have spread down into the low lying Chessington oak woods.

 Took videos of the Purple Hairstreak as they descended onto the lower oaks. This was around midday by the side of the path through the 'top oaks'. The main site is usually for the Purple Emperors. I managed to get footage of them 'feeding' on green bramble fruits. On closer inspection their tongues were probing the intersecting lobes of the green fruit probably for water or even sap because the fruit contained no nectar, obviously. I also got footage of the Holly Blue doing the same and then found it transferred rapidly to the fading bramble flowers where it did actually nectar.

 It will not only be human beings that who will be chasing for water in the near future for even "the last butterflies will be thirsty' according to Rimbaud.


1st August 2005: Healey Mills Marshalling Yards, West Yorks

 If only I had visited the yards yesterday, it was sunny though the day had dawned overcast and very unpromising. I cursed the fact that I had not taken potluck and gone in any case.

 I spent most of the day lying on the bankside in the heather triangle concealed from prying eyes. An EWS (English/Welsh/Scottish) van had been drawn up off the main pathway. Twice or thrice I went to see if it was still there. I was disappointed to not finding Graylings and feared the worst. Around 16 00 hours the weather looked as if it might be clearing up so I went off in search of the Grayling. Before long I had seen one and gave chase to photograph it. Once more I was impressed with the thrilling disused feel of the yards: a veritable graveyard of locomotives.

 I managed to get about ten minutes of film when I was almost caught. A passing EWS driver in his locomotive must have alerted security and I've got it on film.

 I was told by security that if I returned to the yards I would be arrested. I could have kicked myself for not taking more care, however I did learn that the EWS did not own the elevated pathway, which goes across the yards and that the yards would not be sold off to a housing developer. However there were plans to upgrade the yards probably in the next ten years. The manager appeared exasperated and I think he spends a considerable amount of time chasing people out of the yards with the transport police reluctant to come out and make arrest. He said because of my presence the main line train had been stopped. I suppose his job was on the line if anyone is killed under his watch but at the end of the day the guy was a jobs worth and seemed to take a delight in saying the yards would be developed and my lovely Grayling would be dead and buried in the process and good riddance. More than ever this year I have become convinced butterflies and the fight for their conservation is becoming Osama Bin Laden with wings and we terrorist lepidopterists. It does clearly reveal how terror is working criminalising all descent at the same time as society becomes more anarchic in a bad way.

 I was depressed by the outcome and trudged up Healey Road recollecting maybe the last time I had done this was 50 years ago. And then I went along Southdale Road passing our old school, our secondary modern school. Walking and waiting at the bus stop on Station Road at the top of Southdale Road I decided I had little choice but to become a martyr to the cause of butterflies and that I was going to have to take some really heavy action. I had been forced to trade the study of butterflies for the study of war and strategy. I was unable to get to sleep that night until well after 03 00 hours so powerful was the adrenaline running through me. But I did not want it to be like that.

 While waiting for the clouds to clear when I was in the heather triangle, I did not have anything to do so I read an article in the Guardian by Madeline Bunting on Pester Power "Trouble in Store" about kids on corners. These 'born-to-buy' kids by the age of ten frequently know 300 brand names and more. Madeline Bunting is one of those journalists who see something but is never ever able to grasp the subject with all the radicality it deserves. Sitting here alone I could only think what is the future for humanity when today's children are like they are and that it is increasingly being left to older people to fight for the right of nature to exist.

 And then I was caught humiliated made to feel guilty just like any naughty child and was made to see the error of my ways: The obvious pointed out to me like as though I was a child – when the obvious was not at all evident.


2nd August 2005: Odsal Woods, Bradford, West Yorks

 How different my encounters were on the following day. Here the people I talked to were interested and curious. One would recall how there were clouds of butterflies in the Bradford area during wartime – the Second World War - when there were many more allotments. However although I expect the butterflies were mainly brassicae that is the Cabbage Whites - the Small and Large Whites. I told him of my misadventure in the marshalling yards but he thought that litigation culture will come full circle and people will eventually have to accept more responsibility for their actions and not constantly seek to prosecute should anything bad happen to them. This is just leading to bland nature.


5th August 2005: Denso Marston Nature Reserve on the banks of the River Aire, Shipley, West Yorks

 Although this reserve is ideal for the White Letter Hairstreak we previously had found there, the day was cool and windy and this must have affected the butterflies. Surprisingly there was no Gatekeeper although the terrain was ideal and yet they are on Baildon Moor and in the Boars Well. Are the Gatekeepers in the quarry on Wind Hill? Obviously it is still worthwhile tracking the still incoming Gatekeepers (or Hedge Browns) into the Bradford area. However I did find a Ringlet in the Denso Marsten reserve.


 7th August 2005: Back to Healey Mills Marshalling Yards, West Yorks

 The numbers of Graylings appear drastically down I would say three quarters to two thirds. The cold weather in May might have been crucial so let's hope they can recover. They were not to be found in their usual hot spots although the lateness of the day was probably a factor in this.

 In any case it was all very nerve racking. However I had to confront the fear. And though it is necessary to be vigilant I think on a Sunday there is nobody in the yards. I had disturbed dreams the night before and that magnificent combination in the yards of grasses, rusting railways, rusting points, rusting bolts and Grayling butterflies. All this now in my dream was threatening to me as an individual, criminalised and out of bounds.

 The good point was although we did not find any Grayling on Storrs Hill; we did find the Brown Argus - in fact two of them. We then found the same butterfly in the heather triangle in Healey Mills although not in the area where I photographed one back in May and June. They appeared to be freshly emerged and almost the darkest Brown Argus that I have ever seen, rather small and near perfect ab: cramara. So at least we have established the three points of a triangle that of Forge Lane, the marshalling yards and Storrs Hill. This cannot be the only colony in West Yorks and there must be a number of others.


8th August 2005: Dinnington Colliery Spoil Heap, South Yorks

 A couple of remarkable Common Blues, one male the other female and I photographed them on the spoil heap. Also a dark 'typical' female which vagely resembled a Brown Argus. As time passes resemblance is likely to increase.


 9th August 2005: Kiveton Spoil Heap, Waleswood spoil heap and Rother Valley Country Park

 Saw my first second generation Dingy Skipper and in Yorkshire of all places! I thought this only happened in the South West of England.

 First of all went to Kiveton, and the new landscaping here is appalling. Millions of pounds have been spent on it and I doubt the Dingy Skipper has survived. Although the areas where they fly have been left unmolested they need the bare earth or shale and this has been covered with thicknesses of clay and soil and this will be grassed over. The only thing to do is coppice the slopes and burn off the undergrowth leaving patches of shale. I would not have thought such a cock up was possible.

 I met a Michael Palin character on the spoil heap. Apparently he had once been an engineer although he had started out as an electrician. He was now retired but I suspect he had had a nervous breakdown. He was obsessed with spoil heaps and all pit workings and his knowledge of the coal industry was incredible. He thought that nuclear power rather than coal was most likely the new energy option in this country.

 Evidently what we were walking on over the spoil heap was, I leant, burnt shale, product of the transformation that takes place when the spoil heaps caught on fire. The guy carefully listened to our tales of Bunting's Beavers and appeared to have several nutty friends one who was convinced the CIA was listening in on him and had smashed a woman's mobile on a bus and then fought with other passengers including the bus driver. Finally the man ended up in jail for seven months and as our man on the spoil heap said, seven months in an asylum was more appropriate. He was set to visit him this Friday.

 His knowledge of coal workings, fault lines, geology and old industrial structures was considerable. He had supported the miners' strike and this had changed his life. He came out with a scary little ditty: "Mary had a little lamb but sat down by a pylon, suddenly there was a power surge and the lamb became nylon".

 He was an innocent at large and a very typical South Yorkshire character. He had become an amateur geologist as a result of a long detour. He mentioned how the spoil from Kellingley Colliery has been taken out by road and tipped down Thorne mineshaft, some 2000 metres deep. Gale Common, the site of the old Kellingley Colliery spoil heap had now become opencast and they were taking out the coal which is then transported to nearby power stations where it is mixed with high grade coal from abroad, milled and the pulverised dust then blasted into furnaces almost like a liquid.


10th August 2005: Dinnington Spoil Heap, South Yorks

 Found a perfect ab: cramara Brown Argus on the spot where the Dingy Skipper flies. It had only recently emerged without a scale out of place. This was the only Brown Argus we saw! We moved onto Waleswood where we found at the side of the Mansfield Road, a second-generation colony of Dingy Skippers. They never moved out of the ditch where we initially saw them.

 We then went into the Rother Valley County Park. It was still warm the sun had gone in and if there were Dingy Skippers they did not take wing. However we did see a Clouded Yellow flying up and down in the overcast late afternoon. It seemed to be a patrolling flight covering a large area of ground without finally ever landing though I did finally manage to get some video for a brief moment.


11th August 2005: Back to the Dinnington Spoil Heap

 Returned and found a very different Brown Argus, this one not quite so perfect, with occluding lunules on the top wing. However there was no sign of the previous day's ab: cramara Brown Argus.


 14th August 2005: Forge Lane, Horbury Bridge, West Yorks

 Failed to find the Brown Argus for the second year. Then went on towards Horbury Bridge taking the scenic route by the riverbank, which turned out to be long and tiring. However we came across some other old railway sidings now covered by carr woodland, which could have benefited from being coppiced much earlier.


 15th August 2005: Mirfield and Ravensthorpe near Dewsbury, West Yorks

 The railway sidings at Mirfield: There was a reasonable second emergence of Common Blue. Interestingly we did not see one blue female - all were brown. For a brief moment I thought one was a Brown Argus.

 Mirfield promises more than it delivers, although it may still hold treasures and in sheltered corners of the yard there may be Dingy Skippers after all. The bare earth may be sufficient for a small Grayling colony too. Moving onto Ravensthorpe, we'd barely stepped off the train and we spotted a butterfly I thought might be a Grayling, although David wondered if it could have been a Dark Green Fritillary. Going on to the bare earth behind the platform, for a brief moment I was convinced I had found a Grayling..... At last! It turned out to be a very tattered Wall butterfly. However the Walls are doing exceptionally well around Ravensthorpe Station and in years to come an entry like this could make others gasp with envy.

 However, I doubt if the Grayling will ever become established at Ravensthorpe. Suitable areas are too cramped and confined and the Graylings require large arid areas in which to fly. If so Healey Mills Marshalling Yards is the only suitable spot for miles around. This being the case it is more than ever imperative to preserve the butterfly there. We searched along the Spen Valley greenway but to no avail. The actual greenway is a tarmacadam path which cyclists use. However it would have been far better to have left it as a cinder path once the railway lines had been torn up.

 Met a guy on a bike who stopped by the bench on which we were sitting. Most would regard him as simple, yet there was intelligence at work. He relished the thought of more petrol price rises and hoped Iran would switch off the taps saying, "Every cloud has a silver lining". He said in this case the disappearance of cars and the return of railways and cycling will be of great benefit. I am now so tired and this was the bright spot of the day. I am weary of searching for butterflies and glad the end of the season is in sight.


 17th August 2005: Castleford and Wheldale, West Yorks

 Arrived at the entrance to the RSPB reserve at Castleford Cut and the first thing I saw was a Brown Argus. For a brief moment I thought I was seeing something else but there were no Common Blues to hand. I began to think the Brown Argus must now cover all of Fairburn Ings. However, they were restricted to quite a small area not more than thirty yards square. I searched for their food plant on the site but found nothing. However, moving up by the side of the ponds there was much meadow cranesbill but they never appeared to fly into the area where the meadow cranesbill was. There were some kids leaping into the canal from the old fenced-off railway bridge - a magnificent industrial relic. These kids were surprisingly friendly perhaps even a trifling intimidated when they caught me talking to a birder with binoculars slung around his neck.

 There was a fairly large second-generation emergence of Common Blues. Given the size of the colony it must the biggest I have ever seen, so it is hardly surprising there is such variation. But the majority of females were by and large the dark normal form and superficially quite difficult to distinguish from the Brown Argus.

 The day was exceptionally fine and hot and I found myself waiting around for the afternoon heat to subside. Come 16 00 hours the Common Blue females were opening their wings and I hurried back to the Brown Argus colony in hoping of procuring more photos. Alas they had all but vanished but I did get some photographs of one puddling on a damp flush. I disturbed another in the same area so presumably it was doing the same. Even in the late afternoon - around 16 30 hours plus - they were still jumpy and difficult to photo although at this time the Common Blues were much easier to photograph than earlier in the day. The Common Blue continued flying and playing long after the Brown Argus had settled down.

 I love this RSPB reserve, as nature more or less here has been allowed to take its course helped by a seeding with birds foot trefoil, knapweed and even some kidney betch. It is very calming sitting by the side of the lakes listening to the breeze sighing through the sedge. Bits of metal protrude from the ground and here and there are the remains of a railway line with rotting sleepers. One extraordinary fact, I did not see one Gatekeeper - plenty of Meadow Browns and Walls - but not one Hedge Brown. In fact they had all 'passed over' and it wasn't even the third week of August in a fairly cool year!


18th August 2005: Skelton Grange & Rothwell County Park, West Yorks

 I had hoped to see many things, maybe even a disturbed or a dished Grayling or a second generation Dingy Skipper. All I did see were Common Blues but there could be Brown Argus on what seemed to be a perfect site by the bank side entrance to Rothwell County Park. There was an abundance of meadow cranesbill and some herb robert. The seeding as a whole has worked well and I particularly liked the way the landscaped area gave out onto bare shale.

 I have a feeling the old sewerage works at Skelton Grange is in the process of being prepared for a housing development. Is nowhere safe? I thought the stench would have preserved the area from development. No Strawberry Fields here! But this is Leeds and any land even the most contaminated is at a premium. As a rough guide I would say there are more normal females at Skelton Grange whilst Rothwell County Park is characterised by an increase in blue females. The season is virtually at an end and I am exhausted. I feel I have given it my best shot this year and there are no glaring sins of omission.

 Rothwell County Park appears to be still used by bikers. Where the rain runs off the shale a series of mounds have been formed. They have been used and reshaped by the bikers to make an obstacle course. It is so much more intrusting than the sculptural crap paid for out of the millennium lottery fund, which is just so much nonsense. It is a pity the bikers do not have a wider vision one that involves nature for their activities are so much better in the last analysis than this ridiculous public art that is increasingly colonising spoil heap makeovers.


20th August 2005: Raw Nook railway sidings, Bradford, West Yorks

 Second generation Common Blues. The normal brown females appear to be more tattered than the blue females suggesting they may have emerged earlier. Met Colin Dukes of the Friends of Judy Woods dressed in battles fatigues. He is a former solider but has also worked as a lab assistance in Leeds University. An intense edgy person, brilliant but mad, and oh yes, he had pitched a bivouac in an out of the way spot beneath the trees.


21st August 2005: Castleford and Wheldale, West Yorks

 At first I only saw a faded specimen of a Brown Argus although within the space of only three days most of the colony had perished. I had began to see more and finally around 16 30 hours I saw my most perfect specimen securing one still though got no video footage which I badly wanted with the chemical works in the background. It appeared to me the colony clings to the banks of the Aire/Calder navigation, so obviously this is a task for next year. I photographed a small Common Blue which at the time I was convinced was a Brown Argus though now looking at the photo it must be a Common Blue and quite a small one. It wasn't shy about opening its wings in the hot afternoon sun, which makes one think it had to be a Brown Argus.

 The Brown Argus appears to range more than the Common Blue. Though the males do patrol they are less insistent than the Common Blue. Also they are more apt to fly over bridges possibly in search of their food plant, and possibly again flitting across a marshy area to reach the meadow cranesbill. However I have yet to see one actually on meadow cranesbill.

 More and more people are using the path from Castleford to Fairburn Ings. Kids were jumping off the old bridge into the Aire/Calder navigation and where once they would have made a point of being aggressive now they just get on with their play.


26th August 2005: Ranmore Common, Dorking, Surrey

 An extraordinary good emergence of the Adonis Blue. There were in comparison few Common Blues and all of them were bashed. However of those that I did see there was not one blue female. The Chalk Hill Blue was still on the wing, though starting to look very dished. The Adonis Blue on the contrary was in the prime of its second emergence.

 We found a veritable colony of Adonis Blue puddling or extracting minerals in a liquid form on a dog turd. There was also one Chalk Hill Blue and a male Common Blue in attendance. There were no females. There were a number of female Adonis Blues flying close by. This rare opportunity to see many Adonis Blues was made possible by heavy rains the night before, the sheltered bank side by the path skirting Denbies Hillside, plus the hazy sunshine, which encouraged the blues to open their wings in this spectacular display of togetherness.


The year is now 2006.


30th April 2006: Prince of Wales Park, Eldwick, Bradford, West Yorks

 On entering the Park I saw a crouching figure photographing Green Hairstreaks. It turned out to be Tom a member of BOTBC and the chair of the West Yorkshire Dragonfly Society. I filmed two ab: caecus of the Green Hairstreaks but the sun soon went in for the day. However Tom excitedly returned to say he had found an Emperor moth. He phoned Susan Stead who lived nearby and she came quickly. The Emperor looked to be freshly emerged briefly moving its body possibly to eviscerate scent.

 Jenny then turned up and both Susan and her showed a tremendous interest on the moth, Susan in particular. Two other women stopped by to look at the moth. I went back to Jenny's. She needs some building works done, a tricky job, but if it was my place I would not hesitate to do it.


2nd May 2006: Prince of Wales Park, Eldwick, Bradford, West Yorks

 A cool day it looked as if it may clear up and the sun came out intermittently but nothing to waken the Green Hairstreaks. The Emperor was still there as unmoving as ever. How like an oak leaf it looked from a distance. Even the ribbing on the dead leaf looked a bit like the venation on the Emperor's wings. A couple of male blackbirds were hopping around the bilberry shrubs. One tried to alight on a sprig of bilberry but was unable to maintain its balance like a meadow pipit is able to do. So it hopped down to the ground and continued searching the leaf litter for small grubs. As long as the Emperor remains motionless it is unlikely to attract attention. Susan turned up, she was complaining about the rash of new housing spreading across South East England.


3rd May 2006: Brow Ghyll, Otley, West Yorks

 The warmest day of the year so far! I espied my first Green Hairstreaks on the first batch of bilberry on the lower slope. In fact I was to photograph this one over and over again for the butterflies were just emerging. I crawled up to the top of the lower slopes where I had photographed Green Hairstreaks last year. Although the bilberry was just only coming out I managed to spot a Green Hairstreak perching on a rowan tree. Was it patrolling or merely behaving like the male does? It looked freshly emerged and like the partial ab: punctata I had seen on the lower slope had a bit out of its lower wing. This particular Hairstreak seemed to favour the rowan and in fact the viridian florets and green leaves were those of the Green Hairstreak.

 Back to the lower slope where I chanced on a Green Hairstreak perching on the rowan. It flew off and rested on some bramble close to the ground. I managed to photograph it before it flew off. I even photographed a more panoramic view with bare ash branches in the background through which a house was just visible just over the former Otley Railway cutting.

 When I moved in the direction of the bridge I found what I was looking for. Initially there were two Hairstreaks but only one was to remain flitting around the hawthorn bush until I left around 1600 hours. As the sun declined the butterfly followed the passage of the sun, shifting increasingly from the right to the left. The hawthorn tree was particularly favoured by the st mark flies. Sometimes their buzzing would irritate the Hairstreak and it would fly off from the perch in annoyance if buzzed by a fly. However if other butterflies like the Comma got too close to the Hairstreak it would take off invariable chasing the butterfly.

 For two hours the butterfly never once settled on the bilberry to nectar. It preferred to patrol absorbing the sun tilting itself at a 45-degree angle to the sun's rays. How accurate is this angle? It is never significantly less than 45 degrees. The butterfly preferred its male role to feeding. Do the females actually approach the perching males flaunting themselves in order to attract their attention?


4th May 2006: The Chevin, Otley, West Yorks

 I spent the entire day around the citrus spruce. Sometimes standing, sometimes sitting with the camcorder pointing directly upwards. Were all the Green Hairstreaks fumbling and dancing around the spruce males? Was it the war of one male against all others or something at the same time joyous? It was a hot day and sometimes up to fifteen Green Hairstreaks could be seen dancing around the spruce. Perhaps females were drawn in to the flying frenzy unable to resist the unrestrained cavorting. Perhaps some had been drawn to the tree looking for a male, only to encounter jovial revelry. I have a feeling mating rituals are more discrete and quiet. Was all the dexterity merely territorial or was some of the spiralling flights partly nuptials? And besides, with all this activity male pheromones must have become very mixed up and if a female were amongst the rivals she would become spoilt for choice. In fact she would be unable to make a choice!

 During the entire four and half hours I was there a bird never once visited the spruce. A meadow pipit flew close overhead but never tarried continuing on with its dipping flight. The Green Hairstreaks were not only using the conifers branches as perches but also appeared to be nectaring on the flowers. I munched some but they were quite tasteless to me although the young pinecones tasted somewhat like porridge and that wasn't an unpleasant taste. When I left the hairstreaks were still cavorting over all of the spruce although they were now settling on the lower branches.

 They were very visible on the spruce except when seeing them edge on when they just looked like a pine needle. But otherwise, their shape rather more than their colouring made them very visible standing out against the stiff green bristles. If at right angles to one of the pine needles it was easier to make them out even right at the top of the tree, which was some 20ft from the ground.

 Towards late afternoon a cloud of midges appeared. Singletons would swerve to avoid the cloud but four to five hairstreaks were dancing merrily together and they would pass right through them. If it was only a matter of a couple of Hairstreaks, the cloud of midges would visible shift towards them. The bilberry was just coming out and a few hairstreaks were on the bilberry. By far the greatest concentration of all was to be found around the spruce.


5th May 2006: Hollybank Bluff between Queensbury and Halifax

 I missed the opportunity of photographing the preliminaries of mating between two Green Hairstreaks. I suspect the mating was very perfunctory with the virtual absence of courtship. Both specimens looked quite dished. Much landing by the Hairstreaks on the desecrated shoots of last year's heather blooms. The bilberry was hardly out and although the Hairstreaks were quite numerous it was nowhere near the full emergence. One I photographed there was of the same pinkish flush as the bilberry. Was I seeing it right or was it a cinematic observation due to observing the butterfly through a lens? The mating pair was to be found on bramble.


6th May 2006: Brow Gyhll, Otley, West Yorks

 The Green Hairstreaks have only just emerged so despite it being a hot day there was not many about. The few that were flying appeared to favour the bilberry to perching. In other words they had yet to demarcate territory. Hanging around on the bilberry they were in a better position to encounter freshly emerged females. Such territorial behaviour is more a symptom of peak emergence. Further up the slope we came across a couple of Green Hairstreaks and two adjacent hawthorn trees. Occasionally they would engage in combat but mostly they stuck to their own tree. One I photographed persisted on returning to the same hawthorn spray over and over again.

 Brow Ghyll faces north and is at an oblique angle to the sun. The trees cast long shadows down the steep hillside even in the bright noonday sun. Without adequate coppicing the Green Hairstreak will disappear in ten years or so or it will become too overgrown for them. I managed to photograph a Green Hairstreak with as a background, planes coming into land at Leeds & Bradford airport. Once the sky had become overcast by 15 00 hours, the Green Hairstreaks had settled down on the hawthorn and it was almost impossible to find them apart from on the hawthorn leaves. When a breeze ruffled their wings the movement was slightly different to that of the hawthorn leaf but probably not sufficient to give the game away to a predator, despite the outline of the wings becoming more visible and with fewer indentations than a hawthorn leaf.


8th May 2006: Oats Royd, Queensbury, West Yorks

 A Gorse Shield Bug – piezodorus lituratus. Feeds on seeds and fruits - females look after their eggs, which she sits on for several weeks until they hatch. Young adults have a reddish tinge especially on the wings from their emergence until hibernation time.

 After yesterday's interminable rain, cold and a washed out Green Hairstreak meeting in the Prince of Wales Park, things today were rather better. It was a misty day with no clear views because of the condensation from yesterday's rain. The bilberry was just coming out and there was no Green Hairstreaks along the path but we found a number lower down close to Strines Beck. One was lying on a bluff overlooking the lower path. I managed to collect an egg after photographing the butterfly.

 In one of the ponds there were tens of thousands of tadpoles barely two weeks old. A garden fork was jammed into the bank providing a strange touch like an out of place garden fork, the fork horizontal not vertical. We found an open coppice in which there were a number of Green Hairstreaks. On Oats Royd the Green Hairstreaks have a habit of taking to thick clumps of grass. They would fly some fifty yards or more to do this and they don't do this elsewhere to such a marked extent. Local behavioural characteristics are a fact giving to each colony an individuality it is difficult to account for.

 We found a coppice that was ringed by spruce and larch. However, it was on one large tree in particular that was favoured. Around this Green Hairstreak couples tumbled and spiralled, one hairstreak taking off into the blue only to return and eventually mate high up the larch near the very top. Though two young spruces were used as perches - those showing an abundance of green shoots - never once did the Green Hairstreaks land on the maturer spruces where they would have been very visible. On the larch they blended in very successfully. The young cones are also reddish in colour, another combination of the primary colours the Green Hairstreaks make great play with.

 Some of these Green Hairstreaks looked a trifled dished like they had been out for a week or so. Perhaps as long as in the Prince of Wales Park in Eldwick. Photographed the st marks fly and a gorse shield bug climbed onto my lens. However the insect was quite a long way from the gorse.


9th May 2006: Bare Head Quarry, Shibden Dale, West Yorks

 Either the Green Hairstreaks are yet to emerge or the numbers were down on last year. We found them all on the lower end of the quarry or in sheltered spots close the top. Three were to be seen on the heather at the very top. One flew over into the barest part of the quarry, there to rest and bask on the heat. This is an awkward living place to access.


 11th May 2006: Prince of Wales Park, Eldwick, West Yorks

 Am becoming exhausted, my legs are becoming heavy as lead and on straightening up turned dizzy with the heat and exhaustion. I only saw five Green Hairstreaks probably all males. I think the females must lay some distance away from favourite male perches from the 'top' billberry as it were. We need at least fifteen Green Hairstreaks and not five to get a better idea of their favourite laying site. Possibly they gave the game away by some lengthy perambulating before deciding to lay. Maybe they lay upside down head and feelers towards the ground.


Many Long Horns! They are they a semi social insect, acting as if on cue - one settles and then they all eventually settle. I have never seen one mating. Such swarms are hardly propitious to mating. A number of Brown Silverline moths, I saw around four, partially diurnal. They may have had an impact of the spreading bracken, halting it somewhat.

 Local behaviours? The males use the 'top' of bilberry as perches rather than trees and different therefore from the Green Hairstreak at Oaks Royd. There are plenty of likely trees in the Prince of Wales Park so why don't the Green Hairstreaks make better use of them? The Green Hairstreaks here seem to favour one particular bilberry bush.


12th May 2006: Windy Bank Lane and Hollybank Bluff, between Bradford and Halifax

 More Green Hairstreaks it seems on Windy Bank Lane than in the Prince of Wales Park. There are deer, road deer on Hollybank Bluff. I thought they were Great Dane dogs without an owner until I saw one leaping like only a deer can. Later I was to surprise a pair of them, but they retreated into the conifers and would not oblige me with a photograph. On the actual bluff around from the ravine - a very exposed spot without bushes - there is a short sward of bilberry and there in surprisingly high numbers were Green Hairstreaks. Perhaps these are females beyond the reach of male attention and therefore allowed to lay their eggs in peace.

 Back at the holly trees and later in the day more males used the bilberry as their perches, just occasionally, very occasionally landing on the holly bush. I left around 17 30 hours and now and again the males would buzz each other and dance over the bilberry. Do the females interrupt the males? Are they territorial in regard to other egg-laying females hogging the best spots for themselves? Shall we ever be able to distinguish them on the basis of behaviour alone?

 Photographed two Green Hairstreaks on a holly bush during a down pour in the early afternoon. One flew off but the other sort shelter under the leaves, hanging upside down from a holly sprig, flying off when the sun came out. It is possible to get very close a Green Hairstreak with a large camera lens when the sun goes in. Does its entire body go to sleep including the all-important eyesight becoming temporarily blind? When coming to life warmed by the suns rays the wings twitch and this is the only time one catches a glimpse of the brown under wing.


20th May 2006: Tesco's new store - Great Horton, Bradford, West Yorks

 Returning to Bradford, the great Tesco temple had opened in Great Horton. It has been an awful couple of days, the rain has barely stopped and a cold northeasterly wind has whipped through everything tearing twigs off the trees.

 Tesco's was a compensation - horrid though it is to admit it. This was a shopping experience provoking awe, even a sense of sublime as the back wall of this monstrous cavern was lined with HD TV screens and the bargains, like as if capitalism was in the process of suppressing price and eventually making everything free.

 This experience actually broke down barriers between people as major events do. People's eyes met as they talked - though only about the bargains on offer - as if unable to believe their eyes. This is the beginning of Wal Mart-ism and for the poor of Great Horton it is manna from heaven: the Sistine Chapel of consumption. Kids went mad with delight and former fuckheads were rooted to the spot looking at the price reductions. But the roof restaurant was nonexistent looking as we thought over Ilkely and Howarth Moors. Yet this was a café but it looked out merely on cars!

 Formerly the site was occupied by an abandoned factory although behind it and also in front were huge high-wire fences. Brambles were entwined amongst the wire and poked through the fence and one could pick enough for a pie in a very short space of time – they were very juicy! It was an industrial derelict site and possibly nature rich but it was virtually impossible to access, thus we could never find anything out.

 At what point does Tesco become unsustainable as with the on-going food crisis the price of consumer durables start to rise inexorably? In thirty years time this insane globalisation is bound to give way to localism and the car park returned to vegetable plots such as happened in World War Two hence the once cultivated brambles.

 Fuckheads coming out of the store with a twix bar between them because that is all they could afford.


 23rd May 2006: On the former Dodworth Colliery Spoil Heap, South Yorks

 The new road has not been completed because they need to build a bridge, although there was little advance on last year. The Dingy Skippers were out but just to say. The colony still clings on in the culvert but most of it has been lost. Dingy Skippers seem only to rest on the detritus at full emergence, strangely on hot days. Even so one landed on some tarmac maybe but mostly they nectared on flowers or rested on leaves. Missed a good shot of one resting on roadside spoil.

 The Dingies could be saved here if the wooded slope was coppiced, the grass then pulled up or dug up and the coppiced areas scattered with trefoil seeds. It would take three people merely three days to ensure the survival of the colony. The trees that are already there include spruce, hawthorn, alder, birch and some sycamore. This reclamation of the spoil heap dates from the 1970s and was not lacking in sensitivity. A few Dingies were out on the top of the spoil heap as the trefoil was just to say coming out.

 On the railway trackside there has been much mulching and chopping down of trees and the mulched trees then covering the landside preventing the growth of plants. It is all then sprayed with defoliant. It looks managed, just like managed woodland: In fact the aim is to create a dead zone, a cordon sanitaire extended some four or five feet from the rail track. Even felled tree trunks are kept on site again as if following the woodland management rulebook so as to eventually return the nutrients to the soil. But it's all a sham - an ecology of deadness.

 Went from Dodworth to Penistone by the train. The Woodhead platform at Penistone is now cornered off. Much felling of birch has gone on. Has this affected the Dingies for good or ill? The tree felling opposite the fly tipping and clinker site though not done to save the Dingy Skipper, may help it considerably as the area was becoming too shaded.


24th May 2006: Woolley Colliery, West Yorks

 Went to Darton station by train. What an amazing station Wakefield Kirkgate has become where you change trains to go to Barnsley. Nature can invade functioning industrial dereliction but once the site stops functioning it will be ripe for development. Little trees were growing from awnings and every pain of glass in the roof has long since been smashed. All that is left is a wrought iron skeleton its purpose gone and magnificently useless. Climbed up to Woolley from Darton station, the spoil heap like frozen lava flows. Much has been dumped there only recently: even so young birch and sycamore were beginning to appear and some clumps of grass. The lunar landscape of excavated soil is magnificent but it will be levelled and prettified to resemble down land – a stereotypical, innocuous nature.

 The pit ponds pumping machines have been well and truly fenced off. The people who are moving into the well-off sink estate of the new Woolley Grange are the types who sue. Therefore anything beautiful and dangerous has to be destroyed to suit their pallid tastes. Even the path to Haigh Mews has been fenced off. It is also becoming overgrown and this is the centre of the Dingy Skipper colony. If the carr woodland were to proliferate it would destroy the colony.

 Dingies move their heads quite a lot from side to side. Sometimes while resting they uncurl their proboscis. They will flatten their wings out to absorb the sun's heat and then begin to fold them as the heat intensifies. This is preceded by wing movement as the wings are wide spread, the top wings slightly covering the lower wings. These movements are invariably a prelude to flight.

 On the top of Woolley, lorry loads of earth are arriving continuously sweeping through the neo-classical entrance. The earth is then levelled by dumpers. On the great sweeping drive to the estate the verges have been mechanically seeded with grass, and like a field of corn first furrowed then sown with grass seed from a tube behind each harrow. The verges on the pavement are mulched with not a plant in sight. The groundsel etc begins where the mulch ends.

 The hill down to the former colony was once dreaded by lorry drivers making deliveries to the colliery. It is now a curving gently sloping incline like a grand entrance to a country estate. From the top of the spoil heap some of the best views in West Yorks are to be had looking towards past Holme Moss, past Huddersfield to the distinctive high range of hills and mountains above Marsden on the Lancashire and Derbyshire borders.

 The miners' past is well and truly buried on this huge spoil heap where ironstone and coal were mined probably from roman times. It is an historic feature but this ersatz of nearby Woolley Hall is finance capital i.e. 'landed' wealth for the aspiring middle classes who look up and simultaneously look down, who want to buy into the gentry through the trappings of external pretence, but alas it is only an estate, not a hall or grange, despite the misleading title, although the house at the foot of the grounds is meant to suggest a Georgian grange like Beaumont Park or Arundel Park. The environment is all going to be destroyed, rendered bland and not worth a second look like a painted nature, a sub-nature, an un-noticed nature!


25th May 2006: Holly Bank Bluff, Bradford, West Yorks

 Again a cold northwesterly wind: We were looking for egg laying females but practically all of the Green Hairstreaks wanted to do was bask in the sun and soak up the heat. One even landed on bare earth and stayed there for several minutes. It was a really dished specimen and as the earth was still damp from the previous day's rain I thought the insect was breathing its last. However it eventually took off with typical Hairstreak vigour.

 The behaviour of the Green Hairstreaks was in the characteristic heliocentric geometric mode alighting on a plant and then angling their wings until at right angles to the sun's rays. Does the angle of the leaf determine the angle of the incline or do they always incline more or less at 45-degrees to the sun's rays?

 Took several film sequences demonstrating this so perhaps some kind of geometric graph is possible. They preferred to bask rather than feed. All looked quite dished having taking a terribly battering over the last few days. There was none of that perambulating prospecting movement which may indicate an egg laying female.

 Photographed a mating pair on bramble on the perimeter of the Holmfield Industrial Estate. I waited and waited but they never separated and probably wouldn't until the sun came up the next day. We touched the pair with a stick but still they would not separate. Nonetheless, they tried at all times to remain in the sun.

 A plumber whose father owned a nearby scrap yard expressed an interest in what we were doing and was even anxious to show us some photographs of Holmfield taken around 19 00 hours.How different he was from paranoid middle classed home owners. A paperboy even asked if it was OK to cross the street in front of me when I was filming. Such courtesy, how refreshing and heartening and so different from the greenlite middle classes.

 Saw a buzzard and managed to get a shot of it. Apparently it can be seen resting on the pylons so the plumber said. He also said the best time to see the deer is in the morning when they will simply look at you. I rather think he responded to my dirty clothes and respected me for wearing them, not like the silly middle classes who judge everything on appearance. A violet ground beetle passed beneath the mating Green Hairstreaks when I was photographing.


Finally a dream....

 The midges that danced in my dreams like fireflies against the dark rather than the black dots against the blue. As soon as I close my eyes I saw these tiny pricks of light like dancing stars.

 Then falling asleep after the visit to Woolley - as we had gone by train, railway lines were everywhere in my dreams cutting through spoil that hung over the railways like huge clothes. Isolated houses constructed on the edge of precipices of spoil. This was the sink estate for the rich transformed in my imagination.

 I was grateful for it - for I had had a drink and the worst part nowadays of drink is waking up in the early hours and immediately being assaulted by the horror made worse by the great depressant of alcohol. However, now these images of liberated landscapes took over and the unconscious ruled - half asleep half awake - enabling me to find relief from the horrors of the present.

 Unconscious panoply of vision. A transformation urban and geological, each succeeding the other effortlessly as if called up from the depths. This was the unconscious of nature that transforms nature in the imagination that wants to become real by taking actual possession of the landscape.

 And then last night falling asleep and seeing in my minds eye the unmistakable blue/green blotch of the Green Hairstreak for I had spent an hour between 16 00 and 17 00 hours fixedly staring on a mating pair on Holly Bank.


27th May 2006

Female scents were discovered by Fritz Muller. Scent scales are attached by their stalks to peculiar glandular cells which secrete a volatile fluid that passes into the scales and is eventually given off from its surface as an odourous vapour "androconia" which varies considerably in shape in different species of butterflies but usually agree in being branched and tufted at their free extremities - an arrangement which apparently facilitates the rapid diffusion of the perfume upon the air scent distilling hairs in some moths under folded over flap of the hind wings inner edge. Sometimes on legs like on hind legs of Ghost Swift. The whiteness and scent combine to make it easier for the female to find the male. In the Shetland Islands the male tends to be yellowish like the female as summer nights tend to be very light. Odours are easily detected by human beings. Ghost Swifts are likened to pineapple, Green Veined White butterflies to lemon, Small White butterflies to sweet briar, Meadow Browns to sandalwood.


On Railway Stations

 Island platforms, station buildings sometimes resemble houses, stone walls supporting an iron and glass roof, water towers, staggered platforms, heavily engineered lines, viaducts, tunnels and severe gradients, canopies, double-gabled station houses sitting uncomfortable among plainer buildings like Dewsbury Central Station with it's ride and furrowed canopies, house shaped main buildings – timber and glass structure, dereliction growing into beauty.


Baildon Moor near Bradford West Yorks, May 2006

 It is an overcast and blustery day with intermittent sunshine. The Green Hairstreaks could be found on the bankside of the quarry in considerable numbers, most had crawled up the bilberry to sun themselves. This area may however be an egg laying area. The hair moss is thick sometimes up to six inches and the bilberry sprouts through it giving the impression of a shortish sward. Maybe the hair moss prevents the bilberry from becoming shrubbery. Could the spangling of the hair moss explain the prevalence of the ab.punctata form? The crescent on the upper and lower wings does help break up the form.

 The bilberry is creeping across the grassy areas above Baildon. I have a feeling the bilberry growth is relatively new. The grass was predominantly sheep's fescue and there was plenty of hair moss. Across the branch road leading to Baildon the outposts of billberry suddenly cease and the grass is different. It is rye grass rather than sheep's fescue and sometimes in the past this area was probably farmed and the areas sown with grass for pasture animals.

 The Green Hairstreaks were very dished. I espied the telltale viridian of one from some way off - the mere touch of viridian but it was enough to give the game away. It was rather battered. The colour was a mixture of viridian and a greyish hue where once there was green. The Green Hairstreak was face down in the plant, the viridian area very visible; the grey would have been less noticeable. Finally the butterfly descended even deeper into the billberry and even when the sun actually broke through it remained where it was.

 I took photos of what I took to be a female. If I am right they tend to perambulate around the leaves rather more than males descending down the stems even if not egg laying. Interestingly before taking flight this one lowered its abdomen to touch the bilberry leaf before taking flight. I had not previously noticed this behaviour in the hairstreak as the abdomen is not normally visible before the insect takes flight.


28th May 2006: Kiveton Park, Waleswood and the Rother Valley

 Why not wild flower meadows instead of this monoculture of bilious green grass? The makeover areas here could have been sown with a variety of grasses and flowers like birds foot trefoil, kidney vetch, clover, ladies smock, jack by the hedge etc. Why ever not? This is politically correct landscaping. At Kiveton Park the steep slippery informal path on this pit spoil heap has been replaced by a zigzagging path against the grain of the incline making it easy to push a pram or a wheel chair up.

 But once at the top what is there to see? Merely a view of the surrounding countryside for there is nothing else to look out for at the top. Not the Dingy Skipper or the kidney vetch, which looked lovely in the late spring. Gone is that sense of difference of being on the top of a feature very different in appearance from the surrounding countryside. Now it looks like an extension of that intensively farmed countryside only it's a little higher. We get to the top of this politically correct path leading nowhere only to look down upon the visual boredom of modem intensive agriculture and the generalised absence of nature.

 Contrast this with Waleswood, where there is the underdeveloped spoil heap and only a couple of miles away from Kiveton. Immediately on stepping out into Waleswood interest perks up at every step. It is an adventure like when looking for the Dingy Skipper I nearly put my foot on a lapwing's scrape. Every footstep holds out a promise and looking for the Dingy Skipper I chanced on this peewit's scrape.

 The makeover of the Kiveton spoil heap is the realisation of the estate agent aesthetic. This is the meaning of unspoilt views, the despoilisastion of everything that makes a place interesting. Some time ago I knew that estate agent aesthetic would be the death knell of the Kiveton spoil heap; its extension. This did not quite happen and further building on the spoil heap may have been stopped. But the end result makes no difference. As far as nature is concerned it may as well as happened as not!

 This ersatz of an 18th century park designed by bureaucracy of something done by say Capability Brown, is the romanticization of the geometric lawns of the nearby estate, the rolling back of fences, like large estates appeared to roll back encroaching enclosure though in fact is an expression of it.

 The Kiveton spoil heap in spring, only a couple of years ago was like a desert blooming after a downpour. It exploded into colour and life and it was a joy to walk over, but not anymore. This nature is on the level of lollipop trees; one glides over it effortlessly there is not even a rabbit hole that might cause the unwary to stumble or a furrow to twist an ankle. How did it ever happen or was allowed to take place? Surely it could have easily been stopped yet it wasn't and like a juggernaut it was allowed to thunder on tearing up everything in its tracks. There is now scarcely a plant of bird's foot trefoil on the entire site except at the unimproved margins.

 There was the semblance of widespread consultation; even very young children were asked what they would like to see there. Many more (grown ups) were enthusiastic anglers and it was possible that the future lakes are an acknowledgement of the former mining community that was Kiveton Park. However, many of these anglers were and are nature enthusiasts and would readily have responded to a more nature friendly makeover leaving large areas of the spoil heap as it once was. The interest of anglers and nature conservationists are often united in one of the same person and did not always clash like it has been made out to be the case in this makeover. The anti-nature side of angling has been brought to the fore as a sport and this is what is triumphant.

 Rather like the land art amphitheatre nearby it is probably intended for kids on mountain bikes and as likely as not these kids won't ride here or show any interest as they prefer the rough riding on offer elsewhere. I had first become aware of this land art amphitheatre type construction at Milton Keynes but it now seems to be everywhere.

 Could not the biodiversity group on Rotherham council have produced a leaflet pointing out there were rare butterflies on the site and that in the interest of conservation the spoil heap should be left unspoilt? Was a bit of education all that was required to change the perception of spoil heaps not as eyesores but as something that is beautiful? But did not the educators need educating themselves into seeing the folly of contemporary landscaping. I find it hard to believe there would not have been a positive response to such a leaflet. These new estates are packed with ordinary decent working folk. They are not the enclaves of the super rich as has happened at Woolley Grange nearby where they've sort to attract the rich. Many of course at Kiveton are two wage households with two cars in the drive hence the hard standing, low maintenance gardens and garden centre exotica all part of the fact to quote Mr. R Skiller's "I Teach Finance Theory" and author of "Irrational Exuberance": "For most people their portfolio is dominated by one asset; a house".

 To have left the spoil heap much as it was would not necessarily have meant a decline in property prices though there can be little doubt that this dreadful makeover has added a considerable amount of value to the adjacent properties especially those that look out onto the former spoil heap. To use a butterfly as a selling point as part of the sales agent's sales pitch could even have set a trend even though it would have had no radical potential. Perhaps the most hurtful and hateful part of the makeover is that bit of the spoil heap where only two years ago Dingy Skipper and the rare Brown Argus used to fly together. t is almost as if the area has been deliberately chosen to rub the noses of conservationists in the dirt of this disgusting makeover! Where once the Dingy Skipper and Brown Argus flew there is a tree nursery but it is not just any tree nursery but one ringed by wire fencing accessed by a traditional type wooden stile as if it was something special and vulnerable as indeed the area should have been. It could be said "You wanted something special ... well you have got it!' A special nursery for common trees and charlock!

 It comes across as an act of unconscious malevolence as if the area - a very special area - had been hyper-connected specifically targeted for destruction. To one side is a line of trees that mark the bank side of the Chesterfield canal. There, effectively screened from the view of the new estate an area of the spoil heap has been left on which an occasionally Dingy Skipper could be found. This was never the best spot as it was too exposed. Typically it is an area that has been kept just as it was and in fact it would have been better to retain the area immediately below in front of the wire fence which has been treated to the usual makeover slap.

 The few Dingy Skippers that could be found here would also fly onto the steep path up the spoil heap. This is now fringed by a barrage of thistles that were not there previously. Perhaps the base spoil of the incline was essential to their survival. They will never know because now most have probably not survived and as for the thistles well Small Tortoiseshells, of course, love them but where are the nettles the food plant of the butterfly which 'in the wild' are never far from such a profusion of thistles?

 The Kiveton makeover is not only about the suppression of the past, the obliteration of the mining past and the expunging of miners' struggles from history; it is also about the end of history on which are also nowadays increasingly means the end of natural history.

 This is about kicking a corpse and kicking ever harder because it is a corpse no matter whether it is a miner or a former Dingy Skipper colony. The watchword here is everything must be destroyed that is likely to start a ghost and inspire dreams of liberation.


31st May 2006: Baildon Moor, West Yorks

 Tried slowing the HD camcorder down. There were three Green Hairstreaks on this particular patch. They behaved like males buzzing each other but were they males? One spent a considerable time roosting and rooting around leaves but was it prospecting for possible egg laying sites? Moreover the depth of the hair moss cushion was at least six inches and behind there was an oak that had taken root but obviously not in the soil rather in the dense moss formed by the hair moss. The leafing shoots of billberry were on average 4 to 4.5 inches long but add another six inches of the hair moss cushion and one is looking at a plant about one foot tall but furthermost this would be billberry shrub which never grows much taller out in the open but does in woodland where it competes for light.

 This billberry gives the impression of being short but in fact isn't. Hair moss has this particularly spangled look about it like pinpricks of light or the dots on a wing of an ab: punctata. The crescent of dots breaks up the form and although I have never seen a Green Hairstreak resting on hair moss it does hang from billberry stalks against a background of hair moss, which tends to make it less visible. Does the punctata form tend to be sex linked? If there were more female punctata forms than males it would aid the above hypothesis.

 About to go home I disturbed a Green Hairstreak, which flew onto a gorse bush. There it stayed for least an hour and a half. I thought it had decided to roost here for the night rarely moving when struck by rays from a hazy sun. Finally it did fly off but only once when the sun did come out from behind the cloud.

 I photographed a Green Hairstreak that clearly showed its partial iridescence. As they get older or bashed by storms these butterflies lose their green scales and become greyer contrasting with the viridian areas closer to the body. However this grey can flash viridian and also turn into a pinkish hue. Regarding the three 'males'! One would drop down its abdomen like it was assuming an egg laying position. Mostly the abdomen is tucked behind the wings. Is this one way of distinguishing the females from males?

 A couple of goldfinch birds landed frequently on the gorse. Do they ever pick off the Green Hairstreak on the gorse and eat them? They certainly seemed oblivious of the hairstreaks which were very visible to the eye sharper than mine and I had no difficulty detecting them from some distance.

 I have every reason to believe the gorse is more than occasionally used by the Green Hairstreaks. I even thought they might be breeding on it. However, I have never seen a hairstreak on the largest area of the gorse either side of the road intersecting Baildon Moor, not that I have ever looked carefully.


1st June 2006. Baildon Moor, West Yorks

 Perhaps a little warmer but quite a bit cloudier than yesterday.

 As a result I spent much of the time reclining on the bank side looking out over Haworth and Ilkley Moor reflecting on Kant's "Nature as art" and the meanings he gave to nature particularly organic nature to which he ascribed moral and aesthetic factors but only from the human stand point and therefore something subjective.

 I tried using the digital camera to get shots of the Green Hairstreaks with their wings open. To make an exposure work and ISO, it has to be pushed to the limit. The results are inevitably grainy and washed out. However I did manage to get one Green Hairstreak with its wings partially open though not absolutely frozen as though it was resting. Enough however, to convince me it was a male under the bluff of Baildon. For a time I thought it may be a female. It had a tendency to drop its abdomen on leaves as if testing out likely egg laying sites. This was I temporarily thought, a female behavioural characteristic. However clearly this was not the case. Still I am sure there are such characteristics but it is going to be difficult working out what they are. Males also perambulate around leaves for some reasons making the task of distinguishing between male and female characteristics even more difficult.

 Took a close up of an aforesaid male. The sky was overcast and the day somewhat cool. The last shot I took showed the Green Hairstreak taking off. Beneath it should be - just visible - a mauve spider crawling up the plant. Was this sufficient to alarm the Green Hairstreak? It looked a very immature spider. Prior to that I had taken a photo with a very small caterpillar pressing against the lens. When the butterfly flew off I was unable to locate the caterpillar.

 It is only by looking through a lens that one begins to get an idea of the teeming life down in the undergrowth. Without lens technology which goes back to the late 16th and 17th century our eyesight is not powerful enough to really appreciate it.


2nd June 2006: Brow Ghyll, Otley, West Yorks

 A warm sunny day but quite windy: in fact the hottest so far this year. Went a different way getting off at the Fox Inn. I immediately saw a Green Hairstreak on reaching the summit of Brow Ghyll. Seemed in reasonable condition however it was impossible to photograph. I got rather lost caught on the woody slope unable to find a way down. So I was pretty pissed off when I arrived at the railway bridge having well overshot the mark of where I wanted to be. There were no Green Hairstreaks where I usually photograph them. No billberry flower either just its immature fruit.

 So I wound up where I went last spring and earlier this year. Laying back on the bankside exhausted, a Green Hairstreak flew over me and then I espied one on a rowan tree. I positioned my camera and filmed it and then continued because the creature continually returned to the same spot on the rowan tree. Although there were still billberry flowers blooming on the upper slope unlike the lower slope this Green Hairstreak had taken to nectaring on the rowan blossom. The blossom does not have a particularly pungent scent, rather odourless in fact somewhat mealy like the St George's mushroom. I could smell the May blossom however. It was like a rotten corpse but still smelt rather attractive. Has anyone ever seen a Green Hairstreak nectaring on May?

 The bloom that the Green Hairstreak chose was rather faded and surprisingly the butterfly kept returning to it. Maybe the film will show if it was nectaring? Over and over again the butterfly returned to the same bloom and nearby rowan leaves. It was repeatedly slighted by the wind but rarely did the butterfly lose its footing. I think they lock their legs a little under the leaf, which provides a better grip. Rarely are the butterflies dislodged even though they take a hell of a battering. This butterfly was on the far side of the tree to the sun's rays but would occasionally dart round to the side nearest the sun but never for long. Occasionally it would settle on the rowan bloom still in full flower. Around 14 30, I thought it had finally switched to a couple of fuller blooms. It then flew off and returned so I trained my camera on these blooms thinking it was the new perch as the sun was declining in the sky. In fact it returned to its old perch even though the afternoon's shadows were lengthening and the original blossom was increasingly in the shade. There was a powerful gust of wind around 15 10 sufficient to dislodge the Hairstreak. Maybe it had had enough, as it did not then return.

 Huffing and puffing up to the top of Brow Ghyll a Green Hairstreak flew over me ... was this my perching Greenie? I was too knackered to check!

 All in all it was lonely vigil although another Green Hairstreak arrived on the scene. However it did chase a Holly Blue butterfly and a little later either a Small Tortoiseshell or a Peacock butterfly. Hopefully the episode with the Holly Blue is on film.

 Each day I have intended to bring Green Hairstreaks back and put them in a cage hoping one will be female and lay eggs. Come the crunch I could not do it. I lost the egg I found at Oats Royd. It made me feel miserable all day. For hours I could not get it out of my mind. The caterpillar would emerge, eats its first meal of eggshell and then die of starvation. Had I aborted a human foetus I maybe would not have felt anything but this Green Hairstreak was different.

 All this occurred on the same day as Adam Applethwaite of Huntingdon Life Sciences was sentenced to twelve years in prison. My feeling was with the egg and not the foetus, with animals not humans. In this instance although I know the saving of nature and the human if it is to be possible will involve the overthrow of capitalism.


4th June 2006: Penistone Railway Station, South Yorks

 A warm but generally cloudy day with one quite heavy shower of rain. Still I was able to film the Dingy Skipper like I was never been able to do before. One was roosting on the stem of last years woodrush and it was had not seen it land it was unlikely that we would have spotted it so perfect was the camouflage. Whilst filming a small spider came into the frame but appeared not to perturb the resting Dingy.

 Almost inadvertently it would spread its wings when the sun threatened to come out only to close them moth -like when it failed to do so. This is probably an involuntary action. It did angle itself in the direction of the rain so reducing the number of drops likely to hit the butterfly full on. Eventually the butterfly flew off even before the sun had come out. The other Dingy Skipper was on a dead stem of yellow rattle its' wings closed moth-like. I filmed both with trains in the background and a party of teenage school pupils looked on from the station. Certainly the cutting down of the goat willow, which happened last year, has considerably aided this section of the Penistone colony. It may even become the last part of the colony to be destroyed.

 I have only ever found Dingies roosting on dead stems but presumably some must do so, like on the ground or low down in the grass or on the bird's foot trefoil etc. The butterflies love the new mulch and indeed the colours the grey, the brown, and the various tints of both with a touch of black are an ideal background on which the butterflies could lose themselves. Warm also. Obviously the willows had been mulched rather than carted off; in fact these bare patches were of considerably benefit to the skippers.

 It would be nice to think that this successful piece of conservation was premeditated but it wasn't and as always this lack of premeditation is what seems to suit industrial butterflies the most. I photographed a few more butterflies around the yards amongst the detritus. In fact I would need to spend an entire week there photographing the insects to get the sort of shots I need ...tonnes of them!In the goods yard the skipper would often fly off into piled high pallets, containers and abandoned buildings as if this was home as indeed it was in many ways. At one point one flew along the metal wall of a former factory. Unfortunately I was not quick enough to photograph it. For such images tell a story that is all but ignored in the annals of conservation.

 A couple of women asked me what we were doing as if we had repaired the fence. Obviously we looked more like workers than lepidopterists. It transpired that the fence had been pulled over, several sections of it. It had been put there in the first place when the Penistone walking/cycling trail had been constructed obviously as a safety precaution. Rather than an act of vandalism was this not a question of access as it is becoming increasingly difficult to cross the railway lines here especially from the new housing estate which surprise, surprise, has not been provided with shops?

 The women were not aware of the Dingy Skippers existence and were extremely interested. They would have not taken much persuading to adopt new gardening, agricultural and building practices. But one was more middle class than the other and also more aware and interested. This is a problem and nature will never come into its own until the working class takes up the cause and also at the same moment carries out its own historic mission of abolishing commodity production and wage labour.

 The Dingy Skippers appear not to like open ground even though that ground could be groaning with trefoil. In the former goods yards of Penistone there were a couple down by the bankside where there was not even one plant of trefoil.


June 2006: Catcliffe, Sheffield, South Yorks

 We wondered for two hours cold and forlorn on Catcliffe Hill thinking the day was a write-off and cursing the weather reporters who had predicted a fine day. Then out came the sun and I was the first to see a Dingy Skipper with Catcliffe airport in the background. This is the most unusual colony of Dingy Skippers I have ever encountered. It seems to me it is not a settled colony and different strategies are being tried out by the Dingy Skippers.

 For a start it was almost impossible to get near the Dingies before they would be off then most surprisingly of all, never to return. The ones on the path skirting the brow of Catcliffe overlooking the airport and Outo Kumpu steel works would vault the small hawthorn hedges and disappear into a field in which there was a peppering of trefoil but which also contained two highland cattle and their calves.

 Despite waiting up to forty minutes these Dingy Skippers would not reappear as if they had forgotten their territorial instincts or forgone their territorial instincts assuming, of course, that they were males. Every one we encountered was like this and that was fifty or so – and some must have been females. All were the same baring one the other side of the path near the airport, which did behave territorially. Trying to get photographs of them was near on impossible, I wanted background, industrial background but none would oblige flying off after barely three or four seconds.

 How long have the Dingies been here, several years? Or are they behaving like all colonisers of new territory; that is in an unsure and unpredictable fashion. We barely covered a third of Catcliffe Hill but we found them wherever we went eventually. Will this colony prove to have a character of its own? Will it finally settle down and behave in a more normal way? I feel my filming was jagged and un-noteworthy but on reflection just to present it like it is gives an idea of the uniqueness of the colony and the unevenness of the filming, the jolts and camera shake suggestive of the skippers' slightly aberrant behaviour. Camera shake and a shaky colony yet to really put down roots.

 Coming off Catcliffe, in addition to seeing a further Dingy we chanced upon a Brown Argus, an ab: albunnalata, which was extraordinary. This is the closest to a city centre, certainly a northern city centre; the Brown Argus has ever been photographed. Another first!

 Walking back across Attercliffe Common crossing a footbridge over the canal and railway near the Hallam FM media building, David startled a Dingy Skipper. Is the Dingy about to take Sheffield penetrating its many sites of industrial dereliction or will the whole place get spruced up, hoovered of all bird's foot trefoil and industrial dereliction and become a mere image of nature with pollution tolerant plants, variegated road side verges etc?

 We met a park ranger on Catcliffe. He thought the dire makeover of pit spoil heaps like at Kiveton was a result of competing interests with some losing out while some others had their way. A nice guy but I very much doubt that is the case. A faux concept of nature imposed itself and there was little contestation, probably none!

 There were very few people on Catcliffe. As a country park it is underdeveloped and under used. Kiveton on the contrary appears to be much used. We met a Pakistani taxi driver who was totally bemused by the highland cattle. He was chiefly worried about their exposure to the elements - were they warm in winter for example? In fact in reality is the problem was how to keep them cool – remember he had come from a warm country! Catcliffe attracts nutters. It is a place of encounters as indeed Kiveton Park once was. Now the latter is no more than an anodyne park; a place for a Sunday morning stroll where desperate mothers can wheel their babies around pretending everything is all right.

 At Catcliffe a couple in there forties passed hand in hand, she was lovely and said hello. Catcliffe is a place for genuine love. They sat on a seat overlooking industrial Sheffield then returned the way they came.


6th June 2006: – A visit to Normanton, Mirfield, Ravensthorpe, West Yorkshire

 Well there was nothing in Normanton, or at Mirfield. Plenty of Orange Tips, no Dingy Skippers. I photographed an Orange Tip's egg deposited on hedge parsley. At Ravensthorpe I saw a very tiny blue female of the Common Blue, the smallest I had ever seen. I managed to rescue it from being run over by a Rail Track van.

 Whilst waiting on Wakefield Kirkgate Station a 'steamer' train came through. I talked to some railway enthusiasts. The approaching energy crisis has started to make of them an increasingly subversive group with wide ranging opinions and gentle manners. They foresee with relish the end of the internal combustion engine and a return to the railways. It all makes total sense to them. Train spotting was a very working class enthusiasm far more so than chasing butterflies and moths. Railway enthusiasts are passionate about railways and the bygone age, which they know, will have to come back. They have one foot in the past the other in the future.


7th June 2006: – A visit to Frickley and Fitzwilliam in West and South Yorkshire

 A very warm day sunny all morning, the first stop was Fitzwilliam. The Dingy Skippers could be here but we certainly did not see them so nothing has changed in two years, which was the last time we visited here. Then on to Frickley – the spoil heap has been left to regenerate itself. The former railway line bankside that ran into the colliery yard is probably the source of the few young oaks dotted about genuinely empty terrain. I found a Dingy Skipper at the same spot as before but only one.

 Then we went onto the side of the spoil heap where we did see about three, maybe four. I was absorbed in photographing a pair of mating Common Blues – quite extraordinary behaviour with the small female constantly pulling the male around who had to walk backwards and not an easy feat for a butterfly or indeed for humans! Mating like this can hardly have been an enjoyable experience for the male. This constant whirling around a stalk of cocksfoot and yet I have observed it on a number of occasions with Common Blues.

 We saw a further two more Dingy Skippers, one in the usual spot, which is the centre of the Frickley colony possessing the most bird's foot trefoil and the other over the railway where there was a near total lack of trefoil. Here there were marks of huge dumper trucks as if the whole area was becoming prepared for a housing estate because it would have a magnificent view over the surrounding countryside except, of course, for the so called eyesore of the Frickley colliery spoil heap. Viewed from this advantage point the hillocks where the spoil tubs were tipped looked like a piece of Mayan landscaping except it was all unintentional and all the more beautiful for that.

 The Dingies are moving into West Yorks but at an almost interceptable speed and as far as we could ascertain there has been no change from two years ago.


8th June 2006: Castleford, West Yorks

 A very warm day and I drank three litres of water.

 On arrival at Castleford, I saw what I took to believe was a very small Common Blue female; in fact it was a Brown Argus. In our opinion they were just emerging none more than 24 hours old. All appear to be males and probably about ten in all were there. They were behaving territorially. I managed to get a fair number of film clips with an old iron bridge in the background. I also managed to get one shot of an industrial cloud floating above the Ferrybridge Power Station. In a clear blue sky this cloud remained stationery all day constantly replenished by the rising steam from the cooling towers.

 I switched to using close up lens but then my batteries ran out.

 A couple came to join us one most interested in the Brown Argus butterflies but a sour-faced birder we passed earlier in the day wasn't the slightest bit interested - or too contemptuous of us to be interested. Maybe he was a retired headmaster hating everyone with no interest in humanity only birds. What is the Brown Argus feeding on? I feel certain it has to be the meadow cranesbill, which is somewhat distant from the patch and around the iron bridge where the butterflies tend to congregate. There are no other clusters of cranesbill, which I think is likely to limit the extension of the colony.

 We walked the spoil heap and then down to the path which runs alongside the Aire / Calder Navigation. I rather doubt there will be any Brown Argus here because of the absence of any likely food plant. Later in the day around 16 00 hours the Brown Argus had a tendency to settle lower to the ground perhaps enjoying the reflected heat from bare pathways. This made them relatively easy to photograph with the bridge as a backdrop.


9th June 2006: Tinsley Marshalling Yards, Sheffield, South Yorks

 Perhaps the hottest day of the year so far. Slight morning mist but nothing like this was predicted. It was the end of a long exhausting period for me stretching back several weeks, I had given it my best shot and no one can accuse me of not trying.

 Got off the bus at Meadow Hall and walked up to Meadow Bank, a site earmarked for retail development. We may have seen a Dingy Skipper here. My feeling is we did though I was only able to observe it for a split second; it was dark, the right size and the flight typical. Despite trying to access the sewerage works of Blackburn Meadows, which is close by, we gave up. However, I am convinced the Dingies are there, providing the sewerage works are not developed then the colony is safe ... let Anthony Gormley do his worst!

 Moved onto Tinsley Marshalling Yards by a hidden pathway running along a railway line. We immediately on coming out of this pathway saw two Dingy Skippers. We then saw several more in the yards though clearly it was near the end of the season with, at the maximum, only four days left. There could well be a second emergence. How big the colony is one does not know but it could be very extensive indeed.

 It was difficult to photograph as usual and I so wanted some shots with the factories in the background. It was very reminiscent of our childhood on a trading estate in County Durham except it was a more paranoid experience, for Aycliffe Trading Estate was open access. However that was not always the case because during the Second World War any person in the Trading Estate driving a vehicle would have been checked out immediately for it was an armaments production estate. Which is in fact is what happened in Tinsley where we took a road, which we mistakenly took for a public thoroughfare, past the huge steel plant of Outo Kumpu. It turned out to be private road and we were detained at the gates and a local manager sent for.

 In fact the guy turned out to be reasonable and was gracious enough to admit to having private opinions instead of just observing the letter of the law. He clearly recognised that industrial sites were favourable to nature because the ground is never disturbed. He was something of a birder but did not want us to quote him, as he feared for his job. Thus the reign of terror in the workplace continues on and on and on and on. Depressed though I was by the incident at least I learnt that the yards were not safe because they are also to be developed. This explains the couple of surveyors who turned up whilst we were filming in the yards. They were a trifle worried by our presence, thought we could be trouble - no end of trouble – dead right!

 We have to go back to the yards but the constant ducking and diving becomes tiresome. All the while there is a very real threat of arrest, which doesn't make for the most perfect conditions for photographing. Rather one is made to feel like an outlaw, an overgrown adolescent who needs to be constantly punished. It is horribly insane and I only wish others felt like I do and were honest enough to admit that conservation is not working and so where do we go from here?

 I noticed in the yards a considerable amount of cutleaf cranesbill. But it was on the bankside of a relatively newly constructed road past a huge paper mill and ink-manufacturing firm that I espied a Brown Argus butterfly. The bank side was covered in shining cranesbill, which it seems, the butterfly favoured. In fact I found a Brown Argus egg. First I filmed it on the shining cranesbill and behind which was a strip of rubber. The soil must have contained lime and had a low PA value – had it been brought in or taken from the yards? This plant, the cranesbill, only stretched for some 30 yards but this was a Brown Argus and not far from the city centre and if trefoil grows near the centre there is a good chance that the Dingy Skipper would be found there also. Altogether remarkable and yet as likely or not the whole experience will be lost shortly despite the fact the image of greenery has never been so pervasive – in fact it is almost in your face.


17th June 2006: Shipley Station Meadow on an Open Day, Bradford, West Yorks

 The day began as a complete disaster with only one Common Blue male on the wing and then only sporadically. During the course of the day three emerged, another male and two blue females. Did I see a Ringlet? I can't be entirely sure but certainly there were a couple of Meadow Browns flapping about. The most interesting find of all was a male Brimstone butterfly. Looks as if it is feeding on some alder buckthorn, which grows close by the Leeds/ Bradford platform. There have been too many sightings of Brimstones' around the station for them not to be breeding somewhere close by.

 There was a high attendance of people most likely because of the recent article in the Yorkshire Post about the meadow. The attendance was half middle class / half working class possibly a little less maybe it was a 60/40% ratio.

 The potential for middle class backlash bothers me. The logic of conservation must constantly confront the direst of predicaments. There is no precedence in the past to equal this. Maybe the stumbling block will be localism rather than universalism. The latter inevitably involves the evolution of classes, capital and the nation state. However I scarcely dare raise these questions in the way I want to for fear of provoking an unwanted reaction.

 There was Melanie who was a functionary of Butterfly Conservation for Bradford Urban Wildlife - she is nice. I think she is entirely dependent upon a carer's allowance eking a bit of extra on the side. Then there was Lorna. She likes Ken Livingstone, believing congestion charging will set a precedent. However she was tempted to vote for Dodgy Dave (Cameron). She may have a waspish temper and may try to recover the ground she inevitably feels is slipping from beneath her feet.

 Someone shook Susan Stead - the boss of Bradford Urban Wildlife Group's - hand warmly saying more groups like Bradford Urban Wildlife were needed for that was surely the way forward. Yet tonight I am cheered up and horror and suicide is not on my mind.


18th June 2006: Northcliffe Woods Gala, Bradford, West Yorks

 The hedgehog rescue stole the show. Even would-be fuckheads had fingers in their mouths like babies all agog looking at the young hedgehogs being fed milk from a pipette as the mother had run away. When it started to rain someone put on Gene Kelly's 'Singing in the Rain' over the PA . The hedgehogs' stall began to twirl parasols and kick out their legs like Ginger Rogers. The ladies of Northcliffe Woods however, were too repressed to join in. Again this mixture of working class and middle class; of tattoos, cigarettes and floral hats. I was approached by a man from Bilton, Harrogate who had created his own wildlife pond and had now an albino newt in it. His wildlife pond has been copied by neighbours and he claimed there was no hostility from them but how wild is wild? He also lived in Bilton the working class area of Harrogate. Part of the goods yard there is now a nature reserve. It was once a bustling railway siding of engine sheds as we knew as children.

 I was given a potted history of Norman Rae by a posh woman obviously very anti-socialist. Rae, a rich woollen manufacturer with mills in Laisterdyke in Bradford, purchased Northcliffe Woods in 1920. There had been a gala the day it had opened and the gala had been revived ten years ago. Rae had also stood for election in the khaki election of 1918 standing presumably as a Liberal – "to keep out the Tories," I was also told by this lady with a broad-brimmed hat. Typically the women around the hedgehog stall did not wear broad-brimmed hats but wore the type of hats more typical of English football fans.

 Even a copper showed an interest in wildlife asking Susan Stead, the boss of the Urban Wildlife Group questions about butterflies – she wondered what the world was coming to when coppers started to take an interest in nature.

 If capitalists were to become more generous or public-spirited they could well sway the informal green movement and its incipient tendencies towards radicalism. The pockets of these people and groups are never lined enough today and this is a factor in our favour, when condemning capitalism. However it is not likely to ever remain like this and a more abstract theory of capitalism able to see through ruses of giving is beyond most greens or those with an interest in nature.

 When I got back that night I hardly dared to open the small tub in which I had the placed the Brown Argus egg I got from Tinsley. Although I left it until the next day my worst fears were confirmed, the caterpillar had emerged, eaten its eggshell and then died. I thought it would have eaten the geranium leaf, which I had placed under the leaf of shining cranesbill – I felt dreadful. My voice was distorted and for several hours I could barely concentrate on the issue at hand as though a major tragedy had happened. My reaction was totally disproportionate to what had actually happened and yet it had obviously reflected a powerful and growing current even one that was there when I killed the slugs in Newcastle in the mid 1960's – I was a murderer! Nothing would persuade me that one day. I would have to answer not to god but nature, a very vengeful nature. Though nature has once more become mythologized in order to expiate my guilt, I will have to offer succour to nature. I will at some point have to do penance and breed caterpillars in a situation of safety where they cannot be parasitised, which I will then release into the wild.


4th June 2006: Great Horton County Park, Shipley Station Meadow and Windhill, Bradford West Yorks

 The Ringlet butterflies are only just beginning to emerge; all were we reckon males. Had there been a female there would have been an instant coupling. All were various stages of ab: arete some were pure arete. There was no ab: caeca here. Are we to assume from this the ab: caeca may be a sexed-linked aberration. The coppicing we did at Great Horton Country Park a few months earlier seems to have been a great success. Though territorial the Ringlets are not aggressively so. In this sense they are "peaceful" as Frohawk claimed, but indefatigable; on a hot day rarely settling and only for a brief second.

 Visited Shipley Nature Reserve at the Station. We did not see one Common Blue. It is a colony on the brink of extinction, the cause is piecemeal development – the gradual whittling away at the edges so there is no slack left should there say be two cold springs in succession. The site behind the Morecombe platform is still to be colonised.Saw a Meadow Brown persistently pestering a Ringlet in the meadow as if convinced it was a Meadow Brown. Do these two separate species sometimes 'mate' and is the union sterile? We thought this pair had mated but we could not find them if indeed they had.

 Saw three Common Blues on Wind Hill; the colony is much down on previous years. A good showing of bird's foot trefoil is as also in Great Horton Country Park. Obviously the Common Blue will survive in both spots though a question mark must hang over its continual survival in Shipley Station Meadow.


6th July 2006: Great Horton County Park, Bradford, West Yorks

 There is little variation amongst the Ringlet here. As far as I can see there is only one type. Reduced spotting on the upper wing and slightly less so on the lower wing rounded off with one small spot. This seems to lay to rest my notion that Ringlet varieties are the first to emerge.


 8th July 2006: On Langdale Pikes in the Lake District.

 The ascent and descent of Dungeon Gyhll that leads up to the top of the Langdales was murderous, enough for one year – more than enough! And yet I was the following day making the same ascent and on and on and on up to Sergeant Man at the very top of the Langdales. And there we did eventually did see the Mountain Ringlet butterfly - just. The day was cool and overcast with very occasional rays of sunshine - the type of day that makes for such dramatic scenery viewed from high up on the mountains overlooking the lakes.

 When we reached the summit of the Langdales' Sergeant Mann we found a spot similar to Stickle Tarn just below us only much higher. This was one of the sources of Bright Beck a place reputed to be the centre of a Mountain Ringlet colony. I scuffed up some Small Heaths; surely it's Britain's most adaptable butterfly? But alas no Mountain Ringlet. I was convinced they would have flown and I would have scuffed them up like the Small Heaths but this did not happen and nothing took to the air.

 We had all but given up moving but we went to a part just below the summit of Sergeant Mann when suddenly I exploded "there it is" - a Mountain Ringlet - and then another a little later. However we kept our eye on the latter. It was in good condition and rather jumpy. Had there been plenty of sunshine it would have been difficult to approach. However, it became dormant quite quickly which enabled me to get some good camera shots. When it turned colder, it immediately folded its top wing covering its eyespot below its lower wings so there was not any hint of any spot - nothing at all which might attract a predator.

 When it did fly it lifted off the moss margins of the brackish ponds but once dormant I could approach very closely and take shots of it as it being buffeted by the wind. Around three in the afternoon, it started to rain and it continued and continued getting heavier and heavier and was only to stop in the middle of the night. Everyone was soaked but surprisingly cheerful. My joy at finding the Mountain Ringlet was rounded off by the friendliness of these fellow walkers. They have caused me to change my views of the lakes, everyone says hello and are very helpful. Many don't have cars and therefore camp and think twice before taking the buses, which are very expensive in Cumbria. These people are the new leech gatherers. Their independence and resolution runs through them and is so different to the people you meet in the Yorkshire Dales. The rich followed William Wordsworth into the Lake District but so did the poor and it is the latter that make the Lakes such a wonderful place to visit.

 Oh yes! Finally we poked the resting Mountain Ringlet to see if it would fly. Instead it sank deeper into the grass. To see the Mountain Ringlet one needs fine weather although I doubt if I would have got up close to the Mountain Ringlet if the sun had been shining.

 I had not wanted to go to the Lakes and I would willingly have cancelled it. My spirits were uplifted by the community in the Youth Hostel and by the fell walkers, their readiness to say hello and their simply human decency, like the Geordie couple we had encountered around Stickle Tarn. They had with them (it was pouring down remember) a bedraggled spaniel; its tail wagging after it had been shoved unceremoniously into the tarn for a wash. It had been in something or had been messing with a dead sheep, or both. Later we met the couple at the bottom of Dungeon Ghyll, they were on a campsite at Skelwith Bridge and were set to walk the distance to Skelwith Bridge, easily five miles in the pouring rain. We told them a bus was due and they debated whether to catch it finally opting to walk the distance. We then deduced they had no money and remember the bus fares in Cumbria are very high. They left and later we saw them seated at a table outside the Sticklebarn Pub enjoying a drink. Whatever money they had was going to be spent on enjoyment and not on bus fares.

 The shifting light in the Lake Districts, sometimes when the light broke through the clouds the light appeared to come from the centre of the earth, like the earth had opened up and dazzling beams had been sent forward and up over from the centre of the earth within. At the end of three days I had a newfound liking for the Lakes though money had far from taken it and that the poor with an outlook opposed to money, had imposed themselves on the place. It was like the leech gatherers and the Cumberland beggar that Wordsworth mentioned had returned in a new form.


14th July 2006: Ashstead Forest, Surrey

 The need to move, to exercise the limbs, to forget horror for a few hours. At the end of which the hour of unrelieved pain comes ever nearer. The moment decomposition cannot be swept aside. (Rimbaud)

 And so I have left off writing up my notes ... am I losing interest? Yet I must not give in.

 More Silver Washed Fritillary and White Admiral in Rushett Lane than I have ever seen before. In Ashstead Forest itself I saw four White Admirals at a glance. And the Silver Washed Fritillary were also everywhere in the forest. Saw what we took to be a semi ab; nigrina form of the White Admiral. It appeared to be smaller not much bigger than a Ringlet. From a distance it could be mistaken for one lacking the distinctive white flash on the wings, which is the hallmark of the White Admiral. E.B. Ford says "though rare, they occur with greater frequency in some woods than others and they are certainly reported much more often than formerly".... "I think that the ab: nigrina in both its forms is more likely to be a simple recessive with variable expression of the character ". Ford also thought they were too rare both in the nigrina and the Semi nigrina form to favour polymorphism. I managed to get some footage of the nigrina but we moved on to look for the Purple Emperors hoping to return to the spot in the late afternoon.

 I also found an ab: valenzina form of the Silver Washed Fritillary in Rushett Lane. The butterfly was somewhat pale, Ford says "two female forms exist flying together in the same habitat and a commoner one occupying 80-90% of the female population is a rarer one. What is the counter balancing drawback?".... "The polymorphism of the Silver Washed Fritillary is restricted to the New Forest. Only there does valenzina occupy approximately 10% of the female population. Throughout the remainder of the insects range it occurs merely on a rare basis and is a rare variety probably less than one female of 500 been of that form".

Interestingly I photographed a Silver Washed Fritillary feeding off the green fruit of bramble just as I saw the Purple Hairstreaks do a year ago. What is it that they are imbibing?

 It looked as though the Purple Emperors would be severely down after its absence last year. However we came to the conclusion by the end of the day that the butterfly had nearly recovered its former strength. There is a myth that the butterfly favours the top oak trees. It is true that they favour oaks on high ground, however, the favourite spot in Ashstead Forest is just off the summit and the favourite oak tree looks around a hundred years old unlike the neighbouring trees which are nearer 250 years old. Mostly they were resting on treetops, only flying to investigate and chase another male. Were there any females? I need to view the footage on a television screen. Sometimes they open their wings and at other times their wings were closed; only briefly opening their wings for a fraction of a second. Some of the movements were also dynamic rather in response to the sun's rays.

 Notes on the White Admiral: The variations are restricted to melanism. These forms are largely cyclical occurring more commonly in certain years during which they are present throughout the butterfly's range. This variation can be obtained in captivity by subjecting early stages to low temperatures. In Bugby Wood in Oxford they occur regularly in depressions, which form frost pockets on the ground. The Silver Washed Fritillary aberration is more frequent in some years than others. 1976 was the last year, before that 1944. Both were hot summers.


17th July 2006: Ashstead Forest, Surrey

 A very hot day possibly in the lower 90's. As a result few butterflies were prepared to brave the heat.

 No White Admirals in Rushett Lane and one lone Silver Washed Fritillary. In the forest proper not one White Admiral and just up from the entrance gate where three days previously I had seen four White Admirals flying. But further up we did see two White Admirals, one very dished and the other a little bashed. Undoubtedly they preferred the cool of the forest where the sun and heat was less intense.

 I saw a Silver Washed Fritillary, a female flying close to the ground in the shadows occasionally lighting on low laying bramble or what appeared to be leaf litter. Prospecting egg-laying sites no doubt suggesting they will lay eggs directly on violet rather than in the crevices of trees. The female Purple Emperors were also coming down into the sallow willows progressing slowly into the centre of the trees.

 Met two Surrey ladies and took them to see the Purple Emperors. How far can you push these people? One was helping out at the butterfly weekend nearby at Juniper Hall on Boxhill. They were of the opinion that the youth were not interested in nature today because the freedom to roam had been taken away by concerned parents despite giving every encouragement at school.

 I took photographs of Purple Hairstreaks around the pond. 2000 years ago Romans would bathe in this pool, which was then clear as if it had been lined with blue clay.


21st July 2006: Great Horton County Park, Bradford, West Yorks

 I was shocked when I saw the country park it was autumnal-like. The silver birch, yellow, and gold in the burning sun. The ground was parched, the path dusty and the grass withered.

 There were Ringlets but most appeared bashed. They were to be found in the slightly damper areas hardly one settled flapping around without ceasing in the humid air, the sun just about beginning to burn off the morning mist. I did not see one striking variety all were quite normal, the spotting perhaps slightly reduced an arete of sorts. Are the extreme variations like the caeca disappearing? Is the colony in the process of settling down?

 There were perhaps four in the area bordering the golf course, one in good condition.

 I was horrified - autumn in July, autumn in everything. Yet the Ringlets were flying against this background of autumnal tints and falling leaves.


22nd July 2006: Horton County Park, Bradford, West Yorks

 Hot and humid, two downpours helped somewhat when photographing the Ringlet. Still jumpy and quite difficult to approach. I wanted perfect shots of these autumnal Ringlets. Varieties much in evidence as though they emerged later than the normal forms. Early or late this question demands attention.


23rd July 2006: Healey Mills Marshalling Yards, West Yorks

 Looking at the yards from the advantage point of Storrs Hill I felt my stomach tighten, the moment of destiny after last year's near arrest and I did not find any Graylings on Storrs Hill though it was overcast. This is the second year I failed to see the Grayling on Storrs Hill. Matty Marsden's Lane is being made into a public footpath under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. So I approach the yards with some trepidation. I had just reached the point where the elevated pathway forks leading into the yards when I saw my first Grayling. It had been resting on the hardcore and flew off as I approached. It was still overcast.

 Gingerly I went into the yards looking to the right and left and starting at every noise. Carr woodland is encroaching rapidly, something must be done otherwise the colony is likely to die out within three years. I was disturbed not to find any Grayling on the path approaching the yard or on the elevated path that runs through the yard. However, numbers may have yet to build up. Surprisingly found more on the encroaching carr woodland than in the more open areas. They also seem more attracted to the perch than in previous years flying up the birch-covered bank sides.

 However they still prefer to land on the track notably on the hardcore rather than the wooden sleepers. They also seem less attracted to the rusty metal of the railway lines, the point levers etc than formerly. However a number sought shelter in the shaded side of railway lines. In this vertical position Grayling do not bend over to one side like they do on the hardcore or on railway sleepers although they do found their top wing forward behind the lower wing just as they do resting horizontally on the ground.

 Some seem to be prospecting egg-laying site, if so they showed a preference for withered clumps of grass just visible amongst the hardcore and some would disappear into the grass.


Tinburgen mentions that the birch trees act as perches for the male, but I have never seen one Grayling land on the birches and use the trunks as a perch. Their behaviour in the yards could in this respect be very different to those Tinburgen analysed on the Zuider Zee in Holland. The yards do need to be investigated very carefully but this is out of the question.

 I found a buddleia bush on the edge of the 'fairway' where most of the trains and rolling stock are backed up. The butterfly bush was living up to its name - Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells, Meadow and Hedge Brown and Grayling. They seemed to prefer the lower blossoms and occasionally one would alight on different blossoms which entirely different species as well as chasing each other.

 If the yards are ever to be managed properly in the Grayling's interest these buddleia bushes will have to be preserved as a nectar source. A further point, there are no nettles in this part of the yard so these bushes were there acting as a magnet attracting butterflies from hundreds of yards distance. The Grayling were also tempted by the rosebay willow herb, which the other butterflies were not remotely interested in. Perhaps females use rosebay willow herb as a nectar source when egg laying as there is usually am abundance of grass round willow herb.

 I thought it now time to visit the central island where I knew there was a buddleia thicket. The Grayling could be found there but nothing like in the same number as on the previous two bushes even though the spot seemed even more ideal, plenty of grass, in fact maybe too much. I would love to know where the female Grayling lays her eggs in these yards but by now the terrain was getting to me and I thought I heard the sound of a van pulling up on the hardcore so I scarpered. I later discovered the sound was some distance away where some construction work is being carried out at the entrance to the yards.

 Some 'improvements 'have gone on since last time I was here. New track has been laid going from the yard from where it joins the main line to Huddersfield. I hope this is not the beginning of the end for the yards and that the threatened ' improvements' I was worried about last year when temporarily under arrest will eventually come to pass.

 So I have decided to capture some Grayling adults, next weekend and liberate them at the Skelton Grange Power Station in Leeds. At least they will be safe there if it succeeds and if it will tell me something about these new sites and why they are suitable for the Grayling. If it fails this will also tell us something. However the numbers do appear to be down in the yard. Is this inevitable or will would good management keep the colony yards for the foreseeable future? I photographed an extraordinary insect resting on a rusting railway line. Initially I thought it had trapped a leaf in its abdomen. However, the shape was too regular for that and on close inspection though the camera lens there appeared to be two insects.

 The yards are favoured by other butterflies that also land on the hardcore and sleepers in particular the Hedge Brown but also the Peacock.


26th July 2006: Great Horton Park, Bradford, West Yorks

 Very hot......... it is 13 00 hours and no Ringlets. They were sheltering from the heat generally low down in the grass. I photographed an extraordinary small Ringlet, a partial arête not much bigger than a Common Blue; in fact I photographed it on bird's foot trefoil to give an idea of its diminutive size. Saw three male Common Blue and two females – are they second generation?

 Around 16 30 hours some of the patrolling male Ringlets began to nectar on ragwort and only ragwort.


27th July 2006: Great Horton Park, Bradford, West Yorks

 Visited Betty and Margaret and put some interest back into my life. Arrived at the park around 16 00 hours almost immediately saw Ringlets nectaring on the Ragwort. A couple took to roosting among a low ash, the green contrasting with the surrounding yellow and gold frazzle.

 Photographed one nectaring on ragwort. The feast lasted between ten minutes to a quarter of an hour. It then moved to nectar on an adjacent bloom of ragwort.

 This is the longest I have ever observed Ringlets nectaring. Are they feasting for the following day enabling them to keep up their implacable flight rarely resting apart from the briefest of seconds and then on again, flapping, flapping, flapping, flapping, endlessly unapproachable until late afternoon.


27th July 2006: Lindley Reservoir above Otley, West Yorks

 The beginning of Emmerdale soap; the Washburn Valley. I was ferried by a taxi. The trout farms which I was told about by the taxi driver used to feature in Emmerdale Farm – the taxi driver was very proud of his Otley.

 As soon as I alighted from the taxi and walked across the bridge I saw a Ringlet, a very dished Ringlet yet an aberration; an arête of sorts. I then walked across to the road bridge to linger on the reservoir by the footpath that skirts it. I saw a number of Ringlets along the way. I photographed a couple by the side of the bridge all pale with reduced spotting. This is undoubtedly the commonest aberration; I did not see one dark Ringlet which would justify its German name, der wold teufel which means the forest devil. In fact I saw a very pale specimen indeed but I was unable to get a photograph of it. I also saw a dwarf variety with a white stripe on the upper margin of its under wing. Again I was unable to get a photograph. Is this a tendency to ab: obsoleta? What would be the purpose...... albinoism?

 The water level in the Reservoir is low. Where once there had been shallow water above the bridge in the direction of Fewston, there was a carpet of greenshank shot through with a pink flower. Also silverweed, which was also flowering. Meadow Browns and Ringlets would occasionally fly away and nectar on the greenshank periodically. The Ringlets were tending to keep out of the sun resting in the shade from the midday heat. They liked the sedges and rushes at the former waters margin. A few were feeding on thistle; all pale. Unusually they were spending a considerable amount of time nectaring.... Were these females or males as all were pale? The slight sexual discrepancies which one finds in the butterfly was of no use for our identification purposes not even as a rule of thumb. I photographed a pale Ringlet at Farnley coming from originally I believe the Washburn Valley.

 The woman with a sun blackened face and make up, legs like tree trunks who charged along the footpath skirting the reservoir. She could not stand up as though escaping from a broken relationship in flight from depression. Suddenly she noticed me and nothing.