Nature Dreams........

 

Diary from Goethe's Elective Affinities

"Do what one will, one cannot think of oneself except as a seeing creature. I think men dream only in order not to cease from seeing. It may well happen one day that the inner light in us will move outside of us so that we no longer have need of any other".

 

Sometime in 2004: Dream and Nature

I should make an effort to record butterfly dreams and the chain of association they suggest to me. Thus I may get closer to earlier lepidopterists i.e. those that actually noticed butterflies and to the pre-history of lepidoptera. The background to this dream was the attempt to unravel theab: arete/caeca gradient in the Ringlet, which required I spent hours looking at thousands of Ringlets and thinking about what the variation in spotting might mean. I had also begun to wonder what it must be like to be tied to the military and unable to talk about one's job. The dream was about butterflies, rare butterflies, which then became mushrooms and then about nuclear matters with overtones of the Manhattan Project. We spoke in whispers looking over our shoulders -mushrooms, a sponge absorbing contaminants (Chernobyl the radiation turning from alpha to beta radiation, the more dangerous sort).

 

The logic of the dreams, Human all to Human: Nietzsche

"Dreams take us back to distant conditions of human culture and put a means at our disposal for understanding them better."

 

Dawn of Day: Nietzsche

"Waking life does not have this same freedom of interpretation as in dreams that our so-called consciousness is a more or less fantastic commentary on something else" .

 

Beyond Good and Evil: Nietzsche

"quid luce fuit,tenebris agit (whatever is started in the light continues in the dark) but the opposite is also true. What we experience in dreams, assuming that we experience it frequently, belongs in the end as much to the total economy of our psyche as any 'real' experience. We—are finally guided somewhat by the habits of our dreams in bright broad daylight and during the gayest and serenest moments of our waking thoughts. If for example someone has often flown in his dreams how should such a person—who knows the feeling of a divine levity – how should a person of such dream experience and dream habits not find the word 'happiness' to be of another colour and definition during his waking periods as well. How should he not demand a different type of happiness! 'Uplift' as described by the poets must seem to earth bound, too muscular and violent, to 'grave' to him, as compared with the 'flying' of his dreams".

"All psychology hitherto has become struck in moral prejudices and fears; none as ventured into the depths ---time to demand that psychology is acknowledged once more as the mistress of the sciences, for whose service and preparation the other sciences exist. For psychology is now again the road to the basic problems.

 

2nd March 2007:

I dreamt I was in Healey Mills Marshalling Yards. I was there to photograph rolling stock this time. There were track maintenance workers present. I blended in with them pretending to be one of them. One asked me for my time sheet. I was taken to see an old steam locomotive. Even the track maintenance workers were struck by the transformation rust had wrought on its form. It now appeared to be growing and I wondered however as it possible to move it on railway lines? The maintenance workers thought it criminal to send it to the scrapyard.

 

27th August 2009:

I guess I was thinking in a somewhat obsessive way about Lesley and animal rightists.But anyhow I was in Heckmondwike and there I suddenly espied a small pond a mere impression in concrete clear and kidney shaped. In it there were unusual animals or plants or both some like miniature coelacanths. I instantly realised they had been put there and this was no natural pond. I feared to touch them. And then I was at a zoo, a red brick zoo that was more like a collection of stepped stables on a hillside. I began to listen to a couple that were complaining things were getting worse, much worse, that life itself was deteriorating. This is what I wanted to hear from animal rightists and for them to get over their pathological antipathy to humanity, their human vivsectionism. This is obviously what I desired from Lesley.

 

5th October 2009:

Dorothy was a butterfly - a Comma or Peacock - with her wings closed on the floor as if hibernating but she was also a voluptuous sensual woman and I experienced once more the intense pain of loss of all those years ago. And then the yearning for Joan, to hold her and to say I love you for evermore.

 

22nd October 2009:

I was with a group of people on a butterfly field trip. Unable to find words to express nature I regretted I had not bought a camera with me. Of a sudden I saw a gynandromorph 'media' Small Tortoiseshell one side black and white the other colored. I had to ask that others take shots of the specimen but they appeared not to be interested, In future I was resolved to take a camera with me wherever I went. What was this dream saying? That we can only ever image nature and that only its most aberrant forms have any meaning?

 

12th December 2009:

I needed to constantly escape from people into the bright sunshine. I was in the habit of visiting (just to get away) a sloping patch of ground half park half wild downland with just a hint of the brownfield. Over a short space of time more peopled had started to visit the place and in parts it was becoming denuded of grass from use. On a bank side there was always a couple I had to pass before the wildness swallowed me up. This time I apologised to them for there was a woman sitting in front of them. A butterfly had landed on her, its wings closed. The olive green suggested it was a fritillary though initially I thought it was a Grayling, which utterly delighted me. As I got closer the butterfly became one with her breast and disappeared in to it. Thinking about nature saves me from agony.

 

12th February 2010:

I had contacted someone called Eva-right-up-my-street, or so I thought, the merest hint of passionate involvement in a subject, a life and death involvement has frightened the life out of her, for passion is forbidden, a sure sign of instability and we must remain cool unto death. In my dreams she lived in North Carolina and I wondered how I never realised this; it was obviously hopeless from the start but just as all relationships near and far, accessible and inaccessible are.

Then I was in some kind of unhedged allotment at a corner of field, a location possibly influenced by the painting of Ford Tansley etc I had been looking at in Peter Marren's The New Naturalists and which formed the frontispeice. It was a painting and had been affixed with the comment, "the new religion". The allotment was attended by a number of people not gardeners but experts so I felt somehow excluded not entirely up to scratch. I noticed a row of plants quite possibly strawberries and beside them cultivars whose leaves had been devoured by caterpillars. Someone was carrying a box around which contained butterfly eggs in compartments. One contained a Thorn Moth, another a moth whose name I have now forgotten but is still there in my memory, and the eggs of a micro whose Latin name I did not know and felt I should and a pill compartment containing Black Hairstreak eggs. I sang out "Black Hairstreaks" and realised I only had my small format digital camera with me for I wanted to photograph them but now unable to achieve the microscopic closeness I wanted to put me in a different league from the average photographer of butterfly eggs.

 

UNORTHODOX BUTTERFLY NOTEBOOKS No 15: MAY to JUNE 2010

 

10th May 2010: Holly Bank Bluff between Bradford & Halifax

Absolutely jiggered so only managed to scramble around the holly trees and bushes. Though briefly warm when the sun came out, there were no Green Hairstreaks. Really they should be out by now. Saw a Common Heath moth but only one. Descending the path – Howcans Lane – I was approached by teenagers – two girls – asking the way to a piece of graffiti on a wall at the bottom of the bluff. I was taken aback as it was all so simple – merely slide under the barbed wire as indeed I was on the point of doing. Instead I pointed to a stone stile and said; "go through there". The lack of initiative amazed me like these kids were not accustomed to the countryside and could only follow the geometry of roads.

Sitting beside me on the bus coming up north was a single parent black woman. I dreaded the prospect of the kid crying all the way up to Leeds. In fact the kid was as good as gold and only woke up passing Woolley Colliery makeover. Unable to stop him crying she let the child listen to some rap music – shooting, killings, effings and blindings. The kid immediately went to sleep!

 

11th May 2010: Baildon Moor, West Yorks

Deliberately did not take a camera and then regretted it as I could have filmed a mating pair of Green Hairstreaks in a hail storm. But I was depressed and my legs were aching. And moreover, I was still heavy with a cold. We encountered the first two Green Hairstreaks on a gorse bush by the side of the reservoir. I have never seen them here before. However we began to find a number in the bell pits – all, excepting one, in good condition. The dominant form was the ab: caecus with an indefinite form with two spots on its lower under wing. Next came the ab: punctata with the 'normal' form the least common.

The more I got into observing – entering into the spirit of the thing – the more my mood lightened sitting on the perimeter of the bell pits waiting for the sun to come up. I thought of the difference between myself and Engel's in his later years – how he felt the cause of socialism was advancing by leaps and bounds, even ecstatic when he heard of the number of SPD candidates elected to the Reichstag in 1892. And then the leaden weight I carry around – that these are, short of a miracle, the last days of human kind. We spoke of the absence of pleasure and any fulfilment, the hopelessness of personal relationships in between observing Green Hairstreaks.

The bilberry this year is 'redder' than I have ever seen the new shoots the same colour practically as the flower heads. Last year the bilberry was far greener, the anthocyanins colouring much less in evidence. The meadow pipits were in abundance perching on last year's dead bracken on the area of the moor adjacent to Baildon.
12th May 2010: Baildon Moor (again)

Tonight may prove to be the coldest on record for the time of the year. The Green Hairstreaks appear to be unaffected on Baildon Moor by the adverse weather of last year and this. We found most hairstreaks resting amongst the bilberry adjacent to the bell pits though we did see resting on a green plastic bag at the bottom of one of the deeper bell pits. It was buzzed by another male (presumably) and flew off. We both noticed how warm the ground was in the bell pits as we waited for the cloud to clear. Unfortunately it did not and it started to rain heavily so we took refuge in a sani-loo shelter on the golf course. I thought a cyclist was coming to join us but he stayed outside in the hail and rain, friendly barter passing between us as we left once the rain eased. Even this sort of trivial banter is cheering in a steadily darkening world.

We decided to return via Shipley glen finding large areas of bilberry and just a few likely bell pits but most were covered with dead bracken. However, the bracken also conserves heat and it could be green hairstreak caterpillars pupate beneath it. Must investigate this part of the site.

There was a guy on the bus coming back, filthy yellow baseball cap, and two fingers missing from his right hand, a giant cornflakes packet in a shopping bag and discussing how to cook chicken legs. He was probably once a machinist in a cotton factory.


13th May 2010: Shipley Station, West Yorks

Delighted to find the trefoil I planted ten years ago is still flourishing despite much of it having being uprooted when disability lifts were installed over the platforms. The fact that the earth was scraped bare of vegetation may even now be helping the trefoil to spread.


14th May 2010: The bell pits on Baildon Moor

A dull, quite cool, overcast, day with some sunshine. It was the approach to the bell pits that yielded the most Green Hairstreaks. Again the majority were either punctata or caecus with just two been the normal form. We were hold up in a bell pit for the best part of two hours. A Green Hairstreak detached itself from a sprig of bilberry and flew down into the bell pit to repose on the soft rush at the bottom. We slid down and found the ground was quite cool at the bottom. Maybe the hairstreaks roost around the perimeter of the bell pits and only seek shelter in them during the day when the sun is up because at night these sunken areas are markedly colder.

Photographed a moth which was new to me. I thought initially it was an extreme variant of the Common Heath but on further inspection realised it wasn't; it is a Carpet, possibly a Ringed Carpet. Skinner says its headquarters are in the new forest and is found locally on the South Downs, Wilts and Berkshire. But no mention of Yorkshire though it could have moved northwards because of warming. The larvae feed on bilberry and some heaths. There is a Scottish race but the female appears to be considerably darker than the female I photographed.

It was very memorable sitting at the bottom of the bell pit. Only by sliding down to the bottom did we realise how cold it was even for us, never mind for the Green Hairstreaks who are much more sensitive to the to the slightest alterations in temperature. Chasing Green Hairstreaks over the years I have noticed how sensitive I have become to minute changes in temperature. I am trying to feel and respond how the hairstreaks feel and respond.

I wondered too if men working the bell pits had found themselves in similar craters left by shells on the battlefields of northern France and their last thoughts were of the bell pits on Baildon Moor. During the night I dreamt David occupied a pit spoil heap formerly belong to the Arapaho Native Americans and fortified against 'the enemy'.


15th May 2010: Holly Bank Bluff and Oats Royd, West Yorks

We roamed the length and breadth, the higher and the lower slopes but did not see one Green Hairstreak. The same was true of Oats Royd. We descended to Strines Beck where it was very warm. We began to wonder if this was an extinction event due to severe winter weather. Not one appears to have survived. We simply couldn't believe it and was like losing someone close to you in a sudden, unexpected manner. I was in a daze expecting to see one at any moment but only too well aware they may have departed the scene for good. It truly was like losing an old friend and the entire scenery began to appear barren as a result.

I phoned Susan Stead to find out if she had seen only one Green Hairstreak in the Prince of Wales Park in Eldwick. Eight – and no more – had been seen on Otley Chevin. Prof Howson had seen twenty including a mating pair toward the end of May near Beamsley Beacon which is close to Bardon Towers where a small colony was known to exist in the 19th century. These would have been accustomed to the harsh winters of that time. Clearly the incomers of the past eighteen years are not.

And what of the newcomers - the Purple Hairstreaks, the Ringlet, the Hedge Brown, Brown Argus and Grayling – what of them? The ponds near Strines Beck which were once full of tadpoles; the bottom a writhing black, spaghetti mass which was now empty and literally not one tadpole to be seen. When I told Barbara she seemed more concerned with the fact social mobility was now dead and that a new public school educated middle class was emerging alongside state school alumni from such places as Camden Girls High and that school in Highgate (London) that the Milliband bros attended. A sense of entitlement is bred into them with the rest of us mere dross.
Text to Rose:

"There seems to have been a local extinction event because of severe winter frosts. The landscape now is marked by an absence like I had lost a close friend though still expecting to see them".


16th May 2010: Baildon Moor, West Yorks

Decided to do a head count and saw our first Green Hairstreaks descending to the quarries. Round and about this area we counted between 45-50 on a cold, windy day with the occasional burst of sunshine. In fact there were as many as in previous years, finding them in places we had never previously looked. The dominant form was the punctata (with a less pronounced arc of spots on the upper wing) and the caecus. The 'normal' form, as elsewhere in Baildon, was the 'aberrant' form.

Some were slightly dished suggesting they had been out for a number of days. They had been protected by the quarry walls from the prevailing westerlies. However, they were still to be found on the exposed slopes between the two roads leading to Baildon. As in the bell pits there are no perches here. But there is a lot of bracken and it is possible the larvae pupates rather than down among the bilberry roots which does not provide the warm cover dead bracken fronds do during the winter months. Do ants also favour the bracken litter precisely for the same reason?

Neither on Holly Bank Bluff or Oats Royd is the bracken to be found anywhere. Nor is Holly Bank covered with tussocks of sheep fescue as happens around the bell pits. However, there are plenty of areas covered in sheep's fescue in Oats Royd where the Green Hairstreaks are also absent. So this cannot be the complete explanation.

Sitting in the bell pit sheltering from the biting winds and reflecting on the future lived out in bio domes to protect against the Jovian storm of a cooking planet. Image then has to be reality but can never quite be that. But illusion is all there is and consequential revolt a thing of the past. Hollow dreams are materialised but only as electronic media having even less substance than Rimbaud's drawing room at the bottom of a lake because the latter did lead to action not least the destruction of the role of poet as a first step.

No revolutionary action will then be possible because nature, having taken maximum revenge, prohibits it.


21st May 2010: Baildon Moor, West Yorks

Last night it was announced artificial life had been created. "Letters became life" as the announcement put it. Is this the new face of lettrisme – bio-lettrisme – the beginning of our post human future?

A warm, heavy day found one Green Hairstreak on the bilberry patches between the path that descends from the high moor and the golf course. This must be the closest the Green Hairstreak comes to housing in the Bradford area, the housing fronting the moor barely 25 yards away. On reaching the road up to the Dobrudden caravan site (named after the Neolithic Dobrudden stone) in the lee of the moor top saw some Brown Silver Line moths. There are also more Common Heath moths than last week. Passed the usual bell pits looking for hairstreaks, photographing one on a green Asda bag at the bottom of one of the pits. The carrier bag was being used as a 'hot spot' by a Green Hairstreak last week when the temperature was very cool.

Decided to press on and investigate the broad patches of short bilberry we had noticed last week and much higher up on the moor overlooking Shipley Glen. Glad I did so after observing a number of hairstreaks I became convinced the majority were females. Unlike with the males I did not see one nectaring, conserving their energy for the business of egg laying. It was the very short shoots the females were chiefly interested in – those that had just poked through the stem and leaves and had a dark red colouring, the anthocyanins protecting the delicate shoots from the harmful ultra violent rays.

The higher moors where the bilberry is short, peering through the tussocks of fescue which makes the task of walking that much more difficult, may well be the main breeding ground of the butterfly – at least in this part of the moor. Three could be found flying over a small area some eight foot square – and all intent on sniffing out the short shoots rarely more than four inches in length. And it was the budding tip that chiefly interested the Green Hairstreak. They could have been laying eggs but I needed binoculars to detect if they were. Sometimes I would mark the spot and scan the leaves with a magnifying glass – but to no avail. The females are obviously very particular but also very dedicated and would never fly up if disturbed by a fly or bee or another Green Hairstreak.

I decided to investigate a couple of bell pits with part of their rims and some of the side covered with bilberry. As I approached I became aware this was male territory and butterflies could be chasing each other in close flying formations, never actually colliding. Who is the victor in these contests and how can we tell? In one of the bell pits I noticed a fresh looking Small Tortoiseshell (which was a joy to see considering how they have suffered from a deadly parasite) and it too was chased by a hairstreak. The females I had been observing would never have behaved thus. So at least I have established something. Perhaps if I were to capture some and lay down a carpet of bilberry shoots plus some sheep's fescue at the bottom of the cage, I could get them to lay eggs. Worth a try. This experiment could help establish if short sward is the butterfly's preferred egg laying habitat. Perhaps the steep side of the bell pits functions as a perch in the absence of rowan, birch and oak saplings? The sides maybe provide an overview of territory. Do the unmated females go looking for the males in the bell pits and immediate surrounds? Do they make for these locations when the sun begins to go down from 3 30 onwards?

Found a mating pair. Both were pretty dished and I wondered if this was a case of a female mating twice. I assumed when I saw the mating pair sometime around 4 15 in the afternoon that they had just mated. Around 5 they separated so maybe they had been mating sometime before that.

I note that the first synthetic life form has a biological watermark; a quote from James Joyce: "to live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life". Sometimes I think my ideas are mad. The fact that such a quotation has been used as a watermark junk DNA – suggests otherwise. This is a new malevolent bio-lettrisme.


22nd May 2010: Baildon Moor, West Yorks

The Green Hairstreaks are everywhere on Baildon Moor. I slogged up to the very top finding hairstreaks on every substantial patch of bilberry and occasionally flying over the rough heath in between. It was a very warm day and on colder ones maybe they retreat to the bell pits. Whenever I approached a bell pit or a depression in the ground sure enough I would witness the typical arial combat. I am almost certain I can tell the difference between males and females: There is such a thing – a gender specific behaviour and which is more apparent because so many are concentrated in one spot.

The males feed more than the females and pick out the bilberry flowers to nectar on. They are more active than the females – seeing off rivals for example which must demand a considerable expenditure of energy. When they do land on a sprig of bilberry and appear to be prospecting an egg laying site they are in fact perching. When a female is perambulating around a plant it never responds to a male flying overhead. If the male comes to take a further look it descends deeper into the grass as if irritated by the attention.

The males are also territorial returning to the same shrub of bilberry over and over again. The females do not do this are much more wide ranging. A Green Hairstreak that disappears over the horizon is almost certainly a female. They are the explorers; the males are sedentary in comparison. But do freshly emerged females seek them out by heading for instance to the warmth of the bell pits. I also think it possible wherever one finds a Green hairstreak resting on heather it is a male. It is the females that hug the earth. Took footage with the Dobrudden caravan park in the background, Bingley and the clinker deposits with couples sitting on it enjoying the sunshine. Hopefully the shots give a sense of height and location. Returning via the bell pits I was not all that surprised to find fewer Green Hairstreaks. In my opinion it was just too hot for them. I really need to go over the same ground on a much cooler day.

Of course I could carry out an experiment and mark the butterflies according to whether they are male or female. This would mean chloroforming the butterflies so I could open the wings to check for scent scales. However, there is always the risk I would hurt them. On the day artificial life was invented I became increasingly reluctant to carry out the experiment. All of life seems threatened because of it – like we can now dispense with it because we can now create our own life forms which will reflect the pathology of zombie capitalism – the living dead of life forms.

On top of Baildon Moor I heard a text come through. It was from Patricia apologising basically for her mind-numbing paleo-feminism. She was probably drunk and let fly. However, I am sick of this type of behaviour. Her text read: "I want to run away to the hills and barricade myself from this mad human race. Can understand why you are unnerved in inhuman things. How is it going - hope the warmth of the sun has regenerated the micro colonies." Because of the hurtful, gratuitous nonsense of her text ..re artificial life she said "just another thing for men to argue over" meant last night I dreamt of dead women pinned like butterflies in a morgue, their wings more like contours traced by ancient maps than the wings of butterflies, the left side the same as the right. They literally were 'Map' butterflies!

This close observation of gender specific behaviour has led me to revise my views on the Green Hairstreaks I filmed flitting about the lower citrus spruce on Otley Chevin in 2006. Almost certainly they were all males.


23rd May 2010: Holly Bank Bluff between Bradford and Halifax

Another sweltering day. Returned to Holly Bank Bluff to check to see if it was a very late emergence. However, the Green Hairstreaks have undoubtedly been killed off by the harsh winter. The vegetation is sparser than on Baildon Moor and thick tussocks of sheeps fescue is nowhere to be found. The hill sides of shale are much steeper than Baildon and there is much soil creep. The grass cover is thin when compared with that on Baildon's gentler slopes.

The Green Hairstreaks are extremely fussy egg layers and test many promising shoots for devourability. Have yet to find one egg. Was going to check Shibden Dale for Green Hairstreaks after leaving Holly Bank but I was just too tired. I took the 571 from Halifax to Bradford the bus taking well over an hour. But I was amazed at some of the sites – the strangeness of some of the 19th century houses, the product of laissez faire to be sure but still much more visually interesting to look at then anything constructed in the 20th century.

(I have just recalled in parts of Oats Royd - the lower parts – there is a thick carpet of heat-conserving sheeps fescue. However, I don't recall there was anything like the same amount of sparse shoots of bilberry pushing through the matted grass as on Baildon Moor. Some years back I had come to the conclusion than the Green Hairstreaks I photographed on one quarter plate film resting in the grass were females. All this should now be collected and posted on the web because it now possesses historic significance and ecologically is also important.


24th May 2010: Ovenden Moor, West Yorks

I fully expected the Green Hairstreaks to have gone from Ovenden but I was in for a real surprise. Before I hit the bridge that crosses the stream feeding Ogden Water. I noticed deep rifts in the ground (possibly man-made) and covered with fescue and patches of bilberry. I decided to investigate and after finding none, my suspicion that the Green Hairstreaks would have perished on Ovenden appeared confirmed – only then to see one. This led to the sighting of several more. When I examined the ground and the exposed, desiccating peat I was at a loss to explain why the hairstreaks had survived here but not on Holly Bank Bluff just across the dale bottom. I photographed patches of the moor with Holly bank in the background and all I can say is that the ground on holly bank is considerably less exposed than on this stretch of Ovenden Moor. Yet clearly over a few intensely cold days thousands of Green Hairstreaks perished on Oats Royd and Holly Bank bluff.

Given that much of Ovenden Moor is damp even waterlogged in places, then for sure, the ground must have frozen to a considerable depth, almost like momentary permafrost. I examined the peat for ants and found just one scurrying black ant. They were many more to be found on the sandy soils composed of weathered millstone grit. I moved on and crossed the bridge and instead of following the beaten track, continued along a shallow v shaped depression which generally is much bigger than it was today. Within a short space of time I spotted several Green Hairstreaks – males – because once one was disturbed, I usually managed to startle another and the typical frantic dance would then ensue. I clambered all the way up the shallow depression only crossing to the well worn path once it had petered out. I was most surprised at the large number of Common Heath moths, more in fact, than I had ever seen. Some were very small indeed and could be described as a dwarf race.

I then continued to the disused quarries front the wind farm. I only briefly glanced into the quarries but found the Green Hairstreaks on the flat disturbed peaty ground above them. All were in very good condition and I was at a loss again to understand how they managed to survive here but not on Holly Bank Bluff. The area was grazed by sheep. I was unaware of them until getting up I noticed four had crept up on me. Perhaps it was the sheep that was preventing the fescue from becoming properly established. Hence the disturbed nature of the ground with desiccating peat grinning through everywhere. The ground cover was worse than on Holly bank, easily worse. The whole thing is a mystery but at the same time, I don't doubt it was the extreme frosts that finished off the green hairstreaks on Holly Bank and Oats Royd.

I retraced my steps following the established path this time finding as many Green Hairstreaks as last year and most were in quite good condition. At the bridge I turned right and followed the path down by the side of Ogden Water noting a further couple of Green Hairstreaks along the way. I climbed the stile into the fenced-off part at the top of Ogden Water containing lush patches of bilberry shaded by pines. A pleasant scene but not really hairstreak territory so I was surprised when I did see one.

Is peat warmer than soil? Decomposing vegetable matter generates heat so maybe it does not freeze like soil. Could this be the explanation? Both Oats Royd and Holly Bank Bluff are composed of shale with the thinnest of soil cover.

Went to the library to check out the thermal properties of peat but found nothing. Peat however is decomposing vegetable matter and must generate more heat than rock based soils. It is looser and allows air to penetrate.

How much does the grazing on Ovenden Moor contribute to the exposing of the peat layer: "lower limits of callunetun often coincides with the upper limit of enclosed grassland and very often callunetun adjoins and passes into the best fescue grassland. " there is a combination of both on Ovendon Moor. The peat of a typical Pennine heather moor "is as a rule so shallow that the heather roots regularly pass through it into underlying coarse, sandy soil that may be conveniently called "the sub-peat".

Is hair moss a good insulator? It covers the ground somewhat similar to a broad stitch blanket: in other words a leafy thermal blanket the tenderest shoots of bilberry are often to be found poking through the hair moss, the kizones sending up shoots through the covering of hair moss.

"The soil characteristic of upland Britain is an acid one, with a greater or smaller development of peat on the surface. Such peaty soils can develop provided the ground is level and only gently sloping so that the peat can occonsulate." and Ovenden over large areas is certainly flat.

Do the hooves of the sheep stir up the peat thus helping compost the decaying vegetable matter by adding air pockets it helps generate heat essential to the process of decay?


26th May 2010: Shibden Dale, West Yorks

Though the day was overcast and rather cool if the Green Hairstreaks were here some at least would have been visible at the top of the bilberry. The Green Hairstreak population in the dale and in Bare Head Quarry does appear to have been wiped out. Since we last visited in 2006 the bilberry has become much shrubbier and less to the liking of the Green Hairstreaks. This rather suggests that sites of industrial dereliction such as Shibden, Holly Bank Bluff, Oats Royd etc are not suitable to Green Hairstreaks and in cold winters do not provide the warmth needed for the pupae to survive.

Meeting a woman with a young child and two dogs- one an Alsatian – on top of Bare Head Quarry. I did not take to her challenging attitude saying, "Are you looking for something?" It was not a completely enthused friendly enquiry such as we had put to a birder further down the dale. It turned out her father in law owned Bare Head Quarry but obviously could not prevent access but I felt would have like to. There is something proprietal and unpleasant about Shibden – much better class of car than Queensbury – and nature to these residents is completely identified with ownership and property prices. (She may however have thought we were from Calderdale Council and therefore her challenging questioning of us was really more defensive than anything.)
27th May 2010: Ripponden, Ryburn Valley, West Yorks

Never thought I would have retraced my steps to the site we first found the extended Green Hairstreak population in a place it had not been seen before in 1996. But here we were back again unable to remember which bus stop to alight at. More struck than ever by the old railway line – the most memorable I have ever walked along. This manmade cutting had caused nature to behave in unique and unusual ways and I was particularly struck by the way trees, often quite large ones, were growing from the hewn rock faces. They would have been mere saplings when the line closed probably in the late 1950s.

The Green Hairstreaks have almost certainly gone. It was odd to look at the trees – the birches, the oaks – where not long ago (though before the turn of the millennia) we had photographed the Green Hairstreaks. These are now historic photos, the butterfly a mere memory. We will have to come back next year to see if re-colonisation has begun to take place and hoe long will it take?

There were a number of Speckled Woods flying around. Odd that this newcomer has survived the harsh winter unscathed. Last time we were here the nearest Speckled Wood colony was a bridge at Tadcaster. The bilberry was ideal though, not shrubby like it has become at Shibden. There was also thicknesses of hair moss which would I thought have provided good cover and kept the ground warm. But do the pupating larvae bury under the hair moss? And if so how deeply?

Met a Calderdale Ranger with two dogs who worked on a voluntary basis but wore a dirty shirt on which Calderdale Rover had been printed. Obviously retired he had a baseball cap on his hair tied in a small pony tail. He was angry at the way owners were blocking access and took pleasure in knocking down illegal walls and breaking locks on illegal gates. He said he could get arrested for doing it but nothing was going to stop him, he felt so angry about the blocking of access and the seizure of land that should be everyone's patrimony. It was uplifting to talk to him. He was particularly approving of a couple of "former coppers" in Calderdale Council who knew the law inside out and would instantly nail anyone who dared to block rights of way. The fetish of ownership means more land is being illegally enclosed than ever.


27th May 2010: Ilkley Moor, West Yorks

Took the Keighley flyer to Riddlesden and climbed the moor from the Keighley end. It was a bright day but with a sharp wind. Struck by the number of Small Whites we saw by the Ilkley Road. We passed the little flat roofed house of Bradup where I once witnessed a lone piper practise – two docile dogs, the door open; a bead curtain hanging from the frame. A little way further up the road we decided to take a path that led up to the fir plantation. At first we found nothing but reaching a stone wall that gave shelter we began to see the Green Hairstreaks. They appeared to be hugging the stone wall which was surprisingly warm when we touched it. We soon found a mating pair which I photographed with the Ovenden wind farm in the background. At the same time I also photographed a Green Hairstreak resting on a dry stone wall. We continued following the wall which I reckoned to be very ancient because it had a layer of protruding stones at the top to repel wolves in medieval times.

By the time we got to the fir plantation (which I was pleased to see was being felled) we began to find hairstreaks in abundance. We continued following the dry stone wall enclosing the fir plantations until almost reaching Piano Rock where we espied another mating pair this time on the opposite side of the wall. David went down to investigate the lower ground around the West Buck Stones but found nothing. A couple of years ago he had found several. We then continued onto the radio mast occasionally finding the odd hairstreak. We continued on past the masts to the heavily eroded Thimble Stones espying a couple more despite the cutting wind. We then cut off westward to the trig point and again occasionally finding the odd Green Hairstreak descending the path in the vicinity of the Badger Stone where we began to find a considerable number even a mating pair by the side of the path.

We then made a right turn following a path where I photographed another mating pair with Beamsley Beacon in the background. Skirting the perimeter of a coppice of pines we found at least eight without looking especially hard. I photographed one perching on a pine with Menwith Hill in the background. I recalled that beside this copse some years back a copper had seemingly been abducted by aliens and his body probed in a bell pit by them. He had managed to take a photo of one of them which had been digitally enhanced. It just looked like random blotches to me and to me seeing is believing what you want to see. We then continued along the top of Ilkley Craggs eventually descending into Rocky Valley which was covered with bilberry. Looking down from above we thought surely they must not be there - but weren't much to our surprise. Descending further past the White House we recalled the number we had seen flapping around and the photos I had taken of them on the gorse together with the Long Horn moths (adela neamwella) which incidentally appears to have also taken a massive hit.

As we progressed down the moor, we began to put together the bare outlines of an explanation. We came to the conclusion that during the winter it froze harder in the valleys than on the moor tops where the air circulated more freely. The difference in temperature explained why the Green Hairstreaks were to be found on the top but not on the bottom of the moors. On Ilkley Moor the lower slopes will doubtless be quickly colonised but the same cannot be said of Oats Royd, Holly Bank Bluff, Shibden etc. I had often wondered why the two colonies known about as far back as the 19th century had never expanded colonising adjacent moors. Well perhaps it required warmer winters for this to happen, the green hairstreaks that had made it to the lower slopes not then being killed off by harsh frosts. These lower altitude colonies became eventual stepping stones allowing the whole area to be eventually colonised wherever bilberry was to be found.

Well it is a thought but it does not explain why the Green Hairstreaks aren't in Langstrothdale. Need to read up on meteorology, cold pockets etc.


29th May 2010: Shipley Station Meadow, West Yorks

Seeded some more of Shipley Station Meadow with birds foot trefoil. Basically am pleased with the progress of the various trefoils both across 't'mucky beck 'and behind the Leeds platform. The trefoil here is sufficient to support a colony of Common Blues. Apparently, entire colonies of Common Blues exist on hop trefoil (trifolotiens bodium). We sowed plenty of that last year thinking it was birds foot trefoil. Finally we had purchased the pure plant and we decided to sow more birds foot trefoil and did this on the day body parts were dredged from the River Aire. Helicopters flew over head but security never once came to check us out and stop us from carrying out our self-appointed task of saving the Common Blue at Shipley station. If we don't do it, no one else will.
30th May 2010: Otley Chevin, West Yorks

Climbed to surprise view via Caley Craggs. We were last at Caley Craggs in 1997. Finding Green Hairstreaks everywhere we looked. It was only when we descended from Surprise View that I saw a faded specimen resting on an oak tree where the tree line began. Also noticed a number of long horns (adela reassurella) the first I had seen this year. Descended still further to the big field where we saw a further three – right at the bottom. Two were dished, the other in reasonable nick but why have they survived here and not on Holly Bank, Oats Royd or Shibden? However, they have taken a hit and are only just to say clinging on. The path skirting the bottom of the big field had been widened and banked at either side by boards. This must have been to facilitate disability access and I noticed signs referring to wheelchairs users had increased as had the number of wretchedly bad wood carvings placed at intervals along the more used paths.

We then went on to East Chevin to Brow Ghyll where we failed to find one Green Hairstreak climbing the bank and catching the bus back into Bradford. We saw probably five Speckled Woods – two at the top of the bank side leading to surprise view. We could never have expected to have seen them in 1997 when we last made this excursion from Caley Craggs. The Speckled Wood is a creature that is adapting to different, most unpropitious habitats. They can be found flying in the 'treeless' wastes of rows of town houses like in Bradford 3. The fact that they are the most shade tolerant of all British butterflies may enable them to flourish in more open and colder spots. Thus they have not been set back by the coldest winter for thirty years in the slightest.
31st June 2010: Shipley Station, West Yorks

Cleared shrub from other side of 't'mucky beck'. At least seven patches of birds foot trefoil amidst the trifolotiem bodicem (hop trefoil). Really it was a remarkably successful seeding last year and I was delighted to see a lone blue female of the common blue. A colony must have been formed last year. Did not see any males however. Buddleia was the most invasive scrub tree and we up rooted countless young saplings. Hopefully a good covering of trefoil will prevent the buddleia taking over. All in all I felt pleased with my handiwork. May eventually be a good place for moths and other butterflies. I noticed a Small Tortoiseshell flapping about and it was still in quite good condition. A police helicopter circled above us and checked us out. I fully expected a police car to arrive, our names and addresses to be taken and then told to clear off!


2nd June 2010: Skelton Grange, Leeds, West Yorks

No Dingy Skippers. Approached gates to find access had been completely curtailed. A security guard approached to say it was private land and that it was going to be built on. It's always the same just a lame excuse. He also said travellers had been digging up cables and flogging them off. I found something apologetic in his attitude. He appeared to be hiding something, pulling the wool almost. So I turned back and walked along the Aire to where there was a bridge crossing the Aire and went in the back way. A mound of earth blocked the entrances but these were easy to get round. The site had been cleared up and where I had hoped to see Dingies, trees had been chopped down and mulched. Why? Saw a number of male Common Blues and one female.

Headed out by the sewerage farm checking on the notice to the site warning of its dangers; dangerous ponds, hidden shafts etc. the type of things we were accustomed to as kids without anyone I knew of coming to harm. But that was before the claim and blame culture. I went out through the sewerage farm. A van stopped to pick me up it was a workers' van not a security van so they asked me politely if I minded going with them otherwise they would get a bollocking if I went out by the main gate. They kindly took me back to the Stourton entrance and I thanked them. No fuss. What a pleasant difference instead of the usual infantilising ritual and admonished like a ten year old.

Looked around Skelton Grange environmental area also supported by Leeds Council and BCTV. Notices advertising wheelchair access. But it could not be compared to the site that had been fenced off – the lapwings, the Herons, Common Blues, Small Coppers and goodness knows what else. It is a standard response of security that a fenced-off site is to be built on. It is unlikely Skelton Grange will ever be built on – at least for ten years at any rate. But the idea that industrially derelict sites are land banks dies hard. So in order to find a buyer these sites must look as though they were being cared for. So nature is never allowed to take over because unfettered nature destroys a site's capital potential.


3rd June 2010: Baildon Moor, West Yorks

Saw a solitary Green Hairstreak up near Dobruddin farm. In fact it was in quite good condition – possibly a female to judge by its behaviour. It appeared not to be controlling any territory and flew off down the hillside where it was lost to view. Climbed up to the top of Baildon Moor. Though there are clumps of heather on the very top there is no bilberry. This begins a few feet from the summit. Saw around eight Small Heath and (I think) a wall. And to think before I came up I had visions of marking the butterflies to better distinguish male from female (even buying tins of acrylic paint). I also intended spending a night with a mating pair on Baildon Moor. But after the shock of finding them absent from many of the customary sites it was deemed essential we visit as many sites as possible to determine numbers. And so the best laid plans .....

I was miffed at not being able to study egg laying habits and excessive eggs under microscopes and filming them when the tiny larvae hatched. In Bradford interchange I was cheered by a typical Bradford eccentric kicking off over security allegedly pushing women around. On this very hot day he was wearing woollen gloves. On his dirty pullover he had written: "No Freedom. It's a fascist country". He was well into his 60s.


4th June 2010: Ilkley Moor, West Yorks

Retraced my steps of May 27th but this time from Ilkley. It was a very hot day, virtually cloudless to begin with. By 2.30 it began to cloud in and remained pretty much overcast throughout the afternoon. I saw my first Green Hairstreak on Ilkley Crags but succeeded in getting a close look at a dished specimen on the rim of the top moor. I observed it for awhile taking it to be a female hoping against hope it would deposit an egg. But then with its last remaining breath it flew up to scrap with a male.

I was to see a further eight – all most certainly all were males as they would attack passing Common Heath moths that dared to stray onto their territory. I presume the females were on the sparse shoots of bilberry close to expiring like the males but still continuing to lay eggs. If only I could familiarise myself with their life histories. But this is proving to be a devil of a job. There were now very few bilberry flowers and the few Green Hairstreaks that were left were flying on empty. I took a photo of a very tattered specimen over the wall from Piano Rock.

The Common Heath moths were at their height. I did wonder if they nectared on last year's faded heather flowers. I also noticed how tattered the Green Hairstreaks were. Briefly sitting down by the side of the wall at Piano Rock I began to examine a large store noticing the scouring properties of the schist through which minute sprigs of heather were sprouting and a few sparse grass leaves.This must make the early stage of the rocks becoming covered in vegetation. I noticed how after the first pioneer plants, hair moss would take over and the bilberry would send its "rhzores" beneath the hair moss from which would sprout the thin, reddish shoots of bilberry which I had noticed the Green Hairstreaks show a fondness for though without ever so far, being able to find an egg. I had noticed also how adapted the punctata form appeared to be to this particular background and how the two areas of yellowish spots broke up the form of the wings helping the butterfly meld with the star-like mosaic of hair moss. But this maybe pushing things somewhat. Is the punctata form a sex-linked variation?

I was looking for illumination but found none. Seeing I was at Piano Rock seemed appropriate. I knew there was some controversy as to whether the indentations were carved or merely the result of weathering. And so I noticed how fine gravel – schots – had collected in undulations and how their scouring was deepening the indentation allowing plants to eventually take root. Could not the Neolithic peoples who inhabited Ilkley Moor seem in their scaing vortices a symbol of life, a vivid demonstration of how the inanimate produces life? When they carried their cup and ring symbols were they not speeding up the process of erosion which they identified with the origin of life?

As I moved off across the moor every time I detected a covering of hair moss with their shoots of bilberry poking through. I would test to see if beneath it there was a stone. Beneath every clump I tested there was a stone. The heat retentive capacity of mill stone grit is well known. Perhaps the Green Hairstreaks that wriggled beneath the hair moss to pupate were kept warm by the rock's thermal properties. Perhaps this explains why they survived on the Chevin but not on the shales of Holly Bank Bluff and Oats Royd.

 

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