A Photographic Approach!


 A few years ago in 1998, an Oleander Hawk caterpillar was sent to us from the Midi. We kept it and seeing how periwinkle is such a garden and local council favourite, we did wonder if migrating Oleander Hawks tend to opt for the warmer urban deserts here in preference to the cooler surrounds of the countryside. For instance one turned up, in the late 1970s, in a gutter in Eldwick, a suburb of Bingley, West Yorks. So, as an experiment, we decided to photograph the moth against an inner city skyline. Shortly afterwards the moth began to rapidly vibrate its wings and took off into the darkness of the gathering storm. However such an artificial practise with insects, or any other living thing, is not to be recommended, even if it does approximate to the truth. Some time later though, I did find an Orange Underwing in a similar exposed position in a block of council flats in West London. The photographs below have a certain enticingly strained Surrealist effect to them not unlike  possible shots from an early film by Luis Bunuel like Le Chien Andalou.

Oleander Hawk  
An Oleander Hawk moth about to take flight into a
gathering storm framed against the largest concrete
high-rise megalith in England. Notting Hill  summer 1998.
 

 

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Below: Far more honest photographs of Lepidoptera in urban situations

 

Brown Tail Vauxhall
Honest Red Underwing
Brown Tail Vauxhall
Above: Red Underwing, Westbourne Grove tube station West London September 2003. Wherever there are poplars close to tube stations it is not at all unusual to be startled, in late summer, by the sudden flash of a Red Underwing moth disturbed, not by an avian predator, but an incoming tube train. This nearly dead insect was the first I had ever actually found on tube station premises. Provided poplars are in the vicinity, railways and housing do constitute part of the moths' urban habitat in ways that need to be more precisely specified.
. Above & Below: Brown Tail infestation on sycamore, Nine Elms, Vauxhall, London.2001. The long defunct Battersea Power Station is now home to the Peregrine Falcon but, in 2001, on a nearby wharf where, the previous year, the 'diamond geezers' had taken off in a speed boat to raid the Millennium Dome, there was an infestation of Brown Tail caterpillars. Office workers taking their lunch break on the Thames embankment would suddenly start to itch uncontrollably, unaware a few feet above them thousands of caterpillars were swarming and shining down on silk threads searching for more grub. Though they preferred sycamore they would eat bramble but left buddleia alone. They even managed to find their way on to a boat we were working on and soon all of us had come out in hives. The Heathrow flight path lay directly above and, whilst looking up at the massed webs, a plane would frequently fly overhead. I also photographed their deadly silken webs against the backdrop of Battersea Power Station's four landmark chimneys.
5 Spot Burnet
Brown Tail Vauxhall
Above: 5 Spot Burnet, Brockadale. 2000. Though Brockadale near Ponterfract, West Yorks has the appearance of being a pristine nature reserve, untouched by human hand, it was once  extensively quarried and a little railway, used for transporting the magnesian limestone, ran between Wentbridge and Kirk Smeaton. We have reason to think that, over two centuries ago, it was here the great founding geologist, William 'Strata' Smith, who was the first to date and identify fossils according to rock strata, picked up his first chunk of magnesian limestone. In the distance the great coal burning power stations of Eggborough and Drax are clearly visible and overhead power cables from the stations stride right through the reserve. If at all possible, it is important such details are included otherwise a false picture of natures ubiquitous presence results, fostering  the creation of unnatural hierarchies, by privileging the most showy and uncommon. That nature, though under threat as never before, is here there and everywhere - if only one cares to look - is a conservation principal of central importance.
Below & right: Although obviously not lepidoptera, the photograph of a pride of lions intersected by four wheel drive tyre marks tells the story of wildlife as it is - merely an adjunct to consumer production. Such truthful depictions are never given the photograph of the year award!  
Eco Tourism
Eco Tourism