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August 2016

The Vestal (Rhodometra sacraria)


moths and boys, BatFest and bat girls


So here's an update from my latest not-so-spectactular and incredibly busy month.  My decision to 'stay local' has meant that I am learning to photograph what's working rather than drift around hoping that I'm going to find something spectacular.  To be fair, both approaches have their merit!

Woodberry Wetlands has a keen group of Moth enthusiasts.  Chris, Tony, Katherine and Charlie are the stalwarts in the group while I'm the flitty photographer!  I have discovered that I don't really have the patience or eye for detail that they all seem to have.  They pour over the guide books and puzzle over identification for hours while I turn the pages of the books for a bit and get baffled by the thousands of similar species... and I give up and go to make coffees and teas!  They however go on and on until they discover the name.  They like to know the names and details about breeding habits and foodstuffs... and me, I just like to see if they're pretty or not and take their pictures!

Once they are in front of my 180mm macro lens, it's a different ball game!  I see the patterns and the pretty textures.  I'm fascinated by their eyes and antennae!  Sometimes I only take ID shots but sometimes I have a look at their eyes.  And I used to think that they were all fat bodied, furry, flitty brown things.  Definitely not!  

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The most amazing moth was The Alchymist, which flew into Tony's bathroom rather than our moth trap.  Moth enthusiasts travelled for miles and miles to see it.  I was so frightened that it would have flown away before I could photogrraph it.  I can't say that these are the best photos I've taken because I had to shoot hand-held.  But, hey! It's an Alchymist and Chris released it into Hackney's oldest oak tree at the end of the evening.  This was the first record of an Alchymist in London and only the 4th recorded in the UK in 80years.  

My favourite moth so far has been The Vestal.  He put on an amazing performance and really showed off his 'fluffy' antennae. With these incredibly sensitive feathery antennae, he can detect a female from miles away!

Bats also took up lots of my time this month.  I'm a member of London Bat Group and have done several days of training as well as countless bat walks.  I love bats!  Best of all, I am working with a small group of other bat workers where the focus is currently on research for the National Nathusius Project.  Under supervision and licence from Natural England, we set up harp traps on local sites in east London and do our best to capture and record data about Nathusius bats (Pipistrellus nathusii).  I have been allowed to carefully record some of the captured bats as part of the ID process and record.  The work is incredibly exciting.

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Then there was BatFest.  Every year, the Bat Conservation Trust organise a family weekend celebrating bats. In previous years it was held in the Natural History Museum's garden but this year it was at Woodbery Wetlands.  I was asked to pull together an exhibition of photographs of UK bats and with help from BCT and my friends Brett Lewis and Dale Sutton we showed some amazing photographs.  Never been seen before photographs!  Big thanks to Brett, Dale, the BCT and to Daniel Hargreaves and Daniel Whitby for sharing their stunning photography.

The evening of BatFest was timed to coincide with International Bat Night and the guests at Woodberry Wetlands had a real treat for the price of their entry tickets.  They listened to talks from the BCT, from London Willdife Trust, from bat carers and bat monitoring specialists.  They listened to a presentation from MostlyBats about the London Bat Group and our contribution to the National Nathusius Project and then they went on a bat walk.  Meanwhile, we had 3 harp traps set up on site and before the end of the final talk, we had caught 2 bats in the traps!  Whilst the licenced bat workers quietly and efficiently processed and released the bats, a few lucky visitors were allowed to observe the processing from a discreet distance.  The only noise was the involuntary 'Awww' and the gasps of delight when the little bats were released unharmed into the night sky!  Magical!

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The second day of BatFest saw a range of children and family activities in Woodberry Wetlands studio garden.  There were arts and crafts activities that included making bat puppets and creating bat wings.  The best face painting that I've ever seen was on offer and soon, the trees in the garden were festooned with rather large bats, some of which were hanging upside down.  Biggles made an appearance and flew around Woodberry Wetlands too.

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And since my photography is not just about fur, scales and feathers, I also took a series of photographs of my beloved grandchildren in the local park.  I really should do it more often!  It was damned hard work but I'm really pleased with the results. 

If you're local and want family portraits done, please commission me!