Jane Wilson-Howarth

Blog

 
 

Being stalked in Sussex

Tuesday, 12 January 2016
The mid July sunshine had brought out a profusion of West Sussex butterflies including the species commonly thought to be responsible for the name "butterfly". The word is derived from "butter-coloured fly" which describes the sunny yellow of the male Brimstone butterfly. The Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) is one of several of England’s butterflies that emerge in May. June can be butterfly-sparse and then there is a “second generation” emergence in the middle of the summer. 
I was out with my camera during butterfly “high season” intent on catching some close-ups. One of my favourites is the little Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus with eyes on the wings and a rich orange colour. The challenge though is that when the light is bright and best for capturing the lovely golds and russets in the wings, the warmth also stimulates the insects into skittish hyperactivity so they are difficult to stalk. Yet if a cloud covers the sun and consequently the butterflies grow more sluggish, the resulting photographs are dull, orange turns brown and the detail of the marvellous segmented antennae and the fine body hairs is muted. It takes patience.
 
The male Gatekeeper has dark moustaches on his forewings

I was down on my knees in a brambly patch with a handsome Brimstone in my sights. I wanted to capture his exquisite wing shape, designed to make him look no more appetising than a leaf. I could see the intricate network of veins in his gorgeous butter-yellow wings. He started to unroll his proboscis to drink from a thistle flower. That purple and his yellow were going to make a stunning photo. But then I registered some shrieking. Turning my head spooked the Brimstone and he flew off. I got up and started to walk towards the commotion. It was more than one voice. I guessed it was at least three birds, probably youngsters shouting for food.
The cries drew me to an ancient pine. Two winters ago, a great branch comprising maybe a third of the tree, had broken off. The calls came from somewhere in the scar that remained half way up the still-living tree. My binoculars found a kestrel apparently keeping watch from the top of the broken limb, but the cries came from below her. I scanned down and in a semicircular hole in the trunk I made out a huddle of feathers and several eyes.
Over the next minutes I watched restless movement inside the hole and decided there were three birds inside. Two were definitely fluffy but the third was either an adult or ready to fledge. I went to fetch a long lens and tripod and settled under a huge oak tree thinking I’d easily photograph an adult flying in and feeding the chicks. I was a long way from the nest but over the course of the next hour I began to realise my presence was worrying the adult kestrels. This seemed odd given the terrific shrieking that had draw my attention to the nest and which continued unabated. The adults came and went and I swatted away flies attracted by the numerous cow-pats in the vicinity. I tried to get more out of sight but sat on thistles and got stung by nettles. I was no less visible. Every so often I realised a kestrel had silently flown close and was watching me intently. Perhaps my telephoto lens reminded the adult of a rifle.
I started to feel guilty, worrying that the chicks were going hungry because of me. I decided I’d leave soon. Then there was the sound of an animal approaching through the muddle of nettles and brambles around me. I guessed it could be a weasel. I wondered if I could wrestle the camera off the tripod and swing it around to snap whatever it was that was creeping up on me. I was excited, thinking I’d get a close up portrait of a shy British mammal. I considered changing to a shorter lens. The stalker came closer.
Then the second I looked behind me - towards the weasel - the sounds from the kestrel family changed and I turned back to see an adult delivering a small offering to the chicks. The adult had swept in and delivered lunch the moment I’d stopped watching the nest. I rapid-fired the camera on sports-mode. There was mayhem inside the nest hole as the chicks fought over the prey item and it was ripped to bloody pieces.




































































































I stirred my stiffened bones, left the birds in peace and sought somewhere secluded to pick prickles out of my backside. And there was cowsh to wash off my trousers too.
I never did discover what was stalking me.
Over the next couple of days I re-encountered the eldest fledging taking his first excursions. He was often low down: on the ground or perched on a fence. One morning I watched him flapping around the base of his nest-tree, looking as if he wasn’t sure of the function of his wings. He was still making one hell of a noise. Then he seemed to have the bright idea of running up the tree-trunk propelled partially by his legs and partly by his wings. He managed to reach a branch a safe distance above the ground. He got his breath back and then continued flapping upwards until he was in the tree top a long way above the nest. He peered down nervously from up there, as if he was scared of heights. Poor thing.
There must be lots of leaps of faith when you are a young kestrel.
Meanwhile the sun reappeared and I was Brimstone-chasing again. And whenever a cloud moved in I found myself thinking about how much and how quickly animals have to learn in order to survive, although it wasn’t until December that the young kestrels had mastered the art of hovering.

Posted: 12/01/2016 11:58:41 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments



    Pontifications
    Travel
    Wildlife
    Writing
    October 2020(1)
    August 2020(2)
    July 2020(1)
    June 2020(1)
    May 2020(1)
    April 2020(4)
    March 2020(4)
    January 2020(1)
    October 2019(2)
    June 2019(2)
    April 2019(2)
    March 2019(9)
    January 2019(2)
    October 2018(3)
    August 2018(3)
    June 2018(4)
    May 2018(5)
    April 2018(3)
    March 2018(1)
    January 2018(4)
    October 2017(4)
    August 2017(3)
    July 2017(2)
    June 2017(2)
    May 2017(1)
    April 2017(1)
    March 2017(4)
    January 2017(1)
    October 2016(7)
    August 2016(2)
    July 2016(1)
    June 2016(1)
    January 2016(3)
    October 2015(1)
    August 2015(1)
    July 2015(1)
    May 2015(2)
    April 2015(2)
    March 2015(2)
    January 2015(3)
    October 2014(4)
    July 2014(1)
    June 2014(4)
    May 2014(1)
    April 2014(1)
    January 2014(4)
    October 2013(1)
#righttobreathe / 100 word story / 100-word story / 50 Camels / 50 Camels and She's Yours / A Glimpse of Eternal Snows / A Wide Woman on a Narrow Boat / Aberdeen / Abuja / Active Fairness System / Adam Reta / adventure stories / advertising / affairs / age concern / air pollution / air quality / Akwanga / alcoholism / Alicia Ostriker / Americanisms / Amharic / animal reservoirs / ANM / Annapurna / antelope / anthology / Asad / audacity / audible / audio musical project / audiobook / author / Author from Hull / author interview / author reading / author-to-author / Auxiliary Nurse Midwife / Baglung / Bagmati / Bajaj / Bajaj Pulsar / Bajura / banknotes / BBC Radio Cambridgeshire / bear precautions / Benjamin Langley / Bertrand Russell / Bethlehem Attfield / Bhotang / bicycle / bike trip / birdlife / birds / black bear / black kites / black pine forest / Blitz / Bloodshot Books / Blue sheep / book launch / border guards / Boreal Wildlife Centre / Bradt / Bradt Travel Guides / Brahmin / breakfast / bridge / brown bear / buckwheat / buckwheat bird / buffalo cart / bulbul / camaraderie / Cambridge / Cambridge writers / Cambridgeshire / camping hazards / canals / carcinogens / caste / catastrophe / cave diving / celtic / chaite-dhan / Chandragiri / Chele / childbirth / children's books / Chirang / Chisapaani / Chisapani / Chobhar / Chobhar Hill / Chough / city cycling / civet / climate change / clinics / cold desert / colourful hat / comfort / coronavirus / Covid / Covid-19 / cows / creating characters / cycling / cyclist / daisy chain / dal bhat / dangerous wildlife / dawn / dawn chorus / Dead Branches / demonstration / Department of Roads / desert / development / development work / Devon / Dhading / Dhading besi / Dhangadhi airport / Dhaulagiri / Dhee / dhulomandu / doctor memoir / Dolpa / Dolpo / domestic violence / Dr. Katrina Butterworth / dragon / dragons / Drakmar / droppings / Dunai / dust / early marriage / earthquake / earthquake alarm / earthquake damage / earthquake today / East Anglia / eco-resort / eco-tourism / Edinburgh / elbow sneezing / embankments / emergency / England / English journey / English language / environmental crisis / Eräkeskus / eternal snows / Ethiopia / ethnic cleansing / evacuation / evocative smells / Ewell / expat / exploitation / Fagu Purnima / Falgun / feelgood read / Fens / festival / festival of colour / festivals in March / fiction / Finland / fire-tailed sunbird / fishing / fishtail / flash fiction / flash literature / flash prose / flood protection / floods / 'folk / football / footbridge / footpath / for / forest / forest fires / friends / Gai Tihar / gaming / Ganesh himal / Gangetic Plain / garden / garment / Ghami / Ghemi / ghoral / giant crab spider / giving birth / global warming / goodread / goral / gorge / Gorkha / gossip / GP writer / grandad / Greece / grey-headed canary-flycatcher / haiku / handwashing / hangry / happiness / happyness / hare / Hatibhan / health assistant / Heffers / Heffers bookshop / Hell's Grannies / Henningham Family Press / himal / Himalaya / Himalayan Black Bear / Himalayan Goral / Himalayan griffon vulture / Himalayan Hostages / Himalayan Kidnap / Himalayan serow / Himalayan Sunrise / Himalayan woolly hare / Himalayas / himals / Hindu festival / Hindu kingdom / Holi / Holi Purnima / holocaust / home delivery / honey buzzard / hoopoe / horror / hot springs / Hotel Deep of Worldtop / Hotel Peace Palace / house crows / how long to write a book? / human kind / human spirit / idyllic childhood / Indonesia / Indra Jatra / infidelity / inspiration / inspiring fiction for children / Ireland / irrigation / Is She Dead in Your Dreams? / jackal / Janajibika Hotel / Jane Wilson-Howarth / Jews / Joe Wilson / Jomosom / Jomsom / joy / jungle / Jungle book / Juphal / Kaag Beni / Kag Beni / Kali Gandaki / Kali Gandaki gorge / Kalopani / Kalunki / Karnali River / Kashigaon / Kashigoan / Kathmandu / Kathmandu Valley / Katrina Butterworth / kestrel / khana / Khartoum / kickstart / kidnap / kindness / Kipling / Kipling's jungle / kites / Kolkata / Krishna / Kumari / Kurds / Kurentar / Kusma / labour / ladoos / lama / Lamjung himal / lammergeier / lammergeyer / landscape / landslide / landslides / Large Indian civet / largest tribuary of the Ganges / Laxmi Puja / leave no one behind / leave no-one behind / letter-writing / life lessons / living goddess / lockdown / lockdown project / LoMantang / Lombok / London pigeon / loneliness / Lord Ganesh / Lord Krishna / loss and recovery / love / Lukhu river / Machhapuchare / Makwanpur / Manbu / mani wall / married life / Martinselkosen / Mary Kingsley / masala tea / maskmandu / masks / maternal mortality / Maya and the Dragon / medical emergency / medical evacuation / medical memoir / medical Students / Melamchi / memoir / memoirist / memory / Michael Rosenberg / microfiction / middle grade readers / Middle Hills / mineral water bottles / Monsoon / morning mist / Moth Snowstorm / motorbike / motorbike trip / motorbikes / motorcycle / mountain medicine / mountains / mouse hare / mouse-hare / Muktinath / Mukwanpur / mulberries / Mustang / nag puja / narrator / narrow boat / nature / Naubisi / neighbours / Nepal / Nepal Communitere / Nepal road trip / Nepal roadtrip / Nepal Valley / Nepal wildlife / Nepali / Nepali food / Nepali tea / Nepali Times / Nepali topi / Nepali wildlife / Nigeria / Nigiri himal / nilgai / Nilgiri / Nilgiri South / non-fiction / Nonsuch Palace / Nonsuch Park / Northumberland / novel / nuthatch / Nuwakot / obstetrics / onions / orb spider / ox-cart / pangolin / parenting / Passer montanus / passing places / passive pleasure / Patan / Patan Durbar / Patan Durbar Square / payer / People in Need charity / percussion / PHASE / PHASE Nepal / PHASENepal / Phewa Tal / Philippines / Phoksundo / phonetics / photoktm2016 / pigeons / pika / pike / pilgrims / plastic waste / pleasure / PM 2.5 / poem / poetry / Pokhara / Police My Friend / pollution / polytunnel / pony trekking / post earthquake recovery / Potatoes / powder / pregnancy / Pridhamsleigh Cavern / puja / Pul Chowk / Pulsar / Pungmo / Purnima programme / Pyncnonotus cafer / rabies / Rajapur / Rajapur bazaar / Rajapur Island / Rajapur market / Rajapur town / rat snake / reading / reading aloud / Real Fairness for Real men / reconstructed dialogue / recording / Red Dawn Rising / red-vented bulbul / refugees / relief work / Remover of obstacles / Requiem / rhododendron / rice / ricefields / Richard Mabey / Ringmo / risk takers / river crossing / river island / river-crossing / road trip / roadtrip / Rock Doves / rock shelters / Roe Deer / Royal Enfield Riders Club / Royle's pika / rubbish / Rufus-breasted Niltava / rupees / Russian border / rustling / rustlings / Sally Haiselden / samosa / Sarengkot / sarus cranes / scorpion / screening / Second World War / Seeta Siriwardena / self-harm / senses / serow / Shangri La / Shangri-la / Shanti bazaar / Shey-Phoksundo National Park / Shivapuri / Shivapuri Nagajung National Park / Shivapuri National Park / Shivapuri Village / Shivapuri Village Resort / short fiction / short story / shrikes / silk / Simon Howarth / Sindhupalchowk / Sinhala / Sinhalese / Six degrees of Separation / skipper butterflies / skippers / snow leopard / Snowfed Waters / social isolation / solid waste / solid waste disposal / Soti / South Sudan / sparrows / Speaking Tiger / species leap / spider venom / Spiny babblers / spotted owlet / squirrel / Sri Lanka / Sri Lankan author / Stephanie Green / stink bug / stolpersteine / street art / street dogs / Subsistence agriculture / Sudan / Suli Gad Khola / Suli Gad river / Summit Air / sunbird / sunrise / Surrey / suspended bridge / Sussex / Suttee / Tahr / tales / tar tattoo / tato pani / Tatopani / TBS Kathmandu / tea / tea shop / teacher / teashop / Teku / Teku Hospital / Teku infectious diseases hospital / terai / Thamel / Thankot / Tharu / Tharu people / The Book Warren / The British School Kathmandu / The Lonely Cat / Thessaloniki / time / To be blessed / totobobo / traffic / traffic jam / traffic rules / traffic uncles / transHimalaya / transHimalayan / translation / travel anthology / travel narrative / travel writing / traveling with children / travelling with children / tree sparrows / trekking / trust / Tsirang / Twin Otter / Uganda / unplanned pregnancy / Upper Mustang / urban cycling / urban life / urban pollution / urban water supply / Valley / vampires / vegetarian / velvet-fronted nuthatch / Viiksimontie / Village dogs / village life / volunteering / vulture / Wai / Wanderlust / water supplies / water tankers / West Sussex / western Nepal / white lies / WHO / widower / wild goat / wild places / wildlife / wildlife stories / William Matthews / winter madness / winter Wheat / women of a certain age / Women Travellers / words / wordsmith / World Book Day / World Book Day 2020 / World Cup 1990 / World Environment Day / world's deepest gorge / writer / writers group / writer's life / writing / writing about writing / writing characters / writing exercise / writing for children / writing group / writing habits / writing prompts / xenophobia / year fives / yeti / young mother / young motherhood / Your Child Abroad / zoonoses