The Society recently enjoyed an impressive presentation by one of its’ own members, Maurice Pugh. Maurice combines great photographic expertise with good in depth knowledge of natural history. Although most of his images are gathered in the New Forest he began with a sequence of the autumn Red Deer rut in Bushy Park London. Travelling up early in the morning he finds it is possible to get reasonably close to the stags, many of which adorn themselves with some bracken on their antlers, without worrying them.
Back locally there were some entertaining sequences of water birds: two Black-tailed Godwits fighting, using their legs as weapons rather than their long beaks, presumably because damage to the beak might well affect the ability to feed. A female Little Grebe had caught a fish which she offered to her two young, who declined because it was far too big for them to cope with. Suddenly all three dived and the reason soon became clear - a large gull had flown over with an eye on the fish or even the young. The danger passed and the three grebes came up once more but the fish was not seen again. There were magnificent pictures of Kingfishers, some on perches some in flight. Maurice explained that in camera clubs nowadays what he described as pictures of “a bird on a stick” are not so popular - the bird needs to be doing something.
Butterflies and moths are an area of particular interest and we were shown some rare butterflies including the Marsh Fritillary, Brown Hairstreak also Purple Emperor, where one of Maurice’s ambitions is to get a photograph showing the purple sheen on both forewings: the creature needs to be in right position and in the right light for this. The chalk downlands are home to a wealth of other butterflies including Green Hairstreak, Grizzled and Dingy Skippers and several of the blues.
Not all moths fly by night, one day flyer found on the chalk downland is the Mother Shipton, so named because the pattern on the wings is said to resemble the caricature of an old woman. The female Emperor Moth, a heathland species is much larger than the day flying males which she can attract in large numbers by pheromone emission. The Clifden Nonpareil is a vast beautiful night flying moth with a pale blue band on its underwing; a rare migrant it has been occurring more frequently locally in the recent past. The Merveille du Jour moth displays brilliant camouflage. The Goat Moth is a strange creature which occurs in the New Forest; the caterpillars do smell of goats; the eggs are laid on certain varieties of deciduous tree (often a specific tree will be chosen repeatedly by the moths and becomes known as a goat moth tree) and the caterpillars spend up to four years inside the tree eating it. The fully grown caterpillars frequently leave the host tree in the autumn to find a more suitable site for pupating in the ground. Goat Moth trees can be identified from the holes in the trunk. The final moth pictured was an attractive Canary-shouldered Thorn which had its own pet in the form of a very small spider attached to one of its hind wings. This had caused some debate in his camera club: was it the excellence of the photograph of the moth or of the spider which was being judged!