Butterflies thriving at woods

Highwoods AGM SUS-151210-145105001
Highwoods AGM SUS-151210-145105001

Butterfly photographer John Stedman gave a fascinating illustrated talk when he was guest speaker at Highwoods Preservation Society’s recent AGM.

The ‘miracle of nature’ that has fascinated John since he took up photography as a teenager was graphically revealed as he took the audience through the insect’s complex life cycle.

From macro-photography he switched to the microscopic to reveal the intricate structure of the wings of these tiny and short-lived creatures, some of which have the capacity to fly from North Africa to the British Isles.

Up to 250,000 tiny scales provide the surface of wings whose beauty and diversity filled the screen with colour and enthralled the audience.

His subject matter ranged from exotic species photographed while working in Bhutan to some of the 23 species identified in Bexhill’s Highwoods. Since accepting the society’s invitation he had been exploring the woods with his camera.

He was delighted to find that areas of stinging nettles and honeysuckle had been conserved there, ensuring a food source for butterflies. Images flowed across the screen with the same informative ease as the speaker’s address. Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Small Skipper – each shown in pin-sharp detail.

The audience were shown how clubbed antennae differentiates the butterfly from the moth. They learned of the savage losses incurred by the devastation the 1987 Great Storm caused to habitat and food source but were heartened by Nature’s response, aided by sterling conservation efforts.

Not the least of what the speaker so eloquently described as a “miracle of nature” was the life-cycle metamorphosis from egg to larva to 13-segment caterpillar and finally to three-section butterfly perfection.

Question time at the conclusion was lively and centred mainly on how Highwoods Preservation Society could best support butterflies. The AGM, at Little Common Methodist Hall, had been given a resume of the volunteer work-party’s efforts during the past 12 months by woodland warden Alan Dengate, who in his dual capacity as treasurer, told how generous donations and legacies were making it possible to plan future projects such as an extension loop to the popular Humphry Smith access-for-all trail.

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