Jack Harrison

This forum contains a topic per member, each representing a personal diary.
Sonam Dorji
Posts: 54
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2014 8:12 am

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby Sonam Dorji » Thu Jun 22, 2017 8:30 am

Hi Jack, Nice to hear from you after a long time. It is nice to have you back!!!

rgds,
Sonam

User avatar
Jack Harrison
Posts: 3877
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2006 8:55 pm
Location: Nairn, Highland
Contact:

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby Jack Harrison » Thu Jun 22, 2017 8:53 am

I never really disappeared. But I am not as mobile as I was (now 78) so can't walk long distances in search of butterflies. In any case - and I knew this before moving here - this part of Scotland isn't noted for a huge range of species. Our commonest species are Green-veined White, Scotch Argus, Ringlet and Peacock. Apparently Ringlet and Peacock are relatively recent colonists to the north of Scotland.

As the south of England becomes almost too hot, I would expect more butterflies to find our area with its cooler but sunny climate more to their liking. I anticipate the arrival of Commas before too long. Birds are already showing the trend of finding happy homes in the north. House Martins ans Swifts are in far great numbers this year. And - not entirely welcomed by everybody - far more Magpies this year having been surprisingly scarce over previous two years.

Jack

User avatar
MikeOxon
Posts: 2371
Joined: Fri May 27, 2011 2:06 pm
Location: Oxfordshire
Contact:

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby MikeOxon » Thu Jun 22, 2017 9:30 am

Very interesting to follow the trends as our climate changes, Jack. It would also be interesting to try and determine the routes that the various species follow as they move Northwards. I'd guess that they tend to use coastal routes rather then crossing the Grampian mountains.

Mike

User avatar
Jack Harrison
Posts: 3877
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2006 8:55 pm
Location: Nairn, Highland
Contact:

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby Jack Harrison » Thu Jun 22, 2017 11:15 am

Mike:
I'd guess that they tend to use coastal routes rather then crossing the Grampian mountains.
I had presumed exactly the same.

35 years ago I lived in the Aberdeen area. Peacock was an extreme rarity then. Ringlets were very localised and I knew of just three colonies, all quite near the River Don. Ringlet was far bettered established south of the Grampians, eg Perthshire,

So yes, the coastal route to colonisation is the most likely but the Great Glen offers another possibility. However, there are many locks on the Caledonian Canal [in the Great Glen] that could pose a barrier :!: I’ve observed Homo so-called sapiens attempting to negotiate the locks at Fort Augustus....as entertaining as butterfly watching. Maybe butterflies will find things easier :twisted:

Jack

User avatar
Jack Harrison
Posts: 3877
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2006 8:55 pm
Location: Nairn, Highland
Contact:

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby Jack Harrison » Sun Jul 09, 2017 5:49 pm

70 years on

It is 70 years since my first real butterfly season, the fine summer of 1947. I was eight years old. Interest had begun two years earlier. However by 1947, I had a couple of “proper” books (Ford and South*). 1947 became a “big year”.
*Blowing my own trumpet here. I won “South” as a school prize. I've still got it.

Home was the outskirts of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk and within easy walking distance of the countryside. Dad was a newspaper reporter; Mum stayed at home and looked after my sister Jennifer (born in early 1947) and me. We would go out every fine afternoon – and there were many fine days that summer – to look for butterflies.

In those carefree days, I was frequently allowed out on my own provided I stayed close to home. Traffic was minimal and harmful grown-ups were still in the future. (But see later comments with reference to Clouded Yellows!) Building along the ribbon estate where I lived had been halted by World War 2 and there were a few gaps – excellent waste ground for finding butterflies. A two-house gap, perhaps 120 metres from home, was excellent. It even had a small bomb crater where the exposed sub-soil allowed different vegetation to thrive.

I have vague recollections of that bomb: it was probably the occasion when a house window was blown in. A line of small craters was visible long after the war, including the one in the “gap”. Great Yarmouth was a naval base so a target for German bombers. However, I don’t think the Luftwaffe particularly targeted 121 Burgh Road where I lived – more likely just poor aim when they were trying to hit the Royal Navy.

The Gap” as we called it, was excellent. It was rough and full of wild flowers. A neighbouring garden even had a buddleia hanging over into the “Gap”. I would spend hours here and although memories have naturally become coloured over the years, my “Gap” butterfly list ran something like this:

Large Skipper, Small Skipper
Small White, Large White, Green-veined White, Orange Tip
Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock (on that buddleia)
Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Hedge Brown (as I called it then and still prefer the name), Wall Brown (common in those days) and once or twice, Small Heath
Common Blue, Brown Argus (yes, I am sure of the identity), Small Copper


I remember the first time I saw the underside of a Common Blue. As I didn’t have a decent illustrated guide in 1946, I had no idea what a blue might be like underneath. I was entranced when I first saw it.

An elderly widow/spinster lived in the adjacent house. Mrs. Cobby’s garden rivalled the Gap – never cultivated. It was a paradise. Moreover, the old lady had terrible eyesight so I could sneak in unnoticed and chase Browns, Skippers and other regular species. Early one morning I caught a sparkling male Common Blue. I proudly took it to school in a jam jar to show the headmaster. To my great annoyance, he declared quite firmly that it was a moth. As an eight year old, I probably realised at that moment that adults weren’t always right!

Along the roadsides and hedges near home, more in the nature of lanes in those days, Holly Blues (never common) were always exciting. Painted Ladies were occasional, although one dusty lane seemed to attract them - we called it “Painted Lady Lane”. Graylings were scarce but regular near where a railway line crossed the track. It was only later that I realised the significance of the railway linear habitat. Many years later I found out that Graylings occurred in good numbers on the dunes at the north end of Great Yarmouth (known as North Denes) and also on some inland heathland, long since destroyed by a caravan camp, golf course and agricultural “improvement”. (Belton Common)

In spite of suggestions that Commas did not occur in East Anglia in the 1940s, I found one or two as early as 1947. A real excitement was a Silver Washed Fritillary in the garden, no doubt a stray from woodland a few miles away (probably Fritton Woods, sadly private then and it still is to this day). Oppose the house on a tall privet hedge, I caught a tatty Purple Hairstreak, so tatty that it took a while to confirm that it wasn’t a White-letter. Brimstones were to be found along the lanes but especially in the damper areas near the marshes. In fact although Green-veined Whites occurred in many locations, damp lanes near the marshes were the most reliable habitat

A Small Skipper in the garden annoyed my dad, a moderately keen gardener. I quoted from some source or other that they liked overgrown tall rough grass. Dad was proud of his lawn.

My first encounter with Ringlets had been the previous year August 1946 but by then they were very worn. I couldn’t wait for 1947. I had first seen Orange Tips also in 1946 and caught what mum and I called a “freak”: it had no orange. My only identification guide then was a few pages in Children’s Encyclopaedia that showed only male Orange Tips. Mum was very enthusiastic but had no more knowledge than I had so it was a wonderful upbringing learning together.

Mum was patient and long suffering. During our afternoon butterfly walks we would often meet the “Butterfly Postman” who was making his afternoon rounds on his bike (yes, two deliveries in those days). I suspect – although of course only with hindsight – that he had a bit of a soft spot for my 32 year old mother; maybe the appeal was mutual? I liked the “Butterfly Postman”: he was rather like an extra uncle who took a kindly interest in my butterflies. One exciting afternoon: “Look at this!“ he said. Resting on his post bag was a Clouded Yellow. I had never seen one before but knew immediately what it was. He had caught it near a gate into a field. Next day of course, Mum and I had to return to that lane and the gateway. And there they were: dozens of Clouded Yellows dancing over a Lucerne field. I bravely trespassed (I knew I wasn’t supposed to) and caught a couple. Joy.

It was by now time to return to school after the long summer holiday. Next weekend I saw Clouded Yellows again. One exciting day in the garden next to my Grandmother’s was a Comma on Michaelmas daisies. I was scared to trespass this time so that Comma lived another day.

Spring 1948 gave me my first and only Large Tortoiseshell on “Painted Lady Lane”. I know the exact date: it was Cup final Day and records show it to be 24 April. Over the next few years, Dad learnt to drive (after several failed tests!) so we could explore further afield. I can still “see” my first Swallowtail at Catfield Fen. Near Sheringham, Pretty Corner Woods had Pearl-bordered Fritillaries – hardly a surprise but a pleasure nonetheless - and Green Hairstreaks (Greenies have remained firm favourites ever since). In July, again no great surprise for that era, I found High Brown Fritillary there. Around 1952 I caught a White Admiral near some Broadland woods (they didn’t apparently occur in that part of East Anglia then: wrong. Compare Comma).

When we went south to the Suffolk coastal heathlands (Sandlings) Silver-studded Blues were so abundant as not to be worth a mention. They must have occurred on some Norfolk heaths much closer to home but I never saw them there. Similarly, Small Blue probably occurred somewhere (I heard mention of a quarry at Aldeby in south-east Norfolk)

There were some surprising absences. I didn’t discover the dune habitat of north east Norfolk (eg Horsey, Winterton) so Dark Green Fritillary had to wait many years: it had simply not occurred to me that butterflies might thrive very close to the sea. I never saw Speckled Woods and can only presume they were genuinely absent in those days. The first time I met Speckled Woods in East Anglia was Thetford Forest in the early 1980s. Of course they are now widespread. White-letter Hairstreak eluded me then and has in truth never been easy over the past 60 years.

So how have things changed in the past 70 years? Marbled White is moving fast so must be getting close. Essex Skipper has probably been present all along but was missed (although I was aware of the difference compared to Small). Chalkhill Blue seems to have gained a foothold in the north of the county (and I am far from convinced it isn’t a perfectly natural arrival). Purple Emperor remains an enigma and I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t occur in low numbers, for example the Holt / Sheringham area. When I was young I never went to West Norfolk where I might have found Grizzled and Dingy Skippers. But long gone are Pearl-bordered and High Brown Fritillaries. Wall Brown is presumably scarce or even absent now although ten years ago I could still find it in small numbers on the North Norfolk coast.

I am getting on in years and no-one lasts forever. I have had a full and varied life: a career as a professional pilot for over 40 years, photographer, butterfly and bird enthusiast together with the enjoyment of many other interests. I am in adequate health at the moment and have no plans to depart just yet! But when I do go, please no “Sorry to announce” or “RIPs” etc. It happens to us all eventually. I have no religious beliefs and when my time is up, then all that will be left is memories and my four children. I trust that you will all understand and respect. I might be less active nowadays but am still here! You’ll have to put up with me for a little longer.

Jack

Pauline
Posts: 1964
Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2007 1:49 pm
Location: Liphook, Hants

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby Pauline » Sun Jul 09, 2017 7:43 pm

An interesting and nostalgic account Jack which I have enjoyed reading although it made me reflect on my own childhood which was very different.

User avatar
Wurzel
Stock Contributor
Stock Contributor
Posts: 5854
Joined: Wed Sep 09, 2009 5:44 pm
Location: Salisbury
Contact:

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby Wurzel » Sun Jul 09, 2017 10:07 pm

I shall have a drink to your health directly Jack :D

I too prefer the 'Hedge Brown' even though you have a decade or thee on me :wink: It made sense to call it a Hedge Brown as if there was a hedge and there was a brown Butterfly it was 8 times out of a ten a Hedge Brown, just like if there was a brown on a Wall it was a Wall Brown but alas it seems that everyone has gone with Gatekeeper :( .

Have a goodun

Wurzel

User avatar
MikeOxon
Posts: 2371
Joined: Fri May 27, 2011 2:06 pm
Location: Oxfordshire
Contact:

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby MikeOxon » Sun Jul 09, 2017 10:24 pm

A splendid account Jack, starting around the time when I was born! Your mention of 'The Gap' reminded me of the classic book 'The Otterbury Incident', set in those immediate post-war years, where bomb sites were favourite playgrounds. May your "adequate health" continue for a good while :)

Sonam Dorji
Posts: 54
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2014 8:12 am

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby Sonam Dorji » Mon Jul 10, 2017 6:49 am

Hi Jack,

Got a brief but eventful account of your life especially with the Butterflies. Great to know about the species you mentioned.

with love and rgds,
Sonam

User avatar
Neil Freeman
Posts: 2575
Joined: Fri Jul 23, 2010 6:25 pm
Location: Solihull, West Midlands

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby Neil Freeman » Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:06 pm

Hi Jack,

I really enjoyed reading your account of 70 years of butterflying and found your comments really interesting. In my case I started a mere 45 years ago when I was about 11 back in the 1970s although I did have a hiatus when work and family took up most of my time.
Wall Browns disappeared some time back around my part of the midlands but we have gained Speckled Wood which was very rarely seen back then. Marbled Whites are a recent arrival to my patch, turning up about five years ago and increasing in numbers year on year ever since.

Good to read that you have had a fulfilling life and may your 'adequate' health last a while longer yet.

Cheers,

Neil.

essexbuzzard
Posts: 1337
Joined: Sun Jul 24, 2011 6:23 pm

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby essexbuzzard » Fri Jul 14, 2017 9:00 pm

A most interesting and thought provoking read, Jack. I live at the other end of East Anglia from where you come from, and being born in the 1970's, I can't remember the glory days of High Browns, Pearls or Graylings. But Walls (Browns) have virtually gone in my lifetime, while Commas, Speckled Woods and Silver-washed Fritillaries have appeared and increased.

Presumably you have noticed big changes in Anglian avifauna in your time, too. Gone are breeding red-backed shrikes, short-eared owls wrynecks and hawfinches, while little egrets, avocets, marsh harriers and Mediterranean gulls have colonised or increased.

May you continue to grace these forums with your humour for some time to come.

User avatar
bugboy
Posts: 2219
Joined: Mon Dec 01, 2014 6:29 pm
Location: London

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby bugboy » Fri Jul 14, 2017 9:35 pm

A lovely if rather poignant wander down memory lane. In my youth in the late 70's and early 80's I had to just walk across my local play fields in North West London to a nearby stables to find Walls all over the paddocks, now I have to hop on a train to the south coast!
Some addictions are good for the soul!

User avatar
David M
Posts: 7885
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 8:17 pm
Location: South Wales

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby David M » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:42 pm

That's a highly evocative account of your butterflying days of youth, Jack, and many thanks for posting it. Whilst statistics are always useful, it is altogether far more delightful to read personalised histories such as these.

User avatar
Jack Harrison
Posts: 3877
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2006 8:55 pm
Location: Nairn, Highland
Contact:

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby Jack Harrison » Wed Jul 26, 2017 6:12 pm

Off topic but topical.
Image
Electric Woodpecker.

Jack

User avatar
NickMorgan
Posts: 750
Joined: Sat Jul 31, 2010 5:07 pm
Location: East Lothian

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby NickMorgan » Fri Jul 28, 2017 12:47 pm

Jack,
Interesting to read about the butterflies you saw in '47. Quite similar to the species that occur in East Lothian now. I have been doing a bit of research into when particular butterflies arrived here. All very interesting stuff, and I discovered that many of the species were previously here up until the mid 1800s when there was a series of cold winters.
Certainly most species make their way around the east coast into East Lothian, but we have the Lammermuir Hills to the south, so there is little alternative. The exception is the Small Skipper which made an appearance at Aberlady and has spread out from there. It seems to take big jumps in its distribution.

dave brown
Posts: 506
Joined: Tue May 27, 2008 5:34 pm
Location: Kent

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby dave brown » Sat Jul 29, 2017 8:12 pm

A most enjoyable read, and I for one am very happy to appreciate your sense of humour and nostalgia for many more years.

millerd
Posts: 2978
Joined: Mon Sep 21, 2009 9:31 pm
Location: Heathrow

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby millerd » Sat Jul 29, 2017 8:45 pm

Your autobiographical account was fascinating, Jack. I too remember when Walls were taken for granted and Speckled Woods and Commas were unusual sightings. I also remember the excitement of my first Clouded Yellow from the north Kent coast (a memory recently jogged by Goldie visiting Reculver). A lovely read, Jack - thank you for that , and like Wurzel I will raise a glass to you. Do please carry on entertaining us.

Dave

User avatar
Jack Harrison
Posts: 3877
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2006 8:55 pm
Location: Nairn, Highland
Contact:

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby Jack Harrison » Tue Aug 15, 2017 4:46 pm

Under-rated undersides
17-08-15-431-RedAd-crop.jpg
The detailed patterning is fantastic.

Also in garden, two Peacocks, circa 10 Tortoiseshells, Small White, GV White (GVWs are abundant in local lanes.

Although that Red Admiral is on buddleia, Bowles Mauve (wallflower) cannot be recommended too much. With deqd heading, it can be in flower for more than nine months of the year. Butterflies love it. Very easy to grow from cuttings which I take every year as the plant is relatively short lived (two or three years) and becomes leggy.

Tomorrow (with a cloudy forecast) gonna do a a bit o' the old culture, like - know what I mean? Culloden Battlefield exhibition centre (last mainland battle in UK). I need to do a bit of homework beforehand to find out who were the good guys and who were the baddies :P

Jack

User avatar
David M
Posts: 7885
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 8:17 pm
Location: South Wales

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby David M » Tue Aug 15, 2017 6:14 pm

Agree about the cryptic markings on the Red Admiral, Jack. I simply love that bluish sheen to them.

Interesting too that Green Veined Whites are common in the lanes up there. Near me, they've been distinctly inconspicuous during their supposed summer brood. Maybe the dry conditions in late June & early July didn't help.

User avatar
Jack Harrison
Posts: 3877
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2006 8:55 pm
Location: Nairn, Highland
Contact:

Re: Jack Harrison

Postby Jack Harrison » Tue Aug 15, 2017 6:27 pm

GV Whites are strongly double brooded here with the summer brood seemingly far larger. (But just three summer's observations).

Jack


Return to “Personal Diaries”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests