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AN APRIL NIGHT IN DELAMERE FOREST. ♦ [By Two CHESTER NATURALISTS.] When the present spring was young, and catkins decked the willows, we took advantage of a sunny day and went by train to Delamere Fcrest. Sunshine was indispensable, as our chief object was a day-flying moth peculiar to such localities in early spring and active only in bright sunshine. Only a moth-although a very beautiful one! Nevertheless, among created things, Man is the only fallen factor! Then, let us not despise the insect! What's in a name— and yet it is necessary, for even a moth ought to have a name! If we call this particular species by the English synonym of "Orange Under- wing," there is at least one other with an equal claim. Therefore, let us be scientific and refer to the insect by a somewhat classical designa- tion-but agreed upon both at home and abroad -Brepnos parthenias. Leaving the train at Mouldsworth Station, we did the rest of the way to the forest on foot, so that we could work through the woodlands to Hatchmere, and have a necessary rest before beginning the programme for the night. A pair of magpies start on the wing before us as we get among the birches—the foodplants of B. parthenias when in the caterpillar state. Tradition says there is luck in seeing a couple of these birds together, so we are correspondingly elated. A single bird, on the other hand would have been the herald of disappointment. Jays, here and there, scream and warn each other at our approach but both magpies and jays are not so numerous as they were twenty years ago. The fact is, both are destructive to the eggs and young of game birds, and they appear to have been thinned out accordingly. Excepting tits and woodpeckers, other birds are conspicuous by their scarcity, for the magpies and jays spare none of them. The nesting habits of the tits and woodpeckers provide a natural security. As we trudge through the bracken one of the smaller tits pipes away with a merry note, and it is astonish- ing what a volume of sound the little creature can produce. By and by we come across a flock of the long-tailed species turning- somersaults ■on Ue drooping onefs of the birch brancftes' as j they seek for grubs. [ We nearly tread upon a. big greyhound lying sullenly among the dead ferns. He looks as if he had had a thrashing and had come into the forest to sulk. We give him a wide berth, for greyhounds, at the best of times, are but treacherous animals. By this time we have had a few shots with the net at our beautiful moth. But it has a keen sight-as far as insects distinctly see which I do not believe to be more than a few feet for their faceted eye-its flight is high and swift, and it certainly possesses more than its share of cunning. However, we exhaust all the resources of civilization, and, by the time the waters of Hatchmere are in s!ght, we have secured about a dozen fine examples. It has been said that every man, at forty, is either a fool or a physician, that is, I suppose,, every man at that mature age should know and practise what to cat, drink and avoid. Further, it is on record that what is one man's meat is another's poison. The two together may serve as an apology for electing the somewhat unsports- manlike beverage of tea our basis for refresh- ment and rest. So, an hour and a half passed pleasantly by, and then, as evening's twilight gathered round, we crossed by the Buggin Walk to the Mouldsworth road. Darkness descends rapidly in the forest, and shortly after reaching the highway it was time to light our lamps& There was, as usual, nothing to be seen of the buggin. Evidently the shade of the departed lady appeareth not unto commoners. All that was extraordinary was some remarkably neat hedging and ditching by the brook side. But, a boy came running past breathless when we wera about half way along. Was the spectre really on view! No--a. horse had got deep into a moss, and the boy was simply running for assistance! If, however, we were denied a sight of the supernatural, we had our share of the mysteriom. Here is an isolated bit of moss, among much more of the same material, shining away in the dark with a bright, phosphorescent light. We pluck it up, expecting to find a glowworm, but there isn't one, and out goes the light, leaving us to try and work out its origin among hypotheses and probabilities.. Ye spotted snakes with double tongue, Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen! Newts and biindworms, do no wrong! But, as we plunged into the darkened forest, 1 recollected I had never seen a snake of any description within ifrs confines. Of course, others may. The nearest habitat I know (they are of the viper breed) is Beeston Castle hill. In North Hales all sorts of English snakes are common enough, and I have occasionally killed vipers, both there and on the north-country moors— reluctantly, I confess, for the poor brutes have such a terrible fear of mankind. Surely, no one would tnmk of hurting a hedgehog, and as to newts and biindworms, they may be saturnine in appearance but they are perfectly harmless. Their evil looks are their only defence. Our rendezvous was a group of willows, or, rather broad-leafed sallows, now in full flower. By day the catkins were crowded with bees and dipterous flies gathering nectar. But these had long since gone home, and their places were taken, in the darkness, by nocturnal nioths-chieily of the grey, "Quaker" family. How have they found the catkins for they have come fair distances! Not by sight, but by scent, we would say; for the sense of smell in these wee things far exceeds, in comparison, that of ourselves. No doubt, if we had breathing-holes along our sides, as they have, we could compete with them, but these are denied us. hat especially interests us is the strict way in which ti.e various species keep themselves distinct. There is neither marrying or giving in marriage—only in the case of "after his kind." The sense of smell allows the mem- bers of each species to find out each other-in short, all we observe goes dead against the theory u ej. There is no more evidence that the different kinds of insects feeding in the light o. our lamps on these catkins came from a com- mon origin than there is that the remote ancestors of the forest folk passed through a reptilian stage. True, our experience does not go back a thousand long years. But we claim that our much shorter observation should present evidence on one side or the other. And it distinctly does. That is our faith, and it is in harmony, in this particular case, with notes we compare on animal species throughout. Nature we only look upon as a continuation of tne breath of I' fe"-not as a power which can create. For, destroy a species of plant or animal, and Nature never can restore it, There is a curious feature common to the animal world from which man himself is not exempt, and tnat is a colour variation from, broadly speaking, white to black. After we have done with the cat- kins, and their frequenters, we turn our lamps, as we pick our way through the absolute stillness, on various shrubs in search of night-feeding caterpillars. What we especially hope to find is the caterpillar of a lar^e nioth-Aplecta nebulosa —and we are rewarded with six or eight. For the dark, almost b!ack, form of the moth is prized by entomologists. Our captures, in this line, are to be taken home, fed up, and reared through the chrysalis state to the perfect insect. The type. or commonest form of the insect, is a pale grey. On the birche-s we come across our beautiful dav- flving moth again, but fast asleep, with its wings folded closoly to the twig on which it. rests. It is very sluggish in the darkness. Other night-ferd- mg caterpillars are met with—lively by night, but motionless and hidden by day—and so the hunt finishes at the Mouldsworth end of the forest—• time. 11.30. There Is no train, so we walk home. The pace is to be under the regulation time; but the long miles are covered with ease, for we are both ac- customed to the work. It is wonderful what dis- tances can br- covered by the judicious use of the quickstep. Our way lies through weird landscapes in sepias and blacks, dimly lit by the stars. There is much that is interesting. Less than twentv years ago what a different road it was, with its ruts and awkward stones! Now, thanks to the County Council, it is a veritable bicycle track. And, twenty years ago, there was no such thing as a bicycle to be seen upon it. Tramps, appar- ently. exist no longer. Queer fellows some of them used to be, if you met them alone and after dark. The only thing seen is a conveyance with large, bright lamps—possibly a doctor's carriage on the way to visit a patient. We take the left side of the road as we pass with our lamps, as we might otherwise cause a spill. And so Chester is reached at 2 a.m. Few Cestrians are probably aware how well, and unobtrusively, they are placed under watch and ward through the small hours of the night. We speculate upon getting into the city unobserved. But no—a gentleman in cape and helmet has been watching our approach. He takes up a position which we cannot pass with- out scrutiny. WTell, we are characters known to the police through our nocturnal habits. "Good- mcrning sings out the officer as we pass on, and in another half-hour we are in bed, just as a day of drenching rain comes on, and nothing the I worse, but all the better, for our adventures J. ARKLE.








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