A day with the grandchildren gave me the chance to meet their brood of tiny White Ermine caterpillars, hatched from eggs which were laid by a moth which they took to London after their Bank Holiday visit here. During the course of a lovely sunny afternoon, I also stalked and finally photographed the female Holly Blue butterfly, above, a species which thrives amid the gardens of even the most densely-housed areas of the capital.
The little Ermines are doing well as you can see, and the sheer quantity of their poos intrigues the children. Youthful enthusiasm for Nature is always a joy and I'm delighted to report that Tom Bedford's daughters, who are running the other branch of the Emperor Moth Caterpillar Nursery, both won prizes at the weekend in a photo competition for pictures they took here of a Muslin moth and a cockchafer or Maybug. I'm honoured to reproduce them - brilliant photographs which put my own, somewhat blurry work to shame.
The prizes were handed out by the Mayor of Oxford and it's really heartening to see this kind of thing going on. As I've said here on several occasions, my youthful interest in butterflies and moths was greatly encouraged by the then keeper of natural history at Leeds City Museum, John Armitage. A born enthusiast and very kind man, he identified a rare variety of the Dark Green Fritillary which I had caught on holiday in Cornwall at the age of twelve. Not only that, but he wrote about it - and me - in his column in the Yorkshire Evening Post. I was over the moon.
I am no psychologist, but encouraging young people - or people of any age - to take an interest in delight in the wonders of the world can surely do nothing but good.